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Archive for the ‘side dish’ Category

Well, today just may be the day that I turn on my air conditioner for the first time this year. I’ve cleaned the filter of my unit, so it’s ready for action, but, like all years, I try to hold out for as long as I can. I just don’t like air conditioning. Don’t get me wrong, I love having it – they sure didn’t have such a luxury in the shtetl – and I love standing in front of it every once in a while, but I like being able to keep the fresh air flowing rather than recycled. And so, two windows flung open, all three fans cranked up, I’m hoping that the heavy humidity breaks into a quick cooling downpour soon.

Eventually, I know I’ll have to bring the temperature of my apartment way down so that I can once again turn on the oven for two, almost three, hours to melt some cabbage. This is another cult classic of Adeena Sussman‘s from her Sababa cookbook that itself has developed a cult following. This dish transforms the humble crucifer into a complex yet comforting dish by braising it with other shtetl staples and then a splash of white wine (like air conditioning, not a shtetl staple). You end up with spoon tender cabbage, garlic and onion softened and sweetened and nestled in the leaves, and pools of what can best be described as potlikker.

Hot, cold, room temperature, it’s all good any which way you want to eat it. (The photo above was second day cabbage, eaten cold, straight from the pan, straight from the refrigerator.) So, even if I could resist the air conditioner through the end of the month, I doubt I’ll make it that long without this melted cabbage.

Adeena Sussman’s Melted Green Cabbage

Just barely adapted from Adeena Sussman’s Sababa (recipe published here). While I typically rewrite recipes in my own language, I’ll let Adeena’s stand on its own. I’ve noted any substitutions or tips I have in italics.

Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 2 1/2 to 3 hours

1/3 cup (75 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp (10 mL) kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp (2 mL) coarsely cracked black pepper, plus more to taste
2 small heads of green cabbage (2 lb; 900 g), quartered (but not cored)
10 whole garlic cloves, peeled
4 shallots, peeled and halved (no shallots, so I substitute 1 medium or 2 small yellow onions)
1/2 cup (125 mL) dry, acidic white wine, such as Albariño or Grüner Veltliner
1/2 cup (125 mL) chicken or vegetable broth, plus more if necessary (I’ve even used water)
4 sprigs fresh thyme (I’ve omitted)
3 tbsp (45 mL) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup (50 mL) crème fraîche or sour cream
Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)

STEP 1

Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C).

STEP 2

In a heavy, large, high-sided skillet or shallow Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon (5 mL) of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) of the pepper directly onto the oil, then arrange the cabbage wedges in the pot, making sure that each is lying on a flat side (you can cram them in; they’ll relax into one another as they release liquid). (I had to do this in 2 batches.) Let the undersides get nice and brown, resisting the urge to move them too much but checking once to make sure they’re not burning (reduce the heat slightly if they are), 6 to 7 minutes. Using tongs, flip the cabbage wedges, then tuck the garlic cloves and shallots into the pot, and brown the undersides of the cabbage, another 6 to 7 minutes. Add the wine and broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and add the remaining 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt and 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) pepper along with the thyme. Cover with a tight-fitting lid, transfer to the oven, and cook until soft, slumped and mahogany brown, 2 hours, or 2 1/2 hours for even softer cabbage. Uncover, cool slightly, and serve the cabbage with the liquid accumulated in the pot. Season with salt and pepper and top with butter and crème fraîche. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Serves: 4

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Walking distance from my mom’s place in South Florida, we discovered earlier this year a no-frills Russian grocery store. Well, we always knew it was there, and that it drew large crowds seated on plastic chairs at plastic tables on the sidewalk, but this year I popped in. After checking out the produce (a pretty normal assortment) and the aisles of Cyrillic-labeled bottles, jars, and cans, I was drawn to the buffet that ran the length of the store. I bee lined to the cold section: an overabundance of cold salads consisting of combinations of vegetables, heavy on the dill and cabbage and pickling. I got hooked on the more vinegary of these salads, taking home more than a few pints and quarts of them and rounding out most lunches and dinners with a little of this, a little of that.

Fast forward to the “pause” and “stay-at-home” orders that keep getting extended, and I’ve returned to my Eastern European roots. I’ve been loading up on what my friend and I like to call shtetl vegetables – beets, potatoes, carrots, cabbage – ones that are hardy and last for weeks, months even, helpful during these times of limited grocery runs. As I’ve grown weary of soup and look forward to more spring vegetables, I’ve been using up these shtetl staples to make big batch salads that stay good in the fridge.

My most recent batch: salat vinegret*.

In watching a discussion of Soviet-Jewish Cuisine featuring Bonnie Morales of Kachka and author Boris Fishman, I learned the word zakuski – a spread of appetizers similar to mezze – that are always in the fridge, ready to pull out when a guest drops by, a tangible element of hospitality, usually served with vodka. Each of the participants had prepared zakuski, and my friend Gabi who was leading the talk showed a bowl salat vinegret, pink-tinged cubes of beets and potatoes, dressed with pickled cabbage, vinegar and traditional sunflower oil.

Remembering how much I loved the salads from Matryoshka’s buffet, I looked up salat vinegret and – not surprisingly, has most of the ingredients. I made do with what I had – those shtetl genes run deep, I tell you – and have been eating from this huge bowl for days. No guests allowed, so I shared with a friend who lives across the street from me.

* Of course I have a footnote. Vinegret comes from the French vinaigrette which is a diminutive of the word vinaigre (vin aigre = sour wine = vinegar). Most agree that the term came eastward due to the Russian nobility’s Francophilia and Francophonia, and the preparation – using vinegar to hide any off flavors – became popular in the early Soviet era when fresh produce was scarce, and frozen or canned goods dominated. Over time, vinegret has come to refer to any beet salad. It can also mean a mish-mash.

Salat Vinegret

Recipe developed in reviewing this and this, and rummaging through my fridge and pantry.

Makes a lot, 2 quarts perhaps (I didn’t measure)

– 1 lb new potatoes potatoes (4 medium)
– 2 lbs beets (2 large)
– 4-5 medium pickles (and 1/4 C pickle juice, optional)
– 1 small yellow onion
– 1 T chopped dill
– 1 T chopped parsley
– 2-3 T vegetable oil (ideal is sunflower from Ukraine, but it’s not something that I had in my pantry)
– 1-2 T mild vinegar (I used cider vinegar)
– Salt
– Other traditional ingredients: cooked carrots, peas, sauerkraut

Roast. Roast (or boil) beets and peel. I roasted by wrapping them individually in foil with a little salt and vegetable oil and cooking in a hot oven (400F – 425F) for a little over an hour (depending on size) until a paring knife pierced easily through to the center. When cool enough to handle but still warm, the skin will slide off pretty easily with your hands (the hotter, the easier). If you’re having a hard time peeling, they may need a little time in the oven.

Boil. While the beets are roasting, boil the potatoes in salted water over high heat, 10-15 minutes until that same knife pierces easily through the center. Don’t overcook, or they potatoes can get water logged.

Cut. Cut the beets into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes/pieces. Transfer to a large bowl, and clean off the cutting board and knife. Cut the potatoes and pickles into pieces roughly the same size. Finely dice the onion. Add the vegetables and chopped herbs to the bowl.

Mix. Drizzle in oil, vinegar, and pickle juice, and mix. Start tasting. Add some salt. Keep tasting until it suits you.

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Well, hello December, also known as birthday month here at Kosher Camembert. This year I’m skipping the house party shindig and the restaurant brunch and just hanging out with my friends and family in more intimate settings.

It’s been a been a busy time – I’m in Orlando right now at a conference on health care quality and it feels really good to be back in the industry while focusing on what I believe might be my true calling, the result of a long meandering career path better explained by serendipity than by design. Then another conference next week, and hopefully a trip to DC as the year draws to a close.

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But before we rush ahead, I have a quick little catch up from November. Because of all the Rosh Hashanah hosting I did, I held back on the cooking for Thanksgiving, and only made cranberry sauce.

Of course, me being me, I had to make two different types.

First up, the boozy one. A traditional cranberry sauce, highly jellied and spiked with sweet sticky port. The alcohol cooks off during a very long simmer, leaving the sauce thick with pectin and tinged with a plummy after note from the fortified wine.

Next, the fruity. Reminiscent of my mother’s favorite method of mixing a can of cranberry sauce with one of mandarins and another of chunked pineapple, this one starts off with a persimmon puree base into which the cranberries melt and then cubed fresh persimmon is mixed in. Don’t let the poor grammar of the previous sentence fool you – it’s a winner.

If you want to learn more about cranberries, harvesting, and operations management, take a look at the HBS case study that we used in business school. Otherwise, just scroll right down for the recipes.

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Boozy cranberry port sauce 

Adapted from Food & Wine but will less sugar, a bit of honey, and a pinch of salt for balance. 

Makes a generous 2 cups

– 3 satsumas (or 4-5 mandarins, or 1 1/2 oranges)

– 12 oz fresh cranberries

– 1/2 C ruby port

– 1/2 C sugar

– 2 T honey

– 1/2 t kosher salt

Prepare. Zest and juice citrus. You want 1/2 cup of juice. Pick out any squished or blemished cranberries and remove any stems and then rinse the berries.

Boil, then simmer. In a saucepan over medium heat, mix all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower the heat until the the mixture bubbles gently. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until the berries burst and the sauce thickens and gels. The longer you cook the mixture, the thicker and more jelly-like the sauce will be.

Serve. Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed.

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Cranberry persimmon sauce

Inspired by Gourmet. Most recipes I found online involved making a simple cranberry sauce and then adding chunks of persimmon to the warm mixture. I wanted more persimmon flavor to infuse the entire sauce, so I first made a persimmon compote, mixed in cranberries to make a sauce, and then added in chopped persimmon for some fresh fruit chunks.

Makes 3 cups

6 Fuyu persimmons, divided

12 oz cranberries

1 1/4 C water, divided

1/2 C  sugar, divided

Prepare. Separate the four ripest persimmons from the two firmer ones. Peel all the persimmons, pull or cut off the green leaves and step, and cut in half. Remove any hard core, and cut into cubes, about 1/4-1/2 inch around – you can be less precise with the softer ones because they’re going to be cooked down. Pick out any squished or blemished cranberries and remove any stems and then rinse the berries.

Boil, then simmer. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring to a boil the 4 softer chopped persimmons, 1/2 cup water, and 1/4 cup sugar. Lower the heat until the mixture bubbles gently. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until the fruit softens.

Puree. Using an immersion blender, puree the persimmon mix. You’ll have about 1 cup.

Boil, then simmer. Mix the cranberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and 3/4 cup water into the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn the heat down until the mixture bubbles gently. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes until the berries burst and the sauce thickens. It won’t gel like traditional cranberry sauce because the persimmon puree reduces the impact of the cranberries’ pectin. If you want your sauce to thicken a bit more, you can cook it a little longer uncovered.

Stir. Once the sauce cools, stir in the two remaining chopped persimmons.

Serve. Serve at room temperature or slightly warmed.

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I went back to Buvette last week where I ordered the carottes râpées and croque forestière, a grilled mushroom sandwich wrapped in gruyere. As you may recall, I do have a thing for carrot salads from France.

This time, the date showed up but he asked to split the bill. So we’re on to the next one.

Then I spent the weekend downtown, cat sitting or a friend, and took advantage of the new surroundings and colorful cookware to try out a recipe. Buvette’s carrots were on the menu and even though most of my meals took place in restaurants (my parents were in town), I managed to squeeze in a salad and a few fun shots.

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Speaking of new surroundings, I’m actually traveling right now. At the last minute, I booked what I’m calling a creative retreat to Bermuda. I’ve wanted to come here since my friends and I were subjected to a emergency landing on the island, trapped for several hours in the airport with only one vending machine, and tortured with a view of pink houses. I know it may seem extravagant given that I’ve just returned from Iceland. And yet, a bunch of projects over the past month have made it nearly impossible to catch up on a pile of writing – both here and over at the Forward. With the Jewish holidays and several upcoming cookbook releases on the horizon, I wanted to dedicate a little time to my “craft.” I’ve also brought my real camera and hope to play around with photographing things that aren’t food.

You can follow my travels over on Instagram. Today, there were bus rides (including an impromptu sunbathing session sitting on a stone wall at the bus stop, my feet mere inches from the cars, trucks, and bikes – but no bus for nearly an hour – winding their way towards me), reading on a beach that slowly disappeared as the tide came in, and a massage by the pool while the sun set. When I finish posting this, I’m taking a night swim.

And now, before y’all hate me, the recipe.

Buvette’s carottes râpées with pistachios and coriander vinaigrette

Adapted from Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food. Jody Williams calls this vinaigrette “an assertive lemon dressing” and it’s bracing in its acidity on its own, but mixed with sweet carrots and salty pistachios, it works. This makes a little more dressing than you’ll need. You can use a food processor to grate the carrots, but I prefer to use a julienne peeler for longer, thicker pieces. 

– ¼ C freshly squeezed lemon juice (my lemons were a little sad, so I needed 4; typically you can get ¼ cup juice from 2 lemons)

– ½ C extra virgin olive oil

– 1 medium garlic clove, grated on a Microplane (or finely minced)

– Large pinch sea salt

– Large pinch red chili flakes

– 1 t coriander seeds, toasted

– 4 C grated carrots (approximately 6 carrots hand grated)

– ½ C shelled pistachios (I used roasted salted nuts)

– Handful fresh cilantro leaves

Whisk. Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, and chili flakes. 

Crush. With a mortar and pestle (I used the other end of a wooden spoon) or the flat side of a knife blade, gently crush the coriander seeds and add them to the dressing.

Marinate. Pour the dressing over the carrots, pistachios, and cilantro. Allow to sit for at least half an hour before serving.

Chill. The salad will keep, well covered, in the refrigerator for a few days.

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It’s T minus six days to Thanksgiving and I’ve got a quick recipe to share: mushroom stuffing made with cornbread. First, I tweaked the cornbread I’ve made here before, mainly upping the amount of corn and sugar. It’s so good that I was worried that my nibbles here and there (and here and there) were going to require me to make up a second batch for the stuffing, but I restrained myself and had just enough left after an overnight stale that the one batch sufficed. But it was touch and go for a while there.

I’ve used the cornbread in a sweeter stuffing before, mixing it with apples, aromatics, and some turkey-friendly herbs. But I think I prefer this year’s version – it’s got the same aromatics (celery and onion) and a whole lot of mushrooms. It takes its flavor cues from how my mom prepares the Pepperidge Farm crouton mix that we traditionally use (and love).

Anyway, the Forward published this recipe yesterday, and I wanted to put it here too. Enjoy!

parve cornbread mushroom stuffing

Parve Cornbread

Adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2004 Cookbook and updated an older recipe on this blog. Pureeing corn with water in a blender for a couple of minutes creates a thick non-dairy substitute for the milk that’s normally in cornbread. Baking it in a pre-heated, very hot skillet results in an nice brown bottom crust. 

– 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
– ¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing skillet
– 1¼ cup water
– 2 eggs
– 1½ cup flour
– 1½ cup cornmeal
– 6 tablespoons sugar
– 1½ teaspoon salt
– 1½ teaspoon baking powder

Prepare. Preheat oven to 450˚F. Place a 9-inch round cast iron skillet into the oven.

Blend. In a blender or food processor, blend the corn, oil and water for two minutes until smooth. Add the eggs and pulse a few times until combined.

Mix. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add the wet mixture to the bowl and stir until incorporated.

Bake. Using an oven mitt, pull the cast iron skillet out of the oven and drizzle with oil, swirling to cover the bottom and sides of the skillet. Add the corn bread batter to the skillet and bake until the top is golden and a toothpick comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

parve cornbread

Parve Cornbread and Mushroom Stuffing

Adapted from the New York Times. Prepare the cornbread recipe and then crumble and spread out on two sheet pans, allowing to dry overnight or longer or for at least 20 minutes in a 150˚F oven.

– 6 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing pan
– 2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 medium onions)
– 1½ cup celery (4–5 stalks)
– 3 garlic cloves, minced
– ¾ pound white button mushrooms
– ¾ pound cremini mushrooms
– ¾ teaspoon fresh thyme
– Salt and pepper to taste
– ½ cup chopped parsley
– 8 cups crumbled, stale cornbread (see recipe above)
– 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock

Prepare. Preheat oven to 325˚F. Grease a 9- by 13-inch or similarly sized (12-cup) shallow baking pan.

Saute. In a large, deep skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garlic. Sauté, stirring for 5–7 minutes, until tender. Add mushrooms and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the mushrooms release their liquid (about 5 minutes) and then resorb it (another 10 minutes). Taste for salt and pepper.

Mix. In a large bowl, combine the mushrooms, parsley and cornbread. Mix in the stock to moisten the cornbread. Transfer to greased baking pan.

Bake. Cover the pan with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is lightly browned, another 15 minutes. Serve hot.

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stuffing

How was your Thanksgiving? Your Hanukkah?

This Thanksgiving, with nine of us around the table, we kept things low-key and didn’t go crazy with the food. I mean, we didn’t even have potatoes, sweet or otherwise.

Now, even with a more streamlined menu, there was still that last-minute scramble as we pulled the turkey out of the oven and realized that we hadn’t cooked the broccoli and brussels sprouts. Actually, we hadn’t even decided how to cook those vegetables. While we let the turkey rest, my mom and I rapidly sliced off florets and halved sprouts, spread them on a few baking sheets, doused with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and popped them into the hot oven. You can’t go wrong with roasting.

We started dinner with soup served in mugs. The mugs don’t match the plates. They don’t even match each other. And not in that hip casual-chic kind of way. I love that we start dinner in mugs. It’s cozy – you can’t help but wrap your hands around the warm ceramic, raise it to your face, and blow on the steaming  soup until it’s cool enough to sip, spoons reserved for scraping out the last few drops.

After the salad was passed around, my cousin Ben slipped out to carve the turkey (he’s a turkey-carving whiz) and I grabbed the vegetables and stuffing out of the oven.

We took a dishwashing break before dessert.

The next day, we had turkey for lunch and dinner.

Cornbread stuffing, apple, celery, herbs

Before we get to the stuffing (you know, just in time to start planning next Thanksgiving), here are a few links and thoughts for the week.

Ever put maple syrup in your coffee? Try it. Thanks for the tip, Adeena.

Paula Wolfert – queen of Mediterranean, Moroccan, and clay pot cooking – talks about Alzheimer’s and staving off its progression with cooking. On starting off every morning  with a hulk-green smoothie, filled with anti-oxidants and ingredients purported to improve cognition, she says, “It is tough going because it’s not delicious, it’s nutritious.  My grandmother told me, during the second world war, we were sitting in the vegetable garden: If you want to win a war, you’ve got to be willing to fight.”

A new-to-me blog, Apt. 2B Baking Co. More photos than words, Yossy Arefi, makes cakes and cookies that make me want to go out and buy pounds and pounds of butter. How about a meyer lemon and grapefruit bundt? Yes, please.

And now, the stuffing.

Cornbread apple stuffing

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Apple and Herb Stuffing for All Seasons. I substituted corn bread (this recipe, which is based on Elisha’s recipe) for the hearty white bread that Deb recommended. I doubled this recipe for Thanksgiving, and our family of nine had enough leftovers for days.  When I reheat the stuffing, I sometimes pour a little liquid over top – water works just fine – to keep it from drying out in the oven (or microwave). 

Make or buy cornbread a day or two in advance if possible so you can pull it apart and dry it out; otherwise, toast it in the oven for 10-15 minutes. If you do want to make your own cornbread, I’ve modified my go-to recipe to reflect the quantities for this stuffing. 

Serves 8-10

– 1 recipe cornbread (below) or 6 cups of cornbread cut or torn into cubes and crumbs (approximately an 8X8 pan)
– 1 large yellow onion
– 2 large stalks celery
– 1 large or 2 small firm, tart tart apples, such as Granny Smith
– 5 T olive oil, divided
– 1 t chopped fresh thyme leaves
– ½ t kosher salt, plus more to taste
– Freshly ground black pepper
– ¼ C roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
– 3 sage leaves, minced
– 1-2 C turkey, chicken or vegetable stock or broth
– 1 large egg

Dry. Cut or tear the cornbread into small cubes or crumble into large crumbs. Let the bread dry out for a day or two before proceeding, or spread it out in a single layer on a large baking sheet and bake at 350°F for 10-15 minutes until pale golden. Keep your oven on.

Sauté. Finely chop the onion, celery, and apple. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, thyme, salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add celery and cook for 2 more minutes. Then add apple and sauté until a bit tender, another 5 minutes.

Mix. Place dried-out cornbread in a large mixing bowl and scrape contents of the skillet on top. Whisk together egg and 1 cup broth and pour over. Stir in parsley and sage. Dig your hands in and mix everything together. The bread should hold its shape but be wet enough to squish when you squeeze it. If the bread seems a bit dry, pour another half cup of broth over it. If it’s still dry, pour in the last half cup. Let the bread soak for half an hour in the refrigerator.

Bake. Use the last tablespoon of oil to grease a 9-inch square baking dish (or another equivalent pan) . Spoon the bread mix into the dish. If  you toasted the bread earlier, your oven should already be at 350°F; otherwise, turn it on. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until brown on top and no liquid appears if you insert a knife vertically into the center of the stuffing pan and turn it slightly. Serve immediately, or reheat as needed. If you do reheat, you might need to add some extra liquid before popping into the oven for 10-15 minutes. 

(Non-dairy) skillet cornbread

Slightly modified from this recipe, which is based on this recipe

Serves 6-8

– 1 ½ C flour
– 1 ½ C fine cornmeal
– 2 T sugar
1 ½ t salt
– 1 ½ t baking powder
– ¾ C corn kernels (I use frozen and thaw them before use)
– 1 ¼ C water
– 4 T oil (canola or olive), divided
– 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Place a large oven-proof cast-iron skillet on the middle rack.

Mix. In a large bowl, mix together flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

Purée. Place the corn, water and 2 tablespoons of oil into a blender (or food processor) and puree for about 2 minutes until it’s smooth and no corn pieces remain. Add the eggs and continue to blend everything together. You’ll end up with a light yellow liquid that’s a bit thicker than whole milk.

Wait. Wait until the oven is hot before adding the wet ingredients to the dry.

Stir. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Stir until all the ingredients are incorporated (don’t over-mix), scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure you don’t miss any flour.

Swirl. Take the skillet out of the oven (it will be very hot) and pour in the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, swirling so that it coats the bottom and sides of the skillet. Pour the batter into the skillet – is should sizzle as it hits the hot pan.

Bake. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm right out of the pan. If you’re making stuffing, let the cornbread completely cool, then cut or crumble into pieces and allow to dry out overnight or in the oven, as detailed above.

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As the calendar page turns from September to October, here’s a recipe I made in August. It’s farmers market fare and there’s still time to get in on it before most of our carrots are plucked from cold storage.

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Roasted carrots with carrot top hazelnut pesto

Adapted from Bon Appétit. Carrot tops are the earthier, more bitter cousins of their roots. Which I realize doesn’t sound particularly appetizing. But bear with me here. To mellow the bitterness of the pesto, I added one of the carrots and lemon juice. Rather than using pine nuts as in the original recipe, I chose hazelnuts since I like how well carrots and the Egyptian spice and nut (usually hazelnut) mix called dukkah go together. The leftover pesto is great on vegetables that sweeten with roasting – cauliflower, beets, parsnips, even Brussels sprouts.

Serves 4 as a side dish

– 2 pounds carrots (about a dozen medium) with tops attached

– 2 T + ¼ C olive oil, divided

– kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

– ½ garlic clove

– ¼ C hazelnuts, toasted and peeled

– ¼ C parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

– 2-3 T lemon juice

Prep. Heat oven to 400°F. Peel and trim the carrots, leaving short stems attached. Set aside one carrot and all the leafy tops. Was the tops really well to remove any dirt.

Roast. Cover a baking sheet with parchment. Toss carrots (except for the one you put aside) with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, a few pinches of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally until carrots are golden brown and tender, 35-45 minutes for full sized carrots (less time for smaller carrots).

Crush. Pulse garlic and nuts in a food processor until a coarse paste forms. Add 1 cup of the carrot tops, the carrot you set aside, and parsley; process until a coarse purée forms. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil and lemon juice and pulse until combined; season with salt and pepper.

Serve. Serve carrots drizzled with pesto.

Store. The pesto will last up to 2 weeks in a jar in the refrigerator. It should also freeze well.

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The first time I liked eggplant was in London. Until then, I was one of the many eggplant haters. The flesh too bitter, too slimy. The skin too rubbery. My mouth too itchy with each bite.

Babaghanoush? No thank you. Eggplant parm? Nope, I make it with zucchini. Ratatouille? I’ll pass.

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And then, sitting in the Japanese restaurant  a block from her flat, Lau ordered the aubergine that changed my hating ways.

Lau and I worked at the same company, me in New York, her in London. We first met when she was on secondment to our New York office, and I lived a dozen blocks uptown from her, and after late nights in the office, we used to share a taxi home.

Around the time she returned to the UK, I started working with a client in Germany. I’d bookend every trip with a few days in London. You know, to make sure I wasn’t jetlagged for client meetings. Once my project was over, I took advantage of our cross-Atlantic company and worked out of our UK office every few months. I’d stay on Lau’s orange pull-out couch. Each time I visited, there was more framed art on the wall. They were mostly Lau’s paintings. And there was that five-foot piece she’d managed to get past security and onto a plane as her carry-on.

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We made good roommates. I’d stock her fridge with groceries and make dinner with her limited appliances. (She had no oven. For real. No oven. I had my work cut out for me.) She’d order in sushi from the place down the street. The same place every time. We’d eat on our laps on that orange couch. After dinner, Lau would make a pot of milky tea. And then usually we’d have to pull out our laptops and work.

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For a few years, I thought that the sushi place was take-out/delivery only. When we walked past it on the way to the tube every morning, I never noticed that there were seats inside. One night, with bags slung over our shoulders, we walked in. The little sushi place was long and narrow, at least twenty tables between the street and the kitchen hidden away behind a red and black curtain.

We ordered more sushi than two people should ever eat in one sitting. Those paper lists with the check boxes and the little nubby pencil, they get me every time. Just as the waiter was about to turn away, long list triumphantly in hand, Lau gestured him back. “Oh, and can we have the aubergine?” He nodded.

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I looked at Lau head tilted, brows furrowed. “You’ll love it, trust me.” And that was that.

The waiter set on our table two golden sticky eggplant halves, mirror images of each other. Lau scooped out the flesh and took a bite. I scooped out the flesh and took a sniff.  Sweet, and a little smoky. I raised fork to mouth and took a nibble. Sweet, salty, smooth, silky. Several scoops later, there was only thin crispy skin left. And there there was just a plate with a few golden brown sticky pools where eggplant had sat just a few minutes earlier.

I turned into an eggplant lover. I’ve never turned back.

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Nasu dengaku

I have dreamed about this caramelized salty sweet miso-glazed eggplant since the day I had it years ago, and after a few tries, I got the recipe right. I used the eggplant roasting technique from Ottolenghi’s Plenty and the miso glaze recipe from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy.  Make sure to cross hatch the flesh so the eggplant cooks quickly and evenly, and the glaze seeps into the flesh during the second roasting. You’ll have some extra sauce which would be great on roasted vegetables or with tofu. I’ve been able to find miso in Whole Foods and health food stores. 

Serves 2 as a side dish or starter. 

– 2 thin-skinned eggplants (small Italian or long thin Japanese)

– 3 T olive oil

– 2 1/2  T sesame oil, divided (1 T for the eggplant and 1 1/2 T for the miso dressing)

– salt and pepper

– 2 T white miso

– 1 t mirin

– 1/2 t white sugar

– 3-4 T warm water

– 2 green onions

– 2 T sesame seeds

Prep. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Put one rack in the middle of the oven and another just under the broiler. Line a baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.

Cut. Slice the eggplants in half lengthwise through the green stalk. Use a small sharp knife to cross-hatch the flesh without cutting through the skin.

Roast. Arrange the eggplant halves, cut side up, on the lined baking sheet. Mix the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a small bowl. Brush the eggplant flesh with the oil mixture, and keep brushing until all of the oil has been absorbed. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Go light on the salt because the miso is pretty salty itself. Roast the eggplant for about 20 minutes. They’re ready when they start to brown and the softened flesh pulls away from the cross-hatch cuts. 

Whisk. While the eggplant is roasting, whisk the miso, mirin, and sugar into a paste. Stir in enough warm water (I needed 3 tablespoons) to thin the mix to a smooth consistency.

Slice and toast. Thinly slice the green onions on a bias. Spill the sesame seeds into a small pan over medium-high heat. Shake the pan occasionally and remove from the burner when the seeds are golden brown and smell nutty (about 5 minutes). Watch closely so that the sesame seeds don’t burn.

Broil. Remove the eggplant and brush with the miso glaze. Turn on the broiler. Place the eggplant on the top rack and watch carefully. Within about a minute, the glaze will start to bubble and caramelize. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before eating.

Serve. Sprinkle the eggplant with the green onion and toasted sesame seeds.

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Happy 2013!

It’s been such a long time. I’ve missed this space. I’ve missed you guys. I’m back from Peru and have so much to tell you about the trip.

But first, some exciting news. I started a new job!

Maybe you prepare for a new role by self-reflecting and setting goals for success, researching the company and industry, honing skills that might need, well, honing. I did all those things, but I spent my last days of freedom figuring out how I was going to transition from a home office to an office office: I chose my first-week outfits.

And then I decided to mix and match in the kitchen too. I prepped food over the weekend so that, morning or evening, I could open my fridge and pantry like a closet, easing the scramble to pack lunch or throw together dinner. There were greens and herbs to clean, vegetables to roast, dressings and sauces to whisk, meats and grains to cook, nuts to toast.

A few rules of thumb. The vegetables last a few days, so don’t make too much. Dressings are usually good for two weeks unless they contain fresh herbs. Sauces, meat, and grains are easy to freeze, and toasted nuts stay fresh in a jar for at least a month, so make a lot and squirrel them away.

I started week one with butternut squash, using farro that I made a while back and froze.

Tomorrow is a tabouli-like bulgur salad. More on that later, but, right now the big question is … what shall I wear?

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Butternut squash and farro salad with pepitas and ricotta salata

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Farro, wheat berries, freekeh, barley, brown rice, quinoa – use whatever grains you have around. (Yes, I know quinoa is a seed.)  I roasted the squash at a slightly higher temperature and used scallions instead of red onions. Don’t skip the pumpkin seeds, and definitely don’t skip toasting them.  The crunch is worth it. 

While you’re at it, make extra squash (keeps in the refrigerator for a few days), farro (freeze for a few weeks), and pepitas (store in a jar for a few weeks).

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 for lunch 

– 2 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)

– 4-5 T olive oil, divided

– Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

– 1/2 C dried farro (or wheat berries, freekeh, barley, etc.)

– 1 T sherry vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

– 1 T water

– 1/2 t salt

– 1/2 t granulated sugar

– 2 scallions

– 1/3 C pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

– 3 oz ricotta salata or another salty cheese (about 3/4  C crumbled) – a dry feta would work well too

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Roast. Cut the butternut squash between the bulb and neck to make peeling easier. Spoon out the seeds. Cut the squash into pieces about 3/4-inch all around. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the squash out in one layer. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast until pieces are browned and tender, about 30 – 40 minutes. Shake the pan once or twice during roasting.

Simmer. While the squash is roasting, make the wheat berries (or other grains or quinoa) according to the package directions and drain. If you have one, use a pressure cooker! Otherwise, this “beyond rice” guide  from the January 2013 Cook’s Illustrated is really helpful. Let the drained grains cool a bit.

Whisk. While the squash is roasting and the grains are simmering, prepare the dressing. Whisk in a small bowl or jar the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar. There will not be a lot of liquid. Thinly slice the scallions and add them to the dressing. There will be more scallion than dressing. Let the scallions mellow in the brine for at least 10 minutes.

Toast. In a small pan, toast the pepitas over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Shake the pan a few times while toasting. The seeds will color slightly, puff up, and some will even pop. Once the pepitas are ready, mix with a teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Mix. In a large bowl, mix together the squash, grains, scallions and brine. Toss. Crumble half the cheese over the salad and add half the pepitas and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss again. Before serving, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and pepitas.

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Today was a salad-for-breakfast kind of day. And a salad-for-lunch-kind of day. And a salad-for-dinner kind of day. Not only that, it was a kale-salad-for-breakfast-lunch-dinner kind of day.

I was pretty late to the kale game. My first ever taste was nearly four years ago when I bought a big bunch of kale to help me decide whether to join a CSA. I had heard that in bad years, even in good years, you can go weeks on end with little more than kale and a few carrots in your weekly vegetable box. So I made a kale soup. I did end up buying into CSA, but the soup was decidedly on the con list, despite what may have I told you at the time).

And then for years, kale disappeared from my blog. It disappeared from my kitchen. It even disappeared from my CSA box (every week, I found some pour soul to trade their tomatoes/chard/potatoes/tomatoes for the prized kale; yeah, you never want to share food with me).

But it’s back, my friends. Kale is back. And with a vengeance. Three times this month. Thrice!

I took baby steps at first, using delicate tender baby kale leaves in a salad and a soup. And then, I dove right in. I skipped over the mild lacinato (dinosaur) variety and went straight for the red Russian. Imagine biting into curly parsley when you’re expecting Italian flat-leaf. That’s the difference between red Russian and baby kale.

But mix some kale with a little oil, a little acid, a little salt, and we’re in business. The leaves wilt just enough to become not merely palatable, but delicious. They absorb the flavors and then hold them in while resisting the wilt that their less hardy brethren are so prone to.

Dress it today, eat it tomorrow. Or, if you’re like me, dress it today, eat it this morning, this afternoon, and this evening.

Kale salad with ricotta salata, walnuts, and bread crumbs

I started this salad with Kim Severson‘s version (also reprinted in the New York Times where Mark Bittman called it The Kale and Ricotta Salata Salad, as if it were the only one worth knowing!) and then added parsley for its fresh flavor and toasted bread crumbs and walnuts for some crunch. Ricotta salata is ricotta cheese that has been pressed, aged, and dried. It is solid, but can crumble. If you can’t find it, a sheep’s milk feta could substitute (I like Pastures of Eden brand). 

Serves 4 (or just 1 over the span of a day)

– 3-4 slices stale baguette (for 1/2 C crumbs)

– 1/2 C walnuts

– 1 t + 1/4 C olive oil, divided

– kosher salt and pepper

– 1 large shallot

– 1 lemon for juice (~2 T)

– 1 large bunch red Russian kale (approximately 6 C shredded and loosely packed)

– 8-10 parsley stems

– 1/4 lb (4 ounces) ricotta salata (1/2 C shredded)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Blitz. Break the bread into pieces, including the crust, and then blitz in food processor or blender until you get large crumbs. If your bread isn’t stale, dry it out by placing it in the oven with the walnuts for about 5 minutes.

Toast. Spread the  walnuts and bread crumbs out separate baking sheets and toast for about 10 minutes until fragrant and slightly golden. Drizzle the tablespoon of olive oil over the bread crumbs, sprinkle with salt, and mix with your hands.

Whisk or shake. Cut the shallot into several large pieces and mince it in a garlic press (or chop it very fine) into a bottle or bowl. Add the 1/4 cup oil and the juice of the lemon with a large pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Shake or whisk until emulsified.

Slice. Trim the leaves of the kale above where the stems become thick. Stack the leaves in a pile, roll them like a cigar, and slice it thin crosswise. Chop the parsley.

Assemble. Scoop the kale and parsley into a large bowl and add the dressing (this recipe makes the right amount of dressing for the salad, so no worries about over-dressing). Dig your hands in and toss the leaves with the dressing, and let the salad sit for about a half hour. At this point you can also leave the dressed leaves (and only the leaves) in the fridge overnight – they’ll continue to soften, but are hardy enough not to get soggy.   Before serving, sprinkle with the toasted breadcrumbs and walnuts and shave  the ricotta salata over the salad. Give a quick toss and serve.

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