Stirring the pot, part 2: recipes from author/chef Mollie Katzen

Posted by on Feb 8, 2010 in Inspiration | 2 comments

Food is powerful. It can engage, embrace, empower and entertain. It can inspire community, sharing and love. It can make you feel “I am woman (or man)” or stir powerful memories.

Mollie Katzen has shared two of her favorites that respectively represent empowerment and community. The first, from her book Still Life with Menu, is filled with greens and pasta and feta cheese, a powerful combination of flavors, textures and nutritious wonder.  The second is a lovely Indian-inspired dish; truly, what’s better than a big, thick dal with split peas and lots of exotic spices?


Pasta with Greens & Feta

Mollie Katzen (© All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.)

Here is a painless way to slip some of those ultra-nutritious bitter greens into our diet.  You can use any combination of kale, mustard, collard, dandelion, escarole, chard, beet,  turnip, or spinach.

The instructions call for “short, substantial pasta,” and I have suggested a few forms. This kind of sauce, with tender pieces of onion and bite-sized flecks of greens, studded with soft crumbles of feta, adheres best to small shapely units of pasta.  Each mouthful of this dish delivers a beautiful integration of textures and truly satisfying flavor.

3 to 6 tablespoon olive oil

3 to 4 cups chopped onion (pieces can be on the large side – up to you)

3 or more bunches leafy greens – washed, dried, stemmed (if necessary) and coarsely chopped (8 or more cups chopped)


3/4 pound penne, fusilli, shells, orechiette, farfalle, or some comparable short, substantial pasta

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

Freshly ground black pepper

Chopped walnuts, lightly toasted (optional)

Put up the pasta water to boil.  Place a deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat, and wait for about a minute. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan, then wait another 30 seconds or so. Add the onions, and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, add the pasta to the water when it boils.

Add as many of the chopped greens as will fit to the skillet, salt lightly, and stir until the greens begin to wilt.  The wilting will make room for more of the greens, so add as many more as will fit, salting lightly as you go, and lifting/turning the greens (cooked and uncooked) with tongs.   Keep doing this over medium-low heat until all the greens are in and they are all wilted.

When the pasta is done to your liking (keep it on the al dente side) scoop it out with a “spider” or a strainer, bit by bit, hold it over its cooking water briefly to drain, then add it directly to the potful of sauce. (You don’t need to drain the pasta thoroughly – okay if some water adheres…) Mix with tongs until reasonably well blended, sprinkling in the feta as you go.  Grind in a generous amount of black pepper.

Cook the complete dish just slightly over low heat for just a few minutes (really just until the feta melts in a little). Serve immediately, topped with walnuts, if desired.

Preparation time: About 40 minutes. Yield:  4 to 6 servings

Yellow Split Pea Dahl

Mollie Katzen  (© All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.)

“Dahl” in Indian cooking refers to porridgelike dishes made from legumes – usually split peas, mung beans, or lentils.  Dahl is often served in a thinned state as a soup, but equally often, it well be a thick, hearty side dish.  This is a thick one, comprehensive and highly spiced enough to be the focus of a meal.  It goes beautifully with basmati rice (I especially like the rice with toasted almonds added), and keeps and reheats very well.

2 cups yellow split peas

2 tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

2 tablespoons ground coriander

2 tablespoons mustard seeds

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon cinnamon

10 to 12 medium-sized garlic cloves, minced or crushed

1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper


Place split peas and 10 cups water in a soup pot or Dutch oven Cover and heat to boiling point, then reduce heat and simmer very slowly, partially covered – stirring intermittently- for about 2 1/2 hours, or until very soft.

About 45 minutes into the simmering, heat the oil in a small skillet (over medium-low heat) and add the cumin and mustard seeds.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often, until the seeds smell toasty and make popping noises.  Add the remaining spices and the half the garlic, and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until everything is heated through and well mingled.  Add this mixture to the simmering split peas.

About 45 minutes later, add the remaining garlic.  Stir and continue to simmer.  As the dahl becomes thicker, you can add a heat diffuser under the pot to prevent sticking.  You can also add more water – 1/4 cup at a time.

When the split peas are tender, add salt, lemon juice, black pepper, and cayenne to taste.  Again, if desired, okay to add small mounts of additional water.  Simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes further, and serve hot.

Preparation time:  A few minutes of work; 2 1/2 hours of independent simmering Yield:  6 to 8 servings (maybe more, depending on the context)


  1. 2-8-2010

    Great post…I’ve always loved Mollie’s cookbooks and recipes…started using them in grad school when I went vegetarian for awhile. Love seeing a cooking post on Flashfree! Thanks.

  2. 2-8-2010

    wow sounds delicious, and the dahl sounds good for a cold day in winter


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