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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Celeriac and Apple Soup with Parmesan Frico


A homey autumn soup is made special with the addition of lacy Parmesan frico. photo by Nancy Duran

Celeriac (otherwise known as celery root) is one ugly vegetable. Luckily, it doesn’t have to get by on looks alone because its flavor is sublimely beautiful. I think its taste can best be described as lying somewhere between parsley and celery. And that is what makes it perfect for soup making. Here, I’ve paired it up with another star of the autumn harvest: crisp sweet apple.

This soup is very quick work to assemble. I prepared it on a weeknight while helping my kids with homework. Seriously, it’s that easy. At its heart it’s homey, comforting fare perfect for slurping by the fire. But if you want to amp up the sophistication level just a bit, serve the soup with these beautiful lacy Parmesan crackers called frico. In Italy, you’ll frequently see them as a garnish in soups and stews. They also couldn’t be easier to make, just grate and bake. They add a nice saltiness to the slightly sweet soup and their delicate, lacy appearance is beautiful on the plate. Now that’s a perfect dish in my books, one that brings inner beauty and outer beauty into perfect harmony.

Soup serves 6 (makes about 8 cups)/Makes 12 frico

Celeriac and Apple Soup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1 carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 medium Russet potato, peeled and chopped
2 medium celeriac (about 1 pound), peeled and chopped
2 medium apples (such as Fuji), peeled, cored and chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
A couple thyme sprigs, leaves picked
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Parmesan Frico
1 heaping cup grated aged Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. To make the soup: In a large soup pot, heat the butter and oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, potato, and celeriac and cook gently until onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Add the apple, garlic, and thyme and continue to cook a more few minutes to soften the garlic and apple.
  2. Pour in the stock and 4 cups of water and increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, until all the vegetables are very tender. Uncover, increase the heat slightly to keep the soup simmering and continue to cook a further 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Meanwhile, make the Parmesan frico: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (or silpat). Place heaping tablespoons of the grated cheese on the baking paper, pressing to flatten into about 3-inch circles. Season with pepper and bake for about 5 minutes, until browned and bubbling. Let cool then carefully lift off the tray using a spatula. Place on a cooling rack until ready to use.
  4. Let the soup cool slightly before adding, in batches, to a blender and puree until smooth. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to blend the soup right in the pot. Check for seasoning again. Serve soup with Parmesan frico.

Nutritional analysis of soup based on 6 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste):
Calories 193, Fat 8g, Sodium 301mg, Carbohydrate 26g, Fiber 3g, Sugar 10g, Protein 6g

Nutritional analysis per frico:
Calories 36, Fat2g, Sodium 127mg, Carbohydrate 0g, Fiber 0g, Sugar 0g, Protein 3g

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Frangipane Pear and Ginger Tart


Right about now many of you are probably asking yourselves, “What the heck is frangipane?!” For some reason, this exquisite filling has a pretty low profile in the States. Hailing from either Belgium or France (it’s up for debate), frangipane is essentially a filling derived from nuts (usually almonds), eggs, sugar, and butter. It’s basically a custard (thanks to the egg) but with the addition of flour, it takes on a more cake-like texture. The more flour you add, the more cakey it will be.

When used in a tart case, frangipane can be paired with any seasonal fruit of your liking. To my mind, pear works especially well with the nutty earthy flavor of frangipane. I like to add ginger to just about anything with pears and this tart is no exception. The floral, fragrant ginger provides a wonderful high note to the whole affair.

Keep this tart in your back pocket if you’ve got holiday entertaining coming up. Its sophisticated flavor belies the fact that it is very simple to whip up.

Serves 8 to 10

Shortcrust Pastry
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water

Frangipane Filling
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 teaspoon for sprinkling
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon spiced rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almond meal (ground almonds)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
5 Seckel pears, peeled, halved and cored

  1. First, make the pastry: In the bowl of a food processor, add the flour, salt, and butter. Pulse just until the ingredients come together and resemble coarse meal. Add the sugar, egg yolk, zest, and 2 tablespoons of the water and process to combine. Add more water, a tablespoon at a time, just until the dough comes together into a ball. Be careful not to over-process or your dough will become tough.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a surface that has been lightly dusted with flour and give it a turn through the flour. Using the balls of your fingers, gently press the dough into a 9-inch round removable-base fluted tart tin. Press up the sides and around the entire base of the tin to create an evenly covered surface with no holes in the dough. Place on a baking tray in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  4. Remove the pastry from the fridge to blind bake it. This will set the crust so that it doesn’t become soggy when you add the filling. Cover the crust with parchment paper and line the top of the parchment paper with pie weights (or if you don’t have pie weights use dried beans). This will weigh down the crust and decrease shrinking and puffing. Bake, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove parchment and pie weights.
  5. Meanwhile, make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixture, on medium-high speed, cream the butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the egg, egg yolk, rum, and extract. Mix until combined then add the almond meal, flour, and ginger and mix just until combined.
  6. Scrape the filling into the tart crust and spread out to evenly cover the crust. Gently push the pear halves into the filling in a decorative design. Sprinkle the pears with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Bake about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the side of the tart tin and let cool completely on a rack before slicing and serving.
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When Life Gives You Apples…


Apples baked with cinnamon and star anise: smells almost as good as it tastes. photo by: Nancy Duran and beautiful handmade bowls by: Joe Darling

I love cookbooks. I guess that must come as no surprise but I think it warrants stating. Even though I rarely “cook from a book,” I love to while away the hours flipping through their pages. So when I recently bought a new bookcase for my kitchen, it was such a treat to rediscover the collection that had been buried in boxes in my basement. One of the greats that I dug out of those boxes was The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. While I’ve never eaten at this San Francisco institution, the recipes in this book are true classics that have inspired me for years. This recipe for baked applesauce is one such inspiration.

Because this applesauce is only slightly sweet, depending on the sweetness of the apples themselves and just two tablespoons of sugar added in, it can be utilized in so many different ways. It can be served hot next to pork chops, warm on top of oatmeal, cold with Greek yogurt and granola, or at room temperature as a snack all by itself. It’s versatile, delicious, and made from natural ingredients, everything a classic recipe ought to be.

Makes 3 cups

3 pounds eating apples (such as Braeburn, Fuji, Macintosh, etc), peeled, cored, and quartered
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 whole star anise
1 whole cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, chopped
Ground cinnamon, for serving

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. While you are preparing the apples, squeeze the lemon juice over them and periodically toss to coat them. This will prevent them from browning as you work.
  3. Pour the lemon coated apples into a 9 by 13-inch baking dish, add the water, sugar, star anise, and cinnamon stick, and stir to coat the apples. Dot with the chopped butter. Bake about 40 minutes, until very soft, stirring once or twice during baking time.
  4. Carefully remove the cinnamon stick and star anise and pour the apple mixture into a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash to the desired consistency. Serve, hot, room temperature, or cold. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon if you like.

Nutritional analysis based on 6 (1/2 cup) servings (does not include ground cinnamon for serving):
Calories 159, Fat 4g, Sodium 27mg, Carbohydrate 33g, Fiber 3g, Sugar 27g, Protein 1g

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You Say Frittata, I Say Tortilla


An overabundance of eggs in my fridge were put to good use in this Americano take on the Spanish tortilla. photo by Nancy Duran

For some reason, last week every time I went to the market, I thought I needed more eggs, leaving me with 3 dozen eggs sitting in my fridge, taking up space. Annoying. But sometimes a silly mistake like that is all it takes for a recipe to be born. This is my take on what the Spaniards call a tortilla and the Italians call a frittata. Call it what you like. It was delicious.

The one tricky part to this recipe is the whole flipping nonsense which cooks the top of the tortilla. But fear not. If you just don’t have it in you to attempt this daring feat, you can always stick the pan under the broiler for a couple minutes to finish cooking the top layer. Just make sure you use an oven-proof frying pan if you choose to go that route.

This dish is equally at home on the breakfast table, as part of a fancy brunch spread or even for family night dinner (accompanied by a fresh green salad preferably). It really is anytime food.

Serves 6

1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound baby white potatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
3 ears corn, kernals cut from cobs
Pinch of dried oregano
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
6 large eggs
Salsa, to serve

  1. In a medium frying pan, heat the oil over low heat. Add the potato and onion and stir to coat. Cover and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until potatoes are cooked through, stirring once or twice. When the potatoes and onions are almost softened, add the corn and oregano and stir to coat. Cover until corn is tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Remove from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a colander in the sink to drain excess oil.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using a fork, break up the egg yolks. Add the cooked and drained vegetables to the eggs and stir vigorously to incorporate. Season again with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the same frying pan back over medium-low heat. Pour the egg mixture in and, using a fork, push the edges of the batter into the center, letting the liquidy center drain toward the edges. Then, reduce the heat to low and leave it alone to cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the bottom is set and the top is still slightly wet. Take a dinner plate and place it upside down on top of the pan. Gently flip the pan over so that the tortilla falls onto the plate. Then, slide the tortilla back into the pan, this time with the wet top facing down. Return to the heat to set the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the pan, let sit 5 minutes then slice up to serve warm or at room temperature with dollops of tomato salsa on top.

Nutritional analysis based on 6 servings (does not include salt and pepper to taste or salsa to serve):
Calories 237, Fat 14g, Sodium 76mg, Carbohydrate 21g, Fiber 3g, Sugar 2g, Protein 9g

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Latest Article in Westchester Magazine

Check out my most recent article on the pickling trend in the Westchester dining scene.

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