Eat Your Greens!



This scrumptious dressing makes it easy to be green.  photo by Nancy Duran

An early summer salad gets a dose of fun with this Green Goddess Dressing tailor made for little ones. If you’re looking to entice the kids into the kitchen and get them bought into the idea of eating their greens, “no-cook” cooking like this is a great place to start. Little hands can get involved making this yummy, creamy dressing which just happens to be the perfect complement to all sorts of vegetables.

While traditional Green Goddess Dressing features anchovies, I’ve subbed in Worcestershire sauce so that kiddos won’t turn their noses up. The salty, briny flavor of the sauce will hit similar notes. (But, by all means, if you love anchovies like I do, skip the Worcestershire sauce and toss in two anchovy fillets instead.)

Toss a little bit of the dressing with whatever baby greens you find at the market this week. Be careful not to go too heavy on the dressing as a little bit goes a long way. It saves in the fridge for up to a week and makes a great dip for raw veggies as well. My guess is, this fun to make and fun to eat dressing will make the kiddos want to dig right in.

Makes 1 1/4 cups dressing


1/2 cup olive oil mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 small garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
2 teaspoons roughly chopped fresh chives
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, combine all the ingredients except salt and pepper and add 1 tablespoon water. Blend until smooth and creamy. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Use this dressing on salads or as a dip for vegetables.

Nutritional analysis based on serving size of 2 tablespoons (does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Calories 106, Fat 11g, Sodium 89 mg, Carbohydrate 2g, Fiber 0g, Sugar 1g, Protein 1g

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Fragrant Squash Soup Shots


Curry and coconut flavor this butternut squash soup. It’s a perfect way to introduce your Thanksgiving feast. photo by Nancy Duran

Getting this one in under the wire! Two more sleeps until Turkey Day so there’s still time to add this stunning soup to your feast. I love a good butternut squash soup but I often find it very heavy. This rendition, however, is so silky and airy that you won’t fill up before the turkey and stuffing make their grand appearance. Flavored with fragrant green curry paste and light coconut milk, this soup is a beautiful way to get the taste buds ready for the feast ahead. Serve it in shot glasses or little mugs either at the table or during the pre-dinner cocktail hour.

Makes 9 cups

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
2 small butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled, seeds scooped out, and flesh chopped
1/3 cup green curry paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 cans (13.66 ounces) light coconut milk (shaken)
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and freshly cracked black or white pepper to taste
1/4 cup very finely chopped fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime

  1. In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil and butter over medium-low heat. When the butter has melted, add the shallot and cook, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the squash and stir to coat with the shallot and butter. Add the curry paste and sugar and stir to coat the squash. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.
  2. Pour in the coconut milk, stock, and 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer (not a fierce boil), reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the squash is tender. (You may see the soup split if the boil becomes too rapid. Don’t worry, once you puree, it will all come together.)
  3. Pour the soup into a blender and puree in batches until smooth. (If the soup is hot when you pour it into the blender, be careful that the top of the blender doesn’t blow off when you puree!) Return to a cleaned out pan and season to taste with salt and freshly cracked black or white pepper. Stir in the cilantro and lime juice and serve warm.

Nutritional analysis based on 36 (1/4 cup) servings
(does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Cal 87, Fat 7g, Sodium 102 mg, Carbohydrate 9g, Sugar 1g, Fiber 0g, Pro 4g

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Late Summer Stew


The bounty of a late summer harvest is on full display in this quick prep stew. photo by Nancy Duran

Funnily enough, the end of summer is actually my favorite part of this season. I love the cooler nights, the hint of autumn in the air, reclaiming my schedule, and the return of friends from far flung summer adventures. But, of course, I especially love the bounty of the late summer harvest. Gardens, farmers markets, and CSAs are in peacock mode in the late days of August and throughout the month of September.

This easy, easy stew is an homage to all the goodies coming out of the ground right now. Eggplants, onions, and peppers are brought together with a puree of fresh summer tomatoes and topped off with baby spinach and fragrant basil.

You can enjoy this stew as I’ve written it here with boneless chicken thighs, or try it as a vegetarian main. It’s delicious served over pasta or with crusty, hearty peasant bread. And don’t skip the yogurt. The tangy finish really seals the deal.

Serves 4

2lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large eggplant, chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 large tomatoes, halved and grated for pulp on the large holes of a box grater (discard the skin)
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
A large handful of baby spinach
Fresh basil and Greek or Bulgarian yogurt for serving

  1. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season it all over with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken in two batches and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes on the first side and 2 minutes on the second side. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil to the pan and stir in the onion, pepper, and eggplant. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, 12-15 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, coriander, and cumin and cook, stirring for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
  3. Pour in the vinegar and cook, scraping the bottom of the pan to lift off any brown bits, for about 1 minute, until almost evaporated. Add the tomato pulp, stock, and the chicken and juices to the pan. Push the chicken down into the stew juices. Increase the heat to medium to bring to a simmer, then reduce heat and cover. Cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
  4. Just before serving, stir in the spinach to wilt slightly. Taste and add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with shredded basil and fresh yogurt.

Nutritional analysis based on 4 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste and basil and yogurt for serving):
Calories 516, Fat 27g, Sodium 309 mg, Carbohydrate 19, Fiber 7g, Sugars 9g, Protein 48g

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Grilled Chicken with Fresh Herb Salsa


Smoky grilled chicken is brightened up with a salsa made from fresh picked garden herbs. photo by Nancy Duran

When I haven’t got the time to marinate chicken for the barbecue, I like to serve it with something flavorful drizzled on top. That something usually involves lemon juice, garlic, herbs, and plenty of good olive oil. This fresh salsa was inspired by the abundance of herbs that are growing like weeds in my garden right now. It took me about 5 minutes to blend this salsa together and the result was so tasty it had my kids eating this chicken right down to the bone.

Serves 4 to 6

4 bone-in chicken thighs
6 chicken drumsticks
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Herb Salsa
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and place in a large bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons oil and salt and pepper to taste and toss to coat all over. Set aside at room temperature while you make the salsa.
  2. In the bowl of a small food processor, add the garlic, sugar, parsley, and basil. Pulse until roughly chopped. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, and oil and process until the sauce comes together. Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl. Chill in the refrigerator until the chicken is done.
  3. Prepare a grill for medium heat and lightly oil the grate. When hot, add the chicken (skin-side down for the thighs) and grill for 8-10 minutes, moving the chicken pieces around the grill if flare ups occur so that they are golden and lightly charred. Turn the chicken pieces and grill for a further 5 minutes, again moving them around the grill when flare ups occur.
  4. Serve chicken drizzled with some of the salsa, and pass excess salsa around at the table.

Nutritional analysis based on 6 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Calories 310, Fat 26g, Sodium 67mg, Carbohydrate 3g, Fiber 0g, Sugar 2g, Protein 15g

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Watermelon and Arugula Salad


Watermelon makes a guest appearance in a savory salad. photo by Nancy Duran

This is a recipe that was part of a summer barbecue cooking class I taught last week. I’m happy to report that my students loved it. They especially loved how easy it was to throw together. I wasn’t going to post it because it’s an update on an older Greek salad I’ve posted here before but I felt it was so beautiful to look at and such an upgrade from the earlier recipe that it demanded a wider audience. Enjoy this celebration of all the tastiest bits of summer.

Serves 4 as a side or 8 as a part of a larger barbecue spread


1 cup cooked and cooled farro
6 cups arugula
2 cups bite-size watermelon chunks, from about 1/8 medium watermelon
2 mini Lebanese cucumbers, cut into chunks
1 large tomato, cut into chunks
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
Handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove, grated on a Microplane
2 tablespoons olive oil

  1. In a large serving bowl, combine all salad ingredients.
  2. To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a screw-top jar. Shake vigorously to combine.
  3. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss gently to combine and coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Analysis based on 4 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Calories 240, Fat 13g, Sodium 341mg, Carbohydrate 27g, Fiber 4g, Sugar 10g, Protein 8g

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Spiced Beets with Dill


Spiced beets topped with cooling yogurt are as beautiful as they are tasty. photo by Nancy Duran

I bought my third mortar and pestle recently. And she’s a beauty. I know most people don’t see the need for three mortar and pestles (or even one perhaps) but there’s something about the design of this implement that I just


A mortar and pestle. An essential chef’s tool. photo by Nancy Duran

adore. Apart from its good looks this tool is highly functional. Grinding spices and herbs with garlic and salt releases loads and loads of flavor without the fuss of chopping. In this simple beet dish, the cumin, coriander, and peppercorns combine to create a fragrant, slightly spicy finish on the beets, a perfect complement to their earthy sweetness. If you get yourself a little mortar and pestle like the one pictured here, it’s actually a nice decorative addition to any kitchen countertop. And the culinary benefits are pretty great too.

Serves 4 to 6

3 bunches medium to small beets (about 9)
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
1/2 teaspoon white peppercorns
Sea salt to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh dill
Greek yogurt, to serve

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. Trim the beet greens from the beets (reserve for another use). Wrap each beet in tin foil, place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes, until easily pierced with a paring knife. Unwrap beets and, when cool enough to handle, peel them. Quarter the medium beets, halve the small beets.
  3. In a mortar, place the garlic, cumin, coriander, peppercorns, and a pinch of sea salt. Using the pestle, grind the ingredients to a paste. The sea salt will help to break down the garlic into a pulp.
  4. In a small frying pan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic paste and cook, stirring, and being careful not to burn, for about 3 minutes, until the garlic is cooked off and the spices are very fragrant. Add the vinegar and stock and cook for 30 seconds more.
  5. In a large bowl, toss the beets with the garlic-vinegar dressing. Let sit for at least an hour covered at room temperature (or up to overnight in the refrigerator) to let the flavors infuse.
  6. When ready to serve, pour the dish out onto a serving platter, sprinkle with fresh dill and sea salt to taste. Serve either at room temperature or chilled with dollops of Greek yogurt over top.

Nutritional analysis based on 6 servings (does not include salt to taste or yogurt):
Calories 106, Fat 5 g, Sodium 104 mg, Carbohydrates 14 g, Fiber 4 g, Sugar 10 g, Protein 2g

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Wild Rice with Wild Greens


Snow pea shoots and baby lettuces adorn this gorgeous wild rice salad. photo by: Nancy Duran

So, I belong to a neighborhood beach club. It’s rustic and beautiful and a great place to meet up with friends all summer long. Usually, we end up meeting up around dinner time so the kids can have an early evening swim and food and drink can be shared. It’s awesome. But I have to admit, as the summer chugs along, the effort of food planning, preparation, and transportation can become a little onerous. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently as I’ve actually been asked to teach a class on “quick and easy beach club food prep.” At first glance, it seems easy enough. Just grab some ground meat and hot dogs and throw them on the grill. Slice up a tomato and layer over some mozzarella. But, honestly, after a half dozen weekends of this, it gets a little old. Thus, my search for new, interesting, and easy prep dishes to cart up to the picnic tables and sand. This dish, to my mind, fits the bill perfectly. Firstly, it only involves two steps, and one of those steps is: cook rice. And secondly, it can be served warm if you just get it done as you’re stepping out the door or at room temperature, if you choose to prepare it earlier in the day. Beauty. A wild rice salad, with wild greens, that’s just perfect for enjoying out in the wild on a warm summer evening.

Serves 4

1 cup wild rice
1 3/4 cup water
Salt to taste
2 scallions, trimmed, white parts finely chopped, light and dark green parts thinly sliced
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 cups pea shoots and baby lettuces
Juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

  1. In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine rice, water, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 45 minutes, until rice is tender.
  2. Place rice in medium bowl and add scallions, raisins, greens, lemon juice, and oil. Toss to combine and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Nutritional analysis based on 4 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Calories 212, Fat 4g, Sodium 12mg, Carbohydrate 46g, Fiber 3g, Sugar 26g, Protein 4g

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Spring Celebration Salad


Asparagus, arugula, chives! Oh my! It must be spring. photo by: Nancy Duran

And…. we’re back! Spring seems to be finally springing this week and it’s about time I say. Farmers’ markets all over the county will be opening this weekend, including my local TaSH market in Tarrytown. In honor of what you’re bound to find there, I give you my Spring Celebration Salad. Happy spring everyone!

Serves 4 as an appetizer or light lunch

1 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
4 extra large eggs
4 large handfuls of baby arugula
1/3 cup pistachios, toasted

Honey, Lemon, Chive Vinaigrette
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons finely snipped fresh chives
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place the trimmed asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears, until tender.

Place the eggs in a medium saucepan and fill with enough water to just cover the eggs. Place over high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly to simmer for 4 minutes; drain. To stop the eggs from cooking and keep them at the soft boil stage, peel immediately under cold running water.

Meanwhile, make the Honey, Lemon, Chive Vinaigrette: In a screw-top jar, combine all the ingredients and shake vigorously to combine.

To assemble the salad, divide the asparagus between 4 plates, top each plate with a large handful of arugula. Split the eggs in half widthwise and place two halves on each plate. Scatter over pistachios and drizzle with Honey, Lemon, Chive Vinaigrette. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Nutritional analysis based on 4 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Calories 365, Fat 32g, Sodium 87mg, Carbohydrate 12g, Fiber 4g, Sugar 7g, Protein 12g

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Quick Hoisin Beef


Hoisin beef makes for a quick and cost effective midweek meal. photo Nancy Duran

When it comes to ground beef, Italian or Mexican-inspired dishes usually win the day. You’ve got your meatballs, you’ve got your ziti with meat sauce, and, of course, you’ve got tacos. I’m not knocking these comforting go-to dishes, but sometimes it’s nice to break out of a rut and try something a little new. In that spirit, here’s a quick and easy Asian twist on this economical midweek mainstay. This dish is packed with flavor, can be served in a variety of different ways, and can be thrown together in minutes.

My kids love lettuce wraps so that’s usually how I end up serving this quick beef stir-fry, but as you can see from the photo above, I didn’t have any big lettuce leaves on hand today. Luckily, it’s also delicious served over rice or noodles. I usually serve an Asian flavored veggie on the side, something along the lines of my Sesame and Soy Baby Bok Choy. That’s a great option if you don’t go the lettuce wrap route, because you can still get some green into the mix.

Oh, and this recipe calls for an optional addition of sambal oelek (my favorite source of heat in Asian style cooking) but I usually leave it out until the end. That way my kids can enjoy a non-spicy version and I can add in as much as I like (a lot) in the end.

Serves 4

1/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sambal oelek, optional
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
3 scallions, white and light green parts finely chopped, dark green parts thinly sliced and separated out
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
Rice, noodles, or lettuce leaves to serve
Fresh cilantro to garnish

  1. In a small bowl, mix together the hoisin, soy, and vinegar. Add in the sambal now if you like.
  2. In a large frying pan, heat the oils over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and the white and light green parts of the scallion. Cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the beef. Cook until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Drain off any excess fat and then add in the hoisin mixture. Stir to coat and combine and cook for a further minute. Sprinkle over the dark green parts of the scallion and serve over rice, noodles, or in lettuce wraps. Garnish with cilantro.

Recipe Analysis based on 4 servings (does not include samba oelek or cilantro)
Calories 397, Fat 22g, Sodium 961, Carbohydrate 12g, Fiber 1g, Sugar 6g, Protein 36g

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A Winter’s Salad


A hearty steak and bean salad with beets and winter greens. photo: Nancy Duran

No matter how cold it gets (let’s face it that’s not too bloody cold this winter!), my body still craves salads, and while they may look a little different from their warm weather cousins, winter salads can be just as interesting and satisfying. For me, they are driven by the ingredients that are freshest at this time of year, ingredients like kale greens and beets. Beans also play a large part in my diet this time of year. It’s just so easy to reach for a can of beans and transform it into something beautiful and fulfilling.

This dish was inspired by a product a friend of mine passed along. Sandra Spiro runs a wonderfully informative site for culinary professionals called FlashPepper. She now offers fun little Pepper Paks for chefs to play around with new and interesting ingredients. In a recent Pepper Pak I received a bottled red wine reduction by a company that is aptly named Reduction Ready. That led to playing around in the kitchen, which led to this deeply flavored Red Wine Reduction Vinaigrette. You can always do it with red wine reduction you make yourself but when there’s a good quality product out there, no harm in taking the shortcut! This full-bodied dressing proved the perfect match for my hearty winter salad, helping me make it through another dark day of winter, and bringing me one step closer to the light of spring…

Serves 4

Red Wine Reduction Vinaigrette

1 small shallot, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine reduction
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


2 large beets, roasted, peeled, and cut into chunks
5 ounces baby spinach and baby kale greens
1 cup loosely packed fresh flat leaf parsley leaves
1 can (151/2 ounces) Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
heaping 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and broken into chunks
2 New York strip steaks (about 6 ounces each), seared medium rare and sliced
1/2 cup shredded pecorino Romano cheese
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

  1. First make the dressing: In a screw-top jar, combine all ingredients and shake to combine. If you have the time, let the dressing sit for an hour or two to lightly pickle the shallots. If you don’t, no big deal.
  2. Assemble the salad: In a medium bowl, toss the beets with 1 teaspoon of the dressing. In a large serving bowl, toss the remaining ingredients with the remaining dressing. Top with the dressed beets. (I like to prepare the salad this way so that the beets don’t turn the whole thing red. But if you prefer, toss the whole lot together in one bowl.) Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Nutritional analysis based on 4 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Calories 696, Fat 46g, Sodium 512 mg, Carbohydrate 35g, Fiber 10g, Sugar 5g, Protein 40g

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