There are only about six things I can stand to cook in summer in a New York City apartment. Rice vermicelli fit the bill. That is, you barely need to cook them — just soak a few minutes in hot water. These days, I like to eat them room temperature, topped with grilled tofu and a mix of grilled, blanched and raw vegetables. Swapping a poached egg for the tofu is a delicious variation.
Lately, I have been obsessed with eating hummus warm, as is popular throughout the greater Middle East. I think I am shooting for a hearty baked hummus I ate in Turkey a few years ago in a stone terrine. We also just received Jerusalem, the new Yotam Ottolenghi cookbook, with a recipe for Israeli hummus masubha — topped with warm whole chickpeas. This hummus is my simpler weekday version of the Ottolenghi recipe. I skipped the steps of soaking overnight and serving with extra tahini. This dish is my absolute favorite lunch with pita, caramelized onions and sauteed greens; microwaved at work, heated properly on a weekend.
I have a few recipes for socca (also known asfarinata or cecina), a simple chick pea pancake popular in Italy and France. There is the traditional baked Bittman version, and the richer fried Ottolenghi version. I combined the two — fry for a minute in a cast iron skillet to get a crispy base, then bake and broil. A sheet of roasted peppers, onions and celery makes a delicious topping, along with a scoop of warm cannellini. Middle Eastern and Indian grocers sell chickpea flour, which is also a useful ingredient for gluten-free or even Passover cooking. While you are there, get some za’atar and a blend such as Yemeni spice.
When I think of chili, I think of two things — pro sports on tv and a dish with heat, not just spice. Well Super Bowl Sunday took care of the former. My goal in the latter was a deep and smoky vegetarian dish that did not induce tears or bring to mind the hot pepper scene from Dumb and Dumber. It came out pretty good — plenty deep and smoky thanks to smoked paprika, caramelized poblanos and a topping of charred greens. Bring on that cold weather!
Happy 2013. My brother Dan was in town from Boston with his wife and two boys, and some friends in Prospect Heights hosted an awesome dinner New Year’s Eve. We had vegetarian chili, a cakey skillet cornbread known as Johnnycake, fingerling potatoes in a bunch of colors and treats from Sahadi’s. Oh, and Darcy’s amazing almond-cardamom tart from Bon Appetit. Well, the main course was a roast whole pig that everybody: (i) loved; and (ii) was nice enough to leave in another room.
Anyways, today was craving a simple and quick lunch, so made this with leftover spaghetti squash. It’s a knockoff of a side dish we had at an Italian restaurant.
If you like to cook, you probably own a book by Mark Bittman. Most likely it is How to Cook Everything, which I am pretty sure my mom gave me when I rented my first apartment after college, and is one of the most torn, sticky and crumb-filled books in my kitchen. When I have a cooking question, it’s usually Bittman first and Google second. His books are a great way to learn to cook, rather than just follow a recipe — learn his basic recipe, try one of his variations and finally add your own tweaks. This recipe comes from Food Matters, and is a take on a classic risotto with rice and peas. I swapped chick peas for peas and cilantro for parsley. Oh, and I used traditional arborio rice instead of brown. The result is very tasty, and still about the healthiest dish you can make that still counts as risotto.
I don’t know what to call this one-pot meal — hearty breakfast? Quick dinner? I tend to make something like this stew after a morning run on weekends, especially on a freezing day like today. And I would definitely order it on a brunch menu. So there you have it — chick pea, bulgar and vegetable stew topped with an egg that poaches in the stew’s broth. Bulgar is an awesome ingredient — a fairly whole grain that is pre-cooked and dried. You can reconstitute bulgar in 15 minutes of soaking in boiling water, or even overnight in cold water — I use it all the time to thicken soups and stews.
Yesterday was bloody freezing. So cold I had no patience to walk to the grocery store after we got back from Thanksgiving weekend at my folks in NJ. Enter polenta — aka comfort food from the pantry. Polenta is so versatile — I could eat it with just olive oil, salt, pepper and cheese, as a breakfast with warm milk and brown sugar or broiled in slices the next day. But this hearty sauce is perfect for a freezing night.
Darcy ran the Philadelphia Marathon today and was craving a hearty fall dinner. So we had black beans seasoned with cumin and miso and tacos filled with herbed squash. I like to pick up my tacos — that means easy on the filling and beans on the side. I never made beans from scratch until trying the quick soak method in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Now I make a pot of beans most Sundays to have in different dishes during the week.
Cooking order is key here. When it works, you get great charred tofu and nice crisp-tender vegetables. When it doesn’t, you get mush. Magic soup is indeed magic — try it next time you have a head cold, as warm and spicy as you can tolerate.