Purple Balloons and Pickled Onions

And then in a blink of an eye, my baby turned two! For Beatrix Louise’s second birthday party we filled the playroom with two dozen purple balloons to match the purple balloons on the invitation, and set up tables topped with play dough and oodles of stickers. I served the kids pizza and a massive pot of boxed macaroni and cheese.

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My father came in from Jerusalem to see his grandchildren. So, in addition to Bea’s friends and family, we also had over some of our older relatives, including Aunt Sydney, who I’ve mentioned is basically our grande doyenne when it comes to food. Although my cousins assured me I could definitely serve her pizza, I took this as an opportunity to make a spread worthy of a small bat mitzvah. We had:

It was from his weekly column in The Guardian; this one focused on quick pickled onions. I actually didn’t use his pickled onion recipe – I love my own too much to cheat on it – but followed the rest of his recipe, coated with allspice and sugar, roasted, and topped with cilantro lime salsa and goat cheese. I kept the almonds on the side, as per Aleza and Sylvie’s suggestion. Nut allergies are no joke.

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The amount of cilantro salsa is small, and he recommends doing it in a spice grinder. My own grinder – a coffee grinder I picked up for $15 at Ocean State Job Lot years ago – is used so much for cumin that it reeks of the spice. To clean it, I used a trick I just read about (but can’t for the life of me remember where): grind up a piece of bread. And it worked!

For dessert we made a Princess Leia cake, per the birthday girl’s request, plus the frozen banana peanut butter pie, and Needhams, a chocolate-coconut treat from Maine that’s a little bit like a Mounds Bar. But that’s another recipe for another day. Definitely before the third birthday!

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Roast sweet potatoes with pickled onions, coriander and goat’s cheese

Ingredients

Pickled Onions
2 tsp sugar
Salt and black pepper
5-6 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 5cm x 3cm chunks
1/3 cup olive oil
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ cup cilantro leaves
¾ cup soft mild rindless goat’s cheese, broken into rough 2cm pieces
1/3 cup roasted salted almonds, coarsely chopped

Directions

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes with three tablespoons of oil, the allspice, the two teaspoons of sugar, half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Transfer to a large oven tray lined with parchment paper, and make sure the sweet potato chunks are spaced apart. Roast for 20 minutes, until crisp and golden-brown, then toss in any oil left on the tray and leave to cool.

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, blitz the coriander [cilantro], grated lime zest, the remaining three tablespoons of oil and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt to a smooth, bright green salsa. Use a spice grinder to do this (don’t use a food processor – the quantities involved are too small); if you don’t have one, very finely chop the coriander and mix the salsa by hand.

Once the sweet potatoes have cooled, arrange them on a platter and dot evenly with the pieces of cheese. Drain the pickled onions, and scatter on top. Finish with a drizzle of salsa and a sprinkle of almonds.

 

Rah Rah Radishes

Our CSA started last week! Unlike in Boston, where Lilli and I drove to the Whole Foods parking lot to pick up our share, now we go to the actual farm in Easthampton to choose our goodies. But even better is the pick-your-own part of the expedition, where you head out to the field with a pair of scissors and cut your own flowers (five floppy orange calendula, this week) and herbs (thyme, oregano and sage) – no limit on that, simply the amount you know you will use that week.20170609_133815.jpg

With so much of the area covered by farms, CSAs are extremely common around here. We went with Mountain View, which I found after some… Googling. (Sorry, Rich is leaning into the dad jokes of late.) Actually, it came recommended by many folks, and it’s won the “Best of” award from one of the local papers for half a dozen years in a row. That’s right, we have so many CSAs that we have an entire “Best of” category covering them. One of the parents from Bea’s daycare remarked that CSAs around here are what people do instead of country clubs. I found that to be a very apt description – minus the blatant discrimination against my kind and others, of course.

We made it to the farm before the start of the weekend, so now our fridge is brimming with lettuces, kale, scallions, and radishes. I “gifted” the bok choy to my cousin Roz; it’s one of the few vegetables I actively don’t care for – too mustardy for me. That’s how I used to feel about radishes, too. As I’ve mentioned, I called them “killer radishes” when I was a little girl. But I had a wonderful moment with them in Jerusalem the spring I turned 21 and have been a convert, nay, a radish evangelist, ever since.

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I got two bunches of radishes, and the magenta orbs found their way on top of a platter of sesame noodles. Tonight we’re having them in Deb’s kale salad, which features dried cherries, pecans, goat cheese, and a honeyed dressing. But today’s recipe is my go-to of late, from Julia Turshen’s Small Victories. She has you roast the radishes and drizzle a dressing of Kalamata olives on top. Roasting does absolutely magical things to radishes – it softens them and completely removes their peppery bite in the process. As Turshen points out, this recipe is vegan, and the dressing works well on many things, including less-than-vegan dishes like goat cheese or on grilled chicken or fish.

The “small victory” here is all about cooking vegetables that are almost always served raw. She suggests spin off recipes, including stir frying iceberg lettuce with finely peeled ginger, garlic and fresh chile, and topping it with soy sauce and fish sauce; braising celery with a few minced garlic cloves and a couple of anchovies, then drizzling with high-quality olive oil and a few squeezes of lemon juice; and endive and radicchio, cut into wedges, coated with olive oil and salt, seared on a hot grill, and finished with wedges of lemon.

But for now, it’s radishes. We’ll see what we get from Mountain View next week!

Roasted Radishes with Kalamata Dressing from Small Victories by Julia Turshen

Ingredients

1 ½ lb. (680) radishes, split lengthwise (it’s ok to leave a little of the stem)

5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 Tbsp sherry vinegar

12 pitted Kalamata olives (or other dark olives), finely chopped

1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley or chives or 1 tsp finely chopped oregano

Directions

Preheat your oven to 425F (220C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put the radishes on the prepared baking sheet, drizzle with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil, sprinkle with a large pinch of salt, and use your hands to toss everything together. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the radishes are tender and browned, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the garlic, a large pinch of salt and the vinegar in a small bowl and let them sit and get to know each other for 10 minutes (this quick-pickle moment will tame the bite of the garlic and also infuse the vinegar with the garlic.) Slowly whisk in the remaining 3 Tbsp olive oil and stir in the olives.

Transfer the roasted radishes to a serving platter, spoon over the olive dressing, and scatter over the parsley. Serve immediately.

Bookends

There’s an old cliché that comedy is tragedy, plus time. Well, I’m doing a variation on that this week. Shavuot blintzes are Passover crepes plus time. Seven weeks, to be exact. As I think I’ve mentioned, I was off the blog for a while this spring because the girls finally delivered a knockout blow to my old laptop. Somewhere between the chocolate milk spills and the pounding from frustrated little fists, the keyboard stopped talking to the rest of the machine. Using Rich’s MacBook was a non-starter, so no blogging until I got a new (used) computer.

Of course, this put a big crimp in my publishing schedule, especially since it happened over Passover. I was particularly excited this year because I received, back in March, a copy of Perfect for Pesach by Naomi Nachman. Naomi knows a thing or two about Pesach. Her parents ran the Pesach hotel program in Sydney, Australia, for 28 years, so cooking for Pesach is in her blood. I think the Fish ‘n Chips recipe, which is flounder, cleverly coated with potato sticks and baked, is probably the recipe I’m most looking forward to making. Will report back. Moroccan salmon also sounds wonderful, and even though I don’t cook meat, the Flanken Butternut Squash Soup made Sylvie go, “Wuuuut?” when I told her about it.

I wish I’d had a chance to talk about this cookbook back in April, because I really think it’s a keeper. But given that the book’s tagline is “Passover recipes you’ll want to make all year,” I’m going to press ahead. Shavuot is basically the bookend to Passover, so in a way I’m getting in under the deadline, right?

IMG_20170425_112911739The recipe is for “No-Flip Pesach Crepes,” which means they are gluten-free (a quickly growing section on this blog) and super easy to make.  Naomi uses them as a starting point for variations, like Southwestern Chicken Egg Rolls, or Vegetable Egg Rolls. Now, if Beatrix had her way, we’d only eat ‘Tella crepes, although today I will offer the recipe with a cheese blintz filling from a Joan Nathan recipe. It is a Shavuot post after all.

No-Flip Pesach Crepes from Perfect for Pesach: Passover Recipes You’ll Want to Make All Year by Naomi Nachman

Ingredients

12 eggs

6 Tablespoons potato starch

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat well (preferably using hand mixer).

Heat a 9-inch nonstick frying pan or crepe pan over medium heat. Coat pan with nonstick cooking spray or butter.

Pour enough batter into the pan to just cover it, about 1/3-cup. Gently swirl the pan to coat the entire bottom with batter. Cook until the top is just set and the crepe is cooked through. Remove from pan to cool.

Repeat with remaining batter.

Cheese Filling from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook

2 cups farmer cheese

1 egg yolk

½ teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon

2 Tablespoons sugar (optional)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

In a small bowl, mash the farmer cheese. Stir in the egg yolk, salt, butter, sugar, if using, lemon juice, and vanilla.

Spread 1 heaping Tablespoon of the cheese filling along one side of the pancake. Turn the opposite sides in and roll the pancake up like a jelly roll.

If you’d like, you can then fry the blintzes in butter or oil or bake them in a single layer in a 425F oven until brown. Serve dairy blintzes with sour cream.

There’s Always Money in the Banana Stand!

Remember how last week I kindly suggested you peel five ripe bananas and put them into your freezer? It’s time to remove them. There’s a frozen chocolate peanut butter banana pie in my freezer right now and my kids have no idea. Please don’t tell them. They had melon for dessert, and I’d like to keep it that way.

This pie is probably my favorite recipe from the new cookbook The Chubby Vegetarian: 100 Inspired Vegetable Recipes for the Modern Table, from the folks behind the eponymous food blog. It might have something to do with it also being the easiest recipe in the entire cookbook, but more likely my inclination towards all things chocolate-peanut butter.

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There are other recipes that I’ve bookmarked: Baked Cauliflower Wings with Black and Bleu Dressing; Crispy Baked Avocado Tacos with Purple Cabbage Slaw; and Egg Foo Young with Sriracha Gravy. But other recipes have me asking why someone would go out their way and put tricky ingredients into a cookbook, like the Huitlacoche and Sweet Potato Quesadillas with Chipotle Cream. (Huitlacoche is a mushroom-like fungus that grows on corn and is apparently a delicacy in Mexico.) Still, I have a huge bag of masa on my kitchen table with which I will be making pupusas, but I’ll be skipping the pickled loroco flower.

But yes, this pie. Oh man, this pie.

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This photo is a lie: My children don’t actually eat food. Unless it’s lox, in which case, Bea would like another slice.

But back to the pie. Those frozen bananas are going to get whirled in your food processor (yay for my blade finally coming!) along with some peanut butter, dried dates, a little cocoa powder, almond milk and a touch of Maldon salt. If you don’t have Maldon salt, just use a pinch of kosher salt. Close enough. You’ll be making the crust first, and that’s just peanuts that have been pulsed in the bowl of the processor.

Honestly, this recipe couldn’t be simpler, although I would encourage you to really chop the dates and cut the bananas into smallish pieces. Your food processor will really get a work out with this recipe, and the smaller pieces will make it easier to blend.

This pie is vegan and gluten-free and “is just about perfect for summer birthday celebrations and backyard grilling parties.” I’d make this for Bea’s second birthday party in a few weeks, but she’s made it clear she wants a Princess Leia cake. May the force be with us.

Frozen Peanut Butter Banana Pie from Frozen Peanut Butter Banana Pie from The Chubby Vegetarian by Justin Fox Burks & Amy Lawrence

Ingredients

5 ripe bananas

1 cup roasted and salted peanuts

½ cup peanut butter

5 dried dates (pitted)

1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

½ cup unsweetened almond milk

½ teaspoon Maldon sea salt flakes

Chocolate syrup (to garnish)

Directions

Peel the bananas and freeze them for at least 3 hours. Into the work bowl of your food processor, place the peanuts and pulse until finely chopped. Into the bottom of a springform pan, spread the finely chopped peanuts in an even layer.

Slice the frozen bananas into chunks. Into the work bowl of the same food processor, place the bananas, peanut butter, dates, cocoa powder, almond milk, and salt. Blend until smooth. Gently pour mixture into the springform pan so as to not disturb the layer of peanuts on the bottom. Smooth the mixture with a rubber spatula by pushing the mixture to the edges. Place the springform pan in the freezer for at least an hour. For the best consistency, remove the pie from the freezer 10 minutes before serving so it softens a bit. Slice and drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Lemonade was robbed.

Returned to my office after a short meeting this morning to discover that my colleague, who’d made the mistake of offhandedly remarking that there was too much rhubarb in her yard, had hung an enormous bagful on my door knob.

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With the temperature today and tomorrow soaring into the 90s, it’s far too hot to crank up the oven for the rhubarb spoon bread I’d bookmarked. But, as luck would have it, I stumbled across the perfect hot day recipe for rhubarb: Rhubarb lemonade.

It’s from the Sqirl cookbook, one of my Christmas/Chanukah gifts from Rich. I’d set the book aside in late December when I was annoyed to discover that every recipe that piqued my interest called for a food processor. I took the book out over this weekend in anticipation of my missing piece being replaced by Cuisinart. And yes, it finally came this week!

(Speaking of food processors: Do yourself a favor and put five ripe bananas in a large Ziploc bag and toss that in the freezer – I have a terrific dairy-free, gluten free pie coming your way. Peel them first!)

I have a lot to say about this cookbook, but I honestly can’t give it a fair shake until I test a few more of the recipes. But for now, let’s have pink lemonade.

The recipe calls for ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, from about 3 lemons, although two did the trick for me. Most of the prep time is hands off. The rhubarb syrup simmered away on a back burner while I made dinner. (Yay induction stove not heating up the kitchen!) The drink is sweet and refreshing and not at all tart.

Rhubarb Lemonade from Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking by Jessica Koslow

Ingredients

1 1/3 cups (200 g) chopped rhubarb

2/3 cup (135 g) sugar

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (135 ml) fresh lemon juice (from about 3 lemons)

Directions

Put the rhubarb, sugar, and 1 and 2/3 cups (400 ml) water in a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the syrup simmers. Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring every once in a while, until the rhubarb has fallen apart and imbued the liquid its color.

While the syrup is still hot, pour it through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup or bowl. Use a rubber spatula to really press on the rhubarb mush and squeeze out every last drop. Let cool.

There should be about 1 ¼ cups (300 ml) rhubarb syrup. If there is more, save it for adding later on. Pour the rhubarb syrup into a 1-quart (1-L) jar. Add the lemon juice and 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon (495 ml) water into a large jar or pitcher. Stir our shake well.

Serve chilled over ice.

Makes 1 quart.

Bitter Herb

I’m tempted to start a new category on the blog: what to do with your leftover x that you bought for Passover and is still in your fridge a month and a half later. This year it was the fresh horseradish that my family always uses. Think E.T. but with a mop of curly green hair. It gets grated into the jarred stuff that is served alongside a few pieces of gefilte fish at a Saturday morning kiddush.

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The thing about the horseradish is that I can’t stand it. That entire category of foods doesn’t agree with me (Why would you ruin sushi with wasabi? And you do realize they make poison from mustard?) I debated just tossing the offending root in the trash, but that seemed like a waste. So I went to my cookbooks.

Luckily, it only took five minutes of searching until I was reading a pickled beets recipe that calls for fresh horseradish. It’s from Deborah Madison’s terrific cookbook, America: The Vegetarian Table, a book which has served me well in the past, but which I hadn’t opened in years.

The recipe calls for two tablespoons of coarsely grated fresh horseradish, which I toned down to about a teaspoon and a half. And honestly, the recipe really did benefit from the root. It gave it a little heat and was a great counter balance to the warm spices: brown sugar, fresh nutmeg, fresh ginger and whole cloves.

Madison points out that tiny garden beets, about the size of “large marbles,” are prettiest in this recipe. I used what was in my fridge, which were large ones. I simply peeled them, cut them into smaller pieces and steamed them before the pickling.

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I’ve served these alongside whatever we’re having for dinner: quinoa with arugula stirred into it; arugula sautéed with tons of garlic, strips of fresh red pepper and finished with golden raisins; roasted carrots topped with fresh dill; chunks of fresh avocado; eggs, boiled hard but with jammy yolks. Or, just grab a fork and the jar and have yourself an afternoon snack.

Pickled Beets from Deborah Madison’s America: The Vegetarian Table

Ingredients

About 3 cups of beets (20 small beets)

1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar

1 cup water

1/2 cup white or brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 scant teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 ounce fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into strips

Up to 2 Tablespoons coarsely grated fresh horseradish

7 whole cloves

Directions

Trim the beets, leaving on ½ inch of their stems, and scrub them well. Or, peel and cut larger beets into 2-inch pieces. Steam them until tender but still a little firm, about 15 minutes. Let the beets cool. If the skins are tender looking and free of roots or coarse patches, leave them unpeeled; otherwise, peel them. Fit them into a clean quart jar.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a nonreactive saucepan and bring them to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the beets, immersing them fully, Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator. They are best served after sitting for at least a day and will keep for one to two months.

 

 

Little Monsters

So so sorry for disappearing, especially after promising you all sorts of Passover recipes and Passover cookbook reviews. My little girls, blessings in my life, destroyed my laptop. It was a combination of spilled chocolate milk and frustrated little fists banging away on the keyboard. Little Monsters. (They are huge Lady Gaga fans, so it’s OK that I call them that.)

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But thanks to having an April birthday and generous family members, I bought a refurbished laptop at the computer shop in town. I even had a coupon. Rich was chagrined to discover it doesn’t have a camera, although I’m pleased that it has a disc drive, something we now know is hard to come by in newer laptops. It’s a very basic machine. To put it in perspective, we spent more on our cat today than on my “new” computer. (It was a very expensive day.)

But now it’s May, and just like everyone said would happen, the asparagus popped in my front yard — right on schedule, just as April ended and May began. We technically live in “Asparagus Valley,” which means it’s all over menus in the area, and people start complaining about there being too much of it. I personally can’t fathom there being “too much asparagus,” just as I was secretly pleased when a colleague started to complain about the rhubarb taking over her yard. (She’s bringing some in for me. Will report back with a recipe as soon as that happens.)

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But yes, I have my favorite asparagus recipe for you, but first I do want to mention the terrific pickled beets in my fridge which I’m looking forward to telling you about. Soon, my friends. Soon.

We saw this recipe on Anne Burrell’s Secrets of a Restaurant Chef what seems like a million years ago. It’s very simple to make — all you need is a sharp knife and a few ingredients: asparagus, red onion, pecorino, a touch of extra-virgin olive oil.

The key is to go small. The asparagus is raw, so it needs to be cut into very thin coins — think a couple nickels stacked. The red onion is also a teensy, teensy dice — centimeters, not inches. Once everything is cut, you need about an hour for the flavors to mingle.

Asparagus, Pecorino and Red Onion Salad by Anne Burrell

Ingredients
1 bunch pencil asparagus, tough bottoms stems removed
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 cup coarsely grated pecorino
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt

Directions
Slice the asparagus, including the tips, into very thin slices crosswise and place in a medium bowl.

Add the red onion and pecorino and toss to combine.

Dress with the vinegar, olive oil and salt and toss again. This salad should be fairly heavily dressed. The vinegar will sort of “cook” or tenderize the asparagus.

It is best to do this about an hour or so in advance to let the flavors “marry”.