Braised Celery with Olives

By Lisa

This is one of those things that I never thought I would make–how many of you cook celery regularly (as a base of soups or sauces doesn’ t count)? I don’t. Or didn’t.   But then I saw this on tv at just the right moment, and I’ve made it twice in 2 weeks. A more simple, economical, versatile dish is hard to find. A more comforting cold weather dish is hard to find. It pairs beautifully with braised meat; it’s delicious over penne.  My eight year old loved it. My six year old was luke warm, but not totally opposed. I told him he had to learn to like it. We’ll see how that goes.

The dish basically involves slow cooking celery with a lot of onions, garlic, and olives in a very simple tomato paste sauce. The celery, as my daughter remarks, transforms into something tender-crisp, and golden.  If you don’t have olives–as I didn’t the last time–leave them out. If you like anchovies (we do) toss a few in with the onions. You can’t really mess this up.

Braised Celery with (or without Olives)

(very slightly adapted from Lidia Bastianich)

  • olive oil
  • 1-2 onions (more is better), halved, then sliced (not too thin)
  • 1 bunch celery, chopped into 1-2 inch slices, including leaves
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1-2 anchovies (optional)
  • cured black olives (you can get away w/o these, but it’s better with them)
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • 2 cups hot water
  1. Sautee onion and garlic in about 1/4 cup olive oil until they begin to soften
  2. Add celery (and anchovy if using) and sautee until it begins to soften and turn golden brown.
  3. Dissolve tomato paste in hot water, and add to the pan along with the olives.
  4. Simmer over low heat until celery is tender but not too soft–about 30 minutes.
  5. Serve warm, as a side, or over pasta with cheese.


by Caroline

Wednesday afternoon, after lunch. We’re hanging out, starting to think about, maybe, some Thanksgiving dinner prep. My brother-in-law calls; he’s on his way, but can’t stay as long as he expected. He’ll leave after lunch on Thursday, instead of staying through dinner.

Hmm. Thanksgiving dinner is always, in our family, in the evening: at dinner time. But we have been planning to share the meal with the boys’ West Coast Uncle Fun. We briefly consider a midday Thanksgiving meal, but that’s just never been our style. Special meals should be in the evening, with candlelight. Plus, we don’t want him to have to eat and run. It is after 1 PM. Could we get Thanksgiving dinner on the table in just five or six hours? We take on the challenge.

And so I am thankful. Thankful for the friend who loaned us her son for the afternoon so our boys were happily occupied (she thought we were doing her a favor, babysitting so she could care for her stomach flu-y daughter. I’ll keep letting her think that.)

Thankful for my mom, from whom I learned how to make brown & serve rolls, which are always ready when I need them, and who taught me to keep a light touch on the pie crust.

Thankful for my sister, who posts favorite recipes on her blog (like I do) so that we could easily produce her delicious cranberry chutney.

Thankful that no one wanted turkey. This year, after experiments with stuffed mushrooms (very good), polenta-topped roasted vegetable pot pie (excellent) and even lentil-mushroom timbales (meh), we’ve even decided to dispense with the notion of a “main.” All any of us really wants, when we get right down to it, is stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce. Plus of course rolls and pie. I insist on something green (you should see my son put away the kale salad). And then we make various other things to put under the gravy. It’s a lot of chopping, but nothing needs the oven for four or five hours like a turkey does. The pans of pie, vegetables, and rolls, go in and out of the oven all afternoon.

Thankful for my brothers and my dad, siblings-in-law, niece and nephew, none of whom had much to do with this particular meal, but always figure in my thinking about food, family, and celebrations. I’m looking forward to our next big feast together!

And most of all, thankful for my husband, who has no problem cooking any meal, any time, but really kicked it into gear Wednesday to produce Thanksgiving dinner a day early. He started our in-no-particular-order to do list to make sure we got everything onto the table:

We sat down to dinner at 6:30, at a table decorated with Eli’s flower arrangement, and — so happy to have the meal on the table and my family gathered round — I did not think to take a picture of the spread. But trust me when I say it was delicious, and I hope yours was, too.

Pumpkin and Black Bean Soup

by Caroline

It’s November in San Francisco, which means that I am facing the annual disconnect between the food my New England-raised body feels like I should eat and the food appropriate for our sunny and warm days. The New Englander in me says “Turn on the oven! Roast vegetables! Make soups!” while the Californian wants a salad.

This week, the New Englander won.

I’ll link to the recipe I followed for pumpkin black bean soup, with a reminder that it is soup, so you can be flexible. I roasted the smallest of our CSA pumpkins and scooped all the flesh into the soup pot, without measuring, but it was probably more like five cups. My cans of black beans are 15 ounces, not 19, so that’s what I used. I didn’t have any canned tomatoes, but did have some of last summer’s frozen roasted balsamic tomatoes (made without the leeks and pureed immediately into a sauce) which looked like about two cups (but I did not measure.) I had about a tablespoon of sherry left in the bottle, so tossed that in with a glug of last week’s Sauvignon Blanc. The soup was delicious, and it’ll never taste quite the same way as it did last night. That, to me, is one of the charms of soup.

Eli’s Elegant Broccoli

by Caroline

I won’t claim to take as much time with presentation as Lisa does, but Eli is either paying more attention than I thought to my small efforts or he is simply reading this blog. The recipe he invented yesterday (with production assistance from Tony) shows he’s as careful with style as substance.

The plan was for our regular rice with tofu and vegetables. I don’t make dinner often under even the best of circumstances; now, after a week locked into a bad head cold, I was just on the sidelines, listening, as Eli chatted about developing a new recipe for the broccoli. His first idea was to serve the cooked spears dipped in beaten egg. Tony balked. Eli cried. I thought about various other nice things into which one can dip one’s vegetables. There was a long conversation on the couch during which Tony successfully distracted Eli from his recipe long enough to return to cooking. We thought the recipe was forgotten, but I should have known my tenacious child would find a way to make his recipe work.

Dinner approached, and then Eli said, “I have another idea for my recipe!” I held my breath.
But in the end, it was OK.

Eli’s Elegant Broccoli

Prepare one head of broccoli by separating the spears and steaming lightly. While it’s cooking, melt a couple tablespoons of butter and let cook until it browns very slightly. Add a sprinkle of brown sugar. Serve in a shallow bowl with the broccoli spears surrounding it.

Now our proud boy wants to write a cookbook; I think we will.

Pumpkin & Black Bean Tacos

by Lisa

It may be almost Halloween, but we have other important things to think about these days, too.

This very quick game night meal was inspired by Caroline’s Giant Enchildas and these pumpkin tacos from Sunset Magazine–which sound terrific to me, but I just didn’t have all the ingredients in my pantry.

For this very seasonal meal–pick your team or your holiday, or both–you need:

  • 1 can pumpkin1 orange
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • salt
  • 1 can black beans, cuban style or homemade Cuban black beans
  • Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Taco shells or soft tortillas
  1. Heat pumpkin, juice of 1 orange, cumin, cayenne, and a pinch of salt.
  2. Heat black beans.
  3. Top warm tortillas or soft taco shells with a generous spoon of pumpkin, sprinkle with shredded cheese, and top with a tablespoon or so of beans.
  4. Serve with a side of your favorite slaw or salad.

Eat, pray, dream