Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

This is a major week night winner. Super easy and super flavorful. This recipe is largely based on a Cooks Illustrated recipe with the same name. My version below basically has all the major flavor components upped a level. The pancetta, anchovy, garlic, and chili flake is all ramped up along with oregano and basil added.

This is gonna be in the regular rotation in our house.

Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

  • 4 ounces pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved and rough chopped
  • 1 (14-ounce) can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 4-5 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas (do not drain)
  • 2 cups water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 ounces ditalini pasta
  • 1/2 a lemon, juiced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Parmesan cheese (for serving)

Process pancetta in food processor until ground to a rough chunky paste, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add carrot, celery, and garlic and pulse until finely chopped, about 8 to 10 pulses. Add onion and then give it another 8 to 10 pulses.

Add oil to Dutch oven over medium heat and add in the pancetta vegetable mixture. Stir frequently until fond begins to form on bottom of pot, about 5 minutes. Add anchovy, pepper flakes, rosemary, basil, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, chickpeas and their liquid, water, and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add pasta and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve, passing Parmesan and extra oil separately.


Simple Greek Vinaigrette

Nothing revolutionary here…just documenting the ratios of an especially good vinaigrette from tonight. I have never used two acids together before…not sure why I never tried it before. Again, this is more of a record for me than providing a recipe of anything new.

Simple Greek Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 small lemon, juiced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or microplaned
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano 
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. black pepper

Put all ingredients in a mason jar and shake (duh).

Brussels Sprout Salad with Anchovy and Pecans

Joshua McFadden’s book “Six Seasons” features the parent recipe to what I am posting here. Think of it as a Caesar variation. I have made his version many times and now I have some alterations that tailor it to my taste. His original version has less anchovy and garlic, uses walnuts instead of pecans, and doesn’t include the crushed red pepper.

Here is my variation:

(Here is the salad without the cheese and breadcrumbs…I ate it too quickly after adding!)

Brussels Sprout Salad with Anchovy and Pecans

  • 1/2 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 6-7 anchovy fillets
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced fine
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 large lemon
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, lightly toasted and chopped
  • 2-3 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano or Parmesean, grated

Using either a mandoline or a sharp knife, thinly shave the Brussels sprouts and place in a bowl.

Mince the anchovies and garlic until they are almost a paste then drizzle with the olive oil and set aside.

Squeeze the lemon half onto the shaved Brussels sprouts, tossing to evenly coat. Next add in the anchovy garlic oil mixture, tossing well. Using your hands here may be best to really get everything incorporated. Season with salt and pepper (go light on the salt at first because of the anchovies). McFadden notes in his original that this salad likes lots of black pepper and I agree 100%…go wild.

Add some extra olive oil if it seems too dry, then add in the pecans, pepper flakes, panko breadcrumbs, and grated cheese.


Barbecue Sauces

I do not post much here anymore…I mostly use this as a log for recipes that I do not want to forget. Barbecue sauces fall into that category of things I really do not follow recipes on so they always come out different. Some variant of vinegar + mustard + spices + sweetener but I never really kept track of when one came out really well. Here are two variations I have liked recently:

Carolina Vinegar Sauce

  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon Crystal’s hot sauce
  • 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Add all ingredients to a small pan, bring to boil while whisking until sugar and salt are dissolved. Let it cool then put into a jar or squeeze bottle and let sit in the fridge for at least a day before using if possible.

Carolina Mustard Sauce

  • ¾ cup yellow mustard
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Crystal’s hot sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Same as above: Add all ingredients to a small pan, bring to boil while whisking until sugar and salt are dissolved. Let it cool then put into a jar or squeeze bottle and let sit in the fridge for at least a day before using if possible.

Mexican Rice (Instant Pot method)

I was really happy with this one…putting it here so I do not forget!

Not my photo.

Mexican Rice (Instant Pot method)

  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup oil (olive or canola oil)
  • 2 tablespoon garlic , minced
  • 1 medium onion , finely diced
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish paprika (pimenton)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 carrot , diced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • (optional) cilantro, chopped
  • (optional) green olives, chopped

Put the rice in a mesh strainer and rinse with water until it runs clear then drain it well. Turn Instant Pot to saute and when hot, add oil and rice. Keep stirring for a few minutes until the rice is lightly golden, then add the garlic, onion, tomato sauce, salt, paprika and carrots, stirring to combine.

Add broth and stir well.Turn instant pot off and then secure lid and turn valve to sealed position. Turn the instant pot to  the manual setting (high) and set the timer for 4 minutes.

When timer beeps, allow pressure to naturally release for 10 minutes. Remove lid and gently fluff the rice with a fork (don’t stir it). Add in chopped green olives or cilantro if desired.

Chicken Stir Fry with Eggplant and Mushroom

There are countless stir fry recipes on the internet, the last thing it needs is another.  Having said that, I think the ratio of ingredients and method of prep I have below is a pretty damn good combination.  Like many of the recipes on here, I am really posting it more as documentation for later reference.  I fully admit this is completely non-revolutionary as far as recipes go, but if you are looking for a tasty stir fry to try, give this one a shot.  I think when I revisit this I will add in a red bell pepper with the onion and maybe some basil leaves at the end.

Note, the fish and soy sauce here provides a big salty flavor so little to no additional salt is needed.  Taste and add only if needed at the end!

Chicken Stir Fry with Eggplant and Mushroom

  • 1 eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 pound chicken cut into 1″ pieces
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon neutral oil, divided (grapeseed or something similar)
  • 1 large onion, cut into thin slices
  • 2-3 thai red chiles, cut into thin slices, or 2 teaspoons dried red-pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, chunked (any kind)
  • 2-3 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

Salt the eggplant cubes generously and let them sweat in a colander for about 20 minutes while you get the other ingredients together.  After the 20 minutes, rinse and pat dry the eggplant.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, corn starch, and sugar.  Add the chicken to the marinade and set aside.  While the chicken marinates, heat oil over moderately high heat,  add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the chiles and garlic; cook, stirring, 30 seconds longer.  With a slotted spoon or tongs, remove the chicken from the marinade and add it to the hot pan.  Cook until chicken is just done.  Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan over high heat.  Add the eggplant and mushrooms, stirring and cooking until the mushroom liquid is cooked out and the eggplant is tender.  Throw the chicken back in along with the remaining marinade.  Stir and cook gently for just a few minutes so the sauce thickens.  Top with sliced scallions and sesame seeds before serving.


Squid Ink Pasta with Shrimp and Pork

In Atlanta, one of my absolute favorite restaurants is BoccaLupo. They focus primarily on pasta dishes but you can always count on unexpected and new flavor combinations or old favorites that have been rethought in a creative way. One of their best known dishes is a black spaghetti with calabrese sausage, shrimp, and scallions. The combination of briny and spicy they have come up with easily earns it a spot as one of my favorite dishes in the city. To my knowledge, the recipe has never been published so what you have here is certainly influenced by BoccaLupo but it is definitely a different dish. I did not have calabrese sausage on hand and their dish is almost certainly finished with quite a bit of butter. The dish below relies on tomatoes and a little wine for the base of the sauce.

Note that some squid ink pasta is saltier than others so be sure to taste the finished dish as a whole before adding more salt.

Squid Ink Pasta with Shrimp and Pork

  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 tablespoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 small can (8oz) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 pound large white or red shrimp
  • Kosher salt
  • 8 ounces squid ink linguine
  • 3-4 scallions sliced diagonally
  • Handful of parsley, chipped

Set a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta.

Heat one tablespoon of oil over medium heat and add the ground pork. When it is about halfway cooked, add in the Spanish paprika and the crushed red pepper along with a little salt and pepper. When it is almost done, add in the garlic and cook until it is softened (about a minute).

Add the pasta to the pot of boiling salted water and cook until very al dente (firm in the center).

Meanwhile, add the white wine and tomatoes to the pan and bring it to a soft simmer. Stir occasionally, letting the sauce thicken and flavors meld. Add the shrimp pieces and let it simmer until they are just cooked (about 2 minutes).

Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid and then drain the pasta. Add pasta and 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking liquid to sauce and cook, tossing often and adding more pasta water if needed to help finish cooking pasta, until pasta is al dente and sauce is thickened (but still saucy) and coats pasta, about 5 minutes.

Add the scallions and finish with another drizzle of good olive oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper, garnishing with parsley.

Pork Cheek Ragu and Parmesan Grits

If you are lucky enough to find a butcher that sells pork cheeks but you have not tried them yet, you need to fix that soon.  This is one of the most perfect pieces of meat on the pig and it doesn’t get the love it deserves.  When cooked properly, the cheek portions melt into tender, silky, fall apart bites that is best compared to long braised short ribs.

I forgot to get a picture of this when it was done but instead have a picture of the cheeks prior to braising.

Pork Cheek Ragu and Parmesan Grits


  • 2 pounds trimmed pork cheeks (if pork cheeks are unavailable, use boneless pork shoulder cut into 3″ chunks)
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon neutral high heat oil (grapeseed oil is great for this)
  • 1 large onion, rough chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup bold red wine (cab, zin, or merlot)
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 sprigs oregano (1/2 tablespoon dried)
  • 4 sprigs thyme (1/2 tablespoon dried)
  • 2 sprigs rosemary (1/2 tablespoon dried)
  • 2 bay leaves


  • 1 cup stoneground grits
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Handful chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high.  Sear the pork on all sides until evenly browned. Set aside.  Add onion to the pot and cook until the onion softens (5-7 minutes), then add the garlic. Stir until fragrant (about 1 minute) then add the tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly darkened in color (about 4-5 minutes).  Add the wine and scrape up any browned bits and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add tomatoes, oregano, thyme, rosemary, bay leaves, crushed red pepper, 2 cups water, and the pork with any juices accumulated on the platter; season with salt and pepper. Bring the pot to a low boil, then cover and place in the oven for 2.5-3 hours.  You basically want it to go until the pork falls apart with the touch of a fork.

Taste and season with salt and pepper then recover and set aside.

Bring 2 teaspoons of salt and water to a boil in a medium pot. Whisking constantly, gradually add grits; reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook, whisking often, until grits are tender and creamy, 20–25 minutes (if grits becomes too thick, add more water if needed).  Add butter and Parmesan to grits and whisk until melted; season with salt and pepper.

Spoon grits into a bowl or onto a plate and top with chunks of pork and sauce.  Scatter parsley and more Parmesan over top and serve with a green salad or another veggie on the side.

Plukkfisk (Norwegian Cod and Potatoes)

When Nina and I were on our honeymoon this summer, one of the best meals we had was in Bergen, Norway at a restaurant called Bare Vestland.  Most of the courses were extremely modern and creative but one stood out because of its simplicity and its history as one of Norway’s most well loved peasant dishes.  As I was eating it I knew I wanted to try and replicate it when I got home.  The dish is called plukkfisk and it is composed of potatoes, cod, leeks, bacon, and a standard bechamel sauce.

The small handful of recipes I was able to find differed in a few ways from the dish we had at Bare Vestland.  The restaurant version was more like a loaded mashed potato texture and included pickled leeks as a topping which added a nice acidity.  I think (could be wrong) that they also skipped the bechamel in favor of copious amounts of butter.  The recipe below is my attempt at molding what we had with what I am seeing online.  I was very happy with the results and will definitely make this again.

Plukkfisk (Norwegian Cod and Potatoes)

  • 1 large leek or 2 medium, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 pound cod
  • 5-6 medium yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2.5 tablespoons flour
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 4 slices bacon
  • Handful of chives, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put half the chopped leeks in a small bowl or coffee cup and add just enough cider vinegar to cover.  Set aside.

Place the potatoes in a pot of salted water and boil until almost done (some resistance when piercing them with a knife).  Strain and let them cool for a few minutes, then roughly mash.  They should resemble loosely mashed potatoes that still have chunks.

In a large heavy pan (this will later need to hold everything), melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat and cook your cod until it flakes easily.  Set the fish aside and wipe out the pan.  Add the bacon and cook until crisp.  Leave about a tablespoon of the grease and then add the onions.  Cook until translucent, then add the remaining leeks.  Saute for another minute and then reduce the heat to low.  Fold the potatoes into the pan, keeping everything at a nice warm temperature.

Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter in a saute pan over medium heat.  Once melted, whisk in the flour so it becomes incorporated.  Once smooth, start gradually adding in the milk while constantly whisking.  Season with salt and pepper and let it simmer for about 7-10 minutes.  The sauce should be relatively thick like a sausage gravy.

Flake the fish onto the potatoes and gently mix together.  Pour the sauce over the potato/leek/onion/fish mixture, lightly mix together, and season with salt and pepper.

Serve the plukkfisk topped with the crispy bacon, strained pickled leeks, and chopped chives.


Brunswick Stew and Cornbread Muffins

Like many other stew recipes, Brunswick stew comes in about a million different variations and folks are very vocal about their preferences.  I personally like the smoked pork and chicken combo best with a mustard sauce in the base.  Any of the veggies can be removed and others (like okra) can certainly be added.

This goes great with cornbread muffins.  I made mine following Edna Lewis’ recipe which I also included below.

Brunswick Stew

  • 2 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons bacon drippings
  • 1 large sweet onion, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. high-quality Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 cup sweet mustard base barbecue sauce**
  • 1 lb. smoked pulled pork shoulder meat
  • 1 lb. smoked pulled chicken
  • 1 lb. yukon gold potatoes, diced small
  • 3 cans (14oz) crushed tomatoes (fire roasted if possible)
  • 1 bag (12oz) frozen (or canned) corn
  • 1 can crowder peas
  • 1 bag (12oz) frozen (or canned) field peas or lima beans
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • Hot Sauce to taste

Heat butter and bacon fat in a good sized pot over medium high heat.  Add onions and saute until golden (5 min) then add the garlic.  Once softened, add the cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, and Worcestershire sauce.  Let this cook for a few minutes then add the ketchup, barbeque sauce, and the meats, adding a little more sauce if needed to completely cover the meat.  Cook for a few minutes, stirring so it doesn’t stick.

Add potatoes, tomatoes, corn, peas, beans, and chicken stock then bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and let this simmer on low  for a few hours.  Add more stock if needed to get to the desired consistency.  Once done, add hot sauce to taste and serve with cornbread.

Mustard Base BBQ sauce

  • 1 1/2 cup yellow mustard
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic power
  • 1/2 tablespoon black pepper

Add all ingredients and stir until smooth and incorporated.


Edna Lewis Cornbread Muffins

  • 2 tablespoons lard or butter, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 ½ cups corn flour or extra-fine cornmeal (not cornstarch)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 ½ cups buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400. Generously grease the wells of the muffin pan with 2 tablespoons of lard or butter, leaving the extra fat in the wells. In a mixing bowl, sift together the corn flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

When the oven is hot, place the muffin tin inside to preheat. Meanwhile, stir the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and mix well, then stir in the egg and 2 tablespoons melted butter. When the muffin pan is very hot (if using butter to grease, the butter should have just stopped sizzling), carefully remove it, and quickly fill each well with about 3 ounces of batter. Bake for 17-20 minutes, rotating once, until a toothpick comes out clean and the edges of the muffins are golden brown.

Let the pan cool for 2 minutes on a rack, then remove the muffins. (If necessary, use a paring knife to release them.) Serve muffins hot, with butter.