Chard Stems Gratin

I don’t have many leftovers, because I usually cook exact portions. Sometimes I do have leftover ingredients, and I don’t like to throw away any food. One typical leftover ingredient is the stems of chard, because the leaves are used for a recipe such as these lovely pansoti and then the stems are left. From the same pansoti I also had some leftover home made ricotta, and so I decided to turn the chard stems with ricotta into a simple but nice side dish: chard stems gratin. This was easy to prepare and quite tasty. It would be more traditional in Italy to make the gratin using a besciamella (white sauce), but ricotta keeps it slightly ligther and I had used up the milk to make the ricotta. Here’s what I did. Continue reading “Chard Stems Gratin”

Butternut Squash Tartlets

Oops! On November 25, I blogged about Duck Breast Sous-Vide with Duck Red Wine Demi-Glace and promised that my next post would be about the side dish shown on the plate: butternut squash tartlets. Then I got so excited about the homemade Barolo Chinato I had just tried for the first time that I wanted to blog about that straight away and completely forgot about the butternut squash tartlets. So with a bit of delay here is finally the post about butternut squash tartlets… Continue reading “Butternut Squash Tartlets”

Fennel Gratin (Finocchi Gratinati)

As a main course for the serata piemontese I prepared Brasato al Barolo, beef braised in Barolo wine. I used a wagyu brisket for this that was cooked sous-vide with 2 bottles of Barolo and aromatics for 48 hours at 57ºC/135ºF. The meat was tender and juicy and the sauce was amazing. I asked my friend Resi, who was born and raised in Piemonte, still lives there, and helps me out with my blog in Italian, for suggestions for a side dish for the brasato. She suggested a gratin of cauliflower, fennel, or cardoons. I chose fennel and it was indeed a great combination. Continue reading “Fennel Gratin (Finocchi Gratinati)”

Tian Provençal

When I saw Richard McGary’s vegetable tian, I knew I’d prepare one too. A tian is actually named after the traditional earthenware dish they are made in. There are vegetable tians, meat tians, and fish tians. I wanted to prepare a tian as a side dish, and so I chose a very traditional tian provençal with eggplant, zucchini, and tomato. Don’t let the simplicity fool you: this tian bursts with flavor anyway thanks to the slow roasting and the herbes de provence. I do not own an actual tian from Provence. For presentation purposes I opted to make single serving mini tians using small ovenproof dishes, but that did mean that it was more difficult to neatly arrange the sliced vegetables. Continue reading “Tian Provençal”

Eggplant Caprese Pasta Salad

Pasta salads are great summer food and perfect as a side for a cook out. I like to prepare pasta salads with lots of vegetables, as a cook out or BBQ as we call it here usually involves a lot of meat. For some variation from a Greek style pasta salad, I prepared this pasta salad with eggplant, mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and balsamic vinegar. These flavors go together very well, also without pasta. Continue reading “Eggplant Caprese Pasta Salad”


Caponata is a sweet & sour Sicilian dish, consisting of eggplant simmered in tomatoes with other ingredients such as olives and pine nuts. It is eaten either as antipasto (appetizer) or as contorno (side dish) and can be served warm or at room temperature. As with many traditional Italian dishes, there are a lot of different versions of Caponata. I like a slightly ‘minimalistic’ version that does not have too many ingredients. Continue reading “Caponata”

Guest Post: Fennel Fondant Sous-Vide Without Special Equipment

I love it when someone prepares one of my recipes, and I love it even more when someone lets me know how it turned out!

Recently I did a post on Fennel Sous-Vide Fondant.  I bet some of you are curious about sous-vide after reading about it on this blog, but haven’t tried it yet because the equipment is pricey. Well, some recipes can be made without owning expensive equipment. One of my readers, Clayton from San Francisco, reacted as follows:

Fennel is a vegetable that I have always enjoyed eating. Its anise or liquorice flavor gives salads a subtle flavor-kick which I like. But I have never cooked with it. I don’t own an electric sous-vide water bath but I do own a large stock pot and Ziploc bags. So all that’s left to make this recipe are the ingredients. 

Since most of my readers do not own sous-vide equipment either, I inquired whether Clayton would be willing to do a guest post to share his results with you all.  And so here, with a big thank you to Clayton, is the first ever guest post on! Continue reading “Guest Post: Fennel Fondant Sous-Vide Without Special Equipment”

Eggplant Parmigiana ‘Light’ (Parmigiana di Melanzane)

Eggplant Parmigiana is a very tasty oven dish, consisting of eggplant, tomato sauce, and cheese. Using fresh tomatoes for the sauce (rather than from a can) takes it over the top. Eggplant, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil go very well together. This is a classic Italian dish that is clear evidence of how good simple Italian food can be. The main drawback of the classic preparation is that the eggplant is pan-fried with lots of oil, as the eggplant slices are like sponges. I’ve found a way around that: I roast the eggplant in the oven after only lightly brushing it with oil. Salting the eggplant slices helps to cook them. In this case I forgot to buy the mozzarella that I usually put on top, and made an even ‘ligther’ version. The parmigiano does not melt as nicely, but it still makes for a nice dish. It’s your choice whether you want to put mozzarella on top or not. Continue reading “Eggplant Parmigiana ‘Light’ (Parmigiana di Melanzane)”

Leek Tarts (Sformatini di Porri)

After the success of the spinach tarts I tried a version with leeks and it turned out great! Leeks and shallots that are cooked slowly can obtain a wonderful sweet flavor and the texture of these tarts is very soft. The tarts are relatively easy to make and quite impressive. You could also serve them in ramekins as soufflés, as the tarts rise dramatically (and also fall dramatically). You could try to beat the egg whites separately and fold them in for even more of a ‘soufflé’ effect. Without further ado, here’s how to make these lovely vegetarian tarts, that could be served as a vegetarian dish by themselves or as a side to either fish or white meat.

Continue reading “Leek Tarts (Sformatini di Porri)”

Parsnip Sous-Vide Fondant

One of the ideas I got from my new ‘modernist’ friends is to prepare vegetable fondant sous-vide. I tried it with parsnips as a side for the lamb with our Easter dinner, and it turned out great. I had never heard of vegetable fondant, but it seems to be very popular in restaurants in the UK. Root vegetables or potatoes are browned in fat and subsequently cooked in stock. It is relatively simple to do, but quite tasty as both the stock and the browning will add some nice flavor to the vegetable. This technique can also be used for potatoes, celeriac, sweet potatoes, carrots, etc. Continue reading “Parsnip Sous-Vide Fondant”

Deep Fried Fennel (Finocchi Dorati)

Fennel is a versatile vegetable that can be prepared in many ways: caramelized, in risotto, braised, as a salad, or deep fried as in this recipe. It has a nice flavor that reminds us of aniseed. The Italian way of deep frying fennel is to parboil it and then deep fry it breaded with breadcrumbs and parmigiano. Finocchi dorati are tender on the inside, crispy on the outside, and the lovely fennel flavor is accentuated. This is great as a side dish to meat such as this bone-in veal rib eye (about which I will post tomorrow). I parboiled the fennel sous-vide, but if you don’t have sous-vide equipment you can simply steam or parboil in water. The advantage of sous-vide is that no flavor is lost and that the fennel will be tender but firm to the bite. Continue reading “Deep Fried Fennel (Finocchi Dorati)”

Roasted Parsnips

Roasting is one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables because it concentrates the flavor and makes the outside nice and crispy. Getting the texture of roasted parsnips right can be tricky, so I use them most often to make puree. As PutneyFarm pointed out, roasted parsnips with excellent texture can be made by parcooking them first. Steaming is better than (par)boiling, because boiling will dilute the flavor rather than concentrating it. This is less of an issue with steaming, but I thought of a different solution if you have enough time. Since roasted parsnips are great as a side to a … Continue reading Roasted Parsnips

Roasted Potato Experiment #1: Salting Before or After?

We eat pasta and rice much more often than potatoes, but when we do eat potatoes we most often eat them roasted. This preparation brings out the taste of the potatoes themselves and gives them a nice crispy crust without using a lot of oil. There are many variables you can change when making roasted potatoes: oven temperature, salting before or after, waxy or floury potatoes, etc. I decided to do a series of experiments to find the optimal recipe. This first installment is about salt: is it better to salt the potatoes before or after roasting? Instinctively I have … Continue reading Roasted Potato Experiment #1: Salting Before or After?

Stuffed Zucchini

I haven’t posted recipes for vegetable sides in a while, so it is about time for one. This recipe for a side of stuffed zucchini was suggested to me by Richard McGary of Thanks Richard! It looks nice, is tasty, and goes well as a side for most meat dishes. Ingredients For 4 servings 2 zucchini 50 grams (2 oz) pancetta, diced 1 clove garlic, minced 1 shallot, minced 1 tsp chopped fresh sage 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme 2 Tbsp fresh breadcrumbs salt and freshly ground black pepper extra virgin olive oil Preparation Cut the ends off the … Continue reading Stuffed Zucchini

Chervil Root and Parsley Root

I found some interesting new types of root vegetable that are not very common: chervil root and parsley root. Both are roots of the better-known herbs (especially parsley), cultivated especially for the roots. Parsley roots can easily be mistaken for parnips and are of a similar size but taste like parsley. Chervil roots look like short golden carrots, feel light compared to their size and have a sweet nutty flavor. Chervil roots are quite expensive, but parsley roots are priced similarly to parsnips. Both can be prepared in several ways, including roasting, making puree, or deep-frying. In this case I … Continue reading Chervil Root and Parsley Root

Caramelized Fennel

This simple but tasty side dish was inspired by a post by PutneyFarm. Fennel is one of many vegetables that shines most when it’s roasted or broiled or grilled or braised to concentrate the flavor. Raw fennel also has its charm, just don’t boil or steam it because then it will be bland. PutneyFarm panfries the fennel to allow it to caramelize, but I decided to use the broiler instead. It was quite easy to do, but a bit hard to control the caramelizing because it turns from underdone to overdone in a very short time. (For the scientists among … Continue reading Caramelized Fennel

Esther’s Tomato Salad

This is my version of the tomato salad that my friend Esther always used to make. Unfortunately she passed away much too young. Today would have been her 14th wedding anniversary, so I thought it an appropriate day to tell you about this recipe in her memory. Esther loved to cook and unfortunately we haven’t cooked much together because we lived too far apart and only saw each other about twice a year. Although her birthday was in February, she liked to celebrate this in summer with a BBQ and she usually made a tomato salad with basil, red onion, … Continue reading Esther’s Tomato Salad