Pea Shoot & Radish Spring Salad

It’s 55 degrees in Brooklyn this afternoon. After a week in which we dipped back into the single digits, there is a giddiness in the air. By noon people were spilling out of the ice cream shop around the corner and the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket was full of eager shoppers. The farmers seemed happy to be standing in the sunshine, even as they answered endless questions about what was on offer besides root vegetables and apples. (Not much.) It seems that our appetite for spring isn’t quite in step with the realities of the growing season.

The good folks at Evolutionary Organics in New Paltz had fresh pea shoots and some wickedly spicy, not to mention beautiful, radishes on offer. I selected a medium watermelon radish and a long thin one that had a rich purple skin.

Watermelon Radish

Pea Shoot & Radish Spring Salad

  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 handfuls pea shoots, rinsed and dried thoroughly
  • 2 medium radishes (the prettier, the better)
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  1. Whisk the first four ingredients in a medium bowl along with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper.
  2. Thinly slice your scallions and then your radishes. If you’ve got a mandoline gathering dust in the cupboard, this is the time to bust it out. Or, if your radishes are narrow enough, a vegetable peeler can work wonders.
  3. Add your vegetables and the sesame seeds to your bowl and toss gently so as not to bruise the tender shoots. Grab a fork and dig in to the taste of spring.

Pea Shoot and Radish Salad

(Not So) Fat Tuesday

Today is Mardi Gras. While my heart is in New Orleans, my stomach and my workload call for something a little more austere. I got home around 8:00pm after a long day of work followed by school, By 8:30, I was sitting down to a healthy, tasty meal and a couple of episodes of Treme.

Mardi Gras Mask The Drunken Fig in more celebratory times

Vegan Smothered Cabbage

  1. Crack open a good quality dark beer. Bring 2 tablespoons of olive oil up to medium heat in a large cast iron skillet. Add a medium red onion sliced poll to poll and cook until starting to brown. Add a good pinch of red pepper flakes.
  2. Stir in one thinly-sliced tofurky andouille sausage (or, if you’re looking for something a little more indulgent, go for the pork) and cook until it begins to crisp. Then add half a head of green cabbage, shredded as if you were making a slaw, along with a healthy dose of salt and pepper
  3. When the cabbage is wilted but still a bit crisp, add as much beer as you’re willing to sacrifice to deglaze your pan. Cook for another minute or two and then empty the contents of your pan into a low bowl. Serve with Zatarain’s Creole Mustard. (In a pinch, you could substitute any nice whole grain mustard.)

Vegan Smothered Cabbage

Lowcountry Vegan

I am neither a South Carolinian nor a vegan.

Monday morning I received an email from an acquaintance who had accidentally purchased an eighth of a cow and was looking for people to split it with given her limited freezer space. The cow in question came from Grimaldi Farms, a grass-fed, free-range, organic farm in the Hudson Valley. How could I say no?

Seven hours later, Marissa and I met up for a drink and a cash-for-cow exchange. My $50 bought me a whole lot of meat. Three pounds of ground beef and a giant hunk of bone went into the freezer for a future use. Last night I tried my hand at beef liver–a dish I’d never actually eaten before. I soaked the liver in milk and pan-fried it with a light dusting of flour mixed with salt and pepper. Oumar and I ate it with a red onion jam, arugula in a lemon dressing and pillowy egg tagliardi with a pan sauce that included butter, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, parsley and lemon zest.

This was good stuff, to be sure. But a rich, restaurant-style dinner (and, possibly, the after-dinner bourbon) took its toll. I have 24 hours to regain my strength. My cow share also included half of a five-pound top round roast. Rather than divvy it up, we decided to have dinner together. Tomorrow night Maureen, Kevin, Sara and I will be tucking into pot roast.

So tonight it’s a lowcountry vegan meal for me.

Grits with Shiitake-Seitan Gravy and Braised Collards

  • 1/2 cup grits
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, 2 thinly sliced and 1 minced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch collard greens, stems removed and leaves sliced
  • smoked salt
  • 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (While not necessary, this will really boost the flavor. And it makes a great popcorn topping.)
  • 1 package (8 ounces) seitan, torn into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to boil in a small pot, lower the temperature to medium, and add the grits. Whisk constantly for a few minutes until the mixtures starts to thicken. Lower the temperature until you achieve a very slow simmer. Whisk occasionally for the next 45 minutes or so. When the grits are done, season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add olive oil to a large pot over medium-low heat. Saute onions until they are soft and beginning to brown. Add red pepper flakes and the sliced garlic and cook stirring constantly for one minute. Stir in the collards, some pepper, a good pinch of smoked salt, and 1/2 cup water. Let simmer with the lid slightly ajar for 30 minutes or so, stirring occasionally and adding water if it starts to dry out.
  3. Bring two cups of water to a boil and pour over the dried mushrooms in a small bowl. When they have softened, remove the mushrooms and chop them, being sure to retain the mushroom broth.
  4. Add the coconut oil to a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the minced garlic. After 30 seconds, add the flour and whisk constantly for two or three minutes until the mixture takes on a pale blonde color. (Look, you made a roux!) Add the liquid from the mushrooms and whisk constantly. After a few minutes, your gravy should thicken. (Ah, the wonders of a roux.) Stir in the mushrooms and nutritional yeast. From here, you can add water as needed to keep the gravy from getting too thick. Add salt, pepper and the hot sauce(s) of your choice. I used Frank’s, Tabasco and Matouk’s Calypso Hot Sauce, which has been one of my obsessions since I discovered it while vacationing in the Bahamas a couple of years ago. Cook for a few more minutes and your sauce should start to darken. Stir the seitan (which is fully cooked) in for the last minute or so. Add the parsley off the heat.

Grits with Shiitake Seitan Gravy and Braised Collards

This recipe makes enough for two people. I just polished off half of it to steel myself for tonight’s birthday party. Given that the festivities are at a dive bar walking distance from my house, I imagine the second half will make an excellent breakfast.

Sweet & Sour Curried Chickpeas with Spinach

Sometimes just making it to Friday night seems like a Herculean feat. I came home bruised, battered, and hungry. While I had just about made my way through the Homemade Hummus from last weekend’s chickpea extravaganza, I still had a pint and a half of whole chickpeas left to consume. Today was bitterly cold and I found myself craving something warm and spicy.

Sweet & Sour Curried Chickpeas with Spinach

  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander
  • 1/2 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tablespoon whole fenugreek
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (Ghee or some sort of vegetable oil would be fine.)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 knob (large gumball sized) ginger, minced 
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1/2 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1/2 pound dried chickpeas, cooked, with liquid (You could use a couple of cans in a pinch, but the texture will suffer.)
  • 2 tablespoons dried tamarind (If my crappy grocery store has it, yours will too.)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • salt
  • 2 bunches fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  1. Bring the oil up to medium heat in a medium-sized heavy-bottom pot. Add the onion and sauté stirring frequently. After a few minutes, add the ginger and jalapeño. 
  2. Meanwhile, toast the cumin, coriander, fenugreek and peppercorns in a dry cast iron skillet, shaking frequently, until they begin to pop and release their smell. Grind these using a mortar and pestle or an electric grinder.
  3. Add the garlic to your onion mixture. Stir constantly for about one minute. Then add your ground toasted spices plus the turmeric and garam masala and continue stirring for one minute, allowing the spices to hydrate in the oil. 
  4. Add the chickpeas with their liquid, the tamarind, the sugar and a nice pinch of salt. (There is probably some dentist-approved way to handle the tamarind, but I just tore it into small pieces with my hands and then fished out whatever seeds I could spot as the fruit disintegrated into the sauce. I recommend doing a better job than I did, though I managed to avert a trip to Dr. Czarnik.) Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and let simmer for a while, adding water as needed.
  5. This is a good time to put some rice on. (While basmati would be traditional, I used some brown Jasmine rice, because that’s what I had, and added turmeric and salt.) When your rice is just about done, taste your chickpeas and adjust the seasoning with salt and sugar as needed. Then add the spinach in batches, stirring to speed the wilting process, and cook until the leaves are just tender.

The resulting meal was a delightful mashup of my favorite Indian takeout dishes. But, with no dairy and just a tablespoon of oil for about four servings, it was much lighter–which is a good thing when you need to buckle down and write a paper at the end of a very long week.

Sweet and Sour Curried Chickpeas with Spinach

Homemade Hummus

As previously reported, I spent six months studying in Jerusalem while in college. This was back in my vegetarian days, and Israel is a great place to be a vegetarian. While the majority of the Jewish population is secular, kosher tradition holds, meaning that most restaurants are either meat or dairy. On top of that, Middle Eastern food embraces legumes and vegetables.

Being the child of hippies, I’d already consumed a lifetime worth of chickpeas. But the hummus in Israel was a revelation–creamy, rich and flavorful–and I indulged with abandon. This came with a price; back in the States, I couldn’t bring myself to eat the lazily mashed canned chickpeas that my college cafeteria tried to pass off as hummus. Even in New York City, where I eventually settled, truly delicious hummus proved elusive.

At some point, hummus started popping up in Korean delis and the fancier cheese sections of grocery stores. I tested them all. Some were as bad as the salad bar glop of my coed days. Some were serviceable. But none were inspirational and, after a tub or two, I always reverted to making my own.

About ten years ago, by sheer accident, I found it: hummus like I remembered. It was a tiny shop just south of Washington Square Park and up half a flight of stairs. A couple of weeks later, over drinks, I announced to my buddy Alex that I had discovered Jerusalem-quality hummus right in the middle of Greenwich Village. Alex interrupted me to announce that he had, in fact, recently found the best hummus in New York City in the East Village. Already a couple of drinks into the evening, we proceeded to argue for the superiority of our individual hummus spots for what must have seemed an eternity to the people seated around us.

It turns out that we were arguing over the same hummus. Ori Apple, an Israeli who bemoaned the lack of good hummus in New York City, had opened the first two locations of Hummus Place just months apart. I am happy to report that, since then, a number of good hummus restaurants have opened around the city.

But I still enjoy making my own. While I don’t really have a fixed recipe, I have learned a few things over the past 20 years. First, and this is truly important, don’t use canned chickpeas. The texture and flavor will be off. Trust. Second, use good quality tahini. (I suspect that this may be the secret to Hummus Place’s magical concoction.) Third, use plenty of liquid. Finally, let the food processor run for longer than you think reasonable.

Here’s what I whipped up this afternoon, but feel free to make it your own. So long as you cook the chickpeas enough, it’s honestly hard to screw up hummus. Just keep tasting and tweaking.

Chickpeas

Jasmine’s Hummus

  • 1 pound dried chickpeas (or, if you are a sensible person, half that)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup tahini
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch curly parsley
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika
  • juice of 1 lemon (or a tablespoon or so of white wine vinegar in a pinch)
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sumac (optional)
  1. Before going to bed, dump the chickpeas into a bowl and add enough water to come at least a few inches above the beans. (You could look them over for rocks or odd-looking beans, but it’s late. You’re sure to spot anything amiss tomorrow when you are better rested.)
  2. In the morning–or whenever you are good and ready for a little procrastination–drain and rinse the beans. Add them to a large pot, top with plenty of water, toss in the peeled garlic and the red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let this go for an hour or so while you get back to whatever duties you have been shirking.
  3. Test the chickpeas. If they are tender, add a tablespoon or so of salt and then let them simmer for another 15 minutes. The water should taste fairly salty.
  4. Realize that you are in danger of making a truly obscene amount of hummus. Scoop half of the chickpeas and some of the liquid out. Refrigerate or freeze for future use (in a soup, stir-fry, curry, etc.).
  5. Dump the cooked garlic and the remaining chickpeas into your food processor, making sure to reserve the cooking liquid. Add the tahini, sweet and hot paprika, lemon juice, sumac (if you have some), plenty of black pepper, and whatever else your heart desires. Pour about half a cup of the cooking liquid in and process away. Let it run for five minutes or so, adding more liquid as needed to achieve a loose but not soupy consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

I ate this for dinner tonight, topped with a tangle of roasted broccoli rabe. Good stuff.

Hummus and Broccoli Rabe

Kale & Quinoa

I’m working from home today in a desperate bid to focus on the 300-page curriculum that needs to be edited by Friday. Fortunately, I picked up a new stash of CSA vegetables last night, so I had plenty of food on hand for my working-from-home lunch.

And so, in honor of National Kale Day, I present you with a recipe fit for ladies who lunch (in their sweatpants)…

Kale and Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic scapes or garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 2 sweet peppers, any color but dark green, diced
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 bunch kale, cut into thin strips
  • 1 bunch curly parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Thoroughly rinse the quinoa, add two cups of water, and bring to a boil along with a good pinch of salt. Lower heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until quinoa is tender and water is absorbed.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium low heat and add the onion, stirring frequently until soft and starting to brown. Then add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes before adding your peppers. Cook until the peppers are tender but still firm. Turn off the heat and add some salt and black pepper.
  3. Whisk the Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar and some black pepper in the bottom of a large bowl. Gradually whisk the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil into your dressing and then add the kale, stirring to ensure that each piece is coated.
  4. When the kale is just starting to wilt and the quinoa, peppers and onions have all cooled a bit, mix them together along with the parsley and sunflower seeds. Let sit for 20 minutes or until you need a copyediting break.

Kale and Quinoa Salad

This recipe makes enough for three or four lunches and is perfectly happy to marinate for a few days in the fridge. Double it and you’ve got a great contribution to a potluck picnic. I threw some halved cherry tomatoes on top for my lunch and may add some feta cheese when I have it for dinner.

Classic Bruschetta

As those who know me well know well, I rarely cook the same thing twice. I am constantly exploring and experimenting. I credit my parents for allowing me to do my own thing in the kitchen at a very early age. (Somewhere there is a photo of a four-year-old me standing naked on a chair preparing scrambled eggs.)

But this weekend I was reminded that classic dishes became classics for a reason.

After a stroll through Prospect Park (air cast be damned), I swung through the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket where, despite the CSA bounty overflowing my refrigerator, I couldn’t resist picking up Italian eggplant, basil, and Bread Alone‘s insanely delicious whole wheat sourdough. On my stroll home, I devised a plan to toast the bread, slather it in ricotta cheese, and top it with basil, fresh peaches, black pepper, and perhaps a drizzle of honey. While I have no doubt that this dish would be delicious, the thick mold on top of my ricotta forced me to make other plans.

(Fairly) Classic Bruschetta

  • 2 slices whole wheat sourdough or other good quality bread of your choosing
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped and sprinkled with salt
  • 10 basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar (optional)
  1. Bring half a tablespoon of olive oil up to medium heat in a cast iron skillet. Add the garlic and cook stirring constantly until just tender but not yet browned. Remove garlic to cutting board, lower heat a bit, and add your bread slices.
  2. While your bread toasts, finely chop the cooked garlic and combine with the tomato, basil, and remaining olive oil in a small bowl. Taste and add a little salt, pepper, and/or red wine vinegar as desired. (My tomato was far more sweet than acidic, so the vinegar balanced it nicely.)
  3. Flip your bread and toast the other side while your tomatoes macerate a bit. Assemble and enjoy.

Classic Bruschetta

The simplicity of this classic dish is what makes it so perfect. Tragically, I ate my last tomato when I prepared this on Saturday. Here’s hoping tomorrow’s CSA share brings another batch!

Grilled Edamame

I’m writing from my favorite sushi spot which, as luck would have it, is just a few blocks from my apartment. I worked my CSA shift tonight and, despite having just picked up two bags’ worth of glorious fruits and vegetables, hunger compelled me to stop off for some chirashi. The fish was great, as always, but the steamed edamame that came on my platter seemed like a sad afterthought.

This reminded me that I’d been meaning to post about grilled edamame. When last in Baltimore, I dined at a swanky Japanese restaurant with an exceptional happy hour. Edamame were a mere $1.88, so I figured I’d order some to soak up the mystery punch I was drinking. (When in doubt, order the punch.) The edamame that arrived were a revelation. After some liberal sampling, I hazarded that grilling was the key.

As luck would have it, a few days later, I found myself in a beach house with a grill…

Grilled Edamame

As with so many good recipes, this one starts with a cocktail or two. I leave that part up to you and your bartender of choice. Once everyone is good and liquored up, determine that someone should do something about dinner.

Oh wait, that someone is you.

Fortunately, you threw those t-bones in a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and a whole mess of garlic before you left for the beach this morning. But there are skewers to be soaked, vegetables to be cut, and shit, you’re almost out of olive oil. Dispatch one of your housemates to a neighboring rental house to scavenge.

In the meantime, pull the bag of edamame in their shells out of the freezer and toss them with whatever oil you have left, some black pepper, and that strange pre-mixed rib rub that seems to come with every beach house. You could defrost the edamame. You could make your own seasoning mix. But this is vacation cooking.

Fire up the grill, taking care not to do the same to your caftan. Noting the charred remains of asparagus, onions, and peppers that slipped through the cracks during previous evenings’ grilling adventures, retrieve the top portion of the broiler pan from the oven and stick it on the grill. When the grill is good and hot, spread the edamame across your makeshift vegetable basket, shut the lid, and sear away.

Discover that your housemate has returned from his mission with olive oil and a stockpile of wine that the folks in the other house didn’t think they could finish before their checkout tomorrow. Don’t mind if you do.

Open the grill and push your edamame around to get an even distribution of tasty charred bits. Note that the grill has mysteriously turned itself off. After attempting to relight the grill, conclude that you’ve run out of propane. Shut the grill and cross your fingers that the carryover heat will be adequate to finish these babies because, now that you think of it, you’re rather peckish.

Contemplate broiling the steaks in the oven. Discard that idea once it’s determined that another housemate is a couple of cocktails behind and can still drive to the big grocery store to exchange the propane tank. Pour yourself another glass of wine and check on the edamame. Lo and behold they are done. And they are good.

Grilled Edamame

Blueberries, Basil & Butter (Lettuce)

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.)
  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Blueberry SaladThis 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.

Garden Pea and Spring Onion Purée

This week’s CSA share brought green onions, also known as spring onions. While one can just use them in place of regular onions, I wanted to take advantage of their delicate flavor and natural sweetness. Shelled peas at the farmers market provided inspiration.

Garden Pea and Spring Onion Puree

Garden Pea and Spring Onion Puree

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh shelled peas
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
  • 2 spring onions, white parts diced and green parts reserved for future use (alongside radishes in a bulgur salad, for example)
  • 1 scape, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 6 mint leaves
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring a small pot of well-salted water to a boil and add the peas. Simmer for two minutes or so and then rinse quickly under cold water to stop the cooking. The peas should be bright green and still firm.
  2. Saute the spring onions in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil over medium-low heat, taking care not to let them brown. (You could use some other light oil, but the coconut oil really brings out the sweetness of the onions and the peas.) When your onions are wilted, add the scape and cook for a couple of additional minutes. Then crush and sprinkle in the Herbes de Provence, allowing the oil to rehydrate the dried herbs.
  3. Toss the onion mixture, the remaining tablespoon of coconut oil, the vinegar, the mint and all but a tablespoon of the peas into the food processor. Gradually add water until the mixture is just loose enough to catch on the blades. (I’d guess that I ended up using about 1/3 cup.) Add salt and pepper to taste and continue processing until you have an even texture but not a true purée.
  4. Stir in the remaining peas, garnish with a sprig of mint and serve with toast points. (I went with whole wheat sourdough sliced thinly and toasted in a cast iron skillet with a little coconut oil.)

I am happy to report that this pairs nicely with a semi-dry Riesling, gin and tonics with rhubarb simple syrup and a dash of orange bitters, or your morning coffee.

Rhubarb Gin and Tonic