This summer I’m teaching my very first in-the-flesh course from my own syllabus, and it. Is. Terrifying. Perhaps it’s appropriate, then, that I’m teaching a class on Cold War culture, since so far we’ve mostly been talking about anxiety in postwar America. My class is at 9 AM, which means I’m getting up way earlier than usual, Monday through Thursday, which is just a tad grueling. It doesn’t help that I got back from California* late Sunday night/early Monday morning, which made me both jet-lagged and sleep-deprived during our first meeting.
In this spirit of grogginess, I wanted to repost my friend and former coworker Janina’s jawn about cold-brewed coffee. For the past two years I’ve been using a method I originally saw on Amateur Gourmet, which is delicious but also fussy. I had never thought to use a French press–it makes so much sense! I tried it last night/this morning, toting my brew to school in my gigantic Stanley thermos, which keeps the ice from melting and making my coffee watery.
I’ve been spending the beginning of my spring break in San Francisco. I flew in Friday night after teaching in the afternoon, got up early yesterday for a race, went out dancing last night, and met my friends Matt and April for lunch at Pizzeria Delfina today. Afterward I found myself wandering around the Mission District, wondering what to make for dinner. I wandered into the fortuitously named Casa Thai Market looking for some fresh produce since flying on Friday and racing yesterday morning left my stomach feeling… less than fresh. The vegetable section was a little uninspiring, but when I saw the rows of red and green cabbage, a little brassicaceous light bulb went off above my head.
I got back to the Thai compound (home to Jenny, Mon, My Le, and Kathleen) and dug around in their pantry. I wanted to make salade de deux choux, but they didn’t have any dried coconut or pecans, and I didn’t feel like going back out to the store. However, I rustled up a can of coconut milk, some spicy mustard, roasted almonds I had bought for snacking, a bag of shallots, some honey, and a lemon. I shredded the cabbage, minced a couple shallots, and whisked together a dressing using two parts coconut milk to one part mustard, the juice of the lemon, a dab of honey, and some salt and pepper. I poured the whole thing over the bowl of cabbage, and added the chopped nuts. Boom–my very own recipe redux. (I’m still mourning the end of Amanda Hesser’s column)
Jenny and Mon whipped together some stir-fried noodles…
…and to drink I made bloody monkeys, i.e. fresh-squeezed blood orange juice mixed with a light beer:
Call it my take on a classic:
As an added bonus, I fried some plantains and cooked up a pot of kettle corn. Pictures of these things do not exist because they didn’t last long enough to be caught on film.
Fresh food, friends, and fried things: life does not get better than this.
I love Sundays. Wow, what a sentiment, right? That’s up there with “puppies are adorable” and “breathing is important” on the scale of uncontroversial statements. But really, I do. I like sleeping in and waking up without an alarm, going for a long run (I’m deep into marathon training right now) and sitting down with a big bowl of cereal and some coffee to cruise around the internet for a solid five hours. A big chunk of that time gets eaten up by the Sunday Times, especially the Magazine section. I especially love Amanda Hesser’s “Recipe Redux” column, in which she digs up a recipe from the Times archives and gives it to a professional chef for a modern makeover. So when I went over there to find that today’s column is the last, I promptly experienced all five stages of grief from the Kübler-Ross model:
“Oh foodie gods, please bring Recipe Redux back.”
“At least we have her cookbook.”
So yeah, about that last one, apparently the column was something of a spin-off from the research for her recently published book, The Essential New York Times Cookbook. We recently acquired a copy from Melanie’s brother, and it’s really a wonderful tome. Nevertheless, I’m really sad to say goodbye to the column, which has given me some great recipes over the past couple of years. Without a doubt, the spiced apple soufflé crêpe from 2007. I’ve made it several times, and it’s one of those consistent dinner party pleasers that everyone should have in their arsenal.
Bacon seems to be doing pretty well these days, showing up in everything from mayonnaise to chocolate to my refrigerator. Lately Anne Burrell’s lentils with bacon recipe has been one of my dinnertime staples, in addition to special occasion crowd pleasers like cassoulet, the ultimate wintertime French comfort food. I’ve been getting a really amazing double-smoked bacon from Fair Food Farmstand, but right now I have some really good stuff in my fridge from my buying club, Philadelphia Winter Harvest. Anyway, another longtime staple of mine is Heidi Swanson’s harissa spaghettini, but her veggieness doesn’t really mesh well with my bacon kick, so I decided to take the recipe in a decidedly non-kosher direction.
Harissa Spaghetti with Broccoli Rabe and Bacon
1 pound of spaghettini, spaghetti, or linguine (the point is long, thin noodles here)
1 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped
a couple slices of bacon, depending on how thick your bacon is and how much you like bacon (I used four fairly thin slices)
2 or 3 fat cloves of garlic
1/2 cup harissa, plus more to your liking
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
freshly grated parmiggiano reggiano, pecorino romano, or ricotta salata
Cook pasta according to package blah blah you should know this part by now.
Slice bacon into lardons, which just means 1/2 inch crosswise strips.
Put bacon in cold skillet, slowly raise heat. Cook bacon until just crispy with most of the fat rendered.
Add garlic, cook until just golden.
Add broccoli rabe, cook until just wilted. You may have to do this in batches, but if you’re impatient like me, you’ll just cram it in there.
In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add harissa, and spread it around the bottom of the pan until it’s heated through.
Add broccoli rabe, garlic, bacon, and pasta to the pan, toss it all around until everything is slathered with harissa. Top it all off with the toasted pine nuts and cheese. Devour.
Can you guys believe it? That’s TWO North African-inspired recipes in as many days! After I posted the salade de deux choux recipe last night, Naoko IMed me to say I should start a cooking blog. But why have multiple blogs? I like to think of this as a lifestyle blog, not unlike Gwyneth Paltrow’s. The main difference, of course, is that you won’t find William Joel’s favorite cookie recipe here.
My favorite thing about Moroccan dining isn’t the sizzling, sumptuous tagines or the endless cups of mint tea, but the muqabbilat (Arabic for “starters,” according to Wikipedia), the delicious, colorful collection of salads, relishes, and dips that, like the Levantine meze, come at the beginning of every meal.
Two years ago, when I was in Marrakech with my mother, our dinner at the riad included a wonderful cabbage salad with coconut. When we told the waiter how much we loved it, he disappeared and returned with this:
green (white) cabbage
salt + pepper
Not so much a recipe as an ingredient list, but this isn’t really a complex dish; a list of ingredients is about all you need. I tried it out a few times once I got back to Philadelphia, but I haven’t made it in quite a while precisely because this is a salad that requires you to buy two cabbages. Two supermarket-sized choux yields a whole hell of a lot of this salad, so in the past it’s been quite the commitment to make. That is, until I was at Fair Food Farmstand on Tuesday and spied these:
I can fit both in my hand! I could make salade de deux choux and NOT have to eat it for a solid week. And here, I even wrote the recipe down for y’all, albeit with some tweaking:
Salade de deux choux
two small cabbages, one red, one green
1 c dried unsweetened shredded coconut
1 T honey
1 T dijon mustard
1 c chopped toasted nuts–I used pecans
1/2 c olive oil
1 T chopped shallot
salt and pepper to taste
lemon juice to taste
I’ll admit right up front that I’m totally guessing about the measurements, because I don’t really like to measure. Eyeball it, taste often, and adjust as necessary.
Shred the cabbage. A food processor is going to make this step a lot easier if you have one. Toss with coconut and three-quarters of nuts if you care about presentation, otherwise just dump all of them in.
Make the vinaigrette: whisk the honey, mustard, and shallot until combined. You could also add the lemon juice at this point, but I didn’t add it until the end when I realized something was missing. Stream in olive oil while whisking to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper, add to salad. Toss salad.
Get your mind out of the gutter–we’re all adults here.
If you haven’t added the lemon juice yet, add it now to taste.
Garnish with reserved nuts, if using.
And if you have a Moroccan bowl in which to serve it, so much the better.
*In French, mon petit chou (lit. “my little cabbage”) means something like “my dear” or “sweetie darling.” Appropriate, mais non?
Lately (as in, for the past two months) I’ve been kind of obsessed with this recipe for potatoes gribiche. The dressing consists of shallots, oil, vinegar, capers, cornichons, hard-cooked eggs, paprika, salt, pepper and herbs, most of which I keep on hand, and you can make a big batch and eat it throughout the week or, in my case, for a day and a half. What can I say? I eat like a farm hand.
In any case, thanks to Luisa and The Wednesday Chef, I have added sauce gribiche to my culinary repertoire. So for brunch yesterday I decided, partly out of inspiration and partly out of necessity, to play with the form a little. I was cooking at a friend’s house, and I brought over some potatoes that I had on hand, but I didn’t have much of a solid plan. I just figured that potatoes are always welcome at breakfast, and that I would improvise something. My friend had a carton of eggs and some spring mix from Greensgrow, so I decided to do kind of a warm potato salad over greens with poached egg on top. Digging around in the kitchen I turned up a head of garlic, a small white onion, a jar of capers, some kosher dills, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. I parboiled and roasted the potatoes à la Luisa’s recipe, and set at making the dressing, by which I mean that after some chopping I haphazardly combined all of the above ingredients in glass measuring cup and gave it a good stir. Once the potatoes were done I poached two eggs for each of us and assembled the whole thing on plates. This was the result, after cutting into the yolks:
Looks good, right? It tasted fine, but for some reason it just didn’t blow me away. Maybe it was for want of shallots or because I put the egg on top instead of in the dressing, but I just wasn’t that excited. But I’m not one to sit and cry–I’m a survivor, dammit! (cue Destiny’s Child) So give gribiche a chance–in addition to potatoes, it goes well with meat, fish, and probably a bunch of other things. I mean, it’s basically oil and salt–how could it be bad?
And now, a very special cooking-themed Italian Idiom of the Day!
Che cosa bollire in pentola?–What’s cooking? (literally, what’s boiling in your pot?)
Hm, that sounds a little suggestive, so go ahead and use it as a pick-up line as well.
Since the semester is finally over, for the past week I’ve been able to put more time and energy into Ironman training. In January I was going to sit down and write out a training plan that would take me through race day, August 30th, but that never happened. Ditto for February, March, and April. So now it’s May and I still have no training plan. But I have a vague sense of what I should be doing, so I decided that today should be a difficult bike workout to wrap up the training week, since Wednesdays are going to be my off days for the time being. I went online and chose a route called “Philly Dirty Dozen Hill Climb,” figuring it would be a good one to do since the Ironman Canada course has a LOT of climbing. I wrote out a spiffy cue sheet for myself and taped it to my aerobars. Said cue sheet would prove virtually useless.
Long story short, I got incredibly lost, and definitely biked more than a dirty dozen hills trying to figure out where I was. By grace of some velocipedic miracle, I found my way to the Schuylkill bike path, and from there I was fine.
I may not be very good at finding my way around the Philadelphia suburbs on a bike, but there is one thing I am pretty good at, making harissa:
I used a recipe from Saveur when I made this batch the other night, but there are a million different versions out there that are basically a riff on the following: rehydrated dried chiles, cumin, caraway, coriander, olive oil, salt and pepper, all whirled together in a food processor. It goes with pretty much everything–eggs, potatoes, pasta, meat, bread, grilled or roasted vegetables, whatever. Plus, you can make a big batch and keep it in a container in the fridge, covered with a layer of olive oil, and pull it out whenever you want a taste of Tunisia.
It’s Italian Idiom of the Day time!
rispondere picche–to turn someone down flatly (spicche = spades)
Speravo di ottenere il suo permesso, ma mi ha risposto picche. I had hoped to get his permission to do it, but he turned me down flatly.
When I was 15 I asked a girl to the winter formal, e lei mi ha risposto picche. We reconnected years later and discovered that in the meantime we had both come out. The moral of the story is that everything works out in the end.