Archived entries for vegetables

Some Greenery: Broccoli Rabe with Mozzarella Crema

Mario Batali wants you to eat more vegetables.

His latest cookbook, Molto Gusto, includes some simple pastas and the thin-crusted pizzas he serves at Otto in Greenwich Village, but a huge portion of the book is devoted to veggies: a rainbow of antipasti, gorgeous salads, and bruschetta piled with eggplant, or artichokes, or cabbage. (Or lardo. What, you don’t consider that a vegetable?) They’re mostly simple preparations, adding a little richness to the fresh produce, but not masking the essential flavors of good, in-season stuff. I received a review copy of the book and definitely plan to cook my way through the summer market with these recipes in mind.

I started with this broccoli rabe recipe because the dressing was so tempting: fresh mozzarella, whirred or mashed with its salty brine and a bit of grassy olive oil. Mario suggests you mash the mozz with a whisk, which did not work for me, but a little food processor or immersion blender action is just the ticket. I doubled the crema part of the recipe, though you could follow the newly-skinny Mario’s lead and halve what I’ve listed below.

It’s a good treatment to have in your back pocket no matter what greens are at the market (or in your CSA box)–I’m sure it would work brilliantly tossed with sauteed dinosaur kale or chard, a mix of beet greens, spinach, purslane, and whatever else you’ve got. If you have a handful of cherry tomatoes to add, feel free.

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Out of the Salad Daze: Crunchy Cucumber Salad with Sesame and Peanut Dressing

Cooked dinners seem to make the best leftovers–I’m happy with a tupperware of pasta for lunch the next day, even giddy with the prospect of having extra grilled veggies or meats to save me from the perils of overpriced Flatiron-area lunch options.

But lunchbox salads are trickier: I hate how even lightly-dressed lettuce gets soggy in the fridge. The answer: skip the leaves. Fresh farmer’s market cukes and (ok, nonlocal) peppers, carrots and barely-cooked green beans are sturdy enough to stand up to a flavorful dressing (even after a night in the fridge.) Besides, it’s a nice break from humdrum salad greens.

This recipe is a spin on Americanized Chinese sesame noodles, but without the noodles. The key here is the awesome dressing: nutty and savory, with a kick from from Lan Chi chili soybean paste, fresh ginger and garlic. The crisp texture of carrots and cucumbers does mean your jaw gets a bit tired after a large plateful, but it certainly tastes healthier than the takeout classic. Instead of meat, I added in some shiitake mushrooms, cooked until velvety with a splash of soy sauce and sweet hoisin. They were plenty satisfying, though you could add stir-fried tofu or a little bit of cooked pork or chicken if you have any…

I’ll be honest–it takes awhile to cut all the veggies just so. Feel free to chunk them or slice however you like if you’re short on time. (And not just killing an hour while waiting for your husband’s train to arrive from Jersey.) But there’s something satisfying about the uniformity of vegetable shapes…perhaps you could do the whole thing faster on a mandoline?

This dish would be a great vegetarian option at a summer picnic or barbecue–feel free to make it earlier in the day and let it chill out a bit in your fridge. Pair with some chilled rosé or a tart riesling (or, if you’re drinking beer, a saison or a smoky rauchbier.)

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Roast Eggplant and Chickpea Salad

Perhaps our diet has been lacking, perhaps I’m over the braises and stews of winter, perhaps it’s the slow way spring is toying with us, but all I want for dinner lately is a really good salad.

I’m not talking just cold greens. Main-course salads have been good to me lately–big bowls of refreshing, bright, clean flavors that no takeout can really satisfy. I could live on taco salad, steakhouse iceberg saladsquash panzanella, and I haven’t even gotten around to a giant duck salad yet this year.

This weekend’s iteration was a keeper: spinach and cucumbers tossed with a garlicky goat-cheese dressing, with piles of crispy, Moroccan-spiced chickpeas and silky, rich slices of eggplant. Depending how long you cook them, the chickpeas are almost like spiced nuts: rich, crispy, snackable. Take them out of the oven a little earlier if you prefer them soft.

You could add a dollop of hummus to the top of this salad if you wanted, or even some chunks of lamb, but that might be overkill. A garnish of mint and parsley wouldn’t hurt. In summer, this dish will be all the easier with the use of a grill; just slather each eggplant slice with oil and herbs and throw them on, turning once.

Of course, in summer, I’ll be all tomatoes all the time.

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Ratatatatatouille!

It’s getting to be about that time again. That magical point in the winter where I start to champ at the bit in readiness for spring, where the prospect of being further lost in the wasteland of kale and turnips makes me want to commit ritual hara kiri. I want sunshine on my skin! I want to wear dresses! I want to stop living on cheese! (I know. Hard to believe, isn’t it? But there it is.)

Or, failing all of that, I at least want to eat a vegetable with some freaking color in it. I know, I know. Irresponsible Shiv, with her carbon footprint the size of the Superdome. But…I mean…sometimes in the deep midwinter, you just need a damn tomato. Vitamins, people! Vitamins and cheer!

ratatatat

And it was with that chipper attitude that I approached dinner on Sunday night. I was freshly back from New Orleans, and really excited to rattle around in my kitchen; I was also, however, utterly exhausted, more than a little shell-shocked, and didn’t want to rattle around the kitchen for TOO long. I was also completely depressed by the gray and unforgiving state in which I found my home city upon my return (New York in February: No.), and needed some color; conveniently, Bench (having fended for himself all week) was also in the mood for something colorful and healthy. After a bit of hemming and hawing, we decided to make something that was not only completely veg-tastic, but is a breath of pure summer in the bleak midwinter–and something I’ve been dying to make for a while.

Ratatouille.

Say it out loud. It can’t decide if it wants to pop or sashay. Glorious!

Also delicious, and simple, and quick. At its most basic, ratatouille is a french vegetable stew–tomatoes, squash, and other wonderful things sauteed and then simmered with a few sprigs of thyme. You don’t cook it long, because you want the vegetables to retain their personality;  you want it on the stove just long enough to perfume your house and chase away some winter blues.

We made ours with tomatoes, yellow squash, orange bell peppers, and (against Bench’s initial judgment) eggplant, and it was a knockout. The eggplant became silky and seductive, the peppers smoky and sweet. The thyme infused the whole business with a simple elegance and an absolutely irresistible smell. It was, in short…exactly what the doctor ordered. Warm, simple, sweet, savory, and full of sunshine.

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Crunchy Baked Pork Chops

So, I was going to save this recipe until after the Super Bowl (I had grand plans to make some sort of spectacular game-type food to tempt you with before Sunday), but then two things happened that threw a spanner in the works:

  1. A project I was doing at work ended up stretching long into the night I’d planned to use for making this unspecified-yet-delectable treat, and so my grand game food cookery plans kind of fell through.
  2. In cooking this meal, I burnt the everloving shit out of my index finger, in a display so amazing that I had to pay the burn tribute by writing about the recipe that did it.

(Also, owing to the gigantic blister currently masquerading as my left index fingerprint, I can’t actually pick up a knife yet.)

So, you lucky things, you get to hear all about Monday night’s dinner: Crunchy baked pork chops!

Pork chops!

This is a recipe I love beyond all reasonable measure: it’s herby (thyme and rosemary!), it’s crunchy (panko and finely diced shallot!), it’s tender, it’s salty (parmesan cheese!), and it tastes like something tremendously and terribly bad for you (but it’s baked!). It’s easy to make in large quantities, and is such an intriguing combination that it’s more or less guaranteed to please your audience. It’s what I like to make on those days when I find myself Desperately Craving Meat, though sometimes I consider ways to have the breading on its own–that stuff is so good, sometimes you don’t even want the pork.

It pairs beautifully with my favorite winter vegetable dish, roasted brussels sprouts, but would probably be equally awesome with braised cabbage, or perhaps stewed apples. Despite the best efforts of the sprouts, I can conclusively say that the chops do not pair well with human flesh. (you’ll have to try harder next time, sprouts!)

I recommend trying it with different herbs if you like, or maybe trying a curried version. Go crazy! Have fun! But for the love of all things holy, make sure your potholders are up to the task!

porkchops21

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