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French Lentil and Swiss Chard Risotto

Okay, so the Sunday News won’t be carrying my column anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t access my kitchen. I plan to continue writing Talking Fresh, and hope all of you Facebook friends will Like Jeff’s Kitchen here, and share my posts with your friends, and encourage them to like my page as well. It takes a village, and all those six degrees and such can turn this into a movement, if you’re willing.
That said, I’m also going to put up a post on opposite Sundays featuring what I get in my CSA bag from Caitlin and EmmaKate at Blue Rock farm. Today I got lettuce, mustard and beet greens, beets, fresh dill, a perfect head of garlic, one yellow squash, snow peas and mixed (pole or bush?) beans, and chard.
Here’s what I’ll be making for supper tonight, all the fresh ingredients coming from the young women’s wonderful little farm in Willow Street, PA.
Thanks indeed to Martha Stewart for the inspiration for this recipe.  I’ve altered it a bit from her original to make it my own, and to feature the fine ladies of Blue Rock Farm. By the way, it is wonderful cold, and reheats beautifully.chard risotto
Please enjoy responsibly.

French Lentil and Swiss Chard Risotto
1 bay leaf
6 sprigs fresh thyme plus 2 teaspoons leaves
1/3 cup French green lentils
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 cup finely chopped onion and the onion greens
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
1 ¼ cups Arborio rice
½ cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup freshly ground white pepper
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup freshly shredded chard or beet greens, for garnish

1. In a medium saucepan, combine 6 cups water, bay leaf, and thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes; add lentils, reduce heat to low and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside; discard the rest.
2. Wash chard and remove stalks; slice leaves into very thin 2-inch strips, and dice the smaller stems into ¼-inch dice. Discard the larger stems. Sauté with a bit of olive oil in a large skillet, tossing constantly over high heat until just wilted; set aside in a colander.
3. Finely chop the onions and slice the greens into ½-inch rings.
4. Bring the stock to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and keep at a bare simmer.
5. Heat olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion, onion greens, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently until soft but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add rice and thyme leaves and continue stirring until the edges of the rice become translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add the wine, stirring constantly, until nearly all the wine is absorbed.
6. Raise the heat to medium-high, add the salt and pepper and ½ cup stock and cook, stirring constantly until nearly all the stock is absorbed. Repeat this process, adding ½ cup stock at a time, until the rice is creamy but still a little firm, 15-20 minutes.
7. Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the lentils, chard, and Parmesan. Season to taste with salt and pepper, plate and serve immediately garnished with the shredded greens.

Serves 6

Vegan Chocolate Gingerbread

This is the vegan chocolate cake I made for dessert with last night’s supper for the in-laws.  It’s perfect, simple, and surprising.  Serve it with a small dollop of vanilla ice cream.  My choice is Kim Zanni’s Vanilla Bean Gelato di Babbo.  If you haven’t found Kim’s monstrously good gelatos, go out and find it, or demand your grocer get in into their store.  Imagine this:  it’s low-fat.  On my Weight Watchers’ plan it is only three points, which offsets the hundreds of points the cake is (only kidding).  Make sure you allow the cake to cool completely in the pan before you unpan it, as it is prone to breaking apart if you unpan it too soon.  Still yummy, but you’ll be tempted to eat the broken parts (not necessarily a bad thing!).


1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 ½ teaspoons ground ginger

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup strong brewed coffee, room temperature

½ cup vegetable oil

¼ cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped (optional)

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Spray a square 8-inch baking pan with oil or baking spray or dust with cocoa powder.
  2. Sift the cocoa, flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and brown sugar into a large bowl.  Combine coffee and oil in a small bowl.  Beat the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula or whisk.  Stir in the crystallized ginger (if using), and quickly stir in vinegar.
  3. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick placed into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack, then turn the cake out onto the rack and cool completely.  Serve, dusted with confectioners’ sugar or cocoa powder, with hot tea, cider, or mulled wine.

Roasted Savory Cauliflower

I can’t believe how good this recipe turned out.  It’s simple and delicious.  I served this for supper last night, and incredibly, the kids ate all their vegetables!   Use fresh Parmesan cheese for the last-step sprinkle.


  • 5 to 6 cups cauliflower florets, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter (from 1 medium cauliflower)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sliced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • Chopped chives, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Place the cauliflower florets in a large saute pan or a roasting pan. Drizzle the olive oil over the cauliflower, and season with the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Place the saute/roasting pan in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure even roasting. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Garnish with chopped chives and serve immediately while still warm.

Pan-braised Chicken with Rosemary and Figs

Here’s a recipe I tried last night for company.  Really good, and really simple.  What makes it work is fresh rosemary.  I think dried rosemary would overwhelm the delicate sweetness of the fig sauce.  Made it for the in-laws last night with garlic roasted cauliflower and sweet potato fries.  Great supper.  Great recipe.

4 chicken breasts
2 tbsp olive oil
15 fresh figs, halved
1 tsp sweet paprika, divided
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
1 ½ cups red wine

2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

Sprinkle chicken with ½ tsp paprika, salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large pan. Add chicken breasts and brown both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Add wine and figs, and sprinkle rosemary (reserving 1  teaspoon) and remaining ½ tsp paprika on top. Turn heat to medium, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.

Move chicken from pan to a plate, and let it rest covered.

Whisk the butter into the pan sauce, turn the pan to low-medium, and let reduce without a cover for an additional 10 minutes, until thickened.

Divide chicken breasts among plates, place figs on top, and drizzle sauce over the chicken and figs.  Sprinkle fresh chopped rosemary on top and garnish with a piece of a fresh rosemary sprig.

Way good!

Ellen and Babs’ Hearty Chicken Chowder

Here’s a terrific old family recipe for chicken chowder, passed down through my wife’s family.  The only place I’ve seen it is on a stained recipe card.  But it’s really good.

Hearty Chicken Chowder


1 whole chicken, 3 pounds

5 cups water

1 cups sliced carrots

1 cup diced celery

1 medium onion, sliced

1 bay leaf

6 peppercorns

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 ½ cups milk

¼ cup butter (1/2 stick)

½ pound sliced mushrooms

2 teaspoons snipped chives

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup corn

¼ teaspoon dried (or ½ teaspoon freshly chopped) thyme

Shredded cheddar cheese


1.  Place first 10 ingredients (chicken through ground pepper) in a soup pot; cover and bring to a boil, then simmer until the chicken is tender, (about 45 minutes).  Strain broth, reserving vegetables, discarding the bay leaf, and picking the chicken off the bones.  Discard bones.

2.  Mix broth and milk.  In a saucepan, melt butter; add mushrooms and chives and sauté until soft, 3-5 minutes; add flour and blend.  Gradually stir in broth, continuing to stir until the soup thickens.  Add salt and thyme, corn, chicken, and reserved vegetables.

3.  Simmer 10 minutes longer; then serve in heavy bowls, topped with cheddar cheese.

Home Made Asian-Style Duck Sauce


Have you ever tried to make your own duck sauce?  Tired of those nasty little plastic packets you get at the take-out restaurant?  Here’s a quick, easy solution:  make your own.  It’ll keep a while in the fridge, and I love making my own condiments.  They’re so easy, and sooooo much better than the stuff you get at the store.

Try this duck sauce recipe.  You’ll never go back…


  • 5 cups coarsely chopped mixed fruit (apples, plums, apricots, and pears)
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup apple juice
  • 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon apricot preserves
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard


  1. Place fruit in a stock pot over medium high heat. Add water, apple juice, soy sauce, apricot preserves, brown sugar, garlic powder, and dry mustard. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently to dissolve brown sugar. Reduce heat, and continue simmering for 40 minutes, or until fruit is completely soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Blend sauce in a food processor or blender until completely smooth, adjusting consistency with additional water, if desired. Cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Sting-Ray’s Crabmeat Imperial

Cape Charles is a lovely little Chesapeake bayside seaport just a peace down the DelMarVa peninsula on Route 13 from Chincoteague, where we spend time whenever we have time to spend.  Sting-Ray’s restaurant sits in an unlikely building on the northbound side of Route 13 about a mile south of SR184.  It looks like a souvenier joint and gas station, which it is.  But it is also a terrific pottery store, and the restaurant inside has been written up in all the southern-living-type magazines.  It is a true find. But since you’re likely not to get there any time soon, I thought I’d give you a little taste of heaven from this heavenly little surprise.  And thanks to my friends Lisa and Tony for reminding me just how wonderful this little dish can be.  Lisa, you make it this way, and I guarantee you Tony will love it.  And Tony, if you don’t love it, you need your taste buds examined.

The World’s Best Crab Imperial

Crab imperialIngredients:

8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted (one stick)
3 tbsp. flour
2 cups heavy cream
1 lb. jumbo lump crab meat, picked over for shell pieces
1 cup panko bread crumbs (don’t settle for just any   bread crumbs. It makes a difference!)
1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tbsp. sherry
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. Heat oven to 400°.  Heat 5 tbsp. butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add flour, and cook, stirring, until smooth, about 2 minutes. Whisk in cream, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in crabmeat, half the bread crumbs, bell pepper, onion, half the parsley, sherry, juice, Worcestershire, half the paprika, mustard, cayenne, and salt and pepper. Divide mixture evenly among 6 shallow 6-oz. ramekins; place ramekins on a baking sheet and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, mix remaining butter, bread crumbs, and paprika until evenly combined; sprinkle seasoned bread crumbs evenly over each ramekin. Bake until lightly browned and bubbling in the center, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve hot with toast on the side.

Best Cole Slaw I ever Ate — My Mother’s

Cole slaw
The best cole slaw I’ve ever eaten was my mother’s.  She kept it simple, and extremely dry–in fact, she’d generally serve it as a dry salad with the dressing on the side.  One thing I can’t stand is cole slaw dripping in dressing so that when you finish your serving there’s a puddle of dressing left on the plate.  That’s why I hardly ever order cole slaw out.  There’s only two place I know that make slaw as good–my wife’s and Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami Beach.  The thing is, I tend to make it drier than anyone I know, because I like it dressed like a salad.  If you haven’t tried cole slaw that way, do so.  Make it like this:

1/2 head  white cabbage, sliced thin

1/4 head red cabbage, sliced thin

1 small yellow onion, grated

2 medium carrots, grated

1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

1 cup low-fat mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)

2 tablespoons white sugar (then adjust to taste)

2 tablespoons cider vinegar (then adjust to taste

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Toss all the produce ingredients together in a large bowl.  Mix the remaining ingredients to make up the sauce and adjust the sugar and vinegar to your personal preference.

Serve the cole slaw dry in a salad bowl, and the dressing on the side with a ladle (or, if you must, mix the dressing with the produce and toss well.  Just don’t use too much dressing.  This cole slaw recipe is meant to be served on the dry side.

Spicy Dry Rub for BBQ

Emeril Lagasse makes a wonderful spice rub he calls “Emeril’s Essence.”  I love it, and I use it.  But often, I add or subtract stuff, depending on what I’m making.  I am posting here a spice rub that started out as his “Essence,” but I have altered it just a bit to fit my BBQ pork recipes.  It is very similar, but I have added some ground ginger and chili powder to the rub–just a wee bit.  And if you want it to be the best rub you’ve ever tasted, take the time to find the smoked paprika and chipotle chili powder.  They make the world of difference in the flavor.  You can use regular paprika and chili powder, but the rub won’t have the same flavor or the same kick.  Here it is:

Spice rub

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon light brown granulated brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fine-ground white pepper
  • 1tablespoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

Salt and Vinegar Smashed Red Potatoes — Yum!


Ellen came up with this one, from a magazine, and it has already become one of our favorites!  Salt & vinegar potatoes, hot and tasty.  Try these:


1 1/2 pounds small round red potatoes

kosher or flaked sea salt

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup malt or cider vinegar



In a medium pot, bring potatoes to a boil, in salted water.  Reduce heat and cook at a rapid simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.  Drain, then place the potatoes between a dish towel and gently smash the potatoes until they are flattened, but still in one piece.  Place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with olive oil.

Brush the tops of the potatoes with oil, sprinkle with salt and place in an oven preheated to 450 degrees, and bake, flipping once, until they are crisp and golden on top, about 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, toss with vinegar, sprinkle with salt, and garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Serve immediately.


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