lola rugula asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

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 asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

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 asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

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 asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

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.

lola rugula asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

how to make kimchi

Kimchi (or Kimchee) has become one of those uber-trendy “foodie” foods in the past few years, even though it’s been around for centuries. Have I mentioned how much I dislike the term “foodie” yet? This seems to have become a term that simply means someone who likes to eat, regardless of their knowledge of food or the preparation of it. Rant: over.

Kimchi bases its roots in Korea, where this fermented food has hundreds, if not thousands, of variations of it. There are sweet variations and savory variations, spicy variations and mild variations…they really seem endless if you do your research.

lola-rugula-how-to-make-homemade-kimchi-recipe

The basis of all Kimchi is that it’s fermented, which is foreign to many while continuing to be a staple in Korean dishes. If you look at the Asian diet as a whole, you’ll see there are many foods, fermented and raw, that have been shown to contribute to their longevity. Our Western diet, full of saturated fats, sugars and processed foods, is a glaring juxtaposition to the foods of our Eastern counterparts, who consume a diet mostly based on raw or slightly-cooked vegetables, fermented foods, fish and lean meats.

I’ve made a ton of sauerkraut at this point and will continue to do so. There’s just nothing easier to make, as far as fermented foods go. The beauty of kimchi – at least the kind I make – is that the wait time is shorter than sauerkraut; I let mine ferment for just about a week. Again, there are a ton of variations on kimchi, so feel free to adjust this to your taste. Also, the daikon radish is the type of radish typically used in kimchi, but those aren’t so easy to come by in my area (and so far have not had much luck growing them) so I use regular old radishes, which I peel. No, you don’t have to peel them – this is more of an aesthetics thing for me but it’s not necessary. Just be aware that the color from the red radish skins will most likely add a pinkish tinge to your finished kimchi.

To make my kimchi, I use a fermenting crock and weights that I bought on Amazon, but you can do this in glass canning jars with a shoulder instead – the shoulder helps keep your veggies submerged in the brine. For more on fermenting, see my post on how to make basic sauerkraut.

homemade kimchi recipe

  • Water, for soaking cabbage
  • 1/4 cup, scant, kosher salt
  • 1 head Napa cabbage, root end removed, sliced 2-3 times lengthwise and then chopped into chunks
  • 1 inch chunk of peeled ginger, crushed and minced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • dried chili peppers, finely chopped, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality fish sauce (I like Red Boat)
  • 10 red radishes, peeled, sliced and then cut into small matchstick size pieces (about a cup of finished radishes)
  • 3 scallions, white and tender green, sliced thin

Fill a large bowl with water, add salt and stir to dissolve. Add cabbage and gently stir with a spoon or your hands, until the cabbage is wet and submerged. You may have a few leaves that sit at the surface, but that’s okay. Let sit for 30 minutes. Drain cabbage in a colander. Rinse well and squeeze excess moisture out with your hands. Leave in colander for the time being.

In your bowl, place ginger, garlic, peppers, sugar and fish sauce. Using a fork, mash everything together well, to create a paste. (If you have a mortar and pestle, use that instead) Add cabbage, radish and scallions and mix everything together with a large spoon or your hands, making sure the cabbage is well coated.

Transfer the kimchi into a small crock or canning jars with shoulders, packing down as you go, so that everything is submerged in the brine. I use a small 1 pound crock with weights, but either method is fine.

Cover crock or jars with cheesecloth or towel and secure it with twine. Let set on your kitchen counter.

Check your kimchi daily, to assure that all of your veggies are still covered with brine. I like to stir mine up every other day and then pack it back down.

Let kimchi ferment for 7 days and refrigerate in canning jars with lids or a similar glass container.

We enjoy kimchi as a side accompaniment to a number of dishes, especially grilled chicken and meats. I also use it as a condiment when I make pork burgers and this is the way we love it most.

Here a few of the photos of my process.

lola-rugula-how-to-make-homemade-kimchi-recipelola-rugula-how-to-make-homemade-kimchi-recipelola-rugula-how-to-make-homemade-kimchi-recipe

Happy fermenting everyone!

lola rugula asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

how to make homemade sauerkraut

I admit that I’ve put off posting this fermentation recipe for quite some time. Not because it’s difficult or time-consuming, because it’s neither, but because I’m absolutely terrible at photographing the process from beginning to end. (though I didn’t do too badly with showing you how I make my fermented pickles a couple of years ago.) Making your own sauerkraut is one of the easiest things in the world to do and I finally decided that I’d rather just share the recipe than wait until I had enough photos of the process. You’re a smart cookie, right? I’m pretty confident you won’t have any problems here at all but if you do, feel free to leave a comment.

You might think that making fermented cabbage is really difficult but trust me, it’s not. The only ingredients you really need to make sauerkraut is cabbage and salt. That’s it. You don’t need to buy any fancy cultures or equipment. You just need a clean glass or ceramic vessel – a bowl, a canning jar, a crock; any of these will work just fine. You also need something to weight down the cabbage, so that it remains submerged in its juice. This can be just about anything that’s clean and non-reactive, such as a plate with something heavy sitting on top of it. And, if you pack enough into a canning jar with a shoulder on it,  the shoulder helps keep the cabbage submerged and you probably won’t even need a weight. Lastly, you’ll want something to cover your ferment – I prefer cheesecloth, as it lets my ferment breath but keeps any dust and/or bugs out. Because I ferment on a pretty regular basis now, I’ve invested in some nice Ohio Stoneware crocks and weights but I fermented long before I had these, so trust me when I say you don’t need to get too fancy.

You can add other vegetables to your kraut, so please experiment with what you like; garlic, onions, and carrot are the most common ones. And if you want caraway seeds in your sauerkraut, feel free to add a pinch or two of those too. You can also experiment with your favorite cabbage: red, Napa…use what you have or can find at your local store or market.

lola-rugula-how-to-make-homemade-sauerkraut-recipe

homemade sauerkraut recipe

  •  3 heads cabbage, cored, washed and shredded (I weighed this just for you and it’s about 8 lbs of shredded cabbage)
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons salt (I prefer sea salt, for the added mineral benefits that it offers)

This makes about 3 1/2 quart jars, depending on how much taste-testing you do while it’s fermenting.

As you shred the cabbage, place it in a very large bowl. Sprinkle each layer with some of the salt as you go. When finished shredding, it’s time to get a little messy.

With clean hands, get in and smoosh the cabbage up, squeezing it and crushing it with your hands. After just a couple of minutes, you should see some liquid starting to form at the bottom of your bowl. Continue to squeeze and crush until you feel like you’ve crushed all of the cabbage and there’a good amount of cabbage juice in your bowl.

Place your cabbage, with the liquid, into a clean crock or other container and, using a potato masher or other clean implement, mash down the cabbage until it’s all submerged under the juice. Using whatever clean means you want, weight down your cabbage, to assure it’s all submerged. You can use a plate with a filled jar or can on top of it, a baggie filled with water, etc.

Cover with cheesecloth or towel, secure with string or twine and let sit.

Check your sauerkraut every day or two, to make sure there’s still plenty of liquid and that the cabbage has remained submerged in its juice.  If it’s very hot weather, you may find your brine evaporates quicker than you’d like. If this happens, just add a bit of water (I use distilled) to bring the juice level back above the cabbage.

If you notice a bit of scum accumulating around the edges, gently remove it with a spoon, taking care not to mix it into your cabbage. I’ve never had this happen with sauerkraut, though it does occur sometimes when I ferment pickles.

We have found we like our sauerkraut to ferment around 3 weeks, where it’s still got a crunch to it but is sufficiently fermented. You’ll want to start tasting yours every week or so though, to see where it is you want to stop the fermentation process. You may find you like yours crunchy at 2 weeks or softer at 4 weeks.

You’ll also have to vary your ferment time due to the temperature – fermentation happens much more quickly when the weather is hot than when it’s cold.

Once your sauerkraut has reached its desired flavor, place it, along with all of it’s juices, in jars or covered glass bowls and refrigerate. Mine keeps for many months in the fridge, just be aware that though refrigeration slows down the fermentation process, it doesn’t completely stop it. If you store yours too long, it may end up being softer than you’d like.

lola-rugula-how-to-make-homemade-sauerkraut-recipe

A couple of quick, additional tips:

  • Fresh cabbage will have much more juice in it than older cabbage, so try and use the freshest cabbage available.
  • The “hand-smashing” technique is something that I discovered on my own and find that it kick-starts the process very nicely. Most recipes or techniques I’ve seen call for mashing it down and waiting a day or so for the juice to form on its own – you can certainly do it this way, as I used to do myself, I just find hand-mashing faster and easier.
  • I’ve heard to stay away from iodized salt, but I used iodized sea salt by accident once and my sauerkraut still turned out just fine.
  • If additional brine is needed, I do try and stay away from adding any tap water, as chlorine is supposedly a ferment-killer.
  • Be aware that heating sauerkraut will kill the lacto-acid fermentation properties in it, thereby greatly reducing the health benefits that sauerkraut (and other fermented foods) offer. I’m often asked about how to can sauerkraut and my answer is always this: I don’t and you shouldn’t. This is a true raw sauerkraut recipe and should not be heat-processed in any way.

That last point brings me to this: If you have digestive issues of any kind, fermented foods have been shown to help. I can only speak from personal experience when I tell you that it’s definitely helped me. Just go easy at first, introducing them to your diet slowly. As your body becomes accustomed to digesting fermented foods, you’ll find it becomes easier to consume more of them without side effects.

Hopefully, I’ve not missed anything, but I know all of you will be sure and let me know if I have. Happy fermenting!