Rhubarb & Kale Tart

Today was the launch of CSA season. For the next 22 weeks, I will swing by the artists’ studio/garage that serves as home to the Prospect Park CSA each Tuesday night, gleefully anticipating my allotment from Farmer Ted. This week brought green leaf lettuce, Red Russian kale, Happy Rich, Koji, scallions, breakfast radishes and a small pot of Genovese basil (which, my track record notwithstanding, I hope to keep alive long enough to make a few rounds of pesto).

Armed with the knowledge that such a bounty was just three days away, a sensible person would have spent Saturday morning sleeping off Friday night’s rooftop rosé and squid ink pasta with mussels and calamari. Instead, I awoke early and hit the farmers’ market. I told myself that, at the very least, I had to drop off the compost that was making it difficult to shut the freezer.

Squid Ink Pasta with Mussels and Calamari

Naturally, I forgot the compost, leaving plenty of room in my bag for a pound of bacon, half a loaf of French sourdough, a bunch of kale, some collard greens, a handful of garlic scapes, and a whole mess of rhubarb. (This is my version of restraint.)

June Farmers Market Haul

I hoisted my bag over my shoulder and headed toward home, pausing to say hi to Cathy, a fellow food blogger, and her food photographer friend. They asked what I had in mind for the rhubarb protruding awkwardly from my bag. Great question. I mumbled something about a rhubarb vinaigrette or a simple syrup for cocktails, both of which are fine, if limited, applications. But I had clearly purchased A LOT of rhubarb. We bonded over our mutual love or savory over sweet until I felt the siren song of my couch—and the leftover seafood pasta.

That evening found me babysitting my nephews, Wally and Hugo. Wally and I collaborated on a self-portrait, after which he demanded that I document his belly. (Oh, to be four.)

Bedtime was uncharacteristically easy, leaving me with a few hours to explore my sister’s snacks, my brother-in-law’s IPA stash, and the wonders of cable television. It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday night, but did nothing to remedy my looming vegetable crisis.

Fortunately, Louis was due for Sunday supper and Monica, Sara and I had failed to polish off that hunk of cheese on Friday night…

Kale and Rhubarb.jpg

Rhubarb & Kale Tart

  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • heaping 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3-5 tablespoons ice water
  • 6 big stalks rhubarb
  • 1-3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 bunch Red Russian kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 ounces Saint-André, brie or other soft, rich cheese
  • 1/2 egg
  1. Fill a cup with water and a few ice cubes. Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and work it in with a pastry cutter if you have one. (Rumor has it you can use two knives. I made do with a mezzaluna, cleaning it out with a chopstick periodically. A pinching motion with your fingers should also do the trick. The goal here is a pea-sized crumble.) Gradually add the water, mixing the dough with your hands until is just comes together but is not sticky. Scatter some flour onto the counter, work the dough into a ball, and the press it into a disc using the palms of your hands. Wrap in plastic wrap and place it in the fridge for at least an hour.
  2. Toss the rhubarb with a tablespoon of sugar. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook stirring regularly until they are soft and caramel colored. Taste the rhubarb and, if it seems excessively sour, add a little more sugar. Add the thyme and red pepper flakes to your onions, cook for a couple of minutes, and then stir in the rhubarb and vinegar. Let simmer, stirring regularly, until the rhubarb begins to fall apart and take on a chutney consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Scrape the onions and rhubarb into a bowl, bring the heat up to medium, and add the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the kale in batches and cook until just wilted. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. Now would be a fine time for a nap.
  4. An hour out from dinner, preheat the oven to 400. Lightly flour the counter and rolling-pin. Roll the dough, flipping and dusting with flour as needed, until it’s the size of a small pizza. (You’re aiming for as thin as will reasonably hold together.) This may seem impossible at first, but give the dough some firm thwacks with the rolling pin and it will start to ease up. Gently transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet and return to the refrigerator until your dinner date confirms that he just got off the subway. 
  5. Combine the rhubarb and kale and slather over the dough, leaving an inch or so around the edges. Fold the edges in. (You can get fancy with this by trimming and then crimping, but it won’t taste any different and, if you’re honest with yourself, you’re not a particularly patient person.) Scatter hunks of cheese over the top. Lightly beat the egg and brush it on the exposed dough. Pop this into the oven just as the buzzer sounds.
  6. Crack open a bottle of bubbly. By the time you finish the second glass, the crust should be golden brown. Let stand for 10 minutes or so and then use the parchment to gently slide the tart onto a serving platter.

Time to open that second bottle…

Kale and Rhubarb Tart.jpg

Lovage, Ramp & Asparagus Linguine

We are finally, officially sprung.

What should have been a weekend of paper writing turned into several long walks, a couple of impromptu movie dates, and pretty much the prettiest, most delicious cocktail that you ever did have.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the Casa Rosada—a heady concoction of reposado tequila, Campari, coconut, lime, pepper tincture, and salt. Just typing this makes me contemplate hiking over to Grand Army Bar right now.

Casa Rosada Cocktail

But, then, I would have to get dressed.

Fortunately, Saturday’s farmers’ market foray yielded some flavors almost as delightfully springy as a pink flower in your pink drink…

Lovage, Ramp & Asparagus Linguine

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 16 stalks asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 8 ramps, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1.5 cups lovage leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2-4 ounces linguine
  • 1 egg
  • zest of 1 lemon plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan
  • salt and pepper

Set a pot of water to boil with a hefty pinch of salt. Bring a medium-sized skillet up to medium-low heat with the butter and olive oil. Add the asparagus, starting with the stalks. Stir regularly. After a couple of minutes, add the asparagus tips and the whites and stems of the ramps. Cook for another couple of minutes, stirring regularly. When the water boils, add the linguine to the pot. Meanwhile, back in your pan, add the ramp leaves as well as the lovage and continue to stir frequently. Give your veggies a good dose of salt and pepper. When the linguine is just shy of done, scoop it directly into your pan along with 1/4 cup or so of the cooking water. Crank the heat up to high and stir continuously for a minute or so until the water disappears. Take off of the heat, crack the egg directly into the pan and continue to stir continuously for another minute. Add the lemon zest and juice, parmesan and more salt and pepper to taste.

Lovage Ramp Asparagus Linguine

This makes one serving. Scale up as you see fit, but know that this is a dish best served fresh. At under 20 minutes from start to finish, why not just make it again tomorrow night?

Lovage Ramp Asparagus Linguine 2

Asparagus, Ramp & Feta Matzo Brei

Full confession, last night’s dinner was (very not-Kosher-for Passover) beer with a Marcona almond chaser. I had stopped by my local beer bar with hopes of getting some school reading done. Alas, I quickly struck up a conversation with a charming neighbor seated on the adjacent stool. We spent the next few hours discussing beer, jazz and the upsides of midlife crises.

Beer for Dinner

While I do not regret my choices, they did leave me with a fair amount of reading to plow through before tomorrow evening’s class. I needed a quick dinner that would assuage my Jewish guilt and make use of the glorious spring vegetables I managed to score at Saturday’s farmers’ market.

Ramps

Asparagus, Ramp & Feta Matzo Brei

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 (or more) glasses Sancerre
  • 10 ramps
  • 10 stalks asparagus
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 sheets matzah
  • 1 ounce feta cheese
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring a small nonstick skillet up to medium-low heat with 1/2 tablespoon butter. Pour yourself a nice glass of Sancerre while the butter melts.
  2. Rinse the ramps and trim off the tips. Chop into 1/2″ pieces, keeping the stems and leaves separate and splitting any large stems longways. Rinse the asparagus and remove the twiggy ends by breaking with your hands. Chop into 3/4″ pieces.
  3. Add the ramp stems to your butter and sauté, stirring frequently, until they start to get limp. Add the asparagus, starting with the thickest ends and working up to the tips. Cook until the asparagus is al denté (3-5 minutes). Add the ramp leaves and continue to cook until fully wilted. Add a little salt and pepper.
  4. Break the matzah into small pieces in a small bowl and top with water. Crack the eggs into a cup and whisk with a little more salt and pepper. Drain the water out of the matzah, using your hand to hold it in place. Add the eggs as well as the ramps and asparagus, crumble the feta over the top, and stir gently until combined.
  5. Place the pan back on the heat and add 1/4 tablespoon of butter. Pour the matzah mixture into the pan and let sit undisturbed for 7 minutes or so until the bottom is browned and the whole thing has started to set. Flip onto a small plate. Add the remaining butter to the pan, slide your matzo brei back into the pan and let cook undisturbed for another 3-5 minutes until nicely browned.

Asparagus Ramp Feta Matzo Brei

This may not look like much, but it is mad tasty, particularly with a second glass of Sancerre. Now about that reading…

Asparagus Ramp Feta Matzo Brei Closeup

Beer-Braised Red Curry Mussels with Leeks

I have worked 26 of the 28 days thus far in March. Needless to say, my diet has suffered a bit. There have been meals at home, but they’ve hewed toward quick salads or scrambled eggs shoved inside a couple of corn tortillas with whatever else I have on hand.

The season isn’t helping much. My last winter CSA pickup was in early February. And, while the forsythia, magnolias, daffodils and cherry blossoms are all in bloom, it’s still winter at the farmers’ market. When I can get there, it’s mainly to buy hunks of cured pork, storage crops and kale that only a mother could love.

I hopped off the B train just before 8:00 tonight, allowing me to pick up a pound of mussels at Mermaid’s Garden. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them but, after yesterday’s dim sum brunch, afternoon beers and Easter ham supper, I was looking to switch it up. “Lemon or lime?” inquired the man behind the counter. “Lemon,” I replied, as I always do. And then, a moment later, “actually, I’d like the lime.”

There’s a wind advisory in effect tonight. I walked home listening to the gusts tear through the new blossoms while mentally reviewing my pantry. There were leeks and cilantro that had been in the crisper for way too long. There was some red curry paste purchased on a whim a few months ago. If I was lucky, there would be the usual can of coconut milk stashed somewhere behind the dry goods. There was beer. Of that I was sure.

Beer-Braised Red Curry Mussels with Leeks

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 large leek, halved, rinsed and sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 3 small dried red chili peppers (or as much cayenne as you can stand)
  • 3 tablespoons minced cilantro (stems are fine, which is pretty much all I had left)
  • 1/2 lime, zest and juice
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk (the internet tells me you can freeze the rest!)
  • 1/3 of that beer you’re guzzling
  • 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • pinch sugar
  • 1 pound mussels

Bring the oil up to medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the leeks and cook, stirring regularly, until soft but not yet brown. Add the curry paste, chilis, cilantro and lime zest and cook for a couple of additional minutes, stirring constantly. Add the coconut milk, beer, fish sauce and sugar. Let simmer for a few minutes, give a quick taste, and adjust seasoning with additional fish sauce, sugar or hot pepper. Give the mussels a quick rinse, discarding any that do not shut. Gently stir them into your broth and pop a lid on. After a couple of minutes, given them another gentle stir and replace the lid. Keep doing this until all of the mussels have opened. Stir in the lime juice and enjoy with whatever is left of your beer while fending off the cat.

Beer-Braised Red Curry Mussels

Tofu, Kale & Bacon Stir-Fry

Ordinarily, when stir-frying tofu, I use the drain and freeze technique to prevent it from turning to mush. But I did not have such luxuries on Monday night, so I went for a quick press followed by a slow cook in order to remove the moisture before incorporating other ingredients. A little bacon fat didn’t hurt.

Tofu, Kale & Bacon Stir-Fry

Bring a large skillet up to medium-low heat with a piece of thick-cut bacon. Flip every so often. Meanwhile, place half a block of extra firm tofu on some paper towels to drain, pressing and flipping to extract as much water as possible. Slice a small red onion pole to pole. When the bacon is firm but not overly crisp, remove it to a paper towel. Slice the tofu into thick matchsticks and add to the pan. Drizzle some soy sauce over the top and let sit until the pieces are browned and lightly crusted. Rinse a couple of handfuls of kale, de-stem and chop roughly. Rotate the tofu and continue cooking until quite firm and somewhat leathery. Slide to the side, crank the heat up to medium, and add a little neutral cooking oil along with the onion. Grind a good dose of Szechuan peppercorns over the top. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is limp and nicely charred. Slide to the side and add a little more oil, the kale, and a nice pour of soy sauce and chili oil. Slowly incorporate everything together and cook until the kale is crisp-tender. Chop the bacon and sprinkle over the top. Some scallions would be nice if you’ve got ’em. Maybe a little sesame oil.

Tofu Kale Bacon Stir-Fry

Dandelion Pasta with Anchovies & Ricotta

With school back in session, Wednesdays are once again a haze. I had hoped to wrap up my budgeting work before leaving the office, but was waylaid by other tasks. I made it home from class around 7:30, my head full of feminist theory and my stomach running on empty. Fortunately, I had a nice bunch of dandelion greens and a well stocked pantry.

This meal paired nicely with the dregs of Saturday’s Cabernet Sauvignon, which had thankfully not turned to vinegar on the kitchen counter. More importantly, it came together in 22 minutes flat, leaving me with enough time to catch up with my sister Upstate and finish those pesky spreadsheets.

Dandelion Pasta with Anchovies & Ricotta

Set a pot of salted water to boil. Bring a couple of tablespoons of olive oil up to medium heat in a large sauté pan. Peel and thinly slice a few cloves of garlic. Rinse and coarsely chop the dandelion greens, removing the ends if they are twiggy. If you aren’t that into bitter things, wait until the water boils and blanch the greens for a couple of minutes. (But, really, why in the world are you eating dandelion greens if you’re not down?) Once the oil is hot enough that droplets of water sizzle, add a few anchovies from your emergency jar and four or five of those small dried chiles that you bought at the fancy cheese shop on a whim (or a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes, which are probably the same thing at a quarter of the price). Stir constantly for a couple of minutes, add the garlic and continue stirring for one more minute. Add the greens to your pan and half a bag of penne to your pot. Stir both occasionally. Grind some black pepper into the greens. When the pasta is just shy of done, scoop it into the pan, allowing some of the water to migrate along with it. Cook for another minute or so and remove from the heat. Give it a quick taste and add salt if needed. (The anchovies may have done the trick.) Top each serving with a heaping spoonful of ricotta, a little lemon zest and juice, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Dandelion Green Penne with Anchovies and Ricotta

Roasted Monkfish with Braised Red Cabbage

There are days when I feel like a pinball ricocheting around the city. Today was one of those days.

I started with some early morning emailing from home before dropping my compost off and hopping the B train for an emergency visit to the endotontist in Gramercy. (Friday’s root canal seems to have set off a painful chain reaction.) Armed with a little less tooth and a lot more ibuprofen, I made my way across town in search of Wifi. I spent lunch catching up on emails, mapping an outline for a talk, and chewing with a great deal of care.

Then it was an hour uptown to Teachers College. The 1 train was mercifully uncrowded, so I was able to use the time to put the finishing touches on a paper. It was my last Nutritional Ecology class. While I’m looking forward to a little pleasure reading, I will truly miss the opportunity to study with Joan Dye Gussow, who the New York Times dubbed the “matriarch of the eat-locally-think-globally food movement.” (Please, nobody tell Joan that, for the past semester, my Wednesday lunches have consisted of a boxed sandwich wolfed down on the train while rushing to her class.) Afterwards, I descended Morningside Park’s many steps to meet a donor for a drink and some more food talk.

Another hour on the B train and I was back home in Brooklyn and deserving of a treat. I walked into Mermaid’s Garden just before closing and secured a pound of monkfish, which I thought would hold up well against the red cabbage left from last month’s CSA share. I’d never made monkfish before, but the lovely guy behind the counter assured me that it was almost impossible to overcook. We agreed that I would aim for a quick pan sear and then finish it off in the oven.

Roasted Monkfish with Braised Red Cabbage

  • 1 ounce smoked hog jowl (or bacon), cubed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced pole to pole
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (about 8 whole berries)
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider that you tragically failed to drink before it started to turn
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450. Bring a large skillet up to medium heat with the pork and olive oil. When the pork is rendered but not yet crispy, add the onion and cook until soft and browned around the edges. Add the cabbage, allspice, red pepper and a healthy dose of salt and pepper. Cook stirring regularly until the cabbage is wilted. Add the cider and vinegar, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and put a lid on it. Continue cooking, stirring every so often, while you turn your attention to the fish.

  • 1 pound monkfish, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

Bring a skillet up to medium heat. Season the fish liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Combine the horseradish, breadcrumbs and mustard in a small bowl, adding water if needed to form a paste. Press this mixture onto one side of the fish. Add butter to the pan, swirling to coat. Carefully place the fish in the pan with the crust down. Cook for a few minutes until the crust has browned and then gently flip. (If your crust falls off, just stick it back on.) Cook for another couple of minutes and then pop the whole pan in the oven for about 15 minutes. By the time your fish is done, your cabbage should be good to go.

Roasted Monkfish with Braised Red Cabbage

WARNING: Your cat will think you made this for her. She is wrong, but she will not let up until you finish your meal, pack the leftovers away for tomorrow’s lunch, and scrub all of the dishes.