Sunday, July 20, 2014

Smoked Bacon and Apple Farro

This post brought to you by our formerly far-flung, recently returned Kansas correspondent.

1 cup farro (preferably not pearled)
2 slices Niman Ranch applewood smoked bacon, diced
Olive oil
1-2 medium Granny Smith apples, flat-diced
1-2 leeks, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, coarsely grated
1/4 tsp Aleppo pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Prepare farro according to package directions.

In a large, nonstick skillet, cook the bacon until crisp over medium heat. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain half the bacon grease and replace the volume with olive oil, then sauté the leek and apples until tender and translucent.

Add the garlic and carrot and sauteé another 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure the garlic doesn't burn. Stir in the Aleppo pepper, then fold in the cooked farro. Add salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the bacon and serve immediately.

Serves 2-3.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Slow-Baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

I recently found myself in the alarming position of agreeing to cook dinner for 25 people.

Actually, I should rephrase. "Agree" implies that I had some say in the matter. I was unilaterally volunteered to cook dinner for 25.

I raised the possibility that perhaps this was an egregious error. Maybe they meant 2.5? 2.5 people seems feasible. I could do 2.5.

"2.5 people?" I asked.

No. Definitely 25. And they definitely meant me.

At this point, I may or may not have seriously considered moving to a small island off the coast of Thailand.

Here's the thing: I don't cook for 25. I don't cook for ten. I cook for one or two or sometimes four. And a lot of the things I make aren't particularly can't quintuple a risotto and expect it to cook the same way (in fact, we tried once in college and dinner was about three hours late). Pan-frying is obviously limited to the number of things you can fit in the pan. Homemade pasta would take days. My obsession with vegetables is heavily contingent on them caramelizing in some way, which gets harder or impossible if you crowd them together.

Plus: Most people tend to expect dinner to involve some central meat thing, and I don't really do central meat things. (Let's be clear: I haven't the foggiest. I would undercook, or overcook, or accidentally make kale instead of a pork roast.) The point being, I had no idea what to do. None.

Fortunately, I was saved by the miracle of slow-baked salmon. Miraculous because—are you ready?—it is easy AND dreamily delicious AND scale-uppable AND fancy-looking. Oh, and it tells you when it's done. The technique was made for a dinner party. Or in my case, a small team of intrepid chefs determined to serve up California cuisine to a couple of dozen hungry academics in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Adapted from this recipe, and perfect over Israeli couscous (especially if after cooking the couscous, you stir in a tab of butter, a pinch of thyme, some chopped parsley, a bit of lemon zest, and some lemon juice).

12-13 oz wild salmon fillet*
1 tbsp olive oil
Zest of ½ lemon (about 1 tbsp)
½ tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 small clove garlic, pressed
Small slosh white wine (just enough to moisten mixture slightly)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges & parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 275°F.

Combine the olive oil, lemon zest, thyme, and garlic. Add about 1 tsp of white wine—just enough to make the mixture easier to spread, without being runny. (If you're scaling the recipe up, still start with this much wine and then add a little bit more if needed.)

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lightly oil it, then place salmon skin-side down. Spread the lemon zest mixture evenly over the top, then sprinkle with salt and (lightly) with pepper. Let sit 10 minutes for flavors to blend.

Bake for 20-21 minutes until the fat melts out the sides (it will often start by melting in little pools on the top, but you're waiting for the tell-tale sign of it melting at the bottom of the sides of the fillet, just like you see below).

Garnish with lemon & parsley. Serve hot, or warm, or cold—this fish can really do just about anything.

Serves 3, or multiply by six for a crowd.

And, if you are feeding a crowd, other suggestions include:
Quinoa Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes
These Fish Packets
Grilled Asparagus with Balsamic Reduction
Roasted Bell Peppers
Israeli Couscous
Jasmine Rice

*Definitely splurge on wild salmon for this recipe—and in fact, if you can only find farmed, do something else with it. Slow-baking salmon changes the texture completely, in a wonderful way if it's wild, but in a mushy way if it's farmed. Note also that if you are scaling up, you can leave the fillet (or fillets) whole and let people cut their own, or cut before cooking into individual portions—it works either way. I left them whole, just because it was easier.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Sauteed Radish Greens with Spring Onions

Another Parisian picnic favorite—this one seriously amazing, compliments of the husband.

Olive oil
1 tbsp butter
Greens from 1-2 bunches of radishes, carefully cleaned
2-3 radishes, thinly sliced
2 spring onions, white and light green parts, sliced
Fleur de sel or kosher salt to taste

Heat olive oil and butter in pan over medium heat. When butter is melted, add the spring onions and sauté for a few minutes until they soften.

Add the radish slices to the pan and sauté for another 3 to 5 minutes, until the radishes are soft and become somewhat translucent.

Add the greens and stir to coat. After they have wilted slightly, turn off the heat and allow the greens to wilt a little more with the remaining heat in the pan.

Salt to taste; serve warm.

Serves 2-3 as a side dish.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Haricots Verts avec des Ciboules

One of our favorite things in Paris—the caveat being that all things in Paris were favorite things—but one of those favorite things was roving through some of the many open-air and covered markets that populate the city.

From the Bastille to Saint Germain to Le Marché des Enfants Rouges, we wandered happily among the stalls piled high with oranges and apricots, melons from Morocco, bright red globes of cherry tomatoes still on the vine, leafy bundles of oblong French breakfast radishes, escarole and red mustard frisée—pausing to purchase a handful of green beans here, a bundle of spring onions there—and oh, there's bread around the corner and come look at this terrine over here and did you see all those cheeses, and wouldn't tonight be a perfect night for a picnic in the apartment?

So we picnicked. Frequently. With these green beans as a recurring staple.


Ingredients (per person)
A handful of French green beans (thinner and crisper than the typical supermarket variety, but any fresh and crisp green beans will do...if they taste juicy and sweet when raw, they'll work here)
2 spring onions,white and light green parts, sliced
Olive oil
Fleur de sel or kosher salt

Heat a pan over medium-low heat. When hot, drizzle with olive oil and sauté the spring onions until they soften. Toss in the green beans and stir to coat. Cook for about 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cover the pan to let steam for another 3-5 minutes or so until al dente, stirring once or twice—you want the beans just barely cooked, still with a bit of crunch.

Serve hot, sprinkled with fleur de sel.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Paris Preview

Don't you fret, blogosphere. It's not that I haven't been cooking up or tracking down new culinary adventures to share. It's just that my mouth has been too full of heaven for my brain to formulate the words.



Rest assured that I will tell you all about it. Soon. Maybe one more bite.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Orzotto with Braised Collards

One side effect of becoming obsessed with vegetables is that every now and then—surely no more than five times a week—I forget to consider the rest of the meal. For example, sometimes I start thinking about collard greens, and then I can't think of anything else. Or if I do manage to consider other food groups, they pale in comparison. "Collard greens," I say to myself. "And lentils?" asks a small, distant, entirely irrelevant voice in my head. "COLLARD GREENS," I repeat, out loud, more firmly this time. "Um, well, actually," says the person standing next to me at the co-op, where I stand gazing longingly at the leafy vegetable section, "I was just hoping to squeeze past you to get some carrots."

The point being, I buy the collard greens, I speed home to cook the collard greens, and somewhere halfway through slicing them, it occurs to me that they may not actually make up an entire dinner all by themselves.

Fortunately, I am an experienced cupboard forager. Which in this case turned up orzo and butter beans. The result? Rich, satisfying, collard greeny pasta perfection.

Olive oil
1 large red onion, halved and sliced fairly thinly
2 strips Niman Ranch applewood smoked bacon, sliced into strips
3 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 bunch collard greens, halved lengthwise and sliced into one-inch strips*
Salt & pepper, to taste
1 loose tbsp finely chopped oregano
1/3 cup chicken broth + 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 rounded cups whole wheat orzo pasta
1 can butter beans, rinsed and drained**
Parmesan (optional)

Sauté onions over medium-high heat in a wide pan with a little olive oil for a minute or so, until they begin to cook down a little. Push to one side and add the bacon to the other. Cook until the bacon begins to brown a little, turning the onions over once or twice in the meantime. Stir to combine, and continue cooking until until the onions are golden. Add the garlic, turn heat to medium, and saute for one minute more. Add the greens and salt and cook, stirring, for two more minutes, then add the oregano and 1/3 cup broth and bring to a boil. Turn heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if it starts to dry out.

About 15 minutes before the collards are done, start the 1 1/4 cups of broth heating in a small pot. Bring to a boil.

When there are about 10 minutes left, add the butter beans to the collard greens and stir to combine. Replace the cover. Add the orzo to the broth, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 9 minutes or according to package directions, stirring once in the middle. Uncover, stir, and simmer off any excess broth. Fold the pasta into the collard greens.

Add a little grated Parmesan if desired, top with black pepper, and serve warm (too hot and you'll lose some of the flavor).

Serves 3.

*If you have a particularly small bunch of collard greens, you can add about 1/2 cup of frozen kale or spinach when you add the butter beans if you want a little more green.
**World Market has Italian butter beans that are much more giant, fat, and buttery than the normal butter beans you find in the supermarket. They are particularly amazing in pastas and pasta salads. They are also not remotely local or BPA-free, so I'm not recommending them, I'm just objectively describing their tendency to make my tastebuds swoon with happiness.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Best Ever Scrambled Eggs

Many people claim to possess the recipe for the best scrambled eggs ever. Clearly, it's an empirical question, and we are an evidence-based household. "When in doubt, eat lots of stuff," is our motto. This recipe wins the scrambled egg standoff in our kitchen every time.

Of course, don't take my word for it. Develop some healthy scientific skepticism, and then conduct a series of rigorous experiments. When people ask you what you're doing eating breakfast for the third time on a single Saturday, shout, "SCIENCE!" (Or shout, "HOBBITS!" Either way, I'll be happy.)

Olive oil
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise, rinsed very well, and sliced
1 tbsp butter
4 eggs from pastured chickens
Slosh pastured cream
Crusty whole grain bread (toasted if desired)

Heat a wide, nonstick pan over medium-low heat. When hot, add the olive oil and the leeks. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt to help prevent browning, and sauté for about 2 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes more until leeks are very soft.

In a bowl, scramble the eggs with a whisk until frothy. Just before you start to cook them, add a slosh of cream, and whisk to combine. (You want as much air as possible in the eggs.)

When the leeks are very soft, push to the side of the pan. Melt butter in the other half. Pour in the eggs, and wait a moment so that the bottom starts to set, then fold over. Repeat every 10-20 seconds until eggs are just slightly runny in the middle—they'll set the rest of the way as you serve. (You may want to flip the leeks over at some point, too, to prevent browning.)

Serve eggs on warm plates, sprinkle with salt, and top with the leek mixture. You can serve these over toast if you want, but I actually prefer the toast separate—the delicate flavor of the eggs comes through better when they're on their own.

Serves 2.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lentils with Kale and Sweet Potato

When your produce box arrives for the second week in a row with an overabundance of kale and sweet potatoes, it's important to be ready for action. Fortunately, we were armed. With French lentils. And an Andalusian combination of herbs and spices. And Turkish dried pepper. Because some things call for international collaboration.

This recipe, loosely adapted from here, is richly satisfying, full of flavor, and the perfect antidote to a rainy day (and an overflowing fridge).

Olive oil
1 small-to-medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cups diced orange sweet potato
2 small or 1 large carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 small or 1 large bunch dino kale, cut crosswise into strips
1 cup French lentils, rinsed well and picked over carefully to remove any stones
3 cups chicken and/or veggie broth (I used half and half)
2 tsp Aleppo pepper (or sub 1 minced jalapeno)
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp paprika
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp dried thyme*
1/8 tsp dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Heat a glug of olive oil in a wide pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring, until translucent. Add the sweet potato and continue cooking, stirring only occasionally, until the mixture begins to brown slightly in places.

Stir in the carrot and garlic and cook for a minute more, then add the kale by the handful. Continue to cook for another minute or two until the kale wilts down. Sprinkle with salt, add the lentils, and stir well. Stir in the broth, spices, and herbs. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low (you want a strong simmer) and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring every 5 or 10.

When the lentils are tender, turn off the heat. Adjust salt and spices to taste. Ladle into bowls, top with freshly ground white pepper, and wait for a couple of minutes before serving (you want it warm but not scalding to maximize the flavor).

Serves 3. Pairs well with toasted whole grain bread and a glass of Rioja.

*To convert dried to fresh, multiply by three (so 3/4 tsp chopped fresh thyme)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Roasted Radishes

Who knew? The radish has a top-secret alter ego. Hard and bitter by day, sweet and juicy by night. To transmogrify, simply toss with olive oil, stick them in the oven, and wait a few minutes.

1 bunch of radishes, brushed clean, stems removed, and halved or quartered
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

In a nonstick banking pan, toss radishes with olive oil to lightly coat. (The pan should be big enough that the radishes aren't too crowded together...overcrowding will inhibit browning.)

Roast for 10 minutes, shake the pan, then roast for 8-10 minutes more until radishes are tender and nicely browned. (Check by inserting a fork. If you check after 20 minutes and they're not quite tender, don't be afraid to roast them a bit longer...if you stop before they're quite done, they'll still have a bit of a bite.)

Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve hot.

Serves 2, but heavenly (and easy) enough that you'll wish you made one bunch per person.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Zinfandel-Braised Asparagus with Green Garlic

Spring has crept into California, and it surely can't be that far behind in other parts of the country. Which means it's the season, or very nearly almost the season, for green garlic and asparagus. Snatch them up as soon as you see them, pour yourself a glass of wine, share a little with them, and contemplate the sunshine. Or the snow. Whatever. At least it can be springtime on your plate.

Olive oil
1 tbsp sliced or chopped green garlic
1 bunch asparagus
A slosh or two of Zinfandel
2 pinches kosher salt or to taste

Heat a glug of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the green garlic and saute for about 20 seconds, then add the asparagus and toss to coat. Cook for about 2 minutes, tossing once, then add a generous slosh of Zinfandel.

Cover and let simmer for 2 minutes. Uncover, stir, and continue to simmer for another minute or two until the asparagus are al dente and the liquid is mostly boiled off. Sprinkle with salt, and serve.

Serves 2-4.