This recipe relies on a roasted kabocha squash, with just a bit of allspice to bring out the earthiness, plus the always-needed salt and pepper. The rice pilaf, we threw together with whatever vegetables we had on hand, and we were lucky enough to get fresh-picked cranberry beans in our box last week as well, which gave the meal more heft.
1 c. wild rice or wild rice mix
3 c. broth
1 clove garlic, peeled but whole
1 large or two small kabocha squash, seeded and sliced or cubed
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 dozen crimini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 c. peas, frozen or fresh
2 c. cooked white beans (we used cranberry beans, but cannelini or great northern beans would work well too)
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. sage
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil or butter
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a rice cooker or saucepan, combine the rice, broth and whole garlic clove. Cook until the rice is done.
Once the squash is sliced or cubed, lay flat on a lightly oiled baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, pepper and allspice. Bake for 20-30 minutes, turning over or stirring once, until easily pierced with a fork.
While the squash cooks, sauté the onions, garlic and carrots in 1-2 tablespoons of butter or oil, until the onion is translucent. Add the rosemary, thyme and sage and cook for one minute more, while stirring. Add the mushrooms, peas and beans, stir for one minute, then cover and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are cooked. You may want to add a little bit of water or broth to prevent sticking.
Serve immediately, either after combining the rice and vegetables in the skillet, or separately.
2 1/2 pounds Japanese, Persian, or English hothouse cucumbers
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup labneh (Lebanese yogurt cheese) or Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed well, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lemon juice
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 9×7 inch loaves focaccia, halved horizontally, or 8 ciabatta rolls
Extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If using English cucumbers, split lengthwise and remove seeds (leave other varieties whole). Arrange cucumbers on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet, cut side down. Brush with melted butter. Roast cucumbers until crisp-tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate; chill until cold.
Cut Japanese or Persian cucumbers lengthwise in half. Cut hothouse cucumber halves lengthwise in half. Slice crosswise into 1/4 inch-thick pieces. Whisk Greek yogurt and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in sliced cucumbers and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Season filling to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired.
Brush cut sides of focaccia or rolls with olive oil; place on a baking sheet and toast in a 400° oven until just crispy and lightly browned, 3-5 minutes. Divide filling among focaccia bottoms, cover with tops, and cut each into 4 sandwiches (or divide filling among rolls).
Chicago is deep into an epic heat wave, so I’m guessing none of you wants to turn on your oven. I haven’t wanted to either, which is why, I suppose, I have a whole stable of salads and slaws to post here. Are you sick of them yet?
I’ll start with this updated green bean panzanella that I made for a beach trip last week to the Indiana Dunes. Kasia came to visit me, and, being the Bay Area softy (sorry, tootsie pop!!) that she is, the heat was hard for her to bear. What choice did I have but to pack a cooler and whisk her away to the water? Brandon joined us, we piled in the car, and crossed state lines.
The Indiana Dunes are a beautiful stretch of sandy beach nestled amongst dunes and hiking trails on Lake Michigan. After growing up near the Pacific, the experience of swimming in a large, saltless body of water is still surreal to me. It looks as endless as an ocean, so I keep expecting the back and forth pull of waves. It’s strange to have nothing to fight against. And it’s most especially strange that it is quiet. The noise of the water is the most defining characteristic of being on a California beach. When Jen asked me the other day to choose a body of water that described me (she was giving me some sort of personality test), I chose the Pacific. But, the endless placid lake has grown on me, and I was supremely happy to be there on a beautiful, sunny day.
Of course, it wasn’t entirely placid when we were there–hundreds were splashing around in it. Hoards of people had flocked to the shoreline, with radios and umbrellas and picnics of their own. As I lay in the sun, I let the voices ripple over me, catching a few stray words here and there, but mostly just torrents of human noise. Not quite the ocean, but still, it was soothing. Full tummies, good company: we had a marvelous day.
Green Bean Pomegranate Salad
1 lb. green beans or haricot verts, rinsed and ends snapped off
2 medium beets, roasted and peeled
1 pomegranate worth of seeds
5 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1 day-old baguette, sliced
approx. 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450 and roast beets, skin on, for 1/2 an hour until they are soft and cooked through. Let them cool and then remove the skins (or cheat and buy the pre-boiled beets from Trader Joe’s, which is what I did here). Chop them into 1/2-inch-sized chunks and add them to a large bowl.
Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet on high and warm grapeseed oil until it is hot (grapeseed oil has a higher smoke point and is better for cooking over high heat than olive oil). Toast the bread slices. Add to the large bowl with the beets.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and prepare an ice bath in a separate bowl. Parboil the green beans for a minute or two, then, with a slotted spoon, move them immediately to the ice bath. Let them cool down, then drain. Add to the large bowl with the beets and bread.
Halve the pomegranate and squeeze out the seeds into the bowl. Crumble the goat cheese.
To make the vinaigrette: start with vinegar, mustard, garlic, and salt & pepper in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in until the liquids emulsify. Mustard contains pectin and, when you add it to a vinaigrette, you get a lovely, creamy emulsification. You can continue adding olive oil until you reach your desired consistency.
Toss the salad with the vinaigrette and set aside in your fridge or cooler. By the time you get to the beach, the bread will have absorbed all the flavor from the vinaigrette and the whole thing will be divine.
I thought the weather and I had come to a tacit understanding: I toughen up, make it through the gunk of winter; it gives me a few months of summer during which I can live relatively unmolested by it. But after a freak hailstorm that caused EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS worth of damage to my car last week, all bets are off. You hear me, weather? I don’t think you’re so cool anymore! I’m gonna complain my eyes out if I feel like it.
It happens to be a nice day today, so I’ll spare you any further grumbling. The humidity is low, the sun is high. I’m in an office, but dreaming of sponging up some sunshine soon. Here’s a recipe that’s perfect for a picnic, and’ll get you out of the kitchen quickly. Tristan showed me this a few months ago. You can eat the slaw on its own, in a salad, over brown rice, or stuffed in sandwiches. It’s tangy, sweet, fantastic. Beets are in the same family as spinach, chard, and quinoa, and are jam-packed with phytonutrients–their health benefits are matched only by their deliciousness.
3 small beets (or equivalent), peeled and shredded
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. orange-champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar with a little orange juice)
salt and pepper
In a bowl, whisk the garlic, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper together. Drizzle in the olive oil until all the liquids emulsify. Pour over the shredded beets. Will keep for about a week in the fridge.
I realized the other day when talking to an old friend that I essentially have a philosophy on life: Try new things and eat vegetables. That’s it folks. If I had to sum up all the wisdom I’ve learned in my 29plus years on this planet, it would be that. Be adventurous, and find pleasure in the things that are good for you.
Yesterday, I spent a really lovely day with sunshine and good friends and a grill. We then spent some time at the Andersonville street fair, crammed full with people and craft booths and food. Pleasure, I think, is good for you. It’s a vegetable. It makes you feel attached to the world, participating in it. Friends are good for you.
Focaccia is good for you, especially if you top it with vegetables.
I made this the other day when it was thunderstorming and ridiculous outside.
I took out my aggression on the dough.
With the help of this book I picked up at Myopic:
adapted from the Good Housekeeping Baking Cookbook
1 1/2 c. warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
3 3/4 c. bread flour
5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. kosher or course sea salt
1 package of cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
1 head of green garlic, rinsed, peeled, and diced
3 to 4 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
1/2 c. parmesan
salt and pepper
In a large bowl, combine 1/2 c. warm water, yeast, and sugar; stir to dissolve. Let stand 5 minutes, or until foamy. Add remaining 1 c. warm water, flour, 2 tbsp. oil, and table salt; stir to combine.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7 minutes, or until smooth and elastic (dough will be soft; do not add more flour). Shape dough into ball; place in greased large bowl, turning dough over to coat. Cover bowl and let stand in warm place (80 to 85 degrees) until doubled, about 1 hour.
Make the toppings: Over medium heat in a pan, saute the green garlic (with a bit of salt and pepper) until soft. Set aside to cool.
Lightly oil a cookie sheet with a lip (not one that talks back; I mean one that has about an inch-long border around all sides). Punchdown dough and pat into prepared pan. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. With fingertips, make deep indentations, i inch apart, over entire surface of dough, almost to bottom of pan. Drizzle with remaining 3 tbsp. oil; sprinkle with kosher salt. Cover looselty and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450.
Sprinkle the garlic evenly over the dough. Spread the tomato halves over the dough. Sprinkle the thyme, then salt and pepper. Grate the cheese and sprinkle over everything.
Bake focaccia on lowest rack about 18 minutes, or until bottom is crusty and top is lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
One of my favorite things to do is to drive along the coast of California. I went to college in Santa Cruz, and I used to make the drive back and forth to LA all the time. Those trips in my little Ford Escort were most certainly where I cemented my love of road trips. I get how long drives might be tedious to some, but I adore the in-between space it affords: open road, open time ahead of you, tunes, a view. Somewhere along the way, I discovered Pea Soup Andersen’s–a small roadside diner specializing in pea soup. The diner looks like the Tiki Room at Disneyland gone Swedish (cuckoo clocks instead of singing birds). And the soup, for all the hype, is truly fantastic.
The best eateries in the world are roadside diners. To get people to turn off the highway and get out of their cars, roadside restaurants know they have to be pretty special. The Madonna Inn, for instance, is just up the road from Pea Soup Andersen’s, and does nothing less than a pink-and-brass mambo all over your senses–pink sugar, waterfalls in the men’s bathroom, amazing pancakes. Can any place match the roadside genre in themes, decor, and comfort food? When there’s nothing but the lonely road ahead of you, you want something that sticks to your guts, both in food and funky kitsch.
This is a soup that you want with you on the open road. There are a million ways to approach it, but here’s a rustic, hearty one. Vegemetarians can easily skip the bacon and cook the veggies in olive oil instead.
1 c. dried green peas
3 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and diced
1/2 lb. of thick-cut bacon, roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
6 sprigs of thyme
1 c. white wine
2 russet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
16 oz. stock
2 c. water
In a sieve, rinse the peas and set aside.
In a large pot over medium heat, cook the bacon until the fat renders, but don’t let it get too crisp. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside.
Add the garlic, onions, and carrots to the bacon fat, and sprinkle salt and pepper over them. Let them cook until they soften, about 5 minutes. Cover the veggies in the wine and let it reduce for a few minutes. Throw in the bay leaves and the thyme.
Add the peas and potatoes and coat them in the veggies and oil. Cover in stock and water and turn the heat to medium-high. Let it come to a boil and continue to boil for awhile, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium and cook until peas and potatoes are cooked through. Add the bacon back in. Add salt to taste. With a potato masher, smoosh everything to desired consistency (smooshy).
You know the Portlandia sketch “Put a Bird on It”? I’m kind of like that, but with pasta. Got a bunch of gorgeous veggies you’d like to make into a meal? Put it on pasta. Leftover sausage? Put it on pasta. There are many other fine grains out there, and I do try to diversify. But pasta just calls to me. I open the cupboard and it says, “C’mon Kate, you know who’s your favoritest carb. Why fight it?” What can I do but give in?
Which is exactly what I did yesterday when I received my first Fresh Picks box, filled with gorgeous spring greenery. Most exciting of all was a bunch of ramps, which I’d never seen before and at first mistook for scallions. After a bit of careful research (Mr. Google), I learned that not only are these creatures delicious, but they are, in fact, responsible for the name of Chicago itself! A 17th-century explorer named Robert Cavelier described a thick growth of vegetation near Lake Michigan as the wild onion, called Chicagou in the language of the native tribe. Recently, it was found that these wild onions were actually ramps.
So it’s clearly an act of civic pride to eat these by the barrelful. And, did I mention that they are delicious? The whites are a milder version of the scallion, and the greens have a lovely, delicate onion flavor. Put them on some pasta, why don’t you!
Ramp and Brussels Sprout Pasta
1 c. cashews, unsalted
2 c. brussels sprouts, quartered with ends removed
1 bunch ramps, whites diced and greens julienned
parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp. good, aged balsamic vinegar, or reduced balsamic vinegar if it’s not that aged
1/2 lb. penne
Preheat oven to 450. Put a pot of salted water over high heat and bring to a boil.
Lay the brussels sprouts out on a cookie sheet and coat with olive oil and salt and pepper. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until they have reached your preferred level of crunchiness (I like mine really crunchy). When done, put them in a large bowl.
In a dry, heavy-bottomed pan, toast the cashews until they turn brown. Add to the large bowl.
In the same pan, warm some oil over medium and saute the ramp whites until they are soft and translucent. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add the greens and cook until they wilt, maybe a minute. Add the bowl with the cashews and brussels sprouts.
Cook the pasta until al dente. Add to the bowl and toss, adding olive oil until lightly coated.
Bring the same pan with another tbsp. of oil to medium, and fry an egg, about a minute on each side.
To serve: dish out the pasta, then drizzle some good vinegar–no more than maybe a tbsp. Add the egg to the top, grate cheese over it, and finish with salt and pepper.
Chicago, I’ve gotta tell you: you’re not looking good these days. Whatever this is, this post-winter, pre-spring thing, is not working for you. It’s brown on top of brown on top of brown. The snow has melted away and all that’s left is dead grass, dead bushes, dead leaves. The geese are back, but they’re brown. The el platforms, the particular color of Chicago brick, the dirty freeway cement, even the pond on campus–brown.
So, I’m waiting eagerly for spring. And I even miss winter a little. And I’m sick. I know, I know, I’m a big gripefest over here.
What’s better to soothe the inner griper than carbs? I had a carbfest on Saturday and made fresh pasta, an onion-apple tart, and homemade bread. All with the help of the lovely Maggie. She studies medieval Italian lit, so I knew, even though a novice, she’d have pasta-making in her bones.
My first attempt at fresh pasta a few weeks ago was a complete failure, but this time we pulled it off beautifully. We made reams and reams of the stuff and topped it off with a butternut squash cream sauce.
Took more time than just boiling a package of pastasciutta, but man was it worth it.
from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters
2 c. flour
2 egg yolks
definitely: a pasta machine
Add the flour to a large bowl and create a well in the middle. Add the eggs and yolks to the well. With a fork, scramble the eggs with the flour until you have an even consistency. We also added maybe 1/2 a c. of water to the mix because it started out much too dry. Use your discretion. What you want to achieve is a dough that holds itself together but is not too sticky.
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for an hour.
Divide the dough in half and feed it through the lowest setting on your pasta maker. Once you feed it through, you will have a long, flat rectangle. Fold it in thirds and feed it through again on the low setting.
Set the maker to the next lowest setting and repeat these steps until you have reached the desired consistency (pretty thin, but not so much so that it falls apart). Switch attachments to the tagliatelle setting and send the dough through to cut it into pasta. Lay flat and let rest.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 3 to 6 minutes, until it floats to the top and is cooked through.
Butternut Squash Cream Sauce
4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 large butternut squash, peeled and diced into chunks
salt and pepper
1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 c. cashews, finely chopped (unsalted)
3–4 sprigs of thyme
1 c. heavy cream
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Arrange the butternut squash on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil until covered. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and nutmeg, and toss to coat. Bake until tender, about 35 minutes.
Heat a large pan over medium and add oil. Saute onions and garlic until translucent, about 4 minutes, then add the cashews and saute a few minutes more, being careful that they don’t burn. Add the roasted squash, the thyme, and the cream and bring it to a boil, then lower to simmer. Stir in the cheese and simmer for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
When standing over a pot of risotto, it’s not hard to imagine you’re stirring a bubbling cauldron of magical delights, like in Macbeth‘s witches’:
Poison’d entrails, toad, filet of a fenny snake, eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, tongue of dog, adder’s fork, blind-worm’s sting, lizard’s leg, howlet’s wing, scale of dragon, tooth of wolf, witches’ mummy, maw and gulf of ravin’d salt-sea shar, root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark, liver of blaspheming Jew, gall of goat, slips of yew, nose of Turk, Tartar’s lips, finger of birth-strangled babe, tiger’s chaudron, baboon’s blood.
I like the care involved with making risotto. It’s mostly about stirring and timing, but it’s a food that wants your attention. By the end, you’ve seen it through each step of the way; you’ve stood over the hot stove for a good 35-40 minutes, smelling the layers as you build: garlic and shallots, mushrooms, reducing wine, sage, stock, lemon. I think it’s a really gratifying concoction to make. Perfect for a cold night.
The preserved lemon is the secret eye of newt in this version. It ties all the flavors together and makes them just a little bit magic.
Mushroom Pea Risotto
12 oz. stock
3–4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
2 large shallots, peeled and finely diced
3 sage leaves
1 lb. crimini mushrooms, roughly diced
1 c. white wine
1 c. arborio rice
1 bay leaf
1 preserved lemon
1 c. frozen peas
1 c. grated parmesan
salt and pepper
Heat stock in a saucepan and keep it at a gentle simmer.
Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add garlic, shallots, and pepper, and saute until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the sage leaves and the mushrooms and coat with oil, cook until the mushrooms release their juices (yum) and start to soften. Add the arborio rice, coat with oil, and cook for another minute.
Add white wine and let it reduce, stirring often. When it gets absorbed into the rice, add the bay leaf and preserved lemon. Then add your first ladleful of the warm stock. Stir frequently and allow it to absorb into the rice. Repeat the ladling and stirring one ladleful at a time until the rice is cooked through and the stock has been absorbed to create a creamy–not soupy–texture. Stir the peas in and cook until they are warmed through.
Turn off the heat and add the parmesan cheese. Adjust for salt to taste.