Monday, November 17th, 2014
I got a beautiful mess of small orange and red carrots from my CSA last week…sadly one of the last shares of the season…and the green feathery tops were so lush and verdant, I just couldn’t cut them off and plunge them into the waste bin. Also, it’s just become too rare to actually find carrots at the store with their tops on; and if they are still attached, then usually they look sad and floppy. So this seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I know they can be used in place of herbs to make a terrific pesto, but I still have plenty of the stuff in the freezer from summer. Then in the deep recesses of my brain, I recalled eating a roasted carrot in a restaurant once, that still had its top attached— papery, slightly charred, and meant to eat. It was excellent. So I decided to give it a try with my tops…
I basically winged it, deciding to roast the tops with them still attached to the carrots (rather than cut them off and roast them separately), since the carrots were so small and fresh-out-of-the-ground, I knew they wouldn’t take long to roast, nor would the tops burn. I tossed the carrots with olive oil, salt, pepper, turmeric, cumin and cardamon; the tops with just the olive oil, salt and pepper. I roasted them on a sheet covered with parchment paper for about 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees (if you do this at home I suggest adjusting the time depending on the size of your carrots). They came out tasting like potato chips—salty and crunchy— but obviously a bit better for you. I crumpled them into a grain salad along with the carrots, some roasted beets, avocado, lettuce, and a mustard-vinaigrette. But you could just eat them like this:
Friday, November 14th, 2014
Last weekend, I found myself in one of those rare situations where I had the television all to myself and could watch whatever I wanted. Which basically meant I could watch a movie with subtitles and no one would stop me. I’d been dying to see the French movie Haute Cuisine ever since it came out last year, and luckily, it was available on Netflix! HERE is the trailer so you can savor for yourself…
I know there’s been a trend of food-related films lately (The Trip, Chef, Hundred Foot Journey) and although I haven’t seen them all, I can attest that this one is worth seeing, mostly for its gorgeous, not ostentatious or porny, food photography; but also the fact that it recounts the true story of Hortense, who is unexpectedly hired to be French President Francoise Mitterrand’s private cook. Unlike the chefs in the official palace kitchen, Hortense is instructed to create meals that are evocative of the French homecooking of Mitterrand’s childhood (although most of what she makes could hardly be called simple home cooking…like the choux farci au saumon, a perfect dome of layered cabbage and salmon).
Watch it this weekend, perhaps with something bubbly…and enjoy!
Wednesday, November 12th, 2014
So I have a dirty secret… Although a good chunk of my life is taken up with the practice and consideration of feeding others, one of my favorite meals is the one I make for myself. Just me. And that meal is weekday lunch. And that lunch is typically a big beautiful bowl of Asian noodles.
Around 1 o’clock I take a break from whatever I’m doing, get a pot of water boiling, and start pulling ingredients out of the fridge and cupboard. Unlike the dinnertime meal, my lunch bowls are often scrappy and impetuous affairs, designed around what’s already in the fridge and what I have a taste for. More importantly, the preparation is completely freeing because I don’t have to ask anyone (family members) for approval over what we’re going to eat. Even if you’re a home cooking who doesn’t subscribe to the “short-order cook” school of family meal preparation, there’s always some amount of catering to the quirks and tastes of the people you’re in charge of feeding. But not with lunchtime for one. There’s no: “didn’t we have that already this week” or “ech, why are the eggs so runny?” or “you did you put so much green stuff in it!?” or “My mouth is on fire!”. What is that you say? I didn’t hear you because it’s lunchtime and I’m making whatever I want!
An Asian noodle bowl lends itself to lunchtime because most dried noodles (I like soba, udon, and somen) only take 2-4 minutes to cook. The rest of the ingredients can be stockpiled ahead of time or thrown together with odd and ends. Typically I like to add any and all of the following:
-One 7-minute egg (so the yolk is just a tad runny): This is one of those stockpile ingredients because on Sunday, I try and boil a few eggs ahead of time so that they’re ready in the fridge for such an occasion. If you haven’t done this ahead of time, then you can always add the eggs to the boiling water before cooking the noodles.
-Greens: Arugula, pea shoots, stir-fried bok choy, sauteed chard leaves, massaged kale…it doesn’t matter, just something green.
-Something crunchy: Shredded carrots, slivers of red cabbage, thinly sliced radish, bean sprouts are all good.
-Seeds or nuts: Cashews, pistachios, hazelnuts, they can hang with an Asian noodle bowl, but toasted sesame seeds are my favorite, if you can find furikake then this will fill in nicely.
-Caramelized onions: This is a bonus ingredient if you have the time but when I have to say that, when I find a little tangle of sweet and tender onions in the midst of my noodles it always seems worth it.
-Broth or Dressing: If you want to eat your noodles as a soup then you can make a quick broth (see THIS great recipe) by just simmering a store-bought chicken or vegetable broth with soy sauce and ginger . I also love my noodles cold with either a nuoc cham dipping sauce (simple recipe HERE) or Asian vinaigrette. A great combination is 2 parts sesame oil, 1 part rice wine vinegar, 1 part soy sauce, 1 minced garlic clove (normally I scrape it on a microplane directly into the dressing). Taste for seasonings.The most important thing is to have fun with your creation and put in whatever you’d like–remember you don’t need to ask for anyone’s approval but your own!
Thursday, November 6th, 2014
Faced with bushels of apples from my the orchard, I’ve been feverishly concocting ways to use them all up. The urgency is partially due to the fact that I just love apples and I’m lucky that we have access to an abundance of varieties from our local orchards (specifically the wonderful family-owned Melick’s in Oldwick, NJ); but also because some people (who I happen to be related to), think that I perhaps “overdid it” during my annual splurge at the apple farm… Yes, I did come home with a trunk loaded to the roof with apples, as well as a small fortune in heirloom squash…but no matter! This person must be proven wrong and I will do so by making every single apple count, if not eaten in hand, then morphed into a variety of dishes.
I’ve made crisps galore, pork tenderloin simmered with cider and cream, apple sauce to serve on the side, and cinnamon-dusted fritters for Sunday morning breakfast. But just when pomme fatigue was about to settle in, I had an epiphany: Why was I making apple consumption so hard on myself? They don’t all have to be cooked. Raw apples make a terrific savory ingredient: Chopped and added to a salad, like the classic Waldorf, is a must; I’ve also been adding cubes of Crispin or Matsu to the KEEPERS Massaged Kale and Pomegranate Salad (HERE’S A LINK TO THE RECIPE on the Delish website). For lunch and light dinners, I’ve been including them in rice bowls along with any and all of the following ingredients for a fall mix: Toasted nuts, sliced radish, carrots, brussel sprouts (shredded raw), red cabbage, roasted beets, and arugula.Even easier, I’ve been slicing my orchard apples thinly and then wedging them into grilled cheese sandwiches. My favorite combination is rye bread with gruyere, sliced honeycrisp, and baked ham. A combination with prosciutto and fontina is also amazing… Smoked turkey with apples and sharp cheddar would also be amazing…and even a vegetarian version with roasted mushrooms and caramelized onions…
Recipe for Apple Grilled Cheese
To make, just create your grilled cheese as you normally would but layer the apples next to the cheese. For me the order is typically: Bread, buttered on both sides (or you can do mayo, yes, mayo swiped on both slices of bread both inside and out makes a super crispy and delectable grilled cheese), then cheese slices, apple slices, ham, a slathering of dijon mustard, more cheese slices, bread.
Monday, November 3rd, 2014
Here’s something to make your Monday a little bit brighter:
One lucky reader will receive a gift-copy of Dinner: The Playbook (see below for a review of your new weeknight dinner survival guide).
To enter: just send me your name and email address in the comments box below, along with the scariest/most-expired/most-dumpable food item you’ve ever discovered in your fridge. I will pick my favorite response and you will be the winner! (I’ll also post responses in a follow-up blog post so don’t be afraid to get colorful with your descriptions…).