new directions in dinner.

Friends, a momentous thing happened recently: I came out to my partner.

As a food blogger, to be clear. I’ve been out as a queer since forever. That was easy! But this made me feel silly (don’t ask me why), so I just … sat on it until such point as I assumed he’d picked up on it, due to it literally being discussed in front of him and him cooking off my recipes multiple times. But no, apparently, none of that made a dent. He was cooking off one of my recipes recently and said something like, “Who tells you to pre-chop your vegetables in the middle of the instructions?” And I smirked and said, “Yeah, I wonder what bitch did that.” And he just kind of stared at me, and I said, “Me, oh my god, I am the bitch.”

Anyway he thought it was cool and wanted to collaborate on bringing some of his recipes to you so that just goes to show that being embarrassed for two years was an excellent use of my time and energy.

We’re going to start easy and delicious, with his take on goulash. This is an Eastern European dish that is usually made with beef, but he doesn’t eat mammals, so he makes it with chicken and it’s honestly amazing. What resemblance it actually bears to traditional Hungarian food, no idea. But a metric ton of paprika covers a multitude of sins.

Also before he makes it he spends I shit you not two and a half fucking hours cleaning the chicken thighs, to the point where making goulash is now a two-day affair: one day for cleaning thighs and one day for cooking goulash. For the love of God do not do this. It is deranged behavior.

Here’s how you make it. His words, not mine. If it sucks, blame him. I am as always blameless in all things. Also please note that this makes enough goulash to feed a Hungarian army. Prepare your storage accordingly.

3-4 lbs. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cleaned and cut into strips)
3 tbs olive oil, divided
1.5 heads of garlic (peeled)
4-6 onions (depending on size), (peeled and finely sliced)
2 carrots (peeled and finely sliced)
2 red bell peppers (deveined and cut into strips)
1.5 cups chicken stock
½ cup (roughly) sweet paprika
1-2 tbs. Hot paprika
1 20 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 20 oz. can diced tomatoes
Salt (to taste)

  1. Heat 1 tbs of oil in a large frying pan.  Brown the chicken thighs on both sides, in as many batches as it takes.
  2. Transfer the chicken thighs to a large stock pot or dutch oven.  Spread into a single layer, so that each piece is touching the bottom.  
  3. Deglaze the pan you used to brown the chicken with a small amount of stock and pour the glaze into the pot.  Add enough stock so that the chicken is half-submerged, but not floating.  Crush the garlic into the pot [note from Sara: you use a garlic press! totally new information for me!], add the paprikas, and stir them into the stock.  Cover the pot and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until fork tender.  If the fluid level drops, replace with more stock. This should use up your 1.5 cups. Note that you can do all the next steps while the chicken is simmering, including adding stuff to the chicken pot.
  4. Put half the onions into the frying pan at high heat and sprinkle with salt (to sweat them). Don’t add oil yet. Once the juices have boiled off, the onions will begin to stick to the bottom of the pan.  Lower the heat to medium, add 1 tbs of oil and stir constantly, sautéing until thoroughly caramelized (about 10 minutes).  Transfer them to the stock pot, deglaze the pan with stock, and pour the glaze into the pot.  Repeat with the other half of the onions.
  5. Saute the carrots and red peppers in the remaining oil until tender (3-5 minutes).  Transfer to the stock pot.
  6. The chicken should be done simmering by now.  Add the crushed and diced tomatoes.  Allow the pot to simmer for awhile to blend the flavors, then adjust the spices as needed.  
  7. Serve over pasta, with sour cream.
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fresh apricots are not like dried apricots: we invented dessert.

We received fresh apricots in our CSA box this week. I took a bite of one, and suddenly thought – I don’t think I’ve ever had a fresh apricot before. I’ve had dried apricots about a thousand times, and there was a hint of that deeply sweet, jammy flavor in the fresh fruit, but so much stronger was a beautiful floralness that was totally new to me. It tasted like the best Near Eastern desserts I’ve ever had (RIP Khyber Pass I’ll love you forever), and I very suddenly had the kind of experience that you read about in food writing but which never happens to normal people: I had a vision of flavor. The vision encompassed these perfect floral apricots, pistachios, rosewater, and cardamom. I wanted to marry these flavors. This would be my quest.

I was thinking maybe some kind of pudding? With all those things mixed into whipped cream? Then I got to thinking about some kinda fruit tart with custard, and that’s kinda where I landed until then my partner presented me with this smitten kitchen recipe for apricot-and-pistachio-frangipane bars. It wasn’t exactly what I’d imagined, but it was a jumping-off point for what became an actually quite tasty dessert: individual apricot-and-cream pistachio frangipane tarts.

At this point, you might be saying, “This seems incredibly fussy and annoying for someone who doesn’t even like making layer cakes.” Correct. I’d never have done something like this on my own. But I have an accomplice, you see, who I can get to do things like line the individual muffin slots with pastry so that I don’t, for example, throw the muffin tin out the fucking window. I’m actually gonna post a picture of these little doodads, because I’m kinda proud of them:

So those are my little tartlets.

I won’t lie to you, this wasn’t the perfect dessert of my dreams. The pistachio flavor wasn’t as clear as I wanted, and we found the flavors of the orange blossom water and the apricots so complementary as to be almost indistinguishable. I think I’m going to go back to my original fruit-tart-with-Persian-flavors idea with our next batch of apricots. That said, these were very tasty, and they were a lot of work, and I’m pretty proud of them, and I wanted to share them with you. Here’s how we made them.

PASTRY (fully ripped off smitten kitchen)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Whip it up in your food processor just like pie crust, only here’s the weird part – don’t pulse it. Turn your food processor on and walk the fuck away. Come back in 30 seconds. Just let it keep running until it gets chunky. Weird, I know, but it works! Press a thin layer of the pastry into each cup of your muffin tin, which you’ve lined with cupcake liners or parchment. (We used parchment because we did not feel like going to the store for cupcake liners and it worked just fine.) Parbake at 350 for about 10 minutes until golden, then stick in the fridge to cool while you prepare the frangipane.

PISTACHIO FRANGIPANE

1 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water OR rosewater
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

First I will tell you of our initial critical error: we accidentally bought salted pistachios. My clever solution was to rinse them in a wire mesh sieve very, very well, and it …. mostly worked. Due to this initial error I left salt out of the frangipane entirely, and I don’t know that I’d add it back even with unsalted nuts. Anyway, this is also pretty simple. Combine pistachios, flour, and sugar in the food processor, pulsing until the nuts are powdery-ish; blend in your butter until it disappears; blend in your egg, your orange blossom or rosewater (we went with orange blossom, at my boyfriend’s preference, but I think it’ll be rosewater next time), and your cardamom. Now, be careful with cardamom. This is a flavor I love but which can very quickly become dominant whether you want it to or not. 1/4 teaspoon is a lot! I would start with 1/8 teaspoon and work your way up. In fact I did do that. The orange blossom water, on the other hand, was lighter than I expected. I added a healthy 1/2 teaspoon.

Once you’ve got it mixed up good, drop it into your cooled prepared pastry cups. The recipe makes a bit more than you need as you don’t want the frangipane to dominate. You’re really looking to honor those delicious apricots. Just a nice dollop of frangipane in each pastry cup is fine. Bake at 350, just until the frangipane has firmed up and developed a bit of a crust, about 20 – 30 minutes. Then stick your pastry-and-frangipane cups in the fridge to cool while you prepare the cream and apricots.

CREAM

1/2 cup cream
Pinch of cardamom
Drizzle rosewater/orange blossom water

Mix up your whipped cream as above, then put a dollop of cream on each cooled pastry-and-frangipane cup.

Finally, top each with half an apricot.

I think these are better the next day out of the fridge but I think a lot of desserts are better the next day out of the fridge.

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entree salad: i am still a genius.

I would not normally blog a salad, since salad is … not complicated … but one of the people we served this to may have described it as “the best salad [he’s] ever had,” and I’m pretty sure that makes me legally obligated to write it up.

I have been making versions of this salad for years. You can, of course, add literally any raw vegetables that strike your fancy, it’s fucking salad, but I’ll give you the absolute most basic version; the gussied-up version we served to our guests; and the simpler version we typically have for dinner. Please note that the sole purpose of the gussied-up version was to get rid of some of the greens and veg that were threatening to overflow our fridge (because, as you may have heard, we joined a CSA). It is simply by providence that the salad came out so, so nice.

Whatever you put in this salad, the one absolute non-negotiable is the avocado. In the course of being tossed, it kind of …melts a little? and becomes part of the dressing, and it’s so, so lovely. There are still big chunks of avocado in the salad! But the creaminess it lends the whole dish is honestly to die for. It’s also part of what makes this a good dinner, not just a side dish (avocadoes have a lot of calories, which we love, because your body needs calories to live).

Also and finally I toss salads with my just-washed bare hands because I cannot manipulate salad tongs. I saw my friend’s aunt do this several years ago and it was a revelation.

DRESSING

I first wrote this dressing recipe up in 2014 (along with a method of washing and storing lettuce that will keep for literal weeks as nice as the day you bought it, which I’m also gonna rewrite below) but I’ll hit you again. Put in a mason jar and shake:

Olive oil
Half as much vinegar (I like champagne or rice vinegar here. My boyfriend likes balsamic. I’ve also been throwing in a splash of raspberry vinegar, as a treat.)
A healthy dollop of Dijon mustard (honestly, Grey Poupon really is the best.)
Kosher salt
Pepper
Garlic powder
Fresh thyme

Then taste it. Mine often wants a bit more salt.

SIMPLE VERSION: EVERYTHING IN HERE CAN BE PURCHASED AT TRADER JOE’S.

1 packaged grilled chicken
1 package greens (spring mix or herb salad are good)
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 Persian cucumber (or not Persian, but they’re so damn easy to work with), halved longways and chopped
1 avocado
1 package baby tomatoes (what you want if you’re at the supermarket is NatureSweet. no one else can grow a tasty tomato out of season. i don’t know how they do it. if it’s not NatureSweet you might as well be buying ping pong balls.)

GUSSIED-UP VERSION: MOST OF WHAT IS IN HERE WAS FOISTED UPON US BY OUR CSA.

Charcoal-grilled chicken marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper, salt and paprika (i did not think i cared about grilled chicken until i had it made on a charcoal grill. holy mother.)
1 head butter lettuce
1 large handful torn frisee
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 – 2 Persian cucumbers, halved longways and chopped
1 sunchoke, halved longways and thinly sliced
1 package baby tomatoes
1 – 2 avocadoes
Handful of torn basil
Sprinkling of chopped scallions

WHAT WE NORMALLY EAT.

Charcoal-grilled chicken, marinated as above
Whatever lettuce we have, lately it’s been butter or red leaf because CSA
1/2 bell pepper, chopped
1 Persian cucumber, halved longways and chopped
1 avocado
Handful of torn basil

We are unspeakably lucky to have a backyard with a grill. If you don’t have one, that is totally fine – I made the chicken for this salad on a Foreman grill for years. Also, and again, this is salad. It’s really, really good salad, but you can put whatever you want in and leave whatever you want out. The avocado is critical, and the fresh basil really levels it up, but beyond that make it however it sparks joy to make it.

SOME TIPS.

How to wash and store lettuce so it will keep for weeks: rinse the whole head under the faucet. Let the water get in there as much as possible. Shake dry. Lay out a sheet of paper towels. (For physics reasons, I usually do about three half sheets.) Begin pulling leaves off and laying them out in a SINGLE LAYER. When you reach the end of your paper towels, lay another sheet down on top of the first and continue with your lettuce. When you run out of lettuce, cover your last layer with a sheet of paper towels, fold the whole thing in half, rubber band it loosely, and store in a Ziploc bag or any other plastic bag you have handy. This will keep for-fucking-ever. If push comes to shove, you can just wrap the whole head of lettuce in a few layers of paper towels after you wash it, and store that, whole, in a plastic bag. I did that with the frisee for lack of better ideas and it’s keeping spectacularly.

How to chop an avocado with incredible ease: I learned this watching the sandwich-makers at my college. Cut the avocado in half longways. Twist to open. Firmly whack a chef’s knife into the pit. Lift it right out. Now, inscribe lines horizontally across the face of the avocado as thick as you want your chunks to be. Try not to break the skin. Then slice the whole fruit vertically. This will give you perfect chunks attached to the skin that you can pop right off into the bowl.

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strawberry summer salad: i am a genius.

A few weeks ago we had some friends over to dinner, and although I don’t typically “like experimenting on guests,” as my partner put it, this salad I’d never made before and in fact created wholly from scratch didn’t feel like an experiment. It came to me in a vision. I knew it was right.

It was also eleven million degrees out. Because I hate both heat and air conditioning, and because it was the first really hot day, we were (successfully, for awhile) beating the heat with fans only. Our apartment is floor-through and doesn’t get a ton of direct light, so a box fan at one end and a pedestal fan at the other, pointed directly at each other, are actually quite effective! But I digress. It was eleven million degrees out, and our ACs weren’t in yet, and we had a ridiculous quantity of lettuce because of our CSA, so we decided we’d serve Entree Salad. And then I thought, fuck it. We will also serve Appetizer Salad. I will tell you about both, but Entree Salad is tomorrow. Today is Appetizer Salad, the fruit of my own mind, I am a genius.

Appetizer Salad is a savory strawberry salad (say that five times fast) created entirely from farmer’s market finds that I bought because they looked delicious, before Appetizer Salad was even a twinkle in my eye. Here’s how you make it.

1/2 – 3/4 quart strawberries (ish. i eyeballed everything.)
8 – 10 sugar snap peas
Half a log goat cheese (that is a standardized measure. don’t fact check me. don’t make it weird.)
Balsamic vinegar
Fresh ground black pepper
Fresh basil

Clean and halve your strawberries. Put them in a bowl.

Clean, de-string, and chop your sugar snaps into thirds. Throw them into the strawberries with abandon.

Mash half a log of goat cheese with a fork. Scatter it over the strawberries and snap peas like freshly fallen snow, or more realistically, scrape lumps of goat cheese out like snow after several cars have driven over it.

Splash some balsamic vinegar over the whole deal.

A few grinds of pepper.

Tear in a small handful of fresh basil.

That’s it. Legit that’s it. Mix it up, let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes so the strawberries macerate a bit, then serve. This makes about four small servings or two lunch-size portions. It is also very nice as crostini.

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more CSA odds and ends, and the best biscuits.

I’m gonna hit you with two lows and a high. “What about the 18 Cubanelle peppers?” you ask. Well, we put one on a pizza, used a bunch of them and a bunch of CSA purple bell peppers in a batch of corn-chicken-and-potato stew – I know, it’s summer, who wants soup, but this soup is a rock star plus I made it up from scratch – and now there are, I don’t know, 13 Cubanelle peppers in my fridge. My partner is gonna make white chili this weekend. We’re working on it.

As to the rest of the produce? My dudes, we’ve still got – let me go check the list – we keep a list on the whiteboard on the fridge because I could not be more of a control freak if I tried – sunchokes, carrots, all the non-sweet potatoes in the entire world, two sweet potatoes, numerous heads of lettuce including a head of frisee I would really rather not think about, and half a bunch of scallions, to say nothing of purple bell peppers or Cubanelle peppers. It is an ever-evolving Situation. I also made rhubarb cobbler tonight and am as we speak snacking on strawberries, and you wanna know the worst part? Tomorrow Imma go to the farmer’s market and make it worse. Oh god, and I just put the strawberries away and was confronted with half a dozen zucchini. I don’t know. I don’t know! I’ll make Deb’s zucchini bread and then someone told me I should make her zucchini quesadillas and then I don’t know, dude, maybe I’ll go live on the moon. I don’t think you can get zucchini on the moon.

So, lows and highs.

Tried this dressing for bok choy from Dinner: A Love Story and did not love it. I don’t know if I have bad luck with limes or if fresh lime juice just sucks, but it tasted really bitter to me and usually does. Plus grating ginger is not something I have really figured out how to do in a way that doesn’t get all the ginger stuck in the grater. Fortunately we had like a zillion other sauces in the fridge, because my partner is a condiment fiend, so he had his bok choy with some balsamic vinaigrette and I had mine with the garlic-shallot-lemon-ginger sauce he makes for tuna. Miss.

Threw together this rhubarb-carrot cake with mascarpone frosting and was honestly surprise at what a miss it was given that I love rhubarb, I love carrot cake, and I love mascarpone. But the recipe seriously camouflages that lovely tartness that is rhubarb’s reason for existing – you can barely taste it. Plus, I fucked up the frosting. I added a little almond extract, which tasted fine, but was pretty overwhelming and not the most harmonious flavor. I found the cake improved a lot after sitting iced in the fridge overnight, but either way, I would not make it again. I did enjoy the cinnamon swirl on top. It had a lovely coffee cake quality to it. Miss.

But let’s talk about the hit, because it is spectacular: goat cheese & chive biscuits.

Now, if you followed the link, you are probably saying, “That recipe says blue cheese and scallion biscuits.” It sure does! But in this house we believe blue cheese tastes like mold and we do not countenance it. As for scallions, I have tried these biscuits with scallions and I’ve tried them with chives, and the chives kick the scallions’ ass. So they are goat cheese & chive biscuits now, and I honestly can’t say enough good things about them. They have thoroughly unseated the biscuits I’ve been making since time immemorial. Some notes on making them:

  • Just like with pie crust, you can cut the butter into the dry ingredients in the food processor. This saves time and loses frustration.
  • Because I’m using goat cheese and not blue cheese, the quantity of cheese for one batch of biscuits is “one log.”
  • As with pie crust, you may be compelled to add more liquid than advised to the dough to get it to hold together. Don’t do it. When you drop the biscuits onto the baking sheet – I have no idea how Deb expects one to “drop dough in 12 equal mounds about 2 inches apart,” but we use our hands to compress this just-wet-enough dough into coherent-ish mounds – you will think that there’s no way these flaky, crumby piles will turn into biscuits. They totally will.
  • You can make these with any cheese and any herb you please, obviously, or no herb at all! But definitely you should try it my way at least once.

You want to eat these fresh out of the oven. If you’re eating them the next day, you want to eat them warmed in the oven. You really want to eat them as an open-face sandwich with a crispy egg, fried shallots, and hot sauce. Mostly you want to eat them immediately. Hit.

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a nice sprummer beverage.

Because one day it’s 80 and the next day it’s 60. Sprummer. Tell your friends.

Our CSA adventures continue apace. There are 18 Cubanelle peppers sitting on my kitchen table right now. There are two ziploc bags full of lettuce in the fridge. (The way you keep lettuce fresh for days and days is you wash it, lay the individual leaves out in one layer between two sheets of paper towels, and store the whole mess in a ziploc bag.) There are more potatoes than I knew were in the world in my crisper drawer. But let’s not talk about the slow-moving produce catastrophe that is my fridge. Let’s talk about strawberry lemonade.

I am extremely picky about lemonade. 99% of it is either too sweet or too tart, and I tend to be hard-pressed to figure out how to fix it without pushing it too far in the other direction. But there was this restaurant by my college – one of those places that isn’t so much “really good” as “super convenient and therefore has a license to print money” – and they did an absolutely killer lemonade. It had so much crushed ice in it that it was functionally a lemonade slushy, and it was neither too sweet nor too tart. A lemonade and a spinach & goat cheese pizza from the Med was dinner at least once a week in college.

Well. College was some time ago and I had honestly forgotten about the Med’s lemonade until last summer, when my partner handed me a glass of homemade lemonade and I almost had a fucking heart attack. That was it. It lacked crushed ice, but otherwise it was perfect. This week, our fridge overflowing with summer strawberries, I remembered that the Med also did a strawberry version of their fucking perfect lemonade, and I decided to take our least fresh strawberries and make up a pitcher of Medici-style strawberry lemonade. Here’s how you do it. You’ll need:

1 quart strawberries
1 dozen lemons
1 liter plain seltzer
Maple syrup

First, juice a dozen lemons. My partner, as part of his dowry (his dowry! ha. I kill me.), brought to the relationship a neat glass citrus reamer that I can finally after a year look at without thinking it belongs in specialty pornography, and I used that. Strain the lemon juice through a wire mesh strainer into a pitcher. Use a rubber spatula or wooden spoon to press the pulp against the strainer to get every bit of juice you can.

Now, rough chop a quart of strawberries. If you have less than a quart, that’s fine. More would probably be fine too, but I wouldn’t do, like, two quarts without commensurately increasing the rest of your ingredients. Anyway. Rough chop your quart and dump it into the pitcher. This chop can, in fact, be pretty rough. The strawberries will macerate in the lemon juice, and getting a nice chunk of strawberry in your glass of lemonade is one of the nice things about this drink.

Next, take a potato masher and “muddle” the strawberries a little. Or maybe you’re a cocktail maven and you have a muddler. (I just googled, and a tool for muddling is literally called a muddler. Incredible.) Anyway, however you do it, muddle the strawberries.

Add your liter of seltzer.

Finally, sweeten to taste with maple syrup.

This’ll keep in the fridge for however long it takes you to drink it. We let the strawberries sit in the lemon juice overnight and added the seltzer today and have already drunk half of it so that is how that is going.

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more CSA highlights! and lowlights.

We have been cooking so much since we joined a CSA. (We’ve actually switched, since I made that post, from Brooklyn Supported Agriculture to Farm to People. We were having a hard time rehoming our unwanted items, and if we threw away one more turnip my boyfriend was going to have a meltdown. Farm to People gives more granular control while still forcing you out of your comfort zone by limiting the amount of meddling you can do. As with BSA, we’ve been pleased with the quality.) Here’s a rundown of things we have made, with the relevant CSA ingredients highlighted! And, in a few cases, things we failed utterly at.

Napa cabbage. I did not think I cared for cabbage, but on the recommendation of several friends, I dubiously made Deb’s cabbage & farro soup, and guys. Guys. This soup is so fucking good. Weirdly, it tastes nothing like any of its ingredients; it is truly greater than the sum of its parts. It tastes savory and rib-stickety and wonderful. And the longer it sat, the better it got. I don’t know that it makes sense as a spring dish, but I highly recommend putting this in your back pocket for when you want food to start sticking to your ribs again. Just make sure to follow the directions exactly – they are, honestly, too weird to monkey around with. The only changes I made were increasing the amount of garlic by a little and the amount of thyme by quite a lot.

Greens, all the greens. Kale and chard and mustard greens. (Also celery and carrots, but they were not the point.) We reached a point a few weeks ago where we literally had more greens than we knew what to do with. Rather than just doing seventeen variations on greens-and-pasta and beans-and-greens, we decided to try something totally new. I sorted through a bunch of greens-forward recipes by my favorite bloggers and ultimately settled on this, by Deb (of course). She labels it a “chard and white bean soup,” but really it’s just a template for vegetable soup, and I freestyled a great deal based on the contents of my fridge. I more or less doubled the recipe, as I had probably around 2 pounds of greens; used significantly more garlic than is called for; whatever beans were in the closet (I think we had pink and pinto); half a can of tomatoes; a ton more herbs; added farro; et cetera. I think all told I used 8 cups of vegetable broth, including the times I had to add broth after cooking to keep the soup from creeping closer and closer to cassoulet, which I think is what it truly wants to be.

And how was it, you ask? …. Fine. It was fine. We didn’t hate it. We ate all of it. We tried garnishing with garlic toasts and fried egg, as suggested, and found they added nothing at all, so we just ate it on its own. We won’t be adding it to the rotation, but it’s a good way to dispose of a lot of random soup vegetables.

Sweet potatoes. I’m a picky bitch about sweet potatoes. I firmly believe they do not belong in savory preparations, but I don’t want to eat them gussied up with brown sugar and marshmallows either. Mostly I want to eat them the way I grew up eating them: whole, roasted, on the sides of various meats. But we don’t eat a lot of food that lends itself to a side of large roasted root vegetables, so we decided to go off the map entirely and put them into baked goods. This went …. medium.

We made the sweet potato pie from Allison Kave’s First Prize Pies, with King Arthur Bakery’s No-Roll Pie Crust. The pie itself was good – Kave’s recipes are reliably tasty, though also reliably fussy as hell – but I always want my sweet potato baked goods to taste like sweet potatoes, not pumpkin/sweet potato pie spice, so I plan to do a lot of monkeying around with sweet potato pie in the future. As for the pie crust, it tasted …. medium … and was, in my partner’s opinion, more of a pain in the ass than a classic rolled-out crust. A good experiment, but not one we intend to repeat.

Next up, I recently unearthed my old recipe bookmarks and have been reviewing them, so I had a bunch of random ideas at my fingertips. We tried a recipe I’d saved a million years ago for sweet potato scones, but honestly, the less said about these the better. They looked like blobs of batter that had solidified and didn’t taste much better. My mom thought they were decent and wound up taking them all home (I guess since she hadn’t anticipated how good they might be, she couldn’t taste the sadness). We think the recipe was probably too wet? In any case, they were an unqualified fiasco.

Finally, we modified Deb’s pumpkin bread recipe with a 1:1 sub for sweet potato, and that was an unqualified victory. Truly just unreasonably delicious. We brought it to my partner’s parents for Orthodox Easter, and at one point I noticed one of the guests quietly sitting in the corner just absolutely mowing through it. Best of all, it actually tasted like sweet potato! I will definitely be making this again (and again, and again).

Chives. Chives are one of those things that I never have on hand, so when they came in our CSA, I had no idea what to do with them other than make a whole meal in order to use them as a garnish. Fortunately Deb continued to have my back with a chived up version of the same buttermilk biscuits I’ve been making since God knows when. Those biscuits are fantastic and taste just as good when you make them wrong, like I used to, as when you make them right, like I do now (using cold butter and incorporating it like you do for pie crust). The addition of chives is actually pretty bold, and very delicious. My only tip would be to really watch them in the oven and make sure you don’t overbake, because then you fry the chives and they don’t taste chivey at all.

Mustard greens. Sort of. This recipe for po’ boys honestly deserves its own post. It is … so, okay, I’m a good cook, right? I’m an enthusiastic cook and a good cook. My partner is better. Specifically – though this isn’t the only way he’s better than me – he’s more creative and more confident in his ability to innovate, at least for definitions of “innovate” that include “never seen before in our specific kitchen.” I say this so you understand what I’m saying when I say that these po’ boys are the best thing he’s ever made. They’re unreal. They’re unimaginable. The shrimp are perfect right off the grill and inconceivable drenched in homemade remoulade. The first time my partner made these, he served them on pretzel rolls, which are one of his signature foods and typically the star in whatever meal they occur. These po’ boys are so good that the pretzel rolls didn’t even matter. We could have eaten them on grocery store sandwich bread and they’d have been perfect. The second time he made them, he made baguettes, as is the classic po’ boy bread, and that was perfectly wonderful as well.

Anyway the first time we made them we put mustard greens on them instead of lettuce, because we had mustard greens, and that was tasty. This entry is definitely about mustard greens.

Tomatillos. This was our household’s first attempt at for-real Mexican food, and the plan had been to make straight-up salsa verde, but I guess we were feeling creative or something, because we tried a salsa-verde-sauce chicken entree instead. It was … fine? Certainly it wasn’t bad. I do think it suffered from the absence of cilantro (my partner is one of those tragic souls who think cilantro tastes like soap), and the ratios were a bit messed up because he accidentally used double the amount of tomatillos the recipe called for. Anyway, it tasted fine, we have a ton of sauce left over that we’re going to put on various things, and I blame none of this on the tomatillos. But next time I want salsa verde, I’m just going to make salsa verde.

Brussels sprouts. So, this is just a frittata. But it wouldn’t have occurred to me on my own to put brussels sprouts in a frittata, and I give the recipe credit for that. Also, since I have a pretty solid brussels sprouts recipe that I cook pretty regularly, I appreciated the nudge in a new direction. Finally, this is an extremely solid basic frittata recipe. Frittata is one of those things you don’t think you need a recipe for until you make it according to someone’s specific directions and realize it’s actually a lot better than the way you’ve been doing it.

Apple and carrot. Morning glory muffins! Who doesn’t love morning glory muffins, I ask? Fools, that’s who.

Fried chicken. Okay, spoiler alert, this did not actually come in our CSA. Shocking, I know. But in the process of editing my recipe bookmarks that I mentioned above, I ran across this epic Serious Eats fried chicken recipe and we decided to give it a whirl. We weren’t nearly as hyper-precise as the Serious Eats crew, of course. We don’t own a meat thermometer; the incorporation of brine into flour batter struck me as too precious by half; and we did not cool and re-fry after baking, as we wanted to eat the same night as we made the chicken. But it was still fun to try, and a great opportunity to learn some shit. Namely: brining is good, y’all. A four-hour brine in spiced buttermilk noticeably, and wonderfully, improved the tenderness and juiciness of the finished product. I’ve since begun working on how to incorporate brining into what’s become my standard fried chicken recipe, because it really levels the chicken up, not to mention the spice in the brine flavors the chicken more deeply. There are some quirks for sure – the batter seems to retain more grease when the chicken is brined, which makes no sense but is happening – but I’m committed to the project!

And finally: rhubarb. My love of rhubarb is no secret, so as soon as this extremely pretty upside-down cake came across my insta, I knew I had to make it. I was pretty skeptical as it came together and when I saw the finished product – I was concerned the upside-down topping had not set properly and was going to make the cake soggy – but it’s actually extremely nice, and not soggy at all. We subbed a half cup of cornmeal for a half cup of flour, drawing on this outstandingly delicious cake, and while the flavor isn’t as much of a punch as it is in the cherry cornmeal cake – there’s so much other flavor in this cake, as it is a spice cake – it’s a nice touch you can do if you want.

There’s been other stuff too – tons of salad, an improvised ramp & fiddlehead risotto (my partner is a wizard), asparagus with ramp dressing thanks to our CSA’s recipe cards, my classic fajitas including the most delicious bell peppers I’ve ever tasted and camouflaging some oyster mushrooms which, spoiler, we both still hate. There’s going to be more (this looks like a delicious way to use up some scallions, subbing goat cheese for blue cheese because one of those things is delicious and one tastes like mold). I will endeavor to keep reporting back and documenting our adventures.

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highly delicious eggs and green.

I am absolutely next level obsessed with crispy fried eggs. This is, of course, at least 50% because they have crispy in the name, but the other 50% is because they are the fulfillment of the egg’s purpose on this earth. I had heard about them – and even made them! – in the past, but I recently stumbled across the above smitten kitchen post and was vividly reminded of their perfection. I make them … a lot, now. I put them on everything. Including this dish, which is pretty simple to make but feels like a fancy brunch dish. It is important to feel like you are eating fancy brunch during these Pandemic Tymes, when we can’t go to the fancy brunch store in person as we are not monsters or fools who don’t understand germ theory. (Although more and more of us are vaccinated, which means the fancy brunch store is getting closer and closer!)

This is the new! shiny! CSA dish I mentioned at the end of my last post. (The CSA item is uses is greens, more specifically kale.) It’s adapted from a friend’s adaptation of a dish by Yotam Ottolenghi, and at that many removes I feel comfortable calling it my own. This makes enough for 2. It’s also, actually, a lot easier to plate this dish as you cook it, so I’ll walk you through that too. Here’s what you need.

1 bunch of greens (I have enjoyed kale the most; I did not like it with chard, which is usually my favorite green; the original calls for arugula, which I dislike)
2 eggs per person
Olive oil
Salt
4 tablespoons (half a stick) UNSALTED butter which is in bold and caps for a reason, oh god, I’ll tell you about it later
1/4 teaspoon paprika + 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes OR 1/2 teaspoon kirmizi biber OR 1/2 teaspoon berbere (we’ll talk more about your options later)
Tzatziki, to serve (recipe to follow)

Set out two plates.

Start by wilting the kale in olive oil with some salt. Kale, I observe, wilts less than other greens, and this dish is nicest when the kale still has some body. Remove half the kale to each plate when it reaches your preferred level of doneness. Now, did you read Deb’s very nice article about crispy fried eggs? Did you watch the many crispy egg videos she links? If so, you know what you’re going for here. If not, it’s too late for you, just do your best. What you’re going for here is a totally cooked, crisp bottom; a fully cooked white; and a ludicrously runny yolk. You achieve that with really, really hot oil. The easiest way to get your oil appropriately hot is to cook something else in the pan first.

So: after you remove the kale, add more oil, give it a sec, and then break your eggs directly into the pan. The whites should immediately begin to bubble. You can move the pan around a little bit to get some oil overtop of the whites, but it’s honestly not necessary. They cook either way. The best part about crispy eggs, though? The best part? You don’t flip them. You don’t goddamn flip them, thank Jesus. You just watch them. The second, the very second, the whites look fully cooked, remove the eggs to the greens. Two per person, in my opinion. My partner’s good with one. (And for frying eggs, you want a fish spatula. Deb recommends a fish spatula in that article, but I actually came to it on my own in my in-laws’ kitchen. I called it my egg flipper, and when I read the crispy egg article, I was absolutely delighted to see that Deb agrees with its perfection at egg flipping.)

Now, the sauce. And here’s where I tell you why “unsalted” is in bold and all-caps above: I made this with salted butter once. Prior to that day, I did not actually think there was that much salt in salted butter. I never thought too much about it; I mostly used whatever butter recipes told me to; but on the rare occasions my mom baked when I was growing up, she just used normal-ass butter, so I sort of assumed they are interchangeable. Holy shitsnacks, you guys. They are NOT. When I made this sauce with salted butter, which was a legit oversight (I forgot the recipe calls for unsalted), the result was completely inedible. (This was the same day I made the leek gratin I told you about in my last post. I had anti-cooking mojo that day, let me tell you.) Please, please, you must use unsalted butter for this sauce, if you want to be able to eat the result.

Anyway. The sauce is just unsalted butter and spices. The original recipe calls for something called kirmizi biber, which is apparently a Turkish hot chili powder similar to paprika, but the friend who gave me this recipe used a mixture of paprika and chili flakes, so that’s what I use. I’ve also used berbere, an Ethiopian spice mix; the recipe I’ve linked there is the blend I have, as my berbere was a gift from a friend who’s gotten into making his own spice blends. I thought it was nicest with the berbere but paprika+chili flakes is lovely. So. What do you do? Cook the butter and spices on high until the butter is melted; it will be foaming and golden red. At this point, pour it directly over your eggs and greens.

That’s it! You’re done. Serve with tzatziki. Here’s how you make tzatziki. I have never measured this out in my life, so I’m guessing here; bear with me.

~1 cup Greek yogurt
4 – 5 cloves garlic, crushed (I use a garlic press, a tool whose purpose I did not understand before I started making tzatziki)
1 diced mini cucumber or half a diced normal cucumber
Generous handful of fresh parsley
2 – 3 tablespoons lemon juice
Kosher salt
Pepper

This is entirely to taste. Make sure your garlic is crushed, either in a garlic press or a mortar & pestle; chopping really will not release enough of its juices. Mix it up, taste it, doctor as needed, THEN LET IT SIT FOR HALF AN HOUR. Then taste it again, make any final adjustments, and then serve. Enthusiastically.

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we joined a CSA!

Sort of. It’s not exactly a CSA. Traditional CSAs are a direct-to-consumer relationship with a particular farm, and this is not that. This is something different. This is …. well, I’ll let them tell you:

“We are a Brooklyn community-supported agriculture (CSA) service. We source from small food businesses, with a preference for worker-owned cooperatives and women/LGBTQIA+/POC-owned farms.

By shortening the food supply chain, we guarantee both small farmers, and our own food packers, fair compensation, without inflating retail prices.

As much as possible, our produce has been grown or made locally in the tri-state area.

Our produce is sustainably farmed.

The biggest difference from the user side is that you don’t have to do a subscription. You can buy weekly from a menu of options (veggie bag? fruit bag? citrus bag? herb bundle?). However, like a traditional CSA, what you’re buying is a bundle whose contents you do not select. It’s a pretty neat cross between models, and depending on how you personally think about your food choices, it can be a good way to meet your needs.

New York has a lot of services like this, sort of halfway between joining a CSA and going to the farmer’s market, and I’ve been kind of leery of them. When I was initially looking into subscribing to one, I read that they don’t provide nearly as much benefit to farmers as traditional CSAs do, so I avoided them. (A lot of my reason for wanting to join CSAs and shop at farmers’ markets is to support small producers.) I can walk my ass the three whole blocks to the farmer’s market on Saturday, or go to any of the zillion other farmer’s markets in Brooklyn, or go to the damn grocery store. Also, I tried one of those “imperfect food” delivery boxes a few years ago and was dramatically unimpressed with the quality and the sourcing. (Not to mention that as far as I’ve been able to learn, the whole idea of “imperfect” food waste is medium bullshit.)

But Brooklyn Supported Agriculture bills itself as a worker-owned, Black-led cooperative, and me and my partner liked the sound of that. If we’re trying to spend our food money a bit more ethically, a worker-owned Black-led cooperative is certainly a good way to do that. And fortunately, we’ve been really happy with the quality of what we’re getting, plus the sourcing seems pretty good. As good as it can be in New York in winter, anyway. We’ve been doing it for a month and will likely continue until our local CSA starts up in the later spring.

But let’s get down to brass tacks, or brass vegetables, as it were. What I’d forgotten about doing a CSA is how much fun it is to figure out how to cook the random pile of food that new lives in your house! That’s what I want to share with you today: the veggies we’ve been eating and how we have eaten them.

Sunchokes a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes. These root vegetables look like ginger, have the texture of beets, and taste … good??? I don’t know how to explain it. It’s a light flavor but extremely pleasant. Kind of nutty. I would eat these all the time if I could get them all the time. I prepared them using a method described in Tender by Nigel Slater, the English food writer, and was extremely satisfied. You halve the sunchokes and roast them in a mix of olive oil and butter, with whole crushed cloves of garlic tucked all about them, until the bottoms have begun to caramelize. (“Whole crushed” = whack the clove with the flat of a knife. This is also the easiest way to peel garlic!) Serve with fresh lemon juice and fresh chopped parsley. Because CSAs give you weird amounts of things, I wound up padding this out with a few beets. I personally did not think it was a nice flavor palette for roasted beets, but, you know, de gustibus and all that.

Beets. Beets are not new to me. I absolutely love beets. But we decided to go off the map a bit with our CSA golden beets and make a beet cake, also from Tender. I made beet cake many years ago off a recipe from Joy the Baker and was very underwhelmed. For one, I couldn’t taste the beets at all; for two, it was a frosted cake, and I hate making frosted cake. It feels like arts and crafts. I liked this beet cake much better. It is outrageously fussy and requires a lot of forethought so you don’t wind up with a ton of batter in a very small bowl – I made my partner do the thinking, because I knew if we left it to me we’d wind up with a ton of batter in a very small bowl – but it is extremely, extremely good. I personally felt it got better the longer it sat, thicker and fudgier. We made a few changes to the recipe – Slater has you put in espresso, which my partner hates, so we skipped it; and after trying our first pieces with creme fraiche, which as it turns out is just less-sour sour cream, we opted to ice the remainder of the cake in unsweetened whipped cream. One of my favorite things about this cake is that you can actually taste the beets. That may be a pro or a con for you, lol.

Leeks. I have a vivid memory of making something with leeks a zillion years ago, but I don’t know what it was and I didn’t blog about it here, ergo it doesn’t exist. (The main reason I started this blog in the first place was to have a record of food I cooked and this is exactly why!) So we will say leeks were totally new to me. Friends, I am not sold. I decided to try this gratin and I am sorry to report it is my first smitten kitchen failure. Now, it is definitely possible that I failed, here. I skipped the cheese entirely, as my partner dislikes most cheeses, and maybe that would have made the difference. It is also possible that our as-it-turns-out-approximately-25-degrees-too-cool oven was the failure, given what a bitch it was to get this thing to brown. But the end result was just sort of tasteless. And the big ol’ chunks of leek tasted like … well, basically what you’d expect huge standalone chunks of allium to taste like. I am not turned off leeks forever or anything, but in the future I will be seeking recipes where they are the supporting cast rather than the star.

Carnival squash. For carnival squash (a sweet squash with a nice flavor), I busted out a preparation from lo these many years ago when last I had a CSA. You halve the squash, rub it all over with coconut oil (that’s right, I said it, rub it aaaaall over with coconut oil), fill the cavity about halfway with heavy cream, and sprinkle it with a healthy amount of curry powder. Roast at 350 with coconut oil in the bottom of the pan. It should be done in about half an hour.

Parsnips and watermelon radishes and purple radishes and small white radishes and an extra beet. Have you ever had a parsnip? It looks like a white carrot and it tastes like – well. Not a carrot, although it’s more like a carrot than it is like, I don’t know, a brussels sprout or something. It’s sweet, but also a tiny bit bitter? It is a unique flavor and I mostly don’t like it at all, but that is mostly because it pairs well with basically nothing I typically eat. My partner put our first batch of parsnips into a chicken sauerbraten, which is a German dish that is far more delicious than you’d think it was if I told you the ingredients, and they were absolutely fantastic in that, but there is only so much chicken sauerbraten one can eat. (We also put turnips in the sauerbraten for lack of any other idea what to do with them, and you’ll notice there is not an entry on this list for turnips, because they are trash. We rehomed all future turnips.)

So the other day we looked at our fridge, which contained five – five! FIVE – parsnips, one solitary beet that didn’t make it into beet cake, and a ridiculous number of radishes – and can we take a moment to discuss radishes? what the hell does one do with radishes, other than eat them in between tacos and carve them into rosettes to decorate buffets? I don’t dislike radishes, but I am utterly confounded by them – anyway, we looked at our fridge and said, “…so, pickles?”

Despite the rant I just did I am actually pretty into these radishes. Watermelon radishes are the size of a softball, absolutely gorgeous, and highly delicious. They don’t have quite the in-your-face bite of other radishes. We ran out of jars before we could pickle all our root veg, and I set the leftover watermelon radish aside for straight up snacking. Purple radishes, apparently a species of daikon, are differently gorgeous and also very tasty, with a bit more bite. The baby daikons (which is what I think our small white radishes are) had the sharpest bite. We pickled them all, along with the parsnips and one solitary beet, in a variety of vinegars and with a variety of spices. I have no idea how any of those will turn out, having never made fridge pickles before, but I sure am excited to find out.

And those, my friends, are the hits! There is one more because-of-our-CSA dish I made, but it’s good enough that I want to tell you about on its own, so you will just have to wait.

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chicken with apples and onions!

Reposting an oldie-but-goodie with the minor edits that reflect how I make it now. This is good stick-to-your-ribs cold weather food, and despite the trickster behavior of last week’s warmth, we still have some cold weather hanging around. Make this while it is seasonally appropriate.

This recipe is a straight up combo of chicken and apples in honey mustard sauce from Simply Recipes and pork chops with mustardy apples and onions from Dinner: A Love Story (which I wrote about in 2011). It is incredibly delicious and super easy. Here’s how you make it.

1/2 cup apple cider
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 apples
1 large onion
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil

Start by prepping your sauce: whisk together cider, chicken broth, cornstarch, honey, vinegar, and Dijon, and set aside. Let the flavors marry. You’ll definitely have to whisk again before adding to the pan, as cornstarch has a tendency to turn into cement if you let it sit, but don’t worry, it will quickly re-mix.

Slice your chicken breasts in half longways to make four thin filets. Salt and pepper them in the pan and brown in olive oil on each side, about 4 minutes per side. You know they’re ready when they release from the pan with little to no prodding.

Once the chicken is brown, remove it from the pan and set aside. Turn the heat down to medium and let the pan cool for a sec. Once the oil is less sizzly, add your onions, let them get started softening, then add your apples (which you’ve previously prepared: core, don’t peel, slice thin, bam). You should have about the same amount of each. Once the apples have begun to soften, add your previously mixed sauce, deglaze ferociously, and bring the whole mess to a boil. Once it hits boiling, turn it to a simmer and re-add your chicken and whatever chicken juices have accumulated on the pan. Just kinda tuck the pieces in among your apples and onions. Get it cozy.

Stick the lid on the pan, slightly ajar. Watch your flame and your simmer level and cook until the chicken is done.

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