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.
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.
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.
This would be a lovely companion to roast chicken or pork. I ate it with a side of work emails.
With school back in session, Wednesdays are once again a haze. I had hoped to wrap up my budgeting work before leaving the office, but was waylaid by other tasks. I made it home from class around 7:30, my head full of feminist theory and my stomach running on empty. Fortunately, I had a nice bunch of dandelion greens and a well stocked pantry.
This meal paired nicely with the dregs of Saturday’s Cabernet Sauvignon, which had thankfully not turned to vinegar on the kitchen counter. More importantly, it came together in 22 minutes flat, leaving me with enough time to catch up with my sister Upstate and finish those pesky spreadsheets.
Dandelion Pasta with Anchovies & Ricotta
Set a pot of salted water to boil. Bring a couple of tablespoons of olive oil up to medium heat in a large sauté pan. Peel and thinly slice a few cloves of garlic. Rinse and coarsely chop the dandelion greens, removing the ends if they are twiggy. If you aren’t that into bitter things, wait until the water boils and blanch the greens for a couple of minutes. (But, really, why in the world are you eating dandelion greens if you’re not down?) Once the oil is hot enough that droplets of water sizzle, add a few anchovies from your emergency jar and four or five of those small dried chiles that you bought at the fancy cheese shop on a whim (or a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes, which are probably the same thing at a quarter of the price). Stir constantly for a couple of minutes, add the garlic and continue stirring for one more minute. Add the greens to your pan and half a bag of penne to your pot. Stir both occasionally. Grind some black pepper into the greens. When the pasta is just shy of done, scoop it into the pan, allowing some of the water to migrate along with it. Cook for another minute or so and remove from the heat. Give it a quick taste and add salt if needed. (The anchovies may have done the trick.) Top each serving with a heaping spoonful of ricotta, a little lemon zest and juice, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Grill a bunch of asparagus, a handful of chives, and the heel of some stale whole wheat sourdough in olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Add salt, pepper, a nice dollop of ricotta, and the juice and zest of half a lemon. This would be great with a glass of Sancerre. It would be even better with a whole bottle. Alas, I paired mine with the budget justification for one of two federal grants due in less than 24 hours
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
- Turn your oven up as high as it will go and remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
When your collard greens are young, tender and oh-so-sweet, a quick sauté with leeks, garlic and red pepper flakes is all you need–well, that and a piece of grilled whole wheat sourdough slathered in fresh ricotta cheese. This is spring eating at its finest.
The one nice thing I can say about this past winter is that it got me over my aversion to baking. Month after month of dark, bitterly cold days afforded ample time for experimentation–and a strong motivation to run the oven. I baked oatmeal-fig cookies, Meyer lemon gingerbread, and even a couple of yeasted breads.
But you don’t always have time for a proper rise, which is where your local pizza parlor is a great ally. In case you don’t already know, most pizza shops are happy to sell you a ball of the dough they had the foresight to start a few days ago. This means that homemade pizza can be yours in well under an hour.
Broccoli Rabe & Ricotta Pizza
- Grab some dough from the local pizza place on your way home from the subway.
- As soon as you walk in the door (yes, even before you remove your shoes), crank your oven up as high as it will go and pop a large cast iron skillet inside.
- Change into a caftan or other relaxation garment of your choice.
- Set a large pan over medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
- Crack open a beer and cue up some appropriate tunes–Fleetwood Mac, for example.
- Bring a large pan up to medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.
- Peel and thinly slice several cloves of garlic. Rinse and roughly chop that bunch of broccoli rabe you bought on Sunday, when you mistakenly thought the week after vacation would be pretty chill.
- Add the garlic and a good pinch of crushed red pepper to the pan and stir continuously for a minute or two, taking care not to burn the garlic. Add the broccoli rabe in batches, starting with the stems. Cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Take the skillet out of the oven and drizzle a little olive oil into it. Grab the ball of dough and slowly stretch it into a circle approximately the size of your skillet by working your hands around the edges, pulling gently and allowing gravity to do its thing. Place the stretched dough into the skillet. Layer on the broccoli rabe and several dollops of ricotta cheese. If you happen to have some dessicated parmesan or romano lurking in the fridge, grate some over the top. A little lemon zest wouldn’t hurt either.
- Pop the skillet back in the oven and grab another beer.
- Your pizza will be ready in six minutes (or a little less if your oven doesn’t suck as hard as mine). You’ll know it’s ready because the edges of your crust will be brown and bubbly.
If you game it right, Stevie Nicks will be crooning “Angel” by the time you sit down to dinner, an old friend who lives too far away will call just as you finish eating, and the leftovers will make for a lovely brunch when topped with a fried egg.
When today promises to be even longer than yesterday and you’re not sure when your next meal will be, start with toasted whole wheat sourdough slathered in ricotta and topped with sliced plums, honey, fresh thyme and black pepper. This pairs nicely with a latte and some last-minute packing for a much-needed weekend getaway.
When life gives you twelve-hour workdays and Farmer Ted gives you the first tomatoes of the season, whip up this quick salad with pan-toasted croutons, ricotta cheese, scallions, fresh basil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and good quality olive oil.
Top toasted whole grain bread with ricotta cheese, pan-grilled scallions and asparagus, lemon zest, salt and pepper for a quick and delicious breakfast when you’re eager to get out and smell the roses (literally if, like me, you’re lucky enough to live five minutes from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden).