Game Changer

Oh goodness. Where to begin? Well, first off, I shouldn’t be writing this right now. What I should be doing while Lilli takes her nap is tidy up the house. Or maybe crowd source the name of a cleaning lady. The house looks like an 18-month-old lives here…on her own. My friend Sara called Lilli the “tiny tornado” a few months back, and the local children’s librarian referred to her as a “little tornado” just last night.

soft serve

So the house is beyond a disaster, and no, I will not post any photos of that. Like I said, I should be cleaning the house right now, but instead I’m going to tell you about vegan ice cream sandwiches.

Before I go any further, Rich wants me to make it clear that he did not have any of the vegan ice cream sandwiches. When the book Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches by Kris Holechek Peters arrived in the mail I was excited at the prospect of a delicious and creative summertime dairy-free dessert. And Rich? Well, he made a face and declared, quite forcefully, I might add, something he has said for years: “Dairy-free ice cream is an abomination against nature.” I’ve learned to pick my battles, so I let this one slide.

When the book arrived I did what I always do with an unfamiliar cookbook – curled up into a corner on the couch and read through it. Sure, the book has the standard vanilla ice cream with chocolate cookie sandwiches, which I choose as my first recipe. But it also has Crisp Cinnamon Cookies with Chai Ice Cream, Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Mint Nut Ice Cream, and a peanut butter cup flavor, which includes a recipe for the peanut butter cups so you don’t have to run around town trying to find vegan peanut butter cups. I’m looking forward to corn in the CSA because I’ve bookmarked the Sweet Corn Ice Cream that’s been paired with Rhubarb Cookies. (The author labeled them “Mouthful O’ Midwest Sandwiches”.)

The most pleasant surprise about making this dessert was the fact that I found everything, save the soy milk and Earth Balance, at Ocean State Job Lot. (The other two ingredients were purchased at Whole Foods.) Yup, the sugar cane sugar and tapioca starch (sometime referred to as tapioca flour) were both found in the extensive Bob’s Red Mill section at the store. Now, I don’t see any reason why you can’t use regular white granulated sugar, but with baking I try to stick to the recipe before I futz with it. OSJL has a great price on all of Bob’s flours and grains, so if you’re anywhere near one, my advice is to stock up. (If you’re afraid of little creepy crawling things getting into your grains and flours, which has happened in my own pantry, I’d suggest purchasing a package of Ball Jars, conveniently on sale this month, perhaps for the summer jam and preserves crowd.)

As with any ice cream recipe, make sure to have your charger in the freezer overnight. These particular cookies are a slab cookie, although there are drop cookies galore in the book. You’ll notice the recipe has you make the sandwiches, then wrap them in plastic wrap and pop them back in the freezer for a half hour to bind them. It also suggests having the ice cream sit out for a half hour. I guess that’s typical for soy-based ice creams, although the ice cream was ready to scoop after only a few minutes out on the counter.

3 scoops

And the result? Well, at first taste the soy ice cream tasted like Tofutti, but that soy flavor diminished after a few days. The cookies were, legit, delicious — so delicious that Rich ended up eating ALL OF THE COOKIES, except for two. (He swears he thought I’d already assembled the sandwiches and the cookies were left overs.) That means I only had one ice cream sandwich when all was said and done. That’s right, he refused to eat the ice cream sandwiches, but then went and ate all the cookies. I take that as a good sign.

This ice cream sandwich was WAY BETTER than a Tofutti Cutie. For those of you out there that are looking for a Saturday lunchtime dessert that’s dairy free and delicious, this is a game changer.

Classic Ice Cream Sandwiches from Vegan Ice Cream Sandwiches by Kris Holechek Peters

Classic Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients

1/3 cup nondairy margarine, at room temperature

2/3 cup evaporated can sugar

2 Tablespoons nondairy milk

¼ teaspoon mild vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa, sifted

½ teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar. Stir in the milk, vinegar, and vanilla. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix thoroughly.
  3. Turn out onto the prepared baking sheet. Place a sheet of waxed paper over the dough and roll out onto a square about ¼ inch thick. Remove the waxed paper and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are set and it’s slightly puffy. It will seem soft and not fully baked, but it is.
  4. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15 minutes on the baking sheet on a wire rack. Carefully cut the cookies into the desired shape. You can use a glass or biscuit cutter to make them round, or maximize the dough by cutting them into evenly sized squares.
  5. Remove the cookies from the sheet and allow to finish cooling on the rack.

Vanilla Soy Ice Cream

Makes 1 ¼ quarts

Ingredients

3/4 cup evaporated cane sugar

1 Tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons tapioca starch

2 ½ cup soy or hemp milk (full fat)

1 teaspoon coconut oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and tapioca starch and whisk until incorporated. Pour in the milk, whisking to incorporate. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, whisking frequently. Once it reaches a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the coconut oil and vanilla, and mix to combine.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a heat-resistant bowl and let cool completely.
  3. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a 1 ½ or 2-quart ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Store in an airtight container in the freezer for at least 2 hours before assembling the sandwiches.

To Make the Sandwiches

Let the ice cream soften slightly so it’s easy to scoop. Place half of the cookies, bottoms up, on a clean surface. Scoop one generous scoop of ice cream, about 1/3 cup, onto the top of each cookie. Top the ice cream with the remaining cookies, with the cookie bottoms touching the ice cream. Gently press down on the cookies to level them. Wrap each sandwich in plastic wrap or waxed paper and return to the freezer for at least 30 minutes before serving.

 

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CSA Support Group

I’m here! I’m here! And, I come bearing recipes. Yes, it’s CSA time, and I know there’s a bunch of you peering into your box, wondering what to do with garlic scapes and that crazy kohlrabi. Of course, it’s still early in the season, so we’ve also been working our way through lots of lettuces and greens. For the salads, these pickled onions are working out really well.

With the cilantro that’s come, we had a dressing from one of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbooks (I borrowed it from the library) that had me whirling the herb up with some yogurt, green garlic, also from the CSA, scallions, jalapeno and fresh lime juice. I used the rest of the cilantro tonight in this rice. Good stuff.

kohlrabi and cabbage

As for those aforementioned kohlrabi and scapes, I drew inspiration from an extraordinary meal Rich and I had at Ribelle last week to celebrate Father’s Day and his birthday. (I chose the restaurant and just asked him to trust me.) One of the dishes I had featured both kohlrabi and pickled garlic scapes. It was really terrific, and I plan on pickling the scapes in my crisper in the next day or two.

We did a separate fruit CSA this year, which was smart because Lilli basically eats her weight in strawberries daily. I was able to wrestle a few of the berries away from her and tossed those with some maple syrup and roasted them in a hot oven for about 20 minutes. Feel free to swirl those into some plain yogurt.

Strawberry

 

But the main recipe for this week is for kohlrabi. If there’s anything I’ve learned about vegetables, when in doubt, reach for Ottolenghi. Yotam has yet to let me down, and his cabbage and kohlrabi salad is no exception. The cabbage in this recipe is the boring kind that is probably growing old in your crisper. At least that’s what was happening with mine. (If you have napa cabbage, drizzle this buttermilk dressing on it and enjoy it raw.)

Rich was skeptical about a recipe that called for alfalfa sprouts like this one does, but he had thirds. Thirds! I had white pepper in the house from this hot and sour soup. I think dried cranberries will work as a substitute for the dried whole sour cherries, and will make this recipe very affordable in case you don’t have a surplus from your local Ocean State Job Lot.

It turns out a friend of mine from college also just made this, and they added fresh fennel and its fronds to their salad which sounds like a great addition. If you have it, go for it.

Cabbage and Kohlrabi Salad from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

1 medium or ½ large kohlrabi

½ white cabbage (8 to 9 oz)

Large bunch of dill, roughly chopped (6 heaped tablespoons)

1 cup dried whole sour cherries (or dried cranberries)

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Juice of one lemon (he actually calls for 6 Tablespoons, but whatever)

¼ cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

Salt and white pepper

2 cups alfalfa sprouts

Directions

Peel the kohlrabi and cut into thick matchsticks that are about ¼ inch wide and 2 inches long. Cut the cabbage into 1/4-in-thick strips.

Put all the ingredients, apart from the alfalfa sprouts, in a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to massage everything together for about a minute so the flavors mix and the lemon can soften the cabbage and the cherries. Let the salad sit for about 10 minutes.

Add most of the alfalfa sprouts and mix well again with your hands. Taste and adjust the seasoning; you’ll need a fair amount of salt to counteract the lemon.

Use your hands again to lift the salad out of the mixing bowl and into a serving bowl, leaving most of the juices behind. Garnish with the remaining sprouts and serve at once.

Man, Go Make These Noodles

I feel like I’m as busy as I have been in a long time, what with a full-time job, a weekly column at JewishBoston.com, and a teething 7-month-old who is already standing and seems to be on her way to walking any moment now. (I can barely take the time to write this for fear she’s discovered some part of the house we haven’t yet gotten to baby-proofing.) And yet, even though I have zero time these days (even to call people back or email them in a timely fashion; sorry about that, and you know who you are) I have found the time to make these noodles which take well over an hour to prepare, and then need a good two hours of marinating.

Lilli-approved

I passed over this recipe at least a half dozen times in the past year, laughing at how long it took and how many steps there were to it, but then last week, when I miraculously had all the ingredients in the house, I decided to go for it. And my goodness, the outcome was so glorious, I found myself making them AGAIN less than a week later.

It’s an Ottolenghi recipe, from his vegetarian cookbook Plentyso you know it’s a keeper. I’m reminded of a few winters ago when I had his first cookbook out of the library and I found myself grating — by hand, no less, because I’d lost the stem of my food processor — raw rutabaga and celery root for a slaw. A slaw so good, I made it twice in less than a week. Do you see a pattern here?

First comes the marinade, which you need to heat and let cool before adding the lime zest and its juice. Then comes the shallow frying of two eggplants. (Oh, August and your perfect eggplants.) Then comes the cooking of the noodles. I actually love Ottolenghi’s tip about laying the noodles out on a dishtowel to dry them out completely and will be using that all the time now. As for the mango, that was the one place where I cut corners and bought one already cut up from Trader Joe’s. (You can do the same at Costco.)

These noodles are SO GOOD

These noodles defy a good description except to say they are extraordinary. When I served them to my sister-in-law last week, she emailed me the next day because she’d been thinking about the noodles. It honestly wasn’t such a strange email to receive; I’d been thinking about them, too.

Brief note: The first time I made this dish I used the soba noodles as suggested, but when I went back to Ocean State Job Lot they had run out of soba, and all that was left were udon and somen. All you want for this dish is a cold buckwheat noodle; any type will do. As for the frying oil, I just used the canola I had on hand. This recipe makes a ton of noodles. I ended up breaking down the noodles into four or five Tupperware containers that Rich and I took for work lunches for almost an entire week.

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty

Ingredients

½ cup rice vinegar

3 Tbs. sugar

½ tsp. salt

2 garlic cloves, crushed

½ fresh red chile, finely chopped

1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

1 cup sunflower oil

2 eggplants, cut into ¾-inch dice

8 to 9 oz. soba noodles

1 large ripe mango, cut into 3/8-inch dice or into 1/4-inch-thick strips

1 2/3 cup basil leaves, chopped (if you can get some, use Thai basil, but much less of it)

2 ½ cups cilantro leaves, chopped

½ red onion, very thinly sliced

Directions

In a small saucepan gently warm the vinegar, sugar and salt for up to 1 minute, just until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the garlic, chile and sesame oil. Allow to cool, then add the lime zest and juice.

Heat up the sunflower oil in a large pan and shallow-fry the eggplant in three or four batches. Once golden brown, remove to a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave there to drain.

Cook the noodles in plenty of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally. They should take 5 to 8 minutes to become tender but still al dente. Drain and rinse well under running cold water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry on a dish towel.

In a mixing bowl toss the noodles with the dressing, mango, eggplant, half of the herbs and the onion. You can now leave this aside for 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve add the rest of the herbs and mix well, then pile on a plate or in a bowl.

Something Lighthearted

Lilli and Giragge

It’s been a rough week here in Boston. We’re safe. Everyone we know is safe. We live far from the finish line, but a mile from Watertown. I don’t have anything profound or original to say about the situation, except that last week’s events have put my ongoing series of pressure cooker recipes on hiatus for the time being.

Instead, I’m going to share a story from this summer that always make us chuckle. It happened in August, during my second trimester.

Scene: Preggers Molly, sitting at the dining room table, on the phone. Rich enters, stage kitchen, and overhears Molly’s conversation

MOLLY: “It clearly said on the container “peanut butter explosion,” and I’m telling you, there was no explosion.”

RICH: “Oh my God! Get off the phone! Right now!”

MOLLY (waving him off): “Shh…”

RICH: “You’re a crazy pregnant lady. Please get off the phone.”

MOLLY: “Honey, the ice cream container specifically said that if I had a problem with their product to call the 800 number. I bought this container of ice cream because it promised me a chocolate-peanut-butter explosion, and there was no explosion. There was not enough peanut butter in this ice cream.”

A few weeks later, a coupon arrived in the mail from the ice cream company for a free product of theirs with up to a $7.99 value.

cookies!

Still, this incident led me to take stock of the outsized role that the chocolate-peanut-butter flavor combination plays in my life. There were other clues: there was the fact that I didn’t hesitate to eat the squished Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup I found in my spring jacket pocket last week. (It was not delicious; we think it was from Halloween.) Another was, when I was sent a cookbook of “homemade versions of your favorite brand-name treats,” I zeroed in on the homemade Nutter Butters’ recipe, but with an important amendment: I would bake them, and then dip each end in ganache. And that’s just what I did. Chocolate Peanut Butter Explosion accomplished. At this rate, I’m never going to shed the rest of this pregnancy weight, but honestly, after this week, it really doesn’t matter.

Seder Shluff

The cookbook is Classic Snacks Made from Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats, written by Casey Barber, editor of the online magazine Good.Food.Stories. (www.goodfoodstories.com). It’s full of really great-sounding recipes for things like Nutter Butters, Mint Milanos, Twinkies, Goldfish Crackers, Funyuns, and Klondike Bars. A lot of its stuff was forbidden fruit growing up, first because my parents were more into actual fruit rather than giving us packaged treats, and, second, because a lot of it isn’t kosher.

peanut butter frosting

I’m happy to report that the Nutter Butters were spot-on, and really not a big deal to make. I made these this afternoon. I was able to feed Lilli, change Lilli, dunk a diaper, put Lilli down for a rest, and also have her hanging out with me in the kitchen, in between steps. They weren’t a big deal to make, really, and I’m saying that with a 12-week-old napping nearby.

Ocean State Job Lot Chocolate

The ganache is just a basic recipe, although I want to make note that the Ghirardelli chocolate I used was purchased at Ocean State Job Lot for $2 a bar. (I bought four. They’re in the freezer.) I rarely (and by rarely, I mean, never) use Crisco, but was pleased to discover that it is sold in bars, like butter, making measurements very simple.

One Note: If you’d like to join me in donating to help the victims and families of the attack, you can do so at The One Fund.

Nutter Butters

Makes about 2 dozen sandwich cookies.

Special Equipment: Stand mixer.

*Spritz your measuring cups with baking spray to help extract all the peanut butter you’ll be using for this recipe.

Ingredients

Cookies

2 cups (8 ½ oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 pinch kosher salt

8 Tablespoons (4 oz.) chilled unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

1 cup (7 oz.) granulated sugar

1 large egg

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup (4 ¾ oz.) creamy peanut butter

Filling

1 cup (4 oz.) powdered sugar

¼ cup plus 2 Tablespoons (3 ½ oz.) creamy peanut butter

¼ cup (1 5/8 oz.) vegetable shortening

Ganache (my recipe)

1 cup heavy cream

4 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. (I’m not going to be picky and tell you to use the good stuff. If you only have chips in the house, they’ll work just fine.)

Directions

Make the Cookies:

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and stir in the egg and vanilla on low speed. Add the peanut butter and stir on medium speed for 2 minutes more.

On low speed, stir in the dry ingredients a half cup at a time until just incorporated.

Spread 2 large sheets of plastic wrap on clean surface and divide the dough into 2 equal parts on the sheets. Wrap each piece tightly to form a rough cylinder about 8 inches long and 1 ½ inches in diameter. Place the dough logo in the freezer for 30 minutes.

(Please note: Lilli woke up from her nap at this point, so the peanut butter dough logs were a little more frozen than they should have been. All I needed to do was have the logs rest on the counter for a minute or two until they were a little less freezing.)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.

Cut the chilled dough into thin (no more than ¼ inch) slices and place on the prepared baking sheets. Put the sheets in the oven for 30 seconds, then remove and form each cookie into a rough peanut shape by squeezing the sides gently in the middle to form grooves.

Return the sheets to the oven and bake for 13 to 16 minutes, until the cookies are dry and no longer shiny on top but not yet browning on the edges. They will seem slightly underbaked, but remove them anyway. Cool the cookies completely on wire racks.

Fill the Cookies:

While the cookies cool, make the filling. Cream the powdered sugar, peanut butter, and shortening together until fluffy, using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer – first on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, then on high speed to fluff it up.

Spread the filling evenly on the flat (bottom) side of the half cooled cookies. Top with remaining cookies.

Make the Ganache:

Place chocolate pieces in a heat-proof bowl.

In a small saucepan, gently heat the heavy cream to a boil on a medium-low burner. Remove the heated cream from the stovetop and pour over the bowl of chocolate. Let stand 10 minutes. Whisk the cream and the chocolate, which will be very melted at this point.

Dip one end of each cookie into ganache and lay the cookie on a baking pan or plate. To chill the ganache, place the tray in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

Store the cookies at room temperature in an airtight container, with pieces of parchment paper in between the layers of chocolate-covered cookies, for up to a week.

Duly Noted

Forget Joyce’s Ulysses. More often than not, I find myself wishing for annotations on recipes I read. The offenders can be found everywhere: in cookbooks, online, in magazines…other blogs. I can’t be the only one who reads food preparation instructions with a raised eyebrow. Caramelize an onion in 15 minutes? I beg to differ.

As thrilled as I was to find a hot and sour soup recipe in a recent issue of the magazine Saveur, I was skeptical about the time it took, not to mention a seemingly out of nowhere addition of pork tenderloin. I’m a huge fan of this fiery soup and was excited to try out the recipe — with reservations.

And now, ladies and gentleman, I bring you Suan La Tang, Hot and Sour Soup, with my annotations in italics.

Suan La Tang –Hot and Sour Soup, Saveur #150 (November 2012)

For the pork:

1 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. brandy

1 tsp. cornstarch

4 oz. pork tenderloin, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

[The addition of this animal seems completely unnecessary and without merit. I will ignore this direction and continue on with the rest of recipe.]

For the soup:

8 cups chicken stock

[Really, does it have to be chicken stock? Maybe we can just call it stock and keep it vegetarian?]

3 tbsp. soy sauce

3 tbsp. white wine vinegar

3 tbsp. corn starch

1 tsp. ground white pepper

[Um. White pepper? Is that really necessary? After checking a bunch of hot and sour soups online, it looks like an essential ingredient to the soup. Luckily, spices were 50% off at Star Market this afternoon. I will now have to find a dozen more recipes that call for white pepper, or, make this soup over and over and over.]

1 tsp. kosher salt

½ tsp. cayenne

12 oz. firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/4” cubes

[But tofu usually comes in 14 oz. packages. I’m not going to use all but 2 oz. of tofu. That just seems ridiculous.]

¼ cup cubed potato

[I peeled and cubed the potato while I waited  for the broth to thicken. There was a lot of waiting.]

6 shiitake or wood ear mushrooms, cut into 1/4 “ pieces.

[I wonder what people who don’t frequent Ocean State Job Lot do when recipes call for a random amount of shiitake mushrooms.  Even though the directions didn’t call for it, before I tackled any of the recipe, I set the mushrooms in a bowl of near-boiling water and lidded the bowl with an overturned plate. The mushrooms soaked until it was time to add them to the pot. This made them much easier to cut.]

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro, to garnish

[Eh, I’m not going to bother with the cilantro tonight.]

Directions

For the pork:

[See above. I’m just going to completely ignore this part of the recipe and hope for the best.]

For the soup:

Whisk together stock, soy sauce, vinegar, cornstarch, pepper, salt, cayenne and ¼ cup water in a 4-qt. saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

[I don’t own a 4-qt. saucepan, so I’m going to use the huge pot I use for making pasta. Do people typically own 4-qt. saucepans? About the boiling: It seems to take a good 14-17 minutes to bring 8 cups of stock to a boil, just an FYI.]

Add pork, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soup thickens, about 30 minutes. Add tofu, potatoes, and mushrooms, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

[As it turns out, the thickening took more like 50 minutes, rather than 30 minutes. The potatoes getting tender took closer to 25 minutes, rather than 15 minutes.]

Without stirring, slowly drizzle egg into simmering soup in a thin, steady stream. When egg strands float to surface, stir in the oil. Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish with cilantro. Serves 4-6.

[Wow, the drizzled raw egg morphing into floating streams was almost instantaneous. So cool. I want to do it again.]

The verdict: This soup was excellent and worth sharing. With annotations. I started it at 5:30 and it was a little after 7 before we sat down to eat. Will definitely make it again, but will keep in mind for the next time that this soup takes about an hour and a half to prepare.

So Much More To It

For the past month, I’ve read piles of Passover recipes from all sorts of bloggers who have explained about chametz and unleavened things, and maybe some people have even talked about kitniyot. But what I haven’t read about is that, in order to make Pesach (that’s what I’m going to call Passover from now on) it’s much more than just not cooking with unleavened things. Every pot and pan and knife and cutting board and plate I use in my kitchen all year long is chametzdik – contaminated, basically. So everything I use to cook and eat all year long cannot be used during the eight days of the holiday. Think of them as chametz cooties.

In my basement — and I promise you, in Jews’ basements all over the world — lives an entire separate kitchen of pots and pans, cutting boards, tablecloths, dishes and a teapot. In my case, this includes a Pesadik pressure cooker. And remember, Jews don’t mix milk and meat, so it’s really double of everything – the meat pots, pans, knives, cutting boards and dishes, and the dairy pots, pans, knives, cutting boards and dishes. To simplify things, I keep vegetarian during Pesach, so I only have to deal with half as much stuff as other people.

So the kitchen is brought up, box by box. And then you have to “turn the kitchen over” for Pesach: scrubbing down the oven and stove, cleaning out the whole refrigerator and locking up the the cupboards. Those countertops you prepare your food on all year long are also chametzdik, so you have to cover those counters. Thankfully, I have granite countertops so I just have to pour boiling water over them to kasher them. But if you walked into my kitchen tonight you would see a stove covered in tin foil and each burner wrapped in foil as well. Like I said, chametz cooties.

And then there is the shopping. Just as the dishes and pots and pans have to be specially set aside for Pesach, everything you cook that has been processed has to also be kosher l’Pesach. Your favorite olive oil, your favorite vinegar, your favorite Aleppo powder and your favorite vanilla extract might be fine the rest of the year, but you need to make sure all those things are kosher for Pesach. For some unexplained reason Ocean State Job Lot has been selling kosher l’Pesach olive oil all year long for the past few years, so that’s one less thing to worry about.

I always grumble about having to take off vacation days to prepare for Pesach, as I spent Thursday’s “vacation” morning pushing through the crowds at Russo’s to pick up my produce for this week. My cart was piled high with zucchini, mangoes, avocadoes, mushrooms, and a jicama, to which I decided I’d make a nice citrusy salad with a little kick of hot pepper to it.

And then I had to get everything into the house. I’m much stronger than I have been in months, but I’m not allowed to wear a purse – thankfully I’ve been able to find a cute backpack – so the 17 bags of groceries I picked up at the market had to be carried in one-at-time from the car, which itself took about 20 minutes to do before I could even unpack everything into my empty refrigerator.

Friday morning Rich and I flew down to DC because Sylvie hosted seder this year. I poked around in her kitchen and discovered that she had picked up zucchini, mangoes, avocadoes, mushrooms and a jicama – pretty much everything I had, and probably with the same dishes in mind.

Jicama – which is pronounced Hee-Kah-Mah – is a Mexican yam or turnip. Its flesh is white and its taste is crisp and fresh and just screams for a contrast of heat and tart. I’ve noticed people tend to serve it sliced in matchsticks although Sylvie pointed out it’s much easier to spear a cube of it with a fork then maneuver smaller pieces of them.

She made her salad with a supremed grapefruit, but if that’s too bitter for you, try it with orange. Even still, if your reflux is acting up, skip the massive amounts of citrus and replace it with just a squeeze or two of lime juice.

Jicama Salad with Grapefruit

Ingredients

1 jicama, peeled and cubed

1 grapefruit, supremed – make sure to supreme the fruit directly over the bowl so all the juices are caught

1 small chili pepper, minced

1/4 of a small red onion, chopped

1 large handful of cilantro — about 2 Tablespoons — chopped

3 teaspoons red wine vinegar

1 scant teaspoon salt

Several healthy grinds of fresh black pepper

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate the salad for at least an hour before serving, allowing the ingredients to get to know each other and marinate.

Dinner At The Palm

I know I’m about four years late to the party, but I’ve just discovered Mad Men. I mean, I knew about the show, but hadn’t had the chance to watch it and enjoy not only the storylines (although Season 4 is rather dark) but also the clothing and the sets. And, since I took that Food and the Visual Arts class last fall, I’ve learned to pay close attention to the foods cooked, ordered or, in the case of Don Draper and his co-workers, drunk. My reflux prevents me from posting about my favorite cocktail, so instead I’m going to write about one of my favorite salad ingredients: hearts of palm.

Don seems to be a fan of the curious vegetable, ordering it at Sardi’s in Season 2, and Trudy Campbell serves a salad of them to Pete in Season 3. Literally cut from the hearts of palm trees, the vegetable came into vogue as post-war Americans became more affluent and more adventurous in their eating (think Polynesian/Chinese food).

Hearts of palm and I have a bit of a history. About 10 years ago, Sylvie and I went on a bit of a hearts of palm binge. (Side note: How is it possible I only started talking about Syl a month ago? Clearly we spend a great deal of our time together talking about food.) We had gone through all the hearts of palm my mom had purchased for Passover, but we wanted more. We scoured the shelves at the Big Y in the center of town, and even tracked down the manager. He had never heard of the vegetable, but assured us he would order a case. A few weeks later we got the call: our hearts of palm had arrived, an entire case of them. It turned out the manager ordered a case for the store, and an entire case just for us.  We stood there for a second, and then nodded together, in that way that siblings are able to have entire discussions with each other without saying a word, said thank you, and went home with our bounty.

Our go-to application was usually a salad with chopped avocado, halved grape tomatoes and a vibrant vinaigrette. Since it’s February and tomatoes are a no-no in my kitchen, I’ve pulled up a recipe for a hearts of palm salad from the upcoming Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook, which is coming out in March. (Turns out I’m not the only one out there with a food and drink fixation of the show. The cookbook is based on a blog.)

Now, this “Sardi’s Hearts of Palm Salad” is a pantry recipe for me. Granted, it’s kind of ridiculous I have pimentos on hand, and if you don’t, I would suggest opening a jar of roasted red peppers and adding them to the vinegar-onion mixture as you chop the rest of the dressing ingredients. In the course of making this salad I also discovered I have three separate jars of capers in the fridge, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, I have a predilection for pickled things.

I minced the onions and added them to the vinegar before I chopped anything else so they’d have less of a bite by the time the salad was ready to be served. I’ve ignored the recipe’s instructions regarding the lettuce leaves and sprigs of watercress because I am far less likely to have those items reliably in the fridge. For those nervous about using canned hearts of palm, they can also be found in glass jars.

Quick tip for hard-boiling the eggs: I take a note from Alton Brown for this one, and cook my eggs in my plug-in kettle I keep on the counter (or kum-kum for those reading this in Israel). After the kettle boils and pops, let them rest in the pot for 10 minutes, and you’ll have perfectly boiled eggs.

Sardi’s Hearts of Palm Salad (from The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook)

Ingredients

1 can hearts of palm

6 thin slices pimento

4 Tablespoons vinaigrette dressing (see recipe below)

Vinaigrette Dressing

1 Tablespoon finely chopped onion

¼ cup white wine vinegar

½ dill pickle

1 teaspoon capers, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1 Tablespoon finely chopped pimento

1 teaspoon finely chopped hard-boiled egg white

1 teaspoon salt

¼ olive oil

Directions

Place the finely chopped onion in a small bowl and add the vinegar.

Chop the rest of the ingredients and add them to the small bowl. Sprinkle with salt and add the olive oil, Stir thoroughly. Keep in refrigerator. Always stir before using.

Slice the hearts of palm into ¼ inch round slices. Place in a serving bowl. Stir in two tablespoons of the vinaigrette. Taste and add more dressing if necessary.