Sardines and Greens

Kindly neighbors collected my CSA share on Tuesday. A bag full of fresh produce on your doorstep is a welcome sight after a 13-hour workday, but it was all I could do to shove the vegetables into the refrigerator alongside the remnants of last week’s haul. Tonight’s meeting was canceled, leaving me with a single, glorious unscheduled evening. I got home from class around 8:00, eager for some home cooking. The broccoli rabe and kale from last week were looking a little worse for the wear but still edible–as were the greens that topped this week’s turnips. Now for some protein. I unearthed a can of Portuguese sardines in olive oil from the cupboard. I could work with this.

Sardines and Greens

  1. Bring a large cast iron skillet up to medium heat. Open a can of sardines and drain the olive oil into your skillet. It will start to sizzle as the water cooks out of the oil.
  2. Once this has subsided, add a few cloves of thinly sliced garlic and a big pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic slices turn a nutty brown. Add the sardines, mashing with a wooden spoon until you have a coarse paste.
  3. Rinse and roughly chop a big pile of dark leafy greens. I used the aforementioned kale, broccoli rabe and turnip greens, but pretty much any hefty greens will do. Add these to the pan, stirring between batches to wilt them and make room for more. (If any of the greens have thick stalks, be sure to add these first so that they have a little more time to cook.) Keep stirring.
  4. When the greens looks ready, add salt, pepper, the zest of half a lemon and some chopped parsley if you have it. Pile the greens in a bowl and squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top. 

I bet this would be tasty as a sauce for whole wheat pasta with toasted breadcrumbs sprinkled on top, but I opted for a scattering of ricotta salata, a Brooklyn Lager and an old Law and Order episode. It’s been a long week.

Provencal Roast Chicken

I adopted Jezebel around 1999. She was so small that I quite reasonably assumed she was a kitten. But the vet put her at about three years old. Jezebel remains a delightful companion, despite her recent propensity for late night yowling. (The internet suggests that dementia is likely.) As you can see, whatever’s happening in her brain, she’s managed to hold onto her good looks.

As tiny as she was when she found me, Jezebel is now down under five pounds, so I tend to feed her whatever she wants. She and I only made our way through a small bit of this truly scrumptious Provencal-style roast chicken tonight, but I am confident that it will be just as good throughout the week.

While I once confined myself to white meat off the bone (a holdover from my vegetarian upbringing and subsequent squeamishness), I love roasting a whole chicken. The smell permeates the house. It’s economical. It leaves you with bones to make stock. And a whole chicken can be communal–even when it’s just you and your cat.

Roast Chicken with Porcini, Leeks and Root Vegetables

  • One whole chicken (5-7 pounds), rinsed and patted dry
  • 1.5 ounces dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 lemon
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence (lavender, savory, fennel, thyme and rosemary or some combination thereof)
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green portions sliced and rinsed thoroughly
  • 4 cups of chopped root vegetables (turnips, carrots, parsnips, beets, potatoes, etc.)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a cup of water to a boil and pour over the dried porcini.
  2. Slice the ends off of the lemon, score the sides and stuff it inside the bird. Combine a tablespoon of kosher salt, a good amount of freshly-ground pepper and a tablespoon of the Herbes de Provence in a small dish. Rub this all over the bird, being sure to get under the skin to massage it into the breast meat. If you’ve got some kitchen twine and you can find a way to access it while your hands are covered in raw chicken, truss the legs. If not, whatever.
  3. Set the bird in a roasting pan breast-side down, drizzle some olive oil over the top and pop it in the oven. After 30 minutes or so, flip the bird over and baste with the pan juices. If the bird hasn’t released much fat, you can use a little more olive oil. You might also sprinkle the top with additional salt, pepper and herbs if you like.
  4. After another 30 minutes, slide the bird to the side and add your leeks and root vegetables. (I went with turnips, carrots, beets and potatoes because that’s what I had on hand.) Stir these with the pan juices and then add 1/2 tablespoon of the Herbes de Provence, salt, pepper and the porcini along with their liquid. Mound the vegetables in the center, flip your chicken so that it is once again breast-side down and place it on top of the vegetables.
  5. Continue cooking, basting the bird with the juices approximately every fifteen minutes and stirring the vegetables if needed. It should take roughly 20 minutes total cooking time per pound, but start checking your chicken whenever you get anxious or when the aroma starts to make you dizzy. I recommend ignoring whatever guidelines your thermometer may suggest and, instead, aim for getting the deepest part of the thigh up around 165 degrees. Be sure to let it rest for about five minutes out of the oven. If you’re worried about the bird getting cold, tent it very loosely–lest you steam that beautiful, crisp skin–with foil.

Were I serving this to a crowd, I would have placed the chicken on a platter, mounded the vegetables around it, and carved at the table. Instead, I hacked off of a leg and got to work.

Turnip, Shiitake, Leek and Tofu Stir-Fry

Turns out working full time while going to graduate school is challenging. One of the articles we discussed in class tonight was about New York Jews and Chinese Food. I got home around 8:00 with Chinese food on the brain and a determination to cook some of the vegetables that were rapidly deteriorating in my crisper.

Turnip, Shiitake, Leek and Tofu Stir-Fry

  • 6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil (peanut, canola, etc.)
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green portions sliced and rinsed thoroughly
  • 6-8 small turnips cut into 1/4″ half-moons
  • 1 block drained and frozen* extra firm tofu, cut into fat sticks
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 1-2 tablespoons Sriracha or other chili sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Sichuan peppercorns (black would work too, but you’ll miss that fun tingling)
  • 1 teaspoon concentrated chicken stock or 1 small cube chicken bouillon (Use vegetable stock/bouillon to make this dish vegan.)
  • 1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
  1. Start your rice to cooking. (My new favorite is brown Jasmine rice.) Pour a cup of boiling water over the shiitakes and let sit, weighing down with a jar to keep them submerged. (Be sure not to discard this liquid!)
  2. Add a couple of tablespoons of oil to a wok or sauté pan over medium heat. (I opted for a tablespoon of canola oil and a tablespoon of chile oil.) Add the leeks, stirring frequently until they start to brown. Toss the turnips in and continue stirring until they have softened. Slice your rehydrated shiitakes, add them in and keep cooking.
  3. Add the tofu, vinegar, soy sauce, Sriracha, sesame oil, ground peppercorns, chicken stock/bouillon and the liquid left from your mushrooms, stirring to combine. Let simmer stirring occasionally until your rice is done. Toss the chopped parsley or cilantro in at the last moment.

I had planned to eat this accompanied by a Brooklyn Pilsner that had mysteriously appeared in my refrigerator. But, by the time I sat down to eat, the beer had just as mysteriously disappeared.

* See A Salad for Sailing for a brief discussion of this most excellent technique.

Kale and Pear Salad

I took my staff out to lunch today to bid adieu to one of our members, who is a serious foodie and a serious meat-eater.  We shared the rotisserie duck at Momofuku Ssam Bar, which was a truly remarkable dining experience, but left me feeling a bit gouty.  (Actual quote from the departing employee: “can you pass the duck fat?”)

I spent the rest of the afternoon chugging water and plowing through some grad school reading.  It was a good seven hours until I could even think about eating again.  Something restorative was essential.  Fortunately, I had some Lacinato kale and pears left over from my CSA share.

Kale and Pear Salad

  1. In a medium-sized jar, combine half of a large, thinly-sliced red onion; 2 tablespoons of honey vinegar (or any other light-colored vinegar); 1 tablespoon of creamy Dijon mustard; 1-2 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil; and salt and black pepper.  Screw the lid on the jar and shake vigorously.  Let sit for an hour or so.
  2. Pour the dressing over six cups of chiffonade of Lacinato kale and toss thoroughly. Let this sit for another hour or so, mixing periodically.
  3. Toss a sliced pear in and grab a fork.