I am a big fan of lasagna, but usually don’t eat grains, so am always happy to come up with a way to eat something that takes like lasagna but doesn’t have the noodles. And this one is a winner.
Larry was visiting from California to take care of me during my second eye surgery and we were considering what to make from the various foods we had collected when we went grocery shopping.
We started by cooking the whole box of organic baby spinach with onions, then topped it with a layer of ricotta cheese and a layer of pasta sauce and a layer of provolone and finished it off with sliced mushrooms. We baked it in the oven and it satisfied every craving for Italian/pizza/lasagna.
But it was even better the second night when we paired it with a huge salad with garlic dressing (that’s the “al fresco” part—fresco being Italian for dining outdoors. I am using the word loosely to mean “fresh” as in “from the fresh air outdoors.”)
Anyway we agreed that the lasagna paired perfectly with the green salad and can’t wait to make it again.
And if you love lasagna, try my Skillet Lasagna as well.
A few weeks ago a friend and I were talking about food, and she happened to mention an Armenian restaurant in Los Angeles that was one of her favorites.
I hadn’t thought about Armenian food in a long time. But, in fact, I am half Armenian, so I know something about Armenian food.
When I was very small, like under 5 years old, I used to spend my summers in Fresno, California with my Armenian grandparents. They lived on a big wide avenue where everyone was Armenian. Everyone spoke Armenian to each other. Everyone cooked and ate Armenian food. My grandfather would put on records of Armenian music and pick me up and dance around the living room.
And so I began to eat—and prepare—Armenian food at a very early age.
My grandmother had a high stool in the corner of the kitchen. She would bring it close to the counter while she was cooking and put me in the chair. And she would give me little bits of food to prepare.
And that is where I learned to roll grape leaves. It’s so a part of me, I still remember, 55 years later.
My grandparents had grape vines, so making stuffed grape leaves (which we called “sarma,” the proper Armenian name) began by going out to the garden and picking the leaves off the vines. Then my grandmother let them sit in hot water for a few minutes until they were soft, and then we started rolling the leaves around the filling. She had a big aluminum pot with a steamer insert in the bottom and we would pile the sarma up to fill the pot.
Now, I hadn’t made sarma in about 50 years, so I looked in the Armenian cookbook my grandmother gave me called Treasured Armenian Recipes, got the general idea, and mixed it with my memories. These are my 21 century sarma, made with ingredients I have on hand, so we’re using swiss chard leaves instead.
If you have ever eaten stuffed grape leaves in a restaurant or delicatessen, forget them. These are MUCH better and very easy to make. And fun!
NOTE ABOUT CHOOSING SWISS CHARD LEAVES :
A Swiss chard leaf has a stem running up the middle that gets narrower and narrower as it gets toward the top of the leaf. To make sarma, we are going to use the top of the leaf only, where the stem is narrow.
When I was a little girl, my mother worked in a department store and after school I went to a neighbor’s house until my mother got home.
Mrs. Sainsbury was Sicilian and she would make a dish she called “fettacini.” I didn’t know until many years later that fettacini was a cut of pasta. Mrs. Sainbury’s “fettacini” was made with spaghetti, butter, garlic, eggs, and parmesan cheese. It’s not an omelet. Bits of egg just stick to the spaghetti.
It must have been really delicious because it made a big impression on me. It was totally different from anything served at my house.
And every once in a while I remember this fettacini and make it for myself. This week I made it with gluten-free zucchini noodles and it tasted even better.
Now that it’s zucchini season, give it try. You’ll love it.
When I was young, one of my favorite dishes was chicken piccata. I would order it every time I went into an Italian restaurant. I remember the first time I tasted it, the brightness of the fresh lemon juice and the saltiness of the capers delighted my taste buds.
But the traditional recipe calls for flour to brown the chicken and thicken the sauce, so I’ve made my own gluten-free chicken piccata, which takes only about 10 minutes from refrigerator to plate.
If you want thicker sauce, arrowroot works perfectly and even better than wheat flour. Just mix about a half-teaspoon with a little water and put it in the sauce at the end.
One very nice Italian restaurant once brought my chicken piccata with a side of spinach sautéed in butter. Perfect accompaniment.
I enjoyed making this for you and having the opportunity to eat chicken piccata once again.
I get inspiration for recipes from all kinds of places.
This one came in a daily email from Saveur magazine. It’s one of my favorite magazines because it’s all about traditional cuisines from around the world.
I started with their recipe and then modified it to suit my needs and likes.
This recipe makes a wonderful spicy sauce, which you can really add anything to. If you don’t want chicken, add a different meat or make it all vegetables. I added red peppers and mushrooms to the original recipe.
Here I decided to serve it over a pile of green beans, to have even more vegetables! And I think it tastes even better with the fresh green beans because it balances the spicy paprika, like when you eat rice with spicy food.
I call this “magic” chicken “fried rice” because it contains no rice, but tastes just like Chinese restaurant chicken fried rice! It’s so good I eat it fairly often. It takes only 10 minutes to prepare, so it a quick and simple dish to prepare for dinner from leftover roast chicken.
The magic of it is that shredded chicken stands in for the rice. So it becomes a protein dish instead of a carbohydrate dish. I can eat this to my heart’s content. Having lived in or around San Francisco most of my life—where there is a large, established Chinatown, I’m accustomed to eating good Chinese food and love it. Here in Florida, the Chinese food isn’t so great and is full of wheat and sugar. So I make my own.
I’m giving you this recipe today because a week from Monday is Chinese New Year. We celebrate the new year when the light of the sun begins to make days longer, but the Chinese celebrate the new year when new life begins to return. New Year’s Day is the first day of the New Year falls on the new moon between 21 January and 20 February. This year it’s Monday February 8th.
Chickpea Mush with organic grassfed butter,
raw organic parmesan cheese, organic roasted tomatoes and red pepper flakes.
I’ve actually been waiting months for it to be autumn so I could give this to you in season. I love this so much and eat it so often and in so many variations that I know the recipe by heart.
It gives you a nice warm full tummy, like oatmeal, but it’s full of protein instead of carbs. You can make it savory or sweet and eat if for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snacks.
This is simply chickpea (garbanzo) flour, salt, and water, cooked into what my family called a “mush” and Goldilocks called “porridge.” It’s very much like the Italian polenta—which is made from corn—but this is made with chickpeas. It’s not as sweet as corn polenta, but it can be used in place of polenta in pretty much any polenta recipe.
In the photo, I topped the chickpea mush with organic grassfed butter, raw organic parmesan cheese, organic roasted tomatoes and red pepper flakes, and ate that very bowl for lunch.
Today I just want to tell you this exists and how to make it, but then I will have more recipes that use this for you over the autumn and winter.
You should be able to find “garbanzo bean flour” at any natural food store or order from amazon for the best price.
Cookware: Xtrema Ceramic Cookware
A young woman named Eden helps me with the production on my website. She’s in the Philippines so when we meet at 8:00 each weekday morning to work together, it’s 8:00 in the morning for me, but 8:00 at night for her.
It was just delicious! Full of vegetables and pineapple, sweet and savory and fresh.
I’ve made a few changes to the recipe suit my own taste and local ingredients. Here is my version of Eden’s Chicken Menudo.
You can also make this with pork, and I took the liberty of adding vegetables I happened to have in my refrigerator.
One of the things I like to do is recreate sausage flavors in different forms. I love the flavors of various sausages, but who knows what is in them.
So I start out with ground turkey, beef, or pork, and then add seasonings and vegetables.
They taste even better than the originals.
These are pretty spicy so I don’t make a full meal of them. I keep them in the refrigerator for a protein snack, serve them at a party, break them up and put them in scrambled eggs, or mix them with vegetables and beans.
Here’s my recipe for chorizo in the form of a meatball.
A dear friend of mine is visiting this month and it was his birthday last week. I asked him what he wanted me to fix for his birthday dinner and he said, “Stuffed peppers!”
I actually have never made a stuffed pepper in my life, so I did what I usually do when I invent a new recipe: I started looking at existing recipes to find their basic elements. Like, what makes a stuffed pepper a stuffed pepper?
Well, a pepper, obviously. Ground meat, tomato sauce, and usually rice. I eat a low-carb diet, so didn’t want the rice. After some thinking, I realized I could substitute smashed garbanzo beans for the rice— just to lighten up the meat—and it worked perfectly.
So here’s my recipe for low-carb stuffed peppers filled with delcious Italian flavors. The whole house smelled wonderful as they baked and my friend was very happy with his birthday dinner. “You cook better than any restaurant,” he said. And I know he’s been to some good ones.
You can make this recipe by stuffing whole peppers, pepper cut in half, or stuff mini peppers for appetizers or parties.
You can use any color peppers—red peppers are my favorite.