As those who know and (miraculously, still) love me are aware, I am not a morning person. But work has been brutal, so I went in a full hour and a half early today in an effort to get a jump start. Ten hours later, I dashed out the door. I managed to bang out a few more emails on the subway ride to pick up my weekly CSA share, which included butter leaf lettuce, blueberries and two cucumbers that mocked me for the four I still had stashed from last week. On my kitchen counter was some fresh basil my neighbors gave me when I dropped off the keys so they could watch my cat. (How’s that for a good trade?)
I’ve still got a number of hours of work tonight, including a hundred-mile drive due East. But I’ll be damned if I’m not going to have a tasty and nutritious meal first.
Blueberry, Basil and Butter Lettuce Salad
- 3 tablespoons goat milk yogurt (This would ideally be at room temperature or close to it.)
- 1 tablespoon honey vinegar (Champagne vinegar or even rice wine vinegar would be fine.)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 3 thinly sliced scallions
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 pinch salt
- freshly ground pepper
- 1 head butter lettuce, rinsed and dried thoroughly
- 1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced at an angle (I used an Asian cucumber, which was YUM.)
- 1 cup blueberries
- 20 basil leaves, chiffonaded (rolled in a bunch like an, um, cigarette and then sliced thinly)
- 1 ounce feta or goat cheese (While you could skip this if serving with a meal, this WAS my meal.)
- Combine the yogurt, vinegar, oil, scallions, honey, salt and pepper in a small jar. Put the lid on and shake vigorously until the honey has dissolved.
- Tear the lettuce into a small bowl, adding the cucumbers, blueberries, basil and any cheese you choose to use. Drizzle with the dressing, toss and dig in.
This came out much better than expected. There was a certain harmony of flavors that transcended what were already some delightfully fresh ingredients. There was also a lightness I couldn’t place until halfway through wolfing my salad down, when I remembered that I had opted for coconut rather than olive oil. Trust me on this one.
Yesterday Leila and Rubina–roommates who are just as lovely as their names imply–hosted a brunchecue at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Surveying my refrigerator while sipping my morning coffee, I determined to unload some of the three dozen eggs that I had amassed from my CSA. (They’re so good that I can’t resist getting an egg share but, even splitting it with a friend and neighbor, I still find the sheer quantity a bit daunting.) I was tempted to make deviled eggs, but transporting that many would be a challenge–particularly since I had to make a pit stop in Park Slope before heading to the brunchecue. I also had an abundance of summer squash, which I imagined would make for a lovely frittata. I was right.
Summer Squash, Scape and Basil Frittata
- 3 medium summer squash (green, yellow or a mix), sliced into 1/4 inch disks
- 4 garlic scapes (or some garlic or onions or whatever), thinly sliced
- 1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 dozen eggs
- 30-40 basil leaves, chiffonaded
- 1 tablespoon hot paprika
- salt and pepper
- Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the scapes and sauté until the aroma of garlic makes you a little dizzy. Scoop the scapes onto a plate and add the first round of squash. Work in batches, flipping the squash disks once they start to brown. Add oil as needed and sprinkle each round with salt as they come out of the pan.
- Turn the burner down to medium-low and add a couple more tablespoons of olive oil. Preheat the oven to 425. Crack a dozen eggs into a large bowl. Add the paprika, salt and pepper and whisk thoroughly. Switching to a wooden spoon, gently mix the scapes, squash and basil into the eggs. If you want to get fancy about it, reserve your prettiest squash rounds and some whole basil leaves.
- If you’re aiming for a Martha-worthy flourish, arrange the reserved squash and basil in the bottom of your pan. Either way, gently pour the egg mixture into the pan, pressing any rogue squash pieces down. Let cook on the stove top for five minutes or so and then toss into the preheated oven.
- Your frittata is done when it has puffed up and the eggs have set. Pull it out of the oven and gently separate any edges that may have stuck with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon. When it’s cool enough to handle and you are satisfied that the frittata is no longer clinging to the pan, place a platter or cutting board on top and flip. If all goes well, the frittata should drop onto your serving dish. If not, just stick the pieces back together and call it brunch.
The park’s new Picnic Peninsula features long tables fashioned of salvaged wood, umbrellas that make a valiant attempt to shade one from the relentless sun, Hibachi-style grills, and glorious views of Lower Manhattan. I arrived early with a serious appetite. Tragically, a plate of rice salad, sweet and sour chickpeas, kibbeh, and grilled chicken wings left me too stuffed to do more than sample a few bites of the endless stream of food that arrived along with old and new friends throughout the afternoon. Sundried tomato sausage from everyone’s favorite Brooklyn pork store, gazpacho, quinoa salad, fresh tomatoes with tofu and basil, cherries, beef strips rolled around cheese and bread crumbs, watermelon, vegan beer brats, vegetable kebabs, and homemade desserts were strewn across 30 feet of table.
By 4:30, I had hit maximum sun capacity and decided to head up to Atlantic Avenue for shade, bathrooms, and a couple of cold beers before making the trek home. On the way out, I remembered to grab my now empty platter.
I am generally the one working the fancy fundraiser, so the Prospect Park Alliance‘s annual Summer Soiree is a real treat for me. This year I managed to exercise restraint at the bar and at the silent auction table. (It occurs to me as I type this that the two might be related.) I could not, however, pass up the cotton candy–the embodiment of all that is forbidden to those of us who grew up with hippie parents.
Despite having imbibed only moderately, I felt a little funky this morning. Good quality nutrients were in order in the form of kale fajitas.
I brought a cast iron skillet up to medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. In went a small onion, cut pole to pole, and a thinly sliced jalapeño pepper. When the onions and pepper has started to blacken, I added a bunch of freshly rinsed and chopped kale. The water that clung to the kale steamed it a bit. And the relatively small quantity of oil allowed the leaves to crisp and char at the edges, much as chicken or steak would in traditional fajitas. I finished it off with a bit of oregano, some smoked salt (to heighten that chargrilled effect), and a good dose of freshly-ground black pepper. I then toasted some tortillas in the same pan and plated the fajitas up, garnishing them with a mild feta cheese and some pickled radishes I made this past winter. Tomatoes, salsa or avocado would have been great, but I didn’t have any on hand.
Saturday night was an unexpectedly festive one–so much so that I was still recovering by the time I met a friend for dinner on Monday. I found my comfort in some barbecued chicken. Hungry as I was, I still took home a quarter of what must have been a very hefty bird. The leg went to my new feline companion and the breast appeared the next night on a bed of romaine, cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, and a homemade ranch dressing–which is a whole different thing from the gelatinous stuff served alongside lackluster crudité.
On Tuesday I returned from a deliriously fun and much-needed vacation to Montreal. That evening, I worked my CSA shift in a steamy warehouse. It is a testament to both the friendliness of my neighbors and the agricultural skills of the good folks at Windflower Farms that I do not begrudge my mosquito-bitten legs. I headed home around 8:30–itchy, dripping in sweat, and laden with fresh vegetables.
The rest of the week is a bit of a blur. I did my best to catch up at work, coming home late in the evenings to assemble a quick salad. The heat finally broke on Friday and I seized the opportunity for some actual cooking as well a joyride from my office in the Village to my home in Brooklyn courtesy of Citibike.
I’d invited a friend for dinner, assuming I could piece something together from the odds and ends in my fridge. I had red leaf lettuce, scapes, green onions, basil, and kohlrabi. I also needed to get a move on the meat socked away in my modestly-sized freezer before this month’s share arrived. I threw a block of ground beef into warm water to defrost, poured a glass of Riesling, and got to work on the kohlrabi, which looks like a cross between an alien spaceship and a deepwater sea creature.
Quick Pickled Kohlrabi (or Carrots or Whatever)
- 1 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 10 black peppercorns
- 20 whole coriander seeds
- 2 pinches red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 kohlrabi bulbs (and/or carrots, turnips, etc.)
Combine all but the kohlrabi in a very small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. While you’re waiting, peel the kohlrabi and cut into matchsticks. Pour the hot brine over the kohlrabi and let stand for an hour or so, stirring occasionally. If you have the time, toss it in the fridge to chill.
At some point, I decided to make some rice. I brought 1/2 cup of brown Jasmine rice, just under a cup of water and a pinch of salt to a boil, tossed a lid on, turned the heat down, and let simmer until we were ready to eat. I also rinsed and dried a head of red leaf lettuce.
Justin arrived a little after 7:00, by which time I had polished off the wine. Justin busied himself making a batch of gin cocktails with sweet vermouth and the poaching liquid from my foray into homemade maraschino cherries. I got to work on my best approximation of Larb, a dish that I associate with Thai food, although the internet tells me that it is actually Laotian.
Thai Beef Salad
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or some sort of vegetable oil)
- 1 garlic scape (or a couple of cloves of garlic), thinly sliced
- 1 onion (in this case a fresh green onion), cut into slivers
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (or another lime, but I could only unearth a single dessicated fruit)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha or other chili sauce
- 20 leaves fresh basil and an equal amount of fresh mint
- Bring the oil up to medium heat in a cast iron skillet and then add the garlic scape, onion, and beef. Stir frequently, taking care to break up the meat.
- Mix the remaining ingredients, save for the basil, in a small bowl.
- When the onions are wilted and the beef is cooked through, dump the mixture into a bowl along with the sauce from the smaller bowl. Thinly slice the herbs and toss everything together.
I had intended to serve the beef mixture in lettuce wraps, but the lettuce turned out to be more spikey than leafy, so we mounded it on our plates, adding the rice, beef, and additional Sriracha. This would have been even more delicious had I remembered the pickled kohlrabi (blame it on the gin), which ended up making a solo appearance as the second course.
From there, we whipped up a couple of Gibsons with radishes that I pickled during last autumn’s bumper crop and headed up to the roof for some fresh air. Back downstairs and having polished off the vermouth, we moved on to rye mixed with Campari and bitters–or something like that.