Dandelion and Rice Soup


Even in sunny South Florida, the occasional “under the weather” day can happen, when nothing is as comforting as homemade soup.

Every weekend at the farmers’ market, I routinely buy dandelion greens, whether I have an intended use for them or not.  These are grown by a local farm and are firm, sturdy, bitter and absolutely delicious.  They are so hearty and versatile–I like to use them both raw, as a salad, or cooked, as in tonight’s dish.

The traditional Roman way of serving dandelion  (and so many other green vegetables) is to boil, then saute with garlic and chili pepppers (see my Ciccoria ala Romana).   This week, however, I’m in the mood for something a little more comforting and soupier,  which will feature the greens as a main course.   Some diced ham from my local gourmet market, plus the usual risotto ingredients, made a perfectly rich and satisfying soup worthy of sharing with you.

I made this soup using the standard risotto technique, but added much more broth than usual at the end.  The broth takes in the combination of butter, white wine, smokey ham and bitter greens.  It keeps well and can be reheated with additional broth (or just salted water, if you’ve run out of broth).

Dandelion and Rice Soup

serves 4

1 c diced ham

1 large bunch dandelion greens, cleaned and cut crosswise into 1″pieces

2 bouillon cubes or 2 tbls of chcken base (I use “Better than Bouillon” organic chicken flavor).

2 small shallots

3 tbls butter

1 c arborio rice

1/2 c white wine

7 – 8 c water

salt to taste

Bring the water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt.  Drop in the dandelion greens and simmer for approximately 8 minutes.


Remove and drain.

Add bouilon to liquid, dissolve and keep the broth simmering.

In another pot large enough to hold the soup, on low heat, saute the shallots and ham in butter for approximately 5 minutes.


Add wine and continue cooking to evaporate, approximately 1 minute.

Begin adding broth 1 cup at a time, and continue cooking and adding broth every couple of minutes for 12 minutes.


Add the dandelion greens and cook for another 3 minutes, until all has returned to the boil.


Cover and leave off the heat for 5 minutes.

Add additional broth and salt (to taste).  Serve with plenty of grated parmigiano.

Posted in Risotti, Soup/Stew | Leave a comment

Supermarket Turkey Meatloaf


Most of my cooking in Florida is a combination of farmers’ market produce and supermarket main courses.  The array of product at my local Publix market consists of many national brands that I don’t normally find at the smaller specialty markets at which I shop througout the rest of the year.  Today, my meatloaf consists of both ground turkey and turkey sausage, removed from its casing.


It seems that most companies are working hard to remove the fat from ground turkey, so the addition of turkey sausage is necessary to give the loaf additional texture and fat, without using a non-turkey product, like pork or bacon.

Since I don’t have my large bowl of stale bread pieces for making crumbs, I’m using seasoned panko crumbs.


These crumbs offer a nice, salty bite.  In addition to sauteed onion and celery, I’ve added freshly chopped parsley and chives, to add a fresh,  green component.  Some milk or half-and-half, plus eggs to bind, were all that was necessary to turn this into an absolutely delicious meatloaf.

In addition to the meatloaf, we’re having savoy cabbage (blanched, then reheated in butter), carrots (blanched, then scattered around the meatloaf and roasted for the last half-hour of baking time), plus leek-smashed potatoes.


Leeks are sauteed in butter, then combined with the seasoned and buttered smashed potatoes–a delicious way to lighten up mashed potatoes.

Supermarket Turkey Meatloaf

serves 4, with leftovers

1 1/4 lb. of lean ground turkey

1 1/4 lb sweet turkey sausage, removed from its casing

3 ribs celery, peeled (if stringy)

1 medium onion, finely diced

3 tbls butter

1 box pepperidge farm seasoned panko crumbs

3 tbls freshly chopped parsley

2 tbls freshly chopped chives

3 large eggs

1/2 c half-and-half or whole milk

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1 bag peeled carrot sticks, blanched in salted boiling water for approximately 5 minutes.

1 tsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place butter in a skillet, along with onions and celery.  Bring to a sizzle and saute on low heat for about 10 minutes, or until softened, but not caramelized.  Add chives and saute another minute.


Place mixture in a large mixing bowl and allow to cool to room temperature before proceeding.

Add the remainder of ingredients (except carrots) to the mixing bowl and blend with hands, until mixture is uniformly combined.


Form into a loaf and allow to rest for at least 15 minutes,or  up to 2 hours (in the fridge).


Place in oven and roast, uncovered, for approximately 45 minutes.  Drizzle carrots with olive oil and scatter around meatloaf.


Allow meatloaf to cook for an additional 35 – 45 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160 – 165 degrees.

Allow to rest for 10 – 15 minutes before carving.

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Tropical Lobster Salad


As you may have guessed, the ingredients that went into this salad are reflective of my winter habitat–South Florida.  This was the perfect light lunch, inspired by some of the many wonderful ingredients at my local farmers’ market.


I’ve opted for Maine lobster here, rather than Florida lobster.  The Maine variety is much sweeter and more tender, and includes claws and knuckles.


Florida lobster doesn’t have claws–only tails and tiny legs.  Moreover, the fish monger at the farmers’ market had Maine lobster meat, already perfectly poached and taken out of its shell–it was sweet, tender, and made this salad a cinch to prepare.

The salad greens–mizuna and arugula, as well as green beans, were  local.  The Florida green beans were a revelation–among the sweetest and greenest-tasting I’ve had.


The avocado was the Florida variety–large, light-green and waxy-looking, with flesh that was so feathery light, it tasted like avocado mousse.  Worth using, if you can find it–otherwise, California avocado will do just fine.

The sum total of this dish depends on the near perfection of each ingredient, since none of these ingredients are processed or handled heavily.  The poached lobster meat is combined with chopped celery, chives, lemon and olive oil.  The green beans are blanched and shocked.  The avocadoes are cubed and tossed with salt and lemon juice (last-minute only); mangoes are cubed and tossed with lime juice (which heightens their flavor).

Over the entire dish, I drizzle a fresh lemon-infused olive oil, although if you couldn’t find a commercially prepared lemon oil, a few curls of lemon zest over the whole dish, would have a similarly bright effect.

The beauty of this dish is that the ingredients may be prepared ahead, and merely assembled at the last moment.  All that is necessary to complete this meal is good bread and butter.

Tropical Lobster Salad

serves 4 as a main course

1 lb cooked lobster meat

2 ribs celery, peeled if stringy

2 tsp fresh chopped chives

1/4 c + 2 tbls extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 lb green beans, stems and tails removed

2 ripe mangoes, peeled and diced into 1/2″ cubes

1 Florida avocado, or 2 California avocados, peeled and diced into 1/2″ cubes

approximately 1 lb mixed bitter salad greens, such as arugula and/or mizuna

juice of 2 lemons

juice of 2 limes

salt and pepper to taste

2 tbls lemon-infused olive oil for drizzling, or 2 tbls additional extra-virgin olive oil and the zest of 1 lemon

In a mixing bowl, combine lobster, celery, chives, 1/4 cup oil, juice of 1 lemon, salt and pepper to taste.


Set aside and refrigerate until ready to use (may be made up to a day in advance).

Drop green beens into boiling salted water for approximately 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender.  Run under cold water to stop cooking process, then drain.  Toss with a teaspoon of olive oil and salt to taste.  Set aside until ready to assemble salad.

Toss mango pieces with lime juice and set aside until ready to assemble salad.

Dress greens with remaining lemon juice and olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pile greens onto the center of large plates, then add lobster salad in center.  Arrange remaining ingredients in clusters around the plate.  Drizzle with lemon-infused olive oil or lemon zest and additional plain extra-virgin olive oil.

Posted in Salads, Seafood | 1 Comment

Risotto with Celery Root and Luganiga Sausage


This may not have much camera appeal, but I had to share it with you, because it’s one of the most delicious risotti you’ll ever make.  Celery root is still available at my local farm stand and I love to make it a couple of times each winter–usually in soup, or roasted and caramelized in the oven.


This season, however, I decided to feature it in risotto, with luganiga sausage


The celery root simply gets peeled, diced, sauteed with shallots in butter, then the regular risotto routine applies.  The cooked, diced sausage is added at the end.

As a first course, we had a salad of romanesco broccoli.  The florets were boiled, drained, then dressed with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.


This risotto is hearty enough to serve as a main course, and elegant enough to serve to guests.

Risotto of Celery Root and Luganiga Sausage

serves 4 as a main course

1 lb. arborio rice

1 celery root

2 large shallots, finely diced

4 tbls butter

1/2 c white wine

6 c chicken broth

8 oz. luganiga sausage, fully cooked

salt and black pepper to taste

1/4 c parmigiano, plus additional for sprinkling at the table

Place broth in a pot, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to lowest simmer.

Place shallots and butter in a heavy, high-sided saute pan.  Bring to a sizzle on low heat.


Peel celery root (mercilessly) until only white is exposed.  Dice into 1/2″ cubes.


Add celery root to shallots, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover.


Simmer on low heat, stirring and flipping every 3 minutes or so, until tender and lightly golden.


May be made to this point an hour or two in advance.

Add rice and increase heat to medium-high.  Saute for 5 minutes or so, stirring constantly–the celery root will tend to stick more than rice alone.

Add wine and reduce for a minute.

Begin adding simmering broth, a cup at a time, while stirring constantly.


At this point, set your kitchen timer to 12 minutes.

On medium-high heat, continue adding broth and stirring until 12 minutes have elapsed.

Add sausage, turn off heat, and cover for 5 minutes.


Uncover, add 1/4 cup cheese and more broth, to bring to loose, soupy consistency (if desired).


Serve immediately with plenty of grated parmigiano and black pepper.

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Duck and Winter Squash Ragu


This is a simple and deeply satisfying winter dish that tastes as if it takes hours to prepare, but doesn’t.  Thanks to ready-cooked duck confit, this dish can be made in about a half-hour total.  Admittedly, not every supermarket (or gourmet market) carries vacuum-packed duck confit legs.  You can substitute raw chicken thighs for duck confit, but you’ll need to add about 30 minutes to the total cooking time.

The ragu begins with a saute of shallots and cubes of peeled winter squash. I used kabocha, but you could substitute butternut, acorn, or pumpkin.  After the vegetables begin to caramelize, add the duck confit, which has been skinned, removed from the bone and shredded.


I also add a pinch of nutmeg and  a whole clove (or the TINIEST pinch of ground clove).  Tomato paste is then added and sauteed for a few minutes, to deepen it’s flavor.

White wine and sherry are then added and reduced for a minute.  The combination of the tomato paste and wine, forms an instantly thick sauce.  Broth is added to thin the sauce and disperse flavor while the sauce simmers and reduces slightly.

I like to serve fresh egg pappardelle with this type of ragu.  Nothing else equals their delicacy and fresh egg-y flavor.  Lots of grated parmigiano is also an absolute necessity for this dish.

Tonight, as a first course, we had sauteed broccoli di rapa with garlic, chili flakes and a touch of lemon juice.


After the pasta, we had a cleansing salad of arugula (still fresh from my neighbor Beppi’s garden) and tangerines.


Duck and Winter Squash Ragu

serves 4

2 fully-cooked duck confit legs

4 medium shallots, finely diced

1 small sprig rosemary

2 tbls olive oil

2 tbls butter

2 c winter squash (kabocha, butternut, acorn or simple pumpkin), peeled and diced into 1/2″ cubes

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1 clove or a tiny pinch of ground cloves

3 tbls tomato paste

1/2 c sherry

1 c white wine

2 c chicken broth

2 tbls chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 lbs fresh egg pappardelle

In a saucepot with high sides, place shallots, oil, butter and rosemary sprig.   Saute on low heat for about 3 minutes, or until beginning to turn translucent.  Add squash and continue sauteing for about 5 minutes.


 Add duck and spices.


Saute for another 2 minutes to heat spices.

Add tomato paste and saute for about 5 minutes.


Add wine and sherry, raise heat to high and reduce for about 2 minutes.


Add chicken broth and reduce heat to low.  Simmer, partially covered for about 20 minutes, or until nicely thickened and slightly reduced.  Remove clove (if using whole clove). Sprinkle with chopped parsley.


Add cooked pasta and a half-cup of pasta cooking liquid.


Cook for another minute to emulsify.  Serve immediately.

Posted in Pasta, Sauces | Leave a comment

Maple and Thyme-Scented Rutabaga Puree


Rutabagas are nothing more than large yellow turnips.  This comforting puree can take the place of mashed potatoes any night of the week for me.  It’s rich and earthy-tasting, but actually, quite light.  I like to add sweetness to it–a little touch of maple syrup is the perfect neutralizer for rutabaga’s mustardy undertones.

Rutabagas are perhaps, the sturdiest of the root vegetables.  They need to  be boiled until fork-tender, which can take over an hour.  I like to place a couple of thyme sprigs in the cooking liquid, in order to gently infuse them with the flavor of thyme (then remove the sprigs).

This dish is simple enough to not require a recipe–the technique is simple and the proportions can range, depending on how much butter and sweetness you care for.  One 6″ diameter rutabaga will serve 4 generously as a side dish.

Peel a rutabaga and dice into 1″ cubes, then place in a large pot of cold water, with a teaspoon of salt, and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme. Bring to a boil.


Cook until the larger pieces cut very easily with a knife (this took an hour and fifteen minutes for me).  Add water during cooking, if necessary.  When tender, remove thyme sprigs.

Working in 2 batches, place half the cubes in the food processor, along with 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup.


Process until a puree forms.  Taste and add salt and plenty of black pepper.  Repeat with the remaining cubes plus more butter and syrup.  Serve immediately.


I served these with Lamb Meatloaf, along with brussels sprouts, blanched and sauteed with a touch of nutmeg, carrots and butter.

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Turkey Redux

Turkey and White Bean Soup

Turkey with Wild Mushroom Sauce

Turkey and Porcini Risotto

Turkey and Rice Croquettes

Although I usually shop for food daily, last weekend I bought large quantities of fresh produce from one of our farm stands, prior to its closing for the season (fortunately, there are still others which stay open until New Years).  I bought kale, broccoli, butternut squash, pears, carrots, shallots, with the intention of making creative use of my leftover turkey all week long.

One of the best things about roasting a turkey (and the accompanying bones) is the opportunity to make stock.  When I have fresh stock in the refrigerator, I feel the call of quick and easy soups using a variety of ingredients.

My turkey and white bean soup began by simply peeling and dicing a potato and carrot, and placing them in a quart of cold stock.  I brought them to a boil and allowed them to simmer for 15 minutes.  I then diced a cup of turkey meat and added it to the simmering soup, along with a can of drained white beans and a cup of cooked kale, sliced into small ribbons (you could substitute raw baby spinach).  A drizzle of olive oil and some grated parmigiano were all that were necessary to turn this lunch into something extraordinary.

For dinner the following evening, I decided to make a moist medium in which to simmer some slices of the cooked turkey breast.  My Salsa di Funghi was the perfect sauce for this.  Once the sauce was at the right consistency, I added in some slices of stuffed turkey breast and simmered, covered for about 10 minutes.

We began this meal with a salad of pears, watercress, blue cheese and toasted walnuts.

Another of my favorite reasons to have homemade stock in my refrigerator is to make risotto.  I still had some beautiful porcini that my mother brought back from Calabria over a year ago.

In addition to the porcini, I added a cup of diced turkey breast to the risotto, to make this a hearty main dish.  For the recipe and technique, see my Porcini Risotto.  At the end of the cooking process, before covering the risotto, simply add a cupful of diced turkey breast.

As a first course to this meal, I made a salad of baby arugula, thinly sliced pears and shaved rosemary-laced manchego–sweet, earthy and fresh.

The leftovers from my risotto led me to my all-time favorite product of recycling–Beppi’s Crochette di Riso–rice croquettes.  I’ve diced up the remaining turkey meat and put it in these croquettes (made from the porcini risotto).

To accompany the croquettes, I made a salad of watercress and clementines, dressed with red wine vinegar and olive oil.

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Italian-Ate Stuffed Turkey Breast

This is, in my opinion, the most elegant way to enjoy turkey and stuffing.  All of the butchering is done prior to roasting, so carving and serving are neat and easy.  My preparation makes maximum use of the turkey breast, while providing several meals worth of delicious leftovers.

I begin with a full turkey breast on the bone.

First, I debone the breast, while keeping the skin intact.  Then I make stock with the carcass.  While the stock is simmering, I make the stuffing.  This stuffing is of the Italian variety, including sweet sausage and mortadella.

The stuffing simply gets heaped onto one side of the breast, while the other side is folded over the stuffing, like a sandwich.  The breast roasts in the oven until done.  My total roasting time was 1 hour, 20 minutes.

I always make enough stuffing to have a separate tray of stuffing, baked on the side, since there can never be enough.

Tonight, as accompaniments, we had baked sweet potatoes and kale with butter and a touch of nutmeg.

This was our little mini-thanksgiving after Thanksgiving!

Italian-Ate Stuffed Turkey Breast

serves 6 – 8

1 whole turkey breast on the bone, approximately 8 lbs

1 small onion, quartered

2 ribs celery,  cut in half

2 bay leaves

1 sprig thyme

1 sprig sage

2 bouillon cubes

salt and pepper to taste

2 tbls olive oil

3 c stuffing (see below)

2 tsp dried rosemary

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

To debone,  turn the breast upside down onto a cutting surface and, with a sharp chefs’ or boning knife, begin slicing the meat off the bone, gently scraping against the bone while slicing downward, toward the top of the breast.  Follow the bone until you reach the top of the breast, then slice along the top ridge, without slicing through to the skin.

Repeat with the other side of the breast.

When both sides have been removed from the bone,  you will have 2 lobes of meat with the skin still intact on the bottom.

Set aside until stuffing is ready.

Make a pot of broth, by placing the carcass in a large stockpot with celery, an onion, thyme, sage, bay leaves and bouillon cubes.

Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour.  From time-to-time,  skim any white scum that surfaces.  Taste and add salt and black pepper.  Discard carcass, remove aromatics and set aside.

After stuffing has been made and cooled, season the flesh side of the turkey breast with a liberal sprinkling of salt and black pepper. Spread about 3 cups of stuffing over one half of the breast.

Fold the other side of the breast over the stuffing.  Season the outside (skin) with salt and pepper, and rub with dried rosemary.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Tie loosely with string and place in roasting pan.

Place in preheated oven (use convection, if you have it).  After the first half-hour, add a half-cup of broth to the pan, and continue to baste with the pan juices as they render.

After one hour and 15 minutes, check for doneness with an instant-read thermometer.  The meat should be a uniform 160 – 165 degrees throughout.  Make sure the tip of your thermometer is in the meat, not the stuffing, and test in a couple of different spots.  The temperature will rise by 5 to 10 degrees after resting.

Set aside to rest for at least 15 minutes prior to carving.   Remove string and slice.


12 pieces of stale bread (it doesn’t matter how stale–the drier the better)

1 quart turkey (or chicken) stock (plus additional, if necessary)

2 medium shallots

2 ribs celery

2 tbls butter

1 sprig thyme

8 sage leaves

1/4 lb mortadella, cubed

2 oz. sweet Italian sausage (one link), fully cooked in boiling water for approximately 15 minutes, sliced

1 1/2 c seasoned breadcrumbs

3 tbls freshly chopped parsley

1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

In one layer, spread bread pieces in a baking pan.  Pour 1 quart hot stock over bread and allow to soak for at least 10 minutes to moisten.

Press bread into broth to stimulate absorption.

Place shallots, celery and herbs in a small skillet.

Saute on medium-low heat until the vegetables wilt and soften.   Add salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside to cool.

Working in batches, place the wet bread in the food processor (with any remaining broth) and pulse to form a coarse puree (it’s OK if some of the bread remains in small chunks).

Place in large mixing bowl.

After all the bread has been pureed, without rinsing food processor, add mortadella and sausage to processor and pulse to form a coarse dice.

Add to mixing bowl with bread, along with sauteed aromatics, seasoned crumbs, parsley and nutmeg.

Taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.  Stir to combine.

Set aside stuffing until cooled to room temperature.

Any remaining after stuffing the bird, may be spread out in a buttered baking dish, drizzled with an additional 1/2 to 1 cup of stock.  Bake, covered at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  Remove cover and continue baking for approximately 15 minutes, until lightly browned.

Posted in Poultry | 2 Comments

Salad of Kabocha Squash, Green Olives and Blue Cheese

This time of year, I can’t get enough of the sweet, rich flavor of winter squashes.  For any lover of butternut squash, kabocha is a revelation.  It’s sweeter and creamier than butternut, with a deeper orange interior.

Because of its intense sweetness, it goes particularly well with tart or tangy flavors, in this case, green olives (cerignola) and salty blue cheese (Point Reyes, from California).  As the greens for the salad, I’m using baby arugula–nice and peppery/lemony.  All together, with a dressing of red wine vinegar, agave and olive oil, these ingredients absolutely sing!

Salad of Kabocha Squash, Green Olives and Blue Cheese

Serves 2

1/2 of a medium-sized kabocha squash, peeled, seeded and diced into 1″ pieces

5 oz. package of baby arugula

6 large green cerignola olives, pitted

2 oz. blue cheese

1 1/2 tsps red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp agave nectar

1 tbl + 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Spread squash cubes on baking sheet and drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil and 1/4 tsp salt and a sprinkle of black pepper.

Roast the squash at 375 degrees for approximately 40 minutes, until tender and slightly caramelized, turning halfway through.

Set aside to cool.

Combine the greens, oil, vinegar and agave and toss.  Taste and add salt and pepper.

Mound greens in center of plates and top with squash, olives and crumbled cheese.

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Potato Galette

This is a great side dish for a variety of meats/fish/poultry, and can even be a lunch by itself, with some salad and cheese.  It’s more French than Italian, and I make it from time-to-time, when something refined and festive is called for, rather than simple roasted or skillet potatoes.  There’s no recipe per se, simply a technique, which I’ll describe.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Peel and slice yukon gold potatoes on a mandoline and set aside.  In a nonstick, ovenproof skillet, pour a film of oil around the bottom and sides, and dot bottom with a couple of tiny  pieces of butter.  Arrange overlapping layer of potatoes around bottom of skillet.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dot with butter.  Continue forming layers until potatoes are used up.

Bake, covered with foil, for approximately 1 hour.  Remove cover and continue baking until golden underneath and around edges (approximately another half-hour).  Flip onto a serving plate and serve bottom side up.

Sprinkle with chives, carve and serve.

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