Vegetarian Archive

Monday, June 9, 2014

pasta and fried zucchini salad

ottolenghi's pasta and fried zucchini salad

Every time I make an Ottolenghi recipe, I become convinced that he has finally lost his mind. Really, turmeric, black sesame seeds and parmesan together? Three tablespoons of fresh oregano? A full half-cup of tahini? And as my anxiety grows — you see, I, too, understand the bubble of time, ingredients and trust that we invest into new recipes, which, when popped, leads to the kind of frustration that can only be righted with a scalding review — I wonder if this will be it, the day I finally make an Ottolenghi recipe that’s just plain off. And, without fail, we sit down to something so spectacular in a way I hadn’t even considered before, I’m in awe of his talent and relieved that I ignored every instinct not to follow his recipe faithfully.

pasta, buffalo mozzarella, vinegar, oil, zucchini, lemon, capers, parsley, basil
strozzapreti

This was no different. It looks like a basic pesto pasta, doesn’t it? But it’s not really. Sure, there’s basil and olive oil. But it lacks the other ingredients of pesto genovese — garlic, toasted pignoli and parmesan. Instead, basil is blended with flat-leaf parsley, and the zest of a whole lemon, tablespoons of capers and torn chunks of fresh mozzarella are stirred in. The star of the show is three zucchini, cut into thin discs, fried until golden and then soaked in a bit of red wine vinegar to make something that’s neither crisp nor chip-like nor pickled but more intruiguing than all three. And then there’s the edamame, yes, the soybeans popular in East Asian dishes, here in a pasta-pesto combo. I couldn’t do it! It was too strange to me and I became bent on securing fresh shelling peas, which I think would be fantastic here, only to leave the Greenmarket in a pout (likely because I was still carrying 10+ pounds of things I hadn’t intended to buy, as always) because they’re not in yet.

zucchini in thin slices

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

carrot salad with tahini and crisped chickpeas

carrot salad with tahini and crisped chickpeas

I have been gushing in the margins about David Lebovitz’s carrot salad (pardon! salade de carottes râpées) since I made it for the first time four years ago. It’s exquisite in its simplicity, just lemon juice, olive oil, a pinch of sugar, some salt, pepper, and rough-chopped parsley, all applied in that old-fashioned taste-as-you-go method that basically guarantees it will be perfectly seasoned when you’re done. (You do this with everything you cook, right? Yeah, I forget too.) And this week, as the carrots are towered high at markets, was the week I finally wanted to give it its due. But then I started thinking about that carrot soup we talked about in the early days of 2013, which we finished with a lemony-tahini swirl and topped with cumin and sea salt roasted chickpeas and how fantastically filling it was, a real meal in a bowl, and decided we needed a fresh spring-summer spin on it.

salt and cumin-toasted chickpeas
a pound of carrots

I have zero regrets. While no carrot salad could or should replace the perfection of the French classic, this is equally deserving of a place in the annals, right alongside this harissa, feta and mint stunner a lovely person sent me four years ago. Zinging with lemon, nutty with tahini, flecked with parsley, topped with almost smoky roasted chickpeas and then some chopped salted pistachios, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bowl of grated carrots with so much complexity, so much to consider.

lemon tahini dressing

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

fresh spinach pasta

fresh spinach pasta

I had the strangest weekend. My husband went to New Orleans for a bachelor party and my in-laws insisted upon watching my son for one of the nights he was away. I was all set to argue that I probably could handle a single potty-trained, getting-himself-dressed, occasionally listening almost-5 year-old for all of 48 hours but when I opened my mouth the only words that came out were, “Thank you! What a fantastic idea!”

on my coffee table this weekend
baby spinach leaves

All of a sudden, I was flying completely solo for the first time in half a decade and I had no idea what to do with myself. Would I finally clean the apartment? Would I have a giant party? Would I go away by myself for the night, just because I could? Would I watch two matinees in a row and eat popcorn and Reese’s pieces for dinner? Why had I not been planning for this day my all five years I’d had to think about it; I bet when Jacob was 8 months old and hadn’t slept through the night for any of them, I had a crystal-clear idea of where I’d run if given the chance. (Spoiler: Back to bed. Or Paris! Or both!) But that was then and this was Saturday. So, I went for a haircut. I took a walk. I ducked into tiny bookstores and bought new things for everyone to read. With friends, I went for manicures and pedicures, ordered cava and tapas, and stuffed wedding invitations. I slept in! I got a massage with a gift certificate I received over 3 years ago! I finished the book I was reading and started a new one! I realize this is probably the dullest story ever told, but I honestly couldn’t believe the lap of limitless luxury my life had become. I can’t believe there are people that live like this every single day; I can’t believe I was once one of them. This is probably how having kids turns you into one of those fuddy-duddies you remember your parents being.

wilted spinach

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

avocado cup salads, two ways

avocado cup confetti salads

I have the most boring thing, ever, to tell you today (and clearly it’s not “how to write an enticing lede”): I tried not to eat bread for a couple months. Wait, come back! Let me explain. I don’t mean ever. I am not anti-carb or anti-dessert, nor is Wheat Belly our new idea of a good bedtime story; I am ever your gluten-full host. I remain certain that freshly-baked, crackly-crusted artisanal bread is one of the greatest things in the world; to turn it down a moderate serving of it when you’re able to enjoy it (chemically and all that) is a sacrilege. But that’s not really what most of our bread looks like, does it? Most often, bread is merely bookends on a sandwich, with the goal of making filling portable. Or, it’s toasted so that it can sop up butter, jam or a runny yolk, or crouton-ed to make a salad feel bulkier. It’s all too infrequently in and of itself noteworthy. These latter categories of bread were what I suspected I wouldn’t miss if when I challenged myself to skip them. That is, at least two meals a day: an ascetic, I am not.

rainbow of peppers, black beans
bell peppers, black beans, jalapeno, white onion

But I promise, I didn’t drag you here today to sell you on a refined carb-free life as I myself have little interest in living one. What I’d hoped to share was the neat thing that many less stubborn than myself have known of eons: when you tip the food scales away from lackluster bread-fill, a wonderful thing happens: vegetables, beans and protein come back into prominence, and it was just the cooking recharge that I needed. To wit, since the beginning of the year we’ve talked about eggs baked in a nest of spinach and mushrooms (biscuits on the side), a seasonal mayo-light riff on devilled eggs, my new favorite three-bean chili (a small amount of brown rice underneath), chicken fajitas loaded with vegetables, beans, slaw, pico, and guacamole (all perched on one or two small corn tortillas) and a kale-quinoa salad I’m so addicted to, if I don’t have it for lunch at least three days a week, I feel twitchy.

radishes, cucumbers, scallions

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

baked eggs with spinach and mushrooms

baked eggs with spinach and mushrooms

My brunch arsenal, the dishes I’ve made enough times that they no longer cause any furrowed brows — a core entertaining principle here at House Smitten Kitchen (sigil: cast-iron skillet) — is as follows: bacon (always roasted in the oven, I mean, unless you were hoping to mist yourself with eau de pork belly*); some sort of fruit salad (either mixed berries and vanilla bean-scented yogurt or mixed citrus segments, sometimes with mint and feta); buttermilk biscuits; a pitcher of Bloody Marys, a bottle of champagne and a couple carafes of freshly-squeezed grapefruit or orange juice, blood orange whenever available; something sweet (our current favorite) and eggs. As I dictated years ago, everything that can be made in advance should be, thus pancakes, individually fried slices of French toast, omelets and even eggs baked in ramekins, adorable as they may be, are verboten. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and it’s always the worst.

so much baby spinach
wilted spinach

In the egg category, my favorite for ease and laze is this spinach and cheese strata, however, if I have even 15 additional minutes at my disposal (which, let’s be honest, I do, especially when I spend less time here) remains these baked eggs with spinach and mushrooms. We talked about it, oh, seven years ago, but it’s been so buried in the archives, literally three recipes deep with a single hideous photo, that I’m long overdue to unearth it. At the time, I was charmed by how incredible something so wholesome could taste. These days, I’d add to its list of charms: vegetarian, gluten/grain-free, as good for a weeknight dinner as it is a weekend brunch dish, and oh, did I mention that it looks like an Easter egg basket? That’s a recent development.

add the mushrooms

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