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

 

Radish, Kale & Shallot Gratin

There comes a moment in every CSA season when you have to admit that the vegetables are winning. I am proud to report that, despite the odds, this is not that moment.

It’s been a solid week since I was home for dinner and the vegetables have been piling up at an alarming rate–particularly given my impending trip to Austin. When I arrived home this evening, half of Saturday’s haul was still spilled across the kitchen counter (where I left it before dashing off to meet friends for some bracing Malaysian soup). And so I sucked it up and dragged everything out in order to reorganize and give the crisper a much-needed scrub.

Root Vegetable Overload

There were a lot of root vegetables, including some radishes that needed serious love. (For perspective, those potatoes are two bags deep.) There was kale that was most definitely not going to wait until my return next week. There was the last of the ricotta I had picked up a couple of weeks ago at the farmers’ market. And there were some desiccated bread heels. Game on.

Radish, Kale & Shallot Gratin

  • a good bit of olive oil
  • 10 or so large radishes, trimmed and quartered
  • 5 shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and roughly chopped
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • three pieces very old bread, crumbled/diced
  • a couple of heaping spoons of ricotta cheese
  • a sprinkling of shaved parmesan 

Crank the oven up to 450 with a large cast iron skillet inside. Meanwhile, prep your vegetables. When the oven is just about ready, remove the skillet. Add the olive oil, radishes, shallots, kale, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and toss. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs, ricotta and parmesan over the top and pop the pan back into the oven. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the top is lightly browned. 

Radish Kale Shallot Gratin

This would be a lovely companion to roast chicken or pork. I ate it with a side of work emails.

EAT THIS: Arugala, Radish & Ricotta Salata

Rinse and dry the arugula you picked up in tonight’s CSA share. Toast some walnuts in a cast iron skillet. Thinly slice a radish or two. Shave and then crumble some Ricotta Salata. Whisk up a garlic scape vinaigrette. This is dinner without breaking a sweat, even when it’s 88 degrees and you’re too stubborn to turn on the AC.

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

I am suffering from my third stomach ailment this year. After two days of being laid up, my fever had broken and my energy was back. But a ten-hour workday, punctuated by kale salad, farro, beets and Brussels sprouts put me in my place. I woke out of a dead sleep at 4am and went to retrieve the recycling bin that had been my constant companion earlier in the week.

Somehow I managed to dress for work and get as far as my subway stop before giving up and returning home. On the way I stopped off at the grocery store for an array of easily digestible (mainly white) foods. Breakfast was plain white toast. For lunch, I moved on to a small banana and a can of Coke (a concession to my caffeine addiction). By 7:00pm, I was actually experiencing something that resembled hunger, but suspected I still needed to tread lightly.

I’ve made this soup before in various forms. The ginger is great for stomach ailments and clearing the sinuses. It cooks up in under half an hour and, if you’re feeling a little less peaked than I am at the moment, you can doctor it in all kinds of ways. Even the most basic version is a welcome flavor boost after white bread and bananas.

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 knob ginger about the size of your last thumb joint, peeled and sliced into very thin matchsticks
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • freshly ground black and white pepper
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup Jasmine or other long-grain white rice
  • Optional additional ingredients: rice noodles, egg noodles, spinach, egg, scallions, chives, Sriracha, sesame oil, cilantro
  1. Add the first four ingredients to a small pot, bring to a boil and reduce to a very low simmer. Add the chicken and simmer gently until just cooked through (7-10 minutes). Remove chicken.
  2. Add the rice and continue to simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, shred your chicken using two forks. When the rice is cooked, slide the chicken back in and simmer another minute or two.
  3. The above makes a lovely, restorative soup. If you want to take it a step or two further, at this point you could do any or all of the following 1) swap rice noodles or egg noodles for the rice (and adjust the cooking time accordingly), 2) add spinach leaves and simmer until just wilted, 3) stir in a lightly mixed egg, 4) garnish with thinly sliced scallions or chives, 5) stir in a shot of Sriracha, 6) drizzle with a little toasted sesame oil, 7) sprinkle with cilantro leaves before serving. 

Gingered Chicken Soup with Rice

UPDATE: The chicken breasts came three to a pack, so I continued the theme throughout the week. Here’s a version with daikon radish, turnip, parsley and sesame oil that I made the next day, once my stomach had started to recover. The parsley was a sorry substitute for cilantro, but this iteration was otherwise delicious.

Daikon Turnip Chicken Soup

A few days later, when the craving for fiber and complex carbohydrates had kicked in, I swapped the rice for a thinly sliced sweet potato and stirred a bunch of baby spinach and a lightly whisked egg in at the last minute. This was a very nice reentry into my normal food patterns.

Chicken Sweet Potato Spinach Soup

Pea Shoot & Radish Spring Salad

It’s 55 degrees in Brooklyn this afternoon. After a week in which we dipped back into the single digits, there is a giddiness in the air. By noon people were spilling out of the ice cream shop around the corner and the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket was full of eager shoppers. The farmers seemed happy to be standing in the sunshine, even as they answered endless questions about what was on offer besides root vegetables and apples. (Not much.) It seems that our appetite for spring isn’t quite in step with the realities of the growing season.

The good folks at Evolutionary Organics in New Paltz had fresh pea shoots and some wickedly spicy, not to mention beautiful, radishes on offer. I selected a medium watermelon radish and a long thin one that had a rich purple skin.

Watermelon Radish

Pea Shoot & Radish Spring Salad

  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 handfuls pea shoots, rinsed and dried thoroughly
  • 2 medium radishes (the prettier, the better)
  • 2 scallions
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  1. Whisk the first four ingredients in a medium bowl along with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper.
  2. Thinly slice your scallions and then your radishes. If you’ve got a mandoline gathering dust in the cupboard, this is the time to bust it out. Or, if your radishes are narrow enough, a vegetable peeler can work wonders.
  3. Add your vegetables and the sesame seeds to your bowl and toss gently so as not to bruise the tender shoots. Grab a fork and dig in to the taste of spring.

Pea Shoot and Radish Salad

Collard-Wrapped Salmon with Winter Roots

I’ve lost track of how much snow has fallen on New York City this winter. This morning’s commute was a sloppy one–and we’re supposed to be getting two more rounds before the week is through. My office has been a comedy of errors since the new year. Today an air conditioning hose burst while workers sanded the outer wall, creating a dusty haze that found me grabbing for my inhaler and sending everyone home early. And so, three hours after arriving at the office, I was slogging back through the slush.

More Snow

I took a different route than usual so that I could swing by Whole Foods to pick up a large can of olive oil. Dreading the wet subway ride home, I roamed the aisles for a bit. The guy behind the fish counter was fervently pushing the wild Alaskan sockeye, which was on sale. My craving was so instantaneous and intense that I have to believe I’m suffering from some sort of deficiency.

I haven’t been eating much fish as of late, in part because last semester’s foray into the world of collapsing fisheries left me a bit freaked. But a quick check of Seafood Watch confirmed that wild sockeye is one of the better choices. I arrived home an hour later, popped the fish into the fridge, changed into pajamas, and spent the afternoon emailing and editing while the snow continued to fall.

By 6:00 I was ready for dinner. I had lots of root vegetables from my CSA share and some collard greens that were already looking a little sad when I bought them a week and half ago. Some of the larger outer leaves seemed salvageable. Wild salmon is much leaner than farmed, containing about half the fat but roughly the same amount of protein. I’ve found that it dries out quickly as a result, so I hatched the notion of wrapping the fish in collards to hold the moisture in during cooking.

Collard-Wrapped Salmon

Collard-Wrapped Salmon with Winter Roots

  • 2 large collard leaves (or four medium-sized if that’s what you’ve got)
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil (butter is fine too)
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced pole-to-pole
  • 4 small daikon radishes, cut into large matchsticks
  • 4 small parsnips, cut into large matchsticks
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 8-ounce wild sockeye salmon filets
  • salt and pepper (including white pepper if you have it)
  1. Rinse the collards and steam in a lidded pan for 5 minutes or so, adding more water as needed to prevent scorching. You want the leaves to be pliable and dark green. Remove from the pan and spread out to dry.
  2. Rinse out the pan, add 2 tablespoons of coconut oil and bring up to medium-low heat. Add the red onion and sauté until it starts to brown around the edges. Add the parsnips and daikon radishes along with 1/4 cup water and pop the lid back on. When the vegetables have started to soften, remove the lid and cook off the water, allowing things to caramelize. Sprinkle with zest, salt and pepper. (I find that white pepper really complements the sweetness of parsnips, but it’s all good.) Remove to a plate or, if your pan is big enough, just slide them to the side.
  3. Rinse and dry your salmon, sprinkling both sides with salt and pepper (black in this case). If your collard leaves are small, slice each filet in half lengthwise. Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to the pan, still over medium-low heat, and cook the salmon for two minutes per side, starting with the skin down if you’ve got it.
  4. Spread the collard greens on your work surface and spoon half of the vegetable mixture into the center. Top with the salmon, skin side up. Fold the sides, top and bottom of the collards over the salmon as you would a burrito. Flip and place gently into a baking dish lightly greased with coconut oil.
  5. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes and serve immediately.

Collard-Wrapped Salmon 2

This recipe makes enough for two hungry people, so scale up or down accordingly. You could easily swap in different vegetables–leeks, fennel, potatoes, carrots, etc.–based on what you have on hand.