lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

dried rattlesnake bean and vegetable soup

I had the pleasure last summer of growing rattlesnake beans for the first time. I had never heard of them and was intrigued because they can be eaten just like green beans when they’re young or eaten as dried beans when left to grow and dry on the vine. Anyone who’s grown green beans knows how quickly they can grow, so the advantage to growing rattlesnake beans is that if they go past their young, tender stage, you can let them go to dried beans and still enjoy them. Genius, I say! If you’ve been wondering how to grow rattlesnake beans, they’re easy to grow and delicious.

I ordered my beans from Territorial Seed Company and planted them in early May. Rattlesnake beans are pole beans, so you need to give them a fence or support to grow on and boy do these things grow. I did not have the foresight to take a picture of them on the vine but here’s a shot of them while they’re young:

lola-rugula-how-to-grow-rattlesnake-beaans

Aren’t they beautiful? The dark purple striping makes a stunning contrast to the green pod and these really are delicious when harvested at this stage. If you’re wondering how to cook young rattlesnake beans, they can be cooked any way you cook regular green beans. They’re wonderful steamed, roasted and added to soups and other dishes. We had a very healthy harvest of these before I let them go to the drying stage.

Growing them here in Zone 5 was very easy for me. I planted the seeds against a garden fence with some compost and manure mixed in. These are very fast growers and occasionally I had to train the vines around the fence, to make sure they had some much-needed support. I harvested them as green beans until late July or early August and then let the rest of them mature and dry on the vine, picking them as they became fully dry. Then I shelled them and stored them in a storage container in my pantry, where they’ve kept well as I work my way through them.

lola rugula how to grow rattlesnake beans in zone 5

As you can see, the dried beans are just as gorgeous as the green ones – their distinctive markings make it easy to see why they’re called rattlesnake beans.

So here we are, in the middle of a cold Midwestern winter, and what’s the best way to cook these dried rattlesnake beans? In soup, of course! Packed full of veggies, this is a great version of a clean-out-your-fridge recipe. Mine here simply reflects what I had on hand for veggies, so please don’t be afraid to use whatever you love and/or have on hand. There are no rules to veggie and bean soup, except that you make it with the veggies you enjoy. And if you don’t have dried rattlesnake beans, then use whatever beans you like. Don’t like beans? This is still a great vegetable soup recipe, so don’t be afraid to omit or change things up. Be prepared, this is a long list of veggies but don’t be daunted…I’m just cleaning out my fridge for soup…

lola rugula how to cook rattlesnake beans recipe

rattlesnake bean and vegetable soup recipe

  • 1 cup of dried rattlesnake beans
  • 1 cup of small pasta, such as ditalini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 8-10 baby carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 5 small sweet peppers, diced
  • 4-5 medium-size turnip greens, tough stem removed and chopped
  • 1 cup small spinach leaves, torn or chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 15 asparagus spears, tough ends removed and sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup bean broth
  • 1 2-inch piece of Parmesan rind (optional)

In a medium saucepan, add dried rattlesnake beans and fill with water. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, cover and remove from heat. Let sit, covered, for 1 hour. In the meantime, cook the pasta, prepare the veggies and start the soup.

In a medium saucepan, cook the ditalini or other small pasta for 10 minutes or just until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Let sit until ready to use.

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onions and carrots and cook just until they start to sweat, stirring a few times, about 5 minutes.

Add the rest of the veggies and continue to cook until they all start to wilt and soften, about 7 more minutes.  Season with pepper flakes (if using), salt and pepper and stir well. Add vegetable broth, water, bean broth and Parmesan rind (if using).

Add the rattlesnake beans. You will not add the pasta until the soup is almost done. Bring to a boil, partially cover and reduce heat to a slow simmer.

Simmer for one hour or until beans are tender. Add pasta and bring back to a simmer. Remove from heat and serve.

We had a good 2 bowls of this before we sat back and wondered at the incredible flavor of these beans. Rattlesnake beans have a meaty, hearty flavor but cook quickly and stay tender. I love these beans and will definitely add them to my “things you should definitely grow in your vegetable garden” list.

Happy soup season everyone…here’s hoping for an early spring!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

udon noodle bowl

Sometimes the stress of the holidays or just daily life can be overwhelming and drag down your defenses. This often leads us to eat the wrong things, which can weaken our immune system even more.

A great way to recharge your system is a bowl of my ramen-style udon noodle bowl recipe. It’s packed full of veggies and protein and can be customized a lot of different ways, to suit your personal taste. If you’re ever looking for a clean-out-your-fridge recipe, this is a good one. You can even make this vegetarian by adding tofu instead of shrimp.

The key to this dish is to really pack it full of a big variety of your favorite veggies and use a good-quality broth. I typically have homemade broth on hand, but you can certainly use store-bought instead.

lola rugula how to make udon noodle soup bowl recipe

Also, feel free to change up the noodles. I’ve used soba noodles in this dish and they’re also very good. Soba noodles can be a great gluten free option, but you have to check the ingredient lists because some of them still contain wheat. Rice noodles or vermicelli are also options.

Also, I add white miso paste and wakame to my bowls when I have them on hand, as they both add great, healthy benefits. They’re not necessary though, so if you don’t have them, don’t sweat it. There’s really no hard and fast rules to my Asian-inspired bowls, I just like to have fun with them and see how deliciously healthy I can make them.

Of course, if you like things hot, this is a great dish for adding a little fire. You can add some hot peppers in the veggie mix or just drizzle a little of my hot chili oil over the top of it before serving.

lola rugula ramen udon noodle bowl recipe

udon noodle bowl recipe

  • 1 10 oz. package of udon noodles, cooked according to package directions
  • 12 oz. large raw shrimp, thawed, if frozen and shelled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6-8 cups fresh vegetables – here are the ones I used here:
    • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 medium onion, sliced
    • green cabbage, sliced
    • red radishes, sliced
    • 5-6 stalks asparagus, sliced
    • 8 baby carrots, julienned
    • 5 portobello mushrooms, sliced
    • 2 broccolini stalks, sliced
    • 4 small sweet red bell peppers, sliced
    • 1 medium celery stalk, sliced
    • 1 cup (loosely packed) fresh spinach
    • 6 scallions, sliced (plus more for serving)
  • 4 cups good-quality vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup wakame, resconstituted in a cup of hot water
  • 1 generous tablespoon white (shiro) miso paste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • for serving:
    • fresh cilantro, chopped
    • scallions, sliced
    • boiled eggs, peeled and halved
    • hot chili oil (optional)

Cook the noodles, drain, rinse with cool water (to stop the cooking process) and set aside.

Grill the shrimp in a hot grill pan or under the broiler just until they’re pink, turning once halfway through cooking time. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat, Add garlic and regular onions and cook just until they start to soften, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high, add the rest of the fresh vegetables and cook just until they all start to soften a bit, about 5 minutes. Stir the veggies often, so they don’t burn.

Add broth and water. Bring to a boil, immediately reduce heat to medium and simmer about 20 minutes. The veggies should be tender but not mushy.

Add cooked shrimp, wakame, miso pasted and sesame oil, bring back to simmer and remove from heat.

Serving:

Scoop a cup and 1/2 of noodles into each bowl. Ladle hot shrimp and veggie mixture over noodles, being sure to include some of the broth.

Top each bowl with 2 egg halves and a generous sprinkling of fresh cilantro and sliced scallions. Drizzle a teaspoon or so of hot chili oil (if using) over everything and serve.

lola rugula homemade ramen style udon noodle bowl recipe

I love my veggie broth bowls and think you will, too! I have to emphasize that you can customize this to your tastes and/or what you have on hand.

All kinds of proteins work well in these bowls – think beef, turkey, chicken, shredded pork, tofu, tempeh, firm white fish, scallops, salmon, etc…play around with it and see what combo you like best. Try adding beans, if you love them. And don’t ever be afraid to use leftovers in this recipe; in fact it’s a perfect vehicle for your leftover proteins and veggies.

The types of veggies you use are limited only by your imagination, so load up on your favorites.

This recipe may sound like a lot of ingredients and it is, because of all the veggies, but trust me, it’s all prep time. This is a great example of mise en place, meaning you have everything in its place and ready to go. Once the veggie prep is done, this noodle bowl dish comes together pretty quickly.

These udon noodle bowls are calling your name..do not ever, ever be afraid to play with your food.

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

miso soup with shitake mushrooms and grilled tofu

Some days I just need to hit the restart button. Typically this means looking inward for some peace and eating something that fills my stomach and soul with goodness. This past weekend, it was some much needed quiet time and miso soup.

lola rugula how to make miso soup recipe

Miso soup is not overly difficult to make, it just involves a number of separate steps, such as making the dashi and reconstituting the wakame (dried seaweed), that may make it seem so. You can buy prepared dashi, though I’ve never tried it so I can’t recommend it. Once you have everything ready to go, the soup itself comes together very quickly.

miso soup with shitake mushrooms recipe

lola rugula miso soup recipe

dashi:
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 1 oz. kombu (dried kelp)
  • 1 heaping cup katsuobushi (bonito flakes)

Add water and  kombu and bring just to a boil, then shut off heat. Stir in bonito flakes and let stand for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh colander lined with paper towels. Discard solids and set stock aside until ready to use.

tofu:

For a bit of smokey flavor, I grilled my tofu in a grill pan. You can certainly just add drained and blotted tofu to your soup, without this step. If you prefer not to add tofu, skip it altogether – miso soup is just as delicious without it!

  • 1 14 oz. package of extra firm or firm tofu, drained and blotted well and then cut into 5 slices
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Heat grill pan over medium-high heat. Add oil and when it’s hot, add tofu. Cook for about 8-10 minutes on each side, until lightly grilled. Remove from heat, cut slices into cubes and set aside until ready to use.

lola rugula miso soup with tofu and shitake mushrooms

lola rugula miso soup recipe with tofu

wakame
  • 1/4 cup dried wakame (a type of seaweed)
  • about 2 cups hot water

Place wakame in a bowl and cover with hot water by at least a couple of inches. Let stand 20 minutes, until wakame is reconstituted, and then drain off water. Set wakame aside until ready to use.

making the soup:
  • 6 cups dashi
  • 1/4 cup shiro miso
  • 6 shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • reconstituted wakame
  • tofu
  • 4 scallions, sliced

In a bowl, combine 3 cups of dashi and the miso. Whisk well to blend and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, add remaining 3 cups of the dashi and the mushrooms. Bring just to a simmer and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add wakame, tofu and the reserved dashi/miso mix. Heat just until all ingredients are warm and then remove from heat. Serve immediately, garnished with scallions.

lola rugula mushroom miso soup reipe

Miso soup is packed full of healthy benefits as long as you don’t use high cooking temperatures for an  extended length of time, which will cancel out the fermentation effects of the miso paste, along with destroying the benefits of the other ingredients. Don’t boil it and don’t leave it on the heat longer than necessary. If you’re conscious of these things, your miso soup will retain its benefits along with being delicious.

Another restorative soup I make is an udon noodle soup which is packed with veggies and goodness. Give it a try and see how you feel.

Enjoy and be well!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

easy lamb recipes

Quite often I am awed and inspired by what my followers deem my most popular recipes because, quite often, they are not the recipes (nor the accompanying photos) that I aspire to be popular. A few people take the time to comment here on my site but many more share my recipes over and over again, particularly on Pinterest. If you’ve ever searched Pinterest for lamb recipes, chances are good you’ve seen one of mine. The fact that people search for how to cook lamb does not surprise me – a lot of people aren’t really comfortable preparing it.

My first attempt at cooking lamb many (many) moons ago went horribly wrong. It was an attempt to cook some sort of thin lamb chops – probably blade or shoulder chops – which seemed simple enough until I cooked them to an angel hair’s breath of dryness and toughness. They were flavorless and disappointing, to say the least. I swore I’d never make lamb again.

Flash forward just a year or two after that to me enjoying an Easter celebration in Connecticut, where I lived at the time. A good friend there, as luck would have it, is Greek. Her mother had a huge lamb roast cooking in the oven that day and the smell was enough to make me drop to my knees and send up a prayer. Rubbed with garlic, oil and spices and slow roasted to medium rare, I realized that I had no idea the real beauty of lamb or its possibilities.

So, how do you cook lamb shoulder or blade chops? These cuts are less expensive than a loin cut, so ideally you should involve a marinade and then a quick cook at a moderate to high temperature. The marinade helps break down the toughness of cut but the final cook should be fast and simple. You can also braise these (brown and then simmer slowly in liquid) but watch them closely so as not to overcook. Larger cuts of lamb shoulder can be braised for longer.

Here’s the photo of my most popular lamb recipe on Pinterest:

lemon oregano lamb shoulder chops recipe lola rugula

Not an incredibly staged photo, is it? But it’s still quite popular and I believe that’s because of its simplicity and, yes, it’s lack of photographic staging. We all like recipes that are somewhat simple and approachable and this easy lamb recipe is both. Lamb shoulder chops also make this recipe affordable, which we can all appreciate. What’s better than lamb with garlic, lemon, and oregano? Not much, I tell you.

Mint is also a traditional herb for lamb and once you’ve tasted the pairing you’ll understand why. My second most popular lamb recipe is lamb loin chops on the grill, made with mint, oregano and lemon:

lola rugula grilled lamb loin chops with garlic, oregano and mint recipeLoin chops are a more pricey cut of lamb but they don’t require marinating and they’re like any good loin chop – lean and tender.

One day I’ll feature my leg of lamb recipe but I can tell you this: it involves lots of herbs, olive oil and garlic, just like that long ago Easter lamb. I have, however, shared what I love to do with my leftover leg of lamb and that’s to make lamb stew.

easy lamb stew recipe

For me, there’s nothing more satisfying than a big bowl of this, along with a good book and a glass of red wine. A little crusty bread doesn’t hurt either.

I hope that if you’ve had a failed attempt at cooking lamb like I have, you’ll be willing to try these and give it another go. I promise you that lamb can be easy and flavorful with just a little bit of effort.

Happy spring everyone!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

lobster bisque

It’s been a long time since I looked up a lobster bisque recipe, because I’ve always made it (and shrimp bisque) the same way.  So what I discovered is that I’ve (apparently) been making it wrong all these years. Every recipe I came across called for the veggies (and the veggies vary, per recipe) to be part of the strained stock and not actually part of the soup. Well, I like my veggies and I like them actually in my soup. Now, bisques are a classic and typically they’re strained, but I really don’t want to strain all the good stuff out. I also like my bisque with a little body to it, which is what leaving the veggies in my bisque accomplishes. I hope you enjoy it!

Also, here’s the deal on my stock: I always, always, always make my stocks with the not-going-into-the-actual-soup parts so food doesn’t go to waste. It’s all getting strained out in the end, so add those pieces and parts – veggie tops and ends, onion and garlic skins, herb stems, etc. Your ugly veggie tops and bottoms have the same nutrients as the rest of the veggie, you know? Also, don’t go too crazy on salting your stock because this is going to reduce, reduce, reduce. Better to add more later.

Making your own stock with the lobster shells is really key – it’s the only way to truly achieve that rich, lobster flavor.

For the love of all that’s holy though, please use real butter and cream here. This is meant to be a bit of a decadent dish and the real butter and cream makes it oh, so rich. If you only have 1/2 and 1/2, that will work, too. For a gluten-free lobster bisque, omit the flour and add a diced potato when you add the other veggies. This will help add some thickness to your bisque.

As far as the sherry goes – please make it something you’d actually consume on its own. If not, use a nice white wine. If you don’t want to use alcohol, use a really good vegetable stock. It’s lobster we’re working with here and the lobster is the star, so don’t skimp out on the rest of it.

And for Pete’s sake, if you don’t have carrots and celery use your fridge as a guide: leeks, asparagus, broccoli….go for it. Be brave and play with your food a bit.

lola-rugula-healthier-lobster-bisque-recipe

 lobster bisque recipe (a little healthier lobster bisque recipe)

For the stock:

  • lobster shells
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 carrot tops, ends and peels
  • 2 celery tops and ends
  • ends and skin from 1 onion, plus 1/2 of the onion (the other half will go into the bisque)
  • 4-5 whole peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • parsley stems
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • water

For the bisque:

  • 1/2 stick butter (please use real butter)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup sherry
  • 7 cups of your freshly made stock
  • 2-3 pounds fresh whole lobster, lobster claws and tail or combination of them, shelled and chopped or shredded. Reserve shells for stock.
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • additional salt and pepper, to taste
  • fresh parsley, for serving

For the stock: place all off the ingredients in large stockpot, cover with about 8-9 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about one and half hours. Strain through a colander and then strain again through a cheesecloth-lined colander. Set stock aside. Discard solids

For the bisque:

In a stockpot over medium heat, heat pan and melt butter. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Saute about 12-15 minutes.

Add flour to veggies and stir well. Let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. I like my flour to lightly brown a little, but you don’t want to burn it.

Add tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. I add my tomato paste here because I like to to “roast” a little in the pan. To me, this gives your finished bisque a richer flavor.

Add sherry and, using a whisk, whisk everything together until well blended and there are no clumps of flour or tomato paste remaining.

Add stock. If you need to add a little water to achieve 7 cups, that’s fine. Stir well.

Let this simmer for about an hour. Veggies should be completely soft and soup base reduced by at least a third.

Using an immersion blender, blend the base together until creamy. Now’s a good time to taste it and if you need to add any additional salt or pepper, do so.

Return to low heat, add lobster and cream, and cook just until heated through.

Serve with freshly chopped parsley sprinkled on top.

Be sure and serve this with a warm loaf of crusty bread – it’s good for mopping up every last drop from your bowl.

Enjoy and eat well!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

primitive basics

There is really nothing so darkly primitive and luscious as roasted beef marrow bones. Add in some vegetables and cloves of garlic and the beauty and fragrance is simply divine.

I’ve made homemade stock for many, many moons because I don’t like things to go to waste and I really like knowing that the stock I use is full of a bunch of good stuff. I use roasted chicken or turkey carcasses, ham bones, beef and lamb shanks, tough asparagus or broccoli bottoms, onion skins and roots, carrot tops, celery bases, herb stems, you name it. When I make stock, I try and use just about everything I can.

I prefer to use roasted bones and carcasses, as they have a much richer, more intense flavor. There’s nothing like the caramelization that happens when something is roasted…the layers of flavor truly intensify. So, if you have them and are wondering what to do with beef marrow bones, my answer to you is to make bone broth.

This isn’t to say I don’t keep the canned or boxed stuff around, because I do, just in case I run out of my homemade stock. I always need to have stock on hand, as it’s a necessity in a lot of dishes. I just highly prefer my own homemade stock over the store-bought variety.

Behold, roasted beef marrow bones with vegetables:

lola-rugula-how-to-make-homemade-roasted-beef-marrow-broth-from-scratch-recipe

That, my non-vegetarian friends, is a beautiful sight.

homemade beef stock recipe using roasted beef marrow bones

Preheat oven to 425°

  • 2.5 to 3 pounds beef marrow bones, with some meat still attached
  • 2 whole carrots, scrubbed & cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1/2 leek, white and tender green section, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 head of garlic, gently crushed
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the stock pot:

  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 few sprigs of fresh thyme or a tablespoon of dried
  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley (I use the stems)
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

Place beef bones in a large roasting pan, sprinkle everything with salt, and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, turn bones over, add veggies and garlic. Return to oven and roast for 30 minutes more. The beef bones and vegetables should just be caramelized, without being burnt.

Place the bones and veggies in a large pot and add enough water to cover everything, plus a few more inches. Add your bay leaves, thyme, and parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer on low heat, with the lid only partially on, for about 4 hours.

Let cool and refrigerate overnight. The next day, scrape off most of the solidified fat and discard. Strain through a colander and discard all solids. Strain stock again through a cheesecloth-lined colander.

You now have beautiful, clear, flavorful homemade beef stock. This freezes really well for a few months, and I like to divvy mine up into cup-sized containers before freezing, so I can use just what I need. You can also freeze some of your stock in ice cube trays, for even smaller amounts.

Depending on how you use your stock, you can add a variety of herbs and veggies to this, to amp up the flavor and vitamin content. Don’t be afraid to play with your food; I’ll bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Enjoy!