It barely feels like winter has kicked in, but here we are waving goodbye to another National Soup Month. Lucky for us, Super Bowl is just a few days away so we can keep rocking the soup vibe without shame. This Posole Verde is so much more than a soup, perhaps a stew, and has all the personal choice condiments that are mandatory for serving a crowd. You could make this vegan by leaving out the pork (must you?) and swapping the stock. But the slow cooking required to pop the posole begs for pork to be front and center and turning into delicate strands, filling every bite.
Posole or Pozole?
I’m talking POSOLE, people!! Or is it POZOLE? It’s hominy or giant puffed-up corn. I first ran into posole while foodstyling a Today Show segment for Williams-Sonoma. Interesting that it was a first, because I grew up just down the street from Fuhrer Ford Mills, a hominy processing plant. As a result, our house always smelled of popped corn (kind of yummy), and there was a constant coat of silt on every surface (kind of crummy). But despite formative years in corn country, this most definitely was never ever on our table.
Pozole is the traditional Mexican spelling, though more commonly spelled posole here north of the border. Maize (maíz) was a sacred plant for the Aztecs and it was often a part of celebrations. To get from maize, to hominy or posole, the dried corn must be slaked with lime to create an alkali solution, called nixtamalization. This process loosens the hulls, makes them soft like beans, and then “pumps you up!” Remember Hans and Franz on SNL??? The lime used here is not from fresh citrus; rather, it is a food-grade calcium hydroxide. If you have ever turned cucumbers to pickles, perhaps you used “pickling lime” to crisp up the vegetables before canning. Luckily for us, by the time you find dried white corn on the shelves (in the dried bean section), this has already been done and is ready for use in soups and stews.
Another benefit of cooking or soaking in slaked lime and ash (an alkaline process) is that the nutritional value is bumped up (making it niacin-rich), it becomes easier to grind (resulting in masa, the main ingredient in tamales), and flavor and aroma are improved. In addition to dried posole – sometimes labeled as Giant White Corn or Maíz Mote Pelado – you might see canned hominy at your store. It’s a much faster solution, but to my taste NOT nearly the no-brainer substitution as canned-for-dried beans. The texture of posole prepared from dried kernels is unlike anything else – chewy, toothy, satisfying – and is totally lost in the canning process. Canned hominy is much like the soft texture of a canned bean and tastes like disappointment. It’s slightly metallic and oh so mushy. I’m so keen on dried posole texture that I have never made the substitution since I once sadly tried canned.
The traditional Mexican preparations for posole are blanco, rojo or verde. The first (blanco) is unadorned and has no green or red ingredients added, and the latter two rely on chilis (rojo), such as Guajillo or Ancho, or tomatillos, lime, cilantro and jalapenos (verde), as I am sharing here. Adding the green things at the very end of your simmering keeps them from overcooking, leaving the flavor bright and a bit spicy.
Preparing the Posole
If I have the time, I like to prepare the posole the same way I would prepare dried beans. Rinse the posole under cold water, and transfer to a stockpot. Cover with 1-inch of water, bring to boil, and turn off the heat. Let the posole soak overnight. When ready to use, drain and rinse again. If you are pressed for time, you can skip this step or just shorten it to the time you prep the remaining ingredients.
The verde recipe I share here calls for a late stage addition of a puree of lime juice, jalapenos, cilantro (stems and all) and tomatillos. It kicks up the flavor profile like 100000%. This is the kind of dish you can just plop on a back burner and walk away, passing every hour or so to check on the liquid level and adding more stock, as needed. I am not an instant pot or slow cooker “cooker”, but I bet/know in my heart they would drastically reduce the time. I happen to have a few followers who are, and I’m counting on you to comment below. The big reveal comes when the posole starts to pop and look like a flower or popcorn, depending on your vision. I’ll admit it – it can take from 3 to 5 hours to pop (longer if the dried corn has been around for years and if you skip the soaking step), but it’s very low maintenance and for me a bit satisfying to have something cooking for the afternoon that really doesn’t cry out for attention. It’s like I’m cooking, and I’m not. Once it’s getting close, just toss the lime juice et al. in the processor, and give it a whirl. Add this to the pot and cook a few minutes more.
In Mexico, this dish is usually served with an array of toppings, including limes, cheese, sour cream, avocados, and radishes. Who doesn’t love to dose their own dinner? All those garnishes make it the perfect football afternoon kind of centerpiece. Add a few chips or warm tortillas, maybe a big salad or some cornbread….. and a nice frosty beer. You will not be sorry!
If you have a big enough pot – or want to use two – double up on the recipe. It freezes really well and then you will have a souvenir of the day you turned your kitchen into the most fragrant cantina in town. I added some notes below on how best to freeze. And while you are scrolling down, check the bottom of the post for some delicious additions to your soup repertoire.
Super Bowl is just a few days away so we can keep rocking the soup vibe without shame. This Posole Verde is so much more than a soup, perhaps a stew, and has all the personal choice condiments that are mandatory for serving a crowd. Put down a feast of toppings, a crunchy salad, and some cornbread, and sit back and watch the half-time show!
1 pound dried posole, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 1/2 pounds pork loin, trimmed of fat and cut into 1″ cubes (about 3 1/4 pounds pre-trim)
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
4–5 quarts chicken broth
1 pound tomatillos, husked removed and rinsed (about 10 medium)
2 jalapenos, stems removed and sliced in half
1 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves (reserve a few sprigs for toppings)
Juice of 2–3 limes
Grated Monterrey Jack
The night before, prep the posole:
Rinse the posole and transfer to a stockpot, covering with 1-inch of water. Bring to boil and turn off the heat. Let the posole soak overnight. When ready to use, drain and rinse again.
To make posole:
Heat oil over high heat in an 8-quart stockpot. Add pork, cumin, salt, and pepper. Sauté until pork is browned, about 10 minutes.
Add onion and garlic, and cook until softened and excess liquid has cooked off, about 6–8 minutes. Add soaked posole and stir to combine. Add 2 quarts of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check the liquid and when getting low, add another quart of stock. I tend to add the third quart around 90 minutes and the 4th quart around 3 hours. Altogether, this will simmer a total of 3, 4 or maybe even 5 hours. It will depend in part on the age and dryness of the dried product. To be safe, give yourself enough time for a 5-hour simmer.
The pork will fall apart and shred, and you will know the posole is done when the posole kernels have popped. The kernels will puff and pop, and look a bit like a flower (if you squint and have been hitting the cerveza during the last five hours). They burst open joyfully as if they want to become popcorn! Taste them periodically for doneness. Before they “blossom”, they will be quite starchy, fiber-full, and too chewy. Once sufficiently stewed, they will remain a bit chewy and toothy, but not woody.
Thirty minutes before the end:
When the kernels are starting to pop and getting close to the desired texture, toss the tomatillos, jalapenos, cilantro and lime juice into a food processor and puree. Add to stockpot and simmer for the final 30 minutes until the posole is tender. 30 minutes is plenty of time to simmer for this last step, but see note below.
Pressed for time? You can skip the soaking stage, or reduce it to the prep time for the rest of your chopping. That will likely lengthen the cooking time however.
Never add an acidic ingredient when cooking beans, or in this case, posole until the end. The acid binds with the outer structure and toughen it ups. No amount of additional cooking time will allow it to break down. Additionally, you want the fresh vibrant flavor from the green ingredients, which will dissipate if added too early in the cooking process.
If you are serving the posole later: Add the green mixture as you take the stew off the heat. The hot stew will cook sufficient “heat” out of these spicy and tart ingredients. To reheat, I also use some of that 5th quart to add to the pan. The posole will have continued to soak up broth as it sits in the refrigerator overnight, and you will need to loosen it a little with more stock.
Serve with bowls of the toppings, a crunchy salad and some cornbread!
Freezing? This stew is a fantastic freezer staple, but make sure to cool completely before transferring to freezer containers. I called for a 5th quart of stock so that you can top off the stew with liquid. Since there are a lot of chunky pieces, you want to make sure that they are all submerged in liquid before freezing.
Prep Time:30 minutes
Cook Time:4 hours
Keywords: posole, posole verde
It’s #NationalSoupMonth – so shout it out!
Here are some other ab-del (absolutely delicious) soups for your winter blues.
Summer is most certainly winding down and there is a little nip in the air. But fear not! The farmers’ market is still humming. And while you might see an apple or pear starting to make an appearance, corn, tomatoes and stone fruit are still holding court. I have been jonesing for a menu that highlights all that and more, where more equals a big honking tomahawk steak, rubbed to an inch of its life with a killer zesty spice rub. Do you feel me?
I guess you could call this a Pot Lucky because I had help. Lots and lots of help. But it was a pint-sized party compared to others in the past. It was dinner-party sized, to be exact. It was also a Pot Lucky in its most basic form because the menu was curated around a theme. The theme: Farmers’ Market Summer Harvest Bounty! I love the creativity that my guests bring to the table. A quick stroll through a farmers’ market or two and they all raised the bar on imaginative recipes and colorful culinary creations. I have to say – and they all agreed – it was a top ten (five?) meal of my life. Every damn delicious morsel. If I could, I’d eat it all over again. Right! Now!!
What’s a Tomahawk Steak?
I thought you’d never ask. Before I drill down on the deliciousness that was this menu, I wanted to throw a little 411 on you about the famous TomahawkSteak. Also sometimes known as a Cowboy Steak, a Tomahawk is a bone-in ribeye. And by bone-in, I mean all the way in. The steak is usually cut with 5 – 15” inches of rib bone hanging off the chop. The longer the bone, the more tomahawk-looking and all the more dramatic its presentation. It’s a bit fashionable at the moment because of its oh-so-eye-popping presentation. A Tomahawk also varies from a boned ribeye in thickness and weight. Because each rib gets its own serious slab of meat (a boned ribeye can be cut to any thickness), they tend to be about 2” thick and weigh upwards of three pounds, depending on the butcher and size of the cow. This section of the cow is also where T-bones and Porterhouses come from.
Once cut, a butcher will clean the bone by scraping off meat, fat and sinew, a technique called “Frenching”. Think of a rack of lamb with those pristine gleaming racks (bones). You’ve likely heard that cooking meat on the bone adds flavor, but since most of the bone extends beyond the meat it won’t likely add much. True, bones are full of collagen and vitamins, and that is why they are turned into stock and cooked down for demi-glace. But to get at any residual marrow, you need a wet cooking technique like braising, not a high temp grilling technique that chars the bone.
And in case you are wondering, Tomahawks are not limited to beef. Any large rib-cage animal can produce a Tomahawk. In a fancy steakhouse – or at your local butcher – you might find bison, pork or even venison Tomahawks. For the summer harvest dinner, I went with beef.
How to Cook a Tomahawk Steak
I think the ultimate in Tomahawk Steak preparation is a rip-snorting fire. I mean if we are going to eat like a caveman, let’s cook like one, too. It’s pretty foolproof, but if you are at all unclear about doneness, invest in an instant read thermometer, like the one in my shop. Make sure the meat is at room temperature and pat it dry. I have included a spice rub below, but feel free to use any spice rub that you love. If it contains salt, as does mine, rub it on just before grilling. The salt will pull the moisture out if you let it sit too long. Apply the spice rub generously to both sides of the meat and rub it in to minimize fallout (falloff?). It’s called rub for a reason!
There are two schools of thought on high-temp cooking for lean cuts of meat: sear and move to the cooler side or cook on the cooler side, then move to the hot side, ending with a sear, known as a reverse-sear. I have done it both ways and it’s a matter of personal preference, though the reverse-sear will look less charred. Either way, your gas or charcoal grill will need a hot side, as well as a cooler side where you will cook with the lid closed, using the convection created by the grill’s lid. If you opt for the reverse-sear, cook until your meat is about 20 degrees below your desired temperature (goal of 130oF for medium rare), turning periodically. When the meat reaches 110oF, move it to the hot side where you can get your perfect grill marks, or at least a nice, dark, caramel-colored finish. This reverse-sear technique has the added benefit of giving you some crust but without a full-on carcinogenic char. ?
The most important thing EVER for meat is to let it rest before carving – for a big slamming hunk like this, at least 10, more like 15, minutes. This allows the juices to retract back into the muscle, resulting in pink juicy meat. I want to cry every time I see someone pull a $100 tenderloin from the oven and cut immediately as the juices run rampant, leaving a grey blob back on the board. Just say no! And don’t forget to cut across the grain as you would with any piece of meat.
What’s in that spice rub?
I love to play around with spices in the pantry to come up with some unique combos that are easy to grab when headed to the grill. I do have a robust collection of components from which to mix, but truthfully you could make the spice rub below without all the bits and pieces. There are two salts – one would do. There are two peppers – ditto. I like a bit of sugar (remember the sugar steak?) to help with creating a crust on the steak, but you could use brown sugar if you don’t have turbinado. The main marker of this spice rub is that everything is chunky. That’s a good sign of a rub. If you just used iodized or fine sea salt, it would over-absorb into the meat. The chunkiness has the added benefit of providing pops of flavor, a concept that may be my life’s mantra.
I’m using a black sea salt from Iceland in this mix. (There’s one in my shop if you are curious). It’s no surprise that the island is full of salt options, but I was dazzled by the endless assortment of flavors, many of which start with a black lava salt. I came home loaded with blueberry, grey lava, crowberry with chili, black lava and about 10 more. The one in my shop is not Icelandic, but it’s also not the one that promises to be anti-Wiccan and claims to reverse spells, remove jinxes and keep away bad neighbors. Buy that at your own risk. 🙂
This spice rub is great for so much more than just the Tomahawk. I hope you will make up a batch and let me know how you plan to use it.
Summer Harvest Bounty Menu
Now that we are set on the main, what else sounds good? As a petitPot Lucky, my fearless guests hit the market and came out swinging. We started with these yummy Goat Cheese Tarts with Fresh Herbs and Heirloom Tomatoes.
And speaking of tomatoes, how about this Caprese Antipasti? Caperberries can be a challenge to source, but fear not, they too are in my shop.
And how about this wonderful combo of shaved cauliflower and radicchio? It’s packed with fresh herbs and doused with a smoked whitefish mayo. Look for the recipe in a wonderful new A to Z vegetable cookbook Ruffage, penned by a southwest Michigan chef and farmer Abra Berens. It’s all about farm to table – to be exact, Granor Farm to table, a journey of a mere 50 feet.
Shaved cauliflower salad with smoked whitefish mayo, lemon, radicchio and herbs (Recipe from Ruffage).
While the meat rested, we started with that trio, then moved on to the Tomahawk with the Green Machine Salsa Verde and Ina Garten’s Potato Fennel Gratin. Luckily that woman is not afraid of heavy cream and Gruyere. It was wonderful to have such a decadent side and yes, happily, there were some leftovers. Yahoo! There was plenty of yummy pinot to go around and I pulled out a couple bottles of Cherry Pie, a California favorite. Yum.
One of my favorites on the table was a duo of stuffed vegetables – zucchini and eggplants, one stuffed with ground bison and the other with ground lamb. Both were filled to overflowing with delicious grains, tomatoes, corn, plenty of herbs, and smothered with zesty tomato sauce and shredded cheese. Heaven on a platter!!
I know – the mind reels that there could be more, but nobody was going away hungry. Two salads crowned the buffet. Both have been here on the blog before and are about to come out with a fresh face very soon. The Everything but the Farmer Farmers’ Market Salad – a perfect summer harvest chopped salad of corn, so tender it took only a minute or two on the grill, grilled tomatillos, tomatoes, arugula, sprouts, arugula flowers, bacon and avo. And Roasted Yellow and Garnet Beets with Peaches and Goat Cheese and topped with a cascade of fresh basil. Sometimes I use nectarines. Sometimes I use fresh mint. But choose whatever is available locally and plenty ripe. I love to give it a drizzle with a fruity balsamic like raspberry, but an aged Balsamico is also delish.
And for the crowning glory – drum roll please – a peach and blueberry tart. I mean, could you die?? The sun was setting fast………on the evening, the season and the markets, fading with every last bite. But with the end of one season, a new one begins. And so, it goes. Circle of life.
I hope you too will circle up the friends and family, and pull together a meal as epic as this feast. Every morsel was perfectly seasoned, and every crumb gobbled up. I can’t think of a more respectable way to pay homage to the bounty that summer brings. Breaking bread with those you love is indeed a privilege. Amen to that!
All you need to know about Tomahawk Steaks and how to cook them, plus a zesty spice rub good for so much more. This chunky rub has the added benefit of providing pops of flavor, and its black lava salt helps keep jinxes at bay.
Place the coriander seeds in a mini chopper or spice grinder and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Repeat with the Tellicherry peppercorns.
Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and stir to combine.
Store in an airtight container.
1/2 cup makes enough for 4 Tomahawk Steaks or 12 single portion steaks.
Also good on other cuts of beef, lamb, poultry and more.
See post for details on how to cook Tomahawk Steaks!
Prep Time:5 minutes
Method:Dump & Stir
Keywords: spice rub, Tomahawk Steaks
Thanks to all my Pot Lucky-ers for continuing on this journey and being intrepid voyagers. Are you game to try your hand at a Pot Lucky? Let me know how it goes. Tag me with #PotLucky & #PalatePassionPurpose. And as always, I love to get your comments below.
Items mentioned in this post are available in my shop. Most items are linked to an amazon page and are available for Prime shipping. We make a tiny commission on each purchase which helps keep the larder full and allows for more free content for you! Thanks for supporting Palate. Passion. Purpose.
It’s no secret that Cobb Salad is a personal fave. But how to turn up the flavors, yet keep the bacon, egg, and cheese goodness? Enter Sriracha Grilled Shrimp and Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing. Say hello to your new best friend – the Southwestern Grilled Shrimp Cobb Salad. Perfection!
If you only need to know one thing about me, know this. I am mad for late summer farmers’ markets. I will probably go to five this week. Okay, I agree…..a little obsessive. But, I have a favorite farmer (plus The Cheese Lady) for every ingredient in this salad. I’m not saying you have to do the same – or that you can’t just go to the supermarket for all this – but I AM SAYING you have to make this NOW. Southwestern Grilled Shrimp Cobb Salad is all about the season at hand! Fresh sweet corn. Heirloom tomatoes. Sprouts. Flowers. Herbs. Oh my!
The Classic Cobb Salad
Instead of debating where this salad came from and why it is so called (almost certainly a 20s- or 30s-era salad from Hollywood’s Brown Derby, owned by Robert Cobb), what do you say we just dive in? The classic has greens – often iceberg or romaine, chicken, tomatoes, avocado, hard boiled egg, Roquefort and bacon. In other words, what could be bad? You may find it already tossed, as well as deconstructed with tidy little rows of ingredients. While it barely needs a dressing, the rich cheese and bacon beg for a quiet whisper of shallot vinaigrette.
The Shrimp Cobb Salad
I’m not gonna lie. I am a bit conflicted here. I have a passion for spins and tweaks and making the old new again. But the Classic Cobb is pretty much as good as it gets. I was having a party and wanted a make-ahead all-in-one salad-entree and I thought this would fit the bill….a real crowd-pleaser. But I decided as long as I keep all the favorite components, I could give it a global palate spin. Enter shrimp, corn, and chipotle. Some of the ingredients were direct swaps – chicken for shrimp, roasted for marinated and grilled, Roquefort for Hatch Gouda, and shallot vinaigrette for Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing. Others were too good to mess with – bacon, eggs, tomatoes, and avocado. Then there were a few things I decided to slide in because I could.
Look at these stunningly gorgeous plums. What a perfect sweet and juicy foil to all that buttermilk tang and chipotle smoke! Michigan produces a wide range of both Japanese and European varieties. Those yellow/green beauties are Shiros; the golden/orange-ish rounds are Bubblegum; the small red orbs are Methley; and the violet-blue ovals are Vibrants. I also added some corn which brought some more lovely sweetness, but bonus……….a nice crunch and texture contrast, as well.
I think deconstructed salads are among the few places where more is more. Most often in food, less is more. But if you are going to let people decide what to add to their plate, why not give them a variety to chose from?
Marinating the Shrimp
Shrimp is an-oh-so simple thing to throw on the grill, and of course is good grilled and chilled, making this the perfect make-ahead entree. The marinade is dead easy – lime juice, olive oil, Sriracha, Tabasco and some spices. If you haven’t tried the Chipotle Tabasco, give it a whirl. It adds a nice smokiness to the marinade. I never like to marinate any seafood or fish for too long, because the acid will start to “cook” it. If you prep the marinade first, and add the shrimp while prepping the rest of the salad and getting the grill ready, you will time it just right. Then only a few minutes on the fire for each side, and you and your shrimp will be ready to chill.
Composing the Salad
The directions for the marinade and creamy dressing are sufficiently detailed, but I am leaving the quantities for the fixin’s – or even whether or not to add them at all – up to you. How big is your platter? How many are you serving? How much do you love/hate sprouts?
Just keep in mind colors and textures as you go to arrange your platter. It’s a bounty of beautiful ingredients so this should be the fun part once your chopping is done. If you need to prep things further ahead than when you want to compose it, just bag each ingredient separately and arrange closer to serving time. Your guests will be dazzled! Enjoy!!
This Southwestern Grilled Shrimp Cobb Salad is a kicked up spin on an old classic. A few simple ingredient swaps, along with a zesty marinade for the shrimp and a creamy Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing, and this one-platter-is-a-meal comes together quickly. What a great way to celebrate with the bounty of late summer!
Marinade (makes enough for two pounds of shrimp):
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon Chipotle Tabasco
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing (makes 2 1/2 cups):
1 cup Greek non-fat plain yogurt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
chipotles in adobo – one big and one small, more or less to taste
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup tightly packed cilantro leaves
Salad fixin’s (mains):
shrimp, raw, deveined, peeled and tail on
Little Gems, baby Romaine lettuce, trimmed and halved
heirloom cherry and grape tomatoes, halved
eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and halved
bacon, crispy and crumbled
avocado, peeled and chopped
Southwestern cheese, grated (I found Hatch Chili Gouda)
corn, shucked, boiled, and cut from the cob
plums (or other stone fruit), pitted and sliced
Salad fixin’s (garnishes):
limes, cut in wedges or halved, if small
edible flowers, like Nasturtium
fresh sprouts, like radish, watercress and sunflower
crunchy topper (see note)
Prepare the marinade: Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate, up to one hour, while you prepare the other ingredients.
Prepare the Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing: Place all ingredients except the cilantro in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to chop, then process until creamy. Add the cilantro and pulse several times to chop roughly. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Grill the shrimp: Drain any excess marinade from the shrimp and grill over high heat for 2 – 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and reserve until cooled.
Assemble the salad: Once the shrimp is cool enough to not wilt your salad, compose the salad using all the main ingredients, with an eye toward color and textures. Arrange the garnishes on top. If you are serving later, reserve the bacon and crispy topping until serving time. Cover and refrigerate.
To serve: Add the bacon and crispy topping and serve with the Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing.
Crunchy toppers: there are a lot of different crunchy toppers available in the crouton section these days. I used the fried jalapeno slices, but you will also find the basic fried onion rings, as well as red peppers, tortillas and more. Chef’s choice.
Marinade is enough for two pounds of shrimp and Buttermilk Chipotle Dressing makes 2 1/2 cups.
Prep Time:1 hour
Cook Time:30 minutes
Keywords: Cobb Salad, Shrimp, Chipotle Dressing
I want to take a moment to send a heartfelt note of gratitude for all those that supported me spiritually, morally and physically in my Ration Challenge journey earlier this summer. Your generous financial support of this campaign put us at the very top of the fundraising leaderboard among the 40,000 challengers from around the world. Together we raised enough to feed 35 refugees for an entire year. Globally, that number is 16,829! Way to go!! With deep gratitude. xoxo, kk
Well, hello!! Fancy meeting you here in a whole new season! I know it has been a minute, but coming in strong with some tempting taste treats to make up for lost time. Think spring woodland treasures matched up with creamy, cheesy risotto! Yup – a fiddlehead fern, ramps and wild mushroom risotto! I had a hankering for morels, the crown jewel of springtime mushrooms, but couldn’t find any while foraging at Fresh Direct grocery delivery. However, they did not disappoint with an organic Asian blend, including Shiitake, Brown Beech and Oyster mushrooms. The Shiitakes add a nice depth of flavor – umami for the win – and the Brown Beech and Oyster provide their unique textures. Use whatever you can find, but look for a range in flavor, texture and shape.
By now you should be familiar with Shiitakes, because I reach for them maybe a bit too often. My workhorse! But the Brown Beech might be a new find. They grow in clumps – often at the base of beech trees, hence the name – and have long slender stems. Just trim the clump end off and leave them whole. So pretty and their bitter taste turns nutty when cooked.
Spring pastas and risottos will beg for their seasonal rock stars – ramps and fiddlehead ferns. Ramps are commonly known as wild leeks, wild garlic or spring onion. The look a bit like a tender tiny bunch of scallions, perhaps a bit leafier at the top. They have both an onion-y and garlic-y flavor, though both flavors come through rather sweet compared to their pungent older sisters. If you can’t find them, substitute with a small amount of minced garlic, and a handful of chopped scallions or chives.
Fiddlehead ferns are the furled frond of a tender, young Ostrich fern. Left to their own devices they would unfurl and become another frond on their host. They are a great source of iron, Omega 3s and fiber. But let’s get to it – texture and taste. It’s best to boil or steam them first to eliminate tannins and possible toxins. Then add them to your sauté toward the end so they stay crunchy and show off their delightful citrus-y taste. Together these ingredients bring both a bright springtime flavor (and color) and an unctuous woody flavor from the ‘shrooms.
If you live in a wooded area – and KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING – look around. One friend just reported yesterday that she had ramps, fiddleheads and Shiitakes popping everywhere right out her window. How’s this for a Shiitake crop?
I’m all for a stroll in the woods to see what has “popped up”, but if you haven’t done it before, be careful. Wildman Steve Brill offers an amazing course in NYC, where he forages in Central Park, among other Tri-State locales. He just did a private tour for the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance to rave reviews. I let Fresh Direct do the foraging for me, and by next week I will be haunting some outdoor farmers’ markets as they start to pop up.
The Right Rice
Now to the most important ingredient – the rice. For years, I thought Arborio was the go-to rice and used it with good results. (I used it here, too. Old dogs/new tricks????) But my friends Elisabetta and Kris, both of whom run wonderful culinary tours in Italy, assure me Carnaroli is the queen of risotto rice for most of Italy. I suppose I have been cooking so long that it’s possible it wasn’t yet a major import in the US market. But I’m abundantly clear now that it is the preferred variety. All rice used in risotto has short, rather stout grains, and is rich in a particular starch – amylopectin – that is a tad sticky and gives risotto its creaminess. Arborio is wider and longer than Carnaroli. But both are wildly different in shape and starchiness than our Carolina long-grain rice used for fluffy pilafs, geared to be a grain that won’t clump.
But wait – do I need to take a step back? Is this iconic, and oh-so-tasty-dish familiar to you? Apparently, it is not well-known to you all. Risotto is a dish that is among the easiest and least fussy, but requires a watchful eye and some stirring. Once the rice is toasted in hot oil, warm stock is added a bit at a time and stirred until absorbed, when you can add the next batch of stock. And so it goes, until all the stock is added and the rice’s chalky, crunchy texture gives way to soft and creamy. It is then that I add in the vegetables, sautéed previously, and the grated cheese(s) to finish it off. Serve it up right away with a crisp green salad and a lovely glass of wine. Invite friends, if you must.
Spring woodland treasures matched up with creamy, cheesy risotto! Yup – a fiddlehead fern, ramps and wild mushroom risotto! I went with an organic Asian blend, including Shiitake, Brown Beech and Oyster mushrooms. The Shiitakes added a nice depth of flavor – umami for the win – and the Brown Beech and Oyster provide their unique textures. Use whatever you can find, but look for a range of flavor, texture and shape.
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice (just over 1/2 pound – one pound is 2 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 quart reduced-sodium chicken stock, warmed
2 Tablespoons butter + 1 Tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces mushroom blend – Shiitake, trimmed and sliced; Brown Beech, trimmed and separated; and Oyster, trimmed and sliced
4 ounces fiddlehead ferns, stems trimmed
4 ounces ramps, trimmed and chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan or Parmesan/Asiago blend
salt and pepper
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until tender, about 2 – 3 minutes. Add the rice and cook until coated and starting to turn a bit translucent, about 3 minutes more. Stir in the wine and cook until it is evaporated, about 1 minute.
Meanwhile, heat the stock in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and keep it just below a simmer.
Add about 1 cup of the stock to the rice. Stir frequently until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring until mostly absorbed before adding the next ladle of stock. The rice will become tender – but not gummy – and creamy at about 25 to 30 minutes.
While the rice is cooking, melt the butter and remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the mushrooms, in batches if space requires, starting with the least delicate and ending with the most delicate (Brown Beech if using the mix above). Add the ferns and ramps and stir to combine. They will wilt slightly from the heat of the mushrooms.
Once the rice is nearly ready, gently stir in the vegetables and grated cheese. Taste and season as needed with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
Whistle that group to the table now! Risotto waits for no one. (and NO!!! you can’t make this ahead – well – or “freeze beautifully”! So, don’t even ask.)
Substitute 2 cloves of garlic and 2 chopped scallions in lieu of ramps. Add the garlic with the butter/oil and add the scallions last with the ferns and delicate mushrooms.
If you can’t find fiddlehead ferns, maybe try young spring asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces. Sauté with the mushrooms.
Let me be the very last to wish you a Happy New Year. Can I make amends by being the first to say Happy Valentine’s Day? I’m hitting you up with a delicious shiitake kale lasagna today, and it’s just about perfect for showing the love. Ooey gooey goodness. Check. Next-level comfort food. Check. Flavors that are literally layered. Check. Check. Check. (A lot of layers requires three checks!) What distinguishes this dish from my normal recipe style is that it takes a bit of time. Did I say a bit? Half the damn day. (I exaggerate – a lot). Hence the love factor, as in it is a labor of love to prepare. And in fact, it was a labor of love that I even bring it to you. You can thank my two neighbors that showed up on my doorstep, knocking timidly, hands extended and holding up a cherished lump of frozen kale mushroom lasagna. “Could you? Would you? Figure out what this is?” they asked. They’d found it in the back of the freezer, and it had been a gift. They loved it and wanted more. It was the last little slab. This kind of reminds me of Monica and Phoebe trying to recreate Phoebe’s grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe. Anybody?
I tried it and knew if it was going to be a project I’d undertake, I would surely have to kick the flavors up a notch. I tested this a couple of times, once with the oven ready noodles – no bueno in my mind, but you do you – and it kept getting better. The last one we made together. One thing I learned then and there is that it’s fun to cook with friends, maybe even more fun than cooking for friends. Who knew? This is a perfect recipe – since it has 6 components – to either make over a couple of nights, getting the sub-recipes ready to assemble, or even better, enlist some friends, giving each their own ingredient to prep. I was worried that it was really a bit involved for my blog – I like to roll simple and flavorful. But the reality is lasagna was never meant to be an everyday dish. In Italy, it is a special occasion dish, eaten in smaller portions as a starter. Argh! Americans!! Must we supersize everything??!! I told my colleague Elena Tedeschi from Well Rooted Kitchen that I was working on this, and she gave me a side-eye glance and begged to be reassured that I was not adding ricotta. Wait, what? I always had. Before I could answer, my rolodex brain flipped back to realize that of course the traditional would have been made with béchamel, or besciamella in Italian, a white sauce. I assured her I had a béchamel, conveniently leaving out that I ALSO HAD RICOTTA!!!!!! What am I, an American…adding more when less would have done? Yup! Sorry, not sorry. Not only do I add ricotta, I season the hell out of it. Blame it on the first round with the oven-ready/no-cook noodles. I was trying to keep the dish moist. I will not apologize.
I remember a Washington Post article about the Americanization of lasagna. They are not wrong. The article describes in detail the variations throughout regions of Italy both in terms of recipe and special occasion where you might find it served. The thing they have in common is just how special this dish is, and how laborious – and even expensive – it can be. I think this one fits in right about there. Classic dishes are more likely to be made with homemade thin, nearly translucent noodles. I do short-cut this with a dried pasta, but I try to find an Italian brand, like De Cecco, which is thinner. Bonus points for an artisanal pasta maker. Because lasagna noodles are used by the piece, not the weight (how many pieces are needed to cover a layer?) but sold by the weight, not the piece, it’s tough to guess how much you will need. I used a pound of that inferior no-cook domestic brand, but only 1/2 pound of De Cecco.
I have worked over the years with the legend, Marcella Hazan. She is no doubt rolling in her grave over this version. While a laborious gesture of love, her lasagna was certainly not overstuffed. I would argue that the thing mine has going for it is that there are two distinctly different (and perfectly seasoned, I might add) vegetables – kale and shiitakes – that are the stars. But you can still distinguish all other layers individually – pasta, béchamel and ricotta. I have seasoned each component separately, and you can taste them distinctly. But enough about me, let’s get this party cooking. Have you called your friends yet to schedule a lasagna fest?
Shiitake Kale Lasagna
Prep the Vegetables
I am using two kinds of kale, as well as shiitake mushrooms, in lieu of meat for this non-traditional – go ahead and say it – Americanized, Katy-ized version of lasagna. Both Lacinato (also known as dino, Tuscan, black, or flat) kale and baby kale are sautéed, then sweat to a reduction. They get a dose of red pepper flakes for their seasoning. Shiitake mushrooms are sautéed in butter and the pan is then deglazed with Marsala wine.
Make the Besciamella
This white sauce is normally butter, flour and milk, but because of the double dose of starch – flour + noodles – I cut the milk with vegetable stock. Don’t try to make sense of that – just know I am lightening up the béchamel a bit by not solely using milk for the liquid. Like all roux-based sauces, it’s 1 Tablespoon fat to 1 Tablespoon flour to 1 cup of liquid. Got that? I hope by now you have that mastered. So, it takes 1/4 cup fat, in this case butter, to result in one quart of sauce. Tricky math – 1/4 cup dry is 4 Tablespoons and one quart liquid is 4 cups. Voila! I’m seasoning this with some coriander – just because it plays well with the earthy vegetables – and some nutmeg, albeit more French than Italian. Stay with me.
Season the Ricotta
Elena: Just skip this section and forgive me.
I thin the whole milk ricotta with some milk, and season it with lemon zest, fresh basil and thyme, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Easy peasy.
Cook the Noodles and Grate the Cheeses
As mentioned, look for a high-quality Italian-brand dried pasta. The amount needed will depend on the number of pieces per pound. Figure 13 to 15 noodles, which is hard to determine when you are shopping, so buy the one pound box. Before you cook, lay the noodles out in a pan and see what you will need to cover three layers. I like to do the first and third layer cross-wise and the middle layer lengthwise. That makes it easier to hold together when you cut the lasagna. If all layers go the same direction, you will no doubt trigger a noodle landslide. Nobody wants that.
For the cheeses, I used Pecorino Romano (a classic), goat Mozzarella (cow will do) and Fontina Fontal (super melter). Each cheese brings its own special flavor notes and texture, but at a minimum you want a finely grated super flavor like a Pecorino and a hand-grated melter like a Mozz and/or Fontina. Shout out to The Cheese Lady for filling my life with options!
Layer the Shiitake Kale Lasagna
At the risk of TMI, I have provided a detailed list of the layering order with specific details on how much of each ingredient to use. Maybe its me, but I often find myself trying to figure out why I end up with some arbitrary ingredient portion left over or trying to count layers and doing long division, especially if the details are buried in a verbose paragraph. It makes the printout lengthy but you can NOT go wrong. Not on my watch!!
I hope you will find a cold wintery night and a couple friends to either help you prep or at least to pour your wine as you go. You will be the belle of the ball if you mic-drop this on the table. Some red wine and a big salad – maybe with a touch of sweetness like juicy pears – and settle in. Buon Appetito.
This shiitake kale lasagna is a dreamy wintery dish, chock-full of earthy greens and mushrooms, with a cozy dose of melty cheeses and warm spices. Enlist your friends and make a night out of prepping the layers and assembling, then settle in to reap the rewards.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bunches of Lacinato (dino, Tuscan) kale, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
2 5-ounce packs of baby kale
3 Tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 – 2 Tablespoons butter
12 ounces shiitake mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
2 Tablespoons Marsala wine
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Béchamel Sauce (makes 1 quart):
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups of milk
2 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Grating of fresh nutmeg
1 pound ricotta cheese
Zest of one lemon
1/3 cup milk
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 pound Italian-brand lasagna pasta (you will need about 15 pieces)
1/3 pound Pecorino Romano, 1 1/4 cups grated
1/2 pound goat (or cow) Mozzarella, 2 cups grated
1/3 pound Fontina Fontal, 2+ cups grated
Preheat oven to 325oF. Butter a 3-quart 9 x 13 baking dish.
Prep the layers:
Kale: Heat olive oil over high heat in a large sauté pan. Add chopped garlic and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chopped Lacinato kale and the baby kale and stir to wilt. You may need to add the greens in batches, until there is enough room to add more. Add 3 Tablespoons water and cover. Cook for about 2 minutes, then remove the lid and cook about 2 minutes more until the liquid is evaporated. Season with salt and red pepper flakes.
Mushrooms: Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the shallots and cook about 4 minutes until shallots are golden. Add 1 Tablespoon butter and the shiitakes, cooking for 4 minutes until cooked through. Add an additional Tablespoon butter, if needed. Deglaze the pan with 2 Tablespoons Marsala wine, scraping up the brown bits. Season with black pepper.
Béchamel Sauce: Heat 4 Tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, whisking in the flour until smooth. Cook the roux for several minutes, letting it bubble at least one minute, until lightly golden. Add the milk and vegetable stock, in a slow drizzle until all is incorporated. Season with salt, coriander, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer for 10 minutes. Taste for seasonings and adjust.
Ricotta: Mix all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Pasta: Cook the noodles according to package directions in salted water, undercooking by about two minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drizzle a little olive oil on the noodles and lay them out on a foil-lined sheet pan, with plastic wrap between the layers. Cover with a damp towel if you are holding for a little while or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate if you are prepping a day ahead.
Cheese: Combine the three cheeses together in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
To make assembly easier to follow, I am listing each layer separately, along with how much to use. Layer as follows:
Béchamel Sauce – 1 cup
Lasagna Noodles – cross-wise, about 3 – 5 pieces, depending on brand, trimmed to fit
Béchamel Sauce – 1 cup
Kale mixture – 1/2 of the mixture
Grated cheese – 1/3 of the mixture
Mushrooms – 1/2 of the mixture
Ricotta filling – 1/2 of the mixture
Lasagna Noodles – lengthwise, about 3 – 4 whole noodles, trimming as needed to fill ends
Béchamel Sauce – 1 cup
Kale mixture – 1/2 of the mixture
Grated cheese – 1/3 of the mixture
Mushrooms – 1/2 of the mixture
Ricotta filling – 1/2 of the mixture
Lasagna Noodles – cross-wise, about 3 – 5 pieces trimmed to fit
Béchamel Sauce – 1 cup
Grated cheese – 1/3 of mixture
Place on a sheet pan to catch bubble-overs, and bake, covered with foil sprayed with oil to prevent sticking, for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and raise the oven temperature to 425oF. Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes until the cheese is starting to brown and the lasagna is bubbly.
Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.
The prep time here is directly correlated to how many people and how much wine. I am a speedy chopper and prepped in less time than shown. If you are a leisurely chopper or socializing, it may take longer. Or, many hands make light work.
Here’s hoping you had a wonderful feast and joy-filled Thanksgiving last week. But in case you were simply too busy stuffing your faces to catch this little jewel on Eat, Darling, Eat, I am linking it here. Almost too good to miss, right? Those bangs?!?! Anybody else have the Scotch-tape-and-cut method of home barbery? That swing set with the chair for the baby? Oh my! The childhood memories? The culinary memories?
I heard from EDE creators Aimee Lee Ball and Steve Baum last spring about “possible synergy”. When I read what Eat, Darling, Eat was all about, I knew I wanted in. Eat, Darling, Eat is a “multicultural collection of original stories by and about mothers and daughters—each with a connection to food. It’s a rich pathway for exploring that essential relationship—the unique personalities and formative experiences—whether told from the mother’s or daughter’s perspective. Some stories are poignant tributes to beloved mothers, while others are about more complicated women” (don’t even look at me!) “who created chaos, even damage. Many stories reveal immigrant backgrounds—whether hilarious, heartwarming, or heartbreaking.” I was so happy to see my story become the Thanksgiving feature, with a share of my/Mom’s/some sorority cookbook’s Turkey Tetrazzini. It’s no coincidence how a major holiday can inextricably link all childhood memories with culinary memories, and ultimately Taste Like Home.
“So many memories of my youth are wrapped around the exquisite specialties lovingly created by my mom and both grandmothers. Individual chess pie tarts, the freshest squeezed lemonade, crab bisque with a splash of sherry, tart June apple applesauce. The cooking sessions were always filled with tips: oil the scissors before snipping gumdrops for gumdrop cookies; float Crisco in water for a mess-free but accurate measure; wait until the water droplet rolls like a ball in the hot pan before dropping your first pancake; test the candy for the hard-crack stage using cold water. These sessions gave me the chutzpah at age six to think”….click here for my “mother and me” story atEat, Darling, Eat!
Thanks to Steve and Aimee for the chance to share. And any women out there who want to pay tribute to their mothers or daughters should join the conversation, enjoy the stories, and share theirs. We all have stories and culinary memories! Let’s share!!