When life gives you twelve-hour workdays and Farmer Ted gives you the first tomatoes of the season, whip up this quick salad with pan-toasted croutons, ricotta cheese, scallions, fresh basil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and good quality olive oil.
My nephew Wally is mad cute.
He is also a vector for disease. I have been rocking the same glazed eyes and runny nose for the past week (though I fear they’re not quite as cute on me). By Friday my cough had reached a new level of intensity, rendering sleep a challenge. In the wee hours of Saturday morning, desperate to feel that something other than my cough was “productive,” I set some black-eyed peas to soaking.
I had big plans for Saturday, but a pounding headache and sheer exhaustion compelled me to stick close to home. Luckily, I had those black-eyes peas, a fridge full of vegetables, and friends who were game to scrap our night out in favor of supper on my roof.
I’ve been trying to spend more time on the roof. While the air in my apartment is thick and stagnant in these dog days of summer, it’s always breezy and at least ten degrees cooler up on the roof. A glass of wine and a little al fresco dining as the sun sets will cure just about anything (except maybe this cold). I like to treat my rooftop suppers as picnics, preparing simple, fresh food that’s easily transportable and meant to be eaten at room temperature.
Swiss Chard & Black-Eyed Pea Salad
- 3/4 pound (1.5 cups) dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and drained
- 1 large onion
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme (or a few sprigs if you’ve got fresh)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon smoked salt
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, divided
- 3 bunches swiss chard, turnip greens and/or other leafy greens, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh dill
- salt and pepper
- Add beans, onion, bay leaf, red pepper, thyme and olive oil to a large pot. Cover with water by one inch, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook until just tender, 30-45 minutes, adding water if needed.
- Remove onion and bay leaf. Stir in smoked salt, half of the vinegar and a healthy dose of black pepper. Add the greens in batches, starting with the stems, which will take a little longer to cook. Let simmer until greens are tender but still toothsome, 15-20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the vinegar, dill and salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Serve cold or at room temperature.
I served this salad alongside whole wheat sourdough toasted in coconut oil and a variation on last summer’s Garden Pea and Spring Onion Puree. A couple bottles of rose rounded out the meal.
Neighbors trickled up to the roof as the sun set. Dishes were carried downstairs and replaced with chocolate and more wine. Just after dark, the supermoon rose above the chimney of an adjacent building.
A week after returning home, I’m still on a bit of a bread bender. Having polished off the last of my Parisian stash on Friday, I found myself tucking in my desk chair at 5:45 this evening in order to make it to the Union Square Greenmarket before the good people of Bread Alone packed up for the day. Once I had a quarter loaf of their excellent organic French sourdough stashed in my tote, I was free to roam. I told myself I didn’t need anything else, as I still had vegetables left over from last week and another CSA share arrives tomorrow. But a giant bag of fava beans was just three dollars. And wouldn’t some fresh mint (at two dollars for a nicely sized bouquet) be just the thing to make the favas’ green and slightly nutty flavor pop? And who can pass up tender young garlic?
Fava Bean, Mint & Feta Dip
- enough fava beans in pod to fill your salad spinner (Sorry, I have no idea what they weighed.)
- four cloves garlic – the younger, the better
- juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
- 3 tablespoons good olive oil
- small handful of mint leaves
- 1/2 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
- salt and pepper
- 2 ounces feta
- Set a small pot of water to boil, crack open a cold beer and get to work popping the fava beans out of their pods. The technique is similar to shelling peas. It will get easier as you go, I promise. The beer helps.
- By the time you shell your final bean, the water should be boiling. Add a generous pinch of salt as well as the beans. Peel the garlic and toss this in as well. Let boil until the beans are tender, approximately five minutes, then strain into a collander and rinse with cold water.
- Remove the garlic and dump the beans into a food processor. Pulse several times until you have a coarse mixture. Remove approximately half of the beans. Add the garlic, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, mint, Aleppo pepper, and salt and pepper. Puree until smooth, taste and adjust seasoning.
- Stir in the coarsely ground beans and crumbled feta.
This would make a great hors d’oeuvre served on small crostini or with pita points for dipping. I stashed about half in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s lunch and ate the rest slathered on toasted slices of that Bread Alone sourdough while watching the sun set from the roof of my building. With the temperature hovering around 90 degrees at 8:00pm, this made an ideal supper.
I arrived home in the wee hours of Tuesday morning after a truly amazing study trip to Paris. Eighteen of us spent two weeks examining the performance of Frenchness through food. As you might imagine, we ate quite a bit in the process. We did not, however, encounter fresh vegetables in the quantity that Food Studies scholars are accustomed to eating. By day four, we were all obsessing about dark leafy greens, which were nowhere to be found.
What we did encounter was bread. There were crusty baguettes from the anarchist collective, rustic country loaves steeped in a studied old world charm, slender and elegant ficelles, impossibly buttery croissants a mere three blocks from our uninspired hotel, luscious eggy brioches encased in glass bells, and a particularly memorable seed-encrusted whole wheat loaf that we consumed in an impromptu picnic on the steps of the Musee d’Orsay.
But one bread emerged as the clear winner. My final day in Paris found me stashing my suitcase in a locker and (finally) mastering the bike share system with a single goal. I traveled from the 15th to the 10th arrondissement to purchase a hunk of Du Pain et Des Idees‘ sublime pain des amis.
As those who have had occasion to dine with me know, I’m not much of a bread eater. It can be helpful for transporting sandwich fillings into your mouth or sopping up egg yolk, but I prefer to take my cheese straight, or perhaps with a crisp apple slice. Bread fills space in one’s stomach that could be devoted to more tantalizing fare. Or so I thought before I encountered pain des amis. This nutty, toothsome loaf with its confounding bacon aroma is good all by itself. It is even better, I have learned, toasted in a dry cast iron skillet.
The pain des amis and I survived a rather harrowing bike ride on some of Paris’ main thoroughfares, a painfully expensive taxi to Charles de Gaulle airport, a troubling but comical security encounter involving two kilos of artisanal flour, a missed connection in London, a delayed flight, and an even pricier cab ride home from Newark (which was not our intended destination).
Staying awake until a suitable bedtime was about all I was good for on Tuesday. (Well, that and some cat cuddling.) I headed out around 5:30 to pick up my weekly CSA share and nearly wept at the site of all those vegetables. I had some truly spectacular food in Paris. I did not, however, encounter any kale. I returned home eager to introduce my pain des amis to all of this fresh produce.
Summer Squash & Kale Bruschetta
- 2 scallions
- 3 thin slices good bread
- 1 medium summer squash
- 5 stalks purple kale
- 1 ounce feta cheese
- 6 basil leaves (mint or parsley would also be great)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
- 1/2 lemon (zest and juice)
- pinch Aleppo pepper (or a little less red pepper)
- salt and pepper
- Bring a cast iron skillet up to medium low heat with half a tablespoon of olive oil. Trim and reserve the dark green portion of the scallions. Slice the white and light green portions lengthwise into strips. Cook, flipping occasionally, until limp and starting to brown. Sprinkle with salt and remove from pan.
- Place bread slices into pan and allow to toast, flipping as needed, while you go about the next steps.
- Using a vegetable peeler, shave long ribbons of summer squash into a small bowl. Slice the kale as you would for a slaw and add this to the bowl along with the feta, remaining olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest, Aleppo pepper, and salt and pepper. Mince the scallion greens and fresh herbs. Add these plus the cooked scallions. Stir to combine and let sit for at least five minutes to allow the flavors to meld.
If you were serving this as an hors d’oeuvre, I would recommend piling the kale and squash salad onto small pieces of toast and serving immediately. I went for a deconstructed bruschetta, which ensured that the bread didn’t get soggy before I ate it.