Category Archives: Sides

Country-style Ratatoullie alla Genovese


I’m sorry about my last post being just a multitude of pictures without any real explanation. I just get so excited by all the wonderful fresh produce in season, and farms, and farmer’s markets popping up that I get a little picture crazy. To me, one of the wonderful things about really fresh, just-picked produce, is that you can experiment a little with it.. the key being not to go overboard and let its true taste shine through. This is why I’ve come up with very few new recipes lately, and gone more for simplicity; letting the vegetables be the stars. Like in my Strawberry, goat cheese, and pistachio salad with walnut thyme vinaigrette or my Vine ripe tomatoes with basil and chevre. Its true you don’t need complicated recipes to make food taste great, which I’m reminded of as I’ve been reading Alice Waters’s biography: Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, which by the way I definitely recommend to any foodie or person interested in how this local food movement got stated–all right here in San Francisco (Berkeley, actually).

Alice Water’s life and vision come alive in this book. Highly recommend!

But before you go searching for that in your local library…try this recipe. Yes, its a recipe, but also lets fresh veggies shine their brightest in a unison of rich flavors. This is a heartier dish, to be served with rice, thick country bread, any white fish (monkfish, halibut, flounder), or on its own sprinkled with some good parmesan or pecorino romano. Unlike some more typical versions of ratatioullie that call for an hour in the oven (you know I’m hesitant of heating my apartment while its 85 degrees outside), this is a stovetop ratatouille. Nothing fancy about it, but the result is something so homey, rich and delicious… you’ll forget your just eating vegetables.

After my most recent trip to the farmer’s market, I somehow got saddled with 3 lbs of vine ripened tomatoes, 6 baby zucchini, and a giant bunch of Genovese basil. So to use it all up, I made a big batch of ratatouille and saved it (for 3 days!) and ate it for lunch or dinner. I would definitely throw in some eggplant and yellow squash if you have it on hand. I like to leave everything in big chunks so the flavors dont completely blend together and it gets mushy. This way each vegetables holds up and at the end you can really appreciate and taste each one for what it is.

If you want a more refined ratatoullie recipe for a dinner party or just to try out your mandoline skills, like the one in the movie Ratatoullie (Remy’s recipes), click here for a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It has all the same ingredients and flavor, just a different look.


Country-style Ratatoullie alla Genovese

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 7-10 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
  • 2-3 lbs vine ripened tomatoes, halved or whole if small*
  • 6 baby zucchini or 3 large zucchini, cut into thick rounds
  • (Italian eggplant or yellow squash of you have them, cut into large chunks)
  • 1/4 lb baby carrots or carrots cut into thick rounds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 2 pinches kosher salt
  • 2 handfuls fresh Genovese basil leaves, rinsed
  • 1/2 can cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Coarse black pepper & sea salt, to taste
  • Grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, for serving


1. Add the olive oil, onion, and whole garlic cloves to a deep sided fry pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Stir until translucent, about 2-3 minutes, but do not brown. Add your tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, squash and/or eggplant to the pan and stir occasionally for the first few minutes until juices start to release. Add the bay leaf, kosher salt, and stir.  IMG_1608

2. As the juices begin to simmer, add a sprig of thyme on top, cover pan, and let simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes (or until all veggies are cooked through, but not mushy). Remove thyme sprig. Let cool for 7 minutes with lid off then stir in basil leaves.


3. Let sit until just warm and stir in garbanzo beans, balsamic, thyme (leaves only), and salt and fresh pepper to taste.** Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese, by itself or with one of the suggestions below.

Serve with thick country bread drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of salt, fresh pasta, brown rice, or simply prepared chicken or white fish.  The beauty of this dish is in its simplicity so don’t overdo it.


*make sure your tomatoes are ripe, smell fragrant and sweet, and give them a good wash

**The reason for all the cooking times and waiting at the end is so that the stronger flavors of the herbs and vinegar do not overpower the delicate flavors of the vegetables (which they would if cooked too long). You also want to make sure the beans stay firm, so adding them at the end is important.

I imagine this dish would be served in the countryside in Italy as a no-frills, home-cooked and family-style dish with only the freshest of ingredients (hence the name). That was my inspiration and from Alice who is always reminding us to let things taste as they are– and not to fuss too much. Hopefully you find this meal as warm and comforting as I did, for three days in a row. Here’s so happy and simple eating! Boun Appetito.



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Filed under Blogs & Books, Local, Main Dishes, Seasonal, Sides, Vegetarian

Coconut curry eggplant with roasted cashews


What should you do with eggplant? MAKE THIS DISH. The same question popped into my head when I was grabbing this deep purple aubergine from the farmers market. I didn’t know what I was going to make, but I knew this little baby was going home with me. Although baked eggplant is one of my favorites, I don’t really like the thought of heating my oven (and so my apartment) for at least 40 minutes to an hour, especially during these warmer months. So I sliced this sucker, threw it on the grill pan with a little olive oil and salt (Isnt this how all great dishes begin?). I browned both sides, threw in some curry powder, a can of coconut milk, and let this simmer for a bit. To be honest, I forgot about it.

After 15-20 minutes I realized the stovetop was still on and ran over to check on my eggplant– they were nearly falling apart and my eggplant rounds were unrecognizable. I scrapped this soupy concoction out of the pan and into a bowl and decided to just go with it. Maybe this could be like Indian Baba-ganoush? I added shredded coconut to give it some more texture and toasted some cashews to put on the side.

The result– perfection. This little eggplant turned into this soft succulent, creamy yummy deliciousness. I love experimenting in the kitchen.. sometimes it works out great, sometimes no as I’d hoped, and sometimes I discover my favorite dishes. This is now one of them. I’m still not sure of the best way to eat it (I just gobbled it up plain before I could even think of what to eat with it), but I know it would go insanely well with the homemade paneer recipe Lauren just posted. So experiment, and hopefully you will find this recipe as yummy as I do. Happy cooking!


Coconut curry eggplant with roasted cashews

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 can (14 fl oz) coconut milk or light coconut milk
  • 3 tsp curry powder (or a mix of cumin, turmeric, coriander, cardamom, and saffron)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup  shredded coconut*
  • Whole unsalted raw cashews
  • Optional garnish: mint, lime
  1. Cut eggplant into rounds, 1/2 inch thick. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil on med/high heat and add eggplant to pan. Brown both sides, about 3 minutes each.
  2. Add coconut milk, curry powder and stir. Cover, lower heat to med/low, and simmer 15-20 minutes until very soft and falling apart. Tranfser to bowl. Stir and break up chunks with a fork then let cool.


  1. Toast cashews on a small saute pan. Keep an eye on it and stir/shake every minute or two.
  2. Add shredded coconut to eggplant and stir until combined. Serve with toasted cashews on top, a few mint sprigs, and lemon or lime on the side.

*you can use unsweetened or sweetened coconut, depending on your taste or what you are serving it with. I used trader joe’s sweetened coconut and it was delicious!


I think this dish is perfectly balanced with the spice from the curry powder and pepper, the sweetness of the coconut, and the tartness of the lime and mint leaves. The nuts also lend a nice buttery flavor and toasty smell. So eat up!




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Spring Onion Scramble


This is to follow the farm post, because I have so many sweet spring onions and I think I’ve found the best way to eat them. Grilled on a cast iron pan with a pinch of sea salt. They turn into super succulent sweet onions, almost caramelized but there’s no oil or butter involved. Add other veggies and spices (below) to make into a meal. Super simple and delicious as a side or by themselves!


Spring Onion Scramble

3 Spring onions, halved or quartered lengthwise

1 garlic green halved or 2 garlic cloves whole

1 small red pepper or 1/2 large one, thinly sliced

Spices (salt, pepper, fresh herbs, paprika, cayenne, cumin) to taste

2 tsp Sesame seeds



Separate the stems from the onion bulbs by chopping at the neck. Place onion bulbs, stems, and garlic in a cast iron pan  on medium heat (no oil required, just make sure its not too dry). Watch and stir frequently to prevent burning and cook on med-low. Add a pinch of good sea salt, pepper, and any of the spices/seasonings above. They are done when they are tender and not chewy. Taste test! Serve with rice, grilled meats, in a sandwich, or add eggs for a real scramble. YUM.


Here I put my scramble on top of a salad (organic farm spring greens) with some french lentils I made earlier in the week and farm radishes.

IMG_1221 IMG_1213


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Filed under Salads, Sides, Vegetarian

Ode to Giardiniera

For some reason I don’t understand, people outside of Chicago don’t know what Giardiniera (Jar-din-eh-ra) is.

That is why I am writing this post.

Giardiniera is perhaps the best condiment ever. It’s a mix of jalapeños, serranos, carrots, celery, cauliflower (and sometimes onions etc.) pickled in oil and vinegar. It ranges from mildly spicy to inedibly hot. (Seriously. This one brand had everyone in Golosá crying for about an hour. Nearly ruined our taste buds.)

Chicago is known for it’s Giardiniera because Chicago is known for it’s Italian beef. If you want the history of Italian beef in Chicago, click here: Italian Beef History. Giardiniera is pretty much an essential topping on Italian beef (shredded, stewed beef on a white “dipped” roll…)

But, Giardiniera is so much bigger than Italian Beef. Golosá has a tradition. Every first Wednesday of the month, we go to someone’s house in Hyde Park and have a pasta night. There is only one kind of pasta served at pasta night: tri-colored rotini. There is only one correct way of eating that pasta and it is: Pasta, topped with cheese, topped with pine nuts, topped with Giardiniera. We also have roasted veggies and gin and tonics.

I always liked Giardiniera (here they serve it everywhere-even at Subway) but it was these pasta nights that really turned me into an aficionado.

I put Giardiniera on pasta, pizza, sandwiches, or anything else Italian. It goes well with briskets, stews and meat in general. I always have it in my fridge, and I’ll probably put it on the pizza I’m going to make tonight (picture later…maybe).

You can make it yourself, but I haven’t tried yet. I don’t have pickling jars, though they should be easy enough to get.

Since you don’t live in Chicago, you might have to order it online, but it’s well worth it.

And don’t be chicken. Get the hot stuff. Marconi and Dell’Alpe are acceptable brands.

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Bread, plain and simple

Hi Karla,

So, today I made bread, which you already know about since I talked to you a bunch today (setting up this blog and what not) and I already sent you one picture. 

Bill and I have been into making bread for some time now, but we haven’t quite gotten it together. It’s probably been about 5 months or so since we bought all the fixings for making Russian Black Bread. If you don’t know much about Russian black bread, I can tell you this: It’s not for the amateur bread maker, which we discovered much to our chagrin. It uses white, wheat and rye flower, coffee, nuts, lots of spices, cocoa powder and much more. It’s a really rich, 18-ingredient bread. (Or something like that.) 

Needless to say, the bread came out a powdery, though edible, mess. We ate what we could and trashed the rest. Since then I have been looking for some good bread recipes for the more amateur bread maker. Thankfully, Smitten Kitchen always comes to the rescue. Deb has a great no-knead bread (which is what this is called on her website.) I was very intrigued by the no-knead part, since kneading bread is one of the most confusing parts (unless you have a stand mixer, which I don’t.) 

I’ll start here with the recipe, which is very simple.

No-Kneed Bread
from Smitten Kitchen

3 cups flour
1/3 tsp yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 5/8 cups water

You mix all the dry ingredients (flour, yeast, salt) and then mix in the water. This is very easy, and doesn’t require any sort of special mixer. Just a spoon (I used wooden, but would go metal the next time) or your hands. The resulting dough is VERY sticky and a little hard to handle. But that’s great because you don’t have to! Just cover the bowl you mixed it in with plastic wrap and put in a warm dry space. Wait 12-18 hours.

I waited 18 hours, the more highly recommended time. By that time, the dough had more than tripled and looked like this:

Phase 2: dough rising part deux.

Flour a work surface and dump out the dough, scraping any gooey bits that stick to the bowl. flour your hands well and roll it over on itself a few times. Cover lightly with the same saran wrap and wait 15 min. 

After letting it rest, get two clean cotton kitchen towels. You’ll have to move the dough to the side, but place the first kitchen towel down on your work space and flour it generously. Form the dough into a ball and place it seam-side down on the floured cloth. Then lightly flour the top of the dough and place the second cloth on top. Looks like this:

It should rise for two hours.

Phase 3: oven.

After the two hours, the dough should have about doubled in shape. 15 to 30 minutes before the dough reaches the two-hour mark, preheat the oven to 450 and stick a large, heavy, covered pot (cast iron, pyrex, enamel or ceramic) in there to heat up with it.

When the dough is ready, take the top towel off and use the bottom towel to dump the dough into the bottom of the (in my case) cast iron pot. Some of your loose flour will dump in with it, which is fine. If there is too much flour on the top, you can brush it away, but you should be just fine. 

Put the pot in the oven and cover it. Let that bake for 30 min. Try not to peek into the oven too often (picture):

After 30 minutes, take the top off the pot and let it continue to bake for 15-30 minutes (until it browns.) Mine only took 15. 

Hilariously, my bread crust seems to have taken on the pattern of my towels. It’s actually quite lovely, but was by no means planned. I just want to take a moment to point out how amazing my cast iron dutch oven is. I literally use it All.The.Time. since I got it from Bill for my birthday. Now I just need a cast iron skillet.

Phase 4: Stare for long periods of time at the beautiful the finished product…

No really. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it for about 10 minutes. Probably because it represented two days of work. Can I mention how much I love cooking!?

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Eggplant Spread

Hi Karla!

I’m not sure how much you want to address this to each other, or what! I’lljust write this first one semi-impersonally. We’ll see how this goes. I decided to write about my eggplant spread earlier today because it was AWESOME and so easy.

Today I totally eggplanted-out.

When I went to Sunshine (our uber-cheap, uber-awesome latin grocerystore) I went in with no idea of what to make. After all, you can’t always trust Sunshine to have what you want when you get there with a recipe in hand, so I figured I’d improvise. Bill is away for the weekend, so I’m just cooking for me.

When I got to the produce section, I saw something unexpected: eggplant. Now, you don’t usually come across eggplant in latin food, and therefore Sunshine doesn’t usually have eggplant. I knew I had to take advantage of it!

So for lunch I made this absolutely lovely eggplant spread, and for dinner I made this eggplant and olive pizza. The pizza is awesome, but the spread totally blew me away, and it was so easy, I swear I’ll make it a lot more often from now on. It goes great with a lunch of garlic hummos and toasted pita bread!

Eggplant Spread
or “Eggplant Salad Toasts” from SmittenKitchen

1 medium eggplant cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
Black Pepper
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1 slice of a large onion, or 1/4 of a small yellow onion, minced

Mix eggplant, olive oil, salt and a generous amount of pepper in a bowl until the eggplant is well coated. Roast on an oiled baking sheet in the oven at 425 for ~20 min. You’ll know when it’s done. Turn them once so they brown evenly. Then, while the eggplant is still hot, transfer it to a bowl and mix in the red wine vinegar, feta and onion. You can also use a shallot, which sounds great, but I just had normal onion. 

You’re done! Just put it on some crispy french bread or pita, or even chips! It was soooooo good. The black pepper really makes it pop. I ended up eating all of the eggplant spread, and not even touching my garlic hummos, which I usually looove.


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