Cacio e Pepe Toasted Barley with Charred Fillet and Peppery Dark Greens Pesto

RECIPE: Cacio e Pepe Toasted Barley with Charred Fillet and Peppery Dark Greens Pesto

Barley Cacio e Pepe with Charred Steak and Dark Greens PestoMy last January recipe was very virtuous.  Over the years, I have come to understand that there are two kinds of virtue when it comes to food.  Caloric virtue, like this week’s black rice salad and miso-charred mushrooms that is low in calories.  Or nutrient virtue, like this steak with barley cacao e pepe, that, while it may have some typically no-no ingredients, is high in nutrients.  As a woman who has been vegetarian, lactose-free, FODMAP-friendly, and pescatarian at one time or another, I have come to understand that for me, giving things up completely actually can be more detrimental than eating healthy, whole food.  I find that eating a huge variety of whole foods means that when it comes to the vitamin and mineral front, I very rarely am leaving anything out, or overdosing, for that matter.  To do that, lately I have been trying to make some clever substitutions, like barley in this cacio e pepe, rather than white pasta.  As my friend and nutritionist Jessie Katz calls them–“smart swaps.”  Honestly, I love the barley so much in this dish, I feel like I went out collecting mushrooms and came home with a giant honest to goodness gorgeous black truffle.

The barley absolutely stole my heart, and I prefer this to the traditional pasta dish— I love this recipe.  I serve it with roasted kale.  Or caramelized fennel.  And charred artichoke hearts.  I eat it on its own.  I serve it with grilled fish.  It’s addictive.  When I asked Jessie why barley is a “smart swap,” I got an earful.  Barley is a source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, heart-healthy because it helps us regulate cholesterol.  It keeps us full and satiated by slowing the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, helping us maintain stable blood sugar and energy levels.  Insoluble fiber keeps the digestive tract on track, and may help prevent colon cancer.  Fiber also provides food for the friendly gut bacteria that are so important to cultivate for good digestion and immunity.  Barley has a low glycemic index.  It’s cholesterol-free and low in fat.  It’s a source of niacin, thiamine, selenium, iron, magnesium, zinc, phosphorous, and copper.  AND it contains the phytochemicals and antioxidants that fight the free radicals that cause disease and aging.  It kind of almost doesn’t matter that it tastes better than white pasta–chewy, al dente, nutty, fabulous–but it does.  Jess says that if you can get hulled barley, that’s the kind to use, with the most health benefits.

I start with leftover cooked barley–or just cook some up on the night.  It put it into a skillet with a little bit of olive oil, instead of butter, and a lot of black pepper (the pepe) to toast. The barley starts to tan slightly in the heat of the pan, and the pepper starts to release its oils and gets even hotter and more peppery.  Then, a light sprinkling of Pecorino Romano cheese (the cacio) to finish it off with salty, nutty shower that melts into the barley.  You don’t need a ton, just a hint.  And between the heat of the black pepper and the saltiness of the Pecorino, you have this perfectly seasoned, hearty, chewy, nutty barley.  It’s fantastic.

I top it with simply grilled, sliced steak, which offers zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.  I start with a good filet mignon–Jessie recommends grass-fed beef because it’s lower in saturated fat but higher in unsaturated Omega-3s that fight inflammation and antioxidants–and rub it with just enough olive oil to coat it, and crust it with salt and pepper.  Then on the grill to char.

And on top of that, to accentuate the pepperiness in the barley, a simple pesto made from bitter greens (watercress, baby spinach, and arugula) and olive oil.  Jessie calls a pesto made from dark greens a “superfood” pesto because it’s full of vitamins A, C, and K, along with folate, iron, calcium, and magnesium.  Those nutrients, plus the antioxidants and phytochemicals found in dark greens “keep us healthy and strong, looking gorgeous, while helping to ward of disease, boost immunity, maintain bone strength, keep our energy levels up…and fight aging.”  Basil just got a hard act to follow.  Plus, the walnuts and garlic have their own health benefits, including selenium, omega-3s, polyphenols (which help fight memory loss) and vitamin E (an antioxidant that is great for skin).

The pesto melts into the hot steak, and a little bit of it mixes into the peppery barley.  The whole thing, altogether, makes me very happy.

Thanks to Jessie Katz for her nutritional insight on these January dishes.  Santé, everyone.

Get a taste of this recipe on Serious Eats.

Cacio e Pepe Toasted Barley with Charred Fillet and Peppery Dark Greens Pesto
serves 2

Barley Cacio e Pepe with Charred Steak and Dark Greens PestoINGREDIENTS

  • 2/3 cup barley, rinsed
  • Sea salt
  • 12 ounces beef tenderloin
  • 1 packed cup mixed bitter greens, such as watercress, spinach, and arugula
  • 1/2 clove to 1 clove garlic
  • 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 3 teaspoons, divided
  • 1 tablespoon grated Pecorino Romano, plus 2 tablespoons
  • Freshly ground black pepper, plus 2 teaspoons


I like to make the barley ahead of time, although that isn’t necessary.  The night before, I put the barley and a good pinch of salt in a stockpot and cover with two to three inches of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until tender, about 35 to 45 minutes.  Drain, rinse under cold water, put into a plastic bag or bowl, and refrigerate until ready to use.

When you are ready to eat, take the beef and barley out of the refrigerator, and let them rest on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes.  Preheat a cast iron grill pan over medium-high heat.

While the meat is resting, make the pesto.  Place the greens, garlic, walnuts, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of Pecorino Romano, along with salt and a good amount of pepper, in the food processor and whiz until smooth.  Set aside.

Salt and pepper all sides of the beef generously, and rub with 1 teaspoon of olive oil—this will help ensure the meat doesn’t still to the grill pan.  Char on the hot grill pan, turning four times so that all sides are charred, until desired doneness is reached.  For medium, cook 5 to 6 minutes on each of the four sides, until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 135 to 140 degrees F.  Set the meat aside on a board to rest.

While the meat is resting, make the cacio e pepe barley.  Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a wide nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Add the barley and 2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper, to toast.  Make sure to spread the barley out in the pan.  Stir intermittently for about 7 minutes.  Turn off the heat and scatter 2 tablespoons of Pecorino over the top.  Stir into the barley, allowing the residual heat to melt it.

To serve, divide the barley into two shallow bowls.  After the meat has rested for 10 minutes, cut into 1/2-inch slices, or thicker medallions—however you prefer.  Place on top of the barley.  Spoon one or two spoonfuls of the pesto over the meat, and top with some extra freshly cracked black pepper and / or torn arugula or watercress leaves for garnish.  Eat up!


A great resource for the greens is actually the bagged salad aisle.  At my supermarket, they offer a bagged watercress, baby spinach, and baby arugula salad blend.  I just buy that and use it for my pesto.  The extra, I use for salad the next day, or I wilt it into wholegrain pasta.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Meat, Recipes, Sides, Starches

Miso-Charred Mushrooms with Black Rice Salad

RECIPE: Ginger and Miso-Charred Portobello Mushrooms and Black Rice Salad with Green Vegetables and Sesame-Soy Dressing

Miso Charred Mushroom and Black Rice Salad

I can’t help it.  I am addicted to self-improvement. At least in January, I can get away with it more easily when the rest of the world joins in. New year, new us.

I specialize in French recipes, as you know, and sometimes, those can be pretty not self-improving. I do, quite happily, fall prey to a beckoning potato gratin every now and again. But what I love about food is that not only can you take pleasure in eating, but you can also take care by eating. You can eat yourself well. I like that idea–in fact, at times, I cling to it. Those who read my posts will know that my maman taught me most of what I know about those gratins; but she also, in times of sickness, taught me about raw vegetable juices, herbal infusions, complete proteins and complex carbohydrates. In my posts this January, I will share a bit of my other obsession, food that is delicious, but devilishly healthy. I get a real smirking kick out of make something good, good for me. It feels like beating the system. To help me I’ve asked my good friend the fantastic New York nutritionist Jessica Katz to weigh in on some ingredients.

This dish is a fresh warm black rice salad, full of all things green, and topped with miso-charred meaty Portobello mushrooms. I first discovered black rice with Jessie about a decade ago when she took me to the Union Square restaurant republic, and I became obsessed with finding it. Thankfully, it’s more readily available now.  It’s nutty, both in flavor and texture, and is full of antioxidants. Whole grain black rice has more fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals than white rice. So the salad starts with a pretty good base.

A little secret to rice, which I picked up in France, is to boil it like pasta in a big pot of salted water. To that, I add edamame beans and strips of Savoy cabbage to quickly blanch them. The latter adds vitamin C and more antioxidants. Then, to the warm salad, I add cilantro, jalapeno, lime (even a little more vitamin C!), and scallions. All low-calorie ways to add texture and flavor.  The dressing is light and simple: soy sauce, a dash of sesame oil, and rice vinegar. I let it steep together so the warm rice soaks up the flavors of the rest of the salad while I put together the miso-charred mushrooms.

I was vegetarian for a long time, so I know that mushrooms are so healthful, because they are a vegetarian source of vitamin B. They also contain minerals, phytochemicals, and can be a great wintertime source of vitamin D if they were exposed to sunlight before or after harvest. Another dish to which Jessie also introduced me was miso black cod, my inspiration for these mushrooms. I smother the Portobello caps in a mixture of freshly grated ginger, sweet mirin, and white miso, which according to Jessie contains more vitamin B, minerals, protein, phytochemicals, fiber, and interestingly, as a fermented food, probiotics. I char the mushrooms under the broiler, and as the mushrooms wilt and become juicy, the sweet and spicy marinade caramelizes and bubbles up. It is so good.

Thickly slice the mushrooms, almost like steak, and perch them atop a pile of the warm black rice salad, studded with little flecks of green. The dish is light, but intensely savory, and fresh. It just makes you feel good, better—even, improved.

As we always toast in my house on New Year’s, santé!
Ginger and Miso-Charred Portobello Mushrooms and Black Rice Salad with Green Vegetables and Sesame-Soy Dressing
serves 2

Miso Charred Mushroom and Black Rice SaladINGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup forbidden black rice, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup white miso
  • 2 tablespoons mirin, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 4 Portobello mushroom caps, wiped clean
  • 1 scant tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 scant tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce (optional: reduced sodium soy sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh edamame beans (option: frozen edamame beans)
  • 3 leaves Savoy cabbage, sliced into very thin strips
  • 2 scallions, very thinly sliced
  • 1/4 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons toasted white or black sesame seeds


Bring a medium-large pot of salted water to a boil.  Arrange the rack in the center of the oven, and pre-heat the broiler.

Add the rice to the boiling salted water, and cook without a lid until tender, about 35 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together the miso, 2 tablespoons mirin, and fresh ginger.  Slather the mushrooms, top and bottom, with the miso mixture.  Place on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet, and broil in the center of the oven until tender and charred, turning once, about 20 to 25 minutes total.  Set aside.

While the rice is cooking, make the dressing by whisking together the rice vinegar, lime juice, soy sauce, remaining 1 teaspoon mirin, and sesame oil.  Set aside.

Once the rice has been cooking for 30 minutes, add the fresh edamame beans.  When the rice has only one minute left to cook (it’s been boiling for 34 minutes), add in the shredded cabbage.  If using frozen edamame beans, add with the cabbage at the 34 minutes mark.  Drain the rice, edamame, and cabbage all together in a fine-mesh colander.  Drain well, and decant into a large bowl.  Toss with the dressing, jalapeno, cilantro, and sesame seeds.

Serve the rice salad with the mushrooms, thickly sliced, perched on top.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Recipes, Vegetarian, Vegetarian

Sicilian Pasta With Swordfish, Fennel, Mint, and Bread Crumbs

RECIPE: Sicilian Pasta with Swordfish, Fennel, and Mint Topped with Toasted Crumbs, Almonds, and Fennel Seeds

Swordfish Pasta with Fennel and MintWhen my husband suggested that we go on a honeymoon in Sicily, I was skeptical.

The he turned to me and said, “They eat nothing but olive oil, swordfish, and almond granita.”

I booked the tickets myself.

We started in Palermo and took a two-week road trip, driving around the island and up into the little volcanic specks that are Salina and Panarea. In that time, I drank olive oil fresh from the grove and hot off the press. I toasted our marriage with glasses of deep red and truest purple volcanic orange and grape juices. I stopped into Granite da Alfredo by boat, where the world’s best granitas are made by a kindly man in a tiny town on a tiny island, and spooned my way through not only the almond, but the lemon granita too. The honeymoon was simply a movable feast.

After it all, my favorite dish was a pasta primi that I ate one night in Taormina at L’Arco Dei Cappuccini, outside under a canopy, nestled around a table, drinking in the night and the hum of laughter and conversation wafting over from around the terrace. It was a pasta with swordfish and wild fennel—a perennial special that is apparently always announced but is never on the menu. The pasta looked like elbow macaroni after a growth spurt: long, ridged, curling tubes. The cherry tomatoes were fresh, as they always seemed to be on that island. The wild fennel and its fronds were chopped into tiny slivers. And the swordfish was crumbled, firm and white. Altogether, it was like a maritime bolognese.

Swordfish Pasta 2

It’s a popular dish, swordfish pasta. I had it with eggplant. With zucchini. With chilies. And in all the iterations, the swordfish was crumbled in that ingenious way that I had never considered before, and was so perfectly suited to the fish. As someone who prefers fish to meat, I felt like I had come into my perfectly suited spaghetti with meat sauce. And after tasting all the varieties available from Erice to Siracusa, my favorite was the one with wild fennel I had that night in Taormina.

In my version, I start with casarecce pasta, but you could use shells, corkscrews, fusilli, or even elbows. Sear the swordfish until it’s just cooked through, then dice it as finely as you can. Blitz the fennel with mint, fennel fronds, and garlic to make a rubble, and then sweat it with olive oil. Follow them into the pot with cherry tomatoes, and let the tomatoes burst over the heat. Add the swordfish, tear in more fresh mint, add a pinch of chili if you want it, and toss it with the pasta. Leave it there, or crown it with a crunchy mess of toasted breadcrumbs, almonds, and fennel seed.

Dig into a giant bowl, or do what I did in Sicily: have it to start, and follow with a simply grilled giant swordfish steak, tasting only of olive oil, lemon, and the sea.

Swordfish Pasta from Taormina

The original Taormina version!

Sicilian Pasta with Swordfish, Fennel, and Mint Topped with Toasted Crumbs, Almonds, and Fennel Seeds
serves 4

Swordfish Pasta with Fennel and MintINGREDIENTS

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs (optional)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup, packed, mint
  • 1/4 cup, chopped fennel fronds
  • 1/2 pound swordfish steak
  • 2 pounds cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pound any shape of macaroni pasta


Begin by making the topping, if using.  In a wide, nonstick sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the breadcrumbs, almonds, and fennel seed, and season with salt and pepper.  Toast, stirring often, until golden and crisp.  Remove to a bowl and set aside, and wipe out the pan.  There’s no need to wash it.

Prep the vegetables for the pasta sauce by pulsing together the garlic, fennel, mint, and fennel fronds in the food processor until finely chopped.  Set aside.

In a wide sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat.  Season the fish with salt and pepper, and cook, turning once, until just cooked through and opaque in the middle.  The time will depend on the thickness of your fish.  Remove the fish to a plate and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the same pan, and lower the heat to medium.  Add the chopped garlic, fennel, and herbs to the pan, and season.  Sauté the fennel just until soft and fragrant, and add the tomatoes.  Use a potato masher to burst the tomatoes.  Cover, and reduce the heat to medium-low for 12-15 minutes, until you have a fresh sauce that’s still chunky.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain.

Remove the skin from the swordfish and chop into a fine dice.  Add to the tomato and fennel sauce, along with the drained pasta.  Keep on the heat for about another 30 to 60 seconds, while the pasta drinks in tomato juice, and toss.  Drizzle with fresh olive oil, and serve with the almond-crumb topping alongside.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Eat, Fish, Main Courses, Recipes, Sides, Starches, Voyages

Quick Pickled Fennel

RECIPE: Pickled Fennel

I have tumbled into love with pickled fennel.  I always thought pickled onions were a great idea, but raw onions–they’re a little troublesome, aren’t they?  Smelly.  Sharp.

But pickled fennel.  Gently crunchy.  Slightly sweet.  Very savory.  Fresh.  I top burgers with it.  Mix it into salads.  Stuff into pan bagnat.

Get pickling!

Pickled Fennel


  • 1 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 1 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced


Place the first four ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Then decant into a large bowl, and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  When the mixture is still warm, add the fennel.  Allow to steep for 20 minuets.  Drain, and use.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Eat, Recipes, Vegetarian

Thanksgiving Dinner for Two: One Pan, One Hour

RECIPE: Roasted Turkey Breast with Olive-Oil Smash Carrots, Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts, and Herb Gravy
Roast Turkey with Smashed Carrots and Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts

Roast Turkey with Smashed Carrots and Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

My family has a fabulous tradition of popping open a bottle of good champagne, and going around the table before dinner, toasting what each person is thankful for.  We eat the American classics: roast turkey (the traditional beneficiary of the last toast) and pumpkin pie (at my insistence) and corn bread.  And we temper it with some French flavor to keep the rest of the family happy: potatoes au gratin, apple cider sorbet (contentious!), haricots verts.

But now I live in London.  My family is an ocean away.  My husband is English.  And I go to work like it’s any other Thursday.  While I come home at 8 o’clock, tired and hungry, I can’t let the day go unmarked.  While we may still uncork a cold bottle of champagne and say our own version of unorthodox grace, for the two of us, at that hour, it’s just not worth a whole turkey with all the trimmings.

So this year I’m doing Thanksgiving for two, in one pan, and in an hour and a half.  I start with a turkey roast, off the bone, and cook it with thyme, orange, and lemon.  In the same pan go the carrots (I found some gorgeous purple ones), which become olive oil-smashed carrots—a festive fall upgrade on mashed potatoes.  And on the other side of the pan, Brussels sprouts and chestnuts, which come out singed and festive.  A simple jus brews at the bottom of the pan, full of the sweetness of carrot and citrus, and the savor of thyme and sprouts.  After an hour and a half in the oven, the turkey is ready to slice, the carrots are ready to be quickly whizzed up, and the Brussels sprouts are soft and charred and perfect.  If I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll stew together some cranberries and ginger jam, to serve alongside.

By ten o’clock, I’m on the couch, licking pumpkin pie off my fork, and watching TV in true Thanksgiving style.  No, it’s not the Thanksgiving I’m used to, but it’s marvelous, and very apropos this moment of my life.  And it’s that life I’m thankful for, even if it requires a little bit of clever holiday rapidity.

Turkey for Two Before the Oven

Thyme-rubbed turkey, Brussels sprouts, chestnuts, and purple carrots, on a raft of citrus before it all hits the oven together.

Roasted Turkey Breast with Olive-Oil Smash Carrots, Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts, and Herb Gravy
serves 2 with leftovers

Roast Turkey with Smashed Carrots and Roasted Brussels Sprouts and ChestnutsINGREDIENTS

  • 1 2 3/4-pound boneless turkey breast roast
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 orange, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme, divided (about 3/4 ounce)
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 7 ounces whole, cooked chestnuts
  • 1 1/2 pound carrots, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Rub the turkey breast roast with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Set aside.

In the center of a metal roasting pan, make a bed about the size of the turkey of the sliced lemon and orange (I slice a whole lemon and a whole orange and reserve the extra for garnish).  Top the bed with half the thyme, still on the stem.

Remove the remaining thyme leaves from their stems, and lightly chop.  Rub onto the turkey, and place on the citrus and thyme bed.  On one side of the roastingpan, tumble in the Brussels sprouts and chestnuts.  On the other side, the carrots.  Toss each vegetable (not mixing with the other vegetable) with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Pour the broth into the pan.  Roast in the oven for 1 hour, or until the turkey reaches 165 degrees F, stirring the vegetables in their little corners once during cooking.  Set out for 10 minutes to rest.

Whiz up the carrots in the food processor with 2 tablespoons of thyme and 2 tablespoons of the brothy liquid at the bottom of the pan, and some soft thyme from the pan until you have a mashed potato-like consistency.

Slice up the turkey, and serve the smashed carrots and roasted sprouts and chestnuts alongside.  Garnish with the reserved citrus and more thyme.  Decant the cooking liquid into a gravy boat (you can stir in a touch of butter if you want), and happy Thanksgiving.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Poultry

Soupe au Pistou with Thyme

RECIPE: Soupe au Pistou with Thyme
Soupe au Pistou

Vegetable broth, leeks, carrots, haricots verts, and zucchini with haricots beans and stelline pasta and thyme–and, of course–basil pesto.

If there is one thing I love most about my mother’s cooking, it’s her soups.

Creamy carrot.  Lima bean.  Barley.  Lentil.  She made, and makes, them endlessly, in huge pots that find their way into the back of the fridge, so we can spoon out bowlfuls to heat up when the fancy takes us.  They are always vegetarian.  Light soups, but hearty.  The kind of thing that you can have at nine o’clock and they will soothe away your day, but not weigh down your night.  Perfect concoctions filled with health and happiness and warmth.

Soupe au Pistou 2

Soupe au pistou is a traditional soup in my mother’s soup vein–and native, like her, to Provence.  The soup itself is a simple broth brimming with chunks of hearty vegetables–carrots, leeks, zucchini, and haricots verts.  Then, for heft, haricot beans (or use Great Northern or cannellini if you can’t find the French originals), and pasta.  I use stelline, or little stars, for their bite-sizedness, and also their little wink of whimsy, which makes me smile.  The soup couldn’t be easier.  Just some chopped vegetables sautéed in olive oil, stewed in vegetable broth or water, and bulked up with beans (straight from the can in my case!) and baby pasta.  It’s done in 40 minutes with barely any attention.

Why it’s called soupe au pistou is because it’s always, always topped with a brimming spoonful (or two!) of pistou–a nutless version of pesto.  I smash up the garlic and basil–with a handful of baby spinach to keep it green and add more goodness–and stir in just slightly too much olive oil and good parmesan cheese.  The garlic starts to perfume the hot soup on contact, the basil seeps into every spoonful, and the olive oil and cheese start to melt in.

It is, very simply, the best vegetable soup.

Soupe au Pistou 3

I have a big pot in the back of my fridge right now.

Soupe au Pistou with Thyme
serves 6

Soupe au Pistou 2INGREDIENTS

  • 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound of carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts diced
  • 1 pound zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 pound haricots verts, trimmed and diced
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/8 ounce thyme on the stem (10 to 12 stems), tied with kitchen twine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 8 cups vegetable broth or water, or a mixture of the two
  • 1 14.5-ounce can haricot beans, or Great Northern or cannellini if not available, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 pound stelline pasta
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups, packed, fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup, packed, baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


In a large stockpot over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Follow with the carrots, leeks, zucchini, and haricots verts, and season with salt and pepper.  Make sure all the vegetables are chopped to roughly the same size.  Stir often for 10 minutes to sweat the vegetable, ensuring none of them brown.

Add the thyme, bay leaf, and vegetable broth, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  Once the soup is bubbling, cover, and lower the heat to a simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes, and then add the haricot beans and the stelline pasta.  Raise the heat to high and boil, partially covered, stirring often, for 10 minutes.  Take out the thyme bundle and the bay leaf and discard.

While the soup is cooking, making the pistou.  Smash the garlic in the food processor, and add the basil and spinach.  Pulse to a rubble.  Season with salt and pepper and add the remaining 6 tablespoons of olive oil.  Whiz to combine, and stir into the grated Parmigiano cheese.  Set aside.

To serve, ladle the soup into a bowl, and top with a spoonful of pistou.  You can garnish with fresh thyme leaves, extra Parmigiano Reggiano, or a drizzle of olive oil if the mood strikes.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Eat, Soup, Soup & Salad, Vegetarian

Whole Wheat Summer Tomato Spaghetti with Fresh Yellow Tomatoes and Fresh Market Red Pesto

RECIPE: Whole Wheat Summer Tomato Spaghetti

Summer Tomato Spaghetti

I have a real preoccupation with pesto in the summertime.  When I was little, my mom and I used to spend the summer in Woodstock, in upstate New York.  We would rent a house–this big white one–in the mountains, and I would pick wild flowers and ride horses and play with the wild turkeys and rabbits in our yard.  It was Eden for a city child.

And a city child I certainly was (and continue to be) and my mom was most definitely a city mom (though she tries to resist).  As though there could be nothing to be found to eat outside of the river borders of Manhattan, we used to drive through the heat into the city to collect supplies from Fairways (olives, fromage frais, vegetarian hot dogs) and this little ravioli shop just by Houston street that sold these fabulous frozen boxes of neatly piled ravioli in a wild array of flavors.  [Ahh!  I just Googled it after all these years and discovered it’s called Raffetto’s.]  I can’t say how many boxes we would buy at a time, but I think my mom may have been running some kind of Woodstock ravioli racket–our freezer looked just like the shop, all the boxes neatly stacked and ready to take the plunge into the boiling water.

The only culinary concession my mom made to the country at that time was this farm stand out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by corn fields.  It was iconic, the way I picture the American countryside now that I am so far from it.  They sold “watermelon juice”, which was really just warm watermelon (seeds still intact–this was the ’80s!), whirled up in the blender and sipped through a straw.  I loved it.  And they sold mountains of summer fresh basil.  This basil, maman would whiz up herself into these phenomenal pestos, the scent of which would linger on the hot summer air, wafting from our bowls of cheese ravioli, and hanging over the back deck where we ate, and the lawn behind.  For me, it is the ultimate smell of comfort, reminding me viscerally of childhood, of summertime, of being happily full and free.

I went the farmers’ market last weekend in Marylebone with my friend Mary (it was her genius idea), and we found a pesto man called Seriously Italian.  I often make my own pestos, and have experimented far and wide in the genre, but his neat little pots and inventive flavors and discount when you bought more than one led me to buy basil, pistachio, and “red”.  I love red pesto because it, of course, contains tomatoes, but also because it is the traditional pesto, or pistou, from Provence–which, incidentally also reminds me of summers with maman, because we so often meet in Provence and I always order spaghetti with red pesto on our first night in.

Anyway, back to this recipe.  What I also found at this market was a fresh summer tomato vendor–there is nothing like summer for tomatoes.  She was selling one-pound bags of yellow grapes tomatoes.  I thought to myself, done.  A double summer tomato pasta.

The sauce is made while the pasta is cooking.  I just blitz the yellow grape tomatoes into shards in the food processor, and then add good sea salt.  Then I just let it sit and the salt draws all the liquid out of the tomatoes into its on fresh sauce.  Then, after the liquid has been drawn, I whisk in a jar of good red pesto (you can of course make this yourself, and you can also use fresh basil pesto).  Then, just toss the pasta in.  The hot pasta sucks up all the tomato juice, and the garlic and cheese and herbs in the red pesto wake up with the heat and start wafting away like maman’s pesto on the terrace.  You could do this with regular semolina pasta, but we all know I’ve been on a health kick, so I used whole wheat.  And you could use any shape–I think rigatoni would also be especially good, because the tomatoes and pesto would get stuck inside all the tubes and they’d explode with freshness in your mouth.

This is just so effortless, so summer, so fresh and light and happy-making.  I devoured the leftovers last night in a meal that I had been anticipating since breakfast at the office.  It’s just lovely.

Whole Wheat Summer Tomato Spaghetti
serves 2 to 4

Summer Tomato SpaghettiINGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound yellow and / or red grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Sea salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
  • 3.5 ounces red pesto or pistou
  • Olive oil or torn basil or fresh grated Parmesan for garnish (optional)


Put the tomatoes into the food processor and pulse them into a rubble—not smooth, but not too chunky either.  Put them in a bowl with 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as Maldon (if using a finer salt, just use less of it).  Let the tomatoes sit for 15 minutes to begin to release their juices.

Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain.    Add the salted tomatoes and red pesto to the pasta pot, and stir together.  Add the pasta, and toss to combine.  Serve.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Main Courses, Sides, Starches, Vegetarian, Vegetarian