When last night’s birthday dinner somehow morphed into dancing until 4:00am but you still have to get up at a reasonable hour and put in a full day of work (yes, on a Sunday), consider bacon, kale sautéed in the bacon grease and slices of ripe avocado sandwiched between toasted sourdough bread slathered in mayonnaise and harissa
Every once in a while, generally in the dead of winter, I get an unbearable craving for salmon. Today was one of those days. Despite working late, I was determined to cook myself a nice piece of fish. Were it not for the brown rice that accompanied it, this meal could have been ready in about 30 minutes.
Blood Orange & Miso-Glazed Salmon
- 1 blood orange, zest and juice
- 1 tablespoon red miso
- 1 large marble-sized knob of ginger, grated
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Sriracha
- black pepper
- 1 12-ounce salmon filet (or two smaller pieces)
Preheat the over to 325. Combine the first six ingredients in a small bowl. Lay a piece of parchment paper in a baking dish,being sure to trim the sides if the piece is too big. (Trust me on this one; my dinner nearly went up in flames!) Rinse the salmon, pat dry and place skin side down on the parchment paper. Drizzle with half the glaze, letting it ooze over the sides, and pop it in the oven. After 10 minutes (less if it’s a thin filet), remove the pan, layer the salmon with the remaining glaze and pop it under the broiler. (Hint: you’ll know a few minutes in whether you did a good job of trimming the parchment.) Broil for 4-5 minutes until the glaze starts to caramelize but the fish is still very tender.
This pairs beautifully with sautéed shiitake mushrooms, purple kale and swiss chard. Add sliced garlic, slivered ginger and chopped scallions for the last few minutes of cooking and then drizzle with soy sauce and sesame oil just before serving.
A sore throat and persistent headache sent me home early today. I had a hunch I might not be leaving my house for a day or so. On my way home I swung by the grocer to grab ginger, chicken broth, chicken thighs, escarole and milk for tomorrow’s coffee.
For lunch I whipped up a quick soup by simmering the chicken in broth along with some chopped ginger. When the chicken was cooked through, I pulled it out and added soba noodles. Just before serving, I added the meat (now shredded) along with escarole, soy sauce, scallions, cayenne pepper, cilantro and a few drops of sesame oil.
For a brief moment I could breathe clearly and my throat did not ache.
I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on email and dialing in to various meetings. At some point I managed to knock a nearly full bottle of red wine from the kitchen counter while attempting to make myself a cup of tea.
Naturally, I did not have any paper towels in the house. Cleanup was quite a chore, as was extracting the glass shard that lodged itself under my pinky nail.
By the time I finished, my stomach was growling. I was craving something spicy that would again offer temporary relief from what I am praying is just a cold. I debated making another bowl of soup, but then I flashed on Friday’s late night Indian takeout, which was truly awful. I swear one of the dishes was a can of chickpeas with some curry powder and vegetable oil stirred in and then heated in the microwave.
Surely I could do better with whatever ingredients I had on hand.
- 1/2 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
- 1/2 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
- 1 cup plain whole milk yogurt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 5 garlic cloves
- 1 knob ginger (about the size of your thumb, unless you have monster hands), chopped
- juice of 1 lime (or a Meyer lemon if that’s what you happen to have on hand)
- salt and pepper
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon ghee (or butter or vegetable oil of some sort)
- 1 bunch kale, large stems stripped, roughly chopped
- 1 pinch sugar
- 1 medium red onion, sliced pole to pole
- cilantro (if you got it)
- Toast the cumin and coriander in a dry cast iron skillet, shaking frequently, until they give off an earthy aroma and darken a bit. Add these along with the yogurt, cayenne, garam masala, turmeric, garlic, ginger, lime juice, a healthy pinch of salt and some black pepper to the small work bowl of your food processor and let run for several minutes. Stir this in with the chicken thighs in a bowl, cover and refrigerate until you decide that you really need to eat. (Overnight would be awesome, but mine sat for about an hour and it was still damn tasty.)
- Bring a cast iron skillet up to medium-high heat with the ghee. Fish the chicken thighs out with a fork, allowing the excess marinade to fall back into the bowl before you place them in the skillet. When the thighs begin to brown, flip them over and baste with the pan juices. Flip back and forth a couple of times continuing to baste. Don’t worry too much about the crust that’s forming (provided your pan is well seasoned).
- Meanwhile, scrape the leftover marinade into a small saucepan and bring up to medium-high heat. Add the kale in batches, along with a cup or so of water and a pinch of sugar. Let this continue to boil, adding water if needed. (You’re aiming for something approximating spicy creamed spinach.) You may opt to add additional salt, pepper or cayenne as indicated.
- When the chicken thighs are done, set them aside and give the pan a good scrape, transferring the crusty bits to your simmering kale. Add the red onion to your skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until limp and nicely charred in spots. Cilantro would be awesome to finish the dish. Alas, I tossed it all into my chicken soup.
If I were serving this for company, I would have made a pot of Basmati rice. Instead, I packed half away for tomorrow and added a dollop of mango chutney.
You know what would have been good with this meal? A nice glass of red wine. Sigh.
Yesterday morning I met a film crew at Walt L. Shamel Community Garden to discuss the future of food and the importance of community self-determination.
There aren’t enough layers in the world to make two hours of standing around in 10-degree weather pleasant. A full 36 hours later, I was still craving something warm and comforting. As luck would have it, my evening meeting was canceled, affording me my first night at home in over a week. Even better, kale and squash from Saturday’s CSA share were waiting for me.
Pasta with Lacinato Kale & Creamy Delicata Squash
- 1 delicata squash
- 1 small red onion
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 refreshing beer of your choice
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons crème fraîche (or sour cream or whatever other recently expired dairy products you have on hand)
- 1/2 tablespoon honey vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- salt and pepper
- 3 ounces spaghetti or any other pasta that suits your fancy
- 1 large handful lacinato kale, stripped of its stems
- Set the oven to 450. Cut off the tips of your squash, slice it down the middle and scoop out the innards. Toss this in a baking dish along with a sliced red onion. Drizzle on a tablespoon or two of olive oil and pop it in the oven. (Sure, you could wait for the oven to properly pre-heat but, let’s face it, you’re hungry in the way one can only be in the depths of winter.)
- Crack open a beer, change into some sweatpants, and search online for a recap of Season Four of Downton Abbey because, damn, you can’t seem to remember a thing.
- After 15 minutes or so, strip the rosemary and stir the needles in with the onions, give the whole pan a good shake, and pop it back in the oven. Now would be a good time to set a pot of salted water to boil.
- When the squash is tender, pop it into the small work bowl of your food processor along with the crème fraîche, nutmeg, vinegar and a good dose of salt and pepper. Run the food processor, scraping down the sides and adding a little water if needed, while you tend to the rest of your meal.
- When the water boils, add the pasta. Scoop the onions and rosemary into the food processor and run a couple more minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt and pepper. A few minutes before your pasta is done, add the kale to the boiling water.
- Scoop the squash mixture into a small mixing bowl, add the kale and pasta along with a bit of the cooking water, and toss to combine.
Half an hour after you walked in the door, you’ll be sitting down to a healthy, hearty and seasonal meal…and Season Five of Downton Abbey.
Sunday was my final day of a much-needed break. After four months of going hard at my new job, I was desperate for a little physical and mental recovery time. I took a few long walks, drank more than my fair share of a wide variety of adult beverages, watched some movies, caught up with dear friends, halfheartedly read a book, organized my apartment, did a little yoga, cooked and was cooked for, and generally tried to live a life of leisure. Needless to say it all went by a little faster than expected.
I spent my last day of vacation reading, napping and making a big vat of beans and greens to get me through what was promising to be a long, dark and cold workweek.
Braised Kale & Cannellini
- 1 pound cannellini, soaked overnight and for up to two days
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 ounces guanciale, cubed
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup white wine
- 4 cubes frozen chicken stock
- 4 carrots, diced
- 1 parmesan or romano rind (optional, but oh so good)
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 6 sprigs thyme
- 1 large bunch kale, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper
- Bring the olive oil up to medium heat in a large dutch oven. Add the guanciale and cook stirring frequently until it is partially rendered. Add the onions and continue stirring until the onions are nicely browned. Add the red pepper flakes and garlic and cook for another minute or two.
- Add the wine, chicken stock, carrots, cheese rind, fresh herbs and enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let this go for an hour or so while you take a nap with the cat. Give it a stir, add a little water if needed, and let it go for at least another hour, during which time you might consider another nap.
- When the beans are cooked but still a little al dente, add the kale, red wine vinegar and a generous portion of salt and pepper. Pop the lid on and cook for at least another half hour, but no harm in letting it go quite a bit longer given the toothsome nature of winter kale. (A third nap would be excessive, right?) Season with additional salt, pepper or red wine vinegar as you see fit.
I ended up serving this to my travel-weary sister Hannah and her husband Rick along with thick slices of whole wheat sourdough toasted in a generous pour of olive oil–an ideal vehicle for soaking up the rich broth. I finally persuaded my nephew to try one of the beans. Let’s just say that Wally was not a fan.
Later we all piled into the car to travel the mile and a half to where Hannah and Rick would be spending the very first night in their new house. While his parents struggled to make the place habitable, Wally and I read stories amidst the cardboard boxes in his new bedroom and played a modified version of beer pong using a tape ball left by the painting crew.
At some point, Wally dragged a pillow into the middle of the living room and curled up with his blanket.
I knew just how he felt. I got home just in time to pack up the leftover food and climb into bed. Come Monday, this hearty stew made for a nice lunch whilst hunkered over my keyboard desperately trying to get a series of spreadsheets to bend to my will. Yep, vacation is over.
Try as I might to plow through Saturday’s beef stew (including toting a container to a holiday party, which made for a rather unconventional hostess gift), I still have two servings left. It is delicious, but I am over it. As luck would have it, the seafood shop in my neighborhood decided to open on a Monday to accommodate holiday shoppers–and those of us that just needed a boost at the end of a cold, dark and drizzly day.
Apple Cider-Braised Mussels with Kale & Bacon
- 1 slice good quality smoky bacon, diced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 small red onion, sliced
- 1 small pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 small bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
- 1 cup apple cider
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 pound mussels
- salt and pepper
Bring a large pot that has a matching lid up to medium heat. Add the bacon and cook stirring frequently, until mostly rendered but not yet crispy. Add the butter, stir until melted, and then add the onion and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook for five minutes or so, allowing the onions to soften and brown in places. Stir the kale in until wilted. Turn heat to high. Add the cider, vinegar, a good pinch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Bring to a boil. Add the mussels, top with the lid and let cook for four minutes. Remove the lid and give a stir. If some of the mussels are still closed, leave the lid off and let boil for a minute or two longer.
Serve this in a low bowl with a hunk of Runner & Stone‘s crusty baguette to soak up the luscious broth. Be prepared to fight your increasingly aggressive cat for the last mussel.
This was a very, very long week. I left the office late on Friday and met up with a friend for dinner, drinks and some mutual commiseration. I was feeling a bit better after shrimp-stuffed bacon-wrapped jalapeño peppers and a couple of mezcal, Campari and red vermouth concoctions. We headed down to Film Forum for the late showing of Vertigo. The theater was mysteriously empty, so I did not feel compelled to jab Louis when he started to snore softly next to me. Like I said, it was a rough week.
We emerged a couple of hours later into what felt alarmingly like winter. Louis walked me to the subway station. Two hours, three trains and a walk across Lower Manhattan later (I do not recommend taking the 2/3 this weekend), I arrived home, filled the humidifier and burrowed under the covers. I should be catching up on work emails. I should be completing the work from my summer course. I should be hauling the compost to the farmers’ market. I should be cleaning my apartment.
Instead, I made breakfast.
Kale & Leek Croque-Madame
- 1/2 tablespoon butter plus enough to fry an egg
- 2 heaping tablespoons minced leek
- 1/2 tablespoon flour
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 1/2 cup finely chopped kale (You could blanch this first, but I like my greens toothsome and a bit bitter.)
- 2 pieces bread (I went with a nice, hearty whole grain.)
- 1 egg
- salt and pepper
- Melt the butter in a small pot over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the flour and whisk continuously for a minute or two. Add the milk, mustard and nutmeg and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently. Gradually add the kale and keep whisking. Let cook for five minutes or so until the mixture thickens to a paste and the kale has wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Toast the bread under the broiler. Divide your kale-leek béchamel (that’s right, you just made a béchamel!) evenly between the two pieces of bread and pop under the broiler for a couple of minutes while you fry an egg. Place the egg on top of your béchamel-slathered toast and you’re good to go.
If I accomplish nothing else, I will still consider today a success.
Toss lacinato kale with pear, clothbound cheddar, scallion, olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and dinner’s ready in less time than it takes to decide what to order–leaving you with the whole evening to contemplate the pain of this week over unremarkable whiskey and a movie you’re barely watching.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
- Place bread slices into pan and allow to toast, flipping as needed, while you go about the next steps.
- 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.
This not the refrigerator of someone about to leave the country for two weeks.
I am weak in the face of the season’s bounty. Having already overbought at last Saturday’s greenmarket, Tuesday found me dashing home to Brooklyn after work to collect my first CSA share of the season before hopping a train back into the city for four hours (seriously) of Alison Krauss and Willie Nelson at Radio City Music Hall. I’ve done my best to eat my way through all of these vegetables, but that’s a tall order when you’re pulling a 60-hour week.
Late Wednesday I made myself a salad of red leaf lettuce, radishes, strawberries, scallions and fresh herbs. This was damn pretty, but didn’t quite come together flavor-wise. Had I to do it over again, I’d eliminate the radishes and let some of the strawberries macerate in the dressing for a bit before assembling the salad.
Thursday night found me at yet another work event. I wrapped my week and celebrated the beginning of a much-needed two-week vacation with swanky hotel bar cocktails and some down and dirty Indian food.
I awoke this morning determined to get through my stockpile of vegetables in the 32 hours before my departure for the airport. Noting that I still had almost a full pint of luscious (and decidedly not cheap) goat milk yogurt, I started the day with this Greek-inspired kale salad. A latte and a hard-boiled egg left over from last weekend’s potato salad extravaganza made it breakfast.
Greek-Style Kale Salad
- 1/4 cup good quality plain yogurt
- pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 garlic scape, sliced into thin disks (or a little minced garlic)
- 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or a pinch of red pepper flakes)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano (half as much fresh would be great if you have it)
- 1 bunch lacinato kale, cut into 1/2″ shreds
- 1/2 cup cherry or grape seed tomatoes, halved
- 4 scallions, white and light green portions thinly sliced
- 10-15 kalamata olives, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon of the good olive oil
Combine the first seven ingredient in a small jar, shake vigorously and let sit while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Add the olive oil and give it another good shake. Add everything to a bowl, toss to combine and let sit for 15 minutes or so until kale begins to wilt and take on a glossy color.
Those ill-fated radishes would have been great here, as would a little sliced cucumber. But it was still a damn tasty breakfast.