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Archive for the ‘parve’ Category

Finally. The weekend. The end of a long terrifying week in my home town.

Friday was 70 degrees, overcast, and humid, but you barely knew it through closed windows and drawn shades. Several miles from the Watertown epicenter where I used to work, my own Cambridge neighborhood was eerily quiet. Once I turned off the barrage of breaking news reports on the TV in the background while I edited contracts, the only thing I could hear were the chirping bird sounds of spring. And an occasional siren. Stepping onto my tiny balcony for a breath or two of fresh air, I saw no one. No cars driving. No people walking. Nothing.

Yesterday was sunny, cooler. The city seemed to be waking from a deep slumber. I sat outside on that same balcony, writing this. Soothed by the slow but steady flow of traffic, joggers, and dog walkers.

Earlier in the week, after Monday’s marathon tragedy, I received an email from my friend Sarah: “I know from living in Israel through the 1990’s it isn’t easy. There were terror attacks almost every week and it took its toll.”

On Tuesday, I attended the Israeli Consulate of New England’s annual Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration. Like celebrations of Israel’s independence that I’ve attended in previous years, I knew to expect security and policemen standing out front, bag checks and metal detectors inside. But as I drove to the back parking lot, past men and women in yellow vests and bright orange wands as if directing planes on a tarmac, I was struck to see camouflage-clad military holding rifles and leaning against humvees. To me, these men and women were oddly reassuring. They made me feel safe in the face of a bittersweet celebration. Normally bittersweet because the Israeli national holiday always follows Yom Hazikaron, memorial day, a remembrance of the fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism who have given their lives for the ongoing existence and flourishing of the Israeli state. This year, palpably bittersweet.

On Thursday night, I made udon miso soup. I felt in need of comfort and the only place I could turn to was my kitchen. The soup was warm and salty, the noodles soft and slippery and slurpy. Little did I know how the next twenty-four hours would pan out and how welcome that soup would be.

The Friday night capture brought swoops and cheers and an impromptu party on Boston Common. I was relieved but couldn’t rejoice. It feels safer here but I can’t bring myself to celebrate.

It’s now the weekend. The sun is out, the air fresh, the windows open, the breeze chilly. I just finished the last of the soup and am heading out for a walk. Life is back to normal. But it’s not the same.

PS. For a powerful first-person account of this past week’s events, read this article written by a friend of a friend.

Udon miso soup

Udon miso soup

Adapted from Steamy Kitchen.

Before you add the miso, the soup will taste bland, but don’t worry because the miso is salty.  Make sure to add it to the soup after you’ve removed it from the heat. If miso gets too hot, it gets gritty.

It’s worth looking for fresh udon. You can find the most authentic of these fat white noodles in the refrigerated section of an Asian grocery store. Nasoya also makes a pretty good version and I’ve found it near the tofu. In a pinch, I’ve also have good luck with Eden dried noodles  that I frequently see  in the Asian or Japanese section of many grocery stores. Both the Nasoya and Eden noodles are certified kosher. I used Miso Master brand white miso (and you can use any extra to make one of these two slaws). Next time I make this soup, I’m going to add some small cubes of firm tofu.

Serves 4

- 3/4 pound pre-cooked (or, in a pinch, dried) wheat udon noodles

- 4 C vegetable or chicken stock (I used vegetable)

- 1 baby bok choy

- 5-7 cremini mushrooms

- 2 medium-sized carrots

- 1 large handful sugar snap peas or snow peas

- 3 T white miso

- 3 scallions

- sesame oil and hot chili sesame oil (optional)

Cook. Make the noodles according to the package instructions.

Boil. Bring the stock to a boil.

Cut. While the noodles are cooking and the stock is boiling, get to cutting. Thinly slice the bok choy, mushrooms, and carrots. I used a mandoline for the carrots. Cut the peas into 1/2-inch pieces or keep whole.

Simmer. Add the bok choy stems (not leaves) and cook for 5 minutes until they start to soften. Add the mushrooms, carrots, and peas and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Stir in the bok choy leaves and remove from heat.

Assemble. Scoop miso into a bowl and whisk with a ladle-full of broth until completely dissolved. Then stir the miso mixture back into the soup, making sure not to boil or the miso will get gritty. Distribute the noodles evenly into four bowls and then add the soup. Slice the scallions and sprinkle over the soups. Drizzle with the oils to taste.

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A week and a half into daylight savings time and just a few hours before the first official day of spring, my balcony is blanketed with a fresh coating of snow, and the white stuff keeps coming down. Before we leave behind the hardy greens and show up at the farmers market each week to greet a new crop of, well, crops – pea shoots! morels! corn! zucchini! tomatoes! strawberries! blueberries! – I have one last kale recipe to share. You know, just in case the lamb part of March doesn’t arrive on schedule.

This kale story started last week. It was one of those evenings after work when I found myself  in the kitchen, hands on hips, peering listlessly into the fridge at a container of  baby kale, a bag of carrots, a few stalks of celery, and, oh yeah, a dwindling bowl of Meyer lemons. Resisting the gelato just inches away in the freezer, I turned on my heel and climbed on the couch, plucking a cookbook off a pile en route and balancing it on my cross-legged lap.

Canal House Cooks Every Day was the book. It had been floating around my apartment for a few weeks, from bed to coffee table to chair to said pile, spine-cracked but splatter-free. At first glance, the book is daunting. No picture on the front, no dust jacket, just a big red hardback with shiny gold and blue print. I could imagine mistaking it for a law text. Nestled among the gorgeous pictures, the recipes are written in big blocks of text that reminded me of one of my first cookbooks, Fannie Farmer, which, nostalgia aside, is not the most approachable of kitchen guides.

But, and there’s always a but, in this case a fortuitous but, on that particular evening last week, I brushed my fingers over the cloth-bound cover, soft and warm to the touch, and went straight to the recipe index. There was a single recipe under kale: Barlotti beans with sauteed baby kale, page 283.

The ingredient list was short. The instructions, once you skip the part about cooking your beans from dried, were short too.

kale and beans, dinner

Less than twenty minutes later, I sat down with my bowl of beans and greens and started the book from the beginning, no longer merely skimming recipe titles. I read about how the author duo, Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirscheimer, left their commutes behind for a kitchen atelier in which to start a business, independently launching a thrice-yearly seasonal food publication. In between cooking and photographing sessions, the two women prepare lunch and other treats which turned into this cookbook, a compendium of a year’s worth of recipes. It’s what they cook every day without being everyday cooking (hence the title).

Many of the recipes in the book are simple, some more suggestion than instruction. In a less-than-stellar review of the first of the team’s seasonal series, Nora Ephron wrote, ” The cookbook has very few recipes and although many look perfectly workable, there’s almost nothing in Canal House Cooking that’s singing, Cook Me, Cook Me.  Which is one of the things I look for when I first open a cookbook.”

I’ll admit, I had the same initial impression of  Hamilton and Hirscheimer’s Every Day. Luckily I dug a little deeper to discover a gem. I suspect this first recipe will send me back to Every Day once that first spring produce arrives.

Happy end of winter, all. And good riddance.

Kale and beans

Greens and beans (or baby kale and cannellini beans)

Hamilton and Hirscheimer use borlotti beans and prepare them from dried, but I like tender, thin-skinned cannellini beans and I had a can of them just waiting in my pantry. The only thing this dish could use is a crunch. I think next time I’ll add some toasted pine nuts. 

2 servings

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet (mine is 11-inches in diameter) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add a chopped onion and saute until brown (you’re almost stir-frying here). Lower heat and add 2 garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers. Saute until the garlic softens, but don’t let it burn. Add to the pan 3 large handfuls of baby kale (if you’re the measuring type, this is about 3 packed cups) enough to fill the pan to overflowing. Let the kale wilt, stirring periodically, until all of the kale is a bright dark green. Meanwhile, drain a 15.5-ounce can of cannellini beans and rinse a few times with cold water. Add them to the skillet and stir until warmed through. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Zest and juice a lemon over the skillet.

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like her mother

Today’s recipe is dedicated to Lilli Virginia. We met the other week when I brought over dinner for her newly-minted parents, salad for Molly and meat (a turkey variation on this) for Rich.

Lilly is a stunning baby girl with a strong showing of light hair, searching blue eyes, a rosebud mouth, and ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes. Her cat Rooster seems to like her, though he does periodically get jealous and try to  commandeer her favorite chair.

Like her mother, she’s generous. Molly lent me a cookbook, and Lilli slipped her binky into my purse.

I can’t wait to watch Lilli grow.

bitter greens, butternut squash, beets with honey harissa dressing

Bitter greens salad with roasted vegetables, wheat berries, and honey harissa dressing

This recipe started with The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook‘s honey and harissa farro salad. At the end of the day, the only thing that I didn’t change around too much was the dressing, because Deb is, in my book, the queen of dressings. I replaced the farro with wheat berries, carrots and parsnips with butternut squash and beets. I skipped the mint and parsley and cheese. I added  handfuls of bitter greens. But that dressing, oh that dressing. It now has a permanent place in my fridge and I’ve thrown it on everything – a pile of greens, a fried egg, cauliflower – I’ve made all of these above.

This salad looks like a lot of work, but I tend to prepare most of the ingredients in advance so I can throw together a salad in just a few minutes. I roast beets and squash on Sunday evenings. I make more grains than I need for any particular recipe, and then freeze whatever is left over in sandwich bags. Then I defrost a bag containing a few handfuls or so, and throw into my salad. The photos contain wheat berries, but I used bulgur for Molly because it’s what I had around. 

Let’s talk a bit about grains for a bit. I‘ve provided directions for wheat berries below, though I’d suggest you follow the directions on the package of whatever grains you buy. There’s also the question of  pre-soaking. Some recipes recommend soaking the wheat berries overnight  in four times their volume of water. I’ve soaked and I’ve not soaked, and have had success both ways. I’ve also started using my pressure cooker which reduced the cooking time by about half. I’ve referenced this before, but it’s worth mentioning again – check out the “beyond rice” guide  from the January 2013 Cook’s Illustrated for more info on cooking grains.

Makes enough for 3 – 4

- 3 medium-sized beets (I used golden beets in the photos)

- 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash (~1 1/2 – 2 pounds peeled and seeded)

- 3-4 T olive oil, divided

- kosher salt and pepper

- 1/2 C uncooked or 1 1/2 C cooked wheat berries (or other grains)

-  5-6 handfuls of bitter greens: I used baby kale, arugula, and mizuna

 – honey harissa dressing (recipe below)

Prep. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Scrub beets and cut off any greens (save them to cook like chard later if you’d like). No need to peel the beets until after they’re roasted. Peel and seed the squash, and then cut it into bite-sized cubes.

Roast. Place the beets on aluminum foil, drizzle with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Wrap up the beets tightly. Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spread the squash in an even layer. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and a few grinds of pepper. Check the squash a few times to shake everything around. Remove the squash when it’s ready, about 45 minutes. The beets will take about an hour and a half  (or shorter/longer depending on size of the beets), so leave them in the oven until the tip of a knife pierces easily. I generally check them after an hour.

Simmer. While the vegetables are roasting, bring to a boil 2 cups water and then add the wheat berries and a pinch of salt. Lower the temperature and simmer uncovered

Peel. When the beets are cool enough to handle, don a pair of gloves (I get my doctor friends to give me surgical gloves, but dedicated dish- washing gloves are great) and peel the skin right off.

Slice. Slice the beets into cubes around the same size as the squash.

Tear. Tear the leaves into bite sized pieces.

Serve. Toss the leaves with the beets and squash and half the dressing. Add more dressing to taste.

Honey harissa dressing

Harissa is a spicy North African chili paste that you can find in Middle Eastern and kosher grocery stores. I highly recommend doubling or tripling this recipe and drizzling it over other vegetables later in the week. 

-  4 T olive oil

- 1 t harissa

- 2 t honey

- 1 lemon for  2 -3 T  juice

- 1/2 t cumin

- salt

Shake. Shake all the ingredients in a jar. Taste a green leaf dipped in the dressing and adjust as needed. I found that I needed to use at least a teaspoon of salt to counteract the honey. And if you like things spicy, add more harissa.

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salad days of winter

Last week, I wrote about winter salads for the Jerusalem Post and today, I want to share this how-to guide with you. What are your favorite ways to prepare hardy greens and root vegetables? 

As February rolls around and Punxsutawney Phil predicts mild months ahead, cravings for spring and summer produce sneak up on us. But before jumping into warm weather salads – a celebration of a ripe vegetable or two and a few delicate greens adorned with just a splash of olive oil and lemon juice – savor the lingering vestiges of winter. Though winter salads take a little extra planning and some imagination to coax out the flavors of hardier greens and root vegetables, their complexity might leave you longing for them as the first few buds push their way through the melting snow and the farmers markets reopen.

While there’s no rule that salad must contain greens, most do. Case in point, Shakespeare’s Cleopatra inextricably linked salads with the color green, reflecting on her youthful “… salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood…” Winter leaves tend to be more bitter and thicker than their summer counterparts. On first blush, this probably doesn’t sound like much of an endorsement. But winter salads were made for dressing, which, etymologically speaking, may indicate that they are closer to the origins of salad than their summer brethren: the word salad is derived from the Latin sal (salt) and refers to the salty pickling brine that dressed Roman greens. Peppery arugula, radicchio (purple, but still in the greens category) and mustard greens can stand up to a more assertive dressing with extra acid, and a little sugar can tame the piquant spice. Give anything that you’re used to seeing cooked – kale, collards, cabbage –  a little extra time to soak up the dressing in order to soften and wilt the greens. If you want to keep things basic, squeeze a lemon over the greens, and then let a fried egg do the work, its creamy yolk coating the leaves.

Winter vegetables are transformed by roasting which brings out their natural sweetness. Crank the oven above 400°F and throw in your vegetables, doused in the holy roasting trinity of olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread out on foil-covered cookie sheets. The trees – stalks of broccoli and cauliflower – take fifteen to twenty minutes. Most roots – chopped carrots, parsnips, squash, and potatoes – should roast for thirty to forty-five minutes. And tightly-wrapped parcels of beets need up to ninety minutes, depending on their size, until a sharp knife or toothpick can pierce the flesh easily. Don’t be daunted by the extra preparation time; instead, uncork some wine and pop in a movie while you roast up loads of vegetables. Then keep them in the refrigerator for three to four days, grabbing one or two for salad or to mix with pasta or to serve just as they are alongside a steak.

Cold weather salads benefit from contrast. Bright colors excite the eye and prepare the palate: think fuchsia beets and golden squash atop dark green leaves. Add unexpected texture from beans, lentils, or chewy grains such as wild rice, farro, or barley. (Check out Cook’s Illustrated‘s recently published “beyond rice” guide for helpful hints on preparing grains that you may be less familiar with.) For a burst of juice, top with pieces of apple or pear, sections of grapefruit, or pomegranate seeds. Shave or crumble come cheese, such as parmesan or feta, for added richness. And then, what truly elevates any salad is something crunchy. Toast some nuts or seeds in the oven (a toaster oven works great here too) or in a pan. And that stale bread? Chop it into cubes or grind it into coarse crumbs, season, and brown in the oven.

Before you know it, you’ll be greeted by those first fiddleheads ferns and morels and white asparagus and artichokes. But for the next few weeks, follow this basic formula for winter salads and don’t let the best of the season pass you by.

Here are a few more of my favorite winter salads:

Arugula salad with pear, goat cheese, pomegranate, and candied walnuts
Kale and pear salad with pomegranate gremolata
Kale salad with barley and beets
Kale salad with ricotta salata, walnuts, and bread crumbs
Salad with beets and ruby red grapefruit

Bitter greens with pink grapefruit and sumac

Bitter greens with pink grapefruit and sumac

This salad is adapted from a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe published earlier this year in the Guardian. You’ll probably have leftover dressing that you can store in the refrigerator.

Serves four

- 1/3 stale baguette or 3 slices of stale bread

- 5 T olive oil, divided

- 1 T sumac, divided

- ¾ C grapefruit juice (I used juice from a carton)

- 2 T sugar

- 1 t harissa

- 1 lemon for 2 T juice

- 3 pink or red grapefruits

- 1 shallot

- 4 large handfuls of bitter greens (here I used a mix of tender mizuna and arugula; kale, endive, radicchio would also work well)

- salt

Toast. Cut the stale bread into bite-sized cubes (approximately 1 cup). Toss with 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 teaspoon of sumac, and a pinch of salt and grind of pepper to taste. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet and toast in a 300°F oven until golden, about 10 minutes.

Simmer. Mix the grapefruit juice, sugar, and harissa in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens and you have about 4 tablespoons-worth of juice left – this could take up to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool down, then whisk in the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil, lemon juice, remaining 2 teaspoons of sumac and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Dip a leaf into the dressing and adjust the seasoning.

Peel. Peel the grapefruits and separate each segment like you would with an orange. Separate the flesh from the membranes and break into a few pieces.

Cut. Slice the shallot into very thin rounds. Roughly chop the greens into bite-sized pieces

Assemble. In a large bowl, mix the grapefruit segments, shallot, and greens. Pour over ¼ cup of dressing and toss gently. Add more dressing to taste. Sprinkle with croutons and serve right before serving.

 

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oh là là

Let me set the scene for you.

Me. Hair blown straight, curled at the ends. Liner and mascara framing my eyes. Black and white knit jacket, zipper on a bias, edged in soft black leather. Black pencil skirt, black tights, black boots balanced on three-inch heels. Head to toe, ready to impress.

The room. One long table in front of the window, lined with wine glasses and bottles of red and bottles of white. Ten round tables, ten plates of macarons, ten seated men. The sound of French chatter. Lots of smiles. This is speed dating at the French Library.

I walk towards the empty chair, hand plunged into the depths of my purse, feeling for … for what? a pen? my phone? a beret? I don’t remember … for whatever I’m looking for. My fingers fumble over something they don’t recognize. It’s round and plastic and squishy. Eyes locked with my first “date,” I withdraw a totoche. Lilli‘s pink pacifier weighs awkwardly in my palm. I stare down at it. I stare up the man standing in front of me.

In my mind, I explain that last night I met my friends’ newborn daughter and, oh  là!, her binky must have fallen into my bag. Out loud I merely say, oh là ! and stuff the totoche back into my bag.

I tilt my head and brush back my hair and bat my lashes and shrug. He shakes my hand and says bon soir. We sit down.

That was my Valentine’s Day. How was yours?

bulgur and chickpea salad with parsley and mint

Bulgur and chickpea salad with parsley and mint

Here’s a salad that I made for lunch a few weeks back. It has nothing to do with this story, but I’ve been meaning to share it for a while. Inspired by a pile of small cucumbers and a bouquet of herbs, I found this tabouli-inspired recipe. I added the extra step of peeling the chickpeas. This takes about 5 minutes per can and, while some might find it tedious, I find it soothing to fall into a rhythm while letting my mind wander

Makes 4 lunches

- 1 C medium or coarse bulgur (I used coarse)

- 2 C water

- 2 15-ounce can chick peas

- 25-30 sprigs fresh parsley (1/2 C finely chopped)

- 15 sprigs fresh mint (1/4 C finely chopped)

- 3 small (Persian) or 3/4 large (English) cucumbers

- 3 scallions

- 1/4 C fresh lemon juice

- 1/3 C extra virgin olive oil

- 1/2 t cumin

- salt and pepper

Simmer. For coarse bulgur: Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the bulgur and salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed. Remove from the heat, and allow to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. For medium bulgur: Place the bulgur in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon salt and pour on 2 cups hot or boiling water. Allow to sit for 20 to 25 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed. Drain and squeeze out the water.

Peel. Rinse and drain the chick peas and then peel them. Grasp each chickpea between your thumb and forefinger, apply a little bit of pressure, and the outer transparent skin will slip right off. Each can took me about 5 minutes.

Chop. Finely chop the parsley and mint. Cut the cucumber into approximately 1/2-inch cubes. Slice the scallions into thin rounds up until the point where the green turns dark.

Shake. Shake in a jar (or whisk in a bowl) lemon juice and olive oil with cumin. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss.  Mix the bulgur, chickpeas, herbs, and scallions in a bowl. Toss with half the salad dressing, adding more to taste. The salad is even better the next day.

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that upstairs

You might notice that things look a little bit different here today. That there? That’s a little glimpse of my office.

CroutonsEvery morning, after the frenzy of coats and hats and scarves come off,  I drop my purse on the floor and my lunch, when I remember to pack it, on my desk. Eventually lunch makes its way into the fridge on my first trip upstairs to the kitchen for tea.

And let’s talk about that upstairs.  It’s where the printer is. It’s where the engineers sit. It’s where the real work gets done. It’s where the couches are. It’s where we gather for lunch.

Today I brought in a jar of soup. It was leftover roasted carrot from Sunday’s brunch (thanks Jenn!). And I topped it with croutons, and that’s what I want to quickly chat about today.

Yup, we’re going to talk about stale bread. There’s so much you can do with stale bread that I sometimes buy a loaf hoping I won’t be able to eat the whole thing before it dries out.

Looking back, I’ve used stale bread quite a bit around here. It’s the star of a salad. Ground into crumbs over another salad. Pureed to thicken cold soups. Rubbed with garlic and floated on a hot soup.

Today’s stale bread works equally well in soups or salads. The trick is to cut it into small cubes, no more than a half-inch on each side. I like to use baguette or a nice boule; you don’t want anything too airy. Toss the cubes with a nice drizzle of olive oil and a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper, maybe even some spices. Throw them on a cookie sheet and into the oven at 300° – 350°F for about ten minutes until they start to color. Or toast them up in a pan on the stove for about five minutes.

Once they cool, they go into a bag and into my office and onto my desk and up the stairs and into a jar and onto a couch and into my belly.

croutons

And in case you want a closer look at the soup, here’s a quick picture that I snapped as I packed my lunch in the morning.

roasted carrot soup

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Today I have a special treat for you.

I spoke with Michael Leviton, chef and owner of Lumière and Area Four, last weekend in anticipation of tonight’s fourth annual Beyond Bubbie’s Kitchen event.

BBK is just what it sounds like: local chefs, Jewish or not, reinterpreting Jewish culinary traditions. Past years have featured duck pastrami sandwiches and a towering croquembouche of cream puffs covered in caramel, a nod to the sticky, honey-soaked teiglach dessert served on Rosh Hashanah. While neither pork nor shellfish will make an appearance, the event is not strictly kosher.

Leviton is no stranger to turning traditional food on its head. For the past two years, he has hosted Passover seders, and just a month ago he initiated at Lumière Chinese food and a movie on Christmas Eve, an institution in many Jewish households, including his own (and mine). Does he have plans to celebrate other Jewish holiday at the restaurant? “Not really. I think [Passover and Christmas] are sort of the biggies. I think those are also the best tie in with non-Jewish things as well. Our seder is very inclusive and very interfaith. Obviously Chinese food and a movie is on Christmas Eve and the rest of that menu has latkes and some Christmas-y food – it really runs the gamut.” As a rule of thumb for how he develops these menus and dishes, Leviton explains, “From my standpoint, what I do with [these meals] is because of the training I’ve had. It’s not just enough to have the technical training, but you have to combine that with a cultural understanding of food and where it comes from.”

That technical training and cultural understanding began in high school when Leviton  worked in several delis in Newton, MA, though at that point, Leviton muses, “I thought I would never want to do this.” But the energy of the kitchen lured him back in: “I took some time off from college and had a desk job, but found that I really couldn’t sit still. So I took a job in a kitchen. I was a prep cook in a Souper Salad…Then I cooked the next few summers and as soon as I graduated, I left for San Francisco where I was very fortunate to meet the right people very early on.”

Leviton’s early mentors read like a who’s who of the restaurant world with chef after chef referring him to others who could help him hone his craft. I suspect playing “chef geography” in such a tight-knit community might be just as entertaining as “Jewish geography.” Leviton’s first restaurant job was with Joyce Goldstein at the now-closed Square One restaurant. A prolific cookbook author (I have Cucina Ebraica and Saffron Shores), it’s not surprising that Leviton characterizes his time working with Goldstein as “a very formative experience.” He then left for France where he picked up “a level of attention to detail and finesse” and returned to San Francisco to work with recent French transplant,  Alain Rodelli. A few years later, Rondelli introduced Leviton to Daniel Boulud, helping him land a job at Le Cirque in New York. Then a few years later, Rondelli asked him to fly back to San Francisco as sous chef of his new eponymous restaurant.

After shuttling from coast to coast, Leviton returned to New England in the mid-90s, first as Executive Chef at Upstairs at the Pudding (now Upstairs on the Square) and then opening Lumière in 1999 and the more casual Area Four less than two years ago.

On keeping with the BBK theme, I asked Leviton whether his own grandmothers influenced his cooking. Leviton chuckled. “Not at all. One I can’t ever really remember cooking and then the other one was not a particularly good cook. She cooked the crap out of everything. My dad will talk about his maternal grandmother being a very good cook. And that’s sort of about it. I was fortunate enough growing up because my mom wrote a low cholesterol kosher cookbook. So I was exposed to a lot of cooking, not all of it stuff you’d necessarily want to eat, but I was exposed to the idea of cooking and the process throughout my childhood…My kids like to cook a little bit, but my [10-year old] daughter will definitely work the front of the house. She’s a pro.”

Though his family is Ashkenazi, hailing from “the lands of potatoes and cabbage,” Leviton explains, “my palate definitely runs more towards Sephardic. And especially around Passover, we become Sephardic for a week. Then we eat rice. Also, the  flavors are so much more exciting.”

This mix of Ashkenazi and Sephardic cultures is reflected in Lumière’s seder courses. “I don’t know if you’ve seen the seder menu,” Leviton says, “but even there we’re trying to take some ideas from a variety of different cultures in the context of Jewish. It’s always trying to look at it through a slightly different lens, take a look at these classic ideas and re-frame them a little bit. We make a Persian  charoset recipe which I love because it’s not apples and cinnamon. It’s dates and almonds and raisins and orange and a pinch of cayenne. It’s a completely different palette of flavors. What I loved about it is if you think about where this holiday comes from initially, it’s from a desert climate. It’s from the Middle East and you have to figure they were celebrating their own foods back then. They weren’t using cinnamon and apples and walnuts. It was dates and almonds and things like that and to me, it made a lot more sense. We still make my Aunt Sharon’s charoset, but the one that everyone eats is the Persian one.”

As in years past, Leviton and Area Four pastry chef Katie Kimball will prepare a dessert for BBK. With Purim less than a month away, Leviton and Kimball are planning to make tri-cornered hamantashen cookies with sweet sesame filling and sesame candy on top, a break from the traditional poppy seed “mun” filling. Last year, they used that mun filling to make their own version of oreos.  And the year before that were alcoholic milkshakes. No doubt, the lines at their station will be snaking around the room.

Thanks so much, Michael. I can’t wait to meet you and Katie tonight and sample your creations!

Maple-Mustard Glazed Smoked Sable with Beets and Horseradish Vinaigrette

Michael Leviton’s Maple-Mustard Glazed Smoked Sable with Beets and Horseradish Vinaigrette (works well on chicken too)

Leviton explains, “I developed this recipe a number of years ago for something that I did for Myra Kraft’s. I took the idea of gefilte fish and turned it on its ear. For me, the best part of gefilte fish is the beets and horseradish. So we did a beet tartare with a horseradish vinaigrette and then a maple mustard glazed sable.”

I made a few adaptions to the recipe, replacing difficult-to-find smoked sable with smoked haddock. I served the fish atop a pile of baby arugula. I also changed the order of the ingredients slightly to reflect the order in which I made each component. Any modifications I made I have italicized.

The maple mustard marinade is quite intense, more mustard than maple with a good amount of spice (I used Maille brand mustard). I used the leftovers for boneless skinless chicken breasts that I cooked in a pan on the stovetop – incredible! I think this would work with a mild white fish as well. 

Serves 4 as an appetizer

For the seasoned white wine vinegar (you can skip if you have Japanese seasoned rice wine vinegar in your pantry)

- 1 cup white wine vinegar

- 1 cup sugar

- 2 teaspoons kosher salt

For the beets

- 4 small red beets – tops removed

- 4 tablespoons seasoned white wine vinegar (recipe above) - I used a Japanese seasoned rice wine vinegar

- 4 tablespoons water

For the fish

- 4 two ounce pieces of smoked sable (the more cube-like, the better) – I was only able to find a half-pound of smoked haddock

- 2 ounces maple syrup - make sure to use the richer Grade B

- 7 tablespoons Dijon mustard - I used a blend of regular and whole seed (“moutarde a l’ancienne”) Dijon

- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

- 1 tablespoon canola oil

For the vinaigrette

- ¼ cup seasoned white wine vinegar

- ¼ extra virgin olive oil

- Freshly grated (or prepared) horseradish – I grated fresh horseradish root with a lemon zester and added a tablespoon (I like things spicy)

- 1 tablespoon minced chives

Preheat the oven to 450ºF.

Season the vinegar. Combine the white wine vinegar, sugar and salt in a non-reactive pan and heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Cool to room temperature.

Roast. Wash the beets and place on a 12 inch by 12 inch square of aluminum foil. Fold up the sides and pour in the water and vinegar. Seal the top by folding over the edges of the foil. Place the foil package in a sauté pan (I placed my foil packet on a cookie sheet) and bake in the oven for about 1 hour or until easily pierced with the tip of a knife. (If your beets are larger, they may take up to 90 minutes to roast.)  Remove the beets from the foil package and, when cool enough to handle, peel. 

Puree. Coarsely chop the beets and puree in a food processor. The puree will not get very smooth. This is not a problem. Remove the puree from the processor and reserve.

Marinate. Combine the maple syrup, mustard and sherry vinegar and whisk well. Place the smoked sable in the glaze and let marinate for about 10 minutes.

Glaze. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add the canola oil and then the smoked sable portions (excess glaze removed). Cook for about one minute or until the glaze caramelizes. Flip the fish over and cook for another minute or so, until the sable is warmed through.

Whisk. To make the vinaigrette, combine the seasoned vinegar and extra virgin olive oil in a mixing bowl and whisk well. Add the horseradish to taste, Right before service, add the chives and mix well.

Assemble. Meanwhile, heat the beet puree in a small sauté or sauce pan. Add the chives to the vinaigrette. Place a spoonful of the puree in the center of each of four plates. Top with the sable and drizzle the vinaigrette around.

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Hey there! Today we’re having soup.

tomato couscous soup

It’s a simple tomato soup thickened with couscous, spiked with spices, dolloped with yogurt.

I’m going to level with you – the first bowl didn’t wow me. It was too thin. The couscous seemed like an afterthought. The cumin and thyme competed with one another. So I left the pot on the counter to cool and went out to work on breaking in my new hiking boots (Machu Picchu, here I come!).

But a few hours later, I stuck a spoon in the now cold soup to see if maybe I had missed something. Wow! While it sat, the couscous did its thing. As it absorbed the liquid, it thickened the broth, it united the spices.

I should have known it would all come together. Yotam Ottolenghi wrote the recipe.

And, no, I didn’t forget that it’s the fourth night of Hanukkah. I have two brand new recipes for you to open as you light candles five and six. Here’s a hint – neither of them is fried. (If, however, you can’t wait and do want to fry, check out last year’s sufganiyot.)

Tomato couscous soup

Adapted from Yotam Ottolengi’s Plenty. I replaced the semolina with  cooked couscous because I had some left over after making a tagine. If you don’t want to make couscous separately, I suspect that you can add uncooked couscous during the last ten minutes of cooking (which is how the recipe directs you to add semolina). 

Makes about 3 quarts

- 1 1/2 C cooked couscous (about 3/4 C uncooked)

- 1 medium onion

- 2 stalks celery

- 3 T olive oil

- 1 T cumin

- 2 t coriander

- 1 t thyme

- 1 1/2 t sweet paprika

- 2 T tomato paste

- 1 28-oz canned whole peeled tomatoes

- salt and pepper

- 7 C water

- 1 1/2 t sugar

- 1 lemon for juice

- Greek yogurt (optional)

Make couscous. I’ve had good luck with this method, or just follow the directions on the package. Or add uncooked couscous later.

Chop. Finely chop the onion and celery.

Sauté. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot (I used a 4-quart). Add the onion and celery, and sauté over medium heat until the onion is golden and soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in spices and tomato paste until incorporated.

Crush. Crush the tomatoes between your fingers into bite sized pieces and add to the pot. Stir and season with salt and pepper.

Simmer. Add the water and sugar and bring to a boil. Then turn the heat down and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Stir in the cooked (or uncooked) couscous and simmer for another 10 minutes. Cover the pot at this point if you opted for the uncooked couscous. The couscous will absorb some of the liquid, so don’t worry if it starts out looking thin. If the soup gets too thick (more likely if you added uncooked couscous), add water until you get the right consistency.

Serve. Squeeze in the lemon juice and taste for salt and pepper again (I found the soup needed quite a bit of salt). Ladle into bowls and spoon some Greek yogurt on top. Sprinkle with cumin.

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I’m still savoring the New Yorker December 3, 2012 food issue, nursing it like a café au lait in a bowl so large you get to warm up both hands as you lift it to your lips. The issue itself is comforting, inviting, lingering-inducing. You may have caught a glimpse of it sprawling across my table next to my salad earlier this week.

Jim Lahey's  no-knead bread

The article that’s on my mind now is one about young French female CEO Apollonia Poilâne, her business, her traditions, and her bread. Of course, it’s not really her bread, but her family’s bread, a legacy started eighty years ago in Paris by her grandfather Pierre Poilâne and their first eponymous bakery. And, one might argue that it’s not really her family’s bread, but France’s bread. Poilâne‘s signature miche, a 4-pound round loaf with a mild sourdough flavor, is often sold by the half, sliced in long tranches for tartines (open-faced sandwiches). In fact, the term pain Poilâne has become synonymous with sandwich bread (like the British term Hoover for vacuum).

Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, the process: first rise, 15-minute rest, second rise, out of the oven

Apollonia Poilâne has several ideas about the eating of bread, including:

  1. Bread should not steal the quality of the meal.
  2. I don’t believe in making bread at home.
  3. It’s terribly wrong to eat bread while it’s still cooling.

Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, getting ready to slice

And yet, I broke every single one of those rules last week when I made Jim Lahey’s game-changing bread recipe.  After two prior failed attempts, I was inspired to try baking this bread one more time after reading Tamar Adler‘s “How to Have Balance” chapter in which she says “Bread can be the thing you’re eating, not a prelude to the meal, or an afterthought.” 

Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, the first slice

And so I planned a meal in which the bread was the centerpiece, placed squarely in the middle of the plate with just a few adornments. Butter, honey, Chevrot, olive oil, salt.

Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, a few tranches

When we took the bread out of the oven, flipping it from the pot to the cutting board, we leaned in to hear the murmuring of the crust – microscopic cracks forming as the bread cooled and contracted. In Appolonia’s words, ça chante, it sings. We couldn’t wait for the bread to cool, and as we made the first cuts, the steam filled our noses, the rich scent of … bread, but really the feeling of home. We tore the first naked slice in half, chewing it, thoughtfully, entranced.

Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, the aftermath

Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread

There are two very similar versions of the recipe – the one on the Sullivan Street Bakery site and the one that Mark Bittman published in the New York Times. I added a little extra yeast and salt – next time I’d add more salt. While there is very little work that goes into making the bread, it does require a lot of time, so you do need to plan in advance. The whole process from start to finish – mixing, two rises, baking – takes 15 – 21 hours. I like to start the dough the afternoon before, give it an 18-hour first rise, and then bake the bread around 11 am in time for lunch. If you want to cut down on time, check out this video that recommends adding red wine vinegar (!) to the mix.

Here are a few lessons that I learned along the way.

Make sure you have a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid. I use a Le Creuset cocotte (French oven). The standard black knob that comes with the pot can’t sustain the high heat required; either replace it with a stainless one or remove the knob and fill the hole with some aluminum foil. The first time I made the bread, I used a covered tagine whose loose-fitting top not only let the steam out, but cracked when I removed it from the oven.

Don’t fuss with the dough. Refrain from peeking at it, lifting the plastic, kneading, or poking too much to check its rise. I put the bowl on top of the refrigerator to help me resist temptation.

The most difficult part of the whole recipe is transferring the dough into the hot pot. You want to do this quickly so you can cover the pot and get it back into the oven as fast as possible. I found that this was easiest when I placed the tea towel holding the dough on a cookie sheet so that I could let the dough tumble into the pot.

Makes one 1½-pound loaf.

- 3 cups all-purpose (or bread) flour, more for dusting

-1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

- 2 t salt

- 1 5/8 C warm water

- Cornmeal (or wheat bran)

Stir. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add water, and use your hands to stir everything around until blended. The dough will be very wet and sticky and will look shaggy – messy and scruffy and unkempt.

Rise. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.

Rest. Lightly flour your counter and roll the dough out on it in a jiggly mass. Sprinkle the dough with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (right on the counter) and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Rise again. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with cornmeal (or flour or wheat bran). Put the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more cornmeal (or flour or wheat bran). Cover the dough with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, the  dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger. I placed the dough and towels on a cookie sheet and placed the whole thing on top of my refrigerator.

Heat. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat the oven to 450ºF. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic) in oven as it heats. If you’re not sure which of your pots to use, go with the larger one – the bread is beautiful when it’s shaped free form.

Transfer. When the dough is ready, grab your oven mitts and carefully remove the pot from oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. There will be some cornmeal on what is now the top. It will look like a mess, but that’s OK. Shake the pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

Bake. Cover with lid and bake for 30 minutes, and then remove the lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is browned.

Cool. Cool on a rack for at least 15 minutes. The cooler the bread, the easier it will be to cut. If you can wait that long.

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hands down

Hi there. Just a quick hello and a recipe today.

Last week, I promised you bread. Um, here’s some salad.

kale and pear salad with pomegranate gremolata

It looks a little like this salad. And, well, this salad too.

I made it for a friend’s birthday and after we ate dessert as our first course (hey, it’s a birthday!) it was, hands down, everyone’s favorite dish. More on that dinner and that first course cake soon. But for now, again and from a different angle, here’s some salad.

kale and pear salad with pomegranate gremolata

Kale and pear salad with pomegranate gremolata

This salad is based on an arugula and watercress salad in last month’s Food & Wine.  It’s a great combination of bitter, sweet, and sour. And a great combination of textures – the crisp juicy pears, the pop of the pomegranate arils, the chewy kale. Make sure to toss the greens with half the vinaigrette about 30 minutes before serving so that it will start to wilt and absorb the flavors. You probably will have some leftover vinaigrette. 

Gremolata is an herb mix, usually lemon zest, garlic, and parsley, and traditionally sprinkled over osso bucco. The zest and parsley give any dish a really bright flavor; I like  how Food Lover’s Companion puts it: It’s sprinkled over … dishes to add a fresh sprightly flavor. Sprightly, yeah, that nails it. If you don’t want to dirty another bowl, feel free to sprinkle the gremolata ingredients over the salad after you’ve dressed the greens rather than mixing everything separately. Next time, I’ll peel and segment the oranges and add them to the salad too.

- 2 larges bunch kale (approximately 1 1/2 pounds or 6 C shredded and loosely packed) – I tried this with dinosaur and curly kale, and preferred the slightly tougher curly variety

- 3 Bosc pears

- Pomegranate vinaigrette (recipe below)

- Pomegranate gremolata (recipe below)

Slice. Fold each kale leaf in half and cut away the stems. Working in batches of several leaves, stack the leaves in a pile, roll them like a cigar, and slice the leaves crosswise into thin ribbons. Cut the pear into bite-sized pieces. 

Assemble. Scoop the kale into a large bowl and add half the dressing. Toss the leaves and let them sit for a half-hour. Right before serving, sprinkle with the pears and gremolata. Drizzle with more dressing to taste.

***

Pomegranate molasses vinaigrette

- 1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil

- 2 T pomegranate molasses

- 2 T apple cider vinegar

- 1 T honey

- 1 T Dijon mustard

- salt and pepper

Whisk or shake. In a bowl or jar, add all the ingredients and whisk or shake to emulsify. Add salt and pepper to taste.

***

Pomegranate gremolata

- 1 pomegranate for 3/4 C arils/seeds

- about 20 stems flat-leaf (Italian) parsley

- 1 shallot

- 1 orange for zest

Seed. Remove the arils/seeds from the pomegranate. I usually cut the pomegranate in half and tap the skin with a wooden spoon over a bowl of water (the seeds sink and any white pith floats to the top) but if you want to get every last seed, check out these detailed instructions.

Chop. Finely chop the parsley leaves. Mince the shallot.

Mix. In a small bowl, mix together the pomegranate seeds, parsley, and shallot. Zest the orange into the bowl and toss again.

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