The Vertex and CookTracks Podcast Series

mother and son cooking

Co-hosted and produced by Andrew (Kappy) Kaplan and Rachael Ray, recipes were created with the needs of a CF diet in mind and can be enjoyed by everyone!

When we heard CookTracks wanted to focus the second season of the podcast on creating meals that would bring culinary inspiration to people living with a certain disease or health condition, we knew Vertex would make the perfect partner given our work in cystic fibrosis (CF) and our commitment to the CF community. People living with CF have important and specific nutritional needs because they don’t absorb nutrients as well as people without the disease and they spend extra calories fighting against the disease. Adopting a healthy and high-calorie diet, packed with good fats, can be important.

With this in mind, we collaborated with CookTracks, their guest chefs and a CF nutritionist to create recipes to help meet the nutritional needs of those living with CF that can also be enjoyed by everyone.

We’re all spending more time in our kitchens, so listen and follow along as four talented chefs talk you through the making of six delicious meals. CF mom, Ginger Birnbaum kicks off the series with host Kappy and shares her perspective on what it’s like to care for and cook for her family, including her young son King who is living with cystic fibrosis.

Check out all the episodes from the full season below or visit Don’t forget to share your homecooked dishes on Facebook or Instagram, and tag @vertexpharmaceuticals and @CookTracks so we can see your culinary creations. Let’s get cooking!

Andrew Kaplan and Ginger Birnbaum on a virtual meeting for CookTracks
Meet Ginger Birnbaum, cystic fibrosis advocate, and mom

Ginger kicks off the series with host Kappy and shares her perspective on what it’s like to care for and cook for her family, including her young son King who is living with CF.





CookTracks Tex-Mex Mighty Migas Recipe Illustration
Tex-Mex Mighty Migas (Scrambled Eggs) with Tomatillo Pico de Gallo and Avocado Greek Yogurt ‘Crema’

Rachael Ray 

Makes 4 total servings
545 Calories per serving
37g Fat per serving (does not include optional garnishes)

- Large nonstick skillet to cook egg mixture
- Cast iron skillet, or stainless (not nonstick) skillet, to char tortillas (if no gas stove)
- 2 medium size mixing bowls (to make pico and to scramble eggs)

For the Avocado Greek Yogurt ‘Crema’:
(this will make extra)
1 ripe Hass avocado, pitted and peeled
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch of cumin
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper

For the Tomatillo Pico de Gallo:
1/2 small white onion, small diced
1/2 – 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
1 garlic cloves, grated or minced
Salt, about 1 1/2 teaspoons
Juice of 1 lime, about 3 Tablespoons
4 tomatillos, husked, cleaned and chopped
1 small handful cilantro, plus some to garnish
Pinch of ground cumin
Splash of green hot sauce, to taste, optional

For the Migas:
4 corn tortillas
Drizzle of olive oil
4-6 oz Mexican chorizo, removed from its casing
5-6 eggs, scrambled in a bowl
1/2 – 3/4 cup mild cheddar cheese and/or pepper jack, shredded

2 pieces scallion, thin sliced
Pickled jalapeno rings

For the Greek Yogurt ‘Crema’:
Place avocado, Greek yogurt, lime juice, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor or blender and puree to combine. Set aside until ready to use. 

For the Tomatillo Pico de Gallo:
Place onion, jalapeno and garlic in a medium size mixing bowl and generously salt. Add the lime juice and stir to combine. Let sit for at least a few minutes. Add the tomatillos, cilantro, cumin and hot sauce, if using, and set aside. 

For the Migas:
Turn on stove, if using, and individually char the tortillas on both sides over the flame. 
If using a cast iron or stainless skillet, place over high heat and char the corn tortillas on both sides. Set aside until cool enough to handle and cut into strips. 

Place a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat, add chorizo. Cook, while breaking up with the back of a wooden spoon, until brown, crumbly and cooked through. 

Add a few spoonfuls of the tomatillo pico de gallo and cook for a few minutes. Using your spoon or spatula, make a well in the middle and add the eggs to the middle of the pan. Gently stir as they start to scramble in the pan. 

Add the charred and chopped tortillas to the pan and gently fold in the mixture. 

Add the cheese and top with a lid or gently cover with foil to help the cheese melt. 

To plate, place a portion of the egg mixture on a plate and top with some of the raw tomatillo pico de gallo mixture, scallion, pickled jalapenos and a dollop of the avocado Greek yogurt.

CookTracks Mexican Fish Sopes recipe illustration
Mexican Fish Sopes 

Chef Ken Oringer
Uni, Toro, Coppa & Little Donkey, Boston, MA

Serves 4-6 as a main and 8-10 as an appetizer
Calories per serving 1,071 (assuming a serving of 4 using Salmon)
Fat per serving 62g (assuming a serving of 4 using Salmon)

COOK’S NOTE: Have oven preheating to 450 F when starting.

- 1, small mixing bowl (for the fish marinade)
- 1, baking sheet (to cook the fish)
- Foil, to line the baking sheet
- 1, medium mixing bowl (to mix the sope dough)
- Large resealable bag (to flatten/shape the sopes)
- 1, medium to large size skillet (to cook the sopes) Cooking utensils, such as tongs and spatula
- 1, large nonstick sauté pan, to char the salsa ingredients Blender or food processor, to blend the salsa
- Plate or platter, to serve

For the Fish:
2 pounds fish, skinless fillets (such as cod, branzino, salmon) 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon fish sauce or miso, optional
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 Tablespoon maple syrup

For the Sopes:
2 cups Maseca (instant yellow corn masa flour) 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1⁄2 cups hot tap water
1/2 cup vegetable oil, for cooking the sopes

Charred Tomato Salsa:
5 tomatoes, such as beefsteak or roma
1/2 small onion, such as yellow, white or red, peeled 1 garlic clove, cracked from its skin
1/2 bunch cilantro
Lime juice, to taste

Garnish: Avocado, sliced Shredded lettuce

For the Fish:
Preheat oven to 450. Mix all marinade ingredients in a small mixing bowl and set aside. Place fish filets on a foil lined baking sheet and pour marinade over the fish. Let marinade at least 15 minutes and up to one hour. Place fish in oven and bake until just cooked through. This can range anywhere from 8 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of fish. Remove from oven and keep warm until ready to assemble.

For the Sopes:
In a medium mixing bowl add the maseca, salt and hot tap water and stir with a fork or spoon until the mixture turns into a ball. Knead the ball in the bowl to get it to adhere. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

To form the sopes, make a golf ball size ball. Place the ball between a large gallon size resealable bag and flatten with your palm until it is about 1/4 - 1/8-inch-thick, about twice the thickness of a tortilla. Lift the sope off the bag and gently crimp the edges to make a ridged tortilla.

To cook, place a medium to large size skillet over medium to medium high heat and add oil. When hot, add the sopes and fry until golden brown and crispy on one side. Gently flip over and cook the other side for approximately 4 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain on a paper towel lined plate.

For the Charred Tomato Salsa:
Place a large non-stick sauté pan over high heat. When hot, add the tomatoes, onion and garlic and cook moving slightly until lightly burned all around. Once charred, transfer to a blender or food processor and add cilantro, salt and lime juice and puree to chunky salsa consistency.

To Assemble:
Take the warm sopes (can reheat in oven while cooking fish) and using a spoon, flake apart the fish and place on a sope. Drizzle with charred tomato salsa and top with avocado and shredded lettuce.

CookTracks Honey-Balsamic Braised Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower and Dried Figs recipe illustration
Honey-Balsamic Braised Chicken Thighs with Cauliflower and Dried Figs 

Chef Sarah Grueneberg
Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio, Chicago, IL

Makes 4 total servings
613 Calories per serving
37g Fat per serving 

- Heavy, oven-safe saucepan

COOK’S NOTE: You may replace the 1/2 wine with the same amount of chicken stock. 

4 bone-in chicken thighs, with skin
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 slices bacon, cut into large squares
1 cup red pearl onions, peeled or 2-3 shallots, peeled and quartered
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets, about 2 cups
1/2 cup dried figs, quartered
1/2 cup white wine
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chicken stock, an additional 1/2 cup if not using wine
2 Tablespoons honey
3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 Tablespoon butter

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. 

Place chicken thighs on a plate and season all sides with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.

Place a heavy oven-safe saucepan over medium-low heat and add bacon pieces. Cook until crisp and brown, turning once halfway through, 1-2 minutes per side. Remove bacon to a plate and set aside. 

Turn heat up slightly to medium and add chicken to the pan, skin side down. Cook until skin is crispy and deeply golden in color, about 7 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Turn heat back down to medium low, add pearl onions and cauliflower. Cook the vegetables, turning occasionally using tongs, to brown all sides, about 8 minutes. Be patient here, color is important. Add dried figs to soften slightly, another 2 minutes, and season with ½ teaspoon of kosher salt and fresh black pepper.

Add the white wine to the pan to deglaze, stirring to remove all bits from the bottom. Add the stock, honey, balsamic and thyme. Nestle the chicken thighs back into the pan, skin side up.

Place pan in preheated oven, uncovered, and cook for 15 minutes. Carefully remove from the oven, and transfer chicken to a serving platter. 

Return saucepan to medium-low heat on the stovetop to bring the sauce and vegetables to a simmer, add butter and stir to slightly thicken the sauce, about 1 minute. Turn off heat.

Spoon the sauce and vegetables over the chicken, and sprinkle with crispy bacon pieces. Serve immediately.

CookTracks Orecchiette with Italian Sausage & Peppers recipe illustration
Orecchiette with Italian Sausage & Peppers

Chef Sarah Grueneberg
Monteverde Restaurant & Pastificio, Chicago, IL

Makes 6 total servings
490 Calories per serving
14g Fat per serving 

- Large skillet with lid
- Large pot to boil pasta

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 lb bulk mild Italian sausage (or buy links and remove from casing)
1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Castelvetrano green olives, sliced (or another good quality green olive of your choice)
1/2 cup sliced pepperoncini 
1/2 teaspoon red chili flake
1 can 14oz Italian cherry tomatoes, such as Mutti
1 lb Orecchiette pasta (or another short-shaped pasta of your choice) 
8 quarts water, to boil pasta
1/3 cup kosher salt, for pasta water
12 whole fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil, to garnish

In a large skillet, add extra virgin olive oil and turn to medium-high heat. Add Italian sausage to the pan in small pieces. Let sausage brown, while breaking up with a wooden spoon into smaller crumbles. Once the sausage is fully browned, remove to a small plate or bowl. Drain off most of the rendered fat, leaving just a thin layer in the pan.

Reduce heat to medium, add red onion, olives, pepperoncini and chili flake, cooking for one minute. Add canned cherry tomatoes and stir, letting the liquid reduce slightly. Add cooked sausage back into the pan and turn off heat until pasta is ready.

Boil a large pot of water with the salt. Add the orecchiette and cook for two minutes less than the pasta package calls for, then drain (without discarding the pasta water). Add the pasta to the sauce skillet with the sausage mixture. The orecchiette should still be firm in the center.

Add one cup of the pasta water to the skillet to begin marrying the pasta and sauce together. With the heat on low, stir and then cover for two minutes, gently moving the pan over the burner every 30 seconds. Remove lid, stir in the basil, Pecorino cheese, lemon zest and juice and finishing extra virgin olive oil.

When the pasta is cooked to your liking, turn off the heat and serve immediately.

CookTracks Fried Fish with Tunisian Curry, Avocado Labneh, and Tehina recipe illustration
Fried Fish with Tunisian Curry, Avocado Labneh, and Tehina 

Chef Zach Engel 
Galit Restaurant, Chicago, IL

Makes 4 total servings
675 Calories per serving
57g Fat per serving (does not include dipping sauce)

- medium size sauce pot, about 4 qt.
- whisk
- medium mixing bowl
- large, 12” stainless skillet
- slotted spoon or spatula or tongs
- blender (if making avocado labneh)

For the Tunisian Curry:
3⁄4 cup canola oil
2⁄3 cup garlic cloves, pureed in a food processor or minced
5 Tablespoons smoked paprika (hot or sweet, whichever you prefer) 
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, ground
1 Tablespoon caraway seeds, ground
1 Tablespoon cumin, ground
1 Tablespoon coriander, ground
2⁄3 cup tomato paste
2 1⁄2 cups water
2 Tablespoons kosher salt

For the dredge:
2⁄3 cup all purpose flour
1⁄2 cup cornstarch
1⁄4 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon turmeric

12-16 oz. catfish (or tilapia, redfish or grouper) filets, cut into 2-inch by 1”inch pieces, skin, scales and small bones removed 
2-4 cups canola oil

For the Tunisian Curry:
Put the canola oil in a 4-quart saucepan and bring to medium heat. Add the minced garlic, turn heat to low and cook until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring often with a whisk. It should be slightly golden brown and fully cooked through. Pull the pot off the heat and add the paprika, cayenne, caraway, cumin and coriander and mix well with a whisk for a couple minutes. Add the tomato paste and whisk into the curry. Place the pot back on low heat and mix, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, for about 10-15 minutes- it will look like a thick paste. Add in the water and salt, whisk and cook for an additional 10 minutes over low heat- it will resemble the consistency of ketchup.

For the dry fish dredge:
In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients for the dredge with a whisk. Lay in a shallow dish or mixing bowl and set aside.

To Cook the Fish:
Heat a large frying pan with the canola oil over medium heat, or until oil reaches 350-375 F. Toss the fish in the dry dredge mixture, six or so few pieces at a time, gently shake off the excess and then gently drop into the oil. With a slotted spoon, move them around so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Cook 3-6 minutes, remove using the slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate to absorb the grease. Sprinkle the fish right as it comes out of the oil with a little salt.

To Serve:
Serve the fish with the dipping sauces. You can garnish with some fresh herbs and a few wedges of fresh lemon.

For the Avocado Labneh:
1 whole preserved lemon, pith and insides removed and peels rough chopped
1⁄4 cup labneh (or Greek yogurt)
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
3 avocados, pitted and skinned

For the Avocado Labneh:
In a blender, add the chopped preserved lemon, labneh, lemon juice and salt and puree until the liquid is totally smooth. Add in the avocados and puree until smooth. You may need to scrape the sides of the blender top to puree it all together. Refrigerate until needed, tightly covered with plastic wrap.

For the Tehina:
3 garlic cloves
1⁄2 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 1⁄2 cups tahini, raw
1 1⁄2 cups water, ice cold

For the Tehina:
Crush the garlic cloves on a cutting board with the side of a large knife and add to a small bowl of lemon juice. Let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, puree the garlic, lemon and salt mixture for 2-3 minutes, or until smooth. Pass through a fine mesh strainer and refrigerate. In a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment, whip the raw tahini for about 5 minutes on high speed. Decrease the speed to medium and slowly drizzle in the garlic-lemon juice. The tehina will get very grainy and tight in texture but will get smooth immediately after. Slowly add the ice cold water with a steady stream. Once all the water is incorporated, turn the speed on high for 5 minutes. You’ll see the tehina become smooth and glossy and become very airy like an aioli or a mousse.

CookTracks Shakshukah with Sweet Potatoes recipe illustration
Shakshukah with Sweet Potatoes 

Chef Zach Engel 
Galit Restaurant, Chicago, IL  

Makes 4 total servings
476 Calories per serving
36g Fat per serving

- large, 12” skillet with lid (or baking sheet to cover lid)
- fish spatula/perforated spatula
- plate, to reserve sweet potatoes
- high-heat rubber spatula

1⁄2 cup extra virgin olive oil or canola oil, divided
1 sweet potato (about 1 lb.), peeled and diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small sweet yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 anaheim or banana pepper (or something mild like red or green bell pepper), sliced thinly 
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 Tablespoon salt
4 eggs

Garnish Options:
1⁄2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (option of dill, cilantro, thyme, rosemary)
1 bunch green onions, sliced thinly
1 avocado, sliced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Good bread, for serving, such as pita bread, challah, focaccia 
Hot sauce, for serving, optional

Heat the pan over high heat, add 1⁄4 cup of the olive oil. When super hot, add the sweet potatoes and turn down heat to medium. Cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring often, as they get well-browned all over. Once the sweet potatoes are cooked, remove them onto a plate lined with a paper towel.

Wipe the pan clean, if needed, and add the remaining olive oil. Heat on high heat, add the cherry tomatoes and turn heat down to medium making sure not to touch them for one minute. They’ll burst a little bit so be careful of splattering oil. Gently stir and season with salt. Add the onions and peppers, season with salt and stir every now and then for 2-3 minutes to caramelize, until they become opaque. Turn heat down to low, add garlic, stir for 10-15 seconds and add crushed tomatoes. Gently stir everything around and let lightly simmer. Add the sweet potatoes back into the sauce and cook until reduced and thickened, about 10-15 minutes, or until it is more of a jam-like consistency.  

Using the back of a spoon make four little divots or wells in the sauce. Crack the eggs into each divot/well, cover and turn heat to low. Cook until the whites are solid and cooked through, but the yellows are still runny, about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Garnish each egg yolk with sea salt and sprinkle the parsley and green onions over the entire pan. Add avocado and feta, if using. 

Serve with bread to soak everything up!

CookTracks Mama’s Meatballs (and Marinara) recipe illustration
Mama’s Meatballs (and Marinara)

Chef Rocco DiSpirito

Makes 6 total servings
419 Calories per serving
28g Fat per serving 

- 1 medium to large size heavy bottom saucepot
- 1 large (approximately 12”) skillet, non-stick or regular
- Blender or food processor
- 1 large mixing bowl
- 1 baking sheet

For the Marinara:
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed through a press
2 Tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
3⁄4 teaspoon tomato paste
1⁄2 (16-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (16-ounce) can tomato puree
1⁄4 cup chicken stock
1 - 1⁄2 cups water
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Meatballs:
COOK’S NOTE: You may replace the ground beef, pork and veal with 1 1/2 pounds of Meatball/Meatloaf Mix.

1⁄2 pound ground beef 
1⁄2 pound ground pork 
1⁄2 pound ground veal
1⁄4 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled but whole
1⁄4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1⁄3 cup chicken stock
1⁄3 cup well-crushed store-bought Parmesan crisps (such as Whisps)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1⁄4 cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese (I don’t think he used this, so may delete)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 – 1 cup grapeseed oil, to cook the meatballs, or another neutral oil (soybean or vegetable oil will work)
Olive oil or avocado oil cooking spray, if roasting the meatballs

Optional Garnish:
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Red pepper flakes
Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

For the Marinara Sauce:
In a saucepot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until the garlic is tender and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for 30 seconds. 

Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, chicken stock, and water to the pot and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, add a pinch of red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. If the sauce is too thin, simmer uncovered for 2 to 3 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water. The sauce should be fairly thin and very smooth, but not watery.

For the Meatballs:
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Coat a sheet pan with cooking spray, if roasting the meatballs.
Place ground meats in a large mixing bowl.

In a food processor or blender, combine the onion, parsley, garlic and chicken stock and puree. Transfer the mixture to the large bowl of meats and add the crisps, eggs, Parmigiano, pepper flakes and salt. Mix with your hands until just combined, being careful not to overmix.

Grease your hands with olive oil and form the mixture into balls a little smaller than golf balls. You can also use an ice cream scoop. This will make about 12-15 balls.

Place a large skillet over medium high heat with 1/4 – 1/2” oil. When the oil is hot, add the meatballs to the pan (working in batches, if necessary) and brown the meatballs well on each side. This will take a few minutes per side. When they are brown, lift out with a slotted spoon and gently place in the marinara sauce to ensure they are just about covered. Bring back to a simmer and at that point, they are just about done. If you want to make sure they are cooked through, a thermometer inserted in the middle should read 140 degrees. You can also break one open and make sure it is cooked through. 

If using the oven:
Arrange the meatballs on the sheet pan and bake until browned, at least 18 and up to 20 minutes. Transfer the finished meatballs to the marinara sauce and bring back to a simmer and at that point, they are just about done.

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