Chorizo, Chickpeas, Clams & Potatoes

Time is galloping. My thesis is plodding.

I have two days left in which to spit it all out on paper–or, rather, onto the screen. This is an internal deadline, but one that is crucial to my mental health. I have promised myself that, if I can bang out a serviceable rough draft by the time I make my presentation on Tuesday, I can take a couple of days off to reconnect with the world before I buckle down and finish my damn degree.

I started this blog five years (minus six days) ago, when I had been admitted into the master’s degree program in Food Studies at NYU. I was giddy, impatient and somewhat terrified at the prospect of being back in the classroom after 16 years. Would I be the oldest one there? Did I remember how to write an academic paper? How would I find my classroom? Had my study skills miraculously improved over the past couple of decades? Did I need a new set of crayons and a protractor? Would I ever figure out the newfangled computer systems?

It’s strange to look back at those first entries and glimpse an earlier version of myself. A lot has happened in the intervening years. I passed 40 and kept right on aging. I left my job as Executive Director of one nonprofit organization in order to lead another. I left that organization and struck out on my own as a consultant and teacher. I lost the tiny and impossibly sweet cat that had been with me since my early years in New York City and gained a bolder, fluffier model. I wrote a lot of papers. I took an unexpected departure into art and performance. I chalked up more than my fair share of learning experiences on the romantic front. I overcame my fear of public speaking. I learned that I could, in fact, love a second nephew just as much as I love the first. I broke an ankle and an indeterminate number of toes. I raised upwards of five million dollars. I made lifelong friends who may actually be more food obsessed than I am. I read so many books that the wall nearest my dining table is an endlessly rotating literary staging area. I took a few epic trips–to Argentina, to Paris, to India, and to Nahunta, Georgia to see a man about a grill. I finally mastered the poached egg.

Tonight I declared the research phase of my thesis over and got serious about writing. But first, I made dinner.

Chorizo, Chickpeas, Clams & Potatoes

  • 24 small clams
  • 12 new potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.
  • 2 links fresh chorizo, uncased
  • 1 large leek, rinsed and chopped
  • four cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas (If you didn’t happen to reserve some chickpeas from the massive batch of hummus you made this afternoon, canned will suffice.)
  • 1 cup white wine or rose
  • 1 handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper (maybe)
  1. Sort through your clams, making sure that any that are open close back up when tapped. Give them a rinse and place in a bowl covered with cold water for at least 20 minutes. I added some cornmeal and a hefty dose of sea salt, but suspect neither is actually necessary to the purging process. The goal here is to get the clams to spit out any sand they may be harboring.
  2. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil and toss the potatoes in. Cook just until tender and then drain.
  3. Bring a large cast iron skillet up to medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. Then add the chorizo, breaking it into chunks with a wooden spoon. Stir frequently. When the sausage has started to give up its fat, add the leek and continue to stir frequently. After a couple of minutes, add the garlic. If the pan gets dry, add some more olive oil. When the leeks have softened but aren’t yet brown, add the paprika, thyme and potatoes. Stir to combine, positioning as many of the potatoes as you can cut-side down. Cook without stirring until the potatoes start to brown. Stir in the chickpeas and wine. 
  4. Rinse the clams under cold water, taking care not to stir up any of the sediment at the bottom of the bowl. Nestle the clams in the pan and cover. If you don’t have a lid that fits, foil will work just fine. Check them after five minutes, giving a quick stir to move any that haven’t opened toward the boiling spots. When all of the clams have opened (or you’ve given up and discarded that stubborn one), remove from the heat.
  5. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with some crusty bread to soak up the juices.

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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.

White Bean & Winter Vegetable Stew

We’re getting down to the dregs in terms of seasonal eating. My last CSA pickup was over a month ago. The green things at my local farmers’ market dwindled down to hearty spinach before drying up completely sometime in the middle of February. And so I have turned my attention to beans and storage vegetables (plus a little store-bought kale–hey, a girl’s gotta get her greens).

White Bean & Winter Vegetable Stew

  • 1 pound dried navy beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 2 large carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 1 teaspoon sage
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1-2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 ounce guanciale, cubed
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 large bulb celeriac, peeled and cubed
  • 1 parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 Meyer lemon, skin and all, finely chopped
  • 1 large bunch kale, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper

Add the beans, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, guanciale, herbs and spices to a large Dutch oven along with enough water to cover by a couple of inches. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let cook for an hour or more, until the beans are tender. Fish out the celery, carrots and bay leaves. Add the squash, celeriac, cheese rind and lemon, and top with enough water to just cover everything. Bring back to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. When the vegetables have softened (about 15 minutes), stir in the kale along with plenty of salt and pepper. Cook until the kale is wilted. 

White Bean and Winter Vegetable Stew

It’s going to be another long and strenuous workweek. At least I’ve packed my lunch.

Packed Lunch

Braised Cannellini & Kale

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Wally and Auntie Jaz

At some point, Wally dragged a pillow into the middle of the living room and curled up with his blanket.

Sleepy Boy

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.

Braised Kale and Cannellini

Split Pea Soup for Days

A couple of Fridays ago I met a friend for some grownup (read: stiff) cocktails followed by some of the best Indian food I have ever had. In between, we stopped off at Kalustyan’s, where I once again failed to exercise any restraint. This is where I picked up those Jamaican Jerk Bitters that went into last weekend’s cocktail. I also purchased an excessive quantity of legumes.

Kalustyan's Legumes

Fortunately, soup season is upon us. We’re having a brilliant autumn here in New York City. The days are crisp, cool and noticeably shorter, making the bright amber sunlight all the more precious. Yesterday found me traversing Prospect Park bundled into my new emerald green Paddington Bear coat, listening (and likely singing aloud) to Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series, Volumes 1-3. ‘Twas autumnal perfection.

Fall Day in Prospect Park

Today I am hunkered down at home trying to catch up on work–the perfect time for a little soup making (and a little more Dylan).

Split Pea Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces slab bacon, diced
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 5 carrots, diced 
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 large pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 small pinch ground cloves
  • salt and pepper

Bring a large, heavy-bottomed pot up to medium-low heat with the olive oil. Add your bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until mostly rendered but not crispy. Add the onions and continue to stir and cook until they are soft. Add the carrots and cook for a few more minutes. Dump in the split peas, bay leaves, thyme, red pepper and cloves along with 7 cups of water. Raise heat, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Let cook, stirring more frequently as the mixture thickens, for two hours. Fish out the thyme and bay leaves and add salt and pepper to taste. (A little smoked salt will amp up the bacon flavor.)

Split Pea Soup

This is nice finished with a little sherry vinegar. If you’re entertaining, you might throw in some frozen peas at the end, which will provide a lovely counterpoint to your delicious mush, and serve with a garnish of pumpernickel croutons. If you just polished off a large bowl of miso-poached eggs with bok choy and tatsoi and already have dinner plans, just pack the cooled soup into small containers and accept that this is what you will be eating for lunch all week. It reheats brilliantly.

Miso-Poached Eggs with Bok Choy and Tatsoi

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

Field Peas & Broccoli Rabe

I spent the latter half of the week upstate on a staff retreat. I knew the food at Omega Institute would be healthy and restorative after the previous weekend’s barbecue and boozefest. But I had no clue how delicious it would be. Each meal featured a bounty of cooked and raw vegetables, whole grains, legumes and some of the best tofu and seitan dishes I’d had since my hippie childhood amidst the Illinois cornfields. Ordinarily, despite my best intentions, I max out at a single plate of food. At Omega, I found myself going back for a second round of fresh, locally grown pea shoots with an addictive mustard miso dressing. Aside from the fifth of Bulleit Bourbon that I smuggled in for a little late night unwinding back in my cabin, it was three days of clean living.

The trip back to the city was gruesome. It took us about three hours to travel the 20 miles from the Northern Bronx to Downtown Brooklyn. You can spend three days on a staff retreat in the woods, but the true team building comes when you’re stuck in a minivan during summer Friday traffic. The rental wasn’t due back until the next day and I had high hopes of using it for a little adventure dining and perhaps an errand or two. But by the time I dropped everyone at their various subways stops and made it back to my neighborhood, I had resolved to ditch the van back at its garage. My friend Molly, who had flown in from San Francisco for a work conference earlier in the week, was waiting at the bar around the corner from my house. I texted her that I’d be there in five minutes. Being a true friend, her reply was simple: “red or white?” Three glasses of a lovely Sauvignon Blanc and a terrine of chicken liver mousse were a fine reintroduction to urban living.

Yesterday we bummed around Brooklyn, as I showed Molly the radical changes that have transpired since we first met here 17 years ago. We grabbed coffee at one of the ten or so coffee shops that now dot the neighborhood. We hit up the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket, where I picked up asparagus, scallions, shiitake mushrooms, eggs, spinach, fresh thyme, bacon ends and some whole wheat sourdough. We walked over to Clinton Hill for a little flea market browsing followed by white sangria and a snack of lamb meatballs and spicy goat cheese croquettes. Later that night we dined on fiddlehead ferns, orecchiette with flowering mustard greens, and pork shoulder infused with rosemary at a place I’m pretty sure used to serve chicken wings and General Tso’s chicken from behind bulletproof glass. Today’s portion of the neighborhood tour focused on gardens of both the botanic and beer varieties.

Two hours ago I loaded Molly and her suitcases into a Town Car with the requisite cracked leather seats and pine tree-shaped air freshener. (Not everything about Brooklyn has changed.) I am now indulging in a little Sunday night melancholia–and this delicious bean salad, which was inspired by a dish that my neighbor and fellow blogger whipped up for a potluck a few months back. Check him out at Brooklyn Roof Garden.

Field Peas & Broccoli Rabe

  • 1/2 pound dried field peas
  • 2 tablespoons butter (skip this or substitute coconut oil to make this dish vegan)
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, roughly chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely minced
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and light green portions thinly sliced (greens reserved for some other purpose–a spinach, scallion and shiitake frittata, say)
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • salt and pepper
  1. Add the peas to a medium pot and run water until it comes up a couple of inches above the peas. Add the butter, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 40 minutes or so until they are just tender. Add a teaspoon of salt and simmer another 10-20 minutes until the beans are nice and soft but not yet falling apart. Turn off the heat and let sit. 
  2. Add 1/2 inch of water and a large pinch of salt to a large pot. Bring to a boil and then add the broccoli rabe. Cook with the lid on, stirring occasionally, for 3-8 minutes depending on the thickness of your stalks. You’re going for an ever-so-slightly al dente texture. Pour into a strainer and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
  3. Stir the celery, scallions, vinegar, oil, paprika and a good bit of black pepper into the beans. Squeeze any excess water from the broccoli rabe and mix this in as well. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt, pepper, paprika or vinegar as you see fit.

Field Peas and Broccoli Rabe

As you can see, my field peas got a little mushy. They were still quite tasty but, if you have the time, I recommend soaking the dried beans the night before. This will help them to retain their shape and also cut down on cooking time. I used this technique a few weeks ago and the resulting dish was a bit more photogenic, particularly when served alongside marinated and grilled flank steak. Tonight I went for a more humble approach to dinner.