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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Smoked Salmon & Potato Croquettes

It’s been a roller coaster of a week.

The snow picked up late Friday night, right about the time my dinner guests were stumbling home sated with wine, cheese, lentil soup, apple crisp and whiskey.

Lentil Soup

By the time I came to Saturday morning, the blizzard was on. Oona and I whiled away most of the day watching René Clément’s excellent Purple Noon (an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel); idly reading Patti Smith’s latest book; catching up with friends from afar; and, of course, napping. It was just what I needed at the end of a shockingly long four-day workweek.

Circle of Cat

Around about 4:00pm, I was beginning to worry that I might be stuck to my couch, so I turned my attention to cooking. One of my coworkers recently shared her January resolution: to eat her freezer. Inspired by her practicality, I dug out a few pounds of bone-in short ribs from the excellent Lewis Waite Farm and set them in the sink with some cold water to defrost.

Apparently I wasn’t the only one who was getting antsy after a day of watching the snow fall from the comfort of my apartment. Just as I had finished searing the short ribs and begun to sweat my root vegetables, Monica texted that she had hiked over from Fort Greene.

Seared Short Ribs.jpg

Sweating Root Vegetables

Half an hour later, the short ribs were in the oven and we were sitting down to the dregs of last night’s cheese and some whiskey cocktails. At some point I succeeded in catching my pinky toe on the edge of the new scratching post in which Oona shows zero interest.

But, with whiskey, all things are possible. And so I turned the short ribs down to low, shoved my feet into a pair of boots and joined Monica for a magical bar crawl through empty, snow-blanketed streets.

Snowy Crown Heights.JPG

You have not lived until you’ve enjoyed beer and oysters and highbrow conversation about art in front of a corner window as the mother of all blizzards rages outside. For an hour or two (or maybe three), Monica and I existed in the the most fabulous snow globe that ever was.

I awoke Sunday morning to a throbbing pinky toe that resembled a very small eggplant in both color and shape. I grabbed some coffee and an ice pack and settled in to watch The Talented Mr. Ripley, Anthony Minghella’s 1999 adaptation of the same Patricia Highsmith novel. I must confess, it was much better than I recalled and definitely worth revisiting. In the afternoon, I buckled down and did some work.

That evening, Sharon agreed to help me with those short ribs (which I had miraculously packed into the fridge before turning in the night before). I skimmed off the fat before simmered them for another 45 minutes or so while I whipped up a quick batch of mashed potatoes. Sharon arrived with a lovely Cabernet Sauvignon and a bag of watercress. Dressed simply with a Dijon and white wine vinaigrette, the sharpness of the greens provided a nice counterpoint to the rich meat.

I awoke Monday feeling well fed and well rested. This was going to be a good day, I thought. (Actually, I probably said this out loud, because that’s what you do when you live alone.) And then I went to put on my snow boots and nearly threw up from the pain. Pulling myself together, I limped down the two flights of stairs and gingerly picked my way through the snow and ice. The pain was more than I could bear. Halfway down my very long block, I thought better of the whole thing and headed home to my icepack.

I worked from home on Monday, doing my best to ignore the strange feelings in my stomach. The nausea was so bad during my last call of the day that I had to take it lying down. Around 8:00 that evening, having writhed on the couch for a couple of hours, I evacuated the contents of my stomach and promptly spiked a fever.

I took the nine (yes, nine) meetings I has scheduled for Tuesday by phone, gradually reincorporating solid foods into my diet when I had a free moment. By Wednesday I was back at the office. My stomach felt good enough to revisit Friday’s lentil soup and my toe was fine once it swelled and numbed up inside my boot. My recovery came just in time, as yesterday was also the start of my new semester. I darted down to NYU around 4:30 and then headed home for a few more hours of budgeting spreadsheets before bed.

I am a bit obsessive about not wasting food. I sent Friday’s guests home with takeout containers of lentil soup and finished the rest off for lunch today. But, delicious as they were, I could not bring myself to eat the rest of the short ribs. My money is on a bad oyster, as Sharon suffered no ill consequences after joining me for dinner. But the short ribs were guilty by association.

Leftover mashed potatoes, on the other hand, can always be put to good use…

Smoked Salmon & Potato Croquettes

  • 1 cup or so leftover mashed potatoes (Mine were skin-on, because that’s how I like them, though my Mom vehemently disagrees, which makes for a fun pre-Thanksgiving argument basically every year.)
  • 2-3 ounces smoked salmon (that you had planned to have for breakfast before contracting food poisoning), flaked
  • 1 spoonful mayonnaise
  • 1 spoonful Dijon mustard
  • 3-4 scallions, minced
  • lots of black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs (or whatever is left in that bag you couldn’t bring yourself to throw away)
  • vegetable oil for frying

Coat a cast iron skillet with oil and bring up to medium heat. Smash the remaining ingredients, save for the breadcrumbs, together with a fork until you have a lumpy paste. Wet your hands and form small patties. Lightly coat these with the breadcrumbs and place them in the skillet. Cook until a nice brown crust forms, flip and repeat. 

These would be nice topped with a fried egg, sandwiched into a bun or perched atop a bed of greens. I kept it simple and made a quick sauce of Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, Tabasco, capers and pickle relish (because I’m dirty like that). I suspect that I’ll have the last one cold tomorrow morning before dashing off to work.

Smoked Salmon and Mashed Potato Croquettes

Roasted Monkfish with Braised Red Cabbage

There are days when I feel like a pinball ricocheting around the city. Today was one of those days.

I started with some early morning emailing from home before dropping my compost off and hopping the B train for an emergency visit to the endotontist in Gramercy. (Friday’s root canal seems to have set off a painful chain reaction.) Armed with a little less tooth and a lot more ibuprofen, I made my way across town in search of Wifi. I spent lunch catching up on emails, mapping an outline for a talk, and chewing with a great deal of care.

Then it was an hour uptown to Teachers College. The 1 train was mercifully uncrowded, so I was able to use the time to put the finishing touches on a paper. It was my last Nutritional Ecology class. While I’m looking forward to a little pleasure reading, I will truly miss the opportunity to study with Joan Dye Gussow, who the New York Times dubbed the “matriarch of the eat-locally-think-globally food movement.” (Please, nobody tell Joan that, for the past semester, my Wednesday lunches have consisted of a boxed sandwich wolfed down on the train while rushing to her class.) Afterwards, I descended Morningside Park’s many steps to meet a donor for a drink and some more food talk.

Another hour on the B train and I was back home in Brooklyn and deserving of a treat. I walked into Mermaid’s Garden just before closing and secured a pound of monkfish, which I thought would hold up well against the red cabbage left from last month’s CSA share. I’d never made monkfish before, but the lovely guy behind the counter assured me that it was almost impossible to overcook. We agreed that I would aim for a quick pan sear and then finish it off in the oven.

Roasted Monkfish with Braised Red Cabbage

  • 1 ounce smoked hog jowl (or bacon), cubed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced pole to pole
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (about 8 whole berries)
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider that you tragically failed to drink before it started to turn
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 450. Bring a large skillet up to medium heat with the pork and olive oil. When the pork is rendered but not yet crispy, add the onion and cook until soft and browned around the edges. Add the cabbage, allspice, red pepper and a healthy dose of salt and pepper. Cook stirring regularly until the cabbage is wilted. Add the cider and vinegar, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and put a lid on it. Continue cooking, stirring every so often, while you turn your attention to the fish.

  • 1 pound monkfish, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt and pepper

Bring a skillet up to medium heat. Season the fish liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Combine the horseradish, breadcrumbs and mustard in a small bowl, adding water if needed to form a paste. Press this mixture onto one side of the fish. Add butter to the pan, swirling to coat. Carefully place the fish in the pan with the crust down. Cook for a few minutes until the crust has browned and then gently flip. (If your crust falls off, just stick it back on.) Cook for another couple of minutes and then pop the whole pan in the oven for about 15 minutes. By the time your fish is done, your cabbage should be good to go.

Roasted Monkfish with Braised Red Cabbage

WARNING: Your cat will think you made this for her. She is wrong, but she will not let up until you finish your meal, pack the leftovers away for tomorrow’s lunch, and scrub all of the dishes.

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

(Last Night’s) Bluefish Cakes

One of my coworkers spent Wednesday with his dad and brother on a boat off the coast of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. It turned out to be a great day for fishing. Jorge returned with more bluefish than any one or two or ten people can reasonably consume. And so he spread the wealth.

Bluefish Filets

I left work last night with two very large bluefish filets tucked into my tote bag. As luck would have it, Rachel was available on short notice. We caught up over a few bottles of wine, the rest of my Newfangled Vichysoisse, and bluefish baked in foil packets with sugar snap peas, asparagus, chives, butter, lemon and a splash of wine.

Baked Bluefish

Despite our best efforts, I was left with quite a bit of bluefish. Not a problem.

(Last Night’s) Bluefish Cakes

  • 1 filet (about the size of a piece of Texas toast) cooked bluefish (or whatever other leftover fish you happen to have)
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 small bunch chives (or scallions or plain old onion), minced
  • 1 small bunch minced fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, etc.)
  • 2 big spoonfuls mayonnaise
  • 1 spoon dijon mustard
  • a few shakes of panko or other breadcrumbs or crushed up crackers if that’s what you got
  • salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika and/or whatever else you heart desires
  • enough oil to coat your cast iron skillet

Bring the oil up to medium heat in a large cast iron skillet. Flake the fish into a small bowl. If a little bit of that delicious butter, wine and lemon sauce slips in, so much the better. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning to your preference. You want a somewhat gummy texture so that the cakes will hold together. (An egg would probably help with this, but I opted to serve my lone egg fried on top of the cakes.) Use a serving spoon to drop large patties into the pan. Cook swirling occasionally to make sure the oil is distributed evenly and the cakes aren’t sticking. When a nice brown crust is formed on the bottom, flip and repeat.

Bluefish Cakes

Clams, Dandelion Greens & Hog Jowl

This past weekend’s chilly temperature notwithstanding, Monday’s visit to the Union Square Greenmarket suggests that spring is here to stay. I picked up more young collard greens (color me obsessed), chives, carrots, mint, ramps and dandelion greens. Last night, having worked late, I dined on sautéed collard tacos augmented by half an avocado that had miraculously stayed fresh while I was out of town for a long weekend. Tonight I departed work on time, leaving me with the energy/blood sugar level to swing by my local sustainable seafood shop for a dozen littleneck clams. Half an hour later, dinner was served.

Clams, Dandelion Greens & Hog Jowl

  • 1 ounce hog jowl (or bacon), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 12 littleneck clams
  • 1 bunch dandelion greens
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper

Bring a medium-sized pot with a good fitting lid up to medium heat. Add the hog jowl and olive oil and cook stirring occasionally until the pork is partially rendered. Add the onion and continue to cook stirring occasionally until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook stirring constantly for two more minutes. Add the wine, raise the heat to high, and add the clams. Cook with the lid on for 10 minutes or so, stirring once or twice, until all of your clams have popped open. Stir in the dandelion greens in batches and cook until just wilted. Add the lemon zest and salt and pepper to taste.

Watching the clams give way to your bubbling broth is mighty relaxing–particularly if you do so with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc in hand.

This would make a killer sauce for linguine. Given that I was cooking for one, I went with a piece of grilled whole wheat sourdough, which did a fine job of soaking up the luscious broth.

Steamed Clams with Dandelion Greens and Hog Jowl

Apple Cider-Braised Mussels with Kale & Bacon

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.

Apple Cider-Braised Mussels with Kale & Bacon

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.

Oona the Eater