Roasted Green Beans and Red Pepper with Harissa and Pistachios

DSC_6738

Have you ever wondered why some cuisines feature spices more prominently than others?

I think of this question whenever I’m eating at the home of my mother-in-law, who was born and raised in the former Soviet Union. Dinner at her house nearly always includes traditional family favorites such as pelmeni (a type of stuffed pasta similar to ravioli), salads made with various root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, and beets, for example) in a mayo or sour cream-based dressing, chicken cutlets (patties of ground chicken bound with egg and fried in oil) and smoked and preserved fish, all seasoned primarily with salt, some pepper, and occasionally a few herbs such as dill and parsley. But spices such as paprika, nutmeg, vanilla, cardamom, and cumin? Never heard of ‘em!

In contrast, other cuisines that I love are practically defined by their reliance on specific, often indigenous spices. True Mexican food (not Tex-Mex) is spiked with chiles, both fresh and dried, as well as cinnamon. Thai cuisine is redolent with lemongrass, galangal (a root related to ginger), and Thai bird chiles. Star anise, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorns shine in the regional cuisine of China’s Sichuan province.

Read More


Confetti Chile

DSC_4909

Yes, I know, chili is probably not the recipe you were expecting, now that the weather has finally turned a corner, and at least in D.C. those last few piles of mucky snow are being overtaken by the pale green shoots of early-spring’s crocuses and daffodils. Chili is a cold-weather food, best eaten in the frosty darkness of winter.

At least that’s what I used to think until I concocted this recipe a few months ago. At its heart, it’s a Cinncinati-style chili courtesy of some ground beef and tomato sauce. The addition of some diced red pepper, yellow corn, and black beans, however, give it a colorful, confetti-like vibe while also lightening it considerably, making it splendid for warmer months as well.

A perfect weeknight recipe for busy families emerging from the winter doldrums. What more could you ask for?

Read More


Chickpea, Artichoke, and Roasted Red Pepper Salad

DSC_2500

You’ve probably seen any number of lists of food items that no well-stocked pantry should be without.  Frequently at the top of the list are canned beans, especially chickpeas (also called garbanzo or ceci beans).  It’s no surprise that the smooth texture and nutty taste of these legumes are enjoyed by adults and kids alike.  But short of sprinkling them on a green salad or using them to make hummus, you may be wondering what else can you do with them? Read More