Thursday, April 16th, 2015
You know it’s spring when asparagus shows up at your supermarket. It’s always a happy surprise, “oh, that’s right, you again!”, one that makes me feel like we’ve finally rounded the corner into a new and hopeful season. As soon as I spied the spears in the produce aisle I decided to go all in and put several bunches in the cart, which meant I had to do something with all of that asparagus when I got home. I used the first bunch in a lemony risotto—one of my all-time favorite dishes—with lemon zest, lots of grated pecorino and freshly ground pepper. Perfect. The next couple of bunches got the KEEPERS technique of pan-roasting at high heat in a slick of oil until they breakdown and get ever so slightly charred (it sounds scary but it produces the most delicious asparagus). And for the last bunch I decided to keep it very simple…
I steamed the spears in a large skillet (adding enough water to go barely half way up the spears if they’re lying on their sides) until bright green and just soft enough to pierce with a steak knife but not too soft. I then cut the cooked spears into bite-size pieces and tossed with lemon juice, good olive oil, pepper, and flaky salt (at this point you can put the asparagus in the fridge and chill to eat as a cold salad whenever you’re ready, or you can toss it with some warm pasta). Then I cooked a 7-minute egg (boiled until the yolks are just set, a bit runny in the middle) to put on top of my asparagus salad. I also could have added a nice slice of prosciutto, a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar, a flurry of chopped herbs, some stale bread cubed then toasted in a skillet with olive oil and garlic…but for once, I laid off the extraneous toppings and ate the salad as simple as possible. Happy Spring!!
Monday, April 6th, 2015
After this holiday weekend, there’s a good chance that you’re now in the possession of a few dozen hard-boiled, pastel-colored eggs. This of course does not include the eggs that got cracked, stepped on, or dropped during your family’s hunt (I won’t even count the eggs that have not yet been discovered, perhaps hidden behind a sofa cushion or under a bush in the backyard where it will make a tasty treat for your neighborhood raccoon family). For the remaining eggs that have survived your rabid children and local wildlife, you could of course whip up an egg salad for a week’s worth of sandwiches…or…why not whip up some herby green deviled eggs? Deviled eggs for dinner tonight? Sure, why not! As long as you didn’t boil your eggs into oblivion (no judgement if you did), you’re already halfway there to a delicious evening treat.
For this springtime version I make my deviled eggs verdant NOT by adding food dye, but by combining the cooked yolks with lots of herbs. The kind you choose to use is up to you, but my favorite combination includes any and all of the following: tarragon, dill, parsley, and cilantro. You could also just grab whatever herbs are still in the crisper, leftover from this weekend’s Easter dinner. So what to do:
*Gently crack your cooked eggs with the back of a spoon, remove and discard the pretty shells, cut the eggs in half with a knife, and scoop out the yolks (I recommend using a small spoon) into a bowl. Put bowl with all of the yolks aside. Place the egg halves on a platter and put in the fridge until you’re ready for them.
*In a blender or food processor add: about 1 cup of mayo (this would be enough for a dozen eggs’ worth so adjust accordingly), 1 tablespoon dijon mustard, a splash of apple cider vinegar, a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper to taste, and a very large handful of your herbs of choice (optional is to also add a 1/4 tsp of anchovy paste). Combine in the machine until the dressing is a uniform green with some very small flecks of herb; taste for salt and pepper.
*Pour the dressing directly onto the yolks and use a fork to smash and combine them with the dressing.
*Remove the egg-white halves from the fridge and add the green yolk concoction to the middles (If you’re feeling rustic and rushed for time, then just scoop it in with a spoon; if you want it to look pretty, then scoop the green yolks into a Ziploc bag, seal tightly, cut just the tip off of one of the bottom corners of the baggie, and then use it like a pastry bag to pipe the filling directly into each egg.
*Serve your green deviled eggs for dinner with a little salad and leftover ham. If you have a bit more time, then I love this trick from Southern food writer Martha Foose of cooking the eggs (filling side down) in a skillet with a little olive oil to give it a bit of a crust.
Wednesday, March 4th, 2015
Back when I lived in New York City, I used to make regular visits to a small Korean nail salon just a block away from our apartment in Yorkville. The place was called Jin Soon (there’s also a second location in the much posher nabe of Soho and she has since grown into a mini-nail polish mogul) and unlike most neighborhood nail places—soundtrack: Phantom of the Opera; decor: pastel—Jin Soon was like a Zen haven in the midst of the urban jungle. Quiet to be point of almost being somber, discreet, dimly lit, Asian-chic in every way. Added bonus, on almost every occasion I was there, I sat across from another regular customer—the heavily tattooed New York Knick Stephon Marbury. We both always ordered the same pedicure treatment called Milk & Honey, and then we would do the silent bro-nod, like “yes, Stephon, your NBA pedals and my far less valuable feet both deserve this”.
Although I sort of loathe the process of getting my nails done, in particular waiting for the varnish to dry (is there anything more tedious?), I loved going to Jin Soon, not only because I could pretend to be feet buddies with Stephon, or because it was one of the only calm places in the city where I could truly relax, but because they served the most amazing tea. I had never had anything like it and became completely addicted to it…it was tart and sweet, there were bits of lemon rind floating at the bottom of the cup, and it made the fact that I was spending many dollars to have paint brushed onto my finger nails seem totally worth it. I was always too shy to actually ask the ladies who worked there what the concoction was, but I did spy them scooping what looked like jam from a jar into my cup.
I finally figured out what the stuff was when I asked a Korean-American co-worker at Glamour magazine. She shared that it was Korean honey citron tea and said she’d track down a jar. Just as promised, she told her parents about her co-worker’s tea addiction, and the next time they came to visit, they brought her a jar from their local Korean market. The stuff was heaven. Just one big spoonful added to a cup of simmering water and you have the most intoxicating (non-alcoholic) beverage.I’ve since located citron honey tea at my local Asian supermarket, H Mart (HERE is a link to purchase it from their site) and so I always have a jar handy, especially in the winter when it’s so good for fighting a head cold or general winter malaise. Although I am now far away from Jin Soon and Stephon, whenever I have a cup it takes me back to that quiet little haven.
Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
If you haven’t been lucky enough yet to encounter a Japanese sweet potato, I urge you to seek them out, especially if you’re a fan of the traditional American variety. The Japanese variety—which I find at my nearby Asian supermarket but I’ve also seen at Whole Foods— is smaller and sweeter than a yam, with a yellow-flesh interior and a redder skin, they’re also usually smaller in overall size. You can prepare them however you’d normally prepare your sweet potatoes, but lately I’ve been steaming them (faster than roasting), followed by a quick sear and then coating with a miso-vinaigrette. The idea came from the wonderful book Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison, and ever since I discovered her recipe I’ve been doing nothing else. Actually I’ve been doing a lot more steaming in general lately because it’s just a quick and easy way to prepare vegetables without the fuss of a big pot of water or waiting for the oven to warm up to 400 degrees. Also, in the case of vegetables like beets, it keeps all the nutrients locked in.
TO STEAM and COOK: Scrub the potatoes and steam them whole with the skins on over boiling water (For a makeshift steamer I just stick a colander inside of a large pot and fill the bottom with about an inch of water). You’ll know the potatoes are done because you can easily pierce them with a pointed knife—it should take about 20 minutes to cook through, depending on how large the potatoes are. Remove the potatoes and let them cool a bit before cutting them in half, then sear them cut side down in a skillet slicked with a bit of peanut or sunflower oil, just enough so that they get a bit of a crust.
You can happily eat the potatoes just like this, drizzled with a little sesame oil, some rice vinegar or ponzu sauce, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. But, if you want to make them AMAZING, make this miso-dressing and brush it all over the sweet potatoes while they’re still warm:
TO MAKE THE MISO-DRESSING: In a jar combine 1 big spoonful of white or yellow miso paste; 1 tsp (or so) of ginger, grated or minced; 1 garlic clove, pressed or minced; a splash of soy sauce; a drizzle of agave or honey; then fill the jar 1/3 of the way with rice wine vinegar; 1/3 of the way with sesame oil; and the last 1/3 of the way with grapeseed or canola oil. Shake well to combine then taste to see if it needs a bit more acid or sweetener. Brush on your warm potatoes and then sprinkle them liberally with sesame seeds. Save any remaining sauce for salads or to top grains.
For a quick meal, I like to serve the potatoes with brown rice and whatever green vegetable I have on hand, say broccoli or spinach (above is bok choy) that I stir-fry or, you guessed it, steamed.
Thursday, February 12th, 2015
I just had to share this Valentine’s Day craft idea that I stole from my friend Isabel and I think she may have discovered on Pinterest (that wonderful time-sucking rabbit hole). This was a lifesaver for me because I tend to drop the ball when it comes to school Valentine’s projects. Like EVERYTHING kid-related, the Valentine’s card game has become much more elevated since I was a student at Clinton Elementary School. Back then, your mom bought a box of cartoon character cards at the supermarket, you wrote the name of each kid in your class on the cheap little envelope, delivered them on the big day, got the same in return, done and done. But now, supermarket Valentine’s are like you’re not even trying. Handmade cards, candy-grams, monogrammed pink pencils, origami hearts, …it’s crazy. I always feel like I completely drop the ball. But not this year because of these melted crayon hearts!
It’s easy enough for someone who doesn’t have the Martha Stewart gene (no glue-gun required) but there’s enough busy work upfront that you feel like you and the kids are actually MAKING something. The only thing required is a silicone heart mold that I hear you can find at many craft shops like Michael’s.
Gather up a bunch of old crayons (this is a perfect project for using up old and banged-up crayons, please don’t go out and buy a box of new ones unless you’re an oil oligarch or something) and start peeling off the labels (this is the most onerous part of the job). Break them into smaller pieces and inset the pieces into the molds, mixing colors as you like. I recommend not using any black or brown or gray because they are less than cheerful and will muddy the mixture. We went with blues, and greens, and pinks, and purples, and oranges, and yellows…even better were adding some fluorescent colors that really pop. On one site I saw a mom add glitter as well which is definitely a pro-move.
Once each heart is filled, place the mold on a baking sheet and put it in a pre-heated oven at 250. Mine were done at around the 15 minute mark—completely melted, no chunks floating around—but I would check them at around 12 minutes. Place the sheet with the mold on a cooling rack and let cool until the crayons harden (this should only take 30 minutes or so). Pop the cooled crayons out and you’re done!
*One warning: some kids might mistake the colorful heart for candy so consider including a little instruction in your Valentine…