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Archive for the ‘vegetables’ Category

When I came home from Sicily, zucchini (and its family) season was in full swing. Tender, thin-skinned squash was everywhere. Yellow and green, solid and striped, eight-ball and pattypan.

There were squash blossoms too, and I picked a few myself when I spent the day out in Brooklyn with Edible Schoolyard NYC (check out this photo of my colleagues here), weeding a border along the fence separating the school garden from the street. There is an art to collecting these long yellow flowers, I learned. You only take the male ones (the females, with a bulb of an ovary along the stem, when fertilized form the fruit, er, squash) and you have to give each a good shake to scare any bees out. Otherwise you’ll end up with a bag of buzzing blossoms. Now you know.

This year, I’ve gone sweet with my squash, baking up a zucchini cake with two types of chocolate – cocoa and bittersweet shards. The recipe comes from Chocolate & Zucchini, one of the first blogs I ever read and a huge inspiration for my own. The cake itself is more rich than saccharine, with a deep dark chocolate flavor and a crumb moist with flecks of zucchini. I like to bake it in a loaf pan – which is how I like to bake most of my cakes – but you can fancy it up in a round or bundt if you’d like.

Before we get to the recipe, a little reading. First off, Luisa wrote about the language of food workshop that I attended at Case Vecchie in Sicily last month. And Rachel, our other teacher, has written so convincingly about the importance of a good tomato sauce that I’m considering buying a food mill to make my own smooth silky sugo to coat a bowl of (homemade, hopefully soon) pasta. Finally, women talk about balancing motherhood with the realities of restaurant life.

chocolate and zucchini bread

Chocolate and zucchini cake

Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini. I use olive oil to make the cake non-dairy. The batter is very thick and you may need to use some strength to smooth out the top once you’ve wrestled it into the pan. 

If you do want to go savory with your zucchini, try it raw, roasted, or tucked into a frittata

– 1/2 C olive oil or room temperature butter, plus more for greasing the pan

– 2 C flour

– 1/2 C unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder

– 1 t baking soda

– 1/2 t baking powder

– 1 t fine sea salt

– 1 C granulated sugar

– 1 t pure vanilla extract

– 2 T strong cooled coffee or 1 t instant coffee granules

– 3 large eggs

– 2 C unpeeled grated zucchini, from about 1 1/2 medium zucchini

– 6 oz good-quality bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (about 1 C)

olive oil

Prep. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch by 3-inch loaf pan.

Whisk. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Mix. In the bowl of a mixer (or by hand in a large mixing bowl), beat the sugar and oil or butter until fluffy. Add the vanilla, coffee, and eggs, mixing well between each addition.

Combine. In a large mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, chocolate chips, and about a third of the flour mixture, making sure the zucchini strands are well coated and not clumping too much. This will help make sure that the zucchini and chocolate don’t just sink to the bottom of the cake.

Fold. Add the rest of the flour mixture into the egg batter. Mix until just combined; the batter will be thick. Fold the zucchini mixture into the batter, and blend with a spatula without overmixing. Pour into the prepared cake pan, and level the surface.

Bake. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer onto a rack to cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around the pan to loosen, and turn on to a cooking rack.

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shabbat table

Shabbat shalom from my apartment!

Well, this photo was actually last shabbat, but one week later, I get to say the same thing! If you look closely, you’ll notice that nothing really matches, but most of the stuff sort of “goes.” When I left Boston, a friend helped me pack and, more than anything else, she helped me purge. She convinced me to get rid of my service for twelve and only bring down six meat plates and four dairy plates. She said that I’d never have an apartment large enough to entertain more than six people.

Well shame on me for listening. Last Friday, I cooked for seven (and a baby). If you look closely, you’ll see there’s only enough for six on the table. One of my friends is typically late and I didn’t expect her until dessert. When she showed up pretty close to on time, I had to scramble. I managed to assemble a blue, white, and yellow mishmash of a table.

The menu took shape when I decided to make my favorite carrots. Then, still thinking of Paris and my favorite foods from the late great Les Ailes restaurant, I decided to make chreime – a spicy Tunisian fish stew – as the main event since I had a few non-meat eaters in the crowd. I rounded things out with haricots verts tossed in garlic scape dressing and roasted potatoes, straight from the farmers market.

chreime

We started out with bowls of cucumber gazpacho, a cross between this recipe and this one, essentially cucumbers, onion, avocado, sherry vinegar, yogurt and bread.

As usual, I was afraid that I wouldn’t have enough food, so I burnt a few eggplants and mixed the flesh with a dash of tahini and pomegranate molasses à la Ottolenghi.

burnt eggplant

It’s hard to make mushed eggplant look good, but a sprinkle of parsley helps.

Ottolenghi's burnt eggplant with tahina

After dinner, we retired to the couch and ate dessert clustered around my coffee table. I spread out a cloth and piled on the desserts. There was a magnificent almond cake, a chocolate zucchini loaf (I promise to share), and a massive plate of watermelon and berries.

Have a great weekend, all!

Burnt eggplant with tehina and pomegranate

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty. You can also add some chopped cucumber and/or halved cherry tomatoes. If you have pomegranate seeds, they would be lovely to sprinkle on top. Since this was a last minute addition to my dinner, I just used what I had. 

Makes about 2 cups

– 3 medium eggplant

– 1/2 C tehina

– 1/3 C water

– 2 T pomegranate molasses

– 2 T lemon juice

– 2 garlic cloves, crushed

– 1/4 C chopped parsley

– salt and pepper

Burn. Poke several holes in the eggplants with a fork or sharp knife. Put them on a foil- or parchment-lined tray and place directly under a hot broiler for about an hour, turning them a few times, The eggplants need to deflate completely and their skin should burn and break.

Drain. When the eggplant is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a colander, avoiding the blackened skin. Leave to train for at least 30 minutes.

Mix. Chop the eggplant flesh roughly and transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Add the tehina, water, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, a pinch or two of salt, and a grind of pepper. Mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more garlic, lemon juice, or molasses if needed. You want the salad to have a robust sour/slightly sweet flavor.

***

Chreime (Spicy Tunisian fish stew)

Just barely adapted from Lior Lev Sercarz‘s recipe in Saveur. I doubled the recipe and added some crushed tomatoes so make a soupier dish. I couldn’t find small red Thai chilis, so I substituted larger serranos and added the seeds to the mix – the result was only a little spicy, so I might add more next time. I made the sauce first in a large skillet, then divided it between two skillets so the fish would have enough room to cook.

Serves 8 – 10

– 3 lbs fish such as sea bass or grouper, cut into 4- to 5-ounce filets

– 1/4 C fresh lemon juice

– kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

– 1/2 C olive oil

– 20 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

– 5 serrano chilis, stemmed and finely chopped

– 1 6-oz can tomato paste

– 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

– 2 C water

– 3 C minced cilantro

Marinate. Combine fish, juice, salt, and paper in a bowl; set aside.

Cook. Heat oil in a large (at least 12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chiles (including seeds); cook, stirring until soft 1-2 minutes. Add paste; cook, stirring until slightly caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, cilantro, and water; boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook until sauce is slightly reduced, 6-8 minutes.

Simmer. Split the sauce between two large skillets. Divide fish between the two skillets, skin side up, with its juice and cover; cook until fish is done, 18 – 20 minutes.

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Last month, en route to Sicily, I stopped in Paris for a few days. I hung out with my good friend Laurence and we visited some of my old haunts from when I spent the summer of 2007 taking dance classes. I wrote about that summer and my brief return for The Forward, and published a recipe for the spicy Tunisian carrot salad that I discovered nearly a decade ago.

It’s funny – I had an abnormally difficult time writing this article. In general, I’m a harsh self-critic and I think that when I’m close to a topic, like writing about a time that holds special meaning to me, I have a hard time creating editorial distance. That’s how I’m feeling about my most recent trip to Sicily. I’ve committed to writing a few articles for the Forward about my travel, and I’m really excited about them (fig sorbet, anyone?) but I’m having trouble writing anything here. I’m hoping with enough distance, and perhaps in dribs and drabs, I’ll be able to really capture what was so amazing about my trip – why it came at the perfect time for me, what it meant, what it means to have given myself such a luxurious gift.

In the interim, I’ve copied below my article about Paris, the month that I spent there, and the carrots that I prepare to take me back.

spicy Tunisian carrot salad

Say Paris, and most people envision the Eiffel tower, a pyramid of colorful macarons , a bicycle ride with a baguette poking out of the front basket. But Paris for me is captured in a bowl of spicy shredded carrots. A cross between traditional French carottes râpées (a grated carrot salad mixed with little more than lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, and a pinch of sugar) and Middle Eastern harissa-spiced cooked carrots, this Tunisian raw carrot slaw screams summer in Paris to me.

Picture this: It’s Saturday afternoon, July 2007, and I’m sitting in Luxembourg Garden, nestled between the student-filled Latin Quarter where I’m subletting for the month and the trendy Saint-Germain-des-Près where the great intellectuals of France once congregated in cafes. I’ve made the Kiddush blessing over wine at the flat and brought the rest of my lunch for a picnic in the park.

The lawns are lush and manicured, people mostly sitting on chairs rather than sprawled out in the grass, obeying the signs saying “ interdit .” In awe of this politesse , I grab my own brightly-painted green seat and pull up a second as a table. A portable chreime, the fiery Sephardic fish stew, concentrated into boulettes de poisson (much more appealing to say than fish balls) and a thickened sauce, smushed onto a baguette. Merguez sausage. Plastic containers of cold salads: spicy shredded carrots, roasted eggplant and peppers, potatoes. A tart of concentric berries. A wedge of chocolate cake. All for me.

Just two days earlier, I had landed at Charles de Gaulle airport with a backpack stuffed with a computer, flip flops, a pair of tap shoes, and ballet slippers. My luggage stranded in London, my summer waiting in France. First thing Friday morning, I made a beeline to the grands magasins department stores on Boulevard Haussmann for a shopping spree courtesy of the airline.

A few basic outfits in hand, I set out to find some of the kosher restaurants I had marked on my map with big red Xs. Several were on Rue Richer and I found the street by following historic landmark signs directing me to the Folies-Bergère cabaret music hall. There was a line in front of the iconic building’s art deco marquee, but rather than looking for tickets, the crowd was queuing to pick up their Shabbat feasts from Les Ailes, the Tunisian-owned restaurant and traiteur take-out counter next door.

I took my place after the last person and quickly found myself face-to-face with a (luckily very patient) waiter. We were separated by my elementary vocabulary and several meters of glass-encased salads, vegetables, meats, fish and pastries. With a lot of pointing and stammering, I managed to amass two bags full of food. In an act of generous hospitality, my new friend threw in a few extra challah rolls and a big container of unassuming-looking shredded carrots.

My luggage eventually found its way to me, and for the remainder of the month I took classes in the mirrored studios of Centre de Danse du Marais with a view of the Centre Pompidou on one side and the old Jewish neighborhood on the other. Every week, I made my Friday trek to Les Ailes, eventually narrowing down my order to my favorite choices (which I could now request with confidence) and always asking for an extra serving of the spicy carottes râpées . The piquant salad would last all week in the teeny-tiny frigo in my apartment. Some mornings, I took a few nibbles before heading out. Many nights, I ate a bowl before a late-night crêpe with lemon and sugar. The carrots quenched any type of hunger I had.

Last month, I returned to Paris and visited good friends and old haunts. We had lunch in le Marais and walked past Notre Dame to lounge on chairs in the Luxembourg Gardens. One night, we went to see a cirque de soleil-like performance at the renovated and gilded Folies-Bergère. I knew that Les Ailes next door had closed, but it was still a shock to see its rainbow of salads replaced by a whole new storefront.

In the intervening years, I sought to recreate the carrot salad that carried me through that summer. I collected recipes and compared techniques. How best to prepare the vegetables: Cooked in chunks? Sliced thin on a mandolin? Shredded in a food processor? Should the salad be sinus-clearing spicy? What about using raw garlic? In the end, I believe I have perfected my own interpretation of Les Ailes’ spicy carottes râpées , so whenever I want to remember my summer in Paris, I pull out a few ingredients and I am transported.

Spicy Tunisian Carrot Salad (Carottes Râpées à la Tunisienne)

Adapted from the late Gil Marks’ Moroccan raw carrot salad (shlata chizo) published in Olive Trees and HoneyI’m not sure of the actual provenance of this salad — Moroccan? Tunisian? — but since it uses harissa and was inspired by the Tunisian restaurant Les Ailes in Paris, I’ve decided to call it Tunisian. You can use a food processor to grate the carrots, but I prefer to use a julienned peeler, which results in long, uniform carrot strands that soften just enough when absorbing the spicy liquid to become a little floppy; when I’ve used a food processor or box grater, the carrots quickly become a droopy soupy mess.

Wrapped well, the carrot salad keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

Makes about 2 cups

– 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
– ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
– ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
– 2 teaspoons cumin
– 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
– ½ teaspoon hot paprika
– ½ teaspoon sumac
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 2 teaspoons silan or honey
– 1-2 teaspoons harissa, to taste
– 2 tablespoons chopped parsley and/or cilantro

Mix. In a very large bowl, mix the carrots, lemon juice, oil, spices, salt, silan/honey and 1 teaspoon of harissa. Taste and adjust heat with more harissa if you’d like.

Sprinkle. Just before serving, sprinkle with herbs.

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morning pages

I just got back from that big trip I mentioned a few weeks back. I started with two days in Paris. Then, Sicily where I spent a week at Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school for a food writing course taught by Luisa Weiss and Rachel Roddy and rounded out the rest of my trip with a few beach days in Cefalu on the northern coast of the island. There’s so much to process and write about the past two weeks – in short it was vacation far dreamier than I could have imagined – but for now, you can check out my Instagram for some photos. Here’s one of my favorites.

aprons

I came home yesterday to bagels and lox. My parents had been in town while I was gone and spent their last night at my place, so when I walked into my apartment with my suitcase on its last legs, er wheels, my mom was there with a true New York welcome. There were also some take-out leftovers, including a container of rice.

Fridays are greenmarket day in my neighborhood and I went a little overboard with all the goodies that hadn’t been in season when I left: zucchini, cherries, garlic scapes! There will probably be a raw summer squash something coming out of my kitchen in the next day or two; the Short Stack that arrived before I headed out should come in handy right about now.

Until then, there’s soup. Yes, it’s summer. But while we were in Sicily at Case Vecchie (the name of the courtyard where the school is located), we ate soup several times, including a smooth fava bean concoction called macco and a more rustic minestra di tennerumi made from the tender vines of long cucuzzo squashes. So, back in my kitchen, I got my cooking sea legs back with a simple soup of rice leftovers and canned tomatoes and not much more.

No food photo today, though. One of things we discussed during the course was morning pages, a discipline of writing every morning – before coffee, before checking any technology – on paper, and for 12 minutes. We did a lot of timed writing exercises and I found I enjoyed writing in concentrated spurts. So now, as I settle back into real life, I’m committed to doing morning pages. I’ve set a notebook and pen by my bed and started this morning. As an extension of that, I’d like to do some more spontaneous writing here. That will probably mean more posts and recipes with fewer photos, but I think that’s a fair trade.

PS – I’ll probably take some photos tomorrow and post them after the recipe. Some habits are hard to break, but this way I’ll at least get things on proverbial paper rather than waiting for the right light and perfect angle.

Tomato rice soup

Adapted from Mark Bitman’s recipe in the New York Times. The wine is optional, but this soup was good enough reason to uncork a red; a big (but not huge) California cabernet worked well here. Feel free to play around with herbs (cilantro or parsley would be nice) and spices (I’m thinking cumin, or thyme). Or keep the soup as is and top with a sprinkling of parmesan. Or not. This soup is lovely in its utter simplicity. 

UPDATE 6/27: Last night, I ate the soup with shredded parmesan, but this morning I buzzed it with an immersion blender and sprinkled some fresh cilantro. Today’s version feels a bit fancier and could be served as a non-dairy cream of tomato soup. Yes, I ate it for breakfast with my coffee. The soup does thicken overnight as the rice absorbs more liquid, so I’ve modified the below recipe to increase the amount of water. 

Makes about 1o cups

– 2 T olive oil

– 1 onion, chopped

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 2 T tomato paste

– 1/3 C dry red wine

– 2 C cooked rice

– 4 C water

–  1 28-oz can (about 3 C) chopped tomatoes

– sea salt, to taste

Cook. Heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened and golden, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes – lower the heat if the garlic starts to brown too much. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 5 minutes. By this point, the bottom of your pot should be nice and brown.

Pour. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping up all those brown bits.

Stir. Add the cooked rice and a generous pinch of salt. Stir to break up the rice. Taste, adding a bit more salt if necessary.

Simmer. Add the water and chopped tomatoes. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes until the rice is heated through. Add more water to get the soup the consistency you’d like. Optional: buzz with an immersion blender.

UPDATE 6/27: a photo!

tomato rice soup

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Ok, so this little salad may not have much going for it in the looks department, but I had to share because it’s such a simple idea that I couldn’t not let you in on it.

cucumber avocado salad with schug

I’m in kitchen scrounging mode as I try to empty my fridge before I head out on a little trip (ok, a big trip; more on that to come), and made a list on a pink sticky of things to use up before I go: 1 zucchini, 2 stalks rhubarb, 1/2 bunch kale, 1/2 cucumber, 2 avocados, 2 cheeses (Consider Bardwell Farm’s Danby goat’s milk cheese and a sheep’s feta), yogurt, and 4 lemons.

I had bookmarked Deb’s obsessively good avocado cucumber salad a while back and was excited that I had the two key ingredients in the title. I started chopping things into cubes before I bothered to read the rest of the list. Here’s how that went (I’m sure you’ve been here too):

Mayo. Nope.

Lime. Nope.

Hot sauce. Yup, several.

Cilantro or parsley. Nope, nope.

I craved the combination of creamy – spicy – fresh and I needed to do some major substitutions fast. Yogurt for mayo. Lemon for lime. I had Sriracha, which is what Deb recommends,  but I was getting caught up in wanting herbs. I almost, almost, ran out to buy some parsley. And then, I remembered I had schug.

Earlier this year, my friend Adeena had given me a jar of this Yemenite hot sauce, green with cilantro and little peppers, piquant with garlic, cumin, and a dash of cardamom.  The recipe is Gil Hovav’s – he’s an Israeli chef and writer and all-around fun character – and he made a huge batch in Adeena’s kitchen a few months ago when they had a series of Yemenite pop-up dinners. (The recipe says you can store schug refrigerated up to 3 weeks, but I’ve had mine for months with no sign of spoilage.  Use that information as you will.)

I’d eaten schug before, typically in Israel where it and Moroccan harissa are served alongside falafel. Both are referred to by the generic Hebrew word harif – spicy – and I like to dribble a little of each into a hummus- and salad-filled pita. Halfway through my sandwich, I would go back for more. It never occurred to me to use it in other ways until Adeena served it alongside an ooze-y round of brie and a scattering of super thin crackers. I repeated this cheese plate combo at my own birthday celebration.

Thinking about how well the schug went with dairy, it seemed a good option to mix with yogurt in my salad, with the added benefit of well preserved, once fresh herbs. So, I scooped out some Greek yogurt, stirred in a timid dash of schug and a pinch of salt, thinned it out with lemon juice and olive oil, and then, after tasting, added another good dollop of schug – just enough to set my tongue tingling but not so much that it would overtake the cooling cucumber and velvety avocado.

cucumber avocado salad with schug

PS – Schug is great smeared on bread and topped with a fried egg. Mmmm….

PPS – I’ve used up the rhubarb too with these little rhubarb almond cakes. I followed the recipe more or less as is, using almond flour instead of grinding my own and reducing the baking time to 45 minutes or so for a dozen 4-inch little tart pans.

rhubarb almond cakes

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so too

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Well. Now that I’ve gone all “screw seasonal cooking” on you, I finally found spring nirvana in the farmers market this week. On Wednesday, I picked up a fistful of wild leek-y ramps whose scent lingered in my office well after I left for home and whose floppy leaves and hairy bulbs taunted me from the fridge this morning. So too did the bundle of asparagus – so fresh that there were no tough ends to snap off and whose raw taste can be only be described as green.

Inspired by Rivka‘s asparagus toast and a warm asparagus salad with ramps, I whipped up my own quick salad, just barely wilting the ramps and asparagus and tossing with mint and a mild feta. Best warm, great on toast, and sure to pop up in my own kitchen at last once more this Spring.

I’ll keep this post and recipe short – approximately the length of ramp season.

Asparagus and ramps with mint and feta

Because of the salted butter and feta, I didn’t add any salt. The dish tastes best warm or at room temperature.

Makes 2 – 4 servings

– 1 lb young asparagus

– 1/3 lb ramps (approximately 20)

– about 20 leaves mint

– 3 T salted butter

– 1/4 C feta, preferably sheep’s milk (I like Pastures of Eden brand – you can find it at Trader Joe’s)

Cut. Trim the asparagus and and slice into approximately 2-inch . Clean the ramps well and remove the hairy root ends. Roughly chop the bulbs and white/purple stems. Chop the leaves into 2-inch strips and set aside. Chifonnade (or tear) the mint leaves.

Heat. Melt over medium heat the butter in a skillet large enough to hold all the vegetables. Add the ramp bulbs and stems, sautéing for 3 minutes until softened, but not browned. Add the asparagus and stir everything around to coat the asparagus with the butter. Cover for 3-5 minutes to allow the asparagus to steam a bit – it’s ready when the stalks are bright green but still firm. Add the ramp leaves and stir gently to wilt.

Serve. Toss with mint and crumbled feta.

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This winter is the boyfriend who keeps coming back after you categorically told him you’ve moved on. And winter vegetables are the ones you have a hard time turning your back on no matter how much you want them in your rear view mirror. Since winter’s being so persistent this year and until spring produce makes an appearance in the market, you might as well hold on to the best of winter – his beets, carrots, cabbages, and brussels sprouts – and give them a warmer weather treatment. We’re talking bare legs with booties here.

brussels sprouts, apple, and hazelnut salad

For starters, take these brussels sprouts for a final spin around the block in a convertible. Take the top down, but keep the seat warmers on. While you do turn the oven on to toast a handful of hazelnuts, the sprouts themselves are raw, crunchy, and bathed in a bracingly sharp lemony vinaigrette. Tossed with tart apples and and a generous sprinkle of parmesan, the sprouts are a perfect bridge from winter to spring.

brusselss sprout, apple, hazelnut salad

For a few more ideas on how to get the most out of the last days of winter vegetables, check out this Epicurious article and the late Gil Mark’s recipe for spicy Moroccan carrot salad.

Brussels sprout salad with apple and hazelnut

Inspired by 101 Cookbooks and Love and Olive Oil. The dressing here is very lemony, with an almost 1:1 ratio of lemon to oil. The main tool you need is an a mandoline (throw out the guard and just buy a pair of cut resistant gloves). It’s important here to toast the hazelnuts twice – the first time to remove the skins, the second time to give the nuts some crunch. Make sure to let the salad sit for at least 30 minutes before serving. It’s also great the next day – the lemon in the dressing prevents the apples from browning. 

– 1/4 c lemon juice

– 1/4 C + 1 T olive oil

– 1 t honey

– 1/2 t salt

– a few grinds pepper

– 4 oz parmesan (3/4 C shredded)

– 1 C hazelnuts

– 1 1/4 lb sprouts = 4 generous cups shredded

– 2 small granny smith apples

Shake. In a small jar, mix the juice, oil, honey, salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons of cheese. Let sit.

Toast. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Spread hazelnuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet and toast for 7-10 minutes until they are flagrant (but not burned) and the skins begin to peel off. Use the parchment to pour the hot hazelnuts into a glass jar or container with a cover. Keep the oven on.

Shake. Holding the jar with a towel (it will be hot), shake the bejesus out of it. Pretty quickly, the skins will steam off, leaving  you with mostly naked hazelnuts.

Chop. Once the nuts are cool enough to handle, remove the from the jar, leaving the skins behind. With a sharp knife, roughly chop the hazelnuts and put back in the oven to toast for a another 5-7 minutes or until fragrant and lightly golden. Allow to cool.

Shave. Rinse the sprouts and remove the outer layers. Over a very large bowl, holding the stem end, shred each sprout (I use the widest setting on my mandoline – 3 mm) about half way until you hit the core, then tilt sideways to shred the remaining leaves.

Shave. Cut each apple in half and cut out the core. Keeping the mandolin on the same 3 mm setting, and thinly slice the apples into half-moons.

Mix. With your hands, mix the sprouts and apple pieces. Add at least 1/2 of the dressing and keep mixing. Allow the sprouts to wilt over about 30 minutes. Add more dressing as necessary. You can store the salad like this overnight.

Serve. Top the salad with the remaining parmesan and toasted nuts right before serving.

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in new ways

I have moved again —  yes, again! — and there’s not much to say other than I love my new digs! Hopefully this post and the next will be the final in a too-long series of last mealfirst meal combos.

In the weeks leading up to the move, I did my best to clear out pantry and fridge – I mean, there’s nothing sillier than hiring movers to transport frozen barbecue brisket (chopped it up and made it into chili) and a big bag of almond flour (orange-glazed polenta cake, anyone?), right? As my ingredients dwindled and my take-out consumption rose in those last few days before a trio of big strong men would arrive at my door, I found myself missing the kitchen but unable to muster any creativity or inspiration. I suspect that many people feel this way about dinner most of the time.

With most of my kitchen in boxes, I turned to one of several meal subscription service that delivers pre-measured ingredients and provides recipes that you can turn into dinner in under an hour. Before this starts to sound like an infomercial, let me explain. Over the past few months, three companies in this space — PlatedBlue Apron, and Hello Fresh — kept showing up on my Facebook feed with discounts and trial offers. I had clicked on each of them several times, adding imaginary meals to my basket with no intention of purchasing. But when I couldn’t face another sushi roll or pizza slice, I took the plunge. I eventually decided on Plated because it allowed me to pick and choose which meals I wanted whereas the other two prescribe both the number of meals and the recipes. My kitchen is ingredient kosher, so I was able to pick out a mix of vegetarian, dairy, and fish options. I took advantage of a four-free-meals offer — I only paid for two of the six meals I ordered — but this post is not a sponsored one.

I never planned to write about the recipes here. I figured they’d be a fun low-risk, low-stress, no-planning way to get some home-cooked food into my belly and that would be that. In the end, though, the meals gave me a few ideas that made me think about using ingredients in new ways. For example, one recipe had me roast oranges alongside potatoes and then mix the whole lot with spinach and liberally douse with a North African chermoula herb mix. The charred slices provide a rich orange flavor that’s not too sweet, though I wasn’t sure what to do with the bitter peel. Despite my plate looking like a graveyard of orange skeletons, I’m ready to give citrus roasting another shot. The next day, I made a simple arugula salad tossed with apple and celery. Celery? Yes, celery! That stringy stalk that’s usually cooked to a pulp in soup, chopped up and hidden in tuna fish, or covered with a thick coat of peanut butter. But the crunch really freshens and brightens the salad – and fresh and bright is what we need during a winter like this.

apple celery arugula salad

Arugula, apple, and celery salad

Adapted from Plated. This is a very simple salad and the surprising ingredient is celery. Afraid that the strings would get caught up in a mandoline, I sliced the celery with a really sharp knife instead. I amped up the celery flavor with a smidge of celery seed. If your celery still has its leaves, throw them in to the salad too!

Serves 2-4

– 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)

– 1 T honey

– 3 T olive oil

– 1/4 t celery seed

– salt and pepper

– 4 C arugula

– 1/4 C coarsely chopped parsley

– 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced on a bias

– 2 apples (I used Braeburn), thinly sliced

Shake. Fill a jar with lemon juice, honey, oil, and celery seed and shake until well mixed. Dip an arugula leaf in the dressing and taste for salt and pepper.

Toss. Toss the arugula, parsley, celery, and apples in a large bowl with half the dressing. Add more dressing as needed.

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There’s nothing more cliche than a salad on the first day of a new year with talk of healthy eating, resolutions,  and *gasp* detox. Unless it’s a salad on the first day of a new year with protestation that it’s not a detox salad to launch your healthy-eating resolutions.

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So I guess this January first salad is jam-packed with cliche. But it’s also layered with shredded vegetables – two colors of cabbage and kale. And then tossed with a tangy lime dressing and sprinkled with peanuts.

The salad – well, I think it technically counts as a slaw – followed a circuitous route to my kitchen. It comes from a Southern cookbook via a New York blogger who linked to the recipe in a post about oatmeal pancakes that I clicked open this past Sunday night after coming home from dinner at friends who made pad Thai. I had Thai flavors on my mind and, when I saw the slaw, I immediately threw on my coat and headed back outside to the grocery store to buy cabbage and limes and peanuts and peanut oil.

The slaw takes a little advance planning because it includes the brilliant step of wilting the cabbage with salt for a couple of hours and then draining any released liquid. The resulting brassica retains its squeaky crunch but is softened enough to eat as is. That said, I hope my encouragement to prep a bunch of vegetables in advance will not further cause you to relegate this salad to a guilt-ridden, resolution-addled quickly-forgotten list of things to do to start the new year right.

Without further ado, explanation, or protestation, here’s the recipe.

Cabbage, lime, and peanut slaw

Modified from The Lee Bros. Simple Fresh Southern via Smitten Kitchen. I used kale instead of spinach and salted roasted peanuts instead of unsalted. I added parsley to brighten things up – cilantro would be amazing here too if you want to amp up some Thai-inspired flavors.

You can use a grater or food processor to shred the cabbage, but I just sliced everything with a nice sharp knife so that the pieces would be a bit larger. If you want to keep things pretty, salt the cabbages separately so that the red cabbage doesn’t bleed all over the green and result in a pink salad. This does require two colanders, or in my case, a colander and the basket from my salad spinner. Because the cabbage is pre-softened, you can just toss it with the dressing right before serving. I didn’t find the need to add any additional salt to the dressing because the cabbage was plenty salty (but not too salty).

– 1/2 small red cabbage, trimmed, cored, and shredded (about 6 cups)

– 1/2 small green cabbage, trimmed, cored, and shredded (about 6 cups)

– 1 T kosher salt, plus more to taste

– 1/4 C fresh lime juice (about 2 small limes)

– 1 T Dijon mustard

– 1/2 t ground cumin

– 6 T peanut oil

– 1 large bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch wide ribbons (about 4 cups loosely packed)

– 1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

– 1/4 C chopped parsley

Wilt. In two separate bowls, toss the green and red cabbages with a half-tablespoon of salt each. Transfer each transfer to a colander to drain for 2 hours.

Whisk. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the lime juice, mustard and cumin together. Add the peanut oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until the ingredients are thoroughly emulsified. Or just throw everything in a jar and shake it.

Toss. Put the salted, drained cabbage in a large bowl and add the kale. Toss the salad with the dressing and add the roasted peanuts and parsley.

Eat. This salad is best served immediately.

Store. If you want to make a big batch of this salad to eat during the week, keep each component separate in the fridge and then mix everything together at the last minute. I’ve been layering the salad in a jar with the dressing on the bottom and then shaking to mix at lunchtime. Works great, as long as you don’t overfill your salad container.

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Like a dog with a bone, this fattoush is a salad that I just can’t drop.

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It started with all that flatbread that a guest gave me one evening. Squirreled away between layers of parchment, wrapped in a big plastic bag, and secured with several rubber bands, it taunted me from my freezer. Armed with Einat Admony’s green fattoush recipe and a  sumac dressing, I devised a plan to free up valuable ice cream space: every week, I  pull out a floppy lavash square, douse with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and sumac, and brown to a crisp. I smash those now-brittle squares with the palm of my hand and the satisfying crackle of bread shattering onto the baking sheet. A nice pile of crackly crushed flatbread shards is what makes fattoush fattoush, the salad’s name derived from Arabic fatta – to crush.

And so began my addiction.

The first fattoush I made was fairly traditional and felt like a romp through the garden, or as close to a garden romp as you can get in the middle of the city — the Union Square greenmarket for vegetables and greens and even some weeds.

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Now, eating weeds is a new thing for me, but when I couldn’t find the watercress called for in Einat’s recipe, I grabbed purslane because it  looked similar. Sort of. Before you think I’ve gone all urban forager on you, no, I didn’t yank up leaves sprouting from sidewalk cracks. Instead I picked up a large bundle, roots still attached, at the greenmarket near work and dropped it right into my canvas tote. At home, I washed the purslane thoroughly – soak, swish, drain, repeat, repeat, repeat – and released the leaves by holding each stem from the top and running my fingers down to the bottom, knocking each delicate bundle off in quick succession.

Purslane is a succulent and tastes similar to baby spinach, but its leaves are a little thicker and spongier, its bite a bit sour. I found that after three or four days, purslane can get a little slimy, as if you were biting into a very young jade plant (not that I’ve done that, but you get what I mean, right?), so use it up quickly.

Fattoush

To the weeds and greens, for that first fattoush, I added large handfuls of herbs, peeled cucumbers, and thinly shaved radishes, all straight from the market. To give the fattoush a bit more heft, I added feta. The next time I made it, I added grilled chicken breast.

As the summer’s slipped away and the weather’s turned downright blustery, my salad has evolved. I’ve noticed that as the temperatures outside have dipped, I’ve been toasting the flatbread in the oven a little longer, relishing the extra heat in the kitchen, relishing the even crispier crisps. I’ve swapped out delicate greens for hardier ones, skipped the herbs, and added some of my favorite orchard fruits.

This weekend, while the oil-slicked, sumac-sprinkled lavash was browning, I massaged a pile of kale into wilted submission, sliced an Asian pear, and mellowed half a red onion with a brief soak in white vinegar. I whacked the seeds out of a pomegranate and shook together some dressing. I nearly burned my hand as I pressed down on the straight-from-the-oven sheet of lavash, crushing it to shards.

fall fattoush

This fall fattoush is not nearly as dramatic as I’m making it sound, but it does have more of an in-your-face quality than the summer version. Here’s a closer look.

Autumn fattoush

After two seasons of fattoush under my belt, I’m down to my last three lavash squares. I’m hoping they’ll last me through Thanksgiving.

Fattoush

Fattoush is the Middle East’s answer to panzanella, with croutons made of crispy toasted lavash. The inspiration for this salad came from Einat Admony’s version published in the Wall Street Journal. I based the salad dressing on the one in this fattoush recipe in Bon Appétit.

My favorite feta is a Bulgarian sheep’s milk one from Pastures of Eden– it’s delicate and less salty than Greek feta; you can find it at Trader Joe’s. Or skip the feta and slice up a grilled chicken breast or two. Make sure not to dress the salad until right before serving. 

Makes 4 servings, give or take

– Summer version:

– 3/4 lb purslane (2 C picked leaves, loosely packed and overflowing)

– 2 C roughly chopped arugula

– 1 C roughly chopped parsley

– 1 C roughly chopped mint

– 8 French breakfast radishes, thinly sliced (I use a mandoline)

– 2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeds scooped out and cut into half moons

– 6 spring onions, thinly sliced

– Fall version:

– 6 C roughly chopped kale

– 2 T olive oil

– 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

– 3 T white vinegar

– 3T  water

– 1 t kosher salt

-1 pomegranate

– 3/4 C roasted, salted almonds

– 2 apples, Asian pears, or Bosc pears, thinly sliced

– sumac dressing (recipe below; you will not need all of it)

– 3/4 C crumbled feta (optional)

– lavash crisps (recipe below)

Summer version:

Toss: Mix together the greens, herbs, radishes, cucumbers, and spring onions and toss with 1/2 cup of dressing. Taste and add more dressing if necessary.

Top. Crumble the feta over the salad and sprinkle with lavash crisps.

Fall version:

Massage. With your hands, massage the kale with olive oil and let sit for at least 15 minutes until the kale starts to soften.

Soak. In a small bowl, mix the red onion, vinegar, water, and salt and let soak for at least 15 minutes until the liquid turns light pink and the onions are pickled enough that you can eat them straight from the bowl.

Whack. Cut the pomegranate in half lengthwise. Hold one half in your palm, skin side up. With a wooden spoon, whack the skin over a large bowl until all of the seeds fall out. You will make a mess. Pour water into the bowl over the seeds – any membranes will float to the top and you can easily skim them off.

Chop. Roughly chop the almonds.

Toss. Mix together the kale, drained red onion, pomegranate seeds, and apples or pears with 1/2 cup of dressing. Taste and add more dressing if necessary – because of the kale, you might need up to 2/3 cup of dressing .

Top. Crumble the feta over the salad and sprinkle with chopped almonds and lavash crisps.

***

Sumac dressing

Adapted from this fattoush recipe in Bon Appétit. This dressing is delightfully puckery and helps tie whatever vegetables you use with the sumac-dotted lavash crisps. You might be tempted to use it as a marinade for chicken and I wouldn’t blame you. 

Makes approximately 1 1/4 cups

– 4 t ground sumac, soaked in 4 t warm water for 15 minutes

– 1/4 C fresh lemon juice

– 2 T  pomegranate molasses

– 2 t red wine vinegar

– 3/4 C extra virgin olive oil

– 1 1/2 t kosher salt

Shake. Pour all ingredients into a jar and shake.

 ***

Lavash crisps

The trick here is to toast pieces that are crispy enough to stand up to the dressing without getting soggy. Some recipes have your fry the lavash, but I prefer to generously (generously) brush it with oil and and them bake until quite brown. I’ve found myself eating these out of hand, so you might want to make more than you’ll need for your fattoush. 

Makes 1 1/2 cups

– 2 large lavash (approximately 12×12) or 3-4 pitas

– 2-3 T olive oil (or more)

– 1 t sumac (or more)

– 1 t kosher salt

Brush. If using pita, split each into two thin rounds. Brush olive oil on both sides of the bread – this is not the time to be stingy with your oil. Sprinkle one side with sumac and salt.

Bake. Lay the bread out on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes, or until the bread browns. Pita might take slightly longer because it is thicker.

Break. After it cools, press down on the brittle bread to crush it into bite-sized pieces.

Store. The crisps will keep for several weeks in an airtight container. If they start to go stale, just pop them in the oven for a few minutes to crisp them back up.

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