Kale and Artichoke-Stuffed Shells

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Remember stuffed pasta shells? To me, they’re the ultimate 90’s food: comforting, delicious, and a little kitschy. I used to make a richer version back then as a wee Yogurtsoda, but these days, I’ve updated my go-to stuffed shells to this lighter, healthier recipe adapted from Food & Wine. Trust me, you won’t even notice that these are meatless.

Ingredients:

16 uncooked jumbo pasta shells (about 6 ounces), plus more, if needed
1 1/2 cups jarred marinara sauce
1 teaspoon finely chopped jarred Calabrian chiles
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Cooking spray
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 medium bunches lacinato (Tuscan) kale, stemmed and chopped (about 6 cups)
1 12-ounce jar marinated quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 5 ounce container garlic-and-herb spreadable cheese (such as Boursin)
4 ounces provolone cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
Salt

1. Preheat oven to 375F degrees. Bring 3 quarts salted water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add pasta shells; cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water; set shells aside.

2. Stir together marinara, Calabrian chiles, and fennel seeds in a medium bowl. Season with salt to taste. Spray a large glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray; spread sauce in an even layer in dish, and set aside.

3. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium; swirl to coat. Add garlic; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add kale, and toss to coat. Drizzle 1/4 cup water over kale. Cover and cook until kale is tender, about 5 minutes, stirring once halfway through cook time. Add artichoke hearts; cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until warmed, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. Combine beans, spreadable cheese, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a food processor; process until smooth and creamy, about 45 seconds, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Add bean mixture to kale mixture, and stir until combined. Season with salt to taste.

5. Spoon bean mixture evenly into cooked pasta shells (about 3 tablespoons per shell). Arrange shells on marinara mixture, and sprinkle evenly with provolone. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven until provolone melts and sauce is bubbly, about 20 minutes. Increase oven temperature to high broil, and broil until cheese begins to brown, 1 to 3 minutes. Serve warm.

Khoresh-e Qarch (Iranian Mushroom Braise)

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I didn’t grow up eating khoresh-e qarch but I love anything with mushrooms so I had to try this. Adapted from a Najmieh Batmanglij recipe, this khoresh is super savory, thanks not only to the musrhooms but the the slow-and-low browning and braising of lots of onions and chicken. Serve this with basmati rice and fresh herbs on the side for a comforting meal.

Ingredients:

2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pounds boneless chicken thighs, cut into one-inch cubes
5 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 pound cremini mushrooms, washed and trimmed
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
1 egg, beaten

1. In a dutch oven, brown onions, garlic, and chicken in 3 tablespoons oil. Add salt and pepper. Pour in 1/2 cup water, cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Slice mushrooms and sprinkle with flour and saute in 2 tablespoons oil.

3. Add mushrooms, lime juice, and saffron water to the meat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes over low heat.

4. Taste the stew and adjust seasoning. Add beaten egg. Simmer 5 minutes over low heat, gently stirring.

5. Serve warm with basmati rice.

Pearl Couscous and Tuna Salad with Preserved Lemon

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This is my new go-to summer picnic salad. It’s lemony, salty, and rich, thanks to lots of olives, tuna, and a healthy dose of avocado. This keeps well in the fridge so make it the night before and you’re good to go.

1 cup pearl couscous
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (5-ounce) can tuna packed in olive oil, drained
2/3 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives, chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon
1 avocado, peeled and cubed

1. Cook couscous according to package instructions; drain and set aside. Let cool.

2. Combine lemon juice and vinegar in a large bowl. Whisk in olive oil and add salt and pepper. Add cooled couscous and toss to coat. Flake tuna with a fork; add to couscous. Gently stir in olives, celery, onion, parsley, dill, avocado, and preserved lemon. Season with salt to taste and serve.

Roasted Red Pepper Bibimbap

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I’ll eat bibimbap in any shape or form. Traditional, vegetarian, seafood — I’ve never met a bibimbap I didn’t devour. This extra-healthy version is made with brown rice and lots of vegetables and is super satisfying. It’s a loose recipe, so adjust the proportions to your liking.

Ingredients:

2 cups short-grain brown rice
Salt
4 red bell peppers, halved
Avocado oil
Toasted sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds
Soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons gochujang
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 carrot, sliced into matchsticks
1 1/2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
2 large handfuls kale, shredded
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
4 eggs
Pickled ginger, sliced
Green onions, sliced
Nori, cut into strips

1. Rinse the rice under cold water until it runs clear. Drain the rice and transfer to a saucepan or rice cooker and cook with a pinch of salt according to package directions.

2. Preheat the oven to 425F degrees. Arrange the pepper halves on a baking sheet, skin sides up. Drizzle with a little avocado oil and roast for 30 minutes, until soft and blackened in spots. Transfer to a bowl and cover with a plate. Leave for 10 minutes, then peel and slice into thick strips. Season the pepper ribbons with sesame oil, sesame seeds, and tamari.

3. Meanwhile, make the bibimbap sauce by combining the gochujang, sugar, garlic, and vinegar with 2 tablespoons of water, 2 tablespoons sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. Set aside.

4. Cook the carrot: heat a teaspoon of avocado oil in a frying pan over high heat. Add the carrot and saute for 2 minutes, until just tender. Season with salt and set aside. Cook the mushrooms in a little oil in the same way, keeping the heat high and the pan moving until the mushrooms are cooked. Season with tamari.

5. Wipe out the wok and add a teaspoon of oil followed by the ginger and the kale and a few drops of water, sauteing for a few minutes until wilted. Toss with a drizzle of sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds, and set aside.

6. Blanch the bean sprouts in boiling salted water for a minute, until wilted. Drain well.

7. Fry the eggs sunny side up in a frying pan, until the whites have set but the yolks are still runny.

8. To serve, divide the rice between large serving bowls. Spoon each topping on top in a circular manner: peppers, carrots, mushrooms, kale, and bean sprouts. Lay the fried egg on top and add pickled ginger, sliced green onions, nori seaweed, and sesame seeds to taste. Add a heaping spoonful of the bibimbap sauce, serving the rest on the table to spoon over, mixing everything as you eat.

Tiny Baked Potatoes with Chickpeas

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Full of sweet, savory, creamy, and crunchy textures and flavors, this these potatoes with spiced chickpeas are kind of like loaded potatoes in appetizer form — if loaded potatoes were vaguely South Asian or Middle Eastern.

Ingredients:

3 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes, halved (or quartered) to about 2-inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons nigella seeds
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Zest plus one teaspoon juice from one lemon
1 teaspoon honey
3 green onions
2/3 cup sour cream
2 to 3 tablespoons mango chutney

1. Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. Toss potatoes with half the oil and spread out on a baking sheet. Season with salt and bake for 45 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through baking time.

2. Meanwhile, transfer the chickpeas into a bowl and pat dry. Toss chickpeas with remaining oil, cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon teaspoon of the nigella seeds, and the paprika. Season and spread on another baking sheet or roasting pan.

3. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes, until just beginning to brown. Stir through the lemon zest and honey and return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes, until well-browned and crisp.

4. Chop half of the green onions and stir into sour cream with the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Finely slice the remaining green onions and set aside.

5. Arrange potatoes on a large platter, and dollop 1 teaspoon of the green onion sour cream to each potato, with a little mango chutney. Scatter the chickpeas on top. Scatter the reserved green onions and remaining nigella seeds, plus a little more black pepper. Serve warm.