I’m deeply aware that the way I cook on a weeknight is a skosh more involved than the way most of America cooks. One might even go so far as to call it convoluted. Or even flat-out crazy. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Exhibit C.
But I figure that, given my job, it’s justified. It’s all just necessary practice, right?
Sure it is. Until I get busy, that is, and I need exactly what the rest of America needs: something resembling food, and fast.
Which is where this recipe comes in. It’s meant to be made in the time it takes to boil water and cook pasta. And I think all but the very busiest of people has time for that on a weeknight.
Having said that, this recipe does still live up to my standards of excellence. All proof that fast food ain’t always bad, and great food ain’t always slow.
You can toast the pepitas if you feel like it. Or don't. Either way it'll be fine.
The panko on top is optional, but I love a little crunch on top of my pasta. If you have time, go for it. If not, no one will ever know.
1/2 pound linguine (or pasta of choice)
Half a large bunch of cilantro (about 1 cup packed)
1/2 cup pepitas
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1/2 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
Salt and pepper, as needed
1/3 cup panko (optional)
8 ounces smoked salmon
1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Gather all ingredients before starting to boil the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
2. Meanwhile, roughly chop the cilantro and place in the bowl of a food processor with the pepitas, garlic, and lime juice. Purée, scraping the sides as needed, until well blended. With the motor running, drizzle in about 1/4 cup olive oil. Stop the motor, scrape the sides, and taste. Correct the seasoning as needed with salt, pepper, extra lime juice, and olive oil. Set aside.
3. Optional step: mix the panko with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small pan, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Toss over medium-high heat until well-browned and crisp, 2 to 4 minutes. Set aside.
4. Cut the salmon into thin strips. Set aside.
5. When the pasta is cooked, reserve 1/4 cup pasta water, and drain. Return to the pot, and toss with the pesto. Thin with some of the reserved pasta water if needed to help coat the pasta. Mix in half the salmon.
6. Serve hot, garnished with the remaining salmon and the breadcrumbs divided evenly among the plates.
Seriously, though, let’s never speak of the weather again.
Here are some phrases you won’t see me using on this site (and if I do, you are please requested to reprimand me):
1. “nip in the air”
2. “crunch of leaves” (that goes double if used in conjunction with the word “underfoot”)
3. “days getting shorter”
Am I cynical? Probably. Mostly, I’m just bored with seeing the same themes and phrases pop up over and over on food blogs across the nation. It’s Fall, and it’s happening to everyone. We get it. Talk about the food already.
My corner market had some “homegrown” cauliflower, and I had no reason to doubt the claim because the leaves were still on the heads. I’m talking huge heads of cauliflower, with all the leaves. The two of us ate one head for an entire week, no joke.
So, oh my god, what does one do with cauliflower when one has had it nine hundred ways already, and even saved the leaves because they’re edible and one can’t bear to throw out anything edible?
The answer is always soup.
Clean out the freezer, find that amazing sausage that your Old Kentucky Grandmother sent you, and the crawfish tails that you really should’ve used by now. Let it all simmer on the stove until your eyes fall out from using the computer too much. Soup!
Serve this with beer and the requisite crusty bread. And ignore what’s happening outside.
For the sausage, I used some incredible breakfast-type sausage that my grandmother sent me. I think just about any kind would work here, as long as it would go well with crawfish. Or heck, omit the crawfish and use whatever sausage you darn well please.
My cauliflower was of the homegrown sort, so it had a ton of leaves still on it. If yours doesn't have any leaves, don't sweat it. Omit it, or use some other hardy green like chard or kale instead.
8 ounces sausage of choice
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
5 bay leaves
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, to taste
A few sprigs fresh thyme, or about 1/2 teaspoon dried
8 cups stock or water
1 small head cauliflower, about 1 pound, with leaves if possible ( see headnote )
8 ounces cooked crawfish tails
Salt and pepper, as needed
1. In a large pot over medium heat, cook the sausage until browned. If there isn't much fat that has rendered out, add a splash of olive oil or a knob of butter. You should have a tablespoon or two of fat in the bottom of the pot.
2. Stir in the onion, celery, and bell pepper. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and cook until just translucent, 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the garlic, bay leaves, cayenne, thyme, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until fragrant, stirring occasionally.
4. Add the stock (or water), increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil.
5. Optional step: if you have the leaves from your cauliflower, strip the center ribs out (leave them on the smaller, more tender leaves), and slice the leaves crosswise into very thin ribbons. If using chard or another green, you can leave the center ribs in; slice crosswise into very thin ribbons. Add to the pot.
6. Stir in the cauliflower, and return to a boil. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes.
7. Add the crawfish, and simmer for another minute or two, just enough to warm them without overcooking.
There’s a whole lotta green still, but you turn a corner and WHAM, there’s the most brilliant orange lit up in the crisp sunshine.
If you happen to get my personal chef newsletter (ahemshameless plug), you saw that I featured pumpkins this month. Such a novel idea this time of year; I’m so innovative.
And of course, because I got all into pumpkins, I had to cook some. Running errands yesterday, I happened to park literally across the sidewalk from a small farmers market, where I saw the most adorable little Delicata squash. Kismet.
Using the super-simple recipe for Avocado Sauce I recently developed for a client’s dinner party (I can never get enough avocado), the goat cheese still banging around in the fridge, and what I hope isn’t the last of my spicy globe basil, I had a Fall Fantasie on my plate, all orange and green and golden brown.
There happened to be both hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds in the pantry, either of which would have been equally good here. I chose hazelnuts because I am a creature of free will, and for no other reason. Yes, I dropped on a few miserly drops of truffle oil. It didn’t need it, but it did gild the lily.
This dish is so pretty and so flavorful, I can see a long tray of it served at Thanksgiving, but it’s certainly nutritious enough for everyday dining. Don’t forget to serve it with a little salad and some crusty bread.
If you tend to have sensitive skin like I do, you might want to consider donning a pair of rubber or latex gloves while preparing raw winter squash. Delicata might not cause the same reaction, but after cutting a butternut years ago and dealing with "Elmer's glue hands" for a week, I don't take any chances.
For the Squash:
2 Delicata squash (look for ones that have more orange or yellow color to them)
2 tablespoons softened bacon fat, butter, olive oil, or a combination
Salt and black pepper, as needed
5 to 10 bay leaves (optional)
For the Avocado Sauce:
1 small shallot
3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
Water, as needed
2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream (optional)
Salt and pepper
Goat cheese (4 to 6 ounces should do it for 4 servings)
Toasted and chopped hazelnuts (about 1/4 cup)
Extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Truffle oil (optional)
For the Delicata Squash:
1. Preheat oven to 375º F, and position a rack in the middle.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (optional, but absolutely prevents any sticking).
3. Slice the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds (either roast those separately or discard). Halve the squash with a diagonal cut, and then again, cutting each squash into 8 long triangles. You can, of course, cut it any way you like, as long as the pieces are about the same size.
4. Put the squash on the prepared pan, and rub the pieces with the softened bacon fat (or whatever you're using) until evenly coated. Sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper. Scatter the bay leaves around the squash.
5. Roast for 45 to 60 minutes, or until browned on the edges and the flesh is soft (check by piercing with a sharp knife; it should meet no resistance). Let cool slightly.
6. While the squash roasts, prepare the Avocado Sauce, and toast and chop the hazelnuts.
For the Avocado Sauce:
1. Roughly chop the avocado and shallot. Purée with 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice in a small food processor, scraping the sides as needed.
2. While the processor is still running, drizzle in the melted butter. If the sauce looks very thick, add water by tablespoons as needed to thin.
3. The sauce will taste a little flat and tart at this point. Sample it, and add salt, pepper, and/or additional lemon juice to taste. Add a spoonful of crème fraîche or sour cream if you have it, and the mood strikes you.
4. Strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps. You may need a spatula to force it through. If making a day or so in advance, cover and refrigerate until ready to use. If you want a warm sauce, or if it becomes too thick in the fridge, gently heat it in a small saucepan over low heat, or in the microwave on short bursts.
1. Put a few pieces of squash on a plate. Spoon some avocado sauce over the top, and crumble the goat cheese over that. Scatter the hazelnuts and basil leaves (torn into small pieces if large) around the plate, and drizzle with olive oil if you like.
2. If using truffle oil, carefully drop on a very few drops (only a VERY FEW please!). The focus isn't truffle here, so please use it judiciously. I'm talking 4 or 5 drops on the whole plate. It's potent stuff.
Don’t tell my clients this, but much of the time, the “recipes” I use are little more than a list of ingredients, and the vaguest notion of a method.
In putting a client’s weekly (or monthly) menu together, I pore over food preferences and sort through endless recipes, trying to find the one dish that will bring their menu together in perfect harmony. Occasionally, that one flippin’ dish eludes me. It can drag on for hours if I let it.
Sometimes in a fit of frustration, I scribble a list of ingredients I want to use. More often than not, I can at least see a theme, if not the barest bones of a recipe. I refine it, I call it good enough, and I call it a day.
This method generally results in something that falls between “pretty good” and “very tasty” (to my chagrin, because I’m always aiming for “holy crap, this is awesome”). When I get very lucky, though, I get something that comes awfully close to my target descriptor. I smile, jump up and down, and all becomes right with the world.
With this recipe, I got very lucky. But this one particularly surprised me, mostly because I’d hardly give this recipe a second glance in a cooking magazine or on another blog. It’s full of things I don’t love and never crave. (But then, I’m not the one I was trying to please here.)
Sun-dried tomatoes, for one. They’re often leathery and too sweet, and I don’t remember the last time I voluntarily brought the stupid things into my house. Beans, for another. Nothing against beans, there are just other foods higher on my list that I’d rather eat.
And let’s not even start a discussion about that adjective: “Tuscan”. Again, nothing at all against Tuscany. It is a stunning place, full of wonderful people and incredible food. But use that word to describe a food of American provenance, and I’d probably drop it faster than a red-hot poker.
But dang, you guys. Dang. This is a killer recipe.
It reads as slightly indulgent, with voluptuous Parmesan cheese and olives, but it’s full of nutritious ingredients, and it’s not so rich that you can’t have a spot of dessert afterwards. And please don’t forget to pour a glass of wine with dinner, either.
As for technique, the idea is to add the ingredients to the pot as you chop them, so it all comes together in a streamlined and simple way. Easy peasy.
Sun-dried tomatoes, beans, and “Tuscan” notwithstanding, I liked it so much, I made it again at home the next day. And clearly, I still liked it enough to share it with you all. That should tell you all you need to know.
Just don’t expect any more sun-dried tomatoes anytime soon, okay?
It's true, I typically don't like sun-dried tomatoes. But here they are. Be sure to get the ones packed in olive oil; they tend to be more flavorful and not so leathery.
Cook the onions as slowly as you have time for. I made this twice, and found the lower-heat/longer-time method resulted in something just a skosh more flavorful. Once the dish sat in the fridge for a day, however, I think it was probably all equal.
It occurred to me while writing this that a splash of white wine, or maybe a few anchovy fillets would work beautifully in this dish, but it was really quite good as is. If it ain't broke, and all that jazz. Enjoy as is, then tweak it if you must. I probably will next time.
8 ounces small pasta of choice, such as ditalini, cavatelli, or orecchiette
Olive oil, as needed
1 large bay leaf
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 teaspoon dried Herbes de Provence
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste
1 onion, diced
3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup mixed black and green olives (3 to 4 ounces), chopped
One 3 ounce container sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, drained and chopped
2 cans white beans, such as Cannellini or Great Northern
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
Fresh minced basil, to finish (optional)
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt heavily, and cook the pasta until just al dente. Drain, toss with a little olive oil, cover, and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-low heat in a Dutch oven or any other big, heavy pan. Add the bay leaf, fennel seed, herbes de Provence, and crushed red pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. While the spices and herbs cook, chop the onion. Add it to the pot, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and stir to coat with the oil.
4. As the onion softens, chop the next three ingredients in the order listed (garlic, then olives, then tomatoes), and stir each into the pot as it is prepared.
5. Stirring occasionally, cook until the onion is well softened, but not browned, 10 minutes or so. Depending on your stove and your pot, this may take longer or shorter than indicated.
6. Add the beans with their liquid, and stir to combine. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a rapid simmer. Lower the heat as needed to maintain the simmer and prevent scorching.
7. Simmer uncovered until the liquid has reduced and the beans are no longer soupy, 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat, and mix in the Parmesan, lemon zest, lemon juice, and several grinds of black pepper. Taste, and correct seasoning as needed with salt, pepper, and a splash or two of olive oil (a good time to use the oil left over from the sun-dried tomatoes).
8. Stir in the cooked pasta. Serve at once sprinkled with minced basil and a gratuitous drizzle of olive oil, with a lovely little green salad on the side and a nice Italian wine.
Doesn’t that make you want to reach through the screen, pick a piece up, and eat the ever-lovin’ daylights out of it?
That’s precisely what I want to do every time I see a picture of a crust like that. Those uneven curves and bubbles. That char. The stray dust of flour on the edge. My god, I can smell it.
So it was when I saw the recent post on Lottie & Doof, about the latest pizza dough recipe from Jim Lahey. I saw it. I had to have it. And my life will never abide a lesser pizza from my oven again.
I thought I had found a great pizza crust recipe. Twice. Well, three times counting the recipe I turned to most often, scribbled in my all-purpose notebook with no source (of course).
But this one. Oh, this recipe.
Just delete all the other links you have to other pizza dough recipes, because this is the only one that will be worth making ever again. It’s dead simple, and it’s phenomenal. A crust like this from your own oven will make you think you can open your own pizza restaurant. You may want to resist that temptation.
Be warned, this no-knead beauty takes about 20-24 hours to prepare (mostly hands-off time, of course). Sure, you’ll fool around with some same-day recipes, and they will be… fine. They’ll do the job well enough. But you will know. You will dream of this crust. You will bite into The Other, and you will know what is lacking. And it will not satisfy you any longer.
Here is the recipe. I got 8 portions of dough out of that (use one per person). Halve it if you want, but be prepared to make it again immediately, because you will want it again immediately. Freeze what you don’t need after letting it rise the first 18 hours. And for the love of Pete, weigh your ingredients. In grams. Even the water (3 cups = 680 grams), because your measuring cup is not that accurate, and this recipe is perfect.
And then, as if it couldn’t get any better, I topped Plato’s Ideal Crust with salty country ham, tangy-sweet Boat Street pickled figs, crisp arugula, and blueberries. And my good god, it was only sublime.
If you think I’m exaggerating, behold. This pizza is so nice, I made it twice. I never make the same thing two nights in a row.
The proof is that the drinks in the photos are different. The first night was beer, the second night was white wine. Proof!
Yield: Toppings listed will make two 10-12 inch pizzas
This recipe was born, as so many are, out of the random detritus found in my fridge. On this occasion, it included some Broadbent country ham left over from our Kentucky Derby party, and a jar of Boat Street Pickled Figs, which are one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth. I can't say good enough things about those pickled figs. Go get you a jar.
So once again, I am compelled to offer substitutions for obscure delicacies. Instead of country ham, use thickly-sliced prosciutto. Instead of pickled figs, use fresh (if you can stand to cook with them while they're in season). Or reconstitute some dried figs in a simmer of vinegar and red wine, port, orange juice, or all of the above. Throw in some herbs if you get a wild hair.
This is a white pizza. Don't go asking where is the tomato sauce, because there isn't any.
On the first Saturday of May each year, I throw a Kentucky Derby party. It might just be my second favorite holiday, a close second to Christmas, which has significant charms (the tree! eggnog! sparkly lights!). Derby does have its significant charms as well (hats! Bourbon! ponies!).
Every Derby, I make a ridiculous hat, I have more Bourbon on hand than is humanly possible to consume (one assumes, anyway), I make sure the television is showing the race, and I like to serve deviled eggs. It just seems fitting.
Once in a great while, though, one makes too many deviled eggs. Hard to believe, but it does happen.
In such a case, one eats leftover deviled eggs for a day or two until there are no more hard-boiled egg whites left. (You do keep the prepared yolks and whites separate, and pipe your deviled eggs as needed throughout the party, yes? Which means that you don’t have to refrigerate precariously toothpicked and plastic-wrapped platters of eggs, and your set-out platters of eggs never get all dried out and nasty-looking, yes? Good. We’re all on the same page here.)
So let’s say that you’ve got about half a cup of deviled egg yolk action sitting in your fridge. And you’re all out of hard-boiled whites. What now?
Oh, honey child.
You make this, is what now. It’s so good you won’t even know what to do with yourself.
This was one of those dishes that gave me a moment of terror while making it. You know the moment: despite your most educated judgement, it’s the moment when you are deeply uncertain whether things are going to turn out completely awesome or completely horrible.
It’s a smashed-up avocado, mixed with spicy egg yolk, and briefly sautéed garlic and sardines (for umami and your sustainable Omega-3s). Thin the whole deal with pasta water and lemon juice, and toss it with your long, skinny pasta of choice. To seal the deal, top everything with a brave handful of smoked paprika bread crumbs. Because deviled egg requires paprika on top.
Can you tell that it was completely awesome? Do I even have to say it?
This is best served with a bowl of arugula drizzled with olive oil, and a glass of white wine made solely of grapes from Southeast-facing vineyards in the Beneventano appellation. Or, you know, whatever you’ve got on hand.
It's helpful to have everything ready to go before you start cooking (get yer mise en place!). Once that's done, it's basically: bang bang bang, dinner.
Okay, yes, I acknowledge that not everyone is going to have some leftover deviled egg yolk business sitting around. Or anyone, really. Since you probably don't, and you still want to make this recipe, you could just mix together two raw egg yolks, plus a tablespoon or two of mayonnaise, a spoonful of coarse mustard, and a heavy dose of sriracha (it needs more than you'd think). Smush or whisk in the avocado and sautéed garlic and sardines. When mixed with the hot pasta, it will thicken and cook slightly, carbonara-style.
If raw yolks aren't an option for you, just hard-boil a couple of eggs and eat the whites separately. It's all the work of deviled eggs, and none of the deviled eggs. But there is some incredible pasta instead.
8 ounces spaghetti, linguine, angel hair, or other long pasta
1 can sardines packed in olive oil (bones removed if you're squeamish about that), about 4 1/4 oz
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup deviled egg yolks (see headnote)
Juice of half a lemon, plus extra as needed
2-3 teaspoons olive oil (from the sardine can, if you like)
1 heavy pinch smoked paprika
1 heavy pinch dried thyme
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 large handful panko (or other coarse breadcrumbs)
1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil. Cook pasta until just al dente, according to package directions. When done, drain, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water. Keep warm.
2. Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the sardines with some of the oil they were packed in, and the garlic. Cook briefly, breaking up the sardine fillets a bit, until garlic is fragrant and not too brown. Remove from heat.
3. While sardines and garlic cook, halve, pit, and scoop out the avocado into a large bowl. Smash together with the deviled egg yolks. Add the cooked sardines and garlic, and stir in the juice of half a lemon. Taste, and season to your liking with salt and pepper. The sauce will be very thick; whisk in some of the reserved pasta water as needed to thin (you will not need all of it).
4. In the same pan the sardines were cooked in, heat 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the smoked paprika, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Cook for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant, to bloom the spices. Toss in the breadcrumbs, and stir to coat with the oil. Cook until crunchy and well-browned, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.
5. Toss the warm cooked pasta with the avocado-egg sauce, drizzling in additional reserved pasta water as needed to thin the sauce. Serve immediately, topped with a liberal handful of the spiced breadcrumbs.
Did you catch that deviled egg recipe in the headnotes, more or less? Here it is, and it rocks: smash up your hard-boiled egg yolks with some mayonnaise (use a light hand at first, you can always add more later). Add half as much coarse, spicy mustard. Add about the same amount of sriracha (it will look like you're adding way too much, but you really aren't). Mix together, and add salt and black pepper to taste. If it's too thick to pipe, add more mayonnaise (or sriracha) by the spoonful until it's just right. If it's too spicy for you, get over it. They're called "deviled" for a reason.
In my line of work, I always seem to have random bits and bobs knocking around in my fridge. It’s half a chile here, a wedge of onion there, sometimes a handful of chopped kale. Dinner, therefore, mostly ends up being a rough jumble of ingredients tossed together on a sauté pan and a prayer. Mostly, it works out well enough.
But every so often, I come up with something truly special. This is as sad as it is delightful, as I’m certain I will never ever ever enjoy that particular dish again, because that combination of ingredients will never again exist simultaneously in my fridge.
Sometimes, though, it’s so good that I write it down. You know, just in case magic happens and those ingredients appear in my fridge. Who knows, I might buy those ingredients together on purpose.
I took one bite of this, and immediately grabbed my pen and notebook.
Here, it’s served with leftover mustard-roasted leg of lamb, just a few slices for an accent, because I had some in the fridge. It’s just as good on its own.
The one ingredient that I'm certain you don't have is the smoked turkey glace, which sounds a lot fancier than it actually is. It's my secret ingredient lately; I'm stirring a spoonful into just about everything, and it. is. incredible. Get you one smoked turkey wing or leg, put it in your biggest stock pot with half an onion and a bay leaf, fill the pot mostly full with cold water, and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour, or until the meat comes easily off the bone. Remove the onion, bay leaf, and meat; use the meat for something delicious. Bring the stock back up to a boil and reduce the hell out of it. This might take several hours, but it's well worth it. Reduce it until there's hardly anything left, maybe 1/2 or 1 cup, tops. This is your smoked turkey glace. Cool it and store it in the fridge where you can get at it easily. It should thicken into a soft gelatin after chilling, but will dissolve instantly in any heat. Use in small amounts, and often.
Or, you know, use chicken stock. Whatever works for you.
Olive oil, as needed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 medium red onion, diced finely
1 bunch Tuscan kale, with ribs, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 splash dry vermouth (or white wine)
2 tablespoons cashew butter
1-2 teaspoons smoked turkey glace (optional; see headnote)
1 cup cooked whole grain of choice (I used red rice; try brown rice, farro, quinoa, or similar)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, mint, basil, or all of the above)
1 tablespoon minced preserved lemon (optional, but awesome; otherwise, use a heavy squeeze of lemon juice)
1 teaspoon minced fresh chile (I used a blend of Serrano and Marzano)
Grated Parmesan, to finish
1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add a splash of olive oil, and sauté the garlic, shallot, and red onion for about 1 minute, or until fragrant and just beginning to soften.
2. Add the kale, and toss to combine. Reduce heat to medium. Splash in some dry vermouth, and cook until the kale has wilted down and no more liquid remains, 2-3 minutes.
3. Thin the cashew butter with enough water to make a runny sauce, and add it to the kale along with the smoked turkey glace. Stir until kale is coated, and cook until liquid has mostly evaporated.
4. Add the cooked grain, herbs, preserved lemon (or lemon juice), and chile, and toss to combine. Remove from heat, and serve immediately with Parmesan grated generously over the top.
My oh my, I haven’t given you all a recipe in ages, have I? Poor darlings, here you go.
Over dinner the other night, I helped a dear friend brainstorm ideas for her family’s Christmas feast. They planned on salmon, but needed ideas for something festive to dress it up. Fennel immediately sprung to mind, in a sort of raw relish, with a heavy dose of lemon.
Which would be, you know, okay, but it’s not good enough. Not for Christmas.
A quick google didn’t turn up exactly the soignée dish I had in mind, just page after page of fennel and cucumber summat-er-other. I wasn’t inspired at all until one word caught my eye: beets. Yes! Beets! Fennel and beets! Anise-y crunch with earthy sweetness. Perfect.
I wrote my friend an email, containing a sort of recipe that came out as a stream of consciousness, as I pictured what I might reach for were I making it right then. Roasted beets. Raw fennel, small dice. Toasted fennel seeds. Shallot. Lemon. Garlic. Olive oil. And loads of herbs. I was confident.
Of course, I had to try it out for myself. (Can’t let everyone else have all the fun, right?) A couple of filets of sockeye later, cooked according to my latest go-to, foolproof, perfect-every-time method, which you should absolutely try as soon as possible, my confidence turned into unabashed pride.
It’s crunchy, it’s sweet, it’s raw, it’s roasted, it’s bright, and it’s just killer with a fine piece of salmon. It’s exactly what I was going for.
Here’s hoping it can liven more than one holiday table this year. Bon appétit!
This relish is stunning served with a simple roast salmon, though I suspect darn near any fish would work quite well too. I can also see this as an hors d'oeuvre, with crostini and a tangy goat cheese, or even as a topping on those dreadful endive boats (if you insist on using them).
You may notice that the recipe calls for golden beets, while I clearly used red beets in the photos; if you don't mind a little staining, it doesn't matter which you use. Use both, if you like.
If you can, make this several hours or even a day in advance. It's one of those recipes that drastically improves with a little rest.
3 large or 5 small beets (preferably golden)
1 medium shallot
1 lemon (preferably organic)
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 to 8 tablespoons olive oil, to taste
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1/4 cup minced fresh mint
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
2 whole fennel bulbs, with leafy tops attached
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 400º F. Scrub the beets well, and trim the leafy tops which are hopefully still attached (save those for eating another time). Wrap each of the beets tightly in aluminum foil, and pop in the hot oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how big they are. Small ones will, of course, cook faster.
2. Meanwhile, mince the shallot finely and put into a large bowl that won't stain (you know, glass or metal). Zest the lemon into the bowl, and squeeze in all the juice.
3. Smash and peel the garlic clove, chop into very small bits, and sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Using the side of your knife, smash and scrape the salted garlic into a paste. Add this paste to the bowl, along with the Dijon mustard.
4. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the olive oil. Use only enough to take the harsh edge off the dressing, while still letting the lemon flavor shine. This doesn't need to be perfectly emulsified, so don't worry about whisking it to perfect smoothness.
5. Toast the fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat for a minute or so, just until fragrant. Either throw them in whole, or crush them up in a mortar and pestle, depending on preference.
6. Chop the thyme, mint, parsley, and a handful of fronds from the fennel; add to the bowl.
7. Remove the tops from the fennel, and any brown spots on the outside. Cut the fennel into a small dice, and add to the bowl with a few grinds of black pepper. Toss well, and let stand until the beets have finished roasting.
8. When the beets are done (they will feel slightly soft when squeezed through the foil), let cool until they can be handled. Peel the beets, chop into a small dice, and add to the other ingredients. Toss together, and taste to check the seasoning. Correct as needed with additional salt, pepper, olive oil, and/or lemon juice.
Dinner, from the book I cannot stop using: Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi. I must be sounding like a broken record, but that cookbook has majorly influenced the way I cook, both at home and for clients.
This is his Beet, Orange, and Black Olive Salad (and I didn’t send you, but you can find the recipe here). The flavors in this one are not shy, but much more toned-down than you’d think by looking at the ingredient list. Overall, it’s extremely well balanced, a little unusual, and absolutely fabulous.
I modified the recipe by roasting (not boiling) the 4 smallish beets for 45 minutes at 425° F, and serving it over a mixture of quinoa and red rice (1/2 cup and 1/3 cup respectively, by dry measure, cooked separately but concurrently).
The (ahem) red salad green was something I picked up at the farmers’ market, and which nomenclature I promptly forgot. It looked like a cross between frisée and some spindly arugula, and had a lovely bitterness.
For the olives, I used the wrinkly oil-cured type because that’s what I had. Those are super-pungent and normally bully past every other flavor, but here, they were actually subdued. I might chop them a little smaller next time (I basically just halved them here), but not by much. The saltiness jumping out every so often, not in every bite, was excellent.
Oh yes, and it’s scallions instead of red onion. I forgot the red onion at the store.
And now for something a little virtuous on All Saints’ Day, to help bring you down from the sugar high: radishes sautéed with brown butter and a spot of anchovy, tossed with kimchi, radish tops, and brown rice. Top it all off with a luscious fried egg, because hey hey, even saints need a little luxury.
Yield: 2 to 3 servings; also known as 2 dinners and 1 lunch (lucky you)
Chopping the radishes into irregular chunks makes for a more visually interesting dish, gives variance in texture, and makes the work go faster. Feel free to be more precise if you're having the Queen over for dinner.
This recipe calls for cooked brown rice, something I usually have in the fridge. My favorite method for cooking brown rice is from Alton Brown, and results in perfect brown rice. Every. Single. Time. You're welcome.
1 tablespoon butter
1 bunch radishes with green tops, washed well
2 anchovy fillets
1/3 cup kimchi (chopped if necessary)
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice (preferably day-old and cold)
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
Soy sauce, to taste
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Butter or oil to fry eggs in (optional)
1 egg per person (optional)
1. In a large sauté pan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until it browns and smells nutty. Meanwhile, trim the greens from the radishes and set aside. Roughly chop the radishes into irregular pieces, removing the root "tails" in the process.
2. When the butter has browned, turn the heat to medium-high and add the anchovy, mashing with a spatula or wooden spoon to break up the fillets. Throw in the radishes. Toss to coat with the butter, and season with a pinch of salt. Let cook until softened and just beginning to brown.
3. Add the kimchi, and let cook briefly, about 1 minute. Toss in the rice, and cook until it's as done as you prefer it (anywhere from just warm to crunchy and brown). Add the radish tops (no need to chop or dry them off), and toss or stir until wilted. Taste, and add lemon juice, a dash of soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Taste again and correct seasoning as you like. Remove to plates or a bowl, and keep warm.
4. Add a bit of butter or oil to the pan, and set over medium-high heat. Crack eggs into the pan and fry to desired doneness (runny yolks are highly recommended). Top the radishes and rice with the eggs, and serve at once. Beer, though not required, is really, really nice with this one.