Cabbage is a highly underrated vegetable. It’s not glamorous or trendy. And isn’t that strange to think about? Vegetables being trendy? But look at kale and Little Gem lettuce. It happens.
This is a decidedly glamorous presentation of cabbage: shaved thin, sautéed in bacon fat and olive oil with plenty of black pepper, tossed with al dente pasta and chopped fresh herbs (probably just parsley, but who can remember these things). Tarted up on top with some paprika-toasted panko.
And hey hey, I made hummus too. This always happens: I make a thing for a client, and then I have to have it at home. Hummus is best served spread thinly on a plate and topped with sumac and olive oil. Cucumber slices are optional; you can just eat it with your fingers in a pinch.
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.
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.
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.
I couldn’t decide which of these to feature, so I’m posting them both. These meals were both tossed together in less than 15 minutes with things I had banging about in the kitchen, so no recipes or amounts, as everything was eyeballed.
This first one was a quick sauté of gorgeous yellow squash (orange, really) from my Old Kentucky Grandmother’s house, edamame, mint, parsley, garlic, green onions, and possibly something else I’m forgetting. Served over brown rice, topped with a bit of crème fraîche that melted instantly and tied the whole thing together with tangy lusciousness. Luscious, truly; no other word for it.
And this was last night’s orecchiette with sardines, red onion, garlic, minced green olives, piquillo peppers, white wine, parsley, and dried red pepper. On top are shavings of Parmesan.
Wow, two posts in one week? It’s like I’m taking this seriously.
You will please forgive my tardiness with this post; this last week or so, I’ve been blindsided by a messy and slightly incapacitating pile of anxiety, the likes of which I haven’t seen in ages. So while I continue to sticky-tape my brain back together, here is a recipe that I’ve been unproductively mulling over for days.
I originally saw a recipe for warm butternut squash and chickpea salad on Orangette – or was it Smitten Kitchen? – and was hooked. Canned chickpeas are a secret pantry weapon of mine, and I love every opportunity to use them in new ways. But recently, I had all the ingredients to make this knockout dish, with one exception: the chickpeas.
Luckily, though, I happened to have a bag of homemade orecchiette in the freezer, leftovers from a previous day’s kitchen adventure. Making one’s own pasta is one of those things that seems quite fussy on the surface, but ends up being worth every second and mote of effort spent. Whether that’s because it actually tastes better than store-bought, or whether the pride of such an accomplishment is the best seasoning of all, is anyone’s guess.
The best thing about making orecchiette is that you get all the benefits of homemade pasta without having to invest in a pasta roller, which homemade fettucini or linguini would require. Shaped with only your hands, these “little ears” (the literal translation of the name) are as individual as their creator. They can be plump and thick, akin to dumplings, or they can be thin and almost shell-shaped, with a more traditional “pasta” texture. However you prefer to make them, or however they happen to turn out in your hands, the results are equally good.
My hands are on the smaller side, so my orecchiette end up being a bit thick, which makes them a perfect substitute for the starchy chickpeas in the aforementioned recipe. The mild flavor of the pasta might be a little less earthy than the chickpeas, but that allows the tahini sauce to really shine in all its well-balanced glory. The red onions taste a little more pungent, the cilantro a little more vibrant, and the roasted root vegetables a little more caramelized.
As delightful as the original recipe is, I think I’ve made a fitting variation. The original is sophisticated enough to serve to company, but simple enough to make on a weeknight; this variation is glamorous enough to make a weeknight dinner feel like a special occasion dinner. The orecchiette does take a bit of time to make, but it goes quickly if you can get many hands involved. And with such satisfaction as comes with making one’s own pasta from scratch, who wouldn’t want to join in?
Orecchiette With Roasted Root Vegetables and Tahini Adapted from Casa Moro, via Orangette Makes 4 to 6 servings
The beauty of this recipe is its versatility. You could use any winter squash or root vegetable you like, from sweet potato to delicata squash to sugar pumpkin, and everything in between. I used an even mixture of butternut squash, turnips, and rutabagas. While the vegetables roast, mix up the sauce and cook the pasta; they should all be done around the same time. It’s best served at once, but leftovers will reheat nicely with a splash of chicken broth, water, beer, or any other liquid.
2 to 2 1/2 pounds mixed root vegetables (such as butternut squash or turnips), peeled, seeded as needed, and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, very finely minced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup well-stirred tahini
3 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons olive oil (plus additional to taste)
1 1/2 pounds fresh orecchiette (recipe below), or 1 pound dried purchased orecchiette
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 425º F.
2. In a roasting pan, toss the root vegetables with the allspice, olive oil, and a good pinch or two of salt and black pepper, until evenly coated. Spread in a single layer, and bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until soft and browned. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.
3. While the root vegetables roast, bring a large stock pot of water to a boil for the orecchiette. Meanwhile, make the tahini sauce. In a bowl, whisk together the minced garlic, lemon juice, and tahini, until blended. Add the water and olive oil, whisk until smooth, and taste for seasoning. The sauce should have plenty of nutty tahini flavor, but also a little kick of lemon. If bitter, add additional olive oil until balanced, thinning with additional water if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand while preparing the remaining ingredients, to let the flavors marry.
4. Liberally salt the water (which should be boiling by now), and add the orecchiette. Cook until just al dente, about 5 minutes for fresh or 7 minutes for dried, or until done. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain orecchiette and return to pot. Add the tahini sauce and toss.
5. Chop the red onion and cilantro. Add to the orecchiette, along with the roasted root vegetables. Toss until combined. Serve warm, or at room temperature.
This recipe produces (in my hands) plump, almost dumpling-like orecchiette. For a thinner pasta, cut the ropes of dough into smaller pieces, or shape them with hands equipped with bigger thumbs than mine.
11 1/2 ounces (about 2 cups) semolina, plus extra for dusting
9 ounces (about 2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup water, at warm room temperature
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the semolina, flour, and salt. Add the water. Mix together with a fork or spatula until a rough dough forms. Add additional water or semolina by spoonfuls as needed to correct the consistency.
2. Turn dough out onto a work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, discarding any hard lumps that may have formed. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
3. Divide the dough into 8 even pieces. Cover or wrap each piece with plastic wrap. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a dry kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and dust lightly with a little extra semolina. Remove plastic wrap from 1 piece of dough. With lightly floured hands, roll into a rope about 3 to 4 feet long and 1/2 inch thick. Cut crossways into 1/2-inch pieces, with a knife or bench scraper, separating pieces as cut so they are no longer touching. Lightly toss cut pieces with a little semolina.
4. Put each cut piece of dough, one cut side down, in palm of hand and form a depression by pressing thumb of other hand into dough and twisting slightly.
Arrange orecchiette on the lined tray so they don’t touch. Repeat with remaining 7 pieces of dough in same manner. Orecchiette may sit at room temperature for up to a couple of hours, loosely covered with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel, or may be made up to 2 days ahead and chilled on towel-lined trays, covered with plastic wrap. Orecchiette will also freeze well, in a freezer zip-top bag; thaw at room temperature before using in a recipe.