Spinach and Ricotta Meatloaf

I have made hundreds of meatloaves over the years, each probably a little different than the previous one. Last night’s was exceptional. Spinach and Ricotta Meatloaf.

I didn’t follow a recipe for this. Honest. I made it up as I went along. And as I said, I have made hundreds of meatloaves over the years. Read about one here and here

But to the best of my memory, I combined:

1 1/4 pound ground meat
1 beaten egg
1 cup of milk soaked homemade rye bread pieces
1 cup store-bought bread crumbs
1/2 + cup ricotta
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
2+ cups chopped baby spinach
1 carrot grated
1 stalk celery diced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

I put sliced tomatoes on top instead of ketchup because why not 🙂

I baked at 350 for about an hour. Served with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy. And roasted broccolini.

If you are looking for beautiful portrait, nature, or documentary photography, or someone you know is looking for photography that helps to create a more artful and beautiful life, please contact me.

 

The Cardinal Who Came To Say Namaste

“I bow to the divine in you”.

Seeing a cardinal in a dream or vision is usually a good omen. They are often connected with the number 12 because they are around 12-months out of the year and they often lay 12 eggs. They also carry symbolism for Christians because they are red as the blood of Christ and they also represent his birth.

The word cardinal comes from the Latin word cardo, meaning hinge or axis. Like a door’s hinge, the cardinal is the hinge on the doorway between Earth and Spirit. They carry messages back and forth.

A cardinal is a representative of a loved one who has passed. When you see one, it means they are visiting you. They usually show up when you most need them or miss them. They also make an appearance during times of celebration as well as despair to let you know they will always be with you. Look for them, they’ll appear.

Thus, when my friend Anita Siecker wrote about cardinals on her Instagram feed I was greatly moved by her beautiful, poetic and inspiring words as I have photographed cardinals hundreds of times.

She writes: “My mom LOVED cardinals! She loved watching hummingbirds and all birds, but cardinals were extra special to her……..The cardinals, male and female, have come to mean a whole lot to my heart, and all of my family’s hearts, since we lost Mom and Daddy. When you make deposits into Heaven you long for it all the more! Seeing cardinals outside in every season, feeding then and watching them crowd around our bird feeders, and having them sit in our trees and on our fenceposts makes us smile. We remember my parents in happy, loving ways…….It is said “When a cardinal appears in your yard, it’s a visitor from Heaven.” Well, I don’t know if that’s true, but I do like to think that our loving Heavenly Father, who is able to do anything He wants to do, does want to comfort us.”

When Anita saw the photo above online she asked if she could order a print from me. I printed one for her and surprised her with another cardinal photo. It’s all about love. As my friend Ann Voskamp says “Be the gift.”

I was especially moved by what Anita wrote on her Instagram feed, along with my photos, now framed, and hanging in her home: “I enjoy Bruce’s photography everyday…….He lives in gorgeous Massachusetts. He loves to photograph nature and food, and does beautiful portraits! He’s also a gourmet chef and published writer…….just a few things I admire about him! Mostly I admire and appreciate his heart full of gratitude.”

Now that last sentence really got to me! I almost cried!

As I look out the window in the home office  Susan and I share and I see a cardinal in a tree, at the birdfeeder or in the birdbath, I do imagine, I believe, it is a loved one, coming to say “Namaste.”

If you are looking for beautiful portrait, nature, or documentary photography, or someone you know is looking for photography that helps to create a more artful and beautiful life, please contact me.

 

Roasted Eggplant, Lentil, Orzo Stew

A few days ago, I arrived home from the grocery store with 5 or 6 bags of groceries, mostly vegetables for our “Soup Every Day Project.” I shop twice every week and I know most of the cashiers by name and they know my name. Some even know our dog’s name, Freddy, as I have given them his business card. Yes. He has a business card because he is a very good boy and cute as a button.

Anyway, Susan saw that I had bought an eggplant and she said “Bruce, what do you plan on cooking with the eggplant?” I answered, “I thought I might make eggplant parm or moussaka.” And she said, “I just found this interesting recipe for eggplant. What not take a look at it.” And I did and I said, “Susan, that sounds delicious.” And it was delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds eggplant (2 small or 1 large, skin on, or peeled, if desired), chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dried lentils (green, black or brown)
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water
  • ½ cup orzo or other small pasta, such as ditalini, stelline or macaroni
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon, plus 4 lemon wedges for garnish
  • ¼ cup shaved ricotta salata or crumbled feta

Preparation

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 1/4 cup olive oil and crushed coriander seeds until coated; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast until eggplant is tender and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, giving the baking sheet a shake halfway through roasting to toss the eggplant pieces for even cooking.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium. Add the carrot, onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato paste begins to darken on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lentils until coated. Pour in stock or water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to medium and simmer until lentils are tender, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the type and age of lentils you use.
  5. Stir in the orzo and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the roasted eggplant pieces and large shavings of ricotta salata, and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

Dried-Fruit Fruitcake

I am not joking. Oh, I know, people always joke about The Fruitcake. I have made this every Christmas for the past three years and it is absolutely delicious! Trust me. You’ll love its sweet taste!

Oven-Fried Chicken Thighs with Buttermilk-Mustard Sauce

We have been cooking with chicken thighs here quite often.

A few days ago, I made Braised Chicken Thighs with Dates and Apricots—so delicious.

And last night (pictured here), I made Oven-Fried Chicken Thighs with Buttermilk-Mustard Sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 4 (6-ounce) chicken thighs, skinned
Directions
Step 1

Preheat oven to 425°.

Step 2

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a small microwave-safe bowl. Spoon 3 tablespoons buttermilk mixture into a shallow bowl; reserve remaining mixture.

Step 3

Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Dip chicken in 3 tablespoons buttermilk mixture; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Chill 15 minutes. Lightly coat a baking sheet (or oven-proof chef’s pan) with cooking spray, and place in oven for 5 minutes.

Step 4

Place the chicken on baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 24 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 180°, turning chicken after 12 minutes. Microwave reserved buttermilk mixture at high for 20 seconds or until warm. Drizzle the sauce over chicken. Note: I baked with for 30 minutes, turning at 15.

Next time, I might use Panko instead of bread crumbs and old style grain mustard.

Anyway, it was delicious. Served with lentils, roasted Brussels Sprouts and walnuts, homemade cranberry sauce.

Based on a recipe from Cooking Light.

Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

This is so delicious. And so easy to prepare.

Recipe is from “Food & Wine Magazine, Quick From Scratch One-Dish Meals Cookbook;” a great cookbook. I am positive I made four meals from the book in the past 10 days!!!

Quoting from the book:

“Spaghettini is a good stand-in for Asian noodles, but if you can find rice noodles, by all means use them here. Serve the soup in deep bowls with chopsticks or forks as well as spoons and then drink the soup in the Asian manner. Or, use a spoon only and eat everything together, break the pasta into small pieces before cooking.”

Ingredients

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 tablespooon sesame oil
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger (peeled and cut into thin slices)
2 dashes cayenne pepper (add more to taste)
⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more)
1 1/2 quart chicken broth (I used my homemade stock)
1 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes, with juices
1¼ pounds chicken thighs, cut into 1 inch or smaller cubes (boneless, skinless)
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped (plus extra for garnish) (optional)
½ pounds udon noodles (can substitute spaghetti, gluten-free or egg-free thin noodles)
salt (to taste)
3-5 cups baby bok choy (I used 5.)

1/4 cup lime juice (from 2 limes)

Directions

 

In a large soup pot, heat both oils at medium heat. Add onion, celery, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, and red pepper flakes and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the broth, crushed tomatoes, chicken, and fish sauce, cilantro. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add noodles and cook for an additional 4 minutes, or for the cooking time recommended on the package of noodles you are using. Add salt to taste. Add bok choy and lime juice and cook another 1-2 minutes until soft. Serve with chopped cilantro, lime wedge (optional)

Oh—and I served it with homemade Wheat, Pecan, Sunflower Seed, Dried Cranberry Bread.

Pasta with Tuna, Capers, and Green Olives

A few nights ago Susan and I had dinner guests. Candy and her daughter, Remy. Candy and I went to the same elementary school, junior high school and church when we were growing up in Teaneck, New Jersey (This was a long time ago.) So I feel very blessed she and her daughter took time to visit with us.

Earlier in the week, Susan and I talked about what to cook and we thought this might be perfect. I had asked Candy if there was anything she didn’t like and she said “boudin.” But the thought crossed my mind “tuna, caper, green olives!” Need I say, they loved it.

SERVES: 4

When it comes to making quick, delicious pasta sauces, Italians hold canned tuna in high regard. We complement it with Provençal herbs and orange zest. If you’re a lemon-zest fan, try that instead of the orange.

Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried sage (I used 1/2)
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary (I used 1/2)
  • 3/4 teaspoon grated orange zest (from 1/2 orange)
  • 1 tablespoon drained chopped capers
  • 1/4 cup chopped green olives
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 6-ounce cans tuna packed in olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon wine vinegar
  • 3/4 pound linguine or tagliatelle
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Directions
  1. In a medium frying pan, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the garlic, sage, and rosemary and stir until the garlic just starts to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the orange zest, capers, olives, salt, pepper, and the tuna with its oil. Remove from the heat; stir in the vinegar.
  2. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the pasta until just done (follow package directions) Drain the pasta and toss with the tuna sauce and parsley.

NOTE

Tuna Packed in Oil

Here we use tuna packed in olive oil, and we count on that oil as part of the sauce. If your tuna doesn’t have at least one-and-a-half tablespoons of oil per can, add a little more olive oil to make up the difference. Of course, you can use tuna packed in vegetable oil, too, but avoid water-packed tuna at all costs. The flavor, and most of the nutrients for that matter, leach out into the water.

A robust French rosé from the southern Rhône appellation of Tavel will serve these Mediterranean ingredients well. Earthy and full of roasted raspberry flavor, Tavels are among the most full-bodied of rosés. If you’d rather stick to the Italian theme, look for the wonderful Sicilian rosé from Regaleali.
The first time I made this recipe I used Linguine:

~Food & Wine

Curried Cauliflower with Dahl

I don’t often cook with cauliflower. It’s not that I don’t want to, I like eating cauliflower, but cauliflower seems to turn brown if you don’t use it the day you buy it.

However,  here are two cauliflower meals I have made and both were delicious:

Roasted Cauliflower with Pomegranate, Mint and Tahini

Seared Scallops with Cauliflower, Capers and Raisins

And I have often substituted it for broccoli in pasta dishes.

A few  days ago I saw orange and purple-colored cauliflowers at the grocery store and I actually had a hard time choosing between the two colors. But, the orange cauliflower called out to me as a big ball of sunshine in the produce aisle. When I got home, Susan said “You bought cauliflower! I love cauliflower. What are you going to make?”

Quoting from the book (beautiful and informative book):  Produce, A Fruit and Vegetable Lover’s Guide:

“Cauliflower is hardly the most glamorous of vegetables but, like its siblings, the cabbages, it has been enjoyed through the ages. The ancient Romans doted on it, and then it fell victim to the barbarian scourge, disappearing for centuries. The Renaissance brought a reflowering of many things, the cabbage flower but one. And if we needed evidence that it finally arrived, a bit of culinary flattery would do it—and eighteenth -century French chef created a dish, probably a puree, that would forever link cauliflower with Louis XV’s Madame du Barry.

“Mark Twain called it ‘nothing but cabbage with a college education’ and he was reasonably accurate. Cauliflower is simply a cabbage that has been trained to produce firm bunches of flowers, and some modern varieties have even been educated to shelter the curd (the technical name) from sunlight by wrapping leaves around it. Less precocious varieties have been tied to effect the necessary blanching that produces a pale, delicately flavored result.”

Okay. Enough history and science. There will be no quiz. Let’s get on with the recipe!

This is really a recipe of curried vegetables from a great cookbook, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups red lentils or yellow split peas (I used red lentils.)
4 or 5 cups water (I used my homemade chicken stock.)
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 fresh green chile, minced (I used a jalapeno, seeded, from my garden.)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon mild curry powder (I used 2 tablespoons.)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (I used a heaping teaspoon!)
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
2 cups water
1 head cauliflower (about 4 cups florets)
2 green or red bell peppers, chopped (about 2 cups)
10 ounces fresh spinach
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste

Directions:

Rinse the lentils or split peas. Lentils cook faster and absorb less water than split peas, so use 4 cups of water for lentils, 5 cups of water for split peas. In a covered saucepan, bring the water and lentils or peas to a boil. reduce heat, uncover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until tender.
In a large soup pot, saute the onion and chile in the oil for several minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, curry powder, cumin, and ginger and continue to saute for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Pour in the 2 cups of water. Cut the cauliflower into florets and add to the pot. Add the bell peppers, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
While the vegetables simmer, rinse, stem, and coarsely chop the spinach. Pour the lentils or peas and their cooking liquid into a blender or food processor, and puree for 2 to 3 minutes to make a smooth dahl. (I didn’t do this as the lentils were very much broken down.) When the cauliflower is tender, stir in the spinach, the dahl and the lemon juice. Simmer just until the spinach has wilted. Add salt to taste, and serve immediately.

4 to 6 servings

 

Roasted Pasta Primavera

My wife and I were having lunch and she asked me “What’s for dinner?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Why not make some past primavera? And be sure to add some squash. My mom always stir-fried squash for me; sometimes with scrambled eggs.”

And I did. So delicious.

Ingredients
Vegetables
  • 1¼ lbs. (about 6 cups) fresh vegetables cut into strips or diced (I used corn, squash, zucchini, red and green pepper—all from a local farm. And Japanese Eggplant, Jalapeno Peppers, and tomatoes—all from my garden. And some spinach.)
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Pasta + Sauce
  • One package of fresh Rana linguine
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • ¼ cup fresh chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
Vegetables
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the vegetables, olive oil, and Italian seasoning. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange the vegetables in a single layer on the sheet pan.
  3. Roast for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and lightly golden brown.
Pasta + Sauce
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and tomatoes, and cook for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add stock and simmer, uncovered, until the mixture is reduced by half, about 13-15 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the butter until melted and parsley. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. Add the hot pasta to the sauce, stirring to combine. Then gently stir in the vegetables and Parmesan cheese. Taste for salt and pepper, and serve.

Watermelon Chaat

Cool salad for a hot summer’s day. So refreshing!

I found this recipe in the New York Times. The reporter writes:

“This recipe for watermelon chaat, a savory fruit salad dressed in toasted cumin and dried mango powder, comes from Malika Ameen, a cookbook author whose Pakistani-American family in Chicago makes infinite variations on fruit chaat in the summer. You could swap out the watermelon for a mix of what’s in season, whether it’s stone fruit, berries or cubed apple and pear. It’s an ideal dish to break the fast during Ramadan, full of flavor and hydrating, and quick to put together.”

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ¾ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon amchur powder (dried green mango) (I didn’t use this.)
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (a generous pinch if you like heat)
  • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 orange, clementine or mandarin, juiced to make approximately 1/3 cup juice
  • ½ teaspoon finely chopped jalapeño pepper
  • 3 to 4 fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced (I used Chocolate mint.)
  • 1 small cucumber, halved, seeded, thinly sliced (My addition.)
  • 5 pieces of dried mango, thinly sliced (My addition.)

Preparation

  1. Place cubed watermelon in a wide platter with sides or in a large baking or serving dish and spread into a single layer.
  2. In a small pan, toast whole cumin seeds on medium heat for 3 minutes, until fragrant. Remove and coarsely grind with a mortar and pestle. (You can also grind in a spice grinder, but be sure not to grind to a fine powder as the coarse grains of the spice add a wonderful texture.)
  3. Transfer cumin to a small bowl and add all remaining spices and salt. Add citrus juice, jalapeño and mint and mix well. Pour dressing over cubed watermelon and mix to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate for 1 to 6 hours. Serve chilled the same day.