tomato + brown rice soup with crumbled sausage

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Yesterday was a dark day. The sort of day where you want to draw all the blinds and burrow under the covers. I was at work when I received the results of my initial bloodwork (celiac coming next week, kids!) and my food sensitivities have been confirmed: gluten, dairy, yeast. Essentially, every food product in AMERICA. I spent the bulk of the day despondent, in a fog, trying to make sense of this–how I went from monthly stomach pains and sickness to hives and food elimination–and more importantly, trying to wrap my head around the fact that this seismic shift affects me in ways I never imagined.

I’m a baker. I love yeasty loaves and plump muffins. Baking gave my hands something to do, kept me occupied during my darkest hours. The alchemy of it, the wonder I felt watching dough rise through the small window of my oven, gave me comfort. And now, all of it, is in ruins. My kitchen appeared tainted, bruised, having just survived a purging of all gluten products, and now this. I needed to spend yesterday mourning the loss of the simple joy that only white flour, sugar, and butter can bring. I didn’t need to hear: there are options! you are strong! be positive!

Why is it that we always race to brand a smile on someone’s face? Why is it that we’re afraid to watch someone sit quietly in their sadness, albeit for a little while? There is always this curious rush to solve, to correct, to fix, when all I wanted to do was sit in front of my computer, work, and say, this sucks for a few hours. Allow people trespass to their sadness–you’re not helping if you try to immediately diminish the weight of it.

I came home defeated, and decided to make this soup. It was delicious, comforting, filling –until I discovered that the chicken stock I used contained yeast extract, and so began the nighttime itch.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to slowly sit with this adjustment. I’m going to have to be more diligent about reading labels. I’ll have to be inventive, patient, and curious. I’ll have to buy books and read new blogs. I’ll have to play this as it lays.

No gluten, dairy, and yeast for at least nine months. I’m going to need to sit with this.

INGREDIENTS (all local/organic)
2 large beefsteak or vine tomatoes
1 28oz can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 quart of chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 Italian sausage link, crumbled out of the casing
1 large yellow onion, rough chop
4-6 fat garlic cloves, rough chop
2 cups of basil (in season only; tonight I opted to nix this)
1 tbsp of olive oil
1/2 cup brown rice
Salt/pepper to season and taste

DIRECTIONS
De-seed and dice the tomatoes (no need to get all exact about this. My rule of thumb is to cut everything the same size so as everything cooks evenly). Chop the onions & dice the garlic. In a large saucepan, add the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic with pinches of salt & pepper. Cook for 3 minutes on medium-high heat. You’ll notice that the onions are translucent and soft. Add the sausage and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Once the mixture has softened, add the can of San Marzano tomatoes and the broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the salt and pepper to season, and stir for 1-2 minutes. Bring the heat down to medium. Cover the pot with a lid and cook for 15-20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, add the fresh basil. You are ready to blitz! I have an immersion blender (one of the best investments I’ve made since I cook a lot of soup), which I recommend. Blend to smooth. Alternatively, you can blend this in batches in the blender. Warning: when blending hot liquids make sure you fill the blender only half-way & cover the lid with a towel and press down. This will prevent a steam/liquid explosion. After the soup is smooth, return the mixture to the pot. It will look watery! No worries, the starches released from the brown rice will serve to thicken the soup. Add the brown rice and cook for another 20 minutes.

In a medium skillet or grill pan, grill up bits of a sausage until well-done.

Ladle into bowls + serve with the crumbled sausage, olive oil and fresh basil. The soup will store wonderfully in an airtight container for a week.

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pearl barley and baby kale, corn + sausage salad

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I’m closing on my first week without my beloved noodle, and it appears as if I will survive. I’ve stocked my fridge with vegetables, fruit, and meats, and my pantry with beans and whole grains. Thankfully, I’ve some pretty stellar cookbooks from which to draw inspiration, and today’s lunch will be a terrific one.

The original recipe {view it here} calls for mushrooms and red onions, two ingredients I abhor, so I opted to switch things up a bit, and nix the hummus {while I adore hummus, it didn’t make sense for my revision}, mushrooms, and onions. The result? Fresh, flavorful, filling.

And yes, I still miss pasta.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Jane Coxwell’s Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes, with modifications.
Makes 4 servings
1/2 cup pearl barley {you can also use Israeli couscous}
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 small shallot, finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1-2 sweet sausages, casing(s) removed {depends on how much sausage you want in the recipe}
1 ear of organic sweet corn
Maldon salt or other flaky salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice from ½ lemon
1 handful organic baby kale leaves
1/2 cup dill leaves
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

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DIRECTIONS
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the barley and cook for about 30 minutes, or until tender. If you’re using Israeli couscous, cook the grains per the package directions.

While the barley {or couscous} is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over low heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes, stirring often to keep them for burning. Combine the pine nuts and shallot in a large bowl.

Using the same frying pan over high heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and the sausage(s). Sauté for about 4 minutes, or until the sausages have some good color. Add them to the bowl with the shallots and pine nuts.

In the same pan over medium-high heat, add some more olive oil if necessary and the corn on the cob. Cook the corn for about 5 minutes, or until it’s nicely colored all over. It’ll make a bit of noise and spit a tiny bit, but don’t worry—the heat shouldn’t be high enough to make it pop and splatter!

Drain the barley {or couscous, if you’re using} and add it to the skillet with the corn, and add salt and pepper to taste. Saute for another minute. Give it a taste, then squeeze in the juice of half a lemon.

Add the handful of baby kale leaves, pine nuts, sausage, and shallot, and mix well. Garnish with the dill and parsley and serve.

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file under wow the crowd: one tray italian bake

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Today I woke to a signed consulting contract and a slew of wonderful emails from old friends and new. I celebrated by toasting a crumb cake and coffee with my business partner as we made our plans for the week. Already the week is off to a magical start, and I plan to design each day and live through it, ferociously.

Speaking of ferocity, this one-pan wonder was a ceremonious HIT at last night’s dinner soiree. I had the boys over, and not only did they love the simplicity of the dish (juicy chicken and tender sausage — hello!), I fixed some millet with sundried tomatoes, olive oil and a touch of cheese, and started off our dinner with a fresh berry salad spritzed with lemon.

Naturally, we closed our meals with chocolate and conversation. If you’re looking for a simple dish that will elicit awe, trust me on this. TRUST.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigellissima, with modifications.
3 large Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 lb of chicken*
1 lb of sweet Italian sausages
6-7 sprigs rosemary
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp kosher salt
Ground pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Notes in the margins: You can use a mix of thigh, legs + breast, however, ensure that the meat is on the bone. Do not use skinless, boneless chicken breasts unless you want a dry piece of chicken. For my guests, I opted for three breasts on the bone and they cooked wonderfully. Also, don’t use a deep, high rise shallow pan. Initially, I was going to use my turkey roasting pan, however, the chicken wouldn’t crisp up, and the texture will end up rubbery and soggy. Instead, I used a baking dish lined with tin foil and it did the job beautifully.

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 425F. Place the diced potatoes into a sheet pan or large, shallow roasting pan and add the chicken and sausages.

Arrange 4 sprigs of rosemary among the chicken and sausages, then finely chop the needles of another two sprigs to give you 2 teaspoons of finely chopped rosemary, and sprinkle those on as well.

Zest the lemon over everything, and season with salt and pepper.

Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until chicken skin and sausages are golden and potatoes pieces are cooked through. Let stand at least 5 minutes after cooking, and you can let it stand for up to 30 minutes before serving.

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this pizza will make you weep: roasted butternut squash + sage sausage pizza with smoked gouda!

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Would you believe that I’ve been haunted? That my waking hours are filled with visions of butternut squash sauces and a butternut squash penne that rivals your beloved macaroni + cheese? Believe me when I say that while I adore the unctuous layers of gouda and cheddar cheeses, while the very thought of a four-cheese mac + cheese gives me palpitations — there’s something magical about a butternut squash sauce.

I was tempted to fix one of these pasta dishes, but since I had a pound of whole wheat pizza dough in the freezer, leftover sage sausage in the refrigerator, it only made sense to turn my favorite dish into a pizza.

AND. OH. MY GOD. THIS WAS THE BEST. DECISION. I’VE. EVER. MADE.

Make this. Make this now. And guess what? It’s healthier than your normal take-out variety. And if you want to be even more virtuous, trade up the pork sausage for turkey and add some sweet caramelized onions for good measure.

INGREDIENTS*
1 lb whole wheat pizza dough
1 lb butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1/2 lb ground sage sausage, removed from the casing
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup smoked gouda cheese, grated
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 garlic clove
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
oil for the cooking sheet

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a large baking dish and toss in the chunks of butternut squash. Add salt and pepper, and toss until the squash is slick and glossy. Roast the squash for thirty minutes or until tender.

While the squash is roasting away, fry up the sausage in a large sauté pan until they’re a sweet, brown and caramelized (approximately 8-10 minutes). Flouring your rolling pin and your counter, roll out your dough until it’s 10×10, 1/4 inch thick. Since my oven is something from the Holly Hobby era not able to fit anything resembling a pizza stone, I’m forced to get creative, so I oil a large cookie sheet. With your rolling pin, roll up the dough and add it to your sheet/stone, if you’re lucky enough to own a brick oven or whatnot.

Once the squash is roast tender, transfer the hot squash into a blender, adding in the milk, stock, chopped thyme + garlic, salt and pepper. Hold a damp cloth over the top of the blender as you blitz to a puree. You don’t want a liquid smoothie, per se, but you want a thick sauce.

Brush olive oil on top of the pizza dough. Spoon a thin layer of squash, leaving a 1/4 inch border. Add the sausage, cheeses, and thyme to the top.

Bake in an oven for 10 minutes, rotating half-way through, until the pizza crust is golden and cheese, unctuous and bubbling.

Serve pipping hot!!

Cooks’ Notes
As always, I never use products that contain HFCS or partially hydrogenated oils. I scored my pizza dough from Whole Foods, but feel free to ask your local pizzeria. My milk + mozzarella are part skim (this is purely reflective of my taste), and the smoked gouda gives the pizza depth of nutty, salty flavor — a perfect contrast to the sausage.

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too beautiful for type: grano, new york city

Cavatelli + Sausage
After a twenty-hour sojourn, which comprised of four planes, four states, two storms, sweet tea, and an hour-long client kick-off meeting, I came home last night and collapsed onto my couch — face-first. I fell into a deep sleep, the sleep of children, and I woke invigorated and ready to embrace New York autumn in all its plumage. From the terracota leaves on the verge of curling and burning to the pumpkin-strewn windows and sidewalk vendors hocking pashminas, I focused my day on returning to myself. After a grueling workout, I sipped green juice (the triumphant return of KALE!) and found my way to Grano Trattoria, my beloved eatery in Greenwich village. Clearly, I have my friend Kate to thank for leading me to this sweet spot, but every time I want delicious, simple Southern Italian fare, I trek to Grano.

Who could possibly deny a squash and spinach salad replete with local cheeses and toasted walnuts? Who could refuse a bread basket accompanied by spicy ricotta instead of the requisite olive oil and cracked pepper? At Grano, the menu is seasonal and filled with homemade pastas and mouth-watering antipasti.

Today, I chowed down on my mainstay, Cavatelli Pugliesi, hand-rolled pasta with homemade sausage finished in a light tomato sauce. Words cannot even EXPRESS how incredible this dish is. So much so that I order it nearly EVERY SINGLE TIME I set foot in Grano. From the light, al dente texture of the pasta to the sweet, herbed sausage and luscious marinara, I won’t blame you for passing out whilst eyeing these photos.

So if you’re in New York and want to escape the Italian tourist traps, I implore you to check out Grano.

Cavatelli + Sausage
Coffee
Bread