“You couldn’t even google ‘kohlrabi’ back then,” says Jeanine Donofrio, speaking about a weekly vegetable delivery service she used in her early kitchen days, years before she launched her Love & Lemons food blog. “We’d get a surprise of vegetables every week, and I loved the challenge of ‘what can I think of next, what can I use here?’ But back then, in my first box I got a kohlrabi. It was, ‘how do I even… I don’t even know what it is!’ So I just sort of loved the approach of not looking up a recipe, and I started getting creative on my own.”
Jeanine’s creativity led to some incredible (and incredibly original) culinary creations, and in 2011 the graphic designer launched food blog Love & Lemons with her husband Jack Matthews, who also makes video games.
“We would travel together; we just love food, and that was sort of the thing that we had in common,” she says. “After traveling and eating all these amazing foods I really got into cooking. My mom cooked, and so I knew how to chop an onion and how to bake, but otherwise I’m basically self taught, I just work things out. I see a lot of connection between design and art and food, especially when it’s really beautiful colors and fresh flavors, so it became my creative outlet when my daywork was getting stressful. And one day I thought, ‘Why don’t I just do this?’”
Now with a successful blog and cookbook available, Jeanine and Jack handle all of the recipes, design and photography of their mostly vegetarian offerings, despite having been based in BBQ-friendly Austin, Texas, for some time.
“We had tomatoes in May and peaches in May and June, things come early there,” she says. “In August when everybody else has blueberries, it’s really hot and dry so we have spicy peppers… Austin has a reputation for BBQ and meat, but there are some great vegetables there. Sometimes people are surprised: ‘You’re cooking all vegetarian? How?’”
As for Jack’s input in the kitchen: “He’s my taste tester, and you have to have a sounding board, someone that has a good, solid opinion. And every now and then he’ll bake bread, which is something I don’t have the patience for. I like to cook more and not babysit a loaf of bread as it’s waiting to rise. He’ll say, ‘I’m baking this bread, it’s going to take all weekend.’ I don’t have the patience for that.”
Visit loveandlemons.com for more great recipes and info from Jeanine and Jack and look for The Love & Lemons cookbook at Barnes & Noble, on amazon.com or via links on the website.
Shakshuka with Spinach and Harissa
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 medium onion)
- 1 red bell pepper, de-seeded and diced
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons harissa paste, optional*
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- Pinch of cayenne pepper, optional
- Several big handfuls of fresh spinach
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 4 eggs
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta, optional
- ⅓ cup fresh parsley leaves
- 1 avocado, diced
- Toasted slices of ciabatta bread (1 to 2 per serving)
- Microgreens for garnish, optional
Heat the oil in a large 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Add the red pepper and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.
Turn the heat to medium-low and add the garlic, smoked paprika and cumin. Stir and let cook for about 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes, harissa paste, if using, and a few more pinches of salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding the cayenne pepper for more kick, if desired.
Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Make 4 wells in the sauce and crack in the eggs. Cover and cook until the eggs are set, 5 to 8 minutes.**
Serve with feta cheese, parsley, diced avocado and microgreens, if using. Serve with toasted bread for scooping and enjoy!
* In this recipe, I used Mina Harissa Mild, which is very mild. Spice levels vary greatly between brands. Add harissa with caution if you’re using another brand and you’re sensitive to spice.
** If you prefer to use smaller skillets as shown in the picture, divide the sauce among the skillets and continue to simmer over medium-low heat. Make wells and crack in the desired number of eggs. Cover and cook until the eggs are set, 5 to 8 minutes.
Make this gluten free by using GF bread.
Zucchini Basil Soup
- ⅔ cup sliced leeks (the tender white and light green parts only)
- extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 2 small zucchini, chopped + a few strands of spiralized or julienned zucchini for garnish
- ¼ cup hemp seeds
- juice of ½ lemon, more to taste
- ½ tablespoon miso paste
- 1 cup water, more as needed for consistency
- ½ cup packed fresh basil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups cubed sourdough bread
- ½ garlic clove, minced
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Microgreens for garnish, optional
Slice the white and light green parts of the leek into rings. Rinse well, drain, and let dry.
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and cook until very soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Taste one, the leeks should be a bit translucent and should not have a bitter taste. Stir in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.
In a blender, combine the leek mixture with the zucchini, hemp seeds, lemon juice, miso, water and a few grinds of pepper and blend until smooth. Add the basil and blend again. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more lemon for brightness and salt to taste. Add more water if you prefer a thinner consistency.
Garlic croutons: Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On the baking sheet, toss the croutons with the garlic and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake until crisp, about 8 minutes.
Serve the soup at room temperature, or lightly chilled, with the garlic croutons and a drizzle of olive oil.
Fennel & Clementine Chopped Salad
Serves 4-6 as a side
- 1 large fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
- 1 medium napa or savoy cabbage, shredded
- 2 large or 4 small carrots, sliced into thin coins
- 2 watermelon radishes or 4 red radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 clementines, sliced or segmented
- 1 small avocado, diced
- generous handful of mint
- ⅓ cup sesame seeds or chopped almonds, toasted
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup fresh clementine juice
- 1 tablespoon miso paste
In a small bowl, make the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, garlic, ginger, lemon and clementine juices and the miso paste.
In a large bowl mix together the fennel, cabbage, carrots, radishes, half the clementines and half the avocado. Toss with half the dressing and let sit for 10 minutes. Season to taste adding more dressing as you like. Assemble the salad on a platter and top with the remaining clementines and avocado, mint and sesame seeds or almonds. Serve with the remaining dressing.