After browsing through a few recipes for Pasta alla Norma, I came to the conclusion that the key ingredients for the sauce are eggplant, tomatoes, ricotta salata, and fresh basil. Everything else that goes into it is up to you. Instead of frying the eggplant chunks in oil, I roasted them in a 500-degree oven which was, yes, not the most comfortable thing to do on a hot summer day, but also, yes, less splattery and oily (thanks for the idea, Saveur).
To make it: Three parallel processes that come together in the end.
1. Toss cubes of eggplant with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in a 500-degree oven for 20 minutes, or until soft and browned.
2. While the eggplant is roasting, heat up some olive oil in a saucepan and add some combination of chopped onion, minced garlic, and red pepper flakes. Cook for a few minutes, then add canned diced tomatoes (or break up whole tomatoes into chunks). Season with salt and dried oregano, and let simmer. When the eggplant is done, add it to the tomato sauce.
3. While the sauce is going, cook pasta (spaghetti, penne, rigatoni… whatever you prefer). Drain and add to the sauce, and toss to combine.
4. Serve with shredded or shaved ricotta salata and torn fresh basil leaves, and maybe an extra drizzle of good olive oil.
I keep buying summer squash at the farmers’ market. It’s kind of a compulsion; I’m drawn to the different colors, shapes, and sizes that I see every week and can’t help purchasing them. Then I get home and I’m like, what should I do with these? Today the answer was zucchini fritters. Healthy zucchini fritters, because they’re not deep-fried grease bombs, and I used whole wheat flour, and they’re good with plain Greek yogurt on top.
To make them: Grate (using a large-holed grater) or julienne (using a julienne peeler) about 7-8 ounces of zucchini or other summer squash (about 2 medium squash). Toss with a generous amount of salt and let it hang out in a bowl for 20-30 minutes. Squeeze out all the water that the salt has drawn out and drain the zucchini. Combine with 1 beaten egg, 1/4 cup whole wheat flour, 1 chopped scallion, 1/2 cup of chopped fresh herbs (I used a combo of dill, cilantro, and basil), and some cracked black pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Use about 1/4 of the zucchini mixture for each fritter. Fry until golden brown, then flip. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt and even more fresh herbs.
I just moved (back) to California after eight glorious years in New York. This post will not be about how many fantastic people I said goodbye to, or about how I cried during a movie preview last weekend because it was set in locations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn. Instead I will focus on a few of the many positives about my new living situation: GORGEOUS weather, a really solid year-round weekend farmers’ market just steps from my new home, and a Trader Joe’s just another block away. And one really pertinent upgrade: a kitchen that’s bigger than my previous kitchen (which was actually quite respectable for a Manhattan apartment rented for less than $1500 per month). And while I can’t do all my usual cooking until the movers arrive with our many boxes of stuff, there are enough beautiful things at the farmers’ market that need nothing more than a rinse and maybe a little basic knife work to keep me from eating out for every meal. Perfect for breaking up our temporary reliance on takeout and cereal.
To make it: place nectarine (or peach) wedges and tomatoes (cherry or otherwise) in a plastic takeout container (or a plate if you are living normally at the moment). Nestle a ball of burrata in the middle (mine was some meh but really cheap stuff from TJ’s). Drizzle some flavorful extra virgin olive oil over the top, and add a sprinkle of salt. Top with torn basil leaves. Serve with crusty bread and extra olive oil for dipping.
Hello, spring! One of my favorite ways to celebrate: eating pounds and pounds of fresh asparagus. It’s fine simply sauteed with olive oil and a dash of salt, but I started grabbing things out of the fridge as I was cooking to create a tasty, light coating that added juuuust enough seasoning without insulting the loveliness of the asparagus in its natural form.
To make it: Heat olive oil in a pan. Add asparagus and saute for about 5 minutes, just until they’re barely softened. Add a few squeezes of lemon juice, a little spoonful of white miso, a drizzle of honey, black pepper, and a splash of water. Toss to dissolve the miso and combine everything evenly. Finish with a pat of butter.
Winter is (finally) coming to a close, so I decided to stop by the Union Square farmers’ market last week to buy as much spring produce as I could carry home. Sadly, asparagus was nowhere to be seen because restaurants show up early and buy it all. I did get my hands on some delightfully fresh baby lettuces though, as well as a huge bunch of over-wintered kale for just $3. Overwintered kale, in case you were wondering, is kale that shows up in the spring after the plant has been left in the ground all winter. Little flower buds appear (I don’t know anything about horticulture but I read on the Internet that this is called “bolting”), and the kale is typically harvested before those flowers bloom (“going to seed”), at which point it becomes less appealing as an edible item. Bottom line for my purposes: tastes the way kale usually does, but with smaller leaves and tender (easy to eat) stems.
While I was thinking about winter ending and the ins and outs of growing food, I found a jar of sweet, gingery, tomato jam made by my in-laws with their homegrown tomatoes. Another bottom line: so delicious, and perfect with a smear of goat cheese on good bread, topped off with a pile of sauteed kale.
If you’ve ever opened up any of the cookbooks put out by the London restaurant Ottolenghi, you likely understand what I’m trying to express when I grunt and squint and tell you how beautiful I think all that food on those pages looks.
The recipe for this beet and yogurt dip is straightforward, and it’s even easier if you have beets that have already been roasted (I do big batches and freeze some) or if you spend a few extra dollars to buy beets that have already been cooked.
I love a good kale salad, especially one that packs up nicely for lunch. And if you’d rather let the pros cook for you, there is no shortage of the leafy being offered on restaurant menus these days. Northern Spy’s version uses different roasted vegetables, making this recipe adaptable to whatever looks good at the market or whatever you happen to have lying around.
Previously in kale salads:
A few weeks ago I had a reeeallly good kale Caesar and then tried to make it myself.
An original creation by yours truly.
A version that includes roasted potatoes and tahini.
This delicious ensemble of good bread, mellow goat cheese, and slightly spicy chorizo was based on an appetizer I had at Diner (one of my favorite places to eat) recently. A drizzle of honey and whole leaves of parsley boldly but harmoniously balance out the smoky, salty chorizo. To make it, layer the following from bottom to top:
- Not-too-crusty bread, sliced about 1/2-inch thick
- Soft, spreadable chevre, slathered on the bread then warmed together
- Chopped mint
- Spanish chorizo, sliced and lightly heated up in a pan
- A drizzle of honey
- Whole Italian (flat-leaf) parsley leaves
So I finally checked out this salad place called Sweetgreen (origins in DC, one location now in NYC) that I’ve been hearing about. My opinion: very tasty. And while I don’t live or work close enough to blow all my lunch money there everyday, I can at least draw some inspiration from their lovely creations. Take the kale Caesar salad, for example. Totally do-able for the home cook! Makes for a nice packed lunch (albeit with a bit of assembly)! And I love Caesar salad (previously proclaimed it on this here blog), even when it’s a departure from the traditional kind and really just means “contains Parmesan cheese.” What’s in the photo you see above:
- Kale and optional romaine lettuce, chopped or finely torn
- Some grape tomatoes, halved
- Cooked chicken breast, sliced
- Caesar-ish dressing (I just mixed garlic juice from a jar of chopped garlic with lemon juice, a dab of mayo, olive oil, salt, and lots of black pepper)
- Shaved Parmesan (or similar) cheese
- Parmesan crisps (place little piles of shredded Parmesan on a Silpat or parchment paper, bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until golden and crisp around the edges, flipping once)
- Squeeze of lime juice (I think and you probably think this could be left out)
Allow me to step back to Valentine’s Day for a second, an occasion for which we buy expensive grocery items and make ourselves really good food for dinner (in my household anyway). This year, I found a really good recipe and John did a really good job making it while I worked on other parts of the meal. I’ve been fantasizing about these scallops ever since.