EAT THIS: Matzo Balls, Ramps, Shrooms & Eggs

Matzo Balls Ramps Mushrooms Poached Egg

Insomnia so bad that you arrive at the market while the farmers are still setting up? Console yourself in the knowledge that the early bird gets Wilklow Orchards‘s foraged ramps. Take them home and sauté them in butter along with a handful of mixed mushrooms from John D. Madura Farms. Fry up a few of your leftover matzo balls in a little more butter. Add a poached egg (thanks to Evolutionary Organics). Ponder a nap.

Miso Hake with Charred Bok Choy & Shiitakes

I spent this past weekend in the Catskills with Beth, who has now been my dear friend for more than half our lives. (Not really sure how that happened.) We rented a lovely creekside cabin between Woodstock and Phoenicia and spent our days brunching, checking out small towns, and posing for the occasional swimming hole glamour shot.

Bathing Beauty Jasmine

Owing to the dark and winding roads (and an absence of taxis), Beth and I opted to spend our nights at home. Fortunately, our landlord had been kind enough to lay in a full bag of charcoal.

The Grill

Cocktail hour started early on Friday, allowing me to get the flank steak off of the grill just as the last gasps of sunlight disappeared.

Grilled Flank Steak

Saturday was another story. It was pitch black by the time I even thought to light the coals. Despite the dark, a persistent rain, and several watermelon cocktails, the salmon came out beautifully. Dinner was served right around the stroke of midnight.

Grilled Salmon, Carrots and Scallions

I ate well this past weekend. I did not, however, make it through last week’s CSA share. I came home from a busy Monday determined to polish off a full head of Farmer Fred’s beautiful bok choy. Mission accomplished.

Miso Hake with Charred Bok Choy & Shiitakes

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon red miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • pinch sugar
  • 6 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 8 ounces hake
  • 1.5 tablespoons safflower or other vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small knob ginger
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 large bunch bok choy
  1. Pre-heat the over to 400 with a small skillet inside.
  2. Add the butter, miso, vinegar, sugar and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce to a very small pot and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the miso. Remove from heat.
  3. Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over the shiitakes and let stand while they rehydrate.
  4. Remove the hot skillet. Swirl 1/2 tablespoon of oil in the bottom, add the fish, drizzle with the miso sauce, and pop it back in the oven. After about four minutes, pull the pan out and use a spoon to scoop up the sauce in the pan and drizzle it over the fish. Return to oven and cook another four minutes or so.
  5. Bring 1 tablespoon of oil up to medium-high heat. Rinse and roughly chop the bok choy. Mince the garlic and ginger. Slice the scallions. Add the aromatics to the hot skillet and cook, stirring continuously for a minute or so until they are toasted but not burnt. Add the bok choy in batches, starting with the white stems. Remove the shiitakes, retaining the water, and cut into thin slices. Add these to the pan and crank the heat up to high. Add the mushroom broth and the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has evaporated and the greens are wilted and charred in places.

Miso Hake with Charred Bok Choy and Shiitakes

You could serve this over a pile of steamed rice. I opted to take my carbs in the form of a Sixpoint Sweet Action, which is pretty much my all-time favorite beer. Oona digs it too.

Oona and Sweet Action

Blood Orange & Miso-Glazed Salmon

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.

Blood Orange and Miso-Glazed Salmon

A Leap of Faith: Beef, Shiitake & Celeriac Stew

As 2014 barrels to a close, I find myself pondering leaps of faith…and making beef stew.

The past few months have brought some major, and for the most part self-initiated, life changes. I’m beginning to settle in, but have yet to really find my new rhythm. Or, rather, just when I think I have, the song changes. I’ve been impressed by my brain’s capacity to synthesize and adapt to new information (and have been killing the Times crossword puzzle as of late). But I’d be lying if I said these changes aren’t physically and mentally exhausting.

Early in adulthood I was faced with a major decision. A mentor and dear friend, noting my distress, observed that there were no right or wrong choices, merely different paths. I have shared this advice with countless people over the years and have taken great comfort in it myself. But, deep down, I’m still convinced that, with enough effort, I can analyze my way into the right choice.

There was a distinct moment in my late 20s when I realized that there was no answer key to life and that everyone is just making it up as they go along. Being an adult doesn’t mean knowing what to do in every situation. We learn from trial and error. We get better at selecting those we ask for advice. We learn to accept that things may not turn out as hoped. We also learn that things continue to evolve and, at some point, it’s bound to get better.

As hard as I am working to make the right choices, there are moments when I realize that what I’ve set in motion involves forces well beyond my control. Try as we might to reason our way through, our life choices are, ultimately, leaps of faith.

Stew, too, is an act of faith. You take a cheap cut of meat, sear it in some fat, and then braise it in liquid. About an hour into this process, the meat will be alarmingly tough and the surrounding gravy won’t taste like much. But keep the faith. Let it go another hour or two (each pot of stew having its own internal timeline) and you will find yourself with a tender and savory dish. It may not always be quite what you set out to make, but it will be good and nourishing. And it will get better with age; consider making your stew the day before, chilling overnight, and then reheating.

Mushrooms and Onions

Beef, Shiitake & Celeriac Stew

  •  3 tablespoons beef fat (or butter)
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat (chuck, sirloin or whatever else the butcher recommends)
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions
  • 4 large carrots
  • 1 baseball-sized bulb celeriac
  • 1 pound shiitake (pr plain old button) mushrooms 
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 8 anchovies in oil
  • 2/3 bottle red wine
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • salt and pepper
  1. Melt fat or butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Toss meat with flour and a healthy pinch of salt. Brown meat in batches so as not to crowd the pan, allowing a nice dark crust to form. Set aside.Seared Beef
  2. If your fat is all gone, add the olive oil. Add the sliced onions and cook, stirring frequently, scraping up the dark bits at the bottom of the pan with the juices released by the onions. When the onions are soft and browned, add the carrots, celeriac, mushrooms and red pepper flakes. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften. Clear a spot in the pot and add the tomato paste and anchovies. Cook for a minute or two, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Deglaze the pan with a bit of the red wine, then add the rest of the wine plus the beef stock, herbs and sugar.
  3. Bring the stew up to a boil, pop a lid on, and turn the heat down low. You’re aiming for a slow simmer. Now is a fine time to take your compost to the farmers’ market. You may purchase a hot apple cider for the walk home but do no under any circumstances buy more vegetables given that you are leaving town in four days and still have the bulk of last week’s CSA share stashed in your refrigerator.
  4. After about an hour of cooking, remove the lid so that your sauce begins to thicken. Add a healthy dose of salt and pepper. Continue to simmer for one to two additional hours until your meat is fork-tender (but not complete mush) and the surrounding liquid is the consistency of a hearty gravy.

Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?

Beef Stew

EAT THIS: Thanksgiving Soup

Thanksgiving Soup

On the fifth day of Thanksgiving, bring the turkey stock that wouldn’t fit into the ice cube tray to a simmer. Pick the bread out of your leftover stuffing and add what remains to the pot (cremini mushrooms, Italian sausage, fennel and leeks in this case). Add a few sliced carrots. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Roughly chop and add the remaining turkey meat. Add a big bunch of swiss chard. Proceed to eat this for the next three days, noting that you really just kicked the leftover can a little further down the road. But hey, at least you worked a little fiber into the equation.

Chopped Turkey Liver with Cremini Mushrooms

Seven adults, an almost three-year-old, an almost two-year-old, and a baby born just six days ago are descending on my 600-square-foot apartment this afternoon. I spent the past week gathering ingredients from far and wide. I take a certain amount of pride in noting that nothing on today’s Thanksgiving table was sourced from a large grocery chain. I take a little less pride in the fact that I bought cheese in three different stores because I failed to actually make any sort of shopping list.

Our 17-pound turkey hails from Vermont and was procured through my CSA. It has been soaking up its dry brine since Tuesday night.

Turkey in Dry Brine

Last night was time for more prep work. I transformed a loaf of bread into rustic croutons. I made a slow-simmered turkey stock using the neck and a few other odds and ends, along with a little pancetta. I baked sweet and spicy candied pecans. I cooked up a batch of cranberry, apple and caramelized onion chutney. I did my best to tidy up the apartment.

Over the years, I have developed a system for helping myself stay on track when preparing an elaborate meal. Today’s game plan will continue to evolve throughout the day, but this is the general direction.

Thanksgiving Game Plan

I inexplicably awoke at 7:00am, leaving me with more time than anticipated. It was too early to pull the bird out of the fridge. And, until I remove the bird, there’s pretty much no room for anything else I manage to prep ahead of schedule.

Packed Thanksgiving Fridge

I pondered this dilemma over a cup of coffee until I remembered that turkey liver I had shoved in a bowl and stuck next to the mushrooms for the ciabatta, sausage, fennel and cremini stuffing. Suddenly I had a vision of the amazing chopped liver made by Maison David’s Michel Kailfa that I had the chance to sample during June’s study trip to Paris. Frenchmen don’t get much more charming that Michel. And chopped liver doesn’t get tastier than his.

But I would do my best.

Chopped Turkey Liver with Cremini Mushrooms

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 turkey liver
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves stripped
  • 1 small pinch red pepper flakes
  • 4 cremini mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons madeira
  • 1 small handful flat leaf Italian parsley
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring half the oil up to medium heat in a small pan. Add the liver and sear, rotating as it browns, for approximately five minutes.) You’re aiming for something like a medium-rare steak.) Remove the liver to a small bowl and add the rest of the oil.
  2. Add the onion and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until they are nicely browned and limp. (I have a hunch that Michel takes his onions past this point, which may make all the difference.) Add the mushrooms, thyme leaves and red pepper. Continue cooking, stirring frequently. The mushrooms will soak up the remaining fat and then gradually release liquid. Once they have done so, add the madeira and cook stirring continuously and scraping the bottom of the pan until mostly evaporated. 
  3. Dump the liver, onions and mushrooms, and parsley into the small bowl of your food processor and purée for a few minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Chopped Turkey Liver with Cremini Mushrooms

Liver is packed full of good nutrients, including iron–which is good for those of us that tend towards the anemic. A smear of this on a cracker is a great way to get your strength up for a long day of cooking.

This Is Not a Scallop (Seriously)

Last night’s dinner was bay scallops atop a fennel, arugula, Golden Delicious and red onion salad dressed with a sesame oil and rice wine vinaigrette.

Bay Scallops with Fennel Arugula and Red Onion

The peppery arugula and the bite of the red onion helped to offset all that sweet. But something was missing. Were I a fancy chef, one of my kitchen crew would have arrived early that morning to prepare some puffed rice to add a dry, crispy element and my sommelier would have paired it with a crisp, lemony Sancerre. Alas, I am not a fancy chef. And so I ate my salad as is, standing at the kitchen counter, with a glass of the Pinot Noir that was already open. You could do worse for a Tuesday.

I arrived home tonight bearing king oyster mushrooms that one of my coworkers grew in quart jars full of coffee grounds in his apartment.

King Oyster Mushrooms

Jorge left the mushrooms in the office fridge, inviting us to help ourselves, provided we cooked them up and reported back on how they tasted. Um, they were good. Really good.

The king oyster mushroom’s unique shape–coupled with memories of last night’s good but not great dinner–inspired me to prepare them as though they were scallops. I’d be willing to bet that this technique would work well with all manners of fancy mushrooms. But it will lack a certain surreality.

Pappardelle with King Oyster Mushrooms & Arugula (a.k.a. This Is Not a Scallop)

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small leek (or shallot), minced
  • 8 oyster mushrooms, sliced into 1/2″ disks
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  •  2 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped from the stems
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces dried pappardelle (or other flat egg pasta)
  • 2 tablespoons dry vermouth (or leftover white wine)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons crème fraîche
  • 3 ounces arugula (or however much you’ve got)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  1. Set a large pot of water to boil with plenty of salt. Bring the butter and oil up to medium heat in a large pan. Add you leeks and sauté, stirring continuously, for a couple of minutes. Add the mushrooms, red pepper, garlic and thyme. Cook, flipping the mushrooms occasionally, until they are golden. Deglaze the pan with the vermouth and allow to evaporate.
  2. Once the water boils, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Scoop the pappardelle directly into your pan, allowing some of the cooking water to transfer. Mix the pasta into the mushrooms and then turn off the heat. Add the crème fraîche, arugula, lemon zest, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the arugula is wilted but still bright green, adding additional pasta water as needed to keep it loose but not soupy.

King Oyster Mushroom and Arugula Egg Pappardelle

This should make enough for your dinner tonight and Jorge’s lunch tomorrow. Alternately, we could all agree not to tell Jorge and keep both servings for ourselves.