Lentil Turkey Chili


Leftovers Chili | The Food Poet

We eat leftovers. They wheedle their way into the handwritten weekly menu as proof that no matter how busy a week becomes we can find homemade food at the ready to ably feed ourselves. They provide the backbone to a quick lunch with substance. But, leftovers get a bit of a bad rap, don’t they? Just last week over tea with a friend, she recounted that she leaves the leftovers for her husband, something I have done and depending on the dish, will continue to do as I firmly fall into the camp of some foods don’t get better with time.

We rely on leftovers- they fill in the gaps of one of us at band practice and the other taking a class. But, sometimes I just can’t be bothered with having the same meal several times in rote repetition like a record with a scratch that plays the same bit of track that you enjoyed the first time until it becomes annoying. What’s remarkable is that over the span of one night’s digestion, compelling cuisine takes on a second class status as leftovers. I  have discovered, along with other home cooks, the way to make them the prep for tomorrow’s lunch.

Here’s the thing with leftovers and the aversion people bring to the brown bagged remnants, the quart sized-jar in the fridge or casserole dish with stair-stacked holes cut into the food. And, I want to be careful how I word this, the attitude to leftovers is indicative of first world problems. Where else is extra food considered something avoidable? When I worked at a restaurant, while putting myself through school, we wore metal pins on our uniforms, as a sign of our flair. I could have easily donned one that read “world’s worst up-seller” since the portion sizes served at the restaurant already were double what people could actually eat and more often than not, it pained me to scrape perfectly good food into the compost bin because a patron had met their fill.

Leftovers Chili | The Food Poet

Today, I want to talk about a way we can donate more than just a renewed sense of mindfulness toward our leftovers, instead focusing on an important cause. Nicole of The Giving Table invited people to donate their blog post today to the cause of “The Lunchbox Fund,” an initiative to feed South Africa. Encouraged to blog about lunch, and since my lunches consist of leftovers, here we are.

Did you know 65% of all South African children live in poverty. As evidenced through research by No Kid Hungry in the United States, we know that nourished children will do better in school by helping them stay alert and be able to retain what they are learning. I recently learned that nearly 20% of all children in South Africa are orphans, with approximately 1.9 Million of those children orphaned as a result of HIV and AIDS. These kids are left over from dire family circumstances. It makes me profoundly sad tinged with possibility.

Groups like The Lunchbox Fund identify schools or form partnerships with locally based NGOs or community organizations in order to evaluate and identify schools. They fund distributors to buy and deliver food, monitor the feeding scheme, implement a Project Manager, and deliver reports back to them for evaluation. In essence, they are helping radically address the food supply system for these children who might otherwise get looked over. Can I encourage you to consider that if you give $10, it will feed a child for a day. Giving overflows from a generous heart, so the amount isn’t as important as the practice and the response to the problem.  Consider giving to The Lunchbox Fund and forgoing lattes for a week- doing good might just be the ultimate morning jumpstart.

It’s almost time for lunch and leftovers are on the menu. Join me for a bowl of Lentil Turkey Chili?

Leftovers Chili | The Food Poet


This chili is perfect for serving on rainy or cold days (not that I’m complaining – we needed the rain that turned San Francisco into a wet wonderland this past weekend). This chili is a bit of a conglomeration of various leftovers. Taco Tuesdays makes extra ground meat than we can eat that night, so that gets added to the pot. The extra brown rice we make at the beginning of the week gets warmed and doled out into the bowls so the chili gets ladled over it. Leftover chicken or veggie stock gets used here too and unlike many recipes that only call for 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, this is a terrific recipe to use a whole jar of it or any tomato paste leftovers you might have lurking in the fridge. For garnishes, use what you have on hand. I give a few ideas of what’s in our fridge, but chili is open to creativity (ever try pulsing a chipotle from adobo sauce or adding some of the sauce to chili? Smoky goodness, right there.) These repurposed ingredients will feed you for lunch all week with enough to go in the freezer or to get repurposed another way.

YIELD: 6-8 servings

1 teaspoon grapeseed oil plus 1 tablespoon
1 red bell pepper
2 cups green lentils
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
tomato paste
1 cup water
32 ounce jar chopped tomatoes
1 cup cooked ground turkey
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 425 and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Rub a red bell pepper with oil and roast it in the oven for 20 minutes or until you see the skin char slightly. Cool the red bell pepper. Once cooled, remove the stem and seeds inside. Place the bell pepper in a container with high sides and a deep well. Blend with an immersion blender until pureed.

While the bell pepper is roasting, pick through the lentils, discarding any small rocks. In a large heavy pot, cover the lentils with about 3-4 inches of water and bring to a boil. Lower the temperature to simmer. Cover and cook them for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat for 1 minute. Drizzle in 1 tablespoon of grape seed oil and swirl the pan until the bottom is coated. Add the onions to the pan and brown them for about 4 minutes. Add in the garlic, 3 minutes in.

Drain the lentils from their cooking liquid. Transfer the lentils back to their pot along with the onion, garlic and vegetable stock. Place the pot over medium low heat. Whisk together 3 tablespoons of water with the tomato paste until smooth, adding the rest of the water until you’ve reached one cup. Pour it into the pot once you’ve got a thick red sauce. Open your jar of canned chopped tomatoes and break apart the tomatoes with your fingers over the pot, pouring in the jarred liquid too. Add the cooked ground meat to the pot, carefully breaking up any initial clumps with a large wooden spoon.  Stir in the chili powder, cayenne and salt. Cover the pot and let the chili simmer so the liquid reduces and it thickens up. Add the bell pepper puree to the chili.

Serve with brown rice. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream (or labneh or creme fraiche or Greek yogurt or…), grated leftover nubs of cheese (sharp cheddar works wonderfully) and minced scallions.


Creamy Black Beans with Melted Onions


It might seem like a given that a non-traditional person may not crave ritual.

I counter the presupposition happily. Each weekend, Saturday evenings to be precise, I pad into the kitchen, already clothed in pajamas to measure our black turtle beans and pour them into a big red bowl. They cascade into the bowl like dominoes clicking against one another when tipped over. The swish of water navigates between the beans until they are covered. I tackle this weekly soak as a ritual reserved right before bed.

This small act readies me for the coming week when the cooked beans will be our sustenance after a long Monday working and later in the week when we are looking for something healthy to eat that’s fast. They provide a continuity that sets us on a steadier path of making good choices. When paired with rice, we join the throngs of people around the world for whom rice and beans constitute a major part of their regular repast. These powerful ingredients work well together in forming a complete protein. Some people also turn to  beans for their low cost. Beans have a way of connecting the poor and the rich- their humility belying their strong health benefits.

making a pot of creamy black beans

Every two weeks, I know that quart sized jar will be running low and I subsequently plan a visit to the bulk bins. There’s something satisfying about watching an almost empty jar become full again. In its way, that emptying and refilling of the jar is reminiscent of life. In its way, it comprises the most basic ritual of all.

You may be vegetarian or vegan. Maybe you’re gluten intolerant or a real food purist. Perhaps you’re just looking to make healthier changes to your everyday choices. Can I suggest making beans a regular part of your routine? They are food of the soul of this non-traditional person who delights in the morning ritual of finding those hard black buttons hydrated and plumped overnight. They serve as signposts for what counts.

Creamy Black Beans Recipe



I use beef broth in this recipe. If you are vegetarian or vegan, feel free to substitute in vegetable broth. I’ve tried it that way and it’s still tasty though you may need to add a touch of salt as needed. Some pots of beans are kind of soupy with a lot of liquid. I like to cook these low and slow so that the liquid gets reduced down into a creamy consistency and the onions take on a melted quality. The beef broth adds a bit of an umami flavor note and an ever so slight smokiness.

YIELD: 6 side servings
TIME: overnight plus 2 hours

2 cups dry black turtle beans

4 cups organic beef broth (I use Pacific Foods)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin

4 sprigs of fresh cilantro


1. Allow your beans to soak overnight by covering the dried beans with water, making sure there is an extra inch of water above the beans, as you will find them plumped up the next morning.

2. Drain the soaking water the next day and discard it. Place beans in a heavy pot with beef broth, onion, cumin, olive oil and cilantro. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn down the heat and cover the pot partway with the lid, letting the ingredients simmer.

3. Low and slow is the name of the game here. Check and stir the beans occasionally. The beans will be done when they are soft and edible but not mushy with the liquid reduced to an almost gravy-like consistency, around an hour and a half to two hours.

4. Remove the cilantro sprigs and discard. Serve.


These are my go-to beans as they are versatile, so I like to keep them pretty true to form as stated above. I’ve noted a few ways to consider serving them below. Make them your own and adapt away (and if you do, leave a comment – I’d love to hear how your creativity runs wild).

– Serve with polenta or steamed rice with sautéed greens for an easy meal.

– Add extra broth as you heat up leftover beans and make an easy black bean soup. Serve with a dollop of plain’s goat milk yogurt and chopped raw red peppers.

– If you’re feeling particularly frisky in the kitchen, use an immersion blender and puree until smooth for a healthier take on refried beans.

– Stir in a spoonful of Oaxacan mole for a bit of chocolatey complexity and with fresh corn tortillas.




Bok Choy Bell Pepper Scramble

BRUNCH RECIPES- Bok Choy Bell Scramble

Breakfast is important in these here parts. Did you know it’s the most important meal of the day? One of the best things you can do for your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, boss, deskmate, and most definitely for yourself is not skip this meal of champions. You “break” the “fast” of eight hours sleep with a kickstart of food fuel to get your body and mind primed for the day.

Julia Child still has a thing or two to teach me about making the perfect omelette and perfecting the flip, so until that time, I am crazy about scrambles. Notably, I’m cuckoo about scrambles at posh and oh-so-delicious brunch locale extraordinaire Ella’s. They put the most creative combinations together of seasonal ingredients with flair. One of the ways they dress up a plate of eggs is with flavored creams (lime creme with salmon scramble anyone?) Yum.

I played a riff off of what Ella’s might make in looking through our cleaned up fridge. This includes new favorites virgin coconut oil and goat’s milk yogurt. We are switching to coconut oil in these parts because it can withstand high heat well, is packed with nutrients and good fat and it also kind of gives everything a bit of island flair. Goat’s milk yogurt and cheeses are new additions replacing our cow’s milk products as easier to digest alternatives. They’ve gotten me thinking I want goats in the future to join the chickens in the imaginary sprawl of lawn one day. If I had a goat, she’d be named Bessie and he’d be named Hal. But that is neither here nor there, and somewhere it’s time for breakfast…


Bok Choy Bell Pepper Scramble

YIELD: Serves 3

1. In a large sauce pan, heat the coconut oil over medium high heat. Add the peppers and bok choy to saute for about five minutes or until slightly charred on edges.

2. Then add in the caramelized onions, za’atar and sea salt. Stir and let meld for about a minute. With a fork, whisk the eggs.

3. Pour eggs over the sauteed veggies and let sit for 2 minutes, taking care to tip the pan as needed to spread the fluid egg out to the outer corners. Begin to chop and scramble the eggs and sauteed veggies and then let it cook until the eggs are cooked to your preference.

4. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of Purple Haze Chevre on each portion of the scramble. Serve with sliced avocados and a dollop of goat’s milk yogurt, which gives it a lovely tang.




Sweet Pepper Tilapia

FISH RECIPES- confetti-tilapia


Sweet Pepper Tilapia

This would be great served with brown rice or another whole grain. It’s light and cool for these hot summer days. I served it with zucchini ribbons, but that’s a recipe for another day.

YIELD: 2 servings

  • 2 tilapia filets
  • 4 sweet peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • Kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Meanwhile slice your peppers and onion.

3. Lightly grease pan with olive oil. Place fish in pan. (We used frozen tilapia so no need to defrost).

4. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and then sprinkle the sliced onion, peppers and capers over the fish. Dust with the spices and pinch of kosher salt.

5. Cook for 25 minutes. You can serve with a wedge of lemon to squeeze over the fish. Lemon seems to always be a great complement to fish.




Spiced Moroccan Chicken

The air was thick and moist. As Raju, our rickshaw driver pedaled onward, the slight breeze felt recompense to the Indian summer.

On this day, my translator Vinay was unavailable and my study partner Todd, back at the hotel with digestive distress. Today, my pregnant friend Laura and I arrived by my usual escort the smiling rickshaw driver Raju. Children pooled around the periphery of the slum, their home, eager and excited to see us. We meandered the narrow corridors, passing one slipshod home after another. My blue dupatta covered my head out of respect and I covered my mouth with another swath of it.

The cobbled path ended up outside the home of newfound friend Dolly, finding her hanging laundry. She invited us to sit on the cot outside her one room house and asked if we wanted sodas. We declined and yet she pressed on, soon dispatching a small child with the coins needed for Limca sodas for Laura and I. On this particular day, the sun beat down on us from the heavy-lidded monsoon sky. The sticky sweetness of that lime ginger soda washed away my thirst as sweat pooled along my temples. We sat together, as Dolly talked about her village and getting married at the age of six. Her neighbors stood nearby as children lounged, all intent on these Western women raptly listening to their friend. With the men at work, the women conducted the affairs of their homes and found pockets of time to congregate, enjoying each other’s company.

Dolly sang for us in her village language, a spirited song that trilled up and down. I noticed an old man stumbling down the lane. He looked like he would continue on his way until he saw Laura and I, and changed direction. He began meandering our way. The stench of alcohol was pronounced as was the pitch of his voice. He asked animated questions of us in hindi. He continued approaching and Dolly quickly ushered both Laura and I into her one room house. She locked the door. Outside we could hear her yelling at the old man. Laura translated that the man refused to leave until we came back out. His harassment continued unabated. I surveyed the room, trying to take my mind off of the crazy man now banging on the door separating us from him.

Several years ago in graduate school, we headed to India to conduct ethnographic research. Our small cohort of students set off to learn about the people and culture through the people themselves. We collected information, learning the semantics of the people in our community, learning about industry, relationship and belief.

If you want to understand a lot about a people group, find out whom they will eat with and whom they will marry. This detail reflects the fluidity or brittle nature of people far more than whom they will do business with. The community we learned about that summer consisted of a slum in East Delhi that at the time held around 44,000 people. As American students, we set off in pairs, accompanied by a translator. My partner that summer, Todd, had a rather weak constitution. Often, he would remain in the hotel and I would set off dressed in my salwar kameez and dupatta with my translator Vinay.

Often, people would speak to me in hindi and while flattered they thought I looked the part, humbly shook my head, “no.”

On this specific occasion, Laura and I had gone looking for songs and stories, not expecting a crazy man to interrupt our time with our new female friends. Eventually, he took off. Eventually the door was unlocked, but the camaraderie had changed. The spirit had lifted and moved on.

Hospitality takes many forms. Sacrifice: Limca sodas for two guests. Protection: Locking a door and keeping two guests safe. Out of the abundance of our friend Dolly’s heart, she showed us true hospitality and gave above and beyond her means. The following summer I returned to India and visited Dolly. She pulled the letter I’d written to her, along with a photo of the two of us from a tin box like a treasure.

I look back on that summer that almost wasn’t and consider how easily my steps could have led to Morocco but instead, I found myself in India learning hospitality in its varied forms.

Nathan and I have made a priority to practice hospitality. We believe there is power in the hospitable gesture and try to make a point of being good stewards with what we’ve been given. We have had the pleasure of cooking this Spiced Moroccan Chicken with Onions and Prunes recipe to rave reviews from a visiting filmmaker friend and parents. The sauce will make you want to lick every utensil that’s crossed its path. If you’re looking for leftovers- this is not your recipe. If you’re looking for a meal that will bring hospitality to your guests in the guise of tantalizing aroma and flavors to entice your tongue’s different taste zones- you’ve found it.


Spiced Moroccan Chicken

adapted from the Bon Appetit Cookbook

YIELD: 4 servings

  • 4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup pitted prunes
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • Chopped fresh cilantro

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sauté until brown and just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Using tongs, transfer chicken to plate. Add onions and garlic to same skillet. Saute until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Mix in flour, ginger, cinnamon, and cumin; stir 1 minute.

Gradually whisk in broth. Add prunes, lemon juice, and honey. Boil until sauce thickens enough to coat spoon, whisking occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Return chicken to skillet.

Simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken and sauce to platter. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

GLUTEN-FREE VARIATION: Substitute Gluten Free AP flour. Instead of serving this over cous cous, serve over rice.




Golden Borscht with Potato Crostini

SOUP RECIPES- Golden Borscht with Potato Crostini

It pays to have people in your life who entertain for a living. My friend Katy sings opera and can do a spot on perfect Scottish accent or Russian. I chalk it up to her time studying for a role in Eugene Onegin several years back. Regardless, her Russian accent inspired the nickname Olga, so Olga she remains to me.

Earlier this year, she performed in the Pirates of Penzance. She landed the role of the Pirate Queen so to speak and had great fun wearing ruffles, velvet and a saber on a regular basis. Nathan and I attended a matinee of her performance with the privilege of sitting alongside her parents watching her nursemaid transform into a pirate much later in the performance. She possesses great spirit on the stage and as the case stands for most mezzo-soprano roles, either takes her turn as a nurse, maid or elderly aunt. When the role calls for humor, she gives the audience a rollicking good time.

Summers in San Francisco can be a bit chilly and this one was no exception. I will remember me clad in turtlenecks and coats for the summer of 2010. After Pirates finished, Nathan, Tyler, Olga and I joined her parents at a bistro for a light early supper. Olga ordered borscht as we ordered the goulash to split with salad. I had never before had the occasion to try that bright purple soup. When the gauntlet comes down about what’s for dinner, I can’t say, “Russian!” is usually what pops out of my mouth. A spoonful of her soup was full of dill and a hearty flavor. I found myself intrigued and kind of eyeing that bowl of soup from across the table wondering if I might sneak another taste.

The Pirate Queen herself & parents
Sans pirate makeup
Trying on my best pirate snarl

I love homemade soup. November is beginning to feel chilly in the city and I felt an urge to tackle the borscht myself, giving it a bit of a different spin. Nathan is a good sport as he puts up with my kitchen experiments and joins me in their execution. Tonight, and really all last week, the desire for a good hearty beet soup put me in an expectant mood. This one does not disappoint; I heartily suggest eating the crostini and soup in the same bites.




adapted from the Culinary Institute of America’s “Gourmet Meals in Minutes


  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 celery stalks, trimmed, thinly sliced
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 head savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 3 golden beets, peeled, grated
  • 1/4 cup dill, minced
  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or as needed


  • 2 medium red fingerling potatoes, sliced thinly
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T of sour cream
  • 2 T of plain yogurt
  • 2 T dill, minced
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • Cracked black pepper & kosher salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350. Bring the broth to a simmer while you peel and prepare the vegetables. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat with the oil. Add the onions and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the thyme.

Add the celery, sweet potatoes, carrot, leek, and cabbage. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are slightly tender, about 8 minutes.

Add the broth and the bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 10 minutes before grating the beets directly into the soup. Separate the third beet and grate into a separate small pot of boiling water where you will blanch the shredded beet and keep it separate. Simmer the soup, partially covered, until the soup is flavorful and the vegetables are completely tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in the dill. Add the red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. With your immersion blender, pulse the soup to the desired consistency. We kept ours a bit chunky. Drain the separated shredded beet and garnish in each bowl for a bit more crunch. Garnish the soup with the potato crostini and serve. We found the perfect bite included a bit of the potato, the yogurt dill dollop on top and soup.


Place the thinly sliced potatoes on a cookie sheet. Brush the tops of the potatoes with the olive oil. Sprinkle some kosher salt on top of them. Stick them in the oven to cook for 5 minutes or until golden brown. Afterwards, pull the cookie sheet out and flip the potato crostini. Bake for another 5 minutes or until golden brown. While the crostini are baking, in a small bowl, mix together the sour cream, plain yogurt, dill, garlic powder, onion powder and a pinch of salt. Place them on a paper towel lined plate to catch any excess oil. Place a small dollop of the yogurt dill sauce in the middle of each of the crostini and serve with the soup. You can serve the crostini on the side of the bowl or in the middle of the soup for a more dramatic presentation.