lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

charred shishito peppers

If you’re a home gardener, shishito peppers are an easy-to-grow, heavily-producing plant that bears fruit earlier than a lot of other types of peppers. These peppers are fast growers too; two plants easily produce about 10-20 peppers every week or so during peak growing season.

Because these aren’t easy plants to find, I start seeds indoors, typically in mid-February. This gives me about a 6-inch plant to put into the ground come early May, which jump starts the growing season here in zone 5 Northern Illinois.

If you’re not much into growing your own peppers but lucky enough to come across these delights at your grocery store or farmer’s market, I suggest you scoop some up. These are mild peppers packed with great flavor. People will tell you that every so many of these peppers are hot and that’s true but “hot” here is not anywhere near a jalapeno. Yes, some peppers have more heat than others but it’s not anywhere near an unbearable or uncomfortable heat, at least in my experience.

lola rugula how to grow shishito peppers

One of the easiest and most typical ways to cook these peppers is to roast them or char them with a drizzle of oil and some coarse kosher or sea salt.  This method brings out their flavor and makes it easy to eat a couple of handfuls in one sitting.

You can accomplish cooking them this way in a number of ways, via a hot grill, a hot, heavy skillet or under a broiler. All you’re looking to do is char the skins a bit and give them a beautiful roasted flavor. If your peppers are large enough, you can actually place them directly on the grill, just keep a close eye on them. You can char them a little or you can char them a lot but, either way, I think you’ll like the end result.

lola rugula charred shishito peppers (2)

All you need to make these are:

  • Shishito peppers
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse kosher or sea salt

When I cook these on the grill, I toss them in a small pan or sheet of foil with the olive oil and salt and spread out into a single layer. Place the pan on a preheated grill and cook for about 7-10 minutes, tossing them around occasionally, until they’re browned a bit on all sides. Use this same method if cooking under a broiler.

lola rugula grilled shishito peppers

To cook them on the stovetop, heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. Add oil and heat the oil for a minute or so – do not let the oil become smoking hot.

Add peppers in a single layer and let brown slightly on one side then, using a pair of tongs, flip them over and let brown on the other side.

lola rugula how to cook shishito peppers

These are perfect for cookouts and parties and are always a huge hit. The bonus is that there isn’t a simpler dish to make.

To really kick them up a notch, toss in some minced garlic and shallots before cooking; I promise you won’t be disappointed.

If you’ve ever seen these and wondered how to cook shishito peppers, now you know how easy it is. Now get out there and enjoy your summer while it lasts.

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

Classic Potato Salad with Peas

I love experimenting and creating new recipes but who doesn’t love good old-fashioned potato salad? Mine’s pretty much a classic skins-on potato salad with peas added for their bright flavor and nutritional punch. I prefer to use red potatoes because I love their flavor and texture, plus their skins look so beautiful in this salad (another nutritional punch)! Of course, you can peel the potatoes if you prefer but if you’ve never tried it this way, give it a shot and see what you think.

Red skins, bright green peas, celery and red onions all combine to make this a very colorful and flavorful salad, so it makes an attractive and delicious side dish for a summer cookout or picnic.

A couple of notes about my recipe: I dice my potatoes before cooking for two reasons:

  • I like to rinse the starchiness off of them before cooking
  • They cook faster, which is a big bonus in the middle of summer

Also, I don’t add sugar to my potato salad – I prefer mine savory over sweet but if you want to add some, it’s your call.

lola rugula classic potato salad recipe

red skin classic potato salad with peas recipe

  • 12 medium red potatoes (3.5 lbs.), scrubbed well, diced into large chunks and rinsed well
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (for cooking the potatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 4 boiled eggs, diced
  • 1 1/4 cup diced or sliced celery
  • 3/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1 1/2 cups green peas (if using frozen, thaw and drain well)
  • 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 (generous) cup mayonnaise (I prefer the olive oil kind)
  • Minced parsley or scallions for serving (optional)

Place clean, rinsed potato chunks in a large pot, cover by a few inches with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook for about 15 minutes or just until fork-tender, and drain well. (I typically skim the starchy bubbles from the top with a slotted spoon as they’re cooking to help prevent boil-overs) Rinse briefly with cold water, drain very well and return to pan.

While they’re still warm, sprinkle potatoes with vinegar, stir well and set aside to cool about 30 minutes. I stir mine again a few times while they’re cooling, to help speed up the cooling process.

In the meantime, dice your boiled eggs, celery, and red onion. If using frozen peas, make sure they’re thawed and drained well. Add everything to your cooled potatoes.

Add salt and pepper and stir everything together.

Add Dijon and mayo and stir well, until it’s all incorporated and everything is evenly covered.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours – I like to let mine sit overnight for the best flavor. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley or scallions before serving.

Variations:

  • If you don’t like peas, omit them
  • If you prefer your potato salad more “mustardy” add more Dijon or switch it out for classic yellow mustard
  • Skins are also optional – peel the potatoes if you prefer
  • If you don’t have red onions, white onions or diced scallions will work just fine
  • Like potato salad with bacon? Hey, throw some bacon in there.
  • Again, if you like your potato salad sweet, you can certainly add a little sugar

lola rugula classic red skin potato salad recipe

Aside from the peas, this is a classic skins-on all American potato salad and one that’s always a hit with my family and friends.

How do you like your potato salad? (or do you hate it?) Leave me a comment and let me know!

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

quinoa with mushrooms, scallions and thyme

If you’ve resolved to eat better this year, quinoa is a terrific food to add to your grocery list. Of the many things I cook, quinoa is still one of the things that I’m asked the most about. How do you cook quinoa? What do you do with quinoa? Is quinoa good for you? What does quinoa taste like? Quinoa is not only easy and fast to cook, it’s also gluten free and packed full of nutrients. Quinoa a great source of protein and a great source of antioxidants.  It’s also one of the only plant foods that contain all of the amino acids. Not too shabby, eh?

I love to use quinoa in a myriad of recipes, some of them cold and some of them hot. If you’re looking for a delicious gluten-free salad recipe to take to your next gathering, check out my Mediterranean quinoa salad that’s packed full of veggies. If you’re just wanting an easy stuffed mushroom recipe, my stuffed portobello mushrooms with Italian sausage and quinoa are a perfect meal.

 When it all comes down to it though, my quinoa with mushrooms, scallions and thyme recipe is still the first one I recommend. It’s flavorful, easy to prepare and most people really love it.

lola rugula how to cook quinoa

This recipe doesn’t involve a ton of ingredients or prep time. Aside from quinoa, garlic, scallions and mushrooms are the main ingredients, with thyme bringing in a hint of herbiness.

quinoa with mushrooms, scallions and thyme recipe

  • 1 generous tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 scallions, sliced thinly
  • 6 portabello mushrooms, sliced thinly
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 cup pre-rinsed quinoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and quickly stir. Add scallions and stir again. Saute for about 30 seconds, add mushrooms and saute for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add thyme and stir.  Add broth or water, bring to a boil and then add quinoa. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring once 1/2 way through cooking time.

lola rugula easy quinoa recipe with mushrooms and thymeWhen almost all of the liquid is absorbed, shut off heat and let sit, still covered, for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

Quinoa is a little bit nutty and makes a great substitution for rice or pasta in a number of dishes. Once you’ve cooked with it, you’ll find it’s very versatile.

When I first started cooking with quinoa years ago, you had to rinse, and rinse, and rinse it some more, to get rid of the soapy flavor that’s inherent to unrinsed quinoa. Now, most quinoa comes pre-rinsed and you can find it in a number of colors. The one I used in the photos is an heirloom blend of different colors.

As a final note, don’t hesitate to change out the mushrooms if you’re not a fan of them or simply don’t have any on hand. I’ve made this with asparagus, broccoli and without any veggie at all and it’s delicious any way you make it.

Enjoy and Happy 2017!

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

fried green tomatoes with fresh tomato salsa

Summer is barely past us and I”m already thinking about what veggies and flowers I want to grow next year! It’s part of my winter ritual to browse online and through catalogs, finding something new and different to grow. I love growing stuff. And eating stuff.

A big part of being a great cook and eating well is knowing how to create a myriad of dishes using fresh fruits and vegetables. Grow or shop fresh, learn to cook and prepare veggies to perfection and celebrate the beauty of the bounty from the earth. Challenge yourself to work with the real thing and not the store-bought version.

lola-rugula-how-to-make-fried-green-tomatoes-recipe

For me, one of the highlights of my late-summer harvest is tomatoes. In case you missed my recent post on fresh tomato sauce, I love creating an amazing and delicious pasta sauce with the best tomatoes of the season. It’s packed full of garlic, shallots and herbs and it freezes perfectly, for you to enjoy many months into the snowy weather.

Another highlight of the end-of-tomato season is this:

lola-rugula-fried-green-tomatoes-recipe

fried green tomatoes with fresh tomato salsa

Fresh tomato salsa
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 jalapeno, diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 lime, for juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and stir. Set aside until ready to serve.

Fried green tomatoes:
  • 5 medium green tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (your choice, I like whole wheat)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup sunflower or olive oil (these are moderate heat oils because I don’t high-heat fry my fried green tomatoes)

Slice tomatoes into 3/4 inch slices, discarding (please compost!) tops.

Arrange your breading station: Place 1 cup of the flour on a plate. Beat 2 large eggs in a shallow bowl or dish. Place remaining 1/2 cup of flour and all of cornmeal on another plate and stir to combine.

Dredge a slice of tomato in flour, coating both sides and shaking off any excess. Dip floured slice in beaten egg, flipping and swishing until coated, letting excess drip off. Finally, dip slice into cornmeal/flour mix and coat well on both sides. Place battered slice on a platter and repeat with remaining slices. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

lola-rugula-fried-green-tomatoes-recipe

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. (My big cast iron skillet works perfectly for these). Oil should be hot but not too hot – a pinch of the flour mixture dropped in should sizzle but not immediately sputter and smoke.

Working in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan, place slices, salt and pepper side down, in oil, leaving space in between them. Salt and pepper the tops and fry for about 5-7 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Flip tomato slices and fry on the other side for another 5-7 minutes, again until golden brown. Transfer to a warm plate lined with paper towels. Repeat until all slices are cooked.

Serve fried green tomatoes topped with the fresh salsa.

As a meal, serves 2 with fresh greens, such as arugula (my favorite!) or mesclun. Serves 4 as a side.

lola-rugula-how-to-make-fried-green-tomatoes-recipe

This recipe is a true celebration of the end-of-season harvest; the burst of tart green tomatoes topped with red, ripe tomatoes. The lime juice and fresh cilantro in the salsa contrast the crunchy fried tomatoes perfectly.

lola-rugula-how-to-make-fried-green-tomatoes-recipe

I love cooking with fresh ingredients and love is a wonderful thing.

Celebrate fresh, in-season ingredients while you have them and experiment with different flavors as much as you can. Remember to never be afraid to play with your food.

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

stuffed portobello mushrooms with italian sausage and quinoa

Most of my cooking is inspired by what’s fresh and available, either from my garden or at the store and this recipe is a perfect example of that.

Portobello mushrooms, as popular as they’ve become, are not always readily available where I live.  Often, when I do find them, they’re not always as nice as they should be, so I was pleasantly surprised, on a recent trip to the store (thank you, Aldi), to find some plump, fresh beauties.

I already knew I had some Italian sausage in my freezer that I could use for stuffing them, along with some sweet peppers, garlic, scallions and shallots from my garden. Then, on the evening I was putting them together, I thought some cooked quinoa would ramp up the flavor and (bonus) add to their nutritional profile.

lola-rugula-stuffed-portobello-mushroom-recipe

Anytime I stuff mushrooms, I also like to gently remove the mushroom stems, finely chop them and add them to my stuffing – they help keep the stuffing moist, in addition to amping up the mushroom flavor.

portobello mushrooms stuffed with sausage and quinoa

  • Olive oil, for brushing mushrooms and sauteing sausage
  • 6 large portobello mushroom caps, wiped clean, stems removed and set aside
  • 1 lb. Italian sausage
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 cup sweet peppers (red, green, yellow, orange), finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (1/2 cup quinoa and 1 cup water, bring to boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until water is absorbed)
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for topping

Prepare the mushrooms by gently removing their stems (save them for the stuffing), rinsing and wiping them dry and brushing the outer cap with olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350

Heat a skillet and add a tablespoon of olive oil. When oil is hot, add Italian sausage and, when pink begins to disappear, add pepper flakes, garlic, shallots and peppers.

Cook until peppers start to soften, then stir in parsley and sliced scallions. Cook for 5 minutes more and remove from heat.

Stir in quinoa, panko and 1/2 cup Parmesan, then gently pack stuffing into mushroom caps. Top stuffed mushrooms with a little extra grated Parmesan.

Bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, or until mushrooms are barely cooked through. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes (otherwise they’re lava hot) and serve.

lola-rugula-stuffed-portobello-mushroom-recipe-2

There is a ton of flavor and goodness packed into these and they reheat beautifully.

The stuffing does stay a little loose so, if you prefer it tightly-packed, I suggest adding a beaten egg to the stuffing, before cooking, to help bind everything together.

Also, there’s no reason you can’t make these a vegetarian dish by omitting the sausage and doubling the quinoa. You can also replace the quinoa with cooked rice or lentils or beans or…use your imagination and don’t be afraid to play with your food.

lola rugula deli style medium rare roast beef

easy applesauce

When you have a whole bunch of apples staring you in the face, sometimes it’s difficult to know what to do with them all. This year, I decided to make a big batch of homemade apple pie filling and freeze it for the holidays. This was a perfect solution for using a good portion of them but I still had some apples leftover. What to do? My mom, of course, had the answer.  Applesauce.

Here’s a shot of the beautiful apples we were given:lola-rugula-homemade-microwave-applesauce-recipe

Now, I know you want to know what kind of apples these are, but I honestly don’t know. I can tell you that they’re really huge and a little tart and gifted to us from a friend who has a tree. That’s all I’ve got. Oh, wait…and they’re delicious.

Now, I know there are a lot of recipes out there for applesauce and almost as many ways to make it: canned applesauce, slow cooker applesauce, stovetop applesauce…but really, the fastest and easiest way to make applesauce is in your microwave. Like, literally less than 10 minutes.

There really isn’t a recipe for microwave applesauce. Well, not an exact recipe anyway. It’s really just a general guideline..you’re going to have to play with your food and discover your perfect applesauce. Here’s a list of the ingredients you’ll need:

  • Apples

How are you doing so far?

Oh, sure, you can add some sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg and whatever else floats your applesauce boat but all you really need is apples.

Wash, peel, core,  and dice your apples and place them in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and cook on high for 4 minutes. Stir apples, cover again and cook for 2 more minutes. Stir.

Now, the rest depends on how small you cut your apples and how strong your microwave is. It can also depend on the type of apple, simply because some have more water content and more sugar content than others.

I just continue to cook mine on high, pausing every 45-60 seconds to mash and stir. Once it begins to resemble applesauce, I (very carefully – this stuff is lava) taste test to see if any sugar, etc. is needed. If your applesauce is too chunky for your tastes, you may want to add a little water to help smooth out the consistency.

Cook until you’ve achieved applesauce…usually less than 10 minutes.

Ta da!

lola-rugula-homemade-applesauce-recipe

Nice work…you’ve achieved applesauce! (easy, quick, homemade, microwave applesauce)

You are now free to get on with the rest of your life.