Gazpacho, Calamari & Paprika Crostini

My friend Sara is on vacation in Maine this week, which means that I picked up a double CSA share Tuesday night. Hauling this quantity of vegetables plus two melons, goat yogurt, honey, eggs, granola, and a few pounds of assorted meat is no joke. It took me a good 30 minutes just to organize my refrigerator.

Summer Bounty

Between the tomatoes, onions, green pepper, cucumbers and fresh basil, it was clear what had to be done.

Farmer Ted’s Gazpacho

  • 5 large tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 1/2 bulb fennel, cored and chopped
  • 1 large green pepper, cored and chopped
  • 1 large cucumber, seeded and sliced
  • 1 medium white onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and sliced
  • 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons or so sherry vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup packed fresh herbs (I used basil, Italian parsley and fennel fronds, because that’s what I had on hand.)

Add the tomatoes to the large bowl of a food processor and run until you have a slightly chunky tomato sauce. Add the rest of the vegetables, oil and vinegar and a good dose of salt and pepper. Run until any large chunks are gone. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional vinegar, salt and/or pepper. You can also add a pinch of sugar or a few dashes of hot sauce to balance the flavors. Add the herbs and run for about a minute more. Refrigerate for at least a few hours to allow flavors to meld.

Paprika Aioli

  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 tablespoon hot paprika
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients and let sit in refrigerator for at least an hour.

The rest of this dish takes about 20 minutes to complete, so feel free to knock off for a while and grab a nap. You deserve it. (And, if you’re honest with yourself, last night’s margaritas demand it.)

Catnap

Crostini

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 8 slices baguette

Bring a large cast iron skillet up to medium-low heat and swirl with the olive oil. Place bread in skillet and let sit until the bottom side is crisp and just a bit browned. Flip and repeat.

Calamari a la Plancha

  • 1 pound cleaned and sliced calamari, drained and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Return the skillet to the stove over medium heat. Toss the calamari with oil, Aleppo pepper, garlic, salt and pepper. Add to skillet, cook for one minute, stir and flip pieces and cook for one more minute. Remove from heat and dress with lemon.

At this point, you are ready to plate. Pour the gazpacho into bowls and nestle the calamari in the center of each. Spread the aioli onto your crostini and strategically place alongside the calamari. 

Gazpacho Calamari Paprika Aoili Crostini

Sean and I ate our supper on the roof while sipping a crisp Sauvignon Blanc and admiring the pink and orange sunset–which, now that I think about it, evoked the warm hues of our gazpacho with calamari a la plancha and paprika-aioli crostini. For dessert, we managed to polish off a whole, perfectly ripe melon with some lovely serrano ham I’d picked up earlier in the day at BKLYN Larder. A couple of hours later we trekked down four flights of stairs, walked past a handful of buildings, climbed another four flights and joined friends on a nearby rooftop for one last round of drinks before calling it a night. God, I love summer.

Melon and Serrano

Masoor Dal with Kale

Temperatures in New York City soared above 70 today, inducing a collective giddiness. Unfortunately, save for a quick dash outside to pick up lunch and some specialty lightbulbs (good lighting being a bit of an obsession for me), I spent the day at my desk. It is the end of a very long week. By the time 6:00 rolled around, it was all I could do to swing by the health food store for some red lentils and cilantro before heading home. I was craving something spicy that would make use of the kale I picked up last weekend at the Union Square Greenmarket. (It’s tough to use up your vegetables when you get home after 10:00 each night.)

Masoor Dal with Kale

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 knob ginger (about the size of the last joint of your thumb)
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (substitute coconut oil if you’re going for a vegan dish)
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole coriander, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
  • zest of 1 small lime
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced cilantro
  • salt
  1. Add your lentils, ginger, turmeric and four cups of water to a medium-sized heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer and place lid on top, leaving open a crack. If you suddenly realize that you need beer, now is the time. Your lentils need to simmer for an hour-plus, so walk those extra five blocks to the good place–and feel free to sample. A growler of Great South Bay Brewery‘s Misfit Toy Black IPA? Don’t mind if I do.
  2. When you get home (about 30 minutes later), give the lentils a stir. (They will have turned to mush; do not be alarmed). By the time you put on some music and pour yourself a beer, it should be time to start the rice. Basmati would be ideal, but I went with Thai Jasmine because that’s what I had on hand. You can follow the instructions on the package, but I’d recommend sautéing the rice in half a tablespoon of ghee or coconut oil for a couple of minutes before adding your water. A good pinch of salt is also key.
  3. Bring a tablespoon of ghee or coconut oil up to medium heat in a small skillet. Add the cumin, coriander and cayenne and cook stirring continuously until the spices are nice and toasty but not burnt (2-3 minutes). Add the onions and the garlic and cook stirring frequently until your onions are crisp and brown at the edges. 
  4. Add the onion and spice mixture to your lentils along with the kale and a couple of healthy pinches of salt and cook for 10 minutes or more, depending on how toothsome your greens are. Taste and adjust your seasoning with additional salt and/or cayenne as needed. Add the lime zest and cilantro off the heat.
  5. Damn, that was easy. But wait, you ask, wouldn’t it be a good idea to remove the giant hunk of ginger before you bite into it? Yes, yes it would.

Masoor Dal with Kale

This dish is best consumed with a second beer, in your underwear, trusty cat by your side, while watching 8 Mile (which you’ve been meaning to see for years).

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

I am suffering from my third stomach ailment this year. After two days of being laid up, my fever had broken and my energy was back. But a ten-hour workday, punctuated by kale salad, farro, beets and Brussels sprouts put me in my place. I woke out of a dead sleep at 4am and went to retrieve the recycling bin that had been my constant companion earlier in the week.

Somehow I managed to dress for work and get as far as my subway stop before giving up and returning home. On the way I stopped off at the grocery store for an array of easily digestible (mainly white) foods. Breakfast was plain white toast. For lunch, I moved on to a small banana and a can of Coke (a concession to my caffeine addiction). By 7:00pm, I was actually experiencing something that resembled hunger, but suspected I still needed to tread lightly.

I’ve made this soup before in various forms. The ginger is great for stomach ailments and clearing the sinuses. It cooks up in under half an hour and, if you’re feeling a little less peaked than I am at the moment, you can doctor it in all kinds of ways. Even the most basic version is a welcome flavor boost after white bread and bananas.

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 knob ginger about the size of your last thumb joint, peeled and sliced into very thin matchsticks
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • freshly ground black and white pepper
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup Jasmine or other long-grain white rice
  • Optional additional ingredients: rice noodles, egg noodles, spinach, egg, scallions, chives, Sriracha, sesame oil, cilantro
  1. Add the first four ingredients to a small pot, bring to a boil and reduce to a very low simmer. Add the chicken and simmer gently until just cooked through (7-10 minutes). Remove chicken.
  2. Add the rice and continue to simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, shred your chicken using two forks. When the rice is cooked, slide the chicken back in and simmer another minute or two.
  3. The above makes a lovely, restorative soup. If you want to take it a step or two further, at this point you could do any or all of the following 1) swap rice noodles or egg noodles for the rice (and adjust the cooking time accordingly), 2) add spinach leaves and simmer until just wilted, 3) stir in a lightly mixed egg, 4) garnish with thinly sliced scallions or chives, 5) stir in a shot of Sriracha, 6) drizzle with a little toasted sesame oil, 7) sprinkle with cilantro leaves before serving. 

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

UPDATE: The chicken breasts came three to a pack, so I continued the theme throughout the week. Here’s a version with daikon radish, turnip, parsley and sesame oil that I made the next day, once my stomach had started to recover. The parsley was a sorry substitute for cilantro, but this iteration was otherwise delicious.

Daikon Turnip Chicken Soup

A few days later, when the craving for fiber and complex carbohydrates had kicked in, I swapped the rice for a thinly sliced sweet potato and stirred a bunch of baby spinach and a lightly whisked egg in at the last minute. This was a very nice reentry into my normal food patterns.

Chicken Sweet Potato Spinach Soup

Smoky Creamy Field Peas

I just returned from a truly epic road trip down South. It’s going to take me a minute to put the whole thing down in writing, but suffice it to say that one of the many highlights was consuming five different specimens of pulled/chopped pork in 24 hours. Of all the fine swine that we consumed, the winner by unanimous decision was the unsuspecting plastic-wrapped BBQ sandwich from Cooper’s Country Store in Salter, South Carolina.

Cooper's Country Store

Cooper’s is a classic combination gas station and country store that I suspect hasn’t changed much since it was built at a country crossroads in 1937. Mercifully, they do take credit cards, so we were free to stock up on Blenheim’s ginger ale, locally ground grits, field peas, and all manners of pork. My traveling companions couldn’t resist the lure of the country hams that were curing behind screens. Being a single gal who lives in 600 square feet, I limited myself to several pounds of bacon and smoked ham ends, which would make excellent seasoning meat.

Cooper's Counter

But back to that sandwich. It came on an ordinary enough white hamburger bun. No slaw. No dripping sauce. Just pulled pork meat (whole-hog, as is de rigueur in South Carolina) that was smoky but not overpoweringly so, assertively vinegary, a good bit spicy, and just the tiniest bit sweet. This was the barbecue of our collective dreams.

BBQ Sandwich

Three days later, I found myself back in Brooklyn, catching up on real life. After 36 hours of kale salad, haricot vert and sushi, I was feeling recovered and even a bit nostalgic. The field peas that had made it out of my backpack but not into the cupboard were calling out to me. And, of course, there was that seasoning meat.

Field Peas

Smoky Creamy Field Peas

  • 1 pound dried field peas, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 large hunk seasoning meat (approximately the size of a deck of cards), sliced – bacon ends, ham trimmings, salt pork, or what have you
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 2 carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
  • 3 peeled and halved garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • dried chilis, fresh chilis and/or red pepper flakes
  • 2 or more tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, minced 
  • salt and pepper
  • hot sauce (optional)
  1. Fill a large dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot up halfway with water. Add the seasoning meat, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay, thyme and chilis. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add your peas and let simmer partly covered for approximately 45 minutes or until tender but not falling apart.
  2. Remove and discard the veggies and herbs. Pull out the seasoning meat and dice into small pieces. Unless you are feeding a crowd, remove a pint of the peas and most of the cooking liquid, reserving for future use. (Beans freeze brilliantly.) Scoop another pint into your food processor with a bit of the liquid and let run until they form a paste.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar. Taste your beans and adjust seasoning with salt, black pepper, more vinegar, and a little hot sauce of your choice. (If you used country ham ends like I did, you may even be able to forgo any additional salt.) If needed, add back a bit of your cooking liquid.
  4. Add butter to a small skillet over medium heat and sauté the bell pepper until just soft. Stir this into your beans along with the parsley and remove from heat.

Field peas are traditionally served over long-grain Carolina rice. But, if you happen to have a pot of kale and mustard greens slow cooked with some more of that seasoning meat, that would do fine too.

Field Peas and Greens

Curried Black Lentils and Sweet Potato

I’m coming off of back-to-back 60-hour workweeks. In the middle of it all, I threw my back out necessitating a trip to urgent care and a cocktail of controlled substances that I’ve had to meter our carefully so as to remain functional for Tuesday’s fundraising gala and its aftermath.

By Saturday I was off duty and officially on Spring Break. I celebrated by purchasing a bottle of Bulleit Bourbon for my train ride down to Baltimore. That plus some Percocet and a little Zeppelin momentarily had me pain-free for the first time in over a week.

The plan was (and, I think, still is) a road trip down to Nahunta, Georgia to pick up a grill (well, technically a smoker cooker) that the good folk at Lang BBQ Smokers are building to spec for my friend Don. Between my back problems, a death in Don’s family, and a freak mid-March snowstorm over the mid-Atlantic, we’re getting a slow start.

Don flew home from Wisconsin last night via Atlanta (which, incidentally, put him within a four-hour drive of his new grill). His father-in-law had passed away in the wee hours of the morning and he’d had an arduous daylong journey, so I had resolved to cook him a nice meal. My instructions were to make something low in cholesterol and high in fiber, as Don had to swing by the lab for some blood work before we left town.

Rooting through the pantry, I found some black lentils and long-grain pecan rice. The hanging basket under the stairs held an onion and a large sweet potato. In the back of the fridge were parsley and a knob of fresh ginger. This plus an ample spice cabinet would make for a warm, flavorful meal and provide us both with enough fiber to kick off five days of barbeque for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Curried Black Lentils and Sweet Potato

  • 1 cup black lentils
  • 4 cups water and/or chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral cooking oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 African bird chilis (or cayenne paper to taste)
  • 1 whole black cardamom pod (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon asafetida (optional, but recommended if you are making the vegan version, as it will lend the dish a richness)
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley and/or cilantro
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring the lentils and water/stock to boil in a medium pot, reduce heat, and let simmer for 25 minutes or until tender but still toothsome, seasoning with salt as needed. If you’re making rice to accompany the dish, now is a good time to start that process.
  2. Strain the lentils, reserving the cooking liquid. Add oil to your pot and bring up to medium heat. Add the onions and stir frequently until softened and starting to brown. Add ginger and stir constantly for one minute. Add all of the spices, stirring constantly for another minute. Add the reserved cooking liquid and the sweet potato. Simmer until potato has softened, adding water if the mixture gets too thick.
  3. Pour the lentils back into the pan along with the vinegar and a good dose of freshly ground pepper. Let simmer for a few more minutes, taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Add fresh herbs off the heat.

Curried Black Lentils and Sweet Potato

This recipe makes about four servings. I reheated the leftovers for breakfast. Don had his with rice. I simmered an egg in mine. Imagine this should get us through the first few hours of our snowy spring break road trip.

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

This post contains two recipes which, when combined, yield a very nice pot of chili for four. I recommend doubling the bean recipe and setting half aside so that you can throw together quick dinners of tacos, huevos ranchers and the like throughout the week.

Spicy Black Beans

  • 1/2 pound black beans
  • 1 tablespoon lard, bacon drippings or other pork fat
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano (or epazote if you’ve got it)
  • 2 dried chili de arbol (or substitute cayenne pepper to taste)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Add the beans to a large pot along with enough water to cover them by a few inches. Bring to a boil, turn off the heat and let them sit for an hour or more.
  2. Add the pork fat, onions, garlic, bay leaf and oregano. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for one hour.
  3. Add the whole peppers and salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for another 30-60 minutes until the beans are quite soft and the cooking liquid has thickened. Remove bay leaf and chilis, transfer beans and cooking liquid to another container, give the pot a quick rinse, and move on to the next recipe.

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili with Hot Beef Sausage

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 links hot beef sausage, sliced into discs (If you can get your hands on Lewis Waite Farm‘s version, I recommend doing so because YUM. But any kind of spicy sausage would yield a great dish.)
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried chipotle and/or smoked habanero powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (Trust me on this; it’s your secret weapon.)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 batch spicy black beans (see above)
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
  1. Bring the oil up to medium heat in a large pot. Fry your sausage slices in two batches, allowing them to brown and crisp in places.
  2. Remove the sausage, lower the heat a bit and add your onions. (If there wasn’t much fat left from your sausage, you could add a little more olive oil at this point.) Saute until starting to soften, then add in the spices and cook stirring constantly for one minute. Do the same with the tomato paste.
  3. Dump your reserved beans and sausage into the pot along with the cider vinegar and enough water that everything is just submerged. Let simmer for 30 minutes, then add the sweet potatoes. Let simmer for another hour. You can add water as you go if needed, but the goal is more of a thick sauce than a broth. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

I served this garnished with thinly sliced scallions, avocado slices and some Greek yogurt to counterbalance all of that heat.

Working (Wo)man’s Cassoulet

Last week was a doozy. I worked late on Friday and arrived home in need of some whiskey and a comforting meal–in that order. Fortunately, the night before I’d thought to defrost some of Lewis Waite Farm‘s most excellent kielbasa and soak some flageolet.

Flageolet

Flageolet are a lovely pale green bean used in rustic French cooking, including cassoulet. I had a classic cassoulet once and it was delicious. Saveur’s recipe calls for duck fat, ham hocks, pork shoulder, pancetta, duck confit legs and pork sausage (that last one being optional) and, by my rough estimate, takes about eight hours. While I am not averse to spending an entire day cooking, eating such a heavy meal at 4:00am seemed ill-advised. The recipe below will yield a rich, comforting meal for a crowd in under two hours.

Working (Wo)man’s Cassoulet

  • 1 pound flageolet, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons pork fat (or olive oil)
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
  • 1 healthy pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 quart concentrated pork stock (See Going Whole Hog for the recipe. Chicken stock would also suffice, though I might throw a little bacon in at the beginning.)
  • 1 pound kielbasa, thinly sliced
  • 1 very large carrot, cut into small cubes
  • 1 very large daikon radish, cut into small cubes
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 300.
  2. Melt a tablespoon of pork fat in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until soft. Add the garlic, tomato paste, herbs, and red pepper flakes. Sauté for another minute. Then add your pork stock plus enough water to cover the beans, turn up the heat to bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer.
  3. Melt the other tablespoon of pork fat in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the kielbasa slices in batches, searing on both sides. Dump these in with your beans. Stir in the carrot and radish along with some black pepper.
  4. Pop a lid on your beans and tuck them into the oven for 30 minutes—or until your empty whiskey glass compels you to go back into the kitchen. Take the pot out of the oven and check on your beans. If they aren’t yet tender, let them go a little longer. If they yield easily to your teeth, stir in the vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat up to 350 and place back in the oven uncovered for 45 minutes—or until you’re in desperate need of something to soak up the whiskey.

Flageolet with Kielbasa

Going Whole Hog

I live in a 600-square foot apartment. From the front door, you can see straight through my entire home and out the bedroom window. Should you want a little air, it’s two flights up or two flights down. As I type this, I’m watching a neighbor across the alley preparing dinner. (Looks like pasta again.)

My kitchen is small but efficient. I’ve pulled off dinner parties for 12 and a surprisingly rocking baby shower for 30. But there’s no way a whole pig is going into my Easy Bake-esque Ikea oven. Sometimes you have to leave the cooking to professionals.

Last Sunday an intrepid group of friends risked life and limb in the name of pork. With snow and ice coating the ground and another storm on the way, we boarded a northbound train along the Hudson. By the time we made it out of the tunnels, the flakes were coming down hard. We disembarked at Dobbs Ferry into a glittery wonderland and hiked up a steep hill. As we rounded the corner, we caught sight of yellow light spilling out of the lone sign of life. It was The Cookery and we were there for their Pig Dinner.

We warmed up with a round of cocktails before tucking into some delightful swine and wine. The first course was a sunny side up egg atop some luscious braised kale, which was paired with a dry Gewurtzraminer that did a nice job of cutting through the fattiness. The first course was a hit, despite the fact that some in our party were surprised that it was not fried egg and tail.

As they cleared our plates, the wait staff offered sobering instructions. When the lights flickered, we were to clear the way. A few minutes later, the lights flickered and our pig emerged on the largest cutting board I have ever seen. They placed the animal in the center of the table, where the chef made short work of breaking it down into edible parts.

Pig Carving

The pig came with a red wine that escapes me at the moment and some stellar seasonal vegetable dishes. But all eyes were on the succulent meat and the skin, which has taken on a candied quality during a final blast of high heat. We ate with abandon, as if we were desperate to ensure our fair share of the meat. Within 15 minutes, everyone was easing into a pork coma. Turns out eight people are no match for even a modest 35-pound pig.

Pig Carcass

The wait staff left us to contemplate a sparkling Moscato and a surprisingly refreshing maple panna cotta while they divvied up the leftovers. And so, less than two house after arriving in Dobbs Ferry, we found ourselves slip-sliding our way back down the hill, aluminum pans of meat and bones in hand. It is a good thing there are no wild dogs on Metro North. I made it back to Brooklyn around 11:00pm. It had been a long and booze-laden weekend. It was all I could do to shove the meat into the refrigerator and the pork bones into a baggie in the freezer before  climbing into bed.

A few days later, I found myself working from home in a desperate bid to push a couple of grants proposals out by the end of the week. It was a cold and nasty day–at least from what I could glean from my view of the alley and various social media posts. For breakfast, I fried up some of my pig meat with a small onion and added some scrambled eggs for quick and delicious breakfast tacos.

Pork Breakfast Tacos

But my real focus was the bones lurking in my freezer. With a whole day at home, I had time to make some serious bone broth. I threw the bones into a roasting pan and popped it into a 350-degree oven. An hour later, I added a couple of quartered onions plus some roughly chopped and slightly limp root vegetables I found hiding out in the back of the crisper.

Roasted Bones

After another hour, my bones and vegetables had taken on a rich brown color and were ready for the stockpot. I added enough water to cover everything, brought the pot to a boil and then lowered the heat until I had a very slow simmer going. I also threw in a couple of bay leaves and 12 black peppercorns for good measure. My pork stock simmered for eight hours, requiring nothing but an occasional stir and a little more water when the liquid started to get low. Before bed, I strained the liquid into a glass container, let it cool and popped it into the fridge.

Pork Stock

My patience yielded about a quart of unctuous concentrated pork stock. It was the texture of Jell-O and topped by a nice layer of pork fat, which I reserved for a future use. Half of the stock went in the freezer (I’m thinking ramen) and the other half went into a pot of flageolet the next night. More on those later.

Sweet Potato Turkey Bisque with Collards

I am still working my way through the last of this season’s CSA share. Olive oil, habanero powder, salt and pepper are the only things in this dairy-free bisque that didn’t come directly from Windflower Farm or a nearby meat purveyor. This came out crazy tasty, which is a good thing since I will be eating it all week.

Sweet Potato Turkey Bisque with Collards

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red onion
  • 4-6 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon habanero powder (cayenne would also work)
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 small sprig fresh rosemary (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • six cups chicken stock (I used eight cubes of my frozen concentrated stock plus a couple of cups of water.)
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 bunch collard greens
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into large hunks of roughly the same size. Place on a cookie sheet and mix with 2 tablespoons olive oil plus some salt and pepper. Pop these in the oven and cook until soft and starting to brown, approximately 15 minutes.
  2. Bring two tablespoons of olive oil up to medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Chop the onion, add to the pot and sauté until soft. Press and add the garlic along with the habanero powder, adding more if you like things really spicy. (I used a heaping teaspoon and mine came out pretty damn hot.) Stir constantly for one minute. Then add the ground turkey. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all pink is gone. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Puree the sweet potatoes, using water as needed to loosen the mixture. Add the purée plus the chicken stock, water and apple cider to your turkey mixture and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes or so. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  4. Strip the stems from your collards, roll them like a cigar and thinly slice into strips. Add these to the pot and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.

Sweet Potato Turkey Bisque with Collards

Guest Post: Boiled (Yes, Boiled) Chicken

Alex and I met during our junior year of college when we were both studying in Jerusalem. Inspired by the local bounty, we were just starting to hone our cooking skills and we delighted in exploring food together. In particular, I recall a dinner party in Alex’s dorm room that centered around a canister of Kraft Grated Parmesan that his parents had smuggled into the country. (What can I say? We were young and it tasted like home.)

When We Were Young

At the end of the semester, we headed back to the States to finish school. Alex returned to Northern California and I to Upstate New York, but we kept in touch. I would visit him in Berkeley, where we would host lavish (by broke twenty something standards) dinner parties and tool around the Marin Hills. Alex would come to New York City for long walks and down and dirty Chinese food. For a few glorious years, Alex moved to Brooklyn, but the Bay Area called him back for a PhD in Urban Planning.

After a stint in Paris, Alex recently began working as a Lecturer in Geography at Leeds University. Somewhere in the eighteen years since we first met, it seems that we became adults. Fretting over the health of his students, Alex asked whether he might contribute a post or two. The recipes that he offers below are as suitable for starving college students in England as they are for an overworked New Yorker who finds herself suddenly pushing 40.

The Boiled-Chicken Method – Courtesy of Dr. Alex Schafran

Now that the Drunken Fig is required reading for my first year tutees (the Jewish grandmother in me worries that they aren’t eating well), it seems time to contribute some of my favorite tricks for brilliant eating on the simple. This is a super technique for the harried life, very friendly for finicky children/housemates/lovers. It also makes multiple meals at once or a classy two-course.
  1. Remove your hard-as-a-rock frozen chicken parts from freezer. Works with all types of frozen bits–light, dark and turkey too.
  2. Place in decent size pot – big enough that you can cover with water thoroughly and boil the hell out of it. I like to add a little salt at this stage, and sometimes a of bay leaf or some oregano, depending on what I am doing with it (see below).
  3. Boil. Yes, get over your fear of boiled meat and just do it. As it begins to soften up, you can start inserting a sharp knife to make the process quicker, but don’t cut it up too much. This should take about 30 minutes for deeply frozen breasts, longer if they are frozen together into an Übermass of poultry. (If you want to poke at your chicken, press down on it with a spatula rather than cutting into it. If it gives in easily, chances are it is cooked.)
  4. When your chicken is fully cooked, turn off the heat, and use tongs to remove the chicken pieces. Place them on a wooden cutting board or something that can take the heat. 
  5. When the chicken is cool enough to work with, take a fork in one hand and the tongs in another. Hold the chicken bits with the tongs, and press down and to one side with the fork to shred the chicken. The longer you cook it, the easier it will shred. But the meat will also be a little drier and less flavorful. This takes a bit of getting used to, but you will get the hang of it.
  6. Place your shredded chicken in a bowl. Now you have two awesome ingredients: a ton of shredded chicken and some fresh chicken broth.

So what do I do with my poultry bonanza?

  1. Tacos now, soup later option: Mix some olive oil, a touch of salt and pepper, plenty of oregano and a bit of chili powder into the chicken. You can do garlic instead of chili, or both if you like. Heat up tortillas, sprinkle on some cheese (or not, if you want to be traditional), a touch of cilantro and onions and voilà. Freeze broth.
  2. Dinner tonight, tomorrow’s dinner cooking while you eat: Use the chicken how you will. (Last night it was with garlic spinach over brown basmati rice.) Before you sit down, chop up a bunch of veggies. If you can stand waiting a bit for dinner, a light sauté is generally recommended for the veggies, but it’s not essential. Let the soup simmer while you eat. By the time you are finished, the soup will be ready for pureeing – if that is your way of doing things. Now tomorrow’s dinner is done, save for the hard-crusted bread.
  3. Soup and chicken together option: Take a can of black beans, and purée it in the chicken broth with some garlic, a touch of cumin and some oregano. Serve with heaping amounts of chicken, a dollop of sour cream for sluttiness and a touch of cilantro, unless you hate it. Works with other beans and pretty much any leftover veggies you have.
  4. The simple two-course option: Shredded chicken takes almost any sauce and any cuisine well. I have done Japanese style over noodles and then added a touch of miso into the broth for a new take on miso soup. Sautéed vegetables and chicken over couscous with a vegetable soup is also excellent. Quinoa and chicken with a broccoli soup. Ad nauseam.
  5. The top class Mexican meal: Since this method is inspired by Mexican and Salvadoran cuisine, they get the top class version: Chicken enchiladas with a roasted corn and tomato soup. Actually pretty easy, especially if you cheat and buy enchilada sauce.

After admitting that I have yet to get over this past weekend’s head cold, I came home early today with comfort food on the brain. Alex’s recipes had been sitting in my email inbox for a couple of weeks and there was a three-pound chicken in my freezer. It took about five minutes to get to this stage. (I added onions, garlic, some wilted carrots and a couple of bay leaves.)

Boiling ChickenAn hour later (though, in hindsight, 45 minutes would have been sufficient), I was shredding the meat. I threw the bones and skin back in to simmer while I did some work. After another half hour, I strained the broth, put it back on the heat, and added turnips, shredded collard greens, carrots, dried porcini mushrooms, pearled barley, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Half an hour later, I mixed in some of the shredded meat and dinner was served.

Thanks, Alex, for taking care of me across the many miles.

Chicken Barley Soup