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.

Red Pepper and Gouda Deviled Eggs

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Who doesn’t love deviled eggs? Not I. Here’s a super easy appetizer that’s perfect for the holiday season (or anytime, really). Roasted red peppers and smoky gouda give these a unique and savory twist.

Ingredients:

1 dozen eggs
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons jarred roasted red peppers, drained
1 tablespoon sun-dried tomatoes preserved in oil, drained
1 tablespoon aged gouda, plus 1 teaspoon, for garnish
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon good-quality olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chopped anchovies
1/2 teaspoon paprika, plus more for garnish
Salt
24 capers, for garnish

1. Boil eggs, cool in an ice bath, and peel.

2. Neatly slice cooked eggs in half. Remove yolks and place in a food processor. Add mayonnaise, red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, 1 tablespoon gouda, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, anchovies, paprika, and salt to the food processor. Pulse yolk mix until creamy.

3. Fill a clean ziploc bag with the yolk mix and snip a tiny hole in the corner of the bag for piping. Pipe filling into plated and reserved egg whites. Garnish with capers, remaining 1 teaspoon gouda, and a dusting of paprika.

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.

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.

Winter Crunch Salad

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Even though it’s March, I’m still making this mixed salad of hearty winter greens spiked with savory Parmesan and crunchy seeds and apples. Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe, this salad gets better after sitting in fridge for an hour or two. I’ll be eating this well through springtime.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1/2 small shallot
1 Meyer lemon
1 small garlic clove
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 bunch Tuscan kale (about ¾ pound)
5 or 6 ounces Brussels sprouts
2 ounces Parmesan, finely grated
1/2 apple, halved and thinly sliced

1. Make the vinaigrette: Finely chop shallot half and transfer to medium bowl. Juice lemon over bowl. You should have about 2 tablespoons juice. Using a microplane, finely rate garlic clove into bowl. Whisk in 2 Dijon mustard and olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

2. Wash and dry kale, then pat leaves dry. Strip leaves from thick stems, discarding stems, then thinly slice leaves. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Trim knobby end of Brussels sprouts. Cut sprouts in half lengthwise, then arrange halves cut side down on board and very thinly slice. Add to bowl with kale.

4. Drizzle dressing over kale mixture; season with salt and pepper. Lightly massage and toss with your hands to coat.

5. Add cheese, apples, and sunflower seeds and toss lightly to incorporate.