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Archive for the ‘vegetables’ Category

so too

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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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On Labor Day, a bunch of us from the restaurant went to Sycamore Farms.

Sycamore Farms

We toured the land on a tractor.

Sycamore Farms

Our guide, Kevin, let me drive the tractor. Everyone on board survived.

Sycamore Farms - another tractor

Just barely.

Sycamore Farms

We picked corn.

corn at Sycamore Farms

That’s Chef Carmen*.

Chef Carmen picking corn at Sycamore Farms

We picked tomatoes.

Sycamore Farms - tomatoes!

Lots of tomatoes.

tomatoes at Sycamore Farms

We cooked together.

We ate together.

Then I went home and turned our torn-from-the-stalk corn into soup.

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* A special thank you to Krishna Kinsey, Union Square cook and one of the best pasta makers I know, for the photo of Chef.

Farm-fresh corn soup

Improvised after consulting David Lebovitz’s recipe for fresh corn soup and Dorie Greenspan’s for summer corn soup in Bon Appétit. 

Makes 8 cups

– 6 ears of really fresh corn, shucked (I like the microwave method)

– 6 C water

– 2 T olive oil

– 1 large onion, chopped (approximately 1 C)

– 2 cloves garlic, minced

– 1 red poblano pepper, seeded and finely chopped (approximately 1/2 C)

– 2 t hot paprika, plus extra for garnish

– 1 C cream

– 1 T salt

– 1/4 C chopped parsley for garnish

Slice. Slice the corn off the cob into a large bowl. This should yield about 6 cups total. Reserve the naked cobs.

Boil. Cut the reserved cobs into 3 – 4 pieces. Bring water and cobs to a boil in a pot. Lower heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer for 30 minutes to extract the flavor from the cobs. Remove the cobs. Some of the liquid will evaporate, so you should be left with about 4 cups of corn stock.

Saute. In the meantime, in a larger pot (the one you plan to make the soup in), heat the oil and saute the onion over medium heat until soft and translucent, but not browned, 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic, pepper, and paprika, continuing to saute for another 5 minutes until the pepper starts to soften. Stir in 4 cups of corn kernels, reserving the remaining 2 cups.

Simmer. Pour the corn stock over the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Stir in the cream.

Puree. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is as smooth as possible. If you want the soup to be perfectly smooth, strain it, pressing hard on the solids, but it will be a bit on the thin side. I didn’t bother straining.

Serve. Divide the soup among bowls, garnishing with corn kernels, parsley, and a sprinkle of paprika.

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Well. Where were we? Oh yeah, so after I met Dorie (!), my sister and I went to Norway and Spain, and then I moved from Boston.

Wait, you say. What? you think. Didn’t you just move? you shake your head. Well, yes. Yes, I did just move. But it’s been a complicated multi-stage move and I’ve had a hard time cutting the cord. I sublet a place in Brooklyn for three weeks and then went back to Boston. I returned to Brooklyn to another apartment, for 5 weeks this time. Then I took over a friend’s lease in my old Upper West Side neighborhood, happily living mere blocks from my support system of friends. That lasted four months. The apartment, not the friends. And finally I moved to my current place. And earlier this month, I let go of my lease in Boston and transported the remainder of my belongings – furniture, books, pots and pans, scuba gear, and all – into my place in New York.

In case you’re counting, it’s been a year since I made those first tentative steps away from one career towards the uncertainty of another.

For most of my life, I’ve known what I was going to do next. There was always another school. A better job. A promotion. And now, I’m starting from scratch and for the first time ever, I don’t know what’s coming next. Will I eventually open a cafe? Write a cookbook? Work on the corporate side in a large restaurant group? Teach the principles of hospitality to other industries (healthcare, I’m looking at you!)? Cook for my family? There are all things I’m considering. And in the end, it will probably be a combination of several of these options. Which ones? I’m still figuring that out.

I met with a colleague and mentor the other day and we spoke about uncertainty. She encouraged me to just be. Or, in her words, to “grow where you’re planted.” I find myself repeating this phrase to myself multiple times a day. When I question what I’m doing. When other people question what I’m doing.

So, I’m going to make a deal with you. For a little while, I’m going to just be. To grow where I’m planted. To be OK with it. To be happy with it. Now here’s where you come in. Please believe me when I say that I’m happy being where I am right now. Please trust me when I say that I don’t yet have a clear vision for where I’m headed but that everything will work out. Please gently push me out of my comfort zone. And with your help, I’ll continue to believe in myself and trust my instincts and push my own limits.

And in return, I will give you the gazpacho recipe I picked up in Barcelona. How’s that for a win-win?

gazpacho

In Barcelona, my sister was in charge of directions and getting us where we wanted to go, and I was in charge of food. We saw a lot of Gaudí, ate ice cream at least once a day, and took a cable car across the port. We took the elevator to the top of Sagrada Família and wound our way down a narrow seashell staircase. We spent a day at a beach just a half hour outside Barcelona by train. We spent evenings by the pool on the roof of the hotel that we splurged on.

The only traditional tapas bar I went to was on a food tour the first night. The tour was enjoyable if unremarkable until I asked our guide for his favorite place to eat gazpacho. With this question, his eyes lit up. I make the best gazpacho, he said. Before I could ask him for his recipe, he started enumerating on his fingers. Take four tomatoes – make sure they’re really ripe. And then one cucumber. Remove the peel and the seeds. One pepper. Red. Or green. But red is best for the color. Use red. Then one onion, about this size, holding up a clenched fist. And garlic. One or two cloves. Maybe three. Yes, three. And one-third of a baguette. Or half of a small one. It should be the size of the cucumber. Put it all in a blender. Add olive oil and vinegar. Sherry vinegar, of course. But the secret, he leaned in for effect. The secret, he beckoned, is cumin.

Just two days after returning from Spain, I gathered gazpacho ingredients, threw them in a blender, measured and tweaked and substituted. I stuck a pitcher in the fridge, and then I left to pack up the apartment in Boston that I had called home for five years. When I returned to New York, furniture and books and pots and pans and scuba gear in tow, the gazpacho was waiting for me.

Gazpacho

This recipe is based on the one given to me by my tapas tour guide in Barcelona. Here I use cucumbers with thick waxy skin as he recommended. You can use “seedless” Persian or English cucumbers if you prefer. The raw onion and garlic give the soup quite a bite, but it does mellow out after a day or two. Make sure to serve the soup with some chopped vegetables and croutons for garnish and crunch. 

Makes approximately 2 quarts

– 3 lbs ripe tomatoes

– 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeds removed

– 1 1/2 red pepper, seeds removed

– 1 small yellow or red onion

– 3 cloves garlic

– 1/2 stale baguette (approximately the same length as the cucumbers laid end to end)

– 1/4 C olive oil, preferably arbequina

– 2 T sherry vinegar

– 1 T cumin

– salt

– Optional garnish: diced tomato, cucumber, and pepper; small croutons

Chop. Roughly chop all the vegetables.

Soak. Tear the baguette in small pieces and cover with warm water until very soggy.

Blend. Add all of the vegetables to your blender and go to town until very smooth. Drain the water from the bread, reserving it for later. Add the bread and continue to blend until very smooth. Add oil, vinegar, cumin. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and then keep adding it by the teaspoonful until the gazpacho tastes good to you. If the soup is too thick, thin it out with the reserved bread water.

Strain. If you want your gazpacho to be silky smooth, do like most restaurants and push it through a cheesecloth lined strainer. I don’t bother.

Chill. Let the gazpacho chill for at least 2 hours or ideally overnight.

Serve. Serve in wide bowls with small plates of diced tomato, cucumber, pepper, and croutons. Drizzle with olive oil.

***

Here are some of the restaurants that my sister and I enjoyed in Barcelona. I tried gazpacho at nearly every single one of them.

Bar Mut
Sam (the General Manager at USC and my boss) sent me here, referring to it as Balthazar meets tapas bar and recommending we show up in the late afternoon after the lunch rush. On an unassuming corner in what can only be described as the urban equivalent of the middle of nowhere (particularly in comparison to the bustle of las Ramblas), Bar Mut is truly a hidden gem. There are no menus. The website is little more than an address, a phone number, and a 17 minute video called Intereses Mundanos (Mundane Interests) that gives the restaurant an air of mystery. Daily specials are scrawled on a blackboard above the bar,  but the best way to order is to engage your server in a dialogue about your hunger, mood, likes and dislikes, and let him guide you. Note, some of the fish entrees can get quite pricey.
Address: Carrer de Pau Claris, 192 (at Diagonal)
Area: Eixample

Cornelia and Co.
Cornelia and Co is part restaurant, part gourmet take-away.
Address: Carrer de València, 225
Area: Eixample

Els Quartre Gats (4 Gats)
Go here for the art work and history as a modernist salon of sorts. The food is decent enough, but overpriced. That said, I had amazing pan con tomate.
Address: Carrer de Montsió, 3
Area: Barri Gòtic

Teresa Carles
Just a few blocks from La Rambla and on a quiet pedestrian street, this vegetarian restaurant is a nice break from meat-heavy menus. You can design your own salads and get a juice fix. My sister particularly enjoyed the seitan and tofu sliders.
Address: Jovellanos, 2
Area: Las Ramblas

Torre d’Alta Mar
This restaurant can be a bit confusing to find. It’s located at the top of the tower from which the Telefèric del Port cable car launches. There is a tasting menu and you can also order a la carte. This is not an inexpensive restaurant. That said, we had some of the best and most interesting food of our trip and the view of the port is spectacular. It’s worth the splurge.
Address: Passeig Joan de Borbó, 88 (take the elevator up)
Area: Barceloneta

 

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In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not ripping apart pieces of cold roast chicken and dipping them into a jar of mustard vinaigrette, licking my fingers before swiping them on my pants and reaching for another key stroke. No. No, I’m not.

Ok, I am.

But hear me out. It all started with a date that never was.  It was a blind one, and we had planned to meet at Buvette for coffee. I waded through the humidity from Union Square, and just a few blocks from the gastrothèque, I received this text: “This is too far west. Can we meet at Starbucks in Union Square instead?” Um, no. And I politely replied, “Let’s do it another day.” We rescheduled.

By this time, I was at Buvette’s door and, date or not, I wasn’t going to pass it up. Taking refuge from the swamp called July in New York, I pulled myself up to the bar for a glass of bibonade, Jody Williams’ rosé infused with fruit – in this case plums – poured over ice and topped with champagne. As I tried to find a comfortable perch on the wobbly wooden stool, a plate of bread doused in olive oil was placed in front of me followed by a fresh salad of lettuces, watercress, radishes, cucumbers, potatoes, and thin haricot verts (both ends snipped as only the French do) liberally drizzled with a mustard vinaigrette.

I set to work on the salad, pushing vegetables onto the oyster fork-sized fork with the butter knife-sized knife. Everything is diminutive at Buvette, from the name itself to the menu booklets that fit in your palm to the tables for two that encourage knee bumping and hand grazing. (I’ll have to come back with a date who actually shows up.)

The heavy cooking takes place downstairs, and as the menu shifted from lunch to dinner around 4 pm, a parade of aprons ascended with large bowls of prepared ingredients that were passed over the bar to white oxford-clad ladies and gents. As I nibbled with abandon with my mini-silverware, I watched servers thinly slice piles of translucent Prosciutto onto toast, grill croques of all types, and scoop lightly marinated shredded carrots onto a plate.

There was no dessert menu – just a glistening tarte tatin and a bowl of chocolate mousse. I love a good tatin (be it apple or pear or tomato or, well, tomato), but some days, only chocolate will do. Amidst the silver platters, below the pressed iron ceiling times, just a little too close to my neighbors, I nursed my coffee along with a plate of nearly-noir haphazardly-heaped mousse topped with whipped cream. As I lingered, I flipped through a copy of the Buvette cookbook and within minutes, had it added to my bill, paying extra for the immediacy, a signature, a hole drilled through the nearly 300 pages, and a leather strap laced through.

On my way out the door, I said au revoir to no one in particular. A bientôt. I’ll be back soon. 

Inspired by my visit, I invited friends over for dinner later in that week. On Friday afternoon after work, I filled my canvas bag with greenmarket goodies, stopped by Breads, and felt like a Frenchie with the crisp pointed edges of a pair of baguettes threatening to poke someone if I turned around too quickly. I snapped off a quignon as I walked to the subway, gnawing away at the crust as I dug for my metrocard. When I got home, I roasted the chicken that the night before I had seasoned with herbs and salt, washed some leaves, sliced some vegetables, grated some carrots, and rolled out dough for a rhubarb galette (based loosely on Alice Water’s recipe). We drank a delicate rosé from France (Olga Raffoult Chinon Rosé). And then a more assertive one from South Africa (Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé).

And I left the dishes for the morning and the bottles on the table, and I ate leftover salad for breakfast in the middle of the mess.

Buvette Roast Chicken Salad with haricots certs and mustard vinaigrette

If you want to hear Jody Williams speak about her cookbook and restaurants (she opened a Buvette in Paris too!), listen to her interview on Radio Cherry Bombe. And just a few days ago, Sam Sifton published in the New York Times a few more recipes from the cookbook – here you go. You’re welcome!

Roast chicken salad and haricots verts with mustard vinaigrette

Adapted from Jody Williams’ Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food. The only change I made was to add cucumbers (the photo above doesn’t have potatoes). I used a variety of lettuces that I found at the greenmarket – I think that a little endive or radicchio would be really nice too.

Serves 4 (you may have some leftover chicken)

– 8 small waxy potatoes

– coarse salt

– 3/4 lb haricots verts or regular green beans, both ends trimmed

– 4 large handfuls of salad greens – I used Boston/bibb, red leaf, and some watercress micro greens

– freshly ground pepper

– 1/2 C mustard vinaigrette (recipe below)

– 3 Persian cucumbers or one large English seedless cucumber, thinly sliced

– 4 radishes, thinly sliced

– 1 small roast chicken, still warm (recipe below)

Boil. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water, and add a spoonful of salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, around 20 minutes. Check for done-ness with the tip of a sharp knife. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes from the cooking water and set them aside to cool. Keep the cooking water at a boil for the haricots (see below). When cool enough to handle, break the potatoes in half and set them aside.

Blanche. Add the green beans and boil until they are just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain them and transfer to a bowl to cool.

Put it all together. Arrange the greens on a large platter and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Drizzle the greens with one-third of the dressing. Toss the potatoes and green beans with another third of the dressing and lay them on top of the dressed greens. Tear all of the meat and skin from the chicken in largish pieces and scatter over the vegetables. Drizzle the whole thing with the remaining dressing, scatter the cucumbers and radishes over the top, and serve immediately.

***

Poulet rôti (roasted chicken)

Adapted from Jody Williams’ Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food. This is the simplest way I have ever made a chicken and the last three sentences of the recipe capture the essence of the process: “No need to truss, baste, anything. Just season and cook. End of story.” Just make sure to leave enough time for the salt and seasoning to really sink into your chicken – I rubbed my chicken down on Thursday evening and let it sit in the fridge for about 16 hours before bringing it to room temperature for an hour and then roasting. 

– 1 T herbes de Provence

– 1 T coarse salt

– 1 3- to 4-lb chicken, patted dry with paper towels

Pound. With a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder, coarsely grind the herbs de Provence and salt.

Season. Evenly season the chicken with the mixture, inside and out, really massaging it into all the crevices. Let the chicken sit for at least one our at room temperature or in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Roast. If you have refrigerated your chicken, take it out and let it sit, uncovered, at room temperature for about an hour. When you are ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 425ºF. Place the room temperature chicken in a skillet or a roasting dish and set it in the oven. Roast until the thigh registers 165ºF on a meat thermometer, about 1 hour and 15 inures. Let the chicken rest at least 10 minutes before carving (ripping) and eating it.

***

Buvette mustard vinaigrette

Mustard vinaigrette

From Jody Williams’ Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food. OK, so this vinaigrette makes everything taste French. And by French, I mean good. And by good, I mean dip a piece of chicken in it and lick your fingers good. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

– 2 large shallots, peeled and very finely chopped

– 1 t fresh thyme, finely chopped

– 1 small garlic clove, finely grated on a Microplane grater

– 3 T sherry vinegar

– 1/3 C extra-virgin olive oil

– 1 T water

– 2 T smooth Dijon or whole-grain mustard

– pinch sugar

– 1/2 t coarse salt

– a few grinds freshly ground pepper

Mix. Shake all the ingredients in a jar until they’re well combined. Store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

 

 

 

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our recipe

You won’t find any vapors, gels, or foams at Union Square Café. What you will find on the white-clad tables and dark wood bar are dishes that come straight from the Greenmarket just steps from the restaurant. Repeated each year when the produce is at its peak, some dishes have developed a cult-like following that prompt phone calls and conversations that go something like this: “Is the BLT back on the menu yet?” No, the tomatoes aren’t quite ready yet. “I was here last week and need to have the snap pea salad again. It’s still on the menu, right?” Yes, for as long as we can find great peas.

Amazing sugar snap peas are all over the markets these days and the price has thankfully dropped from $7 a pound to a more modest $5, at least here in Manhattan. And so, until you have a chance to visit and experience the real thing, I give you our recipe.

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USC sugar snap pea salad

USC Sugar Snap Pea Salad

Union Square Cafe Sugar Snap Pea Salad 

Adapted ever so slightly from the recipe provided by Union Square Café. When peas are the star, it pays to take the time to choose them carefully. I see a lot of people grabbing up the beauties by the handful, but I actually pick them one by one, making sure each pod is unblemished, fat and taut. Make sure that the peas only get a quick dip in the boiling water for a very light blanche so that they keep their crunch.

– 1 T kosher salt

– 1 lb sugar snap peas, trimmed at each end

– ¼ C sliced spring onions (about 5-6)

– 2 T lemon juice

– 2 T Champagne or white wine vinegar

– ½ C extra virgin olive oil

– 2-3 T finely sliced mint

– 5 T grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

– 2-3 t fleur de sel

– 1 t freshly ground black pepper

Plunge. Bring 3 quarts water to a boil in a large pot and add the kosher salt. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath, filling a large bowl with ice and water. Cook the peas in the water for just 10 seconds. Drain the peas in a colander and immediately add them to the ice water. Remove the peas from the ice water after about 2 minutes. Drain well in the colander and gently pat dry with a paper towel.

Slice. Julienne the peas by cutting them on a sharp diagonal. Watch out for runaway peas.

Mix. Place the spring onions in a non-reactive bowl (I used glass) large enough to mix the pea salad. Pour in the lemon juice, vinegar, and olive oil. Add the peas, mint, 4 tablespoons of cheese, fleur de sel, and black pepper. Mix the salad, taste, and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of cheese, and serve.

 

 

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I have a quick little soup for you today and it’ll take me longer to tell you about it than it will for  you to make it. So gather round for a brief chat and then grab your blender and a handful of ingredients and get going.

cucumber avocado soup

It’s a chilled soup – you might even be tempted to call it a gazpacho, but I’d advise against it because it’s unbelievable creamy. While I haven’t (yet) posted a true tomato and cucumber gazpacho on the site, you might want to check out salmorejo, a Spanish tomato soup I first tried in Seville, or cucumber mint gazpacho adapted from Ten Tables in Provincetown.

But back to today’s recipe. I came across the it when Rivka mentioned that it was time for  one of her oft-repeated cold summer soups. As I’ve been forced to close my window shades from dusk until dawn when I’m not home and crank up the air conditioning while I sleep, it’s a welcome reprieve with a some jalapeño heat – but not enough to get you sweating again – requiring the same amount of effort as cleaning your blender when you’re done.

It does greatly benefit from a little bit of crunch to balance out the creaminess, so I toasted up some lavash chips. The  lavash itself has a little story, one that left me and my colleagues in a fit of giggles. Friday morning, I was greeted in the restaurant office by the following note perched upon a 4-inch stack of wraps, tortillas, and lavash.

A guest last night left this for you: endless possibilities… Some guests palm a hundred for a table. Others shower you in flatbread, I guess.

The prior evening, a bakery owner had stopped in for dinner and when we were chatting about his work, he said he’d leave me a few samples from his bakery. I schlepped the bread home, toasted it up with a spray of olive oil and a sprinkle of fleur de sel, and served it next to the soup. Luckily I have enough lavash to for an entire summer’s worth of chilled soup.

cucumber avocado soup

Cucumber Avocado Soup

Adapted from Not Derby Pie’s recipe. This is one of those recipes where you barely chop the ingredients, throw them into a blender, and press a button. One minute later, maybe two, you have soup. It is quite thick and creamy – if you’d like, add additional cucumbers and extra water to thin it out a bit. Top with something crunchy for a little texture – I used toasted lavash, but pita or tortilla chips would be great too. 

Update 6/23/14: To thin the soup out a bit, I doubled the cucumbers, and then added a bit extra salt. Excellent!

Makes approximately 6 cups

– 3 avocados, preferably Hass, halved and roughly chopped

– 3/4 lb seedless cucumbers (I used 5 large Persian cucumbers), roughly chopped

– 2 pickled jarred jalapeño peppers, chopped (with seeds), more to taste

– 1 1/4 cup yogurt (I used Greek; if you use regular yogurt, the soup might be a little bit thinner – not necessarily a bad thing in my book)

– 20 fresh chives, roughly chopped

– 20 mint leaves

– 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice

– salt and pepper to taste

Blend. Combine all ingredients in a blender, starting with half of the jalapeño and reserving 4-5 sprigs chives. Add 1/4 cup water to get the blending started, then blend on medium until completely smooth. Taste, and add salt, pepper, and more jalapeno to taste. Thin out with extra water to get the texture that you want.

Chill. Refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Ladle. Fill bowls and garnish with chives, minced jalapeño,  and/or mint. Serve with something crunchy.

 

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