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Vegetable centric cooking

Warm Israeli hummus w/ greens

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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 Jerusalemthe 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.

Serves 2 or 3

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Radish salad w/ oranges and black olives

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I guess I am just into radishes after last week’s dinner.  Well, they are in season — the Borough Hall farmer’s market has generous bunches topped with fresh greens that you can cook or eat as a salad green.   This salad balances sharp, salty, sweet and creamy and is a lovely side to a Middle Eastern meal.  We had it with warm hummus, pita and sautéed radish tops.

Serves 2

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Fat Radish

Krieger, 10/13/10

Photo courtesy of Fat Radish

An exciting meal out reminds me that cooking is a creative outlet.  I work in an information profession, and really enjoy coming home and getting my hands dirty in the kitchen.  But most of the time, I make quick and unblogworthy fare, and it’s been a few weeks since I felt like posting.

The night out last week impressed me — dinner at Fat Radish, a farm-to-table place in the newly hip area south of Delancey, where the Lower East Side hits Chinatown.  On one hand, Fat Radish is a scene, true to its roots as a catering business for fashion shoots.   On the other, staff is friendly and the neighborhood has a great up and coming vibe.  I know the area well, as Darcy lived a few blocks north when we started dating.  South of Delancey is now in a sweet spot — tons of creative new bars and restaurants, with much less noise and crowding than the northern part of LES.   I can’t wait to make home versions of a few plates.
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Linguine w/ clams, chives and jalepeno

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Linguine with white clam sauce is a classic that your neighborhood red sauce joint should never mess up.  Yet the dish does often fall short even in fancier places, with rubbery clams, soggy pasta or unbalanced seasonings. This recipe is adapted from How to Cook Everything, which means follow it and you can’t go too wrong.  The variations are mine — celery, chives and jalepeno.  It came out nice, with a sour garlicky broth and a little brightness from the fresh herbs. The worst thing you can do is overcook the clams.  Five minutes is perfect — three first thing, two at the end mixed with pasta and broth. Remember never to store clams under water or in a plastic bag — just leave loose in a bowl in your fridge for up to a day or two before cooking.  Clams are very sandy and salty, so do be sure to use several rinses and to undersalt your broth at first.

Serves 2

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Turnip pesto

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This is a simple pasta centering on a single ingredient – the turnip, a member of the brassica family.  Many brassicas are trendy.  Over the past few years, I’ve noticed lots of kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts side dishes at restaurants in Brooklyn and Portland.   No wonder.   These vegetables take wonderfully to many forms of cooking, whether shredded raw in a salad, slow roasted and caramelized or baked until crisp.  Battersby in Brooklyn won tons of press for its crispy kale in fish sauce last year, and recently I have seen variations on a whole roast cauliflower or cauliflower steak.   But turnips are an untrendy brassica, a little more pungent and mustardy than kale or cauliflower.  Not fair. Turnips roast perfectly brown, with a nice juiciness and just a hint of their raw bite.   And they make a wonderful pesto — blend with a little olive oil and you will have a plenty rich dish without going overboard on the nuts or cheese.

Serves 2

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Mango-lemongrass sorbet

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Darcy starts the Boston Marathon in about two hours! My all-important job is the roving gummy bear dispenser, starting from halfway at Wellesley. Fanny pack is stuffed with 13.1 miles of provisions — I shall not disappoint.  She was a pretty strict carb loader last week, with minimal dairy.  So I adapted this tasty sorbet from an Epicurious recipe, and it was my first time cooking with lemongrass. Raw, it reminded me of a cross between ginger and a scallion. Cooked, it was wonderfully fragrant.   Although I used less sugar than called for, the sorbet was still too sweet.  But the salt, lime juice and smoked paprika gave it nice balance.

Try to make the lemongrass simple syrup a day early, so it can chill — leave mangoes in fridge too.   Leftover syrup would be great in a cocktail, pretty much whatever kind you like.  I’d vote for a margarita or gin and tonic.  Or maybe a brunch drink with dry prosecco and St Germain.

Serves 2

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White pizza, grilled two ways

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80 degrees a few times this week! The weather reminds me it has actually been spring for three weeks, near-freezing temperature for my 10-K last Saturday be damned. That means garden parties in our courtyard.  Two summers ago, we invited a bunch of friends over for Darcy’s birthday and cooked pizzas outside, with an assembly line of toppings next to a little tailgate grill.   Thank you to our friend Zeina for posting these photos that I have been meaning to write up.  You can see pizza symmetry is not my strong suit.  Aesthetics aside, the pizza came out great, with a chewy, charred crust and a deep smoky flavor.  Here are the recipes — cannot wait to get back at the grill within a few weeks.

Makes two 12 inch pizzas with a very thin crust — serves 4 people as a meal, at least 8 as an appetizer

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Herbed fish cakes w/ horseradish yogurt and root mash

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The Borough Hall farmer’s market sprang back to life last weekend, with a lot more than the usual winter fare of apples and hard cider.  Okay, neither of those is a bad thing!  But now there are baby yellow carrots, tiny turnips and plenty of fresh herbs. The info table happened to have a recipe for pan-fried fish cakes without breadcrumbs — perfect for Passover.   I tried adding a little potato and making in steamer.  They came out really nice — plump, bound well and very full of fresh fish and the spring flavors of cilantro and red onion.  This recipe is versatile. Any type of white-fleshed fish works, as does any root vegetable. I am looking forward to making it into wantons next time.

Makes 6 or 7 good sized cakes.  Serves 3 or 4 people. 

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Shaved coconut macaroons w/ lime

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Passover started tonight, and few things remind me of the holiday like coconut macaroons.  Below recipe is from this month’s Bon Appetit, with a few small changes. We like a macaroon with a browned crispy bottom, so we baked on greased foil instead of parchment paper.  And we halved the lime zest — they are still plenty lime-y. Wide flakes or shavings are worth seeking out — we found them by Let’s Do Organic at a natural foods store, Garden of Eden.  Whereas shredded coconut macaroons tend to be dense and chewy, these are more a light pile of crispy coconut.   You may never eat the spongey Manischewitz variety again!

Makes 4 dozen cookies (Hey, we are giving some away and otherwise hoping they last a week)

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Matcha frozen yogurt w/ cocoa nibs

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Darcy made this great frozen yogurt a few days ago for my birthday, adapted from a recipe in David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop.  It has a light but creamy texture, a deep green color and a pure, intense flavor.   Matcha is powdered high-quality green tea integral to the Japanese tea ceremony.  You can find the real stuff at Asian markets — look for one imported from Japan and labeled matcha, as opposed to green tea powder. There are grades — ceremonial grade is probably unnecessary for making fro-yo. Cocoa nibs are cracked pieces of cocoa bean that have an intensely bitter chocolate taste. Although they are usually made into cocoa liquor as an early step of chocolate production, they are also sold unprocessed – we get them at Whole Foods.

Serves 4 to 6

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