Kale Salad with Lemon Basil Buttermilk Ranch

Kale Salad with Lemon Basil Buttermilk Ranch

Kale Salad with Lemon Basil Buttermilk Ranch,
Breadcrumbs and Parmesan
Recipe by Nicole Putzel

Kale kale kale can get kinda boring but as the torn leaves mingle with her awesome Lemon Basil Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, this “simple” salad emerges as anything but. Chef Nicole Putzel has managed to create an alluring salad where fresh breadcrumbs add a toasty crunchy texture while parmesan cheese adds salty, nutty, umami notes. All the various complex flavors in the dressing take the humble chopped kale to another level.

Nicole wrote,“Lemon basil is my absolute favorite variety of the herb. It has a bright citrusy flavor that is sweeter than traditional basil. The lemon basil gives the buttermilk ranch dressing an extra punch and tastes delicious with raw kale. The dressing recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups of dressing , so you’ll have plenty left over to use in other salads.”

Kale Salad Recipe and Cookbook Giveaway!

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Vegetarian Springtime Rigatoni

Vegetarian Springtime Rigatoni

Rigatoni with Broccoli, Cherry Tomatoes, Arugula, and Buffalo Mozzarella
Recipe by Nicole Putzel

All hailing from Chicagoland, Chef Nicole Putzel and I were virtually introduced a few years back by our mutual friend and discerning foodie, Peg. We recently thought it might be fun to collaborate on some of our cooking experiences, especially during these challenging times.

Nicole sent me a copy of her delightful book just published last year, The Seasoned Plate: Delicious and Healthy Real Food. She says, “This cookbook is the result of a beautiful recipe: one of food, friendship, and wellness, told by the seasons.”

Throughout the seasons, Nicole would create a vegetable-centric recipe every Friday, often harvesting the produce from her own organic garden. Her friend Photographer Claudia Chocano would shoot the dishes, after which they would partake of the fruits of their labors together.

The first recipe I chose from the Spring section was this fresh, vibrant, vegetarian rigatoni dish. Nicole wrote, “This colorful pasta dish came together on an evening  when my house was filled with company and my guests asked for a tour of the vegetable garden. The broccoli, arugula, and basil were all ready for harvest and everyone was hungry, so voilà! This was a true crowd pleaser.”

Springtime Rigatoni Recipe and Cookbook Giveaway!

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Compelled by Stanley Tucci To Make a Negroni

To Make a Negroni

A Negroni by the Pool

After watching Stanley Tucci prepare the ubiquitous Milanese cocktail on Instagram, I felt compelled to make a Negroni.

His definitive pronouncement of “that’s good” after a sip of his aperitivo drove me to make the legendary Italian drink right then and there. Well, that, and his suave debonaire manner…you just have to see the video for yourself.

It was neat to see Mr. Tucci concoct a cocktail especially because we just re-watched the movie Julie & Julia as a diversion from these pandemic days, where the actor excels as Julia Child’s husband Paul.

As luck and a well-stocked bar would have it, I had all the ingredients necessary, including my favorite vermouth in the refrigerator, one fresh orange on hand, and frozen ice orbs. And today just happened to be opening day at the pool, Le Résort Ataloré!

So we enjoyed a Negroni by the Pool, basked in the exceptionally warm weather and simply uttered, “that’s good.”

Just like Stanley Tucci.

What Does a Negroni Taste Like?

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Heirloom Bean and Tomato Crostone

Heirloom Bean and Tomato Crostone

Heirloom Bean and Tomato Crostone

Have you been baking a lot of bread during this pandemic time? More than you and your family can possibly eat? Maybe you have some slices in the freezer? Here is a delightful meatless meal to use the remainder of the bread that may be becoming a little hard and stale.

The flavorful bean broth rehydrates the toast…and for such a simple dish, this crostone is really extraordinary. Butter AND olive oil add rich mouthfeel while colorful cherry tomatoes add sweetness. Fresh thyme adds herbaceous earthiness while yellow eye beans bring a deep creaminess. It’s a peasant-style vegetarian dish drenched in flavor and texture, and is extremely satisfying. And extremely economical.

Heirloom Bean and Tomato Crostone

Heirloom Bean and Tomato Crostone Recipe

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Tortilla Soup with Pasilla Chile

Tortilla Soup with Pasilla Chile

Tortilla Soup with Pasilla Chile and Masa Harina

Many years ago, I fell in love with Tortilla Soup over dinner al fresco on a lovely courtyard in Sinaloa, Mexico.

We were on a trip to the Barrancas del Cobre and had an overnight at a quaint hotel in Los Mochis. The soup was divine – a simple chicken broth with melting queso fresco, fried tortillas, and herbs. When we got back home I had to recreate it, and still do to this day.

Fast forward more than a couple of decades in these pandemic times, and I find myself watching more Facebook videos than before, one in particular caught my attention. A true master of Mexican cooking, Rick Bayless making a Tortilla Soup.

Now the Chef has probably made a zillion versions of tortilla soup but this one resonated with me – with its addition of mild, smoky, raisiny pasilla chiles.

As a polar opposite to my Los Mochis version with its brothy style, here I also added a quarter cup of masa harina to the soup as a thickening agent. The masa added heft and a super corn flavor. The result was an extraordinary amalgamation of complex chile and earthy corn. Rich and satisfying, it is a meal in itself.

Since pasillas are not particularly spicy…and for another layer of flavor and texture, I made an oil with the hotter chile de arbol, and sprinkled some of these toasted chile crumbles over the soup.

Tortilla Soup Recipe

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How to Bake Artisan Bread $0.68 per Loaf!

How to Bake Artisan Bread @ $0.68 per Loaf

How to Bake Artisan Bread $0.68 per Loaf!

Sixty-eight cents. Yep, that is what it costs to bake a beautiful, crusty loaf of artisan style bread.  Flour, yeast, and salt. These three ingredients plus water yields a masterpiece that would cost upwards of $6 at a decent bakery.

Not surprisingly, the global pandemic has spurred an interest in bread baking. Since people have extra time at home, don’t care to run out to the supermarket often, and are happy to save over $5 with every loaf…why not bake it yourself?

And not least of all, baking one’s own bread brings a sense of satisfaction, pride, and joy which is probably the best reason to bake at this challenging time.

How to Bake Artisan Bread

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Cooking in Challenging Times

Chickpea Stew with Lots of Veggies

Chickpea Stew with Lots of Veggies
Kale, Cabbage, Spinach, Carrot, Onion, Celery, Tomato

We are cooking in some challenging times, my friends. But we can do this and we can do this well! Look in the fridge and get excited!

We are cooking without the luxury of just popping over to the supermarket to get whatever ingredient our original recipe requires.

Today’s meal started in the pantry with a can of chickpeas and progressed to the veggie drawer in the fridge. There was a very small head of cabbage left over from my Stuffed Cabbage rolls. Less than a half bag of pre-washed spinach, and an aging bunch of curly kale.

Staples of carrot, onion, celery and garlic are almost always on hand. It was here that this hearty, healthy, satisfying stew recipe began to take shape.

Also, don’t underestimate dried herbs. They definitely have flavor and can substitute for fresh in these unusual times. Hopefully the dried herbs in your pantry are not too old!

Chickpea Stew Recipe

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