Recipe of the week

Red Lentil, Bulgur Wheat and Toasted Walnut Veggie Burgers by Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan


Cooked red lentils are very similar in texture to cooked split green peas; that is, they don’t hold their shape and tend to become very soft.   That’s why you most often see them in soup or Indian ‘dal’ recipes where a firm texture is not the end-goal.


They are surprisingly delicious as a vegetarian burger when mixed with a sturdier grain.  The bulgur wheat expands during cooking and binds the lentils together by absorbing liquid.  Chopped, toasted walnuts add texture as well. I have not added flour or egg as an additional binder; I spread my cooked mixture on a sheet pan and refrigerated until firm. (If, after a couple hours of chilling your mixture still seems wet and won’t hold a ‘patty-shape’ you may want to add a tablespoon or two of AP flour (all purpose).


I shaped them into 2 ½ -inch patties and coated them a ‘standard breading’ treatment, which in turn, provides structure and a crust. I pan-fried (sauté)  them and served them warm with some savory accompaniments:  caramelized onions, hummus, yogurt seasoned with Syrian Aleppo pepper flakes and drizzles of both pomegranate molasses and tahini sauce.  Sliced cucumbers and thinly sliced dill pickles would add a bit of crunch and a touch of piquancy.



Roasted Cauliflower Wedges with Clarified Butter and Tahini Sauce by Foodie’s Market Chef Laura Brennan


Roasted cauliflower lives up to its hype; roasting greatly improves the flavor. 

I have always roasted smaller pieces of cauliflower or ‘flowerets’, coated in extra-virgin olive oil in a hot oven, with great success. However, I have less successfully roasted cauliflower ‘slices’ which seem to always fall apart. Hence, the roasted wedge recipe here: each quarter piece is still attached to the core during roasting.  To add flavor, I first prepared clarified butter and used this fat as my cooking medium.  Cauliflower and butter are a complementary pairing and clarifying the butter first, removes the dairy ‘solids’ and enhances the ‘nuttiness’ of the finished dish.



A Frittata Savory Custard for your lunch box by Foodie’s Market’s Chef Laura Brennan


My old-school Italian grandmother, Giuseppina, always had a frittata or the makings of a frittata on the stovetop.  I say this because there was ALWAYS a pan of sautéed peppers around.  I was intrigued by the pile of glistening strips that always seemed more ‘animal’ than ‘vegetable’.  If it was summer, they were just waiting to be turned into a frittata; a quick-cooking supper dish which wouldn’t make the kitchen any hotter.


I have modernized her frittata a bit:  the peppers are dehydrated, I’ve used two different cheeses and I have baked them in muffin tins in the oven in a water-bath.  They are now suitable to be packed up for lunch on-the-go.


(And a frittata would typically be made with leftover bits & pieces of vegetables and cheeses; it was frugal as well as efficient. Food was not wasted.)



Pasta with Pesto, Green Beans and Crispy Potatoes A Dinner Against the Clock Recipe By Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan


Pasta with pesto, green beans and potatoes is a classic dish from the Liguria region of Italy. This region comprises a narrow crescent of land that curves around the sea at the ‘top of the boot’ and stretches from the French border into Tuscany.


This dish was one of my favorites at cooking school; I made the pesto by hand using a mortar and pestle.  And of course, I made fresh pasta as well.  A labor of love.


Fast forward a few decades and I now buy pre-made pesto, and use excellent quality dried Italian pasta, either linguine or trenette, a fettuccine-shaped flat noodle, traditionally served in Liguria.  I look for pesto that is made with at least 50% extra virgin olive oil and is sugar-free.  Read labels.   And I have substituted crispy potatoes for the boiled potatoes.  The crunch of the crispy potato is a great contrast to the overall softness of the dish.  This truly is a quick dish to prepare…you could have dinner on the table in 35 minutes or less.



Red Lentil Turkey Bolognese Sauce by Foodie’s Chef Laura Brennan


Winter is not quite over……. sigh.


So, there’s still time for one more Bolognese sauce. 


This one’s a bit lighter, using ground turkey and red lentils in lieu of the usual suspects.  There’s no cream and a bit of bacon, only if you fancy it.  It cooks up more quickly than its more traditional counterpart and is best served over a shaped-pasta (‘macaroni’) instead of a long pasta (‘spaghetti’).  And, while fresh-made pasta certainly has a place at the Italian table, this sauce needs the ‘al dente’ bite of dried durum wheat pasta.  Choose your favorite shape.



Stuffed Artichokes by Foodie’s Market’s Chef Laura Brennan

Everyone is longing for Spring and in the kitchen, nothing heralds Spring more than artichokes and peas…well, longer days and warmer weather do play their part! If you have never cleaned an artichoke, I recommend that you find an instructive ‘youtube’ video. I find them so helpful; the videos do a great job of translating words into pictures.

ITALIAN EASTER ‘QUICHE’ by Foodie’s Markets Chef, Laura Brennan

My first-generation Italian mother and aunts negotiated yearly about who was going to make the “Pizza Gana”. This was a rustic ‘pie’ enclosed in pastry, 4-5 inches deep, with a three-pound filling (!) of ricotta, hard-cooked eggs and assorted salamis, sausages and cheeses. It was very dramatic when sliced and very delicious to eat.
No one makes it anymore. Then my sister invited me to Easter Brunch and slyly asked if I knew how to make it. A challenge of sorts! I thought about it and decided that I would make a lightened version of the dish. In my version, the amount of meats and cheeses are decreased, there is only a bottom pastry crust and the whole pie is reduced to about 2-inches in depth. The traditional flavors remain, but it is restrained (think Chanel, not Versace).
I made it in a traditional ceramic French quiche dish with an approximate 11-inch diameter, about a 2-inches depth, a flat bottom and fluted sides. An ‘American’-style pie dish with sloping sides would also work.
I think this dish would best prepared in the style of my mother and her sisters; that is, divide the work over a couple of days. At the least, make the pastry dough a day or two before.

A Thai Inspired Ragu By Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan

I make this dish a few times every autumn/winter and the recent nor’easter propelled me into the kitchen in lieu of shoveling. I used ground turkey instead of the more traditional ground pork and added greens to the finished dish - both of these changes improve the overall nutrition.
I thought it would be a good recipe to share and I was wondering what to name it for the column.
I wondered what Thai grandmothers call this dish? My Italian grandmother would have called it a ‘ragu’…..and so, it became “ A Thai-Inspired-Ragu”.

SPICED CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA by Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan

Chicken Masala is an Indian dish that’s fairly quick and easy to prepare. If you like Indian spices then this is a good dish to practice the art of combining aromatic and assertive spices. Having trained with a French chef (Madeleine Kamman) and being of Italian heritage, I was once very hesitant to push my taste buds outside their comfortable European borders. But, I was completely smitten with the food of Paula Wolfert (traditional Moroccan cooking) and Ana Sortun (modern Turkish cuisine). And I started to cook with different spices and slowly developed a ‘taste-memory’ for them. Once you can remember what new spices taste like, separately and combined, you can begin to incorporate them into your repertoire with confidence.

Classic French Potato Gratin by Foodie’s Markets Chef Laura Brennan


I had chores to do after school and thankfully one of them was dinner prep. That was more enjoyable than say…folding clothes.  One of my Irish-German aunts taught me how to make ‘scalloped potatoes’:  sliced potatoes layered in a rectangular glass Pyrex dish with milk, margarine(!), salt and pepper.  No cheese or other flavors as I recall. Usually served with ham.  It was yummy, but the milk always curdled a bit rendering it more utilitarian than beautiful.  (Some recipes add a sprinkle of flour, but we never did.)                      Fast forward fifteen years and I’m enrolled in The Modern Gourmet Cooking School in Newton Center.  And we make a layered potato dish with a beautiful name: “Gratin Dauphinoise”.  The ingredients, in addition to the potatoes; more thinly and evenly sliced, now include a fine parsley-garlic mix (‘persillade’), heavy cream, salt, fresh ground white pepper & nutmeg and often gruyere cheese.  WOW!


I’ve continued to make many more potato gratins in my long career.  And in a nod to healthier eating, I don’t use heavy cream any more.  I think half-and-half has enough milk fat to prevent curdling.  It’s still a rich dish, worthy of a special occasion. For Easter, I’m serving this gratin with roast pork, so I’m flavoring the cream (that bathe the potatoes in the oven) with Dijon mustard, fresh thyme sprigs and crushed garlic cloves.  The infused cream will subtly flavor the potatoes and the top will be beautifully browned. It will be a delicious and elegant addition to the Easter buffet.