Easy Peasy

that's my girl!

It’s CSA season again, and while I love getting my produce straight from the farmer, this year I have come to appreciate the best feature of getting my week’s veggies in one box: I don’t have to schlep baby to go grocery shopping. No car seat, no stroller, no grocery bags hanging from the stroller handle by a Mommy Hook, no figuring out how to fit baby and produce into our tiny car. Easy peasy.

Convenience and time saving also led me to bite the bullet and buy a new food processor this week. I use my food processors a lot in tandem with the CSA. I used my mini one to whirl up the caper and anchovy dressing for my radish and white bean salad. I used my 12-year-old Black & Decker to whip up a romesco sauce to go with grilled spring onions, a Catalonian classic I got from Garum Factory.

make this. right now.

Unfortunately, the Black & Decker is still missing the spindle for the slicing and grating blades. I’ve made do for a while, but this week, when I found myself standing at my counter, grating the potatoes and zucchini for these latke waffles my friend Cara invented, I’d had enough. And so, using an Amazon gift card JewishBoston gave me a gift card for a job well done, I bought an 11-cup Cuisinart food processor. It even has a dough setting! It’s shiny and pretty and now lives on my counter.

And so, armed with my new toy, I took on this Ottolenghi recipe, which is the best thing I’ve ever done with fresh peas. (I’m sure it will be excellent with frozen peas in the winter, as well.) He explains this recipe was inspired by the Palestinian classic shishbarak – ravioli-like dumplings stuff with meat, topped with a hot yogurt sauce.

Unfortunately, fancy as it is, my new device doesn’t have a “shell peas” setting, so took a looong time to shell two pounds of fresh peas. At least I was able to do that at the table with Lilli. It will be awhile before Lilli can shell anything; for now she’s working on petting the cat.

Lilli and Rooster

Minus the pea shelling, this recipe came together in less than 20 minutes, including waiting for the pasta water to boil. Mark this another one for working parents, and people who are short on time in general.

Even though his recipes are generally perfection, I did change a few things. I substituted pistachios for the pine nuts, only because I couldn’t find any pine nuts in the house. It worked out great. To save time, I cooked the peas in the same water I used for the pasta. Ottolenghi calls for conchiglie, which are shells, but I had fusilli in the house, so that was that. And, just to be clear, use Aleppo pepper when he calls for a Syrian pepper. The two pounds of peas became 14 ounces post-shelling, which I decided that was close enough to the one pound this recipe calls for.

Fusilli (or shells, or bow ties) with yogurt, peas and chile from Yottam Ottohlenghi’s Jerusalem

Ingredients

2 ½ cups/ 500 grams Greek yogurt

2/3 cup/ 150 ml olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 lb/500 g fresh or thawed frozen peas

Scant ½ cup/ 60 g shelled pistachios (or pine nuts in the original recipe)

1 lb/500 g pasta shells, bowties or fusilli

2 tsp. Aleppo pepper

1 2/3 cups/40 g basil leaves, coarsely torn

8 oz/240 g feta cheese, broken into chunks

Salt and white pepper

Directions

Put a large pot of water, salted heavily, on to boil.

Put the yogurt, 6 tablespoons/90 ml of the olive oil, the garlic, and 2/3 cup/100 g of the peas in a food processor. Blitz to a uniform pale green sauce and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Cook the pasta until al dente. As the pasta cooks, heat the remaining olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the nuts and Aleppo pepper and fry for 4 minutes, until the oil is deep red. (If you are using pine nuts, the nuts will be golden.) When your pasta has 5 minutes left of cooking, add the rest of the peas to the water.

Drain the cooked pasta and peas into a colander, shake well to get rid of the water, and add the pasta and cooked peas gradually to the yogurt sauce; add it all at once may cause the yogurt to split. Add the basil, feta, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon white pepper. Toss gently, transfer to individual bowls, and spoon the nuts and their oil.

Serves 6.

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One Year Later

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been a year since Brian’s fire. I’m relieved to report that everyone is doing well. Except for some scars on Brian’s neck where they did the skin grafting, you’d have no idea that he’d been on fire. As for his friend, Eric aka Jellyboy the Clown, he toured the world this year, performing in Europe and Asia. And, in recognition for his bravery and heroism, Captain James F. Hay of Ladder Company 163 was awarded the M. J. Delehanty Medal by the New York City Fire Department this past spring.

Still, the anniversary (or “burniversary” as Rich has taken to calling it) brings me back to the days after the fire. We heard the news on July 3 and spent July 4 driving down to New York to the hospital. There are little things about visiting people on a burn unit you don’t know about until you get there. Before going into any rooms, you have to cover yourself, head to toe, in hospital gowns and cap, to prevent infection. If you want to leave the room and go to the bathroom, you have to remove the gown and cap, put them into the laundry, and put on a new gown and cap before reentering the room.

Even though the burn unit preferred to keep the visitors down to one or two at a time, there were some afternoons where I’d find myself dragging chairs in from up and down the hallway to provide seats to the piles of people who wanted to see Brian. Someone even asked one of the annoyed nurses if Brian was the most popular person they’d ever had on the unit. She thought about it for a second, then responded that the Shah had had more guests.

There were a few quiet moments when I would sit in a chair by Brian’s bedside, reading, and he’d get to rest in between the afternoon rush of visitors. I found this recipe in the July 11, 2011, issue of New York Magazine. I had my fingers pinched and was about to rip it out but stopped myself. “Brian?” I whispered quietly. “Yes, darling?” he answered, with his eyes still closed. “There’s this recipe in this magazine. Do you think it’d be OK if I clipped it? I mean, I don’t want to take it if…” Brian laughed: “Well, since most of the fire was in the kitchen, oh, and because I burned down my entire apartment, I don’t think I’ll be doing any cooking anytime soon.”

The recipe calls for Panisse Lettuce, which it describes as “frilly lime-green” and “an oak-leaf and a butterhead…with a tender but sturdy-enough leaves and a bittersweet flavor that fairly cries out for a zingy dressing like the pistachio vinaigrette Greenmarket guru Dan Kluger has concocted over at ABC Kitchen.” I know, pistachio vinaigrette? How could I leave that behind?

When I went to the farmer’s market this afternoon, I was told panisse lettuce wouldn’t be available for another week or two. She suggested I substitute a deer head lettuce for something a little different, which I gladly did. It cost me a dollar. I don’t own Champagne vinegar and just used red wine. It was still very delicious. The radishes I had on hand are the ones that came in last week’s CSA; I don’t think you need to go out of your way to find French breakfast ones. And I always keep the garlicky lemon green olives from Whole Foods in my fridge, but if you come across the Sevillano or Manzanilla olives, then definitely use those.

Dan Kluger’s Panisse Lettuce with Pistachio Vinaigrette

Ingredients

For the dressing:

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons raw pistachios

½ Thai chile, seeded and minced

4 teaspoons lemon juice

3 Tablespoons Champagne vinegar

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

For the salad:

2 heads panisse lettuce (or Boston, or Bibb, or Butter)

2 Tablespoons chives, finely chopped

2 Tablespoons oregano, finely chopped

2 Tablespoons mint, finely chopped

2 Tablespoons tarragon, finely chopped

8 French breakfast radishes, thinly sliced into rounds

½ cup Sevillano or Manzanilla olives, pitted and chopped

Directions

For the dressing: In a small pot, heat olive oil and pistachios together over a low flame until warm. Place warm pistachios in food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Immediately pour pistachio mixture into bowl with Thai chile, and let sit for ten minutes. Add lemon juice, Champagnes vinegar, kosher salt and ground pepper.

For the salad: Honestly, I find lettuce from the farmer’s market incredibly gritty, so I’m not going to give you the directions provided about slicing the heads in half. Clean the lettuce leaves by soaking them in a large bowl of cold water. Change the water if you think the lettuce still looks a little gritty. Remove the leaves from the bowl and spin dry in a salad spinner. Rip the leaves and place them on a platter. Sprinkle with the radish and olives. Spoon vinaigrette on top of platter. Make sure to bring the dressing to the table so people may apply more if they really like it.

All About Aleza Eve

When I was in college, I took some time off and moved to Jerusalem. I lived at the top of a very high hill, on a street lined with jasmine trees that perfumed my daily walks. A hammock was strung between two loquat trees in the backyard, upon which I read all the English books I could get my hands on at Steimansky’s book store.

I spent that spring studying Jewish texts at a co-educational, non-denominational yeshiva, something that’s still of a bit of an anomaly.  The traditional Rabbinic approach to learning is to study a shared text with discussion and debate. My partner was named Aleza, and we really were a pair that year. We spent nearly every day together, in and outside of school. From Cairo to the shuk, we were partners. I remember bumping into classmates at the market and being asked where Aleza was. “Oh, she’s in the dairy section,” I answered. We were inseparable.

When you’re in Israel, everyone tells you how great Purim is, like no other celebration you’ve ever seen. Brazil might have Carnival, and New Orleans has Mardi Gras, but Jerusalem has Purim. The night of the megillah reading, I wore the homemade wings my friend Jonathan fashioned for me out of wire and white muslin. I ended up getting a terrible migraine that night, so I fluttered home and crawled into bed.

The next day Aleza and I hosted a Persian-inspired meal full of saffron and nuts. I don’t remember for certain everything we cooked, but I do remember that I mistook the salt for the sugar in a potato dish. It was dreadful. The next month, my 21st birthday coincided with a visit from Aleza’s father, and she cooked us a wonderful vegetarian feast with bright curries and pestos. Truly magnificent.

Without a doubt, Aleza remains my favorite home chef, and the recipe I have here is her inspiration. She actually told me about one of these hamentashen fillings last year. Hamentashen, the tri-cornered cookie typically filled with jam, is a Purim must. I’ve been taught that the three corners of the cookie represent the hat that the evil Haman wore. I’ve also heard that these are Haman’s pockets, and another source calls them his ears. Whatever body part or article of clothing, this year’s hamentashen have been coopted as part of my cardamom jag.

The cookie recipe is from Spice and Spirit: The Complete Kosher Jewish Cookbook. This is a terrific cookbook, put together by a guild of Lubavitch women. It’s a wonderful source for those interested in learning more about kashrut, and all the recipes in it are pitch perfect. I have never had a better latke than the one from this book. I actually found my copy of “the purple book” in a second hand bookstore. I was so worried someone would snatch it from me that I hid it under my shirt as I ran to the register.

I’m offering a mix of sweet and savory fillings. The pistachio, cardamom and honey one is pure Aleza, while the toasted pine nuts, honey and thyme is definitely a holiday treat. Pine nuts are not cheap, so I am only suggesting to use 2 tablespoons worth. You should still get about 8 cookies from just those two tablespoons. And please don’t use cheap pine nuts. The ones from China are sketchy and will leave a terrible metallic taste in your mouth that won’t leave for about two weeks. The rest of the cookies I baked were the standard jams — this year it was apricot and mixed berry.

I will be perfectly honest and admit that most of my hamentashen would not win any beauty contests. A fair number of the cookies’ bellies burst open, spilling their sweet insides all over my baking sheets. I’m not worried though. I guarantee there won’t be a cookie remaining by the end of this weekend.

Fillings (these are my recipes)

Pistachio, Cardamom and Honey

Combine in a bowl:

1/4 cup pistachios

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Pine Nuts, Honey and Thyme

Combine in a bowl:

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (I roasted mine stovetop in a small pan, carefully watching to make sure they didn’t burn. Toasted pine nuts are delicious. Burnt pine nuts are garbage.)

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon thyme

The rest of the cookies are up to you. You can never go wrong with the traditional prune butter (lekvar) and poppy seeds (mohn). I’ve read about Nutella ones this year. Sadly, we had none in the house.

Hamentashen

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup oil

Rind of 1 lemon, grated

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

To Make The Cookies

Preheat oven to 350

Grease cookie sheet.

Beat eggs and sugar. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Divide into four parts.

On a floured board roll out each portion to about 1/8 inch thick. Using a round biscuit or cookie cutter cut 3-inch circles.  (Please note: I have never used either of these things in my entire life. Always, always, always have I used a drinking glass turned upside down for this step.)

Place 1/2 to 2/3 teaspoon of desired filling in the middle of each circle.

To shape the triangle, lift up right and left sides, leaving the bottom down, and bring both sides to meet at the center about the filling.

Bring the top flap down to the center to meet the two sides. Pinch edges together.

Place on greased cookie sheets 1 inch apart and bake in 350 preheated oven for 20 minutes.

While the first batch of cookies are baking, gather up the remains of the dough, and roll it back out and start cutting out new circles.

Souvenirs

I work in the development department at Boston University, preparing the gift officers, deans and even the president for their fundraising trips. They travel all over the world reconnecting with alumni who are interested in supporting the school. Oftentimes, when an overseas trip is taken, someone will bring back a sweet treat from abroad. In the fall, some kind soul brought back dates from Saudi Arabia. Stuffed with tahini, sometimes nuts, and sometimes toasted sesame seeds, they were so good, I would find myself stopping by that department for an after-lunch treat. At some point, the administrators got so used to seeing me for my afternoon date that they offered the entire box to me. I couldn’t say no.

Most recently, someone went abroad and brought back a box of Turkish Delight. They actually brought the box directly to my office; saving me the daily trips. I felt a little like I was in Narnia, being plied with the candy by the White Witch, but I’m not complaining. I would end my lunch with a chewy cube of rosewater and pistachios. I was in heaven.

Luckily for me, none of my co-workers shared my delight in the Turkish Delight. I overheard a conversation between a few co-workers who did not enjoy the candies and were about the toss the half-eaten box in the garbage until I jumped up from my desk and grabbed the box from their hands.

As it happens, the recipe I have here is a pantry recipe — or at least my pantry. I scored a one pound bag of pistachios for $3 at Ocean State Job Lot months ago. Rich was skeptical as to the quantity, but they are a wonderful partner to beets, and, as any fan of Turkish Delight will tell you, rosewater. If you don’t have rosewater in the house, I strongly encourage you to head down to a Middle Eastern store in your area. I purchased mine at one of the great Armenian stores on Mt. Auburn Street in Watertown. While you’re there, definitely pick up some orange blossom water and pomegranate molasses. They’ll all be on the same shelf. All three should set you back about $10, and most recipes will only call for a teaspoon or so; you’ll get at least 25 servings from each bottle.

The rosewater is soft and muted in this dish, just a little tease of a faraway land with each nutty bite.

Turkish Delight Ice Cream

With help from the Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book and Barron’s The Joy of Ice Cream by Matthew Klein, and my  $25 ice cream maker I found on Craig’s List.

Ingredients

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

2 cups heavy or whipping cream

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon rosewater

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup pistachios, chilled in the freezer at least as long as ice cream is churning

Directions

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend. Add the vanilla extract and rosewater and stir briefly.

Transfer mixture to your ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. At 20 minutes (or about 5 minutes before the ice cream is finished churning) slowly add the cup of pistachios, about a 1/4 cup at a time. Transfer the ice cream to a container and freeze for at least two hours.