Desperately Seeking Spring: A Tartine

We are betwixt and between.

The daffodils are in full bloom, but only on the sunnier side of my block. At some point last week I nearly fainted on the train wearing my mid-weight jacket, but yesterday I froze waiting for the bus in a raincoat and scarf. Tax day is right around the corner, but the radio persists in claiming that we are getting snow flurries today. My Facebook feed is teeming with recipes for asparagus, nettles and ramps, but the farmers’ market is full of aged root vegetables and desultory dark greens.

I awoke early this morning to discover that I was out of milk for my morning coffee, providing extra motivation to get my ass out of the house. I swung by my local coffee shop and proceeded to the farmers’ market. My first stop was the compost collection station, where I chatted with a lovely woman about the shocking number of pineapples that people seem to consume. She informed me that next week there will be a compost giveback. “Unfortunately, I don’t have any outdoor space,” I replied. Turns out you can use compost in your houseplants. I suspect my tenacious snake plant and aloe will appreciate the gesture, provided they don’t die from the shock of it all.

I bid adieu to my new friend and set off gleefully in search of the ramps that I was sure would be mine all mine given the early hour. Alas, there were none to be found. I quickly regrouped, resolving to find the freshest, prettiest things at the market—and consume them all in a breakfast that would gird me for a day spent opening a year’s worth of mail in preparation to do my taxes.

Desperately Seeking Spring: A Tartine

  • 1/2 watermelon radish, thinly sliced (a mandolin or vegetable peeler is helpful here)
  • 1 tablespoon good quality white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fancy pants lemon-infused olive oil that you bought in a covetous moment (or some regular old extra virgin olive oil and a little lemon zest and juice)
  • pinch sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 4-inch section of baguette, split (or whatever bread you have on hand)
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 handfuls pea shoots (or whatever other fresh, springy greens you can get your hands on)

Combine the vinegar, oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl and toss with the radish slices. Let sit 20 minutes or so, flipping every so often. Spread ricotta onto the baguette and top with your quick-pickled radish slices. Toss the pea shoots in the remaining liquid and pile next to your tartine. Drizzle whatever is left over the top and enjoy.

Watermelon Radish and Ricotta Tartine

 

Green(s) Eggs & Ham

I took today off of work to catch up on the rest of my life. So far I have researched and made a long overdue appointment with an orthopedist, done a sinkful of dishes, written a cranky letter about my expensive and poorly constructed phone case, and given the cat some much-needed love.

My afternoon will be devoted to a gendered analysis of Lucky Peach. But, before tucking into a pile of cooking magazines, I needed a little sustenance. Luckily, I still had some excellent ham on hand from last week’s Easter supper at Sara and Chris’s place. (If you don’t know Heritage Meats USA, you should.)

Green(s) Eggs & Ham

  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 ounces ham, cut into small cubes
  • 2-3 handfuls kale, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

Bring a small nonstick skillet up to medium heat with the oil. Add the ham and cook for five minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add the kale in batches and continue cooking until it’s wilted but still has a little bite. Stir in some salt and pepper, lower the heat and scoot everything to the side of the pan. Crack two eggs directly into the pan and add the butter. Stir continuously, scraping at the sides until the eggs become opaque but are still runny. Add some salt and pepper and, when the eggs are just about done, take off of the heat and mix in with the ham and kale.

Green(s) Eggs Ham

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

Kale & Smoked Salmon Nicoise Salad

My last day off was in February. I am told that yesterday’s conference was a big success, but it’s a bit hard to hear through the haze of exhaustion. I slept 9 1/2 hours last night and woke up achy and somewhat remorseful for last night’s lackluster takeout nachos.

There’s a steady rain thrumming against the window air conditioning unit, making me thankful to be holed up in my apartment in my favorite sweatpants, The Smiths on the stereo and a neglected cat by my side. Lunch was clearly going to have to be assembled from ingredients I had on hand.

Kale & Smoked Salmon Nicoise Salad

  1. Hard boil an egg according to your preferred method–or mine. (While you’re at it, why not boil a few more for mid-week breakfasts?) 
  2. Boil a handful of small potatoes in salted water until a butter knife slides in easily.
  3. Rinse and dry a few of handfuls of kale
  4. Whisk the juice of half a lemon with a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a healthy pinch of salt, a small pinch of sugar and plenty of black pepper. Gradually whisk in a couple of tablespoons of good quality olive oil. Mince a shallot and add this as well.
  5. Toss the kale with your dressing and let stand while your egg and potatoes cool. (If you don’t have a nasty cut on your forefinger from god-only-knows-what, you might consider using your hands to really massage the dressing into the kale. I opted to use the back of a spoon to get the job done.)
  6. Top the kale with halved potatoes, quartered eggs, an ounce or two of smoked salmon and those olives that have been lurking in the fridge since your blizzard dinner party.

Kale Smoked Salmon Nicoise

EAT THIS: Pea Shoots, Red Onion & Gruyere

Pea Shoots Red Onion Dairyere

You (and your gallbladder) haven’t really lived until you’ve found yourself seated across from the ever-so-sweet and astoundingly skilled Billy Durne of Hometown Bar-B-Que as he hand picks the choicest slices of brisket for you. If you have any hope of recovering before next week’s Brisket King 2016, consider a simple salad of red onion quick pickled in lemon juice, olive oil and salt and tossed with Evolutionary Organics‘ pea shoots and Cato Corner Farm‘s incomparable Dairyere.

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

Bacon, Egg & Kale Sandwich (with a side of BBQ)

I flew in Wednesday morning from a glorious four days in Austin. The highlight , hands down, was our pilgrimage to Franklin Barbecue. It’s not every friend who, in the midst of a margarita-soaked vacation, will rally at 7:30 in the morning to wait in a three-hour line for barbecue. But Beth was game.

Franklin Barbecue Line

The Texans had fancy folding chairs, card tables and coolers. The New Yorkers had a square of pavement and repurposed water bottles full of pre-batched cocktails. A lovely ponytailed man circulated through the line providing information, encouragement and cold beers. They stopped taking orders for pulled pork a few parties before ours. I was disappointed, but had to admit that the solo woman at the very front of the line toting a giant suitcase and pounding away on a laptop clearly deserved it more than I did. I take my hat off to you, ma’am.

The line started moving right at 11:00 as promised. By 11:30, we were hefting a massive tray of meat onto a picnic table on the porch. Turns out we made the cut for pulled pork (and brisket and ribs and smoked turkey).

Franklin Barbecue

While we made a valiant attempt, Beth and I failed to finish the insane quantity of meat that we ordered. Luckily, there was plenty of butcher paper to wrap our leftovers, which Beth reports that she ate the next morning while waiting for her flight to board. (I told you she was the real deal.)

At some point the line attendant (a.k.a. my new favorite person) stopped by our table to check in. I reported that the brisket was the best I had ever had. And I’ve had a lot of brisket. We talked technique for a while and then he instructed us to hang out near an unmarked door. Ten minutes later, the door swung open and he ushered us into a room full—and I do mean full—of smokers.

Franklin Smokers

The smell was intoxicating and hard to describe. More subtle than the usual woodsmoke, I could swear I detected notes of bay leaf. We chatted with the guy working the smokehouse, who reports that they keep the smokers going 24 hours a day. The room was warm but not overpoweringly so, though I imagine this is different come August. At some point, we stumbled outside and summoned a car to the Barton Springs Pool, where we promptly passed out in the sun.

A day later I was back in frigid New York City and taking a break from meat. By Friday night I had recovered enough to simmer some calypso beans with smoked hog jowl. This morning found me hitting the farmers’ market to drop off a good 20 pounds of compost and pick up some milk, eggs, bacon, bread and kale. I didn’t really have a plan, save for bringing green things back into my diet.

Just as I walked in the door, I got a text from Beth along with a drawing made by her son Benjamin.

Benjamin's Drawing

Benjamin is a boy after my own heart. I have written previously about the wonder that is the egg and cheese on a roll. But today I decided to switch it up a bit.

Bacon, Egg & Kale Sandwich

Bring a large cast iron skillet up to medium-low heat with one slice of thickly cut bacon. (You can’t got wrong with Flying Pigs Farm.) Flip the bacon a couple of times and remove when it reaches your desired crispness. Add a handful of tough winter kale, rinsed and de-stemmed. Let the kale cook until nicely browned around the edges. Meanwhile, bring a small cast iron skillet up to medium-low heat with a pat of butter. Flip the kale and brown the other side. Season with salt and pepper and slide to the side of your pan. Add a couple of pieces of your favorite bread (Bread Alone‘s San Francisco Sourdough perhaps) and toast on both sides. Crack an egg into the smaller pan. Flip the egg and cook to your desired doneness. Assemble you sandwich as follows: bread, kale, egg, salt and pepper, bacon, more bread. 

Bacon Egg and Kale Sandwich

Now that was easy.