Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Orecchiette with Lentils, Onions and Spinach

I've been feeling pretty emotional about our impending move. We are leaving our family and a wonderful circle of friends. It's going to be tough. And yes, I've shed quite a few tears over the last few days. That said, the time has really come for us to move to a city that is more suitable for our family of 5 (I'm including the elderly Rottweiler in this count).   
For five generations my ancestors have made New York City their home. The original pioneers left Europe and came through Ellis Island well over a century ago. My great-grandparents lived in Manhattan, my grandmother grew up in the tenements on East Broadway (long destroyed) and my grandfather grew up in Harlem.  In the 1940's a good chunk of my mother's family crossed the East River (Harlem River) and settled on the Grand Concourse (fun fact: the concourse has the second largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the United States).  
My parents moved to the Riverdale section of the city in the 1970's and I grew up on a beautiful tree-lined street. I took the 1 and now-defunct 9 train (plus the cross town bus) to high school on the Upper East Side , went to college in the village and most recently spent 7 years in Brooklyn. You can see that there's a lot of history here. Sure, a few family members moved to Los Angeles and Seattle in the 1950's (I think it was) but, for the most part, my people don't move west of the Hudson River...
Now we are picking up, heading west toward the Rockies and replanting ourselves in a new city with the hopes that we will provide an enjoyable childhood for our sons. We don't want to be on wait lists for public schools and we are tired of living in such close (albeit environmentally friendly) quarters. I mean it's time to move around in a space that exceeds 600 square feet.  I marvel that we've been able to function in such a small space for all this time. We don't need a mansion, just a little bit more room. Okay and maybe a yard. And decent schools. Some National Parks. Kayaking and white water rafting? Yes, please.  Maybe snowboarding or winter sports for the kids! 
In general we are looking for a less aggressive existence... because we don't believe that things really have to be so hard.  Fingers crossed!  
Anyway, the reason I mention this is because I need to start using up a lot of odds and ends in my pantry. I have left over French Lentils and Orecchiette, so I used google to figure out what I should make. This is what popped up.  
So, if you're making a big move and  looking to use some left over legumes and pasta this recipe is for you. If you are staying put and just want a dinner, I think this does the trick too. 
Bon Appetite! We will miss you (and you know who you are) so, so, so much. 
{In addition to my pantry items (lentils and pasta), I used a combination of fresh and organic frozen spinach and CSA onions and garlic.} 

Orecchiette with Lentils, Onions and Spinach (Courtesy of Gourmet Magazine by way of
Serves 6
1/3 cup olive oil
3 large onions (2 pounds total), thinly sliced (7 cups) 
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 cup French green lentils
1 pound orecchiette, fusilli, or penne
2 (5-ounce) bags baby spinach
1 1/2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)
Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then stir in onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Reduce heat to moderately low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until onions are very tender and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
While onions cook, cover lentils with water by 1 inch in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan and boil over moderate heat, covered, until lentils are just tender and most of water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and let stand, covered, until ready to use.
Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander and return pasta to pot.
Add onions, lentils, and spinach to pasta, then toss with just enough reserved cooking water to wilt spinach and moisten pasta.  Add cheese and salt and pepper to taste, tossing to combine.

Post Script: Follow-up on this dish: I had to add quite a bit more salt and pepper once everything was mixed. I also think that the lentils should have been rinsed before being added to the pasta. This recipe should be 'really good' and I thought it was just 'good.' Maybe some stock would help. I'm open to suggestions as I'd like to make this again. I like the combination of greens, beans and pasta-- this dish just needs a little kick. Maybe some red pepper flakes? That said, I wanted to post this pasta anyway.   I made it and so I feel like it should be documented. With a little tweaking I think it could be excellent. Happy cooking!  
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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Frankie's Tomato, Avocado & Red Onion

Frank Falcinelli (of Frankie's Spuntino/Frankie's 457 fame) loves to say that this salad "makes gazpacho in your mouth."  It's so simple and so delicious.  My other-half loves all things tomato, so this is right up his alley and perfect for August salads.  We have already started getting heirloom tomatoes in our CSA share and I'm anticipating that we will get more in our next pick up.  Yes, please!   
On Friday night Yana F. and her significant other brought dinner over to our place.  It was the nicest thing because we are in the middle of packing up our apartment and we don't have much time to put dinner together.  Going to a restaurant at 8 p.m. on a Friday night is also a bit challenging given the bedtime of No. 1 and No. 2.  So they brought the dinner to us.  We had delicious Italian fare including eggplant rollatini, penne and chicken for the non-vegetarians in the bunch.  Yana and I also put together a variation of this Frankie's Tomato & Avocado Salad.   I didn't want our CSA lettuce go to waste so we made the recipe below, added it to the lettuce, and tossed it with some Goodess Dressing.  It was really good. 
* * *
This salad is so seasonal and it's so flavorful.  It only takes a few minutes to make and with a million boxes to pack in preparation of our impending move (9 days!), time is precious... Sure, you could just cut those juicy red globes up and eat them plain, but this way is nice too...
Tomato, Avocado & Red Onion Salad (from Frankie's, by way of NPR )
Serves 4
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 small (or 1/2 medium) red onion, thinly sliced
Fine sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 Hass avocados
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Core the tomatoes and slice into wedges. Combine with the sliced onion, a large pinch of salt, and the olive oil and vinegar in a large bowl. Gently toss, and divide among four serving plates.
2. Halve, pit, peel, and slice the avocados and divide among the four plates. Sprinkle the avocado with a small pinch of salt and drizzle each plate with a little olive oil. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper just before the salad goes to the table.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fresh Corn Salad with Basil

Sweet corn is simply amazing. We've been getting about 5 ears of corn every week from our CSA and each week it seems to get sweeter and sweeter.  Corn season peaks from July to August-- so it's about time to make my favorite corn salad from Ina Garten. We've also been getting basil (this week it was the purple variety), I used those herbs too. 
In addition to being really delicious, this recipe is incredibly easy. It took me under 15 minutes to make the salad and that includes 3 minutes for boiling the corn. Quick, seasonal, flavorful dishes are increasingly important to me now that I'm watching after a 22 month old, a 3 week old, a 13 1/2 year old dog AND packing up our apartment to move west (which is no easy feat due to aforementioned responsibilities. Oy! There's a lot going on but at least this provides a simple, nourishing side dish and ensures that none of my CSA share goes to waste! 
Fresh Corn Salad with Basil (Courtesy of Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)
Yields 4-6 servings
5 ears of corn, shucked
1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the corn for 3 minutes until the starchiness is just gone. Drain and immerse it in ice water to stop the cooking and to set the color. When the corn is cool, cut the kernels off the cob, cutting close to the cob.
Toss the kernels in a large bowl with the red onions, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Just before serving, toss in the fresh basil. Taste for seasonings and serve cold or at room temperature.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Tabbouleh with Watermelon

I always thought of tabbouleh, also spelled tabouli, as a Palestinian meze.  You can find it on the streets of Jerusalem and Ramallah (as well as in Israel in both Israeli and Palestinian restaurants), but in fact tabbouleh's origins are in Lebanon and Syria (at least according to the Oxford Food & Nutrition Dictionary). The differences between the ubiquitous bulgur wheat salad in Lebanon and Syria is the proportions (or omissions) of several ingredients. But generally speaking, this salad contains parsley (the Lebanese use more), onion, mint, lemon, oil, and spices. Tomato is also traditionally used. The Turks have a similar dish called kisir and it contains tomato and pepper paste.  
This tabbouleh recipe in Martha Stewart Living caught my eye.  Here, "watermelon replaces the traditional tomato in this Middle Eastern salad, giving it bursts of sweetness. Goat cheese, another new add-in, provides creamy contrast." 
It's not difficult to make-- in fact it's very easy-- and it's a great summer side dish.  I would add a spritz of fresh lemon juice before serving, but that's pretty much it.  It's simple and not too ambitious.  Give this twist on tabbouleh a try! 
Tabbouleh with Watermelon (Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living)
Serves 4
1 1/4 cups water
Coarse salt
3/4 cup bulgur wheat
8 ounces watermelon (about 1/2 small), peeled and coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
2/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the bias
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 ounces soft goat cheese, crumbled
Bring water and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in bulgur, and remove from heat. Let stand, covered, for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and let stand, uncovered, until cooled, 15 to 30 minutes.
Transfer bulgur to a bowl, and toss with watermelon, parsley, scallions, oil, lemon zest and juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Gently fold in goat cheese.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Hooray! Yippee! Hallelujah! The hottest summer on record (or maybe just to me because I was pregnant until two weeks ago) is having a respite from the oppressive heat.  Temperatures are in the low 80's today and that's cause for celebration.  No more 103 degree temps that had me sitting in the Red Hook kiddie pool, drinking my body weight in water and lemonade.  It was 74 degrees when I woke up today and you know what that means...I can (thankfully) turn on the stove and oven again.  It's cooking time!
So, we got a huge bunch of carrots in our CSA share this past weekend.  We also got gorgeous garlic bulbs.  You know, the kind of bulbs that still have dirt on the exterior and cloves that are wrapped in purplish-pink skin.  It's my kind of garlic.  And it's a beauty.  I have some left over stock and a piece of Hawaiian ginger that needs to be used as well.  That means it's time for Carrot-Ginger Soup.  
I'm not sure when I stumbled upon the combination of carrot and ginger.  But if I were guessing, I'd say it was probably in the form of salad dressing at a Japanese restaurant.  It's really a nice match.  I did a google search for a soup recipe and many were too simple or, on the flip side, too cumbersome and complex.  This one was simple enough but with turmeric, red pepper flakes and honey it had a nice twist.  I diverged from the original recipe-- using a little bit less stock and cream and I don't think the flavor was compromised at all.   When I make this again I may substitute coconut milk for the cream.   Just a thought.  Also, you can serve this soup hot or cold.  It's really tasty! 
Okay, I've got a million things to do related to our impending move to Colorado...but if I have an extra 25 minutes while Otis, Theo and Omar are napping, I'm going to watch the most recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.  Is it just me, or is this the best season ever?!!? 
Carrot Ginger Soup (Adapted from Wolfgang Puck by Nick Kindelsperger for Serious Eats and modified only slightly by yours truly)
Serves 4
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon green onion, chopped
A generous pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds of carrots, peeled and thinly sliced (I used 10 carrots after googling 'How many carrots in a pound?'  The answer came up as 6-8 medium sized carrots or 4 very large carrots.)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 tablespoon honey
Salt and pepper
3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock  (Original recipe uses 4 cups of stock. I used less because I didn't want the puree to be too thin.)
1/4 cup heavy cream (Original recipe uses 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

  • Pour the oil into a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, minced ginger, green onions, and red pepper flakes. Stir occasionally and cook for a minute, or until very fragrant. Dump in the carrots, turmeric, honey, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. 
  • Pour in the stock, cream, and butter. Bring to boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes or until the carrots are very tender. 
  • Blend the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ina's Slow-Cooked Scrambled Eggs with Green Herbs

I haven't posted an egg recipe in quite some time, so here's one that I really enjoyed.
This brunch is simple to make and uses up some of the fresh herbs I've been getting from my CSA and garden. I followed Ina's instructions and added the herbs off-heat. Next time, and there will be a next time, I may add a little bit of goat cheese. But even without the cheese, these eggs are delicious. Temperature is key -- these are slow cooked-- something far too many restaurants mess up. It takes a few minutes so don't rush. You'll be glad you took the time.
You can serve this with some fresh butter bread (toasted), but I served this with a salad using ingredients from our CSA including green lettuce, red leaf lettuce and a variety of heirloom tomatoes. It was delicious and a great way to start off the morning...

Slow-Cooked Scrambled Eggs with Green Herbs 
Serves 4
   10 extra-large eggs
   6 tablespoons whole milk or half-and-half
   1 teaspoon kosher salt
   1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
   2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
   1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
   1 tablespoon minced scallions, white and green parts
   1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a large saute or omelet pan. Add the eggs and cook them over low heat, folding them over almost constantly with a rubber spatula, until the desired doneness. Off the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of butter, the parsley, scallions, and dill. Stir until the butter is melted. Check for seasonings. Serve hot.
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Thursday, August 4, 2011

What's Been Cookin'? Sparrow No. 2 and a Lemon-Almond Cake

After waiting 41 plus weeks, our No. 2 finally arrived.  He was born on a very hot morning and weighed in at 8 lbs. 4 oz.  That's a big baby.  Um, really big.  We are thrilled about our newest addition (and growing family) but we have been very tired too.   Lucky for us we have GREAT friends.  Within a few hours of coming back from the hospital we had delicious food in the fridge.  There was a to-die-for chocolate tart with apricot preserve (I will post the recipe once it has been translated from Swedish), quinoa with kale, tomato quiche (recipe from this month's Bon Appetite), Blue Sky Bakery muffins, Coco Roco dinner (with a vegetarian platter included), chocolate and zucchini bread, Ample Hills ice cream, lemon-almond cake and bagels (etc.). I think you get the picture.  Not a bad way to start the day and I didn't lift a finger. 
Trust me when I tell you that one of the nicest things you can do for some who just gave birth is to bring over some food.
We are still collecting veggies from our CSA, so at some point I will bust out the pots and pans and get cooking...but until then I'm enjoying great food delivered by great people. 
Here is Nigella Lawson's recipe for Damp Lemon-Almond Cake. This is the first post (out of about 117) that I didn't actually cook/bake myself. Our friend Beth C. (who is a wonderful cook and expectant mother herself) brought this cake over...and now there isn't a crumb left! 
Damp Lemon-Almond Cake (Courtesy of Nigella Lawson, How To Be A Domestic Goddess, by way of Beth C.) 

Serves 6-8 
1 cup soft unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cup ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
8-inch springform pan, lined on the bottom with parchment or wax paper
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together the butter and sugar until almost white.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, adding a quarter of the flour after each addition.  When all the eggs and flour have been incorporated, gently stir in the ground almonds, then the almond extract, lemon zest, and juice.  Pour the mixture into the cake pan and bake for about 1 hour.  I say "about" only because ovens seem to vary so violently.  I've cooked this in one oven when it was finished after 50 minutes; in another when it needed 1 hour and 10 minutes.  Whichever, after about 30 minutes you many well find you have to cover it loosely with foil; you don't want the top of the cake to burn.  The cake is ready when the top is firm and a skewer, inserted,comes out cleanish: you want dampness, but no batery goo.  Take the cake out and let it stand for 5 minutes or so in the pan.  Then turn it out on a wire rack and leave till cool. 
Then, preferably, wrap well in tin foil and leave it for a couple of days.  Push some confectioners' sugar over the cake through a fine sieve or tea strainer when serving.  I can't stop myself from murmuring "raspberries" to you, either.
And here are some seasonal recipes (good for CSA/farmer market produce) that I previously posted on this blog (click on the hyper link title for the recipe):

And introducing the smallest sparrow...
We call him Theodore Benjamin. 

 Next up:  Carrot-Ginger Soup!
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