Wali Ya Mboga

In Swahili, wali ya mboga translates to “rice and vegetables.” This upscale version incorporated chicken as well. This dish was similar to a biryani with layered rice with greens, caramelized onions, and yogurt-marinaded chicken in tomato curry sauce. To serve, each serving was also topped with pickled onions, called kachumbar, and salted creamy yogurt. Beyond full-flavored.

I must mention that I really browned my tomato paste during the cooking process. Recently, I have read about the importance of letting tomato paste darken for optimal flavor- apparently, I took this advice to heart! The sauce in my finished dish was much deeper in color than in the original recipe.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Zaynab Issa. I modified the proportions and method. I boiled the rice as instructed in the original recipe but struggled with the method- and wasn’t completely thrilled with the resulting texture. Next time, I would cook the rice using a traditional method or use a much larger pot to boil the rice.

Yield: 6 servings

For the Dish:

  • 1 2/3 cups good-quality white basmati rice (such as Shahzada)
  • 1/4 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (not Greek) (I used whole milk cream-top plain yogurt)
  • one 1″ piece ginger, scrubbed, finely grated (about 1 T)
  • 8 large garlic cloves, finely grated or pushed through a garlic press, divided
  • 2 3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 3/4 tsp Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric, divided
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 8 medium)
  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 4.5 to 4.6 oz tube double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp Kashmiri chile powder or a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, kale, or spinach, tough ribs and stems removed, sliced into 1″ ribbons (I used baby spinach- not cut or stemmed, about 8 cups, packed)

To Serve:

  • 1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 green Thai chile or 1/2 large jalapeño, seeds removed if desired, sliced
  • 2 T diced cherry, grape or Campari tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (not Greek) (I used whole milk cream-top plain yogurt)

To Make the Dish:

  1. Place rice in a medium bowl and pour in cold water to cover. Agitate rice with your hands until water is cloudy. Drain and repeat until water is almost clear (about 3 times). Pour in water to cover rice by 2″; soak at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.
  2. Stir yogurt, ginger, half of garlic, 3/4 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/2 tsp Morton kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp turmeric in a medium bowl to combine. Season with pepper. Add chicken thighs, turning to coat. Let sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium to medium-high. (I used a large enameled cast iron pot.)
  4. Add onion and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/4 tsp Morton kosher salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is frizzled and deeply browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer onion to a plate and set aside.
  5. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in same skillet (still over medium to medium-high).
  6. Working in batches if necessary, remove chicken from marinade and cook until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes on the first side and 4 minutes on the second side. Transfer chicken to a plate, leaving oil behind.
  7. Add tomato paste, coriander, cumin, chile powder, remaining half of garlic, remaining 1 1/2 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp Morton kosher salt, and remaining 1/4 tsp turmeric to skillet. Cook over medium to medium-high, stirring often, until tomato paste turns a shade darker in color, about 5 minutes.
  8. Reduce heat to low, stir in 1 cup water, and bring to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until flavors come together and sauce has thickened, 10–12 minutes.
  9. Return chicken to pan and stir to coat in sauce. Remove from heat; cover and keep warm. (I placed the pan in a warming drawer.)
  10. Drain rice and cook in a very large pot of boiling generously salted water 10 to 15 minutes, until tender. (Alternatively, the rice can be cooked traditionally using a 1:2 ratio with boiling water. Cook, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes.)
  11. Stir the Swiss chard, kale or spinach into the rice.
  12. Continue to cook until rice is tender and greens are wilted and bright green, about 1 to 3 minutes more.
  13. Drain in a colander and let sit 10 minutes to allow moisture to steam off.

To Assemble and To Serve:

  1. While the rice rests, combine onion, lemon juice, chiles, tomatoes, and 1/4 tsp Diamond Crystal or 1/8 tsp Morton kosher salt in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to combine, breaking up the onion slices. Let kachumbar sit 5 minutes.
  2. Stir yogurt and remaining salt in another small bowl.
  3. To serve, fluff rice with a fork, making sure the greens are evenly distributed; transfer to a platter.
  4. Scatter reserved caramelized onions over and arrange chicken on top. (Or for a more casual look, return rice to pot and gently stir in chicken and onion.)
  5. Serve with kachumbar and salted yogurt alongside.

Pappardelle with Pancetta, Broccoli Rabe, & Pine Nuts

I could eat broccoli rabe with a side of broccoli rabe- an absolute favorite. My husband could eat pappardelle with a side of pappardelle. 😉 Now you can see why this dish was perfect for our Valentine’s Day dinner! Everyone loved it. ❤

This recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Kristine Kidd. I modified the proportions and method. Fabulous.

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled, flattened
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces cubed pancetta
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed (I used a mortar & pestle)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 large bunches broccoli rabe (also called rapini; generous 2 pounds), stems sliced 1/2 inch thick, tops cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups water
  • 17.64-ounce (500 g) package dried pappardelle pasta
  • 2 cups freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus additional for serving
  • 1/2 cup raw pine nuts, toasted (@375 degrees for about 5 minutes)
  1. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet, preferably with a lid, over medium heat. (I used a large enameled cast iron pan.)
  2. Add garlic and cook until golden brown, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes. Discard garlic.
  3. Add onion, pancetta, and fennel seeds to skillet; sauté until onion is tender and pancetta begins to brown, about 8 minutes.
  4. Add dried crushed red pepper, then broccoli rabe stems and cook 4 minutes to soften slightly, stirring occasionally.
  5. Stir in broccoli rabe tops, sprinkle with salt, and add 2 cups water. Cover and cook until stems and tops are tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups cooking liquid.
  7. Add pasta to skillet with broccoli rabe and stir over low heat to combine, adding reserved pasta cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls to moisten if necessary.
  8. Stir in 2 cups of the cheese. Season to taste with salt and generous amount of pepper.
  9. Transfer to shallow bowls, if desired. (I served it in the pot.) Sprinkle with pine nuts and garnish with additional cheese.

One-Pot Baked Ziti with Italian Sausage & Spinach

In New York, today is a day for cheesy snow-day comfort food.

This dish could be made in a single pot but I must confess that I transferred the pasta to a casserole dish prior to browning it in the oven. This was completely unnecessary but I liked the increased surface area exposed for browning.

The recipe was adapted from Cook’s Country. I modified the method and proportions. I also used crushed tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. We ate it with garlic bread and green salad. Great.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 10 to 11 ounces (about 4 links) sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 2/3 cups water
  • 16 ounces (1 pound) ziti
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) chopped fresh basil (chiffonade)
  • 9-10 ounces (9 cups) baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • 8 ounces whole-milk fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 2/3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 1/3 cups), divided (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 11 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
  1. Cook sausage in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, breaking up pieces with spoon, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.)
  2. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Stir in crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes and their juice, salt, oregano, sugar, and pepper flakes. Bring mixture to boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in water, pasta, and 6 tablespoons chopped basil. Increase heat to high and bring to boil.
  5. Reduce heat to medium and simmer vigorously, uncovered, until pasta is still very firm but just starting to soften, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Adjust oven rack 8 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. (I set my oven to Broil+Max @450 degrees.)
  7. Remove pot from heat and stir in spinach, half of the mozzarella, and 1 cup grated Parmesan. If using a separate casserole dish, transfer the mixture after incorporating the spinach and cheese. (I placed the casserole dish on a rimmed baking sheet and covered the handles with foil to protect them.)
  8. Dollop surface of pasta evenly with spoonfuls of ricotta.
  9. Top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan.
  10. Broil ziti until cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time.
  11. Transfer to wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
  12. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons basil and serve.

One-Pot Creamy Pasta & Greens

This dish makes creamed spinach the main event rather than a decadent side. This version is actually less indulgent as well. It incorporates milk instead of cream and uses pasta and its starch as a thickener.

The original article actually states that classic creamed spinach isn’t that good. :/ I love creamed spinach! For years, my husband and I used to celebrate his birthday at a steakhouse- the creamed spinach saved me. (I’m not a steak fan!)

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Ali Slagle. I used loads of fresh greens from my CSA share rather than frozen chopped spinach. We ate it as a vegetarian main dish (with roasted CSA veggies on the side) but it could also be served as a hearty side, of course. Creamy and filling.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 7 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 5 cups whole milk, plus more as needed (I added an additional cup of 1% milk)
  • 1 pound stemmed and sliced fresh greens (I used a combination of kale, collard and cauliflower greens) OR 10 ounces frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 wide lemon peel strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • dash of red pepper flakes, optional
  • 10 to 12 ounces ditalini, orzo or pearl couscous
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
  1. If using fresh greens, stem, slice, and wash them.
  2. Place the greens in a steamer basket in a large pot (I used a pasta pot); cook until wilted, about 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Strain the steamed greens to drain as much excess liquid as possible. (I used a ricer for this task.)
  4. Chop the steamed and strained greens; set aside.
  5. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 4 minutes.
  6. Add the 5 cups milk, chopped greens (or spinach), lemon peel, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, if using, freshly ground black pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the greens (or frozen spinach) with your spoon, until the greens have softened and the milk is just simmering, 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. Add the pasta and cook, stirring often and vigorously, until the pasta is al dente, 20 to 25 minutes, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer. If it looks dry at any point, add more milk. (I ultimately added an additional cup of milk.) The mixture will continue to thicken as it sits, so it’s okay if the sauce looks a little soupy.
  8. Once the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat, discard the lemon peels, and stir in the Parmesan until melted.
  9. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve with more Parmesan.

Roasted Lemon Chicken over Garlicky Greens & Rice with Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

This full-flavored weeknight dish was healthy and delicious. The yogurt sauce was an essential element for my family. Any combination of greens could be used in this dish- I used the ingredients that had just arrived in my CSA box. 🙂

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. I incorporated sautéed collard greens, bok choy, and leeks. I served the chicken and greens over brown Basmati rice drizzled with pan juices. We also had warm naan on the side. Great.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

For the Chicken:

  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used 7 thighs)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely grated, minced or passed through a press
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh thyme and/or oregano leaves (I used 1/2 T each) (can substitute 1 teaspoon dried thyme or oregano)
  • large pinch of red-pepper flakes
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lemon, cut lengthwise into 8 thin wedges

For the Garlicky Greens:

  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 bunch of collard greens, ribs removed, halved lengthwise
  • 2 baby bok choy
  • 1-2 leeks (I used 1 1/2 large leeks), sliced into 1/4-inch half moons and soaked
  • 5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • large pinch of red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 T sherry vinegar

For the Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek or other strained, thick yogurt (or substitute labneh or sour cream) (I used 2% Greek yogurt)
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated seedless cucumber, such as Persian or hothouse cucumbers
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated, minced or passed through a press

To Serve:

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, parsley, and/or cilantro, for garnish
  • brown Basmati rice, for serving
  • warm flatbread, such as naan, for serving, optional

To Prep & Roast the Chicken:

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.)
  2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season generously with the salt and pepper.
  3. In a large bowl, combine 4 of the grated garlic cloves, thyme and/or oregano, red-pepper flakes, and olive oil.
  4. Add chicken and lemon wedges, and toss until well coated. (If you want to work ahead, you can refrigerate the chicken for up to 12 hours before roasting.) (I marinated the chicken in the refrigerator for 6 hours prior to cooking.)
  5. To Prep the Greens: Cut the ribbed collards into 1/4-inch ribbons. Slice ribbons in half; set aside. Cut the leafy portion of the bok choy into 1/2-inch ribbons. Rinse and dry the collards and leafy bok choy. Cut the bok choy stems into 1/8-inch pieces, cutting larger pieces in half to make relatively equal-sized pieces. Soak separately from the leafy greens to clean; rinse, dry, and set aside.
  6. Arrange chicken and lemons on a parchment paper-lined, rimmed sheet pan in a single layer.
  7. Roast until chicken is cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes in a convection oven, or up to 27 to 35 minutes in a standard oven. The internal temperature should be 165 degrees on an instant read thermometer.
  8. After placing the chicken in the oven, cook the rice, the greens, and make the sauce. (see below)

To Cook the Garlicky Greens:

  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-high. Add the soaked and strained leeks, sliced garlic, and chopped bok choy stems. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the washed leafy greens, 1 to 2 handfuls at a time, and stir until wilted. Continue until all of the greens have been added to the pan. Cook until tender, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Season with the sherry vinegar as well as salt and pepper, to taste.

To Make the Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce:

  1. Stir together yogurt, grated cucumber and clove of minced garlic in a small bowl.
  2. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and keep in refrigerator until ready to serve.

To Serve:

  1. Layer the sautéed greens over the rice on a platter or other serving dish.
  2. Top with the roasted chicken. Squeeze roasted lemon wedges all over chicken, and sprinkle with mint/parsley/cilantro and more red-pepper flakes, if desired.
  3. Drizzle some of the accumulated pan juices over the top of everything.
  4. Serve chicken accompanied by cucumber-yogurt sauce and warm flatbread.

Kale & Spinach Spanakopita Pie

This savory pie gobbled up all of the kale from my CSA box. Kale is more appetizing to my crowd when it’s paired with lots of salty cheese. 🙂 We ate it as a main course with sliced heirloom tomatoes and green salad on the side. It would be wonderful served for brunch or a special lunch too.

This recipe was adapted from The Washington Post, contributed by G. Daniela Galarza. I modified the method and incorporated my CSA purple kale and Toscano kale along with baby spinach. Swiss chard and/or collard greens could also be used in the filling.

The original recipe notes that sheep’s milk feta is traditional in spanakopita but any salty, crumbly or grated cheese such as cojita, chevre, extra-sharp white cheddar, paneer or pecorino would also work. The pie can also be made without the crust as a gluten-free option. Healthy and delicious.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 bunch (about 4 ounces) scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 8 to 10 cups (about 10 ounces) baby spinach (whole) and/or other greens (I used stemmed purple and Toscano kale, sliced into 1/4-inch ribbons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces phyllo dough, about half a box, defrosted
  • 1 bunch (about 1 heaping cup leaves) fresh dill or parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 6 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, whisked well
  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. (I used a 14-inch stainless skillet.)
  2. Add the scallions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the spinach/greens and salt, and cook until the greens wilt, release their liquid, and dry out, about 5 minutes.
  4. Scrape the mixture into a large bowl and let it cool while you prep the other ingredients and prepare the crust.
  5. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees. (I set my oven to true convection.)
  6. Brush a 9-inch pie plate with olive oil or coat with cooking spray. (I used a ceramic deep dish pie plate.)
  7. Crumble the feta in a medium bowl. Add the breadcrumbs, black pepper, and chopped herbs. Set aside.
  8. Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl. Set aside.
  9. Unravel the phyllo dough onto a clean, dry work surface. (I cover the stack with damp paper towels, topped with plastic wrap to prevent the dough from drying out.)
  10. Working quickly, gently brush the top sheet of phyllo with some olive oil. There’s no need to oil every spot; the oil will spread as you work. Pick up the first three or four sheets of phyllo in a stack and lay them, oil side up, in the pan, allowing one narrow end to cover the bottom of the pan and the other end to climb up the side of the pie plate and hang over the edge. (I layered the sheets one by one but would group them next time!)
  11. Repeat, brushing the top of the remaining stack of phyllo sheets, and placing the next three or four sheets into the pan, oil side up. Continue oiling and fitting the oiled phyllo into the pie plate, rotating the pan so that the bottom is covered and a roughly even amount of phyllo is hanging over the circumference of the pie plate. This will not look perfect; if the phyllo tears, patch it and keep going. Set the pie plate aside.
  12. Add the chopped herbs, breadcrumbs, feta and black pepper to the cooled spinach, stirring to combine.
  13. Add the eggs, mixing well to combine.
  14. Pour the filling into the phyllo-lined pie plate and, using your fingers, crinkle the phyllo overhang partially over the top of the pie, leaving a 5- to 6-inch diameter in the center exposed. The more crinkled the top is, the nicer it will look once baked, so don’t worry about making this look neat.
  15. Lightly oil any dry spots of phyllo before baking, if needed.
  16. Bake for 22 to 35 minutes, or until the filling is set and the phyllo is deep brown in places, like the color of an almond skin. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Note: The filling can be made one day in advance.

Sautéed Greens with Corn, Bacon & Scallions

I have a couple dishes to share that are absolutely loaded with greens. This colorful dish could be served as a main but we ate it as a hearty side with grilled mustard chicken thighs and roasted potatoes. I drizzled the potatoes with residual bacon fat (from this dish) prior to roasting- great.

This recipe was adapted from The Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman, via The New York Times, contributed by Julia Moskin. I modified the method and incorporated my CSA beet greens, kale, and collard greens. The original recipe notes that carrots or summer squash can be substituted for the peppers and corn. Easy and delicious.

Yield: Serves 6 as a side

  • 4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • shallot or small onion, minced
  • 3 cups corn kernels, from about 4 ears corn (or a combination of corn and diced summer squash)(thawed frozen corn okay)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red or orange bell pepper (or carrot)
  •  pinch red pepper flakes
  •  coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
  • 6 to 8 cups de-stemmed greens, like chard or kale, cut into 1/4-inch ribbons (or whole baby spinach, or another tender green)(I used a combination of beet greens, kale, & collard greens)
  1. Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat, turning occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 10 minutes. (I used a large enameled cast iron Dutch oven.) Transfer to paper towels to drain; pour off all but a teaspoon of fat from the skillet. (Reserve the bacon fat for another use- such as roasting potatoes!)
  2. Add butter and melt.
  3. Add shallot (and carrot, if using) and adjust heat; vegetables should sizzle, but not scorch. Cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add greens and cook for about 4 minutes, until beginning to wilt.
  5. Add corn (and/or squash), peppers, and pepper flakes and let sizzle, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 3 to 5 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Crumble bacon and add to skillet with scallions. Cook together 1 minute and serve hot.

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