Author: rradiuk

French Onion Soup

I have been craving French onion soup for at least a month. A few weeks ago I bought a 10 pound bag of onions with the plan to make soup and voila!… they sat there. A week later I moved them out to the garage for storage and… they sat there.

Last Friday we went to a French bistro for dinner and French onion soup was back on the menu for winter… yum! But I stopped myself from ordering it because I HAVE A 10 POUND BAG OF ONIONS AT HOME!

So yesterday I did it! I made French onion soup! And it was amaaaaaazing! I used this recipe as a base and if you’re interested why it works so well take 5 minutes to read the back-story. I tweaked the recipe by sort of halving it but using a generous amount of onion, essentially doubling the fish sauce and cider vinegar, and cutting the bread into croutons because I just find it easier to eat that way. My version makes 4 servings (so Husband and I can have it twice) and I used a combination of homemade beef and chicken stock because I make my own. If you are buying stock from the grocery store, just use chicken. There is something wrong with store-bought beef stock. It has a weird tinny taste even if it’s not packaged in a can. If you have a pressure cooker it’s very easy to make at home or just use chicken stock. And, although I haven’t tried it, my guess is this would be tasty with a hearty vegetarian stock as well because much of the flavour comes from those deeply caramelized onions.

Speaking of which…a word about those caramelized onions. Use plain old yellow because the sweet ones make the broth too sweet. If you have a red onion throw that in as well for a more complex flavour. Caramelizing the onions takes some time and a bit of attention. Do them in a skillet over medium low heat. Mine took exactly one hour during which time you can putter around the house returning to the kitchen every 5-10 minutes to give them a stir. If they start to burn lower the heat and if they get too dry just add a splash of water. You don’t need any sugar as some recipes call for. Just a bit of patience and you will be justly rewarded, I guarantee it.

3 tablespoons butter
2 pounds yellow or mixed onions, sliced 1/8 inch thick
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup dry sherry (fortified wine, or just sub in red wine)
4 cups beef or chicken stock (I used 2 cups each because I freeze it in 2 cup containers)
sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce (optional but you should definitely use it)
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
4 slices rustic bread, toasted until crisp, rubbed with cut garlic and cut into large croutons
1 medium clove garlic, halved (to rub the croutons)
Gruyere cheese, grated to top bowls (I used a generous 2 ounces per bowl)

Cut the onions in thin slices (1/4-1/8th inch thick) pole to pole. This will help them maintain their shape. Heat skillet over medium high heat and melt butter. Add onions, frying for 5-10 minutes until translucent. Turn down heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring every 5-10 minutes until dark golden brown. Turn heat lower if they start to burn and add a splash of water if they get too dry. Mine did not need any water. This should take about an hour.

(10 minutes)

(30 minutes)

(one hour)

Toast your bread slices in the toaster or under a broiler until golden. Rub both sides with the cut side of a clove of garlic. Cut into large croutons and set aside until needed. Grate the cheese and set aside until needed.

When your onions are meltingly caramelized add the sherry and scrape the bottom of the pan to lift up any of the delicious fond that has formed. Stir for a minute or so to burn off the alcohol and then add your stock, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a very gentle simmer and let gently bubble for about 20 minutes until it reaches the consistency you want for your soup. At 20 minutes mine lost about a cup of of liquid and had the velvety mouth-feel I was looking for. Add the cider vinegar (for brightness) and fish sauce (for umami) and taste, adding a little more until it has the perfect balance of flavours. Soup can be held at this point for an hour or so off the burner or for a couple days in the fridge.

(beginning of simmer)

(20 minutes)

When you’re ready, reheat the soup if necessary. Preheat the broiler and fill oven-proof soup bowls leaving 1/2 inch of room at the top. Place croutons on top of soup and cover with grated cheese.

Set on a rimmed baking sheet and place on middle rack under broiler until bubbly and golden brown. This should take 5-10 minutes. Watch closely for burning. We ate this as our main course with a hearty salad. Bon appetit!

Quick & Dirty: Chickpea Dip

I have been making this dip for years and never thought to write it up because, well, I’ve always just thrown it together. People love it and always ask how to make it so I give them the 30,000 foot view “you take some chickpeas, mash them up, add some stuff, serve with nacho chips”. And I was asked again last night after serving it as an appy at a dinner party so now I’m going to actually write it down to share with you.

As with all my Q&Ds, it is infinitely adaptable. My version below is on the salty side and zesty enough for, in my opinion, the perfect burst of flavour on a cracker but you should adjust the recipe to your taste. I also sometimes sprinkle in some hot chili flakes. You could also add diced bell pepper, artichokes or fresh tomatoes. For a more “salad-y” route try diced carrot and celery. Smoky paprika would also be delicious. Shower with fresh grated Parmesan or Pecorino instead of feta. And I have to admit I have wondered about adding a sweet note… raisins? Cranberries? A touch of curry powder?

See?!?! Adaptable :)

One more thing… I’m a huge fan of preserved lemons. They add a salty, briny, intense “je ne sais quoi”. You should be able to buy them in almost any Mediterranean market but you can also easily make them at home like this! Fresh lemon, of course, works almost as well.

1 1/2 cups of dried chickpeas to make 3-4 cups, or 2 cans (rinsed and drained)
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
1/2 – 1 cup Moroccan dried cured olives (the wrinkly black ones) or other olive of your choice, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1 whole preserved lemon (peel only), finely diced (or use the zest and juice of a whole fresh lemon)
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
couple glugs of good fruity olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
2 ounces crumbled feta to garnish

Boil your chickpeas (I like to do mine in stock or add a whole smashed clove of garlic, bay leaf and a pinch of salt to regular water) until quite tender but not mushy, or rinse and drain 2 cans of chickpeas. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and mash them into a nice chunky texture. I use a pastry cutter to do this but you could use a potato masher or a just a fork. Add in your other ingredients (except feta) and stir to combine. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper. Garnish with crumbled feta and serve with nacho chips or toasted pita.

Quick & Dirty: Snow Pea/Garlic Scape Pesto

I KNOW! I, too, am afeared that I am taking this whole pesto thing to extremes, but hear me out! I argue that… hmmm, well, I don’t really have an argument except if it tastes good…


Yes, I’m right.

I planted 3 different kinds of peas this year. I never have to worry about what to do with shelling peas because, ahem, they never make it to the kitchen (they are eaten right in the garden). Snap peas, those crunchy little delights are thrown straight into salads or eaten as a raw crudité with dip! Snow peas, they are more of a conundrum for me. I love them in stir fries or fried rice but that’s more cool weather food. Snow peas have all the delicious fresh pea flavour but they are, well, floppy. How to solve the flop?… pesto those suckers!*

I added mint to the pesto because I had a minted pea soup in Paris a couple years ago that I still can’t get over, and garlic scapes instead of garlic because they are yummy and I need to use them up (as I did in my carrot top pesto). I didn’t use nuts because I forgot (something for which I am infamous… forgetting to add ingredients into dishes). Soooo, here’s my the Quick & Dirty but feel free to try a different herb, add some toasted nuts, use garlic instead of scapes. Just experiment. It’s all good.

4 ounces of snow peas (a large handful), strings removed
small handful of mint
3 garlic scapes
1-2 ounces grated Pecorino or Parmesan (to taste)
1/3rd cup good fruity olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Blanch mint for 15 seconds (to keep the lovely green colour, otherwise your pesto will be muddy) and plunge into cold water. Blanch peas for one minute and plunge into cold water. Drain both. Roughly chop peas and garlic scapes and put in food processor, pulsing a couple times to break up. Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to pulse, then process until you get the texture you want. Taste and adjust seasoning.

I tossed my pesto with hot pasta. You could also smear it on grilled bread and top with cherry tomato, or buffalo mozzarella, or both! Use it as a base for pizza, dollop on roasted vegetables, or use instead of sour cream on a baked potato. The possibilities are endless… come join me. :)

*(If you’re an English major, yes, I know “pesto” isn’t a verb. And if you’re Italian, yes, I know I’ve completely bastardized real pesto. But the point of my website isn’t to be exactingly authentic. The point is to encourage people to cook at home and try new ideas, think outside the box with respect to food. I hope you agree with me that that’s a good thing :) ).

Roasted Vegetables with Garlic Scape/Carrot Top Pesto

Have you heard?!?! It’s garlic scape season… YAY! Garlic scapes are the flower stalks that emerge from the garlic plant in the late spring and early summer and they are packed with flavour. They are removed from the plant so the energy that would go to letting the plant flower goes instead to the bulb in the ground. The season for scapes is very short, only a couple weeks, so grab yours while you can! I grow garlic in my backyard (easier than you think… you should try it) but the fresh scapes are also easy to find at your local farmers’ market. Grilling them for a minute or so on each side until they start to blister really mellows the flavour (I chop them up and use them in salads), but fresh scapes in pesto is a perfect substitute for garlic cloves. They add a very bright, green zing to the pesto and the lingering effect is much softer than cloves… perfect for serving to company!

You can roast any vegetables on hand. I used new potatoes and carrots (with the tops, of course) that I picked up from the farmers’ market yesterday and added an onion for flavour. Grilling those little baby squashes would be a beautiful dish for company. You know what else would be good?… fresh shelling peas cooked for just a couple minutes and then dolloped with the pesto. And add a piece of torn burrata to that???… holy. Let your imagination run wild. :)

The veggies below fed Husband and I. Increase the amount depending on how many you want to serve. The recipe makes about one cup of pesto which is enough for 4-6 servings. I plated this in a bowl with slices of grilled steak on the side and it was perfect.

For the pesto:

2 cups lightly packed washed carrot tops, stems discarded, roughly chopped
3-4 garlic scapes, roughly chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
1 ounce grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup good quality fruity olive oil

Combine the carrot tops and scapes in a food processor and pulse a few times. Add the remainder pesto ingredients (except olive oil) and pulse again until well combined (about 20 times, you may have to stop to scrape down the sides a few times). Add the olive oil and process until creamy. Taste and adjust for seasoning.

For the roasted vegetables:

1/2 pound new potatoes
1/2 pound new carrots
1 large sweet or other onion
glug of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
grated Pecorino or Parmesan to finish

Preheat BBQ grill (or oven) to 350-400F. Cut the potatoes and carrots into large bite size pieces. Chop onion into large chunks. Combine everything in a bowl with a glug of olive oil, salt and pepper. Tip into a disposable aluminum tin and cover with tin foil or wrap in tinfoil package. Place on the BBQ and roast until the vegetables are tender… about 45 minutes.

Serve the vegetables with a grating of Pecorino or Parmesan and dolloped with the pesto.

Quick & Dirty: Blistered Green Beans with Miso, Lime and Gochujang

Although the weather the past couple weeks has gone from “summer” back to “drizzly West Coast spring”, I know summer will be back again because green beans are just starting to show up at our local markets. I smoked a small brisket yesterday for dinner and threw together this side dish in literally 10 minutes. And was it fantastic. Fresh and zesty from the lime, loads of umami flavour from the miso, a little bit of spice from the gochujang, all slightly mellowed by a touch of honey.

Heat a cast iron pan or thick bottomed frying pan (not non-stick) over medium high heat with just a swipe of canola oil covering the bottom of the pan; you don’t need much, you’re basically dry-frying the beans. Don’t use olive oil as you need a high smoke point. Throw your beans into the hot pan and let them sit for a couple minutes without stirring so they start to blister. Toss (or if you’re using cast iron which is too heavy to toss, stir) your green beans every few minutes until they are lovely and blistered and done to your liking. For me this took about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit a minute before tossing with the sauce or it will burn in the hot pan.

While the beans are cooking, mix together the sauce ingredients. It will be quite thick and cling to the beans nicely. I didn’t use any salt as the miso paste is salty enough. The measurements below makes enough for about a pound of beans. Enjoy!

Note: I’m really loving these “Quick & Dirty” posts, aren’t you? Much quicker to write so I get to visit you more often and much closer to the way real people cook. If you don’t have lime, try lemon. If you can’t find gochujang, throw in a pinch of red pepper flakes. Don’t have green beans in your crisper?, try it with broccoli (including the stems!). It’s all good :)

1 lb green beans, washed and stemmed

1 TBS white or light miso paste
juice and zest from 1 small lime, or 1/2 large lime (about a generous tablespoon or so)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp honey
1 tsp gochujang (Korean fermented red chili paste)

Quick & Dirty: Fennel Orange Salad

I haven’t always been a fan of fennel. The thought of that licorice-y flavour in my food just seemed, well, weird. In the past year, though, it has not been uncommon to find it in my crisper. Why? Because I tried it. Yep, me who preaches about trying everything really didn’t try fennel. I really started using it regularly after I made this… then this. Last week I made a yummy sausage, fennel and white bean spring stew. And last night instead of cooking the sucker I made a salad that I know will become a regular around here… fennel orange salad. I dare you.

This is a Quick & Dirty recipe so I didn’t measure exactly. And except for the two main ingredients (fennel and oranges) I really just tossed in what I had in the fridge. I had a large bag of oranges sitting on the counter but you could even substitute canned if that’s what you have. And I forgot to sprinkle the couscous over the first serving of the salad (Husband going up for seconds: “What’s in the pot?”… arghhhhhh) so I’m calling that optional. You can switch out the the arugula for another salad green, change the pepitas (pumpkin seeds) to another seed or nut, sub in a different cheese, and/or switch the grain to farro or quinoa. Whatever floats your boat.

I had planned on serving this with grilled squid for some protein but ended up searing a sous vide smoked pork shoulder steak that I had in my freezer and adding a couple slices on the side. Sausage would be yummy as well.

Throw the fennel, oranges, arugula, mint and cilantro into a large bowl. Toss with about half the vinaigrette, adding more to your liking. Sprinkle over pepitas, feta, and couscous. Serve with a protein to make a meal.

handful of cilantro leaves
TBS or so chopped fresh mint
2 large handfuls of baby arugula
3 oranges, zested (set aside to add to vinaigrette) then peeled and sectioned, each section cut in half
1 fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup pepitas
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 cup cooked couscous (about 1/3rd cup from dry)

Orange Lime Vinaigrette
juice from whole juicy lime (2-3 TBS)
1 TBS orange zest, more or less to taste
1-2 tsp honey, more or less to taste
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt & pepper, to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes (I used Korean gochugaru which has a lovely fruity element)
good quality olive oil to emulsify (about 1/3rd cup)

Put all ingredients except oil in a bowl, whisk in oil in a thin steady stream until dressing starts to thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Quick & Dirty: Warm Fried Chickpeas With Tons of Herbs

Welcome back to Q&D! After eating meat a couple nights in a row I had a craving for something fairly healthy and lighter tasting. I love cooking up dried beans in my pressure cooker so I whipped up a batch of chickpeas. When I cook my chickpeas I add a teaspoon of Better than Bouillon to the water along with a couple smashed garlic cloves and a bay leaf. It adds a bit of flavour to the chickpeas and the extra broth drained from the chickpeas at the end is delicious. I freeze it and use in place of stock or broth for soup, stew, cooking grains and rice, etc.

Sooooo, quick & dirty! Make sure your beans are well dried. I put mine on a sheet pan lined with a clean tea towel and let them sit for a couple hours, shaking the pan a couple times to move them around. They won’t crisp up in your frying pan if they are wet. Wash your herbs and green onion, chop ’em up and toss them in a big bowl. Melt some sort of fat in a non-stick frying pan. I used leftover fat drained from the beef ribs I smoked the other night which added a nice flavour. Add your cooked or canned chickpeas (or other beans!) to the frying pan and fry over medium to medium-high heat for about 15 minutes (tossing every few minutes) until they start to get crispy. I had a lot of beans. If you have less it may not take 15 minutes. Stir in garlic, lemon zest, chili flakes and salt to taste. Tip the beans into your bowl with the herbs and squeeze over the lemon juice. Toss and re-season to taste. We ate these “as is” but if you want to make a real meal of it top with a fried or poached egg. I wouldn’t say no to a nice big piece of soft bocconcini or burrata torn over the top either, or even crumbled feta. Go for it :)

1½ cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water then simmered until tender
– OR 2 cans of drained and rinsed chickpeas, WELL DRIED
2 cups (more or less) chopped mixed herbs such as parsley, cilantro, basil, mint
1-2 green onions, sliced diagonally
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
couple shakes of chili flakes
1 lemon, zest and juice
about 1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil or some other sort of fat (schmaltz would be yummy as well)

Rhubarb Raspberry Galette

I have a boatload of rhubarb.

No, make that two boatloads.

Ummm, nope… make it three.

Yes, I have THREE boatloads of rhubarb! Want some? Come and get it! Got your own? I can’t help you.

Actually, yes. Yes I can help you.

I have been trying to get rid of testing rhubarb recipes for a few weeks. Rhubarb muffins, rhubarb cake, rhubarb crisp, and all of them were good (if you know me, you can hear me say “goooood?” with a sort of question mark at the end) but didn’t “wow” me. Yesterday I was “WOWED”. I’m not sure if it was the pastry, the addition of raspberries instead of the usual strawberries, how gorgeous it looked, or that it paired beautifully with a piece of cheese (yes!). But I have found it. Rhubarb Raspberry Galette… I love you.

A couple of things to note. My rhubarb was fresh from my garden but the raspberries were frozen from last year and worked just fine. I suspect frozen rhubarb would work as well. Also, I loved the addition of ginger to this recipe but I had another thought as I slipped this galette into the oven… rosemary! I think a couple teaspoons of fresh chopped rosemary instead of the ginger would be awesome. oh! OH! And what if you also worked some of that chopped rosemary into the pastry?!?! Holy crap. I could hug myself right now. Back to the kitchen…

For the dough:

10 oz (2 1/4 cups) flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
6 oz (12 TBS) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup ice water

For the filling:

1 1/4 lb rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
1 TBS fresh grated ginger
1 tsp lemon juice
4 TBS flour
1 scant cup sugar (I used about 7/8 cup as my rhubarb was beautifully ripe but use a full cup if yours is not)
Melted butter or egg white beaten with a fork, for brushing the pastry edges
Sugar for sprinkling

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the ice water and gently stir just until the mixture holds together. Be careful not to overmix. Press the dough into a round disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Combine rhubarb pieces, raspberries, grated ginger and lemon juice in a large bowl. Mix the flour with the sugar and sprinkle over fruit. Gently toss until the fruit is coated and let sit for 10 minutes while you roll out your dough.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place a piece of parchment (bit enough to cover the bottom of a sheet pan) on a large flat surface and lightly flour. Place the dough on the floured parchment and roll out to an approximate 13-14″ circle about 1/8″ or slightly thicker. Don’t worry if it cracks while rolling, just press the broken pieces together. Gently spoon the fruit mixture into the centre of the dough leaving a 2″ rim clean. Fold up the rim (to win!) gently pressing the folds to stay. Slide the piece of parchment (with galette) onto a sheet pan.

Brush the dough with melted butter or an egg white beaten with a fork and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until the fruit is bubbling and the crust is golden, 45-50 minutes.

Place on a cooling rack and let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. I enjoyed this with a soft, mild cow’s milk cheese. Husband liked it with ice cream.

Quick and Dirty: Preserved Lemons (and a good tip about avocado in salad)

I love cooking most days but it takes quite a bit of extra time and effort to measure the ingredients exactly and take pictures of every step to post a recipe. And let’s be real, that is not the way most people cook anyway. Much of the time it’s throwing in a pinch of this, a bit of that, and using up the tail ends of whatever is in your fridge. So many times I have wanted to share a good dish with you but because I haven’t measured the ingredients exactly and photographed every step I am hesitant to post it as a “recipe”. So I’m starting something new… Quick and Dirty (Q&D) where I will tell you briefly about a yummy thing I’ve made and I hope to inspire you to try something similar with what you have on hand. This can mean switching out vegetables, spices, herbs, grains, and even types of meat depending on what you feel like eating and what is in your cupboards.

Oh, and I have a totally random quick tip to share with you as well! I learned a new trick from Melissa Clark, food writer for the New York Times. She says when you’re making a salad with an avocado in it, salt the avocado when it’s on the cutting board before it goes in the salad or it never gets enough salt. I, of course, don’t cut an avocado on a cutting board (does anyone??) so I just salt the top half before I scoop out the pieces with a spoon. Voila! :)

So my Q&D today isn’t even really a Quick & Dirty. See?!?! I’m already veering off course because this is not a dish but something that will make many of your dishes better! I’m talking about preserved lemons. If you haven’t tried them, you’re in for a WHAM POW treat! It’s the peel of the preserved lemon that is gold and there are so many uses for these bright, salty, flavour bombs.  Simply run a knife along the inside of the peel and remove/discard the flesh. Dice up the peel and throw it in at the end of cooking to brighten soups and stews, mix into salads (potato salad!) and sprinkle over grains (couscous with feta!), top cooked vegetables (roasted broccoli with a pinch of red pepper flakes is especially good), scatter over hummus to give it a bright salty lift, and even run a sliver of peel around the edge of a cocktail glass and use it as garnish. You could process the entire pickled lemons into a paste and keep it in the fridge to mix with mayonnaise as a dip for fish. Add a bit of olive oil to that and you have an instant salad dressing. Once you get used to using preserved lemons you will be tossing them in everything!

I prefer to use Meyer lemons for this method because they have a thinner pith but regular lemons work just fine as well. Most recipes I’ve read say these lemons will last 6 months to a year in the fridge. I made a huge jar about 3 years ago and am still eating out of it but I am down to my last couple lemons. Not much bad can grow in that salty acidic environment so don’t be afraid.

10 Whole lemons (more or less)
3/4 cup kosher salt
1 TBS granulated sugar

Trim the end of the lemon where it hung from the tree. Split each lemon lengthwise into quarters almost all the way through to the bottom. Lemon quarters should still be connected at the base. Sprinkle the inside of each lemon with 1 tsp salt. Transfer to a large bowl or container. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the remaining salt and sprinkle over the lemons. Cover and let sit on your counter or in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day the lemons should have released a lot of liquid. Transfer the lemons to sterilized glass jars (one large or several smaller). If you are trying to fit them into a smaller jar feel free to cut them in half. Pack the lemons in tightly and divide the liquid among the jars. You can top off the liquid if you want with extra fresh lemon juice but don’t use that stuff in a bottle unless it’s absolutely pure, fresh squeezed lemon juice and NOTHING ELSE. The liquid is supposed to cover the lemons but mine don’t always, although I turn the jar upside down for a day or so every week so everything gets a chance to ferment. Seal and store in the fridge for at least a few weeks (I think they start getting good after a couple months) and up to a year (or 3 if you’re me).

French Lentil Sausage Rapini Stew

I have something to tell you guys. I did something a few nights ago that scared the heck out of me. Are you ready?… I catered my first dinner. I mean for real! SOMEONE ACTUALLY PAID ME TO COME TO THEIR HOUSE AND COOK FOR THEM! And it was a big success! I still can’t believe it. It was sooooo much work and so stressful and even if I never do it again I feel like I left my safe little world and wandered out into the dark night and KICKED BUTT!


And now we return you to our regular programming…

I am still recovering from cooking for 3 days straight so I decided to do a one-pot dinner last night and holy, it was gooooood! I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen (love the Deb) as my inspiration but made my usual tweaks.

I reduced the oil to fry the sausage because isn’t sausage “self-oiling”?? I used chicken stock instead of plain water and reduced the amount of liquid to make a thicker stew rather than soup. I amped up the flavour with cheese rinds* and used French lentils because I love the way they keep their shape after cooking and don’t go mushy. Oh, and the biggest change, rapini instead of chard… hello! I LUUUUUV me some rapini. The tasty green bitterness makes my mouth happy. And think of finishing almost any soup or stew with a squeeze of lemon as pixie dust, just a little bit o’ magic to take it over the top.

*(You ARE saving your cheese rinds from your Parmesan and Pecorino, aren’t you? Throw those suckers in the freezer and add them to your soups and stews!)

one glug plus 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
2 large links of Italian sausage (I used one hot and one sweet), casings removed
1 medium onion, diced (or 1/2 onion plus 1 shallot)
1 celery stalk, sliced or diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into half-moons or diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (reserve half for later in recipe)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup French green lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 bay leaves
1 28-ounce can good quality whole tomatoes (Italian plum or San Marzano)
4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
parmesan or other cheese rinds, if you have them
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 bunch of rapini, stalks separated from the leaves, everything chopped into 2″ pieces
Grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese
1/2 fresh lemon to finish

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pot on medium heat and add sausages, breaking up until it starts to brown, about five minutes. Add the onion, celery, carrots, first two garlic cloves, and a pinch of salt. Cook until the vegetables soften a bit, another 5 minutes. Add the lentils, bay leaves, tomatoes, stock or water, cheese rinds if using, and more salt and black pepper to taste. Bring to a VERY gentle simmer and allow to cook uncovered until the lentils are tender but not mushy, about 30-40 minutes. If your soup starts to get dry or too thick, add some water.

When the lentils are cooked, taste and add a pinch of red pepper flakes if you would like more spice. Add the rapini stalks and cook for 2 minutes until just tender. Add the leaves and stir until they are softened, just a minute. Discard the bay leaves and any cheese rinds that haven’t melted into the stew.

To finish, put the 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 garlic cloves in a small skillet over medium heat until the garlic softens and barely starts to brown. Ladle the stew into bowls and drizzle the garlic oil over the top. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon and garnish with the grated cheese. I like to serve with grilled bread or toast.