Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Chickpea and Roasted Kale Salad


Kale is the new salad green. A couple decades ago, choosy eaters eschewed iceberg for the more nutritionally dense, greener, leafier types of lettuce like romaine. Then, they went onto fluffier, miniature, mixed ones often including — or solely consisting of — baby arugula (RIP AKA “rocket”). Their spicy kick lent complexity to sides, and they were also very nutritionally dense, much more so than romaine. Baby spinach greens, too, played a role in this evolution, beckoning the health-conscious for its superfood benefits. Now, the “it” raw salad fodder may have delved even deeper into healthy realms with a once under-sung brassica, typically tougher and prepared braised: kale.
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Friday, April 11th, 2014

Vegetarian Ma Po Tofu, with Photography Lessons

_MG_8652photo: Brie Passano

Last week, I was delighted to sit alongside fellow local bloggers for a panel discussion on food blogging hosted by Edible Manhattan. One of the questions that came up was, how important is photography to you? And another question, or several of the questions, were aimed at understanding what drives readership in a claustrophobic spectrum of sites about food. I’m not a photographer (never learned the ropes formally), but I’d say that photography is important and something to just try, try, try to become better at. As it turns out, an opportunity to get more perspective on the practice came up a few weeks ago, when a photographer named Brie Passano approached me to take photos for a cooking series she was just starting.
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Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

Spice-Crusted Cod with Baby Greens, Beets and Lemon-Yogurt Dressing


I’m not averse to wheat or gluten myself (knocking on wood), but I’m well aware of friends and general masses of folks who are looking for that delicious diversion from eating such products. So, for the crispy, crackly “crust” on a fish fillet, I crushed a grainy mixture of aromatic spices instead of looking to starch-based solutions. Then, since we’re creating such a textural complement to the otherwise tender fish, why not make fish itself the crusty crouton for a salad?
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Monday, March 24th, 2014

Cavatelli with Cranberry Beans and Pea Shoots

It’s finally arrived — the season for budding blossoms, bike rides, and all things green. Well, make that Spring 1.0, the beta-test days. We’ve still got frosts and chances of flurries, and at the farmers markets, there’s little green to be seen. Except for those shoots and seedlings grown in a greenhouse. But — tulips and daffodils, mint, parsley and chives! Step aside, winter squashes and brown-speckled apples. A natural changing of the guards has just begun.
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Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Roasted Root Vegetables with Miso Shallot Dressing


This winter, I’ve been warming my home with the help of the oven. If your city kitchen is as cubicle-sized as mine, you might have noticed that things get pretty toasty very quickly every time it gets fired up. Suddenly, your hair is clinging to your brow and for a moment you mistake the sizzling sounds heard from the oven for your own sweat. In this hotboxed environment, I concocted a dressing for the root vegetables that were instead making that noise — at quite a high temp of 425 degrees. I didn’t know what I was doing, really, but in the end it all just made sense.
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Friday, March 7th, 2014

French Onion Crostini


A friend told me he’d made French onion soup recently. I got jealous. That warm, salty broth topped with molten cheese sounded like the perfect remedy for a lazy night in the freezing cold. But I had a potluck to go to, and little time to whip up a batch of hearty beef stock. Plus, I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to bring twenty-some individual oven-safe bowls to the party, but I knew that my friends would love this classic combo.
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Friday, February 28th, 2014

Sichuan Fish Stew (Shui Zhu Yu)


If you’re familiar with the dry-style stir-fries of Sichuan cuisine — Kung Pao chicken, or beef with cumin — this is its soupy antithesis. Translating literally to “water-cooked fish,” it’s fish slices gently poached in a not-so-gentle broth. No, it’s not just water in there. Infused with dried chilies, Sichuan peppercorns and chili bean sauce, it’s a tingly, vermilion bath loaded with slivered vegetables like cabbage and celery, flavors melding. And because of its stew-like consistency, it’s perfect for winter — or anytime you need a good kick in the seat of heat.
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Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Egg Curry with Butternut Squash


It occurs to me that this might as well be named Butternut Squash Curry with Eggs. But I was inspired by the notion of making egg curry, a staple peasant dish of India that can incorporate as many spice blends and vegetable additions as to envelop winter squash from a foreign terrain. It is a decidedly vegetarian main course in a distinctively vegetarian (and vegan)-friendly cuisine, and I first learned about egg curry from reading short stories by Jhumpa Lahiri, in which a character takes it out of his fridge to reheat day after day, in monotony.
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Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Cannellini Stewed with Tomatoes and Pancetta


It’s more filling than a mere tomato sauce, but just as easy to make. I like to make versatile dishes in the winter; things that can keep well in the fridge, and keep on playing new roles well, too, albeit of a similar character. It’s not the Meryl Streep of foods, I guess: this bean and pancetta-studded tomato sauce wouldn’t exactly make a drastic turn in, say, Vietnamese cuisine. But it does wear many hats quite deliciously keeping within a European repertoire, making appearances with pasta, with crusty bread, or alone, drizzled with good olive or specks of parmesan and parsley.
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Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Fennel, Apple & Onion Relish


I wasn’t sure what to call this condiment — it is a jarred, preserved sauce (so it could be called simply “preserves”). But it doesn’t have to be; it could also be used immediately, like any old sauce. It’s sweetened with sugar so it could be a jam, but it has enough savory complexity to qualify (I think) for a chutney. It also has a strong dose of vinegar so it might as well be an agrodolce — the tangy, condensed, Italian preparation of such vegetables as onion and squash. Sweet, sour, thick, jammy, I’m gonna go with “relish.” The connotations behind “relish” are specific in some parts of the country — in Chicago this is a chunky sauce of minced cucumber bound with a sweet-and-sour slurry. But I like the word. You can relish this sauce, using the term now as a verb, which you can’t do with “chutney.” The verb versions of “jam” (to smash?) and “preserve” (to save) are not as delightful, now are they?
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