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Celeriac Remoulade (The Speed Dial Version)

18 Mar

Give celeriac an inch and it will take over your kitchen. Well, not quite, but I grated a bit into a salad for the first time in ages a couple of days ago, was reminded of my first celeriac remoulade in an even more distant past, and next thing you know, I was making a remoulade.

Looks a bit like an ugly planet, dunnit?

Looks a bit like an ugly planet, dunnit?

Mind you, no one else in my house eats mayonnaise – my mom is watching her cholesterol, my dad is still nominally on his crazy-ass diet which is vegan (except when he is “tasting” everyone else’s food), and my five-year-old is valiantly resisting the charms of potato salad, tuna salad, and anything else that tastes so nice with some mayo and would be so much easier to send him to school with.

So rather than make a batch of real mayonnaise that I couldn’t possibly finish eating before it went off, I resorted to scraping the last two tablespoons of Hellman’s whose Never-Say-Die longevity in the fridge is a wonder of the modern age (this jar dates back to the summer).

Celeriac cleans up real nice....

Celeriac cleans up real nice….

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Perníl al horno (Puerto Rican oven-roasted pork)

6 Jan

There is no better time to be at the top of the food chain than during Christmas in Puerto Rico.

Perníl made with pork loin (I think; the dad threw away the label before I could get the info!) proves that the recipe can enhance any pork roast

I know many of my readers (and friends) are vegetarian, vegan even, and I respect your choices — except of course my dad’s crazy ass diet because it is so crazy. I prefer a mostly plant-based diet myself, and will go as far as to make accommodations at my table for you, but at Navidades, this girl embraces her carnivorous side and all protests to the contrary will be regarded with impatience and disdain, if regarded at all.

The imposter was actually pretty good!

The imposter was actually pretty good!

Perníl is in my D.N.A., and that, mi amor, is that. Continue reading

Lasagna Latina: Tortillas, Beans, and Shredded Chicken

4 Oct

The start of the semester for me and kindergarten for Leandro has me in a tizzy.

One month in, the days seem never-ending and yet never long enough. I am up at 5:30 a.m. every day. Eighteen hours later, I still find myself vertical, eyes open, preparing food, washing dishes, cleaning the bathroom (!), folding clothes, laying out everything for the morning in a semi-headachy fog, wrinkling my nose and wondering, in the words of David Byrne, “How Did I Get Here?”

Scenes from the Farm

So when — oh s**t! — the Restoration Farm End-of-Summer-Potluck came roaring up, I was sort of astonished, and not a little dismayed. Continue reading

Zucchini Fritters, with Manchego, Rosemary, and Thyme

1 Oct

What am I gonna do with this!?! Basta, ya! As enormous bats of zucchini continue to be a big part of our C.S.A. pick-up this summer-into-fall, we start to get desperate for different ways to prepare them. I generally grate them into salads (I dislike raw zucchini, but grated into a salad makes it much more texturally appealing for me!), my dad grills them with just a bit of oil, or we roast them.

Grated zucchini

As much as I adore absolute simplicity in food — from both a preparation and a consumption standpoint — enough is enough. One does need to mix it up a bit, and try new techniques, too. So it was time to be inspired by a recipe for zucchini fritters I saw recently at Emmy Cooks, and another one for zucchini latkes at Deborah Rivera Pittorino’s chef’s blog, Seasoned Fork (full disclosure – you will find book reviews I have written there; The Big Oyster is my favorite). Both recipes seemed simple enough, a lovely change for us over here, and as they are pan-fried, I thought I was in with a chance at getting Leandro to try veggies this way. Continue reading

Chickpea and Tahini Salad III (Perfect Picnic Salad)

21 Jul

I am forever putting together cold chickpea salads for the summer.

Tahini is, of course, one of my favorite condiments for this purpose. For the uninitiated, it is a sesame paste, very thick, that keeps for a long time in the fridge and is critical to Middle Eastern cuisine. A tablespoon adds a depth of flavor, a teeny bit on the bitter side, and a thickness or creaminess of texture to sauces and dressings that I like a lot. Try a basic dressing from a Mediterranean Buffet , a   version with soy sauce, or another with tomatoes and herbs. Which I guess means I should call this Chick Pea and Tahini Salad IV, but whatever!)

This time I had dill in the fridge needing to be used up so I figured I would try it. The result was fresh and good. Mint would be a terrific substitute or addition. You can really go in many directions with this one! You can mix it with rice or use it to top a green salad or just eat it right out of the mixing bowl with a spoon while standing in front of the fridge (not that I would ever do that. Uh-uh. Not me).

Light and fresh – perfect side for supper!

Chickpea and Tahini Salad III

1 Tbs lemon juice or red wine vinegar (start with half a tablespoon and increase to your taste)

1 Tbs tahini

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs dill, chopped

28oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbs red onion (a quarter of a medium red onion), sliced thin

Mix or whisk lemon juice or vinegar and tahini together in a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix well.

A Mediterranean Party Snack Buffet with DIY Tahini Dressing

25 Mar

The parents have returned from their winter in Puerto Rico and that gives me a chance to make things that are a pain in the neck to do up for one adult, but seem like no work at all for a lavish spread for three grown-ups and a kid who likes couscous (especially seasoned with pesto) and asparagus. Plus, make loads and leftovers are guaranteed and you know I love that!

This sudden inspiration came straight from the pantry: jarred artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers, black olives, garbanzos from a can, that type of thing. From the fridge: feta, tomatoes, cukes, asparagus.

How fun would it be to lay out mezze (Mediterranean small dishes) with a variety of salad ingredients and sit all together for a change?

So I did and it was fun and crunchy and creamy and delicious.

“Look how pretty mine came out!” said the moms, who is a bit relieved to be eating with us again (because yes, the dad is still on that cockamamie up-and-down vegan diet that I want nothing to do with – although enabler that I am, I did make him some alternative tahini dressing with no garlic, since sesame seeds — the main ingredient of tahini — grow above ground and garlic grows under…seriously? Anyway, not worth discussing; the REAL recipe below is lovely and garlicky, as God intended)

Roasted asparagus: Rinse and break off bottoms of a 1 lb. bunch of asparagus. (They break naturally at the woody part; or break off one and slice off the rest at around the same place) Smear with two teaspoons of olive oil and roast at 450 for 10 minutes (skinny spears) to 15 minutes (fat spears). Finish with flaky sea salt.

Roasted eggplant: Rinse and cut a large eggplant into one-inch chunks (for older eggplant that feels a bit soft to the touch, put in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Put a weighted bowl on top and another bowl to catch the drippings. Leave for a half hour and pat dry before the next step). Smear with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and roast at 450 for 15 minutes or until cooked through and soft, turning once with tongs.

Garbanzos (chick peas) in tahini: Rinse and drain a 28 oz can of chick peas. Add a tablespoon chopped red onion. Add two or three tablespoons of tahini dressing (below) and serve.

Tahini Dressing

3 Tbs tahini (mixed ‘till relatively smooth)

¼ Cup fresh lemon juice

1 large clove garlic, minced fine

Pinch or two of salt

Cold water to thin

1 tsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Mix all ingredients except water and salt in a bowl (deeper is better to avoid splashing) or mixing cup. Salt to taste and thin with water to desired consistency. Add chopped parsley if desired. Thin for use as salad dressing. Leave it thick to use as dip for vegetables. Leave it medium dense and creamy as a sauce  sauce for falafel.

Couscous with (prepared) pesto: prepare one half cup couscous (Israeli or fine) according to package directions. Add two tablespoons prepared basil pesto (or your favorite) and serve warm.

Additional stuff: chunks of feta, black olives, halved or quartered cherry or grape tomatoes, cucumber slices, avocado and mixed greens, as desired. Try hard-boiled eggs. A drained and flaked can of tuna would be great too, with a bit of chopped onion if you are not into the vegetarian thing.

Grilled or Roasted Tomato Pasta Dressing (so light! so bright!)

12 Feb

The temperatures here in New York have started to drop some, but so far 2012 is The Winter That Hasn’t Been (I like the present perfect tense here rather than the past tense “wasn’t”, because there is still time for some apocalyptic winter weather to strike).

That means that many of us have been firing up the grill as if it were summer. If you are one of those people, here is a fresh, uplifting recipe that will brighten up the day and feel easy on the digestion.

I made it the other day from tomatoes grilled the night before at our friends’ house during an impromptu and convivial burger night (more on the amazing sauteed onion and mushroom topping soon!).

A glimpse of the salad the same night - with grilled asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes! Heaven.

The tomatoes (Campari’s which I bought out of season because I couldn’t resist the clearance price) had none of the rich acidity and fullness of a summer tomato, but grilling and roasting add some depth of flavor and the garlic and vinegar give a very pleasant tang. So, should you succumb to a good price or simply the need for a tomato that didn’t come out of a tin during the winter months, this recipe will enhance a lackluster product. To my surprise, Leandro really dug this pasta and ate the extra serving I had intended for my own lunch the following day.  I should have been totally pleased and delighted and flattered, but this imperfect Mommy was kind of annoyed. And frightened. If he eats like this at four, how much is he going to eat as a teenager?

Grilled or Roasted Tomato Pasta Dressing

(Special tools: about six BBQ skewers. If using wood, soak the skewers in water for about 20 minutes)

1 lb medium length pasta such as penne or rotini

1 pint small tomatoes: grape, cherry or Campari, preferred

2-3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tsp red wine vinegar

3 cloves garlic, minced

(optional: 1 tsp chopped fresh basil or parsley)

Salt, to taste

Heat grill and skewer tomatoes, leaving ample space between tomatoes. Grill tomatoes for about five minutes, or until beginning to wrinkle and just beginning to brown (or preheat oven to 350° and scatter tomatoes on a baking sheet or foil and cooking for 15 minutes or until beginning to wrinkle and brown)*. Smaller tomatoes will cook faster. Do not char. Chop tomatoes roughly. Do not discard liquid or seeds.

In the meantime, prepare pasta according to package directions. Keep the pasta warm after draining.

While the pasta is boiling and the tomatoes are grilling, whisk olive oil and vinegar together until blended in a large bowl. Add garlic, tomatoes with juices, and still-warm pasta. Add optional herbs, salt to taste and serve with your favorite grated cheese.

*You can grill or roast the tomatoes while firing up the grill or oven for something else, place cooked tomatoes in a tightly sealed container in the fridge, and make the recipe the following day.

Festive Turkey Salad (With sweetness AND crunch!)

25 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving all! Regular readers will recognize this post from LAST Thanksgiving!!! See you soon; I am off to make broth…

My favorite quick dress-up for food that takes me from workaday-dull to bright and shiny: dried cranberries and walnuts.

My take-to-work breakfast? Plain nonfat yogurt, swirled up with some honey, a handful of cranberries and another handful of walnuts (bought in big bags at Costco – they last and last). Crunchy, creamy and sweet – oh yeah.

At home, I add them to spike up instant oatmeal. I also substitute half the raisins in oatmeal raisin cookies with cranberries for a brighter flavor and add walnuts for crunch and depth.

Boring salad? Add handfuls of cranberries and walnuts and make it fancy-schmancy (especially good with orange/clementine segments, red onion and feta – separately or in combination).

Today I incorporated them into my leftover turkey salad. Zippy!

Leftover Turkey Salad

leftover turkey, removed from bone, gristly bits removed, and chopped into small squares (2-3 cups)

handful dried cranberries

handful chopped walnuts

one celery stalk, chopped fine (mostly because I don’t really like celery)

half a red onion, finely chopped

4 -5 Tbs mayo and nonfat plain yogurt in whatever ratio you prefer

1 Tbs brown or yellow mustard

Mix all together in a bowl and serve in sandwiches or over salad.

Notes: Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon), blueberries and Concord grapes, are the only commercially-grown native North American fruits! They are loaded with vitamin C and dietary fiber and manganese and other good things and may very well help prevent some urinary tract infections in women, but the jury is still out on that.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins (Easing into a delicious autumn)

11 Sep

The start of the school year makes me think of cozy sweaters, red wine and apples. There are good things about the end of summer and those are three of the best.

It is also the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and a little comfort food is in order.

Continue reading

Quick Cannellini Bean Salad (great with tomatoes or on toast!)

9 Sep

Cannellini beans have come to the rescue a couple of times this week – once when I needed something to take across the street to dinner that would show off one of the tomatoes we grew in our backyard and then when we had a mom and kid playdate and I wanted a quick addition to a snack-y type table, along with hummus, veggies, crackers, grapes, sun-dried tomatoes and cheese.

These little white beans are tasty right out of the can, so you are only seconds from a hearty snack when you have it in your pantry. I think I’ll be using this recipe a lot this winter to add dash and protein satisfaction to otherwise ordinary salads.

A delicious salad that makes a meal. Look at those glorious tomatoes.

Quick Cannellini Bean Salad (great with tomatoes!)

1 15oz can cannellini (white) beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 onion, peeled and minced (red onion preferred, but use what you’ve got)

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

¼ -1/2 tsp red or white wine vinegar

¼ – ½ tsp balsamic vinegar

½ tsp oregano/Italian herbs/your favorite dried herb. Double the quantity for fresh chopped herbs.

Pinch salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

(optional, small chunks of tomato, seeded)

Place beans and minced onion in a bowl. In a separate bowl or cup, whisk together oil and vinegars (you can adjust vinegars to your personal taste). Pour over beans, add remaining ingredients. mix thoroughly and serve.


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