Every single meal is an opportunity to nourish your body and do something good for yourself,” says Annie Lawless, cofounder of the organic cold-pressed juice company Suja Juice, who’s now running her own nontoxic beauty brand, Lawless Beauty. When it comes to mealtime, she goes for unprocessed foods that give her body the nutrition it needs, like this tom kha soup filled with healthy veggies, spices, and herbs—the ultimate comfort food at the end of a long day.
Don’t let “smoky yogurt” make you think I’ve gone all cheffy on you. Yeah, in the restaurant the yogurt is actually smoked, but then I realized there’s some great-quality smoked sea salts out there that would also give you that effect (and you have to season the yogurt with salt anyway, so there you go). Liquid smoke also came up as a way to make this recipe more home cook–friendly, and though I dismissed it as a hack at first, I don’t believe the finest of palates could tell the difference between the real thing and the bottled thing. As for the crispy lentils, that idea came from Jonathon Sawyer, the amazing chef and wild man from Cleveland. He’s a total process guy, and every time I talk to him he’s got some technique he’s doing that’s really cool and delicious. He taught me that one way to get incredibly crispy lentils is to cook them until they’re tender, Cryovac them with a lot of olive oil and salt, and let them cure for a month before frying them. The final product is really good, but sorry, Johnny. Perry soaks them overnight and fries them in a skillet, and they’re just about as good. Perfect for all your crunchy-bit needs, or even on their own by the handful as a snack. So you got your yogurt, you got your roots, you got your chicories drizzled with dill vinaigrette, and then there’s the smoky yogurt and crispy lentils over the top. It’s a pretty solid deal.
There is something universal about dumplings—we all connect over our shared love of boiled dough stuffed with a filling of sorts. While there are so many types of dumplings native to different parts of the former Soviet Union, Siberia’s claim to fame is its own signature type called Siberian pelmeni. These tiny round dumplings stuffed with a blend of ground pork and beef are consumed with a generous chunk of butter, black pepper, and sour cream or—and this is my family’s favorite—in their own richly flavored cooking broth, with plenty of black pepper, of course! My dad would often have these (as well as pretty much anything else) with soy sauce that his mother would send us from his home town of Khabarovsk way before it became widely available in shops all over Russia. Since pelmeni were usually eaten in winter when no fresh herbs were available, adding fresh dill was not common practice, but I would highly recommend this to you these days, as well as experimenting with other non-Russian herbs. Pelmeni in sage butter, anyone?
I pretty much always want something braised for dinner, and as much as I love braising the legs of a cow, pig, or lamb, they take a few hours to get tender and thus aren’t always the best option for a weeknight. A chicken’s legs, on the other hand, braise in less than an hour, so you can have a righteous braised dish any night of the stupid week! This super simple stew is inspired by autumn flavors, using bacon, fennel, and apples (both fresh and in hard apple cider). You could totally swap out the hard cider if you’re not into the alcohol, but I would use chicken stock or water rather than apple juice or fresh cider, either of which would make it a little too sweet. There’s something about the smoky, salty, sweet, and slightly bitter elements of this dish, cooked down with chicken that is just starting to fall apart, that makes me want to smoke cigars and write a novel, but I don’t actually like cigars, and if I wrote a novel, it would just be a fictional cookbook, so it’s probably better to stick with cooking chicken for now.
Pickled cabbage may seem like a strange ingredient to add, but it lends this dish a subtle lactic tang—we got the idea from Isa Chandra Moskovitz, a blogger whose recipe for mac and ’shews (cashews) is widely loved.
I’m a little obsessed with bean gratins. These cozy make-ahead suppers (or side dishes) are satisfying and economical, and they can take as little as twenty minutes to get into the oven. This Mediterranean-inspired version relies on a handful of ordinary ingredients—cooked beans (from scratch or a can), sautéed onions, sausage, canned tomatoes, and parsley—but somehow it all bakes up into one of those dishes that I can’t get enough of. It seems to get better with every bite, especially if that bite includes some of the crunchy bread crumb and cheese topping.
This recipe came to me by divine intervention. In a rush to make pork saltimbocca for dinner, I came to learn that my sage plant had been the victim of a terrible storm. Desperate to salvage supper, I had to use what little I had left in my kitchen (we’d just packed to move home) and all I could find was brandy, paprika and a little cream. I’m so grateful.
All the dishes in this chapter are made with chicken thighs, because I unashamedly love them. They’re succulent—so much better than breasts, which can dry out, in fact it’s hard to overcook chicken thighs—they all cook at the same time (and quickly), and there’s no carving. If you like a mixture of thighs and drumsticks, the recipes will will work with those, too, just replace half the thighs in any dish with drumsticks.
The flavors of a tagine without the fuss. This dish is quite sweet, because of the prunes, so it does need the preserved lemon to cut through that. If you don’t like prunes (I know they divide people), use dried apricots or pitted dates instead.
Rosemary Fried Chicken recipe by Fernay McPherson of Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement, with introduction from We Are La Cocina.