This past weekend’s chilly temperature notwithstanding, Monday’s visit to the Union Square Greenmarket suggests that spring is here to stay. I picked up more young collard greens (color me obsessed), chives, carrots, mint, ramps and dandelion greens. Last night, having worked late, I dined on sautéed collard tacos augmented by half an avocado that had miraculously stayed fresh while I was out of town for a long weekend. Tonight I departed work on time, leaving me with the energy/blood sugar level to swing by my local sustainable seafood shop for a dozen littleneck clams. Half an hour later, dinner was served.
Clams, Dandelion Greens & Hog Jowl
- 1 ounce hog jowl (or bacon), finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 12 littleneck clams
- 1 bunch dandelion greens
- zest of 1 lemon
- salt and pepper
Bring a medium-sized pot with a good fitting lid up to medium heat. Add the hog jowl and olive oil and cook stirring occasionally until the pork is partially rendered. Add the onion and continue to cook stirring occasionally until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook stirring constantly for two more minutes. Add the wine, raise the heat to high, and add the clams. Cook with the lid on for 10 minutes or so, stirring once or twice, until all of your clams have popped open. Stir in the dandelion greens in batches and cook until just wilted. Add the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste.
Watching the clams give way to your bubbling broth is mighty relaxing–particularly if you do so with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in hand.
This would make a killer sauce for linguine. Given that I was cooking for one, I went with a piece of grilled whole wheat sourdough, which did a fine job of soaking up the luscious broth.
When your collard greens are young, tender and oh-so-sweet, a quick sauté with leeks, garlic and red pepper flakes is all you need–well, that and a piece of grilled whole wheat sourdough slathered in fresh ricotta cheese. This is spring eating at its finest.
The weather this weekend has been nothing short of glorious. After a long, hard winter, New Yorkers are eager for sundresses and sandals, outdoor drinking, and fresh vegetables. Alas, yesterday’s farmers’ market foray yielded less greenery than I had hoped. I did manage to pick up a couple bunches of small, tender collard greens and a clamshell of spring onion shoots.
The rest of Saturday was spent drinking Bloody Marys, craft beer and some ill-advised whiskey in a series of Brooklyn backyards. We capped the day off with a couple of hours of dancing to 60s soul tunes.
I awoke early this morning with a distinct craving for fried pork dumplings, perhaps with a moo shu chaser. But this didn’t seem like the best way to regain my health after a weekend of possibly excessive imbibing. And so I set about crafting a healthier dish that would take advantage of my farmers’ market bounty and satisfy my salt and spice craving.
Garlic-Ginger Tofu & Collards
- 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha
- 1 one-inch piece of ginger, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large pinch sugar
- 1 container extra firm tofu, drained and sliced into strips
- 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
- 1 bunch collards, stemmed and roughly chopped
- 1 small handful spring onion shoots or a few scallions, thinly sliced
Combine the first eight ingredients in a shallow bowl. Add the tofu and stir gently to coat. (In a perfect world, you would have done this before you were ravenous so that the tofu had plenty of time to soak up the marinade, but my lunch was still pretty tasty.) Bring the oil up to medium heat in a large skillet. Lay the tofu pieces in, cooking them in two batches if necessary so as not to crowd the pan. Let the tofu cook undisturbed until nicely browned, rotate the pieces and continue to cook until they are firm and mostly browned. Lay the tofu pieces on a paper towel to drain and add your collards to the skillet along with the remaining tofu marinade. Cook until the collards are wilted and most of the liquid has boiled off. Stir in the onion shoots or scallions and remove from the heat.
Rice would be the obvious accompaniment, but I went with quinoa cooked with chicken stock and satueed leeks. It was good. The leftovers should make for a bright spot in tomorrow’s workday.
The one nice thing I can say about this past winter is that it got me over my aversion to baking. Month after month of dark, bitterly cold days afforded ample time for experimentation–and a strong motivation to run the oven. I baked oatmeal-fig cookies, Meyer lemon gingerbread, and even a couple of yeasted breads.
But you don’t always have time for a proper rise, which is where your local pizza parlor is a great ally. In case you don’t already know, most pizza shops are happy to sell you a ball of the dough they had the foresight to start a few days ago. This means that homemade pizza can be yours in well under an hour.
Broccoli Rabe & Ricotta Pizza
- Grab some dough from the local pizza place on your way home from the subway.
- As soon as you walk in the door (yes, even before you remove your shoes), crank your oven up as high as it will go and pop a large cast iron skillet inside.
- Change into a caftan or other relaxation garment of your choice.
- Set a large pan over medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
- Crack open a beer and cue up some appropriate tunes–Fleetwood Mac, for example.
- Bring a large pan up to medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
- Peel and thinly slice several cloves of garlic. Rinse and roughly chop that bunch of broccoli rabe you bought on Sunday, when you mistakenly thought the week after vacation would be pretty chill.
- Add the garlic and a good pinch of crushed red pepper to the pan and stir continuously for a minute or two, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add the broccoli rabe in batches, starting with the stems. Cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Take the skillet out of the oven and drizzle a little olive oil into it. Grab the ball of dough and slowly stretch it into a circle approximately the size of your skillet by working your hands around the edges, pulling gently and allowing gravity to do its thing. Place the stretched dough into the skillet. Layer on the broccoli rabe and several dollops of ricotta cheese. If you happen to have some dessicated parmesan or romano lurking in the fridge, grate some over the top. A little lemon zest wouldn’t hurt either.
- Pop the skillet back in the oven and grab another beer.
- Your pizza will be ready in six minutes (or a little less if your oven doesn’t suck as hard as mine). You’ll know it’s ready because the edges of your crust will be brown and bubbly.
If you game it right, Stevie Nicks will be crooning “Angel” by the time you sit down to dinner, an old friend who lives too far away will call just as you finish eating, and the leftovers will make for a lovely brunch when topped with a fried egg.
On Sunday I hosted a potluck dinner for some of the amazing women I met/got to know a whole lot better during last summer’s two-week Paris study trip.
As expected, the menu was eclectic, seasonal and delicious. We had deviled eggs, cucumber salad, carrots and radicchio roasted with raisins and balsamic vinegar, a soba noodle salad, roasted fennel, and an array of not-kosher-for-Passover bread products. Camille, who came straight from her job at Threes Brewing, contributed to the chametz situation with a nice growler of IPA.
I’m still working my way through the potatoes from my winter CSA share, so I whipped up a batch of caramelized leek and cheddar potato skins. And, despite my indulgence in all manners of leavened grains, I felt compelled to make up for not having attended a seder this year by making matzo ball soup–albeit a vegetarian and Asian-inspired version.
Miso-Spinach Matzo Balls
- 1 large bunch spinach
- 6 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons red miso paste
- 6 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups matzo meal
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 leek, minced
- 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons salt
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and quickly blanch the spinach. Strain into a sieve, pressing hard with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. (Squeezing the spinach into a tight ball with your fist is also an effective strategy.) Chop finely.
- Melt the coconut oil and miso in a small pan, stirring with a fork to combine.
- Whisk the eggs in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the matzo meal, water, miso oil, leek, parsley, a couple of teaspoons of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of water plus 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil. Wet your hands and form the matzo mixture into smooth balls about the size of a large gumball, dropping them into the water as you go. You’ll need to rinse your hands every so often when they get too gummy.This recipe should yield around 40 matzo balls. If you’re a patient person, you might do these in two batches. Alternately, you could just cram them in like I did. Maintain a vigorous simmer for 25 minutes or so, during which time the matzo balls will twirl and plump.
- OK, that was shockingly easy. Now one last step, courtesy of my mom, who swears by this technique. Scoop the matzo balls into a container, cover with the salted water, and store overnight in the fridge.
I worried that the soak would lead to a container of starchy mush. But these matzo balls hold beautifully, requiring nothing but a quick simmer in the broth of your choosing the next day. I went with a hot and sour tom yum-style vegetable broth with lots of fresh ginger and lemongrass, garnished with shiitake mushrooms and cilantro. The resulting dish was complex in flavor yet familiar enough in texture to evoke memories of the Maxwell House Haggadah and Manischewitz. Fortunately, Sari brought better wine.