Lunch Archive

Monday, November 3, 2014

smoked whitefish dip with horseradish

smoked

And now for something completely different: a new entry in the much-neglected seafood category on this site. I know this didn’t get past most of you, that is how not-so-secretly fish-averse I am. Sure, I’ve come around to mussels, to oysters (but only with the iciest champagne, please; I’m fancy); I’ve been known to make some limited advances in the areas of shrimp, lobster, halibut and tuna. But for the most part, my seafood appreciation level is pitifully low. Lest you think that I delight in this — proudly flaunt my “FISH-FREE KITCHEN” apron as if it were some sort of culinary triumph — the truth is that it feels like a failure. It bothers me. I fight it. I do not always win.

smoked whitefish from russ & daughters
skinned, boned smoked whitefish

But every so often, something sounds so wonderful, it pierces through all of my apprehension, which is exactly what happened when this recipe showed up in my Tasting Table email a few weeks ago. The recipe is like a tag cloud populated with every ingredient I cannot say no to: sour cream, Worcestershire, horseradish, Creole mustard (which I picked up just to see if we’d like it, and oh, we very much do), smoked paprika, celery, scallions, cayenne, lemon juice. And then, as if I hadn’t already fallen in love, the chef (Chris Shepherd, of Underbelly in Houston, inspired by Donald Link and Ryan Prewitt’s smoked-tuna dip at Pêche in New Orleans) serves it on Saltine crackers, something I haven’t had in my kitchen in too many years. It’s deliciously low-brow and high-brow and wait, we totally forgot to discuss the fish, didn’t we?

what you'll need

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Monday, October 13, 2014

fall-toush salad

fall-toush salad with delicata and brussels

This probably makes no sense. The classic Levantine fattoush salad that I’ve mercilessly punned upon is the epitome of summer: tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, mint, parsley, garlic and lemon with pita chips that both do and do not soak up the dressing, in the best of ways. It’s bright, crunchy and the absolutely ideal thing to eat on a hot day. But at least on this coast, we’re done with beach days for a while. We’re done (or were supposed to be before today’s confusion) with open-toed shoes, permanently open windows, and going out without a jacket and not regretting it. The tomatoes are waning, the heavy orange vegetables and dark leafy greens are creeping in.

what you'll need + a bunch of things I forgot to take out
trimmed and halved brussels

A fall-toush salad is like your summer fattoush put on a thick sweater over a plaid shirt and went on a hay ride drinking hot apple cider and came back mooning over how the forest floor is like a giant mural. A fall-toush salad keeps the brighter parts of the summer version — the lemon, the scallions (well, I forgot them, but you shouldn’t), parsley, mint, garlic and pita chips — but stirs them over warm roasted squash and brussels sprouts. A fall-toush salad accepts that it’s going to be cold out for the foreseeable future and that your salads must adjust accordingly, even yours truly cannot.

pretty easy to remove delicata seeds

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

cauliflower slaw

cauliflower slaw

Given my druthers, a word I’ve been looking for an excuse to type in a sentence for at least eight years, I would never choose a salad with lettuce in it over one that’s mostly shaved or shredded raw vegetables. I mean, lettuce — the dewy, freshly-plucked-from-the-earth stuff that spends a couple months a year gracing local farmer’s markets — can be absolutely delicious, but nine times out of ten, the same word is used to refer to that packaged stuff that doesn’t taste like a whole lot. And can we talk for just a second about that prematurely rotten red leaf that no bag of mesclun is ever without? Clearly I have spent an unnatural amount of time thinking about this. But in a world filled with avocado cup salads, broccoli slaw, butternut squash, carrot salads with harissa, feta and mint or tahini and crisped chickpeas, chopped salads with lime, sunflower seeds and radishes, crushed peas with sesame dressing and fennel with blood oranges* I’ve found little reason to worship solely at the salad altar of baby field greens.

what you'll neeed
thinly sliced raw cauliflower

Ever since I made one of my favorite salads to date, the broccoli slaw, I have wanted to make a cauliflower slaw companion for it, and I know this because I have listed it no less than five times on my sprawling To Cook list. I knew that I wanted it to be “mayo-free,” with a “sharp lemony dressing.” I knew that I wanted it to have “tiny dried currants” in it, and that maybe I’d soak/plump them in the dressing for a while so they added more than just sweetness. I knew that, like the broccoli slaw, it should have well-toasted almonds in it, and that I didn’t mind if it had capers in it, especially if they were crispy. But I couldn’t figure out the structure — I was convinced that cauliflower, shaved thinly, would be nothing but a pile of rubble, but not in a charming way. And then a couple months ago a cauliflower salad appeared on the menu of my favorite restaurant, Barbuto in the West Village (which also brought us this kale salad), and to my delight, it turned out to have many elements of the cauliflower slaw I’d been dreaming about — theirs with raisins, hazelnuts and a unholy helping of olive oil — and the cauliflower had been shaved thin on an adjustable-blade slicer and it was perfect. Sure, there was some rubble but there was an equal amount of nicely intact slices and all I wanted to go home and make it the very next second.

cooling the almonds outside

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

herbed tomato and roasted garlic tart

herbed tomato and roasted garlic tart

I had a friend in town this week and just when we were at the point in the conversation when we’d usually pick a place to meet for lunch, something terrible happened. Caught up in a moment where I forgot that I am me and not, say, Ina Garten, I suggested he come over and I’d make lunch for us instead. I realized I’d lost my ever-loving mind. Sure, I’d like to be the kind of person who makes “just lunch, nothing fancy!” for friends on a whim but I am not. I don’t really do “whim” cooking, as a website with nearly 918 intricately detailed recipes in its archives might evidence. Plus, I had so many recipes I was overdue to test out — a lemonade, a salad, a tart and I’d been promising my son I’d make chocolate pudding for weeks, not to mention the daily grind of breakfast, lunchbox and dinner — that I felt like I had no time to cook anything extra.

1.5 pounds of tiny tomatoes
baked with weights

And then, thank goodness, I realized how ridiculous that was. What could be more delicious for lunch than a salad, a tart, lemonade and chocolate pudding that I’d made enough of to ensure the kid wouldn’t be left out? What, you say? It might be a flop? My friend might push his food around his plate, hoping I wouldn’t notice or, worse, eat something he hated so not to hurt my feelings? Guys, I am 38 years old, by any standards (unfortunately, most days) a grown-up, and I decided that it was time, once and for all, to boldly embrace Julia Child’s best cooking rule: never apologize.

I don’t believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make… Usually one’s cooking is better than one thinks it is. And if the food is vile, then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile — and learn from her mistakes. (My Life in France)

roasted garlic + parmesan

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

corn, cheddar and scallion strata

corn, cheddar and scallion strata

I have a lot of feelings about lunch boxes, none of them especially genial. But as this teeny tiny person that I only just recently brought home from the hospital, barely able to utter a “beh” and now able to fill a 2-hour car ride back from a beach house with all the words every uttered (hm, wonder where he gets it) begins kindergarten this week, and will do so with a lunchbox in hand, I’ve realized that the only way to move forward with my grouchy feelings about lunch boxes is to air them here, in this town’s square, and then move on.

what you'll need, plus a lunchbox
three cobs because summer isn't over yet

And so here goes: I, Deb Perelman, resent lunch boxes. I resent that my friend Valerie can send her children to a French summer camp where they are served hot lunches (just the basics, like blanquette de veau, omelette aux champginons and, oh, a galette du rois) on real plates daily and the best my child can hope for is stuff like this. I resent that we don’t prioritize filling our children’s bellies with nutritional, balanced meals that will fuel them their growing bodies and brains through long school days, and that only parents with the means to (time or financially) can provide wholesome alternatives. I resent that I’m looking down the barrel of a decade or more of this, every single school day. And I resent that, on top of all this, if our summer months of packing lunch boxes for camp were any indication, at least half of the food will come back uneaten because a whole lot of places that ostensibly have children’s best interests in mind feed them cookies or crackers with ingredient lists as long as this blog post and juice in the middle of the morning as a snack, sometimes just an hour before lunchtime.

a good hearty miche

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