Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Cowboy Cookies

Given my "maximizer" tendencies, that is, an insistence on assessing all possible options to ensure I’ve chosen the absolute best one before making a decision— as my sister has pointedly labeled my behavior—choosing a holiday cookie is not an easy task for me. By not easy, I mean positively agonizing. The possibilities are endless, the angles innumerable. Does one go traditional Christmas cookie, sprinkles and all? Or gingerbread, molasses-rich and deeply spiced? What about dark chocolate, peppered cheerily with candy cane morsels? I poured through all of my cookbooks and read countless “Top 50 Christmas Cookies” lists online, toiling through the comments sections in feverish hope of feeling with finality that I’d chosen the best…

And just when I’d settled for an intricate yet interesting spice cookie with a thin lemon glaze on top, bae glanced at the cookbook photo and told me point-blank that it looked like someone had jizzed all over these Pfeffernüsse varietals. Horrified, I slapped the book shut, ready to start the search from scratch.

“You’re thinking too hard about this,” bae said. “Why don’t you just make chocolate chip? Everybody loves chocolate chip cookies.” My first reaction was to protest, too mundane! Too basic! Too non-holiday! But truth is, bae had a very good point. So I set out to find a recipe for a loaded chocolate chip, and with resolve and conviction chose these Cowboy Cookies—trading my “maximizing” mindset for wholehearted enthusiasm apropos to these spectacular sweets.

I don’t know why they are named “Cowboy”, but I do know this—they’re insanely delicious, easy to make, hard to mess up, and quite the crowd pleaser. I mean, how can a cookie that’s essentially the Original Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe plus pecans, oats, shredded coconut, and cinnamon be anything but? Even for baking dopes like me who don’t let the butter warm to room temp and bake a dangerous 2 minutes past their doneness, they still managed to turn out excellent. For the amateur baker, a resilient cookie is a must.

In its original form, this recipe makes giant, scone-like Levain Bakery style cookies—¼ cup batter allocation per each. I wanted more of a two-bite cookie, so I cut the recipe and cookie size by one-third, which I’ve reflected below. Now, you are free to eat more than one :)

Happy Holidays! Sending all the love and joy of the season from my kitchen to yours. I’ll see you in the New Year.

Cowboy Cookies (from the New York Times)
Makes 30 two-bite cookies

1  cup all­ purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light­ brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup old­ fashioned rolled oats
2/3 cup unsweetened flake coconut/ coconut chips
2/3 cup chopped pecans

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in bowl.
3. In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth and creamy. Gradually beat in sugars, and combine thoroughly.
4. Add egg, beat into batter. Beat in vanilla.
5. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips, oats, coconut and pecans.
6. For each cookie, drop a heaping tablespoon of dough onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart.
7. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until edges are lightly browned; rotate sheets halfway through. Remove cookies from rack to cool.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Pan-Roasted Romanesco with Golden Raisins, Tahini & Sumac

It's nearly impossible to visit a farmers market this time of year without a head of romanesco, nestled between its broccoli and cauliflower cousins, catching your eye. Was it the pinwheel of stegosaurus-like spiral spikes that first gave you pause? Or maybe its fluorescent lime hue was cause for reconsideration. Either way, we can agree that the romanesco is definitely the most bizarre-looking Brassica of the bunch. But if that fractal eccentricity means you're habitually turning to its tamer family members, I urge you to try those crazy spikes in the kitchen with Pan-Roasted Romanesco with Golden Raisins, Tahini & Sumac.

Contrary to its sharp exterior, romanesco has a very mild flavor; significantly subdued compared to broccoli or cauliflower. That's not to say the romanesco is dull—I've often seen it described as having a "sweet nuttiness" that becomes accentuated with high-heat cooking. Think of it as a vegetable to be praised for its agreeableness, perhaps; boasting a wonderfully crunchy texture primed for charring in that deeply satisfying way exclusive to roasted winter vegetables.

And yet, an oven isn't even required to cook the romanesco to perfection in this recipe. Instead, the florets are pan-roasted, achieving beautifully bronzed, charred edges in just 10 minutes time. At first, I was skeptical: how could such a burly stalk be cooked to completion via open stove top with minimal oil so quickly? The secret, it turned out, was in the finish. After approximately 8 minutes of charring, the florets are "steamed" with a splash of vegetable broth for the remaining cook time. The contact of the broth with the hot pan's bottom immediately creates a steam bath for the romanesco, ensuring that the crunchy florets lose their raw bite in the final minutes before serving. Genius, right?  To my delight, the pan-charring worked for two other winter vegetables I generally reserve for time-consuming oven roasting as well, broccoli and brussels sprouts.

This recipe hails from the Gjelina cookbook by Travis Lett, a connoisseur of phenomenal vegetable preparations. Everything is nuanced: the sweetness of the raisins and nuttiness of the tahini amplifying the flavor profile inherent to the romanesco, the sprinkle of tangy Sumac and coarse sea salt to finish. The presentation is beautiful, a masterpiece fit for entertaining that feels almost indulgent when whipped together on a random weeknight for one. Substitutions are effortless and welcome: romanesco can be subbed out for any other hearty winter vegetable, golden raisins with many a dried fruit. If Sumac isn't a pantry item for you, top with finely grated lemon peel instead.

Pan-Roasted Romanesco with Golden Raisins, Tahini & Sumac (from Gjelina)
Serves 4 to 6

¼ cup tahini
Juice of 2 lemons
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp cold water
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for cooking
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 medium heads romanesco, trimmed and chopped into 1-in florets
¼ cup golden raisins
2 Tbsp vegetable stock or water
1 Tbsp ground sumac
Flaky sea salt
Best-quality olive oil for drizzling

1. In a small bowl, combine the tahini with the lemon juice, garlic, and cold water. Whisk in the extra-virgin olive oil. The sauce should be thin enough to drizzle with a spoon. (If it is too thick, add in more cold water, 1 Tbsp at a time.) Season with kosher salt and pepper.
2. Heat a large frying pan over high heat. Add enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and warm until hot but not smoking. Add the romanesco, cut-side down, and cook until deep golden brown in color, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir with tongs or a wooden spoon and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer. Turn the heat to medium and add the raisins. Season with kosher salt and cook, stirring, until the raisins soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the stock and allow the ingredients to steam briefly. Taste a piece of romanesco for seasoning and doneness; it should be tender.
3. Transfer to a serving platter, drizzle the tahini sauce on top, sprinkle with sumac, and garnish with sea salt and a drizzle of best-quality olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Pumpkin Miso Broth with Soba

If a pumpkin spiced latte is the most expected use of this winter cucurbita's namesake, I'm coming at you from the opposite end of the spectrum with this Pumpkin Miso Broth with Soba recipe. Sure, you've probably dabbled in pumpkin as a savory medium—maybe delving into my Moroccan Pumpkin Stew, or swapping in a can of puree for a recipe that calls for butternut squash. But today, we're traveling to uncharted territory with what is, essentially, deconstructed pumpkin sushi. Here is why pumpkin plus Japanese flavors, while seemingly incompatible, patently works. 
1. Miso soup is wintery, delicious, cozy, and a runny-nose keep are all squash soups.
If it's warm, brothy, and aromatic, it's perfect for cold weather. So off the bat, here is the lowest common denominator. But let's build on that a bit. Miso soup is inherently intense in it's flavor profile, plus extremely salty—I've never had a bowlful without feeling immediately bloated. Here, it is tempered by the gentle earthy squash, sweet and meaty, the perfect watery-broth enhancer. Minced ginger adds a spicy, bitter undertone that immediately feels proactively cold-fighting. So we retain all of the positives of regular miso soup, but add some hearty substance to create a full-bodied base.

2. The toppings are udon soup level. 
In Japanese udon soup, the broth sits under a vibrant, intricate pizza pie of toppings (udon, mushrooms, snow peas, egg, etc.) that render this dish so pleasing. Same goes here, with a healthy makeover. Instead of udon, whole-grain buckwheat noodles add the slippery spaghetti-like slurp you crave in a big bowl of Japanese soup, along with shiitake mushrooms, sliced scallions, sesame seeds, and nori. They all sit so elegantly on the surface, waiting for that first plunge of your spoon to ensconce them into the rich, inviting pumpkin-miso broth.

3. The gloriousness that is nori (seaweed, not Kimye's daughter).
How is that I've never paid much attention to the edible red algae that holds sushi together? The dried seaweed is incredible—I'd even argue it's my favorite part of this recipe. In the same way that shaved truffles add exponential depth to any pasta dish, so does mineral-rich nori to the fish or vegetables it touches. Nori comes in sheets, and a quick touch of heat via fry pan causes it to crumble easily; now, it's a garnish. The salty, sea-tasting nori blends beautifully with the sweet earthy sugar pumpkin, really driving home the dish.

Are you intrigued? I'd say this lovely, exotic vegan soup will be the perfect antidote after a week of Thanksgiving fodder and fullness. I can't wait to hear what you think.

Pumpkin Miso Broth with Soba (by My New Roots)
Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side


1 Tbsp coconut oil
2 medium yellow onions
¾ tsp sea salt
3 cloves garlic
1 medium (~2 lb) sugar pumpkin
3 to 4 cups water
3 to  4 Tbsp white or light miso
1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger
6 oz soba noodles (can substitute whole-wheat spaghetti)
Juice of 1 lemon

Sesame seeds
Sautéed shiitake mushrooms (I added soy sauce and rice wine vinegar)
Nori/seaweed (available at Whole Foods)
Cubed cooked tofu (optional, if adding protein)
Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

1. Roughly chop onions, mince garlic. Wash the pumpkin well (as you’ll be eating the skin), and chop into chunks. Preserve the seeds if you plan on roasting them: 30 minutes at 350 degrees, tossing every 10 minutes, should toast them evenly.
2. In a large stockpot, melt the coconut oil. Add the onions and salt, stir to coat and cook for about 10 minutes until the onions are just starting to caramelize. Add garlic and cook for about a minute until fragrant.
3. Add the pumpkin and stir to coat. Add 3 cups of water, cover, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender.
4. While the soup is cooking, prepare the toppings: Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Cook soba noodles according to package directions, drain and lightly rinse. Slice scallions, lightly toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, about 2-3 minutes. Sauté mushrooms in a lightly oiled skillet (plus a dash of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar) over high heat for 5-7 minutes.
5. Transfer the soup to a blender and blend on high until completely smooth. (An immersion blender works too). Add more water if necessary – you’re looking for a creamy consistency, but it should not be thick like a paste. Add the miso, ginger and blend again until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Transfer soup back to the pot and keep warm (reheat if necessary, but try not to boil). Add lemon juice to soup.
6. Ladle soup into bowls, top with soba, scallions, sesame seeds, mushrooms, and remaining optional toppings if using; crumble the seaweed over top. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Miso Harissa Delicata Squash

Before you accuse me of a typo in the first two ingredients of this recipe—um hello questionable kveller, don't tell me you mean to intentionally combine the all-encompassing umami Asian flavor of miso with the distinctly spicy, capsicum essence of Moroccan cuisine's harissa?— let me assure you it is not. Ever since I saw these two incongruous tastes paired together in Miso Harissa Delicata Squash, I've had my eye on this recipe. Last weekend I came across all the main ingredients at the Greenmarket—kale, radishes, and fingerling potatoes play a supporting role in addition to the delicata namesake— so it was finally time to fulfill my curiosity of the marriage of these bold, distinctly different flavors. The result was a dazzling, daring flavor bomb of spicy, sweet, and salty that transformed these sometimes overplayed fall-forward vegetables into an exciting and edgy novel dish.

It's simple, really. The salad is very good. And the fact that it's dressed in an unusual blend of known, but rarely mixed, flavors makes it even better. There is sweet, thanks to the inherently honeyed delicata squash and sugary miso; and there is earthy, thanks to the starchy potatoes and bitter kale. These two profiles play beautifully off each other, ensconced in tinges of harissa components cumin, coriander, and chili pepper. Biting radishes and toasted seeds give crunch to the tender baked vegetables. The salad is best served warm, though room temperature is fine, too.

The recipe is extremely efficient with its time allotment. You can prepare all remaining ingredients while the squash and potatoes are roasting, so upon their completion (which is only 25 minutes, not the protracted 50 minutes of a sweet potato or spaghetti squash) everything else is already sitting in one large bowl. Their transfer finishes the recipe.

The hearty dish feels like a main, so I added a can of chickpeas for protein to secure that title. The original recipe calls for roasted almonds, but I subbed in the toasted seeds from the delicata. If you don't want to roast those seeds but stay in the squash family, toasted pepitas also suffice. One more note: I doubled all the vegetables (reflected in recipe) but used the called-for amount of harissa/miso, as both ingredients are very pungent. I thought the vegetables were dressed just right, so I suggest erring on the side of less harissa and miso. You can always add more once the vegetables have roasted.

Miso Harissa Delicata Squash (from 101 Cookbooks)

1 lb small fingerling potatoes, washed and dried
1 1/2 lb delicata squash
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil (OK to use less)
1/4 c white miso*
1-2 Tbsp harissa paste*
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 bunch kale, de-stemmed and finely chopped
4 radishes, very thinly sliced
1/8 c toasted delicta squash seeds, pepitas, or Marcona almonds
1 16 oz can chickpeas, drained (optional)

*Both of these ingredients are available at mainstream markets like Whole Foods and Fairway. For those who live in NYC, try Taim harissa paste. It's the best!

1. Preheat the oven to 400F degrees. If the potatoes aren't tiny, slice them into pieces no larger than your thumb. Cut the delicata squash in half length-wise, and use a spoon to clear out all the seeds. Cut into 1/2-inch wide half-moons. You can leave the peel on these squash.

2. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, miso, harissa. Place the potatoes and squash in a large bowl with 1/3 cup of the miso-harissa oil. Use your hands to toss well, then turn everything out onto a baking sheet. Bake until everything is baked through and browned, about 25-30 minutes. Toss once or twice along the way after things start to brown a bit. Keep an eye on things though, you can go from browned to burned in a flash.

3. In the meantime, whisk the lemon juice into the remaining miso-harissa oil. Taste, it should be intensely flavorful, but if yours is too spicy or salty, you can dilute it with a bit more olive oil or lemon juice. Stir the kale into the leftover dressing and set aside.

4. Place the warm roasted vegetables in a bowl and toss with the kale mixture, radishes, seeds/almonds, and chickpeas (if using).

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Smoky Summer Squash and Yogurt Spread | The Recipe Hunters

By nature of its definition, the “sustainable” part of “sustainable food” can be expounded in different ways. The most widely used description pertains to the environmental component, i.e., conserving ecological balance through mindful environmental practices—eating locally to reduce carbon footprint, enhance the wellbeing of the local farming community, that sort of thing.

The social component, while omnipresent, is sometimes overlooked. A sustainable food system should enhance a community’s social well-being, celebrate their social values. For example, the social interaction at a farmers market contributes to its sustainability, in addition to the local nature of the produce. As would using that produce to cook a meal for a group of friends or family. In the world of sustainable food, the act of eating together— sharing experiences, passing down recipes— is not as perfunctory as one might think.

All over the world, cultures retain livelihood partially thanks to this social environment built upon food. A tapestry of food, interaction, and stories weave together to create the way of life that defines a people. This is sustainability—both in terms of food, and the inherent meaning of the word itself. Propelling a particular identity forward, one that happens to be grounded in food. Everyone has their own, and The Recipe Hunters are hungry, literally, to seek them out.

Over the summer I had the privilege of meeting the self-titled Recipe Hunters, Leila Elamine and Anthony Morano, and was deeply moved by the work they do. In a nutshell, Leila and Anthony travel the globe to find authentic and traditional family recipes, recording the stories behind the people and dishes as they go. To understand the seasonal produce of a particular region, they volunteer at local farms; immersing themselves in the culture they wish to capture. “Once we find someone special who cooks traditional food with passion, experience, and love, we record the entire process with photography, video, and writing,” they explain. Their mission boils down to using food as a medium to build community, preserve culture heritage, and re-establish the dining table as the familial centerpiece.

The first week in August, Leila and Anthony hosted a restaurant takeover to cook a feast of mezze recipes they had “hunted” during their travels in the Middle East. As guests, we traversed a whirlwind journey to Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, and Syria by flavor, each stop accompanied by an intimate anecdote from Leila and Anthony’s time spent in that region. They would fondly recall a cook by name, who we could conveniently follow on the menu. Rather then eat zaa’tar, I ate Doha’s zaa’tar. Amal’s hummus. Marietta’s eggplant fritters. To acknowledge the authors of each recipe in writing was to bridge their distance, allowing their identities to dine in NYC with us along with their fare and tales.

Mezze is one of my favorite categories of cuisine, and I could wax poetic about Khuta’s Zahra Bi Tahineh, roasted cauliflower drizzled in tahini sauce, and Elena’s elioti, unleavened olive and cilantro bread, until the cows come home. But if I had to choose just one dish out of the 11 served that was my favorite, I think it would be Mtabal Koosa Ma’Laban by Doha from Palestine: a summer squash and yogurt spread I greedily and sloppily slathered over pita after pita. A sucker for mashed vegetable dips (see my Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic dip) I loved the way the deeply roasted earthy-sweet squash pulp tasted with the tart, creamy yogurt; whisked amply with brazen garlic, slick grassy olive oil, and quality sea salt. This dip will remind you of others in the region—tzatziki and labneh to name a few—but truly maintains an identity of its own with the delightful smoky summer squash. (For apartment-dwellers lacking a grill, charring vegetables on an open gas-burning stove top is a wonderful way to char the skin to a blackened crisp and achieve that grill-scorched flavor on the interior. Just make sure you monitor said veggies carefully so they don't catch on fire)! A cinch to whip up, the dip is aptly seasonal despite the cooling weather: summer squash are still prolific at the farmers markets right now.

Hungry to keep living vicariously through The Recipe Hunters? Visit their website or YouTube Channel to watch their culinary adventures in action and get more delicious, storied recipes.

Smoky Summer Squash and Yogurt Spread (Mtabal Koosa Ma’Laban)
By Doha via The Recipe Hunters

4 medium sized summer squash
1.5 cloves of garlic
5 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of tart, plain yogurt

1. Fire roast the summer squash or cook them directly over a medium-high flame on a gas burner until their skins are charred and their insides are soft.
2. Using a mortar and a pestle, mash the garlic with the salt.
3. In a bowl, stir the garlic and salt in the yogurt. Peel open the squash and use a spoon or your hands to crape the pulp into the yogurt. Stir the yogurt until everything is evenly dispersed.
4. Drizzle with EVOO and serve with lots of pita.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Quick & Easy Pickles

Today, I introduce to you a cure for summer vegetable anxiety: quick and easy homemade pickles. Despite the fact that I consume more vegetables than anyone I know, I cannot keep up with all the veggies I’ve been buying at the farmers market. Peppers, squash, okra, fennel, zucchini, beets, much is in season right now, and though I try to gather only what I'll eat for the week, I'm so tickled by all of the out-of-the-box heirloom varieties that I end up buying triple the amount I set out to. I'm sorry, but who can resist purple carrots, avocado zucchini, and yellow cucumbers!? Not this girl. 

Now, what is an overly-eager vegetable splurger to do in this situation? I marvel at the idea of making preserves— peeling open a jar of home-canned tomatoes in the dead of winter for a delicious flashback to summer—but in true New Yorker fashion, I have no patience and no storage space. If I'm going to pickle or preserve, it's gotta work at my speed and be ready to eat by the next day. Enter Quick & Easy Pickles.

Sensationally vinegary with just the right amount of sweet and salty, these pickles are a cinch to whip up, requiring 30 minutes of pickling time and lasting for at least 2 weeks. You can eat them with anything and everything: on top of sandwiches, mixed into salads, a kimchi substitute in a homemade rice or grain bowl. They are virtually giardiniera in the fast lane—that lovely mix of antipasto vegetables you see sometimes at Italian restaurants. Fittingly, giardiniera translates to "garden" in English; the method was traditionally used to preserve prolific homegrown vegetables.

So back to those nonconformist heirloom veggies—what a perfect place to showcase those vibrant purple, yellow and orange hues! I urge you to seek out the craziest-colored produce you can find for this sprightly relish. Purple cauliflower is definitely up for my next batch.

Quick & Easy Pickles (from Nutrition Action newsletter)

Enough thinly sliced vegetables to fill 1 pint-sized Mason jar (16 oz), tightly packed (try onion, carrot, fennel, cucumber, cauliflower, pepper)
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp pickling spices

Bring vinegar, salt, sugar, pickling spices and ¾ cup water to boil. Pour over the vegetables to cover. Chill for at least half an hour before serving.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Fusilli with Pea Pesto

Peas, please! I have a strange obsession with peas. English peas, shelling peas, sugar snap peas, you name it—I find all peas as delightful as a chocolate and vanilla swirled soft-serve ice cream cone on a hot summer day. I keep them year round in the freezer, where they require frequent restocking—once I start on those tiny frozen sweet pops of flavor, I just can’t stop.

Once upon a time, peas were synonymous with institutionalized, terrible settings like hospitals and
nursing homes. Here, I think of the dulled, sickly hue of canned peas slopped unceremoniously onto a cafeteria tray: “Maude picked at her meatloaf, instant mashed potatoes, and peas with repugnance as her IV dripped in the background.” But peas—as my father says of Pittsburgh— are undergoing a renaissance. I’ve seen them smashed alongside avocado in swanky guacamoles, and taking center stage in all sorts of creative pestos. A long overdue recognition, as these pint-sized pod-dwellers have been enhancing my pastas, stir fries, salads and sauces for years. And what do you know—tis the season for local peas. Let us shell with abandon!

The following recipe is for Fusilli with Pea Pesto. I will say right now that neither hubby nor I are basil pesto enthusiasts, but we loved this recipe. While I find basil pesto a bit too grassy and harsh, this pea pesto was sweet, richly flavored and smooth, totally dulcet and the perfect mild, hot-summer-night dressing to a lazy pasta bowl. In fact, I first made this pesto on one of those unbearably humid summer evenings, and I didn’t even make the pesto from scratch—just picked up a container from Whole Foods (I love how they add pepitas) and blended some fresh peas right in. The pasta was a one-pot affair, I added halved cherry tomatoes and canned chickpeas to the boiling water just a few minutes before straining. I’m providing the cheat-recipe below, but Smitten Kitchen makes a lovely from-scratch version here.

The result was sheer perfection: a 15-minute dinner as satisfying as it is summerish. If you have access to a local farmers market, do take the time to go pick out your peas fresh—the sorting process is enjoyably tactile and almost cathartic (do you exercise to relieve stress? No, I pick through and shell peas) and the local pods are unequivocally worth it.

Fusilli with Pea Pesto
Serves 4

6 oz basil pesto (I like Whole Foods version with pepitas, or make from scratch)
1½ cups fresh peas (from approximately 1½ pounds peas in pods)
¾ cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup canned chickpeas, drained
12 oz fusilli pasta (I used Norwich Meadow Farm jerusalem artichoke fusilli, which is fantastic)
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1. Cook the peas. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, add peas and cook for 2 minutes, then drain and add to the ice water. Drain again. 

2. In a large bowl, combine the prepared pesto and cooked peas. Use an immersion blender to blend uniformly. (Alternatively, use a blender). It should be very thick, as you'll add liquid later.

3. Cook pasta al dente according to package directions. 2-3 minutes before draining, add grape tomatoes and chickpeas to the pot. Reserve about 2 cups pasta cooking water, then drain and return pasta, tomatoes, and chickpeas to pot. Over moderate heat, toss contents with pesto and as much reserved pasta water as needed to smooth and distribute pesto. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve immediately, topped with fresh Parmesan.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer Farro Salad with Cubed Mozzarella, Tomato & Fresh Herbs

Like your favorite college sweatshirt, this Summer Farro Salad with Cubed Mozzarella, Tomato & Fresh Herbs is comfy, trusty, and familiar—as if you've known it for years. Embark on the recipe and you'll be swooning at first bite, a budding courtship that will blossom quickly into a dependable old pal. This recipe is a shoo-in for your regular summer salad rotation, so you're sure to remain well acquainted.

Can a salad be described as easygoing? This one-pot farro bowl is a pleasurable cinch.  It's effortless to make, store, transport, and keep. The ancillary ingredients are common enough to appeal to any crowd—who can't resist briny olives, juicy tomatoes, and fresh parsley/basil in a slug of tangy vinegar and slick olive oil?—yet just different enough to incite intrigued pause. I know, you were expecting feta after hearing olives and tomatoes, but how refreshing are those soft, tender cubes of mozzarella instead? Did you notice that instead of depending on the dressing to brighten the earthy crunch of farro, the grain is delicately encased in it's own thick, caramelized broth, thanks to cooking along side fresh parsley, garlic and onion in stock-like fashion?

Easygoing yet intriguing, the definition of a winning crowd-pleaser. This salad screams "summer picnic" all over it, and it delivers exceptionally.

How familiar are you with farro? Let's switch gears to talk about this wholesome grain. As I recently learned from the Greenmarket Regional Grains Project, a Grow NYC-backed endeavor to encourage consumers to buy locally milled and grown grains & legumes, farro is not a single entity. Rather, it is the blanket term for a family of three grains: farro piccolo (einkorn), farro medio (emmer) and farro grande (spelt). Emmer, the kind most often found in the US, is available in two forms: whole, with a hardened texture similar to popcorn kernels, and softer pearled, resembling the look of barley. Whole farro takes longer to cook—you're looking at 60-75 minutes of simmering unless soaked in advance overnight. Pearled farro has had some of it's bran removed (the seed's outer skin) and thus cooks closer to 15-20 minutes. Does it matter which variety you buy? Not really. Losing some bran in the pearled variety does eliminate a bit of fiber, but the good stuff— "the disease-preventing, metabolism-boosting, blood-sugar-stabilizing, cholesterol-lowering antioxidants, fibers, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and the like", according to Serious Eats Guide to Whole Grains—is found in the germ, which maintains intact for both varietals.

Given that this recipe is a Northeast locavore's dream—tomatoes, red onion, zucchini, parsley and basil are all in season at the farmers markets—why not go local for your grains, too? "The new frontier in local food," says the Regional Grains Project. In a season where vegetable-speckled, oil and vinegar based salads reign supreme, the timing sure is right.

Summer Farro Salad with Cubed Mozzarella, Tomato & Herbs
(from Food52)
Serves 8 to 12

For the salad
2 cups uncooked farro 
1 medium red onion, cut in half 
1 clove garlic 
handful of fresh parsley plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped 
1/2 tsp salt, plus more if needed 
1 cup finely diced (about 1/4 "cubes) fresh mozzarella cheese 
2 tsp minced pitted kalamata olives 
1 pint grape tomatoes, cut into quarters 
1 zucchini, cut in quarters lengthwise and thinly sliced (optional)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh basil 
Freshly ground pepper, to taste 

For the dressing
Scant 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (can use less, I used 1/8 cup)
1 tsp balsamic vinegar 
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar 
2 tsp honey 

1. Add the farro, one onion half, garlic, handful of parsley and salt along with 2 3/4 cups water to a 2 quart pot. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes*. Turn off burner and let sit, covered, for 5 more minutes. Discard the onion, garlic and large pieces of parsley. Spread out on a rimmed sheet pan and let cool completely (do not skip this step or the mozzarella will melt into the finished dish). 
2. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegars and honey to prepare the dressing. Chop the remaining onion half finely. Add onion, cooled farro, mozzarella, kalamata olives, tomatoes, zucchini, remaining tablespoon of parsley and basil to a deep bowl. Pour the dressing over the ingredients and stir well to combine, using a long wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Season with salt and pepper. The salad is ready to serve, but can also be made and stored in the fridge, covered, one day ahead.

*This is the cooking time for pearled farro. Whole farro will take anywhere from 40 to 75 minutes to cook. Monitor and taste frequently to determine when the grain is ready—it should be easy to bite yet slightly firm, like al dente pasta. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Spicy Peanut Dressing

Don’t cook. Here’s why.

Last weekend I saw the first batch of local summer squash (shout out to New Jerz and your slightly warmer climate) oblong, squat, or slender in a rainbow of buttercup yellow and sage green; sugar snap peas, shelling peas, fava beans; tomatoes large and small. The bounty will continue to amass, accruing peppers, stone fruits, and cucumbers, begetting infinite possibilities in the kitchen. But for me, the time has never been riper to not cook.

By not cook, I mean not heat; rather, enjoy these fruits and vegetables in their raw form. Just yesterday I purchased my first local strawberries and was blown away by how juicy, sweet, and intensely flavorful the pint-sized locals compared to the genetically-altered Driscoll giants. We all know that less food miles equals a fresher foodstuff, rendering it unequivocally superior in taste as well. But in the colder months, when the only options are supermarket produce hailing from other continents, it can be easy to forget just how monumental the flavor gap is. I grew used to my Trader Joe’s sugar snap peas, until they once again became available to me locally. The difference is night and day.

What I ask is simple: take a moment to delight in the vim and vigor of local produce. Even if it’s just cutting a slice of zucchini before it goes into the pan for stir-fry, experience what that difference tastes like.

This Spicy Peanut Dressing is a versatile condiment to relish all vegetables in their uncooked glory. It can live as a summer crudité dipping sauce, a chopped leafy green salad dressing, or the flavor mainstay of cold sesame noodles/zucchini noodles. It is sweet and nutty, spicy and vinegary, and overall, utterly drinkable (spotted: husband consuming sauce by the spoonful out of the jar. I’m only guilty of petty misdemeanor plate-licking). On these 90+ degree days, where the thought of turning on a stovetop burner feels like it might be the final straw to literally melt you into a puddle, pull out this dressing. (It keeps for weeks in the fridge, tripling the recipe is highly recommended). Pair with any variety of cool, crisp vegetables. Rinse, repeat, all throughout summer. 

A few ideas for ingredient combinations (just add protein):
  • Lacinato kale, mint, cucumber, pomegranate seeds
  • Soba noodles, cabbage, carrot , mango, sesame seeds
  • Rice wrappers, cucumber, jicama, bell pepper, scallions
  • Lettuce cups, sweet potato, radish, cilantro 

Spicy Peanut Dressing (from Food52)
Makes 3/4 of a cup; dressing for 4

3 tablespoons smooth natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons warm water
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses or honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

Mix together all ingredients by hand or in a blender.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Asparagus, Pea and Goat Cheese Frittata

Locavores, rejoice. After an interminable wait, spring’s signature produce has finally arrived. Cue major farmers market kvelling over Saturday's visit to Abingdon Square Greenmarket, where ramps, fiddlehead ferns, rhubarb, grape tomatoes, and the king of them all, asparagus, were brightly displayed in ravishing novelty. It’s even the season for eggs—fowl egg-laying is triggered by lengthening daylight come Spring.
Cup of Jo—one of my favorite lifestyle blogs —is conducting a recipe series this month featuring the best of seasonal produce, so I tackled their very first featured recipe: Asparagus, Pea and Goat Cheese Frittata. Normally, I shirk away from frittatas, as this egg preparation tends to be a saturated fat surfeit that's way too rich for my palate. Indeed, the original recipe called for plenteous amounts of oil, butter, and heavy cream in addition to fat-rich eggs and goat cheese. But I was not to be deterred! I eliminated (most) of these extra fat sources and added a healthy dosage of asparagus for a result that was spot on spring-lite: fresh veggies stole the spotlight instead of being overshadowed by their artery-clogging peers, with a tinge of buttery goat cheese folded into the fluffy eggs for a wholesome finish.

You could even call this frittata a veggie-spiked Spanish omelet, as layers of potato are an instrumental addition to the veggies, cheese, and egg. Stacked in classic Spanish tortilla style, the sweet, buttery potatoes add true substance to the dish—you don't even need a slice of toast on the side for that carb fix. It also makes the frittata extremely versatile for any meal. While I ate it two days in a row for breakfast, it made a satisfying dinner the next few nights as well (and kept, in the fridge, like a gem).

Cooking time may vary: I shaved off about 10 minutes on the potatoes and forwent letting them cool, but noticed my eggs needed a bit more than the allotted 35-40 minutes to cook (stick a knife in the center and when it emerges cleanly, you are good to go). I acknowledge that this recipe is a time commitment, and other egg preparations could be completed with the same ingredients in a fraction of the time. But I promise: when you cut into that first slice of beautifully layered potato and egg pie, it is so worth it.

Asparagus, Pea and Goat Cheese Frittata (lightened up from Cup of Jo)
Serves 6

2 Tbsp canola oil
1 small yellow onion, cut in half and into medium slices
3 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced 1⁄8-inch thick
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
6 large eggs
2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1⁄4 cup low-fat milk
Half a bunch asparagus, ends removed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup peas (if frozen, thawed)
1⁄3 cup crumbled goat cheese

1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and set aside.

2.In a medium sauté pan set over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for 6 minutes, until translucent and just starting to brown. Add 3 tablespoons of water and cook for about 4 minutes, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, until the water evaporates and the onions take on a uniform brown color.

3,Transfer the onions to the prepared roasting pan. Add the potato slices and toss well. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss with tongs. Cover the pan with foil.

4. Bake until the potatoes are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F.

5. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, parsley and milk. Stir in the peas, asparagus, and half of the goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Coat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat with cooking spray or an additional tablespoon of oil. Add half of the cooked potatoes and goat cheese to the pan. Top with half of the egg mixture, spreading the veggies as evenly as possible across the pan. Add the remaining potatoes, followed by the remaining egg mixture, again spreading the remaining peas, asparagus and goat cheese across the tortilla. Cover with foil.

7. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the tortilla is slightly browned and lightly puffed. Slice and serve directly from the skillet, warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Dip

I would argue that NYC Jews exiting to suburbia for their respective Passover seders is a modern yet terrifically spot-on reenactment of the Jewish Exodus in BCE. Seriously, let's count the parallels. First, the Jews leave in a haste. Pharaoh wasn't joking around; New Yorkers are always in a rush. Second, the journey was long. Eek, the desert is huge; but subway to train station to train to car and back again ain't quite the picnic, either. Third, they took everything they owned. Possessions, livestock, unleavened breads; I am carrying this morning's gym bag, a bag of winter clothing I need my mother to store in her basement, my purse, a box of everything Tam Tam's, and....

 This Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Dip. A lovely, rich, transportable, picturesque display of an appetizer that does Passover well—and if you can nail the travel, unrefrigeration, and chametz restrictions of this fine holiday, you can do anything.

What I like so much about this dip applies to my Butternut Squash & Tahini Spread as well—it has that sensationally creamy texture so essential to the condiment's namesake, plus interesting, fresh flavors that one just cannot create with an off-the-shelf hummus. (I love hummus as much as the next person, but does anything say "I tried" less?) Here, richness has depth from earthy cauliflower, deeply roasted garlic and toasted pepitas, made sprightly with bright lemon and sweet nutmeg. A generous glug of good quality olive oil ensures a grassy, golden finish.  Finally, the bowl is topped with verdant parsley dice and whole pepitas, adding aesthetic flare to the modest-looking dip. If laying the bowl on a board, consider adding whole parsley sprigs and lemon quarters to up the visual ante even more.

For Passover, serve the Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Dip with veggie sticks and Tam Tam crackers (I will point out here that the fiber-rich cauliflower will help with some of the digestive hold-ups, if you will, of an 8-day matzoh diet). If making the dip any other day, accompany with toasted pita wedges or flatbread.

Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Dip (from Cup of Jo)
Serves 6

4 cups 3/4-inch thick cauliflower florets
1 head garlic, root end trimmed and broken into cloves
4 tbsp plus 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3 tbsp pepitas
2 tbsp minced flatleaf parsley
Sea salt
Ground cayenne pepper to taste
Flatbreads or crackers, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 425F.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, toss cauliflower florets and garlic cloves (still in their papery skin) with 1 tbsp olive oil. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with sea salt. Make sure garlic is tucked up against the cauliflower florets to protect it from the heat. Flipping halfway through, roast until cauliflower is tender and golden, about 20-25 minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. Meanwhile, set a small skillet over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon olive oil, then the pepitas. Toast 2-3 minutes, just until the seeds become fragrant and a few start to pop. Toss with sea salt and set aside.

4. When cool enough to handle, squeeze roasted garlic out of the papery skins.

5. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse to combine roasted cauliflower and garlic, 2 tablespoons toasted pepitas, lemon juice, nutmeg and cayenne pepper to taste. With food processor running, drizzle in 3 tablespoons olive oil (for a creamier dip, add up to 2 more tablespoons olive oil). Taste and add additional sea salt, cayenne and lemon juice as needed.

6. Spoon dip into a wide bowl, drizzle with remaining teaspoon olive oil, minced parsley and remaining toasted pepitas. Serve with warm flatbread triangles, crackers, or raw veggie sticks.