Asparagus, Ramp & Feta Matzo Brei

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

Beer for Dinner

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

Ramps

Asparagus, Ramp & Feta Matzo Brei

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

Asparagus Ramp Feta Matzo Brei

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

Asparagus Ramp Feta Matzo Brei Closeup

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.

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.

Whole Wheat Penne with Squid, Tomato & Feta

I started my new job yesterday. While having so much to do and so little knowledge of how to do it is intimidating (it will be a small miracle if I ever master our phone system), I am really excited about the work and the people.

I am not, however, stoked about the location. After 14 years of working in the heart of Greenwich Village, I find myself on 43rd Street and Avenue of the Americas. Yesterday’s lunch was a couple of so-so vegetarian empanadas from a cart, consumed while rushing in between meetings. Today I braved the touristic hordes in Times Square on the hunt for a healthy and delicious lunch. The place I had sussed out online turned out to be tiny and not all that. I am mystified by the lack of even a basic grocery store in the area (and really, really need to remember to bring almonds and dried fruit from home).

It seems I will be packing my lunch with far greater frequency than I have in the past. This is not a bad thing, but it will take a certain amount of forethought, particularly given that I am not much of a morning person.

I left work late but determined to cook enough of something to get me through Friday. The lovely and sustainably-minded Mermaid’s Garden was about to close up shop by the time I emerged from the subway. I grabbed a pound of their succulent Carolina White Shrimp to stash in the freezer for a future food emergency and scanned the counter for something to pair with the insane quantity of tomatoes I picked up from my CSA last night.

The squid from Rhode Island was only $5 a pound. Squid is generally economical, but this seemed too good to be true. Turns out it was not cleaned. The nice folks behind the counter assured me to that it wasn’t hard–separate the cap from the rest, slice off the tentacles just below the eyes, remove the plasticky hard thing (there’s probably a name for it) and, if you feel like it, peel off the skin. They assured me I could find YouTube videos if I got stuck and sent me on my way with a lemon (a charming touch).

Uncleaned Squid

I am here to report that cleaning squid is, in fact, just as easy as promised–which is a good thing since there was no way I was going to try to stream a tutorial with my hands covered in ink and guts. Less than an hour after walking in my front door, I was sitting down to this delicious dish while my lunch for the rest of the week cooled on the counter. 

Whole Wheat Penne with Squid, Tomato & Feta

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium green pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces cleaned and sliced squid (about 1 pound pre-cleaning)
  • 3 large, very ripe tomatoes (or 1 15-ounce can)
  • 1/4 cup white wine (or ouzo if you happen to have it)
  • 8 ounces dried whole wheat pasta
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  • fresh herbs (if you got ’em)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Place a pot of generously salted water over high heat. Bring a large skillet up to medium heat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and browned around the edges. Add the green pepper and continue cooking and stirring until softened. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook stirring continuously for another minute or so until it smells amazing. Once your pot of water comes to a boil, add the pasta.
  2. Slide the peppers and onions to the edge of your skillet and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil followed by the squid. Cook stirring constantly for a minute or two until the flesh is just opaque. Turn the heat all the way up and add the tomatoes, wine and a good measure of salt and pepper. When your pasta is still a couple of minutes from being done, use a slotted spoon to transfer it directly into the squid and tomatoes to finish cooking. Remove from the heat and stir in the feta, allowing it to melt a bit and thicken your sauce. If you have some fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, basil or mint), now would be a great time to add those as well.

Penne Squid Tomato Feta

Fava Bean, Mint & Feta Dip

A week after returning home, I’m still on a bit of a bread bender. Having polished off the last of my Parisian stash on Friday, I found myself tucking in my desk chair at 5:45 this evening in order to make it to the Union Square Greenmarket before the good people of Bread Alone packed up for the day. Once I had a quarter loaf of their excellent organic French sourdough stashed in my tote, I was free to roam. I told myself I didn’t need anything else, as I still had vegetables left over from last week and another CSA share arrives tomorrow. But a giant bag of fava beans was just three dollars. And wouldn’t some fresh mint (at two dollars for a nicely sized bouquet) be just the thing to make the favas’ green and slightly nutty flavor pop? And who can pass up tender young garlic?

Fava Bean, Mint & Feta Dip

  • enough fava beans in pod to fill your salad spinner (Sorry, I have no idea what they weighed.)
  • four cloves garlic – the younger, the better
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • small handful of mint leaves
  • 1/2 tablespoon Aleppo pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 ounces feta
  1. Set a small pot of water to boil, crack open a cold beer and get to work popping the fava beans out of their pods. The technique is similar to shelling peas. It will get easier as you go, I promise. The beer helps.Shelling Fava Beans
  2. By the time you shell your final bean, the water should be boiling. Add a generous pinch of salt as well as the beans. Peel the garlic and toss this in as well. Let boil until the beans are tender, approximately five minutes, then strain into a collander and rinse with cold water.
  3. Remove the garlic and dump the beans into a food processor. Pulse several times until you have a coarse mixture. Remove approximately half of the beans. Add the garlic, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, mint, Aleppo pepper, and salt and pepper. Puree until smooth, taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Stir in the coarsely ground beans and crumbled feta. 

This would make a great hors d’oeuvre served on small crostini or with pita points for dipping. I stashed about half in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s lunch and ate the rest slathered on toasted slices of that Bread Alone sourdough while watching the sun set from the roof of my building. With the temperature hovering around 90 degrees at 8:00pm, this made an ideal supper.

Fava Bean Mint and Feta Dip

Summer Squash & Kale Bruschetta

I arrived home in the wee hours of Tuesday morning after a truly amazing study trip to Paris. Eighteen of us spent two weeks examining the performance of Frenchness through food. As you might imagine, we ate quite a bit in the process. We did not, however, encounter fresh vegetables in the quantity that Food Studies scholars are accustomed to eating. By day four, we were all obsessing about dark leafy greens, which were nowhere to be found.

What we did encounter was bread. There were crusty baguettes from the anarchist collective, rustic country loaves steeped in a studied old world charm, slender and elegant ficelles, impossibly buttery croissants a mere three blocks from our uninspired hotel, luscious eggy brioches encased in glass bells, and a particularly memorable seed-encrusted whole wheat loaf that we consumed in an impromptu picnic on the steps of the Musee d’Orsay.

But one bread emerged as the clear winner. My final day in Paris found me stashing my suitcase in a locker and (finally) mastering the bike share system with a single goal. I traveled from the 15th to the 10th arrondissement to purchase a hunk of Du Pain et Des Idees‘ sublime pain des amis.

Du Pain et Des Idees

As those who have had occasion to dine with me know, I’m not much of a bread eater. It can be helpful for transporting sandwich fillings into your mouth or sopping up egg yolk, but I prefer to take my cheese straight, or perhaps with a crisp apple slice. Bread fills space in one’s stomach that could be devoted to more tantalizing fare. Or so I thought before I encountered pain des amis. This nutty, toothsome loaf with its confounding bacon aroma is good all by itself. It is even better, I have learned, toasted in a dry cast iron skillet.

Pain des Amis

The pain des amis and I survived a rather harrowing bike ride on some of Paris’ main thoroughfares, a painfully expensive taxi to Charles de Gaulle airport, a troubling but comical security encounter involving two kilos of artisanal flour, a missed connection in London, a delayed flight, and an even pricier cab ride home from Newark (which was not our intended destination).

Staying awake until a suitable bedtime was about all I was good for on Tuesday. (Well, that and some cat cuddling.) I headed out around 5:30 to pick up my weekly CSA share and nearly wept at the site of all those vegetables. I had some truly spectacular food in Paris. I did not, however, encounter any kale. I returned home eager to introduce my pain des amis to all of this fresh produce.

CSA Vegetables

Summer Squash & Kale Bruschetta

  • 2 scallions
  • 3 thin slices good bread
  • 1 medium summer squash
  • 5 stalks purple kale
  • 1 ounce feta cheese
  • 6 basil leaves (mint or parsley would also be great)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon (zest and juice)
  • pinch Aleppo pepper (or a little less red pepper)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring a cast iron skillet up to medium low heat with half a tablespoon of olive oil. Trim and reserve the dark green portion of the scallions. Slice the white and light green portions lengthwise into strips. Cook, flipping occasionally, until limp and starting to brown. Sprinkle with salt and remove from pan.
  2. Place bread slices into pan and allow to toast, flipping as needed, while you go about the next steps.
  3. Using a vegetable peeler, shave long ribbons of summer squash into a small bowl. Slice the kale as you would for a slaw and add this to the bowl along with the feta, remaining olive oil, lemon juice and lemon zest, Aleppo pepper, and salt and pepper. Mince the scallion greens and fresh herbs. Add these plus the cooked scallions. Stir to combine and let sit for at least five minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

If you were serving this as an hors d’oeuvre, I would recommend piling the kale and squash salad onto small pieces of toast and serving immediately. I went for a deconstructed bruschetta, which ensured that the bread didn’t get soggy before I ate it.

Summer Squash and Kale Bruschetta