EAT THIS: Talib’s Sunflower Shoot & Pear Salad

Sunflower Shoot and Pear Salad

Having worked ten hours on your feet on a Sunday, you may feel deserving of greasy takeout. But, fearing they might go to waste, you lugged an entire flat of sunflower shoots from Taqwa Community Farm home from today’s fundraiser. Harvest, rinse and dry as many as you think you can consume in a single sitting. Add some lemon juice, good quality olive oil, salt, pepper, a couple of sliced pears and some shaved parmigiano reggiano and you’ve got a lovely supper best enjoyed straight out of the bowl in your sweatpants, cat curled up next to you on the couch and Serge Gainsbourg crooning over the hi-fi.

Bulgur for Breakfast

I spent last weekend holed up in my apartment attempting to kick a cold. By Monday morning I was feeling well enough that I was able to maintain a smile throughout my 14-hour workday. By Tuesday evening I wasn’t feeling so hot. Somehow I made it through work and class on Wednesday, although the subway ride home from 125th Street was enough to convince me to cancel my meetings for the rest of the week.

And so I am once again holed up in my apartment. I alternate between furiously cranking out emails and dozing on the couch. You can guess which one of these activities Oona favors.

Oona Dozing

Ordinarily I try to lay in supplies when I feel an illness coming on, but this time around I have been making do with what I have on hand–which led me to the revelation that bulgur makes for a tasty breakfast porridge, particularly when combined with pears from last week’s CSA share and young ginger from the farmers’ market.

Ginger Pear Breakfast Bulgur

  • 1/2 cup bulgur
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • pinch salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1 small knob ginger, peeled and minced (candied ginger or even ground ginger would also work)
  • 2 small pears, cored and chopped
  • maple syrup

Add the bulgur, water, milk, salt, spices and fresh ginger to a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and toss in the pears. Continue simmering, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or so until you’ve achieved your preferred porridge consistency. (Don’t be afraid to add more water.) Scoop into a bowl and drizzle with a little maple syrup. 

Bulgur for Breakfast

Ordinarily I’m a savory breakfast fan, but this piping hot porridge full of spicy ginger did a nice job of clearing my head, at least momentarily.

EAT THIS: Hot Dog Bun French Toast

  
When you pulled a 14-hour day on your feet (during which you broke down an unfathomable number of cardboard boxes, donned a dress and lipstick in a public restroom, and talked to no less than 400 people), slept five fitful hours, and awoke thinking there’s no way you could possibly leave your house, reach for those week-old potato rolls left over from your birthday barbecue. Dip them in a mixture of egg, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, and a pinch of salt and fry them up over medium-low heat in a combination of butter and neutral cooking oil. Maple syrup is the obvious topping choice, but a little homemade pear, cranberry, habanero, and ginger chutney wouldn’t hurt. You just might survive this day.

Eggs Ovine

The growing season is in full swing, which means that I am spending a fair amount of my time visiting farmers’ markets and community gardens. Yesterday morning took me to one of my favorite spots in the city, East New York Farms.

East New York Farms

East New York Mural

I was home by 1:00pm, laden with produce grown at the farm and in neighboring community gardens. Couple this with my weekly CSA share and you get a refrigerator full of fresh, local, sustainably grown vegetables in danger of going straight into the compost bin.

Matthew and Clint helped me put a dent in my vegetable stash last night. We had a perfect summer supper that required minimal heat: bulgur salad with cucumber, tomato and scallion; hummus with spring onion tops and green garlic; sliced kohlrabi; toasted pita; and green beans topped with toasted walnuts, rye bread crumbs, mint and feta. We finished the meal off with blueberries and a few squares of dark chocolate. We also polished off the better part of a box of rose before heading over to First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum.

The museum was packed with happy Brooklynites of all ages. Deterred by the lines for the elevator, we made our way up several flights of stairs. Our reward was a glimpse of our friend Monica leading a pop-up talk in one of the galleries. We made plans for a drink later and headed on to The Rise of Sneaker Culture. The exhibit was hot, humid and very crowded. We were about to bail on the floor altogether when we stumbled into the delightful–if not particularly deep–FAILE: Savage/Sacred Young Minds.

Blacklight Foosball

Neon Selfie

After an aggressive round of black lit selfies and a video game in which one has to search for parking on the streets of NYC, we headed outside to cool off and plan our next move. We settled on Gold Star Beer Counter, which recently opened at the end of my block. Light, refreshing beers were in order.

A round in, Monica joined us. Voices were raised. Lists of 70s movies were made. Beads of sweat were mopped. Classic rock albums were played. An undisclosed number of pale ales, lagers and hefeweizens were consumed. At some point, the lovely woman behind the bar came over to graciously inform us that they had officially closed half an hour ago. And so we settled our tab and sauntered off into the thick summer night.

Needless to say, I did not brush my teeth before bed–and woke up craving a hearty breakfast.

Eggs Ovine

  • 1 tbsp butter (or bacon fat if you happen to have some sitting on the counter from yesterday’s breakfast BLT)
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or a pinch of red pepper flakes)
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese left by your cat sitters
  • 2 tbsp milk (as needed)
  • 1 large bunch lamb’s quarters (or baby spinach if that’s what you can get your hands on), stemmed and thoroughly rinsed
  • 1 ounce sheep’s milk feta, crumbled
  • salt and pepper
  • eggs and bread of some sort

Bring the butter up to medium heat in a small, heavy-bottomed pot and add the onion. Sauté, stirring regularly, until the onion is limp but not yet browned. Add the garlic and Aleppo pepper and cook stirring continuously for a minute or two more. Add the cream cheese and continue to stir until you have a thick soup. Add the lamb’s quarters in batches, allowing the hot liquid to wilt the greens. Add a little bit of milk if the mixture is too thick, but the lamb’s quarters will release liquid as they break down. Continue to simmer until you’ve reached the consistency of creamed spinach, stir in the feta until melted. Add a generous amount of pepper and some salt if you think it’s needed. Toast some bread, fry an egg, assemble and enjoy. 

Eggs Ovine

Raw Beet Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

I spent this past weekend down in Baltimore, where the heat index was in the triple digits. Baltimoreans are a hardy lot. And so I joined them in a series of outdoor concerts, cookouts and stoopside dance parties. At some point I gave up on apologizing as another kiss landed on my glistening cheek. Best to focus my energies on hydration.

Adequate sleep was not among the activities I managed to cram into my weekend. I dozed fitfully–my sweaty, sun-baked body lolling into the aisle as the Bolt But hurtled up I-95–and arrived home just in time to down some takeout before collapsing into bed.

The temperature dropped a bit today, but my body has yet to catch up. What is ordinarily a 10-minute walk to pick up my CSA share took me nearly double. By the time I got home, bags laden with green vegetables, I had lost all ambition to cook. Luckily, Farmer Fred excels when it comes to lettuce and I still had the beets from last week’s share. The salad below came together in less time that it took to eat it.

Raw Beet Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup whole milk yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
  • 1/4 preserved lemon
  • 3 medium beets
  • 2 tablespoons walnut pieces
  • 1 small head green leaf lettuce
  • 3 scallions
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  1. Whisk the first four ingredient together in a medium bowl and then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Finely chop the preserved lemon and add to the dressing.
  2. Using a mandoline, slice beets to 3/16″ thick. (If you don’t have a mandoline and your beets are small enough, a vegetable peeler will also do the trick.) Toss the beets with your dressing and let sit.
  3. Toast the walnut pieces, stirring frequently, in a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  4. Rinse and dry the lettuce. Thinly slice the scallions. Mince the cilantro. Toss everything together in a salad bowl and grab yourself a fork.

Raw Beet Salad with Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

EAT THIS: Arugala, Radish & Ricotta Salata

Rinse and dry the arugula you picked up in tonight’s CSA share. Toast some walnuts in a cast iron skillet. Thinly slice a radish or two. Shave and then crumble some Ricotta Salata. Whisk up a garlic scape vinaigrette. This is dinner without breaking a sweat, even when it’s 88 degrees and you’re too stubborn to turn on the AC.

Newfangled Vichysoisse

Like my musical appetite, my tastes in food are quite varied. I do my best to at least try everything once–quite an accomplishment given my vegetarian roots. Most things I like enough to try again. But there are a few dishes that just do not work for me.

I have an aversion to the knish, which is tragic given that I lived around the corner from Yonah Schimmel for a good chunk of my 20s. It is the rare gnocchi that turns my crank. The joy of a tamale has also proven elusive, though I did have one last year that made me rethink this stance. (It hailed from East Williamsburg and was stuffed with a generous portion of spicy cheese.)

I am not a big fan of starchy things, it seems. And if you must be starchy, you best not be bland.

CSA season is off to a slow start–no surprise given the miserable winter we had. The Sunday before last, in anticipation of my first pickup, I giddily cleared out my crisper by whipping up a massive batch of potato salad. Two days later, I collected lettuce, asparagus, leeks, beets, carrots, scallions and…more potatoes. Tonight’s share felt more springlike, with cucumber, cilantro, baby bok choy and sugar snap peas joining the asparagus, lettuce and leeks.

As I loaded my vegetables into the crisper, I was ashamed to realize that I hadn’t made a dent in last week’s storage crops. Compounding matters, I now had four giant leeks taking up the space normally reserved for beer.

Potatoes and leeks. The obvious choice is vichysoisse. But, being starchy and not particularly flavorful, this cold potato and leek soup doesn’t hold much allure for me. To quote Kanye: “We can make it better.”

Newfangled Vichysoisse

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 large leeks, white and light green portions chopped and thoroughly rinsed
  • 2 garlic scapes, sliced
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 8 cubes frozen concentrated chicken stock or 1 quart chicken stock of your choice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 3 tablespoons absinthe 
  • 1 cup good quality whole milk yogurt
  • salt
  • black and white pepper
  • chives for garnish
  1. Bring a large pot up to medium-low heat. Add the butter. When the foaming subsides, add the leeks and cook stirring regularly until limp and translucent (about 10 minutes), taking care not to let them brown. Add the scapes and cook for a few more minutes. Add the potatoes and continue to cook for a few more minutes. 
  2. Add the chicken stock, bay leaf and enough water to just cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, pop a lid on and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or so until the vegetables are quite tender. 
  3. Fish out the bay leaf. Add the absinthe, nutmeg, a generous pinch of salt, and plenty of black and white pepper. Pop the lid back on and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. 
  4. Remove from heat and add several ice cubes to cool your soup down and thin it out a bit. When cool enough that you are unlikely to cause injury, add the yogurt and purée using an immersion blender or in batches in a standard blender. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper.

If lunch is a distant memory, you can eat your Newfangled Vichysoisse lukewarm or even hot, but this soup really shines when served cold. (Just remember that, as with most cold foods, it may need more salt.) Either way, be sure to garnish with a generous sprinkle of snipped chives. I bet some rye croutons would be awesome too.

Newfangled Vichysoisse

Beluga Lentils with Lamb’s Quarters, Caramelized Red Onion & Feta

This weekend was full of good friends, glorious sun, and decadent meals. Highlights included a wonderful belated birthday dinner for Louis at Monument Lane (get the smoked potatoes!); a glorious birthday brunch for Sari at Maison Premiere (oysters, custom cocktails, and a delightfully flirtatious server); and Oriana’s amazing book launch party (featuring aerialists and a rousing performance by Hungry March Band–all in a very cool warehouse space/arts community mere feet from the Gowanus Canal). I ended the weekend with a lovely indoor cookout (alas, the sun did not hold) at Sean and Christie’s. I offered up potato salad in a bid to clear the crisper in preparation for the kickoff of CSA season tomorrow. 

The fun came to a screeching halt on this cold, and dark, and dreary Monday morning. I managed to get through the workday with the help of my lovely coworkers. But I did not manage to warm up. By the time I arrived home, I was craving something hot and nourishing. Good thing I stopped off at the farmers’ market Saturday morning.

Beluga Lentils with Lamb’s Quarters, Caramelized Red Onion & Feta

  • 1 cup beluga lentils
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch lamb’s quarters, large stems removed and roughly chopped (baby spinach would also work)
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1/2 lemon, juice and zest
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • salt and pepper
  1. Add lentils, two cups of water, the bay leaf, the red pepper flakes and a healthy pinch of salt to a small pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  2. Bring the olive oil up to medium-low heat in a small skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized.
  3. When the lentils are tender (about 25 minutes), turn off the heat and remove the bay leaf. Add the lamb’s quarters in batches, allowing the heat to wilt the greens. Stir in the caramelized onions, vinegar and lemon zest and juice and season to taste with pepper and additional salt. Sprinkle with feta before serving.

Beluga Lentils, Lamb's Quarters, Caramlized Red Onion and Feta

This plus a glass of Red Hook Winery‘s lusty 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and I was finally, mercifully warm.

EAT THIS: Grilled Asparagus & Chives with Fresh Ricotta

Asparagus, Chives, Ricotta & Breadcrumbs

Grill a bunch of asparagus, a handful of chives, and the heel of some stale whole wheat sourdough in olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Add salt, pepper, a nice dollop of ricotta, and the juice and zest of half a lemon. This would be great with a glass of Sancerre. It would be even better with a whole bottle. Alas, I paired mine with the budget justification for one of two federal grants due in less than 24 hours

Ramp, Feta & Mint Pizza

Having spent much of my week in meetings, I find myself home alone on Friday night desperately attempting to catch up on emails and a couple of writing projects. This is not as bad as it sounds when you consider the fact that I went a little overboard on the ramps during Monday’s farmers’ market expedition and had the foresight to pick up a ball of pizza dough on my way home this afternoon.

It seems that Friday night pizza is officially a thing.

Ramp, Feta & Mint Pizza

  • 10-12 ramps, dirty ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small ball pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 20 or so fresh mint leaves
  • salt and pepper
  1. Turn your oven up as high as it will go and remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator.
  2. Bring a large cast iron skillet up to medium heat with the butter. Add the ramps, placing the bulb ends in the skillet and draping the greens, which will cook faster, off the side. When the bulbs are starting to brown, flip the ramps over, When the other side has some color, slide the greens portions in as well. Flip one more time to cook the greens thoroughly, sprinkle with a little salt and set aside.
  3. Give the skillet a quick rinse and pop it in the oven. When the oven is pre-heated, remove the skillet and swirl a little olive oil inside. 
  4. Slowly stretch your dough into a circle approximately the size of your skillet by working your hands around the edges, pulling gently and allowing gravity to assist. Place the dough in the skillet, drizzle a little more olive oil on top and then spread the ricotta cheese in a layer. Add some black pepper, the ramps and the feta cheese. 
  5. Pop the pan in the oven and let cook for 7 to 11 minutes until the edges of the crust are browned. Sprinkle the hot pizza with the mint leaves before serving.

Ramp, Feta & Mint Pizza

This should probably be enough for two people, but I’m having a hard time resisting the half that’s sitting on my cutting board.