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Archive for the ‘side dish’ Category

Hi there!  It’s so good to be back after a few days off.

How was your Thanksgiving?

My family and I gathered right outside of Philadelphia. We ate a lot (I’m sure you did too) and then the next morning, we ate some more. We stopped by Reading Terminal Market for a non-turkey lunch and a little bit of shopping. And then we had turkey leftovers for dinner. 

I took a camera break which was nice, though I did miss the chance to capture the trees dressed in bright red, the oak leaves nearly as large as our thirteen-pound turkey.

But now life is back to normal, and today I’ve made a salad.

Well, it’s a slaw really. It’s from the Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. It may seem odd that the first recipe I sample from a new cookbook would be a coleslaw, but this lady knows a thing or two about slaw. The cookbook itself has three slaws – one cabbage-cucumber-dill, one broccoli-almond-cranberry*, and the one I made today. Deb actually calls this one a salad — sugar snap salad with miso dressing — I suspect because half its bulk comes from sugar snaps (“mangetout”). The other half, though, is cabbage which in my mind fits it squarely into the slaw category.

The word coleslaw comes from the Dutch koolsla (kool = cabbage, sla, short for salade = salad) which comes from the Latin caulis (cauliflower stem). Slaw has been around since ancient Rome and was brought to America by the Dutch who planted cauliflower seeds in New York along the Hudson. (As I write, I can’t help but hum a little ditty.) Coleslaw started out as a vinegar-based salad of raw cabbage; the use of mayonnaise is a more recent modification. Let your coleslaw sit for too long (especially out of the fridge), and you’ll be gradually approaching the fermented territory of sauerkraut and kimchi.

While we’re on food history and etymology, the word salad is an interesting one too. It comes from the Latin sal (salt) and refers to dressing, which early on was a salty mild pickling brine. So, salad in essence was defined by its dressing.

Which brings me to back to Deb’s salad, er slaw, and its defining dressing. This miso-sesame dressing is magical and you don’t want to tinker with it. I reproduced it verbatim, and you should too.

The miso gives the dressing depth, earthiness, and a little sweetness – that umami that everyone’s always talking about. Did you know that both umami and miso share the Japanese root mi (味), taste or flavor? (I didn’t.)

Coincidentally**, I went to a lecture tonight entitled Microbes, Miso, and Olives where David Chang and Carles Tejedor talked about fermentation and how microbes create flavor. In addition to tasting Tejedor’s spherified yogurt and olive oil gel, we tried some of the latest goodies coming out of the Momofuku fermentation lab — cashew miso and olive tamari. There was a formula involving refractive index to explain why vinaigrette emulsions are cloudy. A few diagrams of chemical reactions producing glutamate (the main amino acid responsible for the umami flavor). Photos of Aspergillus oryzae (a fungus native to various parts of Asia and used in soy fermentation) under the microscope. And even a joke about a Microbiology lab at Harvard (“we send some of our creations to the professionals to sequence any microorganisms and to make sure nothing will kill us”). But in the end, Chang said he created his lab to “learn how to make things delicious through a study of umami.”

Which gets us (finally) back to the slaw and the dressing. On top of the miso and its umami, there is a double dose of sesame here from both tahina and toasted sesame oil. Make that a triple dose when you sprinkle the whole thing with toasted sesame seeds. The dressing is creamy and light, sticking to the cabbage, but not drenching it. It has the prefect amount of saltiness that mainly comes from the miso (no salt or soy sauce added). Dress everything a few hours in advance so the cabbage can wilt a bit as the miso and vinegar give it a quick pickle. I ate it for dinner, then lunch, then dinner again, polishing off half a cabbage in a day’s time. That’s a lot of cabbage. That’s how good the slaw is.

Deb, if you can make humble slaw shine, I can’t wait to try your flat roasted chicken. And your honey and harissa farro salad. And your red wine velvet cake. Your cookbook is already floating in a sea of yellow stickies.

And you, my friends, to reward you for slogging through this long (though I think fascinating) study of etymology with a side order of science, tomorrow we’ll eat some cookies.

*You can argue with Deb about whether broccoli can technically be a slaw, but let’s give her a little wiggle room here. It is her book. And despite the etymology, I too have used the term slaw to refer to broccoli (and even to collards).

** Seriously, it was a coincidence. I thought the lecture was going to be about dessert. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Cabbage slaw with miso-sesame dressing

I adapted this recipe from the sugar snap salad with miso dressing in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I skipped the sugar snaps and traded carrots for radishes, but kept the dressing in pristine condition (though you could add a few drops of hot sesame oil to finish things off).  Dress the salad lightly a few hours before serving to allow the cabbage to wilt and soak up all the dressing, then add more dressing if necessary. I used regular green cabbage, which needs a bit more time to wilt; if you want to use the more tender varieties such as savoy or napa, dress the salad only thirty minutes before serving.

Serves 4

For slaw

– 1/2 large green cabbage

– 2 scallions

– 3 carrots

– 3 T sesame seeds

For dressing:

– 1 T minced fresh ginger

– 2 large garlic cloves, minced

– 2 T white miso (I use Miso Master brand)

– 2 T tahina

– 1 T honey

– 1/4 C rice vinegar

– 2 T vegetable oil

– 2 T toasted sesame oil

Slice. Slice the cabbage, scallions, and carrots as thinly as you can with a knife or mandoline (I used a knife for the cabbage and scallions, a mandoline for the carrots).

Toast. Toast the sesame seeds for 5-8 minutes in a 300ºF oven.

Shake. Mix the dressing ingredients in a jar, cover, and shake well to combine. You may need to add a little water to loosen up the dressing as the tahina has a tendency to thicken, especially as it gets cold. The consistency should be similar to a thick honey.

Eat. Dress the salad a few  hours before serving and toss. If using more tender cabbages (savoy, napa), you’ll only need to do this about a half-hour in advance. Just before serving, sprinkle the slaw with the toasted sesame seeds.

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Just a quick post (and recipe) tonight because I’m running out the door and I’m already late for a party.

This butternut squash dish is the second recipe that I made from Yotam Ottolenghi‘s and Sami Tamimi‘s newest cookbook, Jerusalem. (You may have already seen the recipe in this article).

I fashioned the photographs after the ones in the cookbook to reflect the authors’ cooking philosophy. In their first cookbook collaboration, Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, the pair explains, “Like the market vendor, we make the best of what we have and don’t interfere with it too much. We keep foods as natural as possible, deliberately avoiding complicated cooking methods.” Their cooking technique keeps ingredients close to their origins; for example, they eschew tiny brunoise dicing in favor of bite-sized chunks to allow each individual element to shine.

I suspect this approach to food, the analogy to the market vendor displaying his wares, is very much informed by their childhoods in a country where markets remain a significant part of cultural and daily life. We can talk more about this, but I’ve got a birthday to celebrate (not mine – that’s in a few weeks).

See you back here tomorrow morning. Well, actually probably more like afternoon.

Roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahina and za’atar

Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook. The combination of roasting and za’atar give the dish a smoky flavor. Feel free to experiment with other types of squash and pumpkin – just adjust the roasting time accordingly. You probably won’t need all of the tahina sauce – just drizzle lightly and add more if necessary. 

Serves 4 as a side dish

– 1 large butternut squash (about 2 – 2 ½ lbs)

– 2 red onions

– 4 T olive oil, divided

– 3 heaping T tahina

– 1 lemon for juice (approximately 2-3 T, depending on your lemon)

– 1 T water

– 1 clove garlic

– 3 T pine nuts

– 1 T za’atar

– 1 T coarsely chopped parsley (optional)

– Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 475˚F.

Cut. Peel and seed squash, and cut into thin (3/4–inch) wedges approximately 2-inches long. Cut the onions into 1-inch wedges.

Mix. In a large bowl, toss the squash and onions with 3 tablespoons of oil, and  sprinkle with a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper.

Roast. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Spread the vegetables on the sheet and roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes. They’re ready when they start to brown and are tender. The onions will probably cook faster than the squash, so check and remove them early if necessary so they don’t burn.

Whisk. While the vegetables are roasting, place in a bowl the tahina, 1½ tablespoon lemon juice, water, and minced garlic. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding water or tehina if necessary. Taste for seasoning and add salt, pepper, and more lemon juice if you’d like.

Toast. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a small pan over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts with a pinch of salt and cook for 2-3 minutes until the nuts start to brown. Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts into a small bowl to stop the cooking.

Serve. To serve, spread the vegetables on a platter, drizzle with tahina (you probably won’t need all of it), and sprinkle with za’atar, pine nuts, and parsley (if using). I like to eat this at room temperature.

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I’ve lived in Cambridge for four years and three months. That’s the longest I’ve stayed in a city since I left my childhood  home when I was 17. Which has gotten me thinking about what home is. And what it means to me to have really planted roots. Oh, not in the get married/buy a house/make babies/get a dog/build a picket fence kind of way, but roots nonetheless.

But when I say I’m going home, I always think of the city where I grew up and the house where my parents still live. Nothing new here, of course, and many of you probably share the sentiment. But nowhere have I seen this feeling of home so poignantly captured as in Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi‘s most recent cookbook collaboration.    

I’ve written about this London-based pair before and shared a small handful of their recipes. But their latest venture is much more than a cookbook. It’s a journey to their shared home of Jerusalem, where they grew up on opposite sides of the city.

In the introduction to the book, they explain: “It is more than twenty years since we both left the city…Yet we still think of Jerusalem as our home. Not home in the sense of the place you conduct your daily life or constantly return too. In fact, Jerusalem is our home almost against our wills. It is our home because it defines us, whether we like it or not.”

They continue, “the flavors and smells of this city are our mother tongue.” I love that. Our mother tongue. I get that.

I speak street food. Hummus and tahina, falafel and schwarma, all wrapped up in warm pita and laffa. Fresh carrot juice and bourekas.

I speak market food. Tomatoes and pickles, goat cheese and sheep cheese, rugelach and, well, more rugelach.

I speak home food. Spicy carrots and eggplant dips, chicken soup and harira, syrup-drenched cakes and pistachios by the handful.

I speak these foods and they inform my cooking  even though each of my visits to Jerusalem have been brief. I can only imagine what it’s like to have grown up there. And then to make the journey back, senses more keenly aware of everything after an absence.

I can imagine. And I can cook now that I have the recipes. And I can share them with you. Here is my first taste from the cookbook.

(For more discussion of the cookbook, check out my column this month in the Jerusalem Post. You’ll also get a non-so-sneak peek at another recipe before I post it here in a few days.)

Roasted cauliflower with tahina

Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook. The original recipe calls for frying the cauliflower, but I simplified it with a  quick roast in the oven. I made it with multi-colored cauliflower, having found purple, green, and yellow varieties in the grocery store. This makes a lot of dressing. I had enough left over after five heads of cauliflower to drizzle over a few more brassica vegetables – a head of broccoli and a few kale salads. Feel free to make only half of the dressing.

A few notes on tahina  Make sure to refrigerate it after opening because it can go rancid quickly (the same is true of sesame and nut oils). If the tahina separates, heat it up slightly to make it easier to mix. When you first add liquid to the tahina  it will thicken but quickly loosen up as you stir. For this recipe, add enough liquid so the sauce becomes about same consistency of honey. I’ve been told the most authentic brand you can buy outside of Israel is Roland. 

Serves at least 10 as a side dish

– 3 heads of cauliflower

– 8-10 scallions

– 1 small bunch parsley

– 1 small bunch mint

– 3 cloves garlic

– 2 lemons for zest and juice

– 4 T olive oil, divided

– ¾ C tahina

2/3 C Greek yogurt (I used 1% fat)

– 1 t pomegranate molasses (sometimes called pomegranate syrup), plus extra for drizzling

– About ¾ C water

– Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425˚F.

Prep. Trim the end of each cauliflower and then quarter them through their cores. Cut out the cores and then break the vegetable apart into bite-sized florets. Cut the scallions in 2- to 3-inch pieces. Roughly chop the parsley and mint – you’ll need ¼ cup of each for the dressing; reserve any extra for garnish. Mince the garlic.  Zest one lemon. Juice both lemons – this should yield a little over ¼ cup.

Toss. Toss the cauliflower in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a few pinches of salt, and a few grinds of pepper.

Roast. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil. Spread the cauliflower on the pan in a single layer and roast in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the cauliflower is crisp and parts of it have turned golden brown. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Saute. Heat up the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a small pan. When the oil is shimmering, add the scallions and sauté for about 5 minutes until they begin to color. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Whisk. Spoon the tahina into a bowl and mix in the  yogurt, garlic, herbs, lemon zest, ¼ cup of lemon juice, pomegranate molasses. Slowly pour in the water, whisking with each addition. Only add enough water to get  the sauce to a thick, smooth pourable consistency, similar to honey. Taste a floret dipped in the sauce, and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Serve. Mix the vegetables with a some of the sauce, enough to coat the vegetables without drowning them. (As I mentioned, there will be leftover sauce!) Drizzle with pomegranate molasses and any leftover parsley or mint.

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fingers crossed

My friend Ilana is quite possibly the world’s greatest expert on my food. She’s offered to marry my lemon bars. She’s eaten half a tart in a single sitting. And I make sure my jar of “trail mix” (in quotes because how often am I really hiking on a trail?) is full whenever she drops by.

A few weeks ago, she asked me to make a dish for a potluck. Here’s how the conversation went:

Ilana: I am in love with your quinoa salad with the avocado.  I could eat that every day.  (You can make whatever you want, is what I’m trying to say.)

Me:  As for quinoa, I actually don’t have a recipe with avo.

Ilana: Wait, what is in that recipe with the black rice and the avocado?  That isn’t quinoa? (If I had access here at work, I could obviously check that on your blog right now.  Yay blogs!)

Me: I never posted it! And I’m not sure I have pix.

Ilana: Booooo that was so delicious.

I’m not surprised that she was right. Ilana knows me better than I know myself, and recipes are a big part of who I am.

She moved to New York just a few days ago. I was in town for the US Open and we were able to grab a welcome-to-the-city coffee (well, she drank tea) just a few blocks from  her apartment. It already felt different.

Ilana will only be in New York for a year before returning to Boston (fingers crossed!), but Cambridge feels empty. I know we’ll still email every day and chat a few times a week, but who will watch Top Chef with me? Go to Russo’s with me? Eat pound after pound of roasted brussels sprouts, carrots, and chickpeas with me?

Now seems the right time to share the recipe she requested so long ago. If I make this quinoa dish, Ilana, can I tempt you back? I’ll even throw in a few lemon bars.

Cumin-scented quinoa with black rice and avocado

This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit and the picture hung on my refrigerator for six months before I remembered to pick up black rice at the grocery store. You can find black rice (and quinoa) at higher-end or natural food markets. I suspect that this would also  be great (though less striking) with short grain brown rice. The original recipe calls for a single avocado, but Ilana is the Cookie Monster of avocados (“Me want avo! Me eat avo! “) so I opted for three.

Serves 6-8

– 1/2 C short-grain black rice

– 1 C quinoa

– 1 bay leaf

– 1/4 t kosher salt plus more to taste

– 1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro

– 1/4 C chopped flat-leaf parsley

– 4 T olive oil, divided

– 1 small onion, finely chopped

– 3 large garlic cloves, minced

– 2 t cumin powder

– 2 lemons for zest and juice

– Freshly ground black pepper

– 2-3 avocados

Boil. Bring rice and 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until water is absorbed and rice is tender, 25–30 minutes. (Or just follow directions on the package.)

Boil again. Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa in a few changes of water. Then combine quinoa, bay leaf, salt, and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and then return quinoa to hot saucepan. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. (Or just follow directions on the package.) Discard bay leaf, fluff quinoa with a fork, and transfer to a large bowl.

Chop. While the rice and quinoa are cooking, prepare the rest of the vegetables. Finely chop cilantro and parsley. Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic.

Saute. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes – if it starts to brown, lower the heat. Add garlic and cumin and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.

Mix. Add the vegetables to the quinoa. Add rice and mix well. Zest and juice the lemons over the bowl. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the cilantro and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve. Pit and peel the avocado and slice into cubes right before you’re ready to eat. Spread them out on the salad and serve. Hide a few avocado pieces at the bottom of the bowl so that there are some left for the rest of us.

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An Israeli and a Palestinian in England taught me a new word in French.

No matter how many ways I try to string that sentence together, it always sounds like the beginning of a joke that starts in a bar. Luckily, the story ends in the kitchen.

The Israeli is Yotam Ottolenghi. The Palestinian is Sami Tamimi. They both grew up on opposite sides of Jerusalem and met years later in London.

The restaurant is Ottolenghi, the one they partnered to open a decade ago. The dishes draw upon their common food memories and Mediterranean influences.  I can only surmise this based on the two cookbooks that have come out of their kitchen. I’ve never been to their restaurants. But I have eaten their food. And that’s how today’s digression begins.

The French word I learned is mangetout. It comes from the French words manger (to eat) and tout (all). It refers to varieties of peas that are eaten whole in their pods which are edible when young — the flat-podded snow peas and the round-podded sugarsnap peas. Those Brits! Their supposed animosity with the French and their food — the two cultures trade mild insults, with the English calling the French “frogs” for cuisses de grenouilles, the frogs legs they eat, and the French calling the English “rosbifs” for the roast beef they eat — must be some sort of ruse to cover up their love of French food names like courgette (zucchini) and rocket/roquette (arugula).

When I saw the picture opposite the recipe for French beans and mangetout with hazelnut and orange, I immediately flagged page 36 in Ottolenghi – The Cookbook. The name intrigued me as I myself have been known to mange tout. The crunchy hazelnuts nestled between long skinny haricots verts (as you might guess, I like calling them by their French name) and wide flat mangetout and threads of orange zest spoke to me. They said mangez moi, eat me. And so I did.

The hazelnuts were toasted and skinned and chopped. The haricots and mangetout were blanched in boiling water and shocked in ice water. The glistening green pods were drained and dried in a towel. The oranges were zested and juiced. The chives were sliced. Everything was thrown into a bowl with a few dashes of olive and nut oils. A sprinkle of salt, a grind of pepper, and that picture jumped off of page 36 and into my kitchen.

And then, my friends and I, nous avons mangé tout, we ate it all.   

Haricots vert and mangetout with hazelnut and orange

This recipe is adapted from Ottolenghi – The Cookbook. There are a number of steps in the recipe, but they all are pretty quick and can be done in parallel if you plan ahead. While toasting the hazelnuts, blanch and shock the beans in separate batches (because the mangetout require only about a minute to cook). The nuts and beans should be ready around the same time. Right before serving, mix together the beans, zest and juice the orange over the bowl, add oils, salt and pepper, and adjust seasoning. Then sprinkle with chives and hazelnuts.  

Hazelnut oil canbe difficult to find – the one I use is made in France by Phillipe Vigean – it’s kosher and I found it at Zabar’s in NY.  La Tourangelle‘s hazelnut oil is more readily available but is not yet kosher. A good alternative is to try toasted almonds and almond oil. La Tourangelle’s almond oil is excellent and, like most of their oils made in California, is kosher; the ones made in France are not certified. Make sure to store all nut oils in the refrigerator as they can go rancid quickly.

Serves 6-8

– 1 lb haricots verts (very thin French grean beans)

– 1 lb mangetout, i.e., sugersnap peas or snow peas (I used snow peas)

– 2 garlic cloves

– large handful of chives

– 2 oranges for zest and juice

– 1 C unskinned hazelnuts

– 4 T oilve oil

– 2-3 T hazelnut or other nut oil

– coarse sea salt and black pepper

Prepare. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Trim the stalk ends from the the green beans and mangetout, but keep them separate. If you want to be really French, remove the tails from the green beans, but I like how they look. Finely chop the garlic. Roughly chop the chives. Zest and juice the oranges. If you don’t have a zester, remove very thin layers of orange peel with a sharp knife, leaving behind all traces of white, and then slice them into long, skinny strips.

Toast. Scatter the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and toast them for 7 – 10 minutes until you can smell them. Wrap them in a cloth towel so that they steam will loosen the papery skins. When they are cool, rub them in the towel to remove most of the skins. Roughly chop them.

Blanch. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add salt and when the water returns to a boil, blanch the haricots for 4 minutes and then quickly fish them out and shock them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Bring the water to a boil again and blanch the mangetout for only 1 minute, and then shock them in another bowl of ice water. Drain the beans and let them dry.

Toss. Mix the beans together in a bowl. Add the orange juice, oils, and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with orange zest and chopped hazelnuts.

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Is it summer yet? It sure feels like it.

Not the hot sticky New England brand, but the warm sunny breezy brand. A breeze so lovely that a few open windows and a ceiling fan does the trick. A day so lovely that one might be inspired to buy some mint and thyme plants with hopes of not killing another fooderific herb garden. The herbs are growing outside on my balcony, and as they’re only 2 days old, they seem to be holding up quite well.

An impromptu dinner invitation and a quick scramble for what’s on hand, and my first zucchini salad of the season emerges.

Welcome back, summer, and a great weekend to all!

Marinated mint zucchini salad

Another quick and easy salad, this one requires 5 ingredients (plus salt and pepper), 2 implements (zester and mandoline – check out the links to see the ones I use), and a bowl. Quantities are approximate, so taste and season as you go along. This salad serves 4-6.

Using a mandoline, slice 3 zucchini very thin. Also slice 1/2 red onion on the mandoline. If you don’t have a mandoline – no problem. Just slice the vegetables as thin as you can. Toss the vegetables. Zest two lemons over the salad and then pour the juice in as well. Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil and sprinke with salt and pepper. Pick some fresh mint from your still growing herb garden and slice or rip it into small pieces. Toss everything together and taste for seasoning. Bask in your kitchen with the oven off and a gentle breeze from the window.

***

If  you’re looking for other ways to take advantage of the summer’s zucchini windfall, check out these recipes from years past:

If  you want to cook: zucchini bread or roasted zucchinior zucchini tart with raclette (or plain swiss cheese)

If you don’t want to cook:  marinated zucchini salad with mushrooms and dill or zucchini ribbon salad with middle eastern spices

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I don’t have much time today because the sun is fading and I’m on my way out to dinner with a bag full of jars, a bowl, and a box. No mystery here, it’s food for tonight’s shabbat dinner. It might be cuatro de Mayo, but we’re celebrating cinco de Mayo tonight with margaritas, guacamole, steak with fruit salsa, spicy cinnamon brownies, and margaritas.

Before I head out, I wanted to jot down recipes for the dishes I’m bringing because there are so few Mexican recipes out there that do not revolve around corn, avocado, and black beans. I spent hours thumbing through a half-dozen cookbooks and my favorite online sites. And then I just made up two recipes. First I grilled the freshest spring vegetables I could find and made a sauce from smokey chipotle peppers to drizzle on top. Then I  toasted pepitas and roasted tomatillos and jalapenos and chopped up a salad inspired  by the produce I remember from my last visit to Mexico City.

So here you go. Two Mexican-ish recipes, just under the wire, and ready for you to throw together for your own fiesta.

Happy weekend!

Grilled vegetables with chipotle sauce

Grill vegetables. Slice 2 zucchini and 2 yellow squash on a bias (about 1/3-inch thick). Break the woody ends off of a bunch of thick asparagus (about 20 stalks). Slice one red onion into rings. Place each vegetable in a separate bag or bowl and let marinate in olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 30 minutes. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat – it’s ready when a drop of water sizzles the second it hits the pan. Make sure to turn on your exhaust because it will start to get smokey. Grill each vegetable for approximately 4-6 minutes per side. When they start to release from the pan, they’re ready – I found that I did need to do a little work to release the zucchini and squash as they were still sticking a bit when they were fully cooked.

Make sauce. In a food processor, mix the following: 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (there are usually 5-6 peppers in a can), 1 tomato, juice of 2 limes, 1/4 C olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add a little bit of water to thin everything out if necessary.

Drizzle. Arrange vegetables on a platter, squeeze another lime over top, and drizzle with sauce.

Chopped salad with tomatillo cilantro dressing

Make salad. Pickle half a red onion: slice it very thin and marinate for at least 30 minutes in 3 T red wine or apple cider vinegar, 1/4 C warm water, 1/2 t sugar, and salt to taste. Dry toast a handful of pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds) in a small pan – keep shaking the pan to move the seeds around and when the turn slightly golden and start to pop, take them off the heat and let them cool. Chop into bite-sized pieces 2 romaine hearts, 2 C arugula, and a yellow pepper. Slice 3 radishes very thin (I use my cheap mandoline). Peel and chop a medium-sized jicama into approximately 1/2 inch cubes.

Make dressing. Remove the husks from 2-3 tomatillos and rinse off the sticky residue. Under a broiler, roast the tomatillos and 2 jalapeno peppers on aluminum foil. When the skins blacken and blister, take out of oven and wrap then up in the foil so that they will steam. Once they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins. Remove the seeds from the peppers. Put them into the bowl of a food processor with about 1 cup cilantro, juice of 2-3 limes, and 2 T honey. Process until smooth. Slowly add 1/4 C olive oil and process until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper. Add more lime juice if the dressing needs a little more acid (or water and oil if it needs less).

Toss. Mix all the vegetables and then sprinkle with pepitas and drizzle with dressing right before serving.

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matchmaker

Have you met Farro?

In case you haven’t, he’s a lovely fellow.

I ran into him at the cafe in my office. It’s a fancy cafe, serving things like duck confit on a regular Tuesday. Farro and I got to the line at the same time and did that little awkward dance: you go first, no after you, well thank you. We struck up a conversation.

He speaks with a slight Italian accent and if you lean real close, you might pick up a Middle Eastern lilt. When I asked where he was from, he proudly traced his roots back to the Fertile Crescent. He spoke like a DAR whose family fought in the American Revolution and came over on the Mayflower.

We sat down together with a group of colleagues, and the subject turned to dating. Farro was having a rough time of it. He had only recently moved to Boston and didn’t know where to meet people. So I invited him to shabbat dinner. I thought he might really get along with my friend Tabouli.

Tabouli’s family is also from the Fertile Cresent area and her parents moved to the US from Syria and Lebanon by way of Israel. Her best friend is Parsley and she often hangs out with Cucumber, Tomato, Scallion, and Mint. They used to go to mixers together, when mixers were the place to be seen, and picked up Lemon and Olive Oil, welcoming them into their crew. Tabouli had been in a bit of a funk after she and her boyfriend Bulghur broke up. He was a bit of a bully and she needs someone more soft and inviting.

I was thrilled to play matchmaker. I didn’t tell either of them about the other. I wanted to see  how they would get along at dinner. They sat next to each other. So far, so good. Farro’s hand grazed against Tabouli’s arm when he reached for the water pitcher. Tabouli giggled. She batted her long eyelashes. Farro shared his nutty sense of humor with jokes that Tabouli laughed at while the rest of us forced grins. So far, so very good.

After dessert was served and tea was drunk, Farro offered to walk Tabouli home. She demurred, saying she was going in the opposite direction. In the end, she relented.

Weeks and months passed in their whirlwind romance and I wasn’t surprised to quickly see a ring on Tabouli’s finger. They moved away to the West coast and bought a house.

A year later, they returned to Cambridge – Farro was interviewing for a job. I again invited them to dinner. As the summer sun set, they arrived with a sleeping bundle. She was beautiful with a shock of light blown hair and long eyelashes and cherry tomato cheeks. She wore a green onesie that Aunt Parsley gave her.

She was so cute, I could just eat her up!

Farro tabouli

Farro is s a nutty whole grain that is chewy and firm. It absorbs the flavors around it and is the perfect base for tabouli – a Middle Eastern salad whose star is pasley, providing a bit more bite and substance than more traditional bulghur. I based this recipe on one in Food & Wine and another provided by Anson Mills, a retailer of heirloom grains. If you want more farro ideas, check out a recent article in Saveur written by Leah Koenig (who wrote a cookbook that included a few of my own recipes).

This recipe makes enough for 4-6 as a side dish and would be great for Passover with quinoa.

– 1 C uncooked farro

– 3-4 handfuls small (cherry, pear) tomatoes, about 1 C chopped

– 3-4 small seedless cucumers (sometimes called “Persian” or “mediterranean”) or 1/2 – 3/4 of a large seedless cucumber, about 1 C chopped

– 4 scallions

– 1 large bunch parsley, enough for 1 C finely chopped

– 1 C lightly packed mint leaves, enough for  1/3 C finely chopped

– 3 lemons, for 5 – 6 T  juice

– 4-5 T olive oil

– salt and pepper

Cook. Prepare the farro according to package. Most directions call for a quick rinse before cooking, and some suggest pre-soaking. Don’t overcook the farro  or it will get mushy. I usually remove the farro from the heat a few minutes shy of the time recommended time. The grains will soak up additional liquid from the rest of the ingredients.

Cut. Chop the tomatoes and cucumbers into small cubes (1/4 – 1/3 inch per side, but don’t worry about being exact). Thinly slice the white and light green parts of the scallions. Finely chop the parsley (removing any tough stems) and mint leaves.

Squeeze. Juice the lemons, making sure to strain out the seeds. I usually squeeze each lemon half over my hand and catch the seeds as they fall.

Mix. Mix in a large bowl the farro, vegetables, and herbs. Season with lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper, tasting as you go.

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On the way back from the Berkshires last weekend, Rachela and I almost ran out of gas. And when you’re looking for a gas station, you inevitably can’t find one. And then the gas light goes off and says you have another 30 miles to go before you should panic. And then you drive another 5 miles. And you’re told you should really panic in 7 miles. And those extra 12 safety miles? They disappeared. Of course, when you finally find someone fixing his tractor at the side of the road and inquire about a station, he points you to the top of the hill where you can see a Gulf sign peeking out behind a church.

After we filled the tank, we began our search for farmers markets. We had seen loads of them throughout the weekend, but didn’t want to buy anything to have it sit in our room or the car in the sweltering heat. So when we were finally ready to load up the car with fresh fruits and vegetables, none were to be found. We drove by a wigwam. And an Indian circle dance. When I read the word dance, I jumped out of the car, ready to join in. Until I saw a half-dozen pot-bellied men in loin cloths and feather headdresses stomping their feet around a bonfire. We were back in the car and on the road fast. Really fast. So fast that we had to do a quick U-turn after we passed a sign for fresh-picked corn. U-turn accomplished, we rolled into the driveway and found a makeshift table set with ears of corn, plastic bags, a metal box and a sign stating,

Corn.

Picked this morning.

$6 a dozen or $0.50 each.

Please leave money in the box.

We promptly picked a pair of ears each, deposited our dollars in the box, and waved at the proprietress as she stepped onto her front porch to shuck.

We then passed a larger farmers stand with a greater variety of produce. I grabbed a few tomatoes, a handful of small cukes, and several large zucchinis.

And they sat in my fridge for almost a week while I toiled away in the office, ordering dinner in to sustain me during my late working hours. And then, only this weekend, did the vegetables come out to play. An Israeli salad. Corn roasted in the husk, eaten over the sink. And simple roasted zucchini with Mediterranean spices.

Roasted Zucchini

Adapted from a recipe for Roasted Zucchini with Ricotta and Mint from this August’s Food & Wine. 

Additional note 7/10/12: after salting the zucchini, make sure to rinse off all the salt. You can always add more salt to taste, but it’s pretty hard to remove it! 

Preheat oven to 450ºF. Dice 2 large zucchini into a medium-sized dice (1/3 – 1/2 inch). Salt generously and let sit in colander for 5-10 minutes until some of the zucchini’s liquid is released. Rinse zucchini and dry well. (The salting helps prevent the zucchini from getting soggy.) Toss with 1T olive oil, salt, and pepper. Shake onto a baking dish and roast for 25-30 minutes until zucchini starts to brown. Add 2 t cumin and a few pinches of crushed red pepper and roast for another 2-5 minutes until the spices are fragrant. Scoop into a bowl and sprinkle with the juice of half a lemon. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a few mint leaves and a scoop of labane (or leave off the labane for a non-dairy option).

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a random walk

I was going through my food photos and came across a few that I thought would be fun to share. These are ones that somehow got lost in posts I meant to write or got caught up in the dilemma of having nothing to say except that this tastes really good or got thrown to the wolves as just too basic to share.  But, let’s take a short trip through some of my archives and see what we can come up with.

So this is simple syrup infused with dried roses. I’ve made simple syrup here before, and while the mint version is fabulous, the rose variety is lovely to look at but that’s where the loveliness ends.

This here is rainbow challah — my standard recipe filled with sprinkles and formed into a round challah for Rosh Hashana. This tradition was passed on to me by part of my extended Atlanta family.

These are some vegetables that I tossed with a balsamic reduction vinaigrette. The star here was clearly the vinaigrette. Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I found the recipe that I used as my starting point. I remember reducing the balsamic by about a third, mixing with olive oil, salt, pepper, and mustard. And tossing it over sliced peppers and blanched asparagus.

Mmmm…yet another quinoa recipe. Actually, this one is worth sharing.

Lemon-Tahina Quinoa

Inspired by 101 Cookbooks’ Lemon-scented Quinoa Salad.

– 1 C quinoa (I used a mix of white and red quinoa)

– 2 C water or amount called for by your quinoa package

kosher salt to taste

– 1 garlic clove, chopped

– 1/4 C tahina

– 1/4 C lemon juice

– 2 T olive oil

– 2 T boiling water

– 1 can garbanzo beans

– chives

Make quinoa. Prepare quinoa as directed on package, or bring water to a boil, add salt and quinoa and return to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover for ~15 minutes. Remove from heat when the water has been absorbed and allow to cool, covered for 3-5 minutes.

Make dressing. Whisk the garlic, tahina, lemon juice, and olive oil. Add in boiling water to thin and salt to taste.

Assemble salad. Toss quinoa and garbanzo beans with dressing. Cut chives over top of salad before serving.

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