Sides

Cheddar and Jalapeño Skillet Cornbread

Cheddar and Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread by Herring and Potatoes

Since writing my last recipe, I began a new (full-time) job! It’s been an all around super-exciting and awesome life move. With my focus shifted outside the kitchen, it’s meant far less time experimenting, photographing, taste-testing, and updating the blog. So, to make this happen, I blocked out time on my calendar, put the gate up so the puppy wouldn’t come in for scraps, and got to work. Some people have yoga or running, I have my kitchen. Though, after all the cheesy cornbread, I really should have yoga or something…Cheddar and Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread by Herring and Potatoes

With less time on my hands, I’m really a fan of one-pot cooking. Technically, this is a skillet plus a bowl (and a whisk, cutting board, knife, and maybe a spatula) but it’s still easy on the dishwashing. Even though winter is slooowllly beginning to ebb away, I’m still craving hearty, warm dishes that fill stomachs and souls. You could bake this up with some chili, slather it with honey butter, or spread a jam or chutney on it for breakfast.

Cheddar and Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread by Herring and Potatoes

Cheddar and Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread by Herring and Potatoes

I made a few iterations of this recipe and I can say that having everything prepped in advance will be a HUGE time and sanity saver. The longest bit of prep is mincing up the jalapeño. Make sure you don’t swipe at your eyes after. Ugh. Or don’t be like me, and wear gloves.

Cheddar and Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread by Herring and Potatoes

Once you’re passed chopping and grating it’s just bringing together a bunch of ingredients in one bowl. I know I’ve sung of my love of butter before – the way it tastes, the way it makes everything better, and the way it smells when it’s melting into the pan. Ari, does not love those things. But even a butter hater got down with this bread. I particularly love browning butter for a deeper and nuttier taste. I read many cornbread recipes and tried different techniques, but it was Melissa Clark’s recipe in the NYTimes, with her browned butter, that I couldn’t ignore. Pieces of the recipe changed in iterating, but the brown butter stayed.

Cheddar and Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread by Herring and Potatoes

Cornmeal is one of the ingredients in my kitchen that sticks around for long periods of time. It’s usually what I find when I’m sorting through half-empty bags of flour, behind the corn starch, probably balled up with the bag of chia seeds. I was really happy to find this particular bag, so I’m showing it off! It reminds me of warmer weather and shopping at the Union Square Farmer’s Market (where I got it last fall).

Cheddar and Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread by Herring and Potatoes

As an experiment, since I know many of my friends don’t have cast iron cookware, I spooned the batter into a silicone mini muffin tray and holy hell, these were fantastic!  So if the idea of cheesy, spicy, cornbread goodness inspires you – know that you don’t need fancy kitchen equipment to make it. I only experimented with two version but I have a feeling this could be done in anything bake-able.

Cheddar and Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread by Herring and Potatoes

If you do love the idea of the skillet, the perfectly cooked edges and bottom, and be able to cut your bread into slices, then get on it! I’m really into being able to crumble up the cornbread into whatever I’m eating it with (vegetarian chili here) to ensure perfect ratios in each bite. It’s the simple things. Cheddar and Jalapeno Skillet Cornbread by Herring and Potatoes

Cheddar and Jalapeño Skillet Cornbread
Ingredients
  • 3-4 jalapeños, seeds and ribs removed, minced
  • 1½ cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1½ sticks of unsalted butter
  • ½ cup honey or maple syrup or agave
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1½ cups cornmeal
  • 1½ Tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1½ tsp kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Prepare the jalapeños and cheese, and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. I love to brown it but you don't need to. I think it's worth an extra 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the melted butter into a bowl and let it cool for a minute. Don't wipe the pan - you've now greased your baking dish!
  5. Whisk in the buttermilk, sour cream, and honey (or syrup, or agave).
  6. Whisk in the eggs.
  7. Whisk or stir in the jalapeños and cheese.
  8. Whisk in all the dry ingredients until the batter is mostly smooth. Some lumps are ok!
  9. Pour the batter into your skillet to about ¾ full. If your skillet cooled off while you were gathering ingredients, warm it back up by placing it in the oven or over a flame. Anything extra batter can be baked in muffin tins or other baking vessels.
  10. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean and the top is golden brown. If you find yourself needing significantly more time, cover the top with foil and continue baking.

 

Roasted Carrot Hummus

Being somewhat home-bound these last few weeks because of an ankle sprain has been little fun. It’s also (mostly) kept me off my feet in the kitchen for long stretches of time with the exception of a private birthday dinner I had the pleasure of cooking for a client ( a meal 2 months in the making). That was going to happen regardless of this sprain or not. Thankfully, it did happen and  it was delicious and successful.

So for this week I got to thinking about what I could share on the blog that wouldn’t require my standing for prolonged periods of time. For inspiration, I dove into Instagram to see what other were doing with local, seasonal produce. It was there I saw the James Beard Foundation asking for people to share images of what they do with their food scraps, to help raise awareness and conversations around food waste.

I’ve never actually made carrot hummus before but I did recently learn (from Chef Sara Jenkins) of a delicious way to use up carrot tops which is to fry them. I’m beginning to think that the “everything is better fried” adage has a lot of truth to it.
The other thing I thought about were the carrot skins and how it shouldn’t make a difference once they’re roasted and blended up as to whether the skin is on or not. Verdict: doesn’t make a shred of difference.
It felt really good to not have a mound of food bits and pieces next to me, ready for disposal. We don’t compost here in our NYC home  (maybe one day we’ll be more adventurous) and it doesn’t feel 100% when I’m preparing a big meal and half the garbage can is full of produce ends, stems, and skins. Sometimes I can salvage some of that waste for making stock but more often than not, it just gets taken out at the end of the night.

Warning about the fried carrot tops: they are ridiculously addictive. You probably wouldn’t think so, but they’re these fresh green lightweight “chips” that are impossible to stop eating. What you see in the photo is probably a quarter or what I made. And yes, I ate them all.

One of this recipe’s most winning attributes is that it’s so easy to pull together. It’s hearty in flavor but light in texture and is a delicious twist on (what’s a staple) in our home. Also, if you know me you know I like to eat with the seasons and I love a dish that can live across them all.

Roasted Carrot Hummus
Ingredients
Hummus:
  • 1 lb. carrots
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1½ cup cooked chickpeas
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • ½ cup tahina
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (edit to taste)
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt (edit to taste)
  • 3-4 Tbsp cold water
Fried Carrot Tops:
  • Reserved carrot tops, thicker stems pulled off
  • ¼ cup of vegetable oil
  • Sea salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F
  2. Prepare the carrots to roast by cutting them into 1-inch chunks (you can totally keep those skins on!) and reserve the carrots tops for frying later. Toss with olive oil and place on a parchment paper lined tray into the oven. Roast for 15 minutes and then turn the carrots. Roast for another 10-15 min or until carrots are fully cooked but not burned. Set aside to cool slightly.
  3. If you're using canned chickpeas make sure they're rinsed and drained. Add chickpeas and carrots to food processor and process until it's at a coarse consistency. Add the garlic, tahina, lemon juice, and spices and keep the machine running until it's well combined. Slowly drizzle in the water (while it's running) until your hummus reaches the desired consistency.
  4. Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover, and set aside for at least a half hour. If not eating right away, wait till it cools and then leave it covered in the fridge for 2-3 days.
  5. When you're ready to serve hummus, wash and fully dry your carrot tops. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan to about 350°F. Only fry 1-2 pieces together at a time so they don't clump together. They will crisp up very quickly, about 30 seconds or when the bubbling dies down. Take them out and lay them on a paper towel to drain. Lightly sprinkle sea salt over the pieces as they come out of the oil.
  6. Use the fried tops to garnish the hummus along with any other seasonings and oils you'd like! I used a chili olive oil and sumac along with the carrot tops on mine. Dip away!

Grilled Apricots with Cardamom Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

Dear Oven,

It’s not you, it’s me. I’m not saying we should fully break up, but maybe just take a little time off? Perhaps see other appliances?

You’re really awesome and I have so much fun with you, but recently things have been tough. Every time we come together I get all cranky and sweaty and you kind of just sit there, pushing all that heat into an already hot room.

I know there isn’t much you can do about that so maybe we’ll just come back together in the fall when we’ve each had some time to cool off?

Let me know,

Sarit

It’s too hot. Or at least it was this past week. And all my cooking plans melted away as I lay around wishing for a cold pool to magically appear. (It didn’t)

Instead, I turned to the stovetop to grill up these amazing farm-fresh apricots.

Grilling fruit is always a good idea. It caramelizes the surface and transforms the texture. Peaches, plums, pineapple…seriously everything.

I wanted to create a perfect summery bite that was savory and sweet. I’ve been experimenting for different dinners and events coming up, and I’m happy to report this recipe is a keeper.

What I love about this recipe is that it straddles the line between salad/app and dessert. The pepperiness of the arugula and basil meet with the sweetness of the fruit and honey. The cheese makes it hearty and creamy and the nuts add texture and the bridge between savory and sweet. You can tell, I’ve thought a lot about this.
In making this, I had one of those really great neighbor moments. When I was pulling my ingredients together, I couldn’t find my cardamom pods. I turned my kitchen inside out, but they didn’t surface. I texted Ari who replied “I don’t remember ever seeing cardamom pods”. Then I wondered if I made them up. So I reached out to my friend and neighbor asking her if she had what I needed, and she did! I popped over and fell all neighborly as I borrowed her jar of cardamom.

Of course, later that night when I was cleaning up the kitchen I found the pods hiding in a bowl I would never have checked. Maybe it’s time to get more organized?

Speaking of neighbors, the honey I used for this came from a friend (and sort of neighbor…in NYC at least) who keeps bees in Brooklyn. It’s so cool (and delicious) to use “homemade” honey. High fives for awesome friends!

These bites are perfectly summery and would go with anything. Fo reals.

So have you been to your farmer’s market recently? What have you bought and what summery foods are you making?

Grilled Apricots with Cardamom Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts

 
Grilled Apricots with Cardamom Goat Cheese and Hazelnuts
Ingredients
  • 6-7 apricots
  • Olive oil
  • Sea Salt
  • 4 oz goat cheese, left at room temp for half an hour
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom
  • 1.5 Tbsp honey
  • ¼ cup of hazelnuts/filberts, toasted, peeled, and crushed
  • Basil (8-10 leaves)
  • Arugula
Instructions
  1. Fire up your grill or griddle (I bet a George Foreman would work too) to a medium heat.
  2. Slice apricots top to bottom and remove pits. Brush the cut side with olive oil and lay on the griddle cut side down. Let it cook 8-10 minutes. It will release itself when it's done. If it's done but won't come off the grill use a little more oil on the next batch. As they come off the heat, sprinkle a little sea salt over them. Set aside to cool.
  3. Place your goat cheese in a large bowl and, using a hand mixer, beat it for a couple of minutes until it breaks down and becomes creamy. Add the cardamom and ½ Tbsp of honey to the cheese and blend together well.
  4. Using a teaspoon measure, scoop out little balls of cheese and stuff the apricot halves. Crack a little fresh black pepper over each half.
  5. Tightly roll up the basil leaves together and cut thin ribbons.
  6. Place arugula on a plate and arrange the apricot halves with cheese on top. Sprinkle the hazelnuts and basil over the apricots and arugula. Drizzle remaining honey over the dish. Serve warm or at room temperature. If you refrigerate these, let them come to room temp before serving otherwise the goat cheese will be more crumbly and less creamy.

Summer Cherry Salad

Things that come from the ground are my friends. All year round I’m steaming, frying, roasting, chopping, and devouring tons of fresh produce. Salads however I have a complicated relationship with. I rarely crave a simple salad unless it’s over 90 degrees outside. I’m a little envious of the people who actually look excited while in the lunch line for their custom salad creations.

But when it gets hot, all I want are salads.

Total side note: Mark Bittman put something together years ago that’s still my summer salad bible. Behold: 101 Simple Salads for the Season

Cherries have arrived, and as my favorite summer fruit (well, they tie for first with blueberries), they get plenty of special attention.

When Ari and I visited Turkey a couple years back we got to know cherries through new eyes. They were used in so many recipes, drinks, and candies and even as fresh fruit chasers after downing a shot of raki. Many of my favorite Turkish dishes were perfectly crafted combinations of sweet and sour, or sweet and tart. Cherries fit that profile so nicely and this salad is a twist on a Turkish one.

The salad also has pomegranate molasses in it, which if you haven’t read many of my posts, is one of my all-time favorite ingredients (which I first learned about in Istanbul).  I really recommend stocking your pantry with it, you’ll find so many delicious uses for it!

Something else you might have heard me sing the praises of is a cherry pitter. Once upon a time I thought it was a silly kitchen tool that I didn’t need cluttering my precious drawer space. Oh how I was wrong! This little tool has come in so handy both with cherries and with olives. It keeps whatever you’re pitting intact and beautiful. Trust me. Get it. You’ll use it.
The original recipe calls for a chili that I’m not familiar with (and can’t find), so I’ve substituted jalapeño’s which add a good heat to what’s already sweet, tart, savory, and fresh. (Is fresh an ok word to describe cilantro? Only answer that if, to you, cilantro doesn’t taste like soap.)
I’m adding this salad to my list of good things for outdoor eating. Well, maybe not for the White Picnic (my grace+cherries = irreparably stained clothing), but for all other gatherings in parks and backyards. Happy Summer Salad Season to all!
Summer Cherry Salad
Ingredients
  • 1lb cherries, pitted
  • ⅔ cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped
  • ⅓ of a bunch of cilantro
  • ½ a jalapeño, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1.5 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Mix together the cherries, walnuts, cilantro, and jalapeño in a large bowl.
  2. Add the dressing components directly to the bowl and stir together.
  3. Chill for an hour before serving. Restrain self from eating  the whole bowl.

Green Bean and Asparagus Tempura with Blood Orange Aioli

Once all my Passover kitchen things were carefully packed away, I started in on all flour-based products really hard. I’m pretty sure that’s why I had a cold the whole week of the holiday: bread withdrawal. (That could totally be a thing, right?)

Somewhere in between matzah and a couple strangely cold days, Spring showed up. The whole city is buzzing with renewed energy and the promise of warmer weather. The best part of all this is the fresh and local produce starting to appear at farmer’s markets and groceries.

This week I combined the two things I was just so excited to have back in my life: fresh greens and flour!

Tempura is something that I love to eat but haven’t ever made. Recently, I’ve started ordering it more often at Japanese restaurants. It’s rarely overly greasy and usually it’s a great balance of flavor, texture, and acid (in the dipping sauce/vinegar) to start a meal off on the right foot.

For this tempura, I wanted to create a dip to pair well with the fresh greens. I’m a sucker for mayonnaise based sauces with fried foods and went with the gorgeous brightness (in taste and color) of the blood orange to provide the acidity that comes alongside a classic tempura dish. You could also use the citrus of your choosing for similar results!

Normally I would be all about making my own aioli/mayo as the base, but in the interest of saving time to focus on making the tempura, I went with ready-made mayonnaise. It’s so easy to add ingredients to it, to quickly kick it up.

The last year has been the first year that I’ve gotten into frying. The one tool that helped me concur my fear of frying? A thermometer. Seriously. Before, there was no way to know when the oil was hot enough and now I have a clear way of being sure.

While eating tons of fried food probably isn’t the way to go, knowing how to fry is a great tool to whip out when you need to add some punch to your weekly menus. The textures you can create in bubbling hot oil just aren’t replicable through other cooking methods.

Tempura is such a unique texture too. This recipe in particular, results in a thin batter coating, but fried at the right temperature and for long enough leaves the vegetable perfectly cooked with an amazingly light and crunchy exterior.

Since it’s usually just me in the kitchen as I put together the blog, I get to do most of the eating. I was a little hesitant about polishing off most of the tempura for lunch, but it was filling and delicious without that heavy, oily feeling you can get after eating a plate of fried food. I’m definitely going to break this recipe out as an appetizer or snack for large groups of people and maybe experiment with cubes of fish or meat too!

Tempura recipe from Saveur’s Website 
Green Bean and Asparagus Tempura with Blood Orange Aioli
Ingredients
Blood Orange Aioli
  • 1 Garlic clove
  • ½ cup Mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp (scant) Blood orange zest
  • 1½ Tbsp Blood orange juice
  • 1 tsp Olive oil
  • Salt to taste
Green Bean and Asparagus Tempura (This recipe makes a lot of batter! I used about a quarter of it for 10 stalks of asparagus and 20 green beans)
  • Asparagus and green beans
  • 1.5-2 quarts Canola or Vegetable Oil
  • ¼ cup Sesame Oil
  • 2 Egg yolks
  • 2 cups Ice cold water + ¼ cup ice
  • 2 cups Flour plus a little extra for dredging (optional) The original recipe calls for cake flour as its low-protein and will help reduce the gluten development. I used AP flour with great results.
  • Salt to finish
Instructions
Make the Aioli:
  1. In a small food processor, chop up the garlic. (If you don't have a machine to mix this in, you can do it by hand but make sure the garlic is crushed very finely.)
  2. Add the mayo, mustard, zest, and juice to the bowl and blend together until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and mix it once more. Salt to taste.
  3. Put it in the fridge while you make the tempura and allow the flavors to meld.
Make the Tempura:
  1. Wash and thoroughly dry your vegetables. Trim the ends. For the asparagus, pick uniformly thick stalks so that they will cook evenly. I chose the thinnest ones in the bunch.
  2. Set up a sheet pan lined with paper towels to drain the tempura on after cooking.
  3. Begin to heat up your canola or vegetable oil in a deep heavy-bottomed pan or cast iron pan to 350°.
  4. While the oil is heating, make your batter.
  5. Mix the two egg yolks with the water in a mixing bowl and add ¼ cup of the ice in with the water and egg. Keeping the batter as cold as possible will limit the development of gluten and help make your tempura crispy.*
  6. Mix in the flour - but do not overmix! The original recipe advised using chopsticks to mix the liquid and flour. I used a fork pointed downwards (so as not to beat) and left the batter with visible lumps of flour still in it.
  7. Once your oil is at the right temperature add in the ¼ cup sesame oil. If the temperature drops, wait for it to come back up.
  8. Optional: Place a little bit of flour on a plate for dredging the vegetables in before frying them to help the batter stick better. I found that the flour stuck to my green beans but not to my asparagus. Ultimately, I didn't notice much of a difference between the two.
  9. Working in small batches, dip the vegetables in the batter and then place into the hot oil. Small batches will help keep the oil temperature consistent. Cooking will be quick- about 2-3 minutes. Make sure to turn them over once when in the oil. You can also dip your fingers in the batter and sprinkle the batter over the frying vegetables to add more crunchy texture!
  10. Let the tempura drain and serve immediately with the blood orange aioli for dipping and eating awesomeness!
Notes
*You can do other things to help ensure low gluten and extra crispy tempura, like chilling your bowl before mixing the batter and also prepping everything else before making the batter so it won't stand for any length of time allowing gluten to develop.

Cherry, Mint, Almond Bulgur Salad with Fried Sesame Feta

The last two weeks have been an awesome but sleep-deprived blur. Ari and I had been looking to adopt a dog for awhile now and, after a few bloody mary’s at a friend’s birthday brunch, we decided to spend the rest of that beautiful Sunday looking at dogs at the North Shore Animal League. We’re so happy we did because we came home very late that night with Jax.

Neither myself or Ari grew up with dogs and we’re still adjusting. From walking and feeding schedules to figuring out vets and dog walkers, it’s been a busy couple weeks. But while spending so much quality time with this amazing addition to our family, I’ve spent less time in the kitchen. Not just for this blog, but for cooking for us as well.

Here’s Jax giving you some amazing puppy eyes:

Now that things are at a new normal and schedules are working themselves out, I’m back!

One thing I noticed that I gave up pretty quickly when I was tired and busy was breakfast. Which made me sad because I really love breakfast! I’m not a daily cereal and milk person and prefer eggs, vegetables, fruits, and breads in the morning along with my gigantic cup of coffee. I know, it takes a lot of efforts to put together a whole breakfast dish when you’re running around in the am, so let’s call this a weekend breakfast dish. Or a quick weeknight dinner. One that doesn’t take a ton of time…but tastes like it did.

Bulgur is a grain that I love to keep in the house because it’s just so incredibly easy to make. My favorite way is to mix the grain in the boiling water and let it sit, covered, for 20 minutes. Then drain the excess liquid and fluff up the grain. Bulgur has great texture and is light enough for salads so that it doesn’t weigh down or take over all the other ingredients.

We’re close to finally having fresher fruits, vegetables, and herbs again! I’m SO ready for spring to be here already and this recipe is partly an attempt to recreate fresh spring and summer flavors before we have them in the markets. In the summer, I might substitute fresh cherries but for now I’m using dried cherries. Truthfully, dried cherries can be pretty pricey, especially if you buy the tart ones without added sugar. Check your supermarket’s bulk section for cherries! I found them at Whole Foods and was able to buy just what I needed at a super affordable price.

Living in Astoria, I have eaten more than my fair share of fried cheese (saganaki) and hold a special place for crispy, warm, salty cheeses.

After some googling, I discovered that rolling the cheese in sesame seeds before frying has some Greek roots! While this isn’t a strictly Greek salad, it has Meditteranean flavors which, hopefully, will bring some warm weather feelings into your kitchen too.

In the meantime let’s work with what we’ve got to create bright and satisfying dishes! Break out this recipe on the weekends when you’re craving sweet, salty, and something totally satisfying but still a little healthy. (It has green in it!)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an adorable wiggly pup at my feet who’s super ready for some quality playtime!

Cherry, Mint, Almond Bulgur Salad with Fried Sesame Feta

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
Salad
  • 1 cup of bulgur wheat
  • 3 cups water
  • ⅓ cup dried cherries
  • ⅓ cup lightly toasted almond slices or slivers
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ tsp orange zest
Fried Feta
  • 2-4 slices of Greek feta cheese, ¼-1/2 inch thick
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup flour (enough to dip the feta in)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Sesame seeds (enough to coat the feta)
  • Olive oil
Instructions
  1. Either prepare the bulgur according to the package directions or bring the three cups of water to a boil in a saucepan with a pinch of salt. Once the water is at a rolling boil add the bulgur, give it a stir, cover the pot, and take it off the heat. After 20 minutes drain the remaining water, put the bulgur into a mixing bowl, and fluff it with a fork. It should be cooked but not mush. You want it to have a bite to it still. Leave it to the side to cool.
  2. Warm the orange juice slightly. It should be warm to the touch but not hot. Add the dried cherries to the orange juice to soften and absorb some of the liquid, about 10-15 min. When you take the cherries out, make sure to reserve the orange juice to incorporate back into the dressing!
  3. If your feta came in liquid take it out and pat dry. Line up three shallow dishes for the eggs, flour, and sesame seeds. Mix in the paprika and pepper with flour. Dip the feta slices first in the eggs, then the flour, then the eggs again, and finally the sesame seeds so that they cover all the sides of the cheese.
  4. In a frying pan heat up your olive oil. I used a non-stick pan and added enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and added more oil between batches. If your pan isn't non-stick I would add a couple more tablespoons of oil.
  5. Fry the feta about 2-3 minutes on each side over medium heat. The sesame should be a golden brown but not burnt. Lay the feta on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
  6. Mix together the bulgur, cherries, mint, and almonds and spoon into serving dish. Lay a piece of fried feta on top.
  7. In a small saucepan warm the honey over medium-low heat and whisk in the orange juice. Let them warm together about a minute. Take off the heat and whisk in the orange zest.
  8. Pour the dressing over the feta cheese so it drips down over the salad and serve!

Vegetarian Bao

Whether you call them Bao, Baozi, or Bau, these doughy buns can be filled with any delicious combination of ingredients that strikes your fancy. Meats slathered in sauce are traditional but I’ve made these with roasted vegetables, mushrooms, and today, some more traditional Chinese flavors in honor of Lunar New Year.

Truthfully, I made these on the New Year but spent last week completely immersed in some work stuffs and an amazing EatWith dinner we hosted last Friday night. Gathered at our table was probably the most varied group of people we’ve had to date. Our guests were incredibly interesting folks who represented different generations and countries. I was so thrilled to be sharing our table with them.

Even though we’re about a week late (on the blog) to celebrate Chinese New Year, bao are an anytime food. I’m even working on crafting some breakfast bao – which is how they’re usually eaten! For breakfast that is, not necessarily with the egg yolk I’m trying to engineer to stay inside the bao. The dough is pillowy, sweet, and takes on the flavors of what you choose to fill it with.
They also take very little time to make and would serve as a great snack or as hors d’oeuvres at your next party since they fit so nicely in a hand and, depending what you put inside, aren’t terribly messy.
It’s also a good to make them when other people are around because they’re best when eaten right away and, trust me, you’ll feel pretty terrible after  eating a (nearly) full batch of them.

You don’t need any special equipment to make these happen. I use a metal steamer basket in a stock pot to steam them. Every time I walk down the Bowery I’m eying the bamboo steamer boxes but I have limited enough space already and the same piece of equipment that steams my broccoli does a find job of steaming my buns…er, bao!

Next time you have a couple of hours free, give these a shot. It takes a little practice filling and sealing the buns and the day that I made these I was a bit out of practice. Here’s a video that beautifully demonstrates how to create the petal-like seal. I might be making some more of these soon to work on my form. Keep an eye on my Instagram account (@SaritWish) for more bao soon! Did you do or eat anything special to celebrate the Lunar New Year?

Vegetarian Bao

Serves: 8 Buns

Ingredients
  • 2 cups white all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp instant yeast
  • 4 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil (or you can use another oil if you don't have sesame!)
  • ½ cup warm (not hot!) water
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Drizzle in the sesame oil and mix lightly. Add the water and mix together. As the dough begins to come together, take it out of the bowl and onto a surface to knead. Knead until smooth (a few minutes).
  3. Place the dough ball into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place it in a larger bowl that has a couple inches of hot water at the bottom and place the bowls in the oven (I like to warm it to 170°F or the lowest temp and shut it off) or in a warm, draft-free place for a half an hour or until the dough doubles in size.
  4. Meanwhile, make your filling. I don't have an exact recipe to share here but I used a combination of steamed boy choy, shitake mushrooms, and scallions all chopped up and tossed with some chile pepper, minced ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and hoisin sauce and threw some crushed peanuts on top before sealing up the bao. Throw in some roasted veggies is or sauté some eggplant or tofu! Mix up whatever ingredients you have on hand and let the bao be your delicious blank canvas.
  5. Once the dough has risen, take it out and lightly press the air out of it. Divide into 8 equal pieces, and with a little oil on your palms, roll into balls and place them under a wet kitchen towel to rest for about 10-15 min.
  6. While the dough is resting again get your steaming vessel ready. I used a stockpot with a few inches of boiling water and my metal steamer basket. You can also use a bamboo basket or rice cooker. Also, cut out 8 squares of parchment or wax paper. You'll place your buns on the paper to keep them from sticking during steaming.
  7. After 10-15 min, once the buns are well rested and have puffed up a little more, you're ready to fill! Roll out each ball in a circle to about 4/4.5 inches in diameter. Try to leave the center of the circle a little thicker to help hold your filling. Place a small ball of your filling in the middle and begin to seal the bao by pleating along the edges.
  8. Unless you have a very large steamer you'll need to work in batches. If you're using a steamer basket like a did, place the buns with their paper bottoms in the basket. Drape a towel over the top and then cover the pot with the lid. The towel will help keep the steam inside! Let them steam for about 15 min-18 min.
  9. Take them out carefully, wait a couple minutes so they cool a little, and enjoy!

Fennel Citrus Salad and Cured Salmon with a Grapefruit Vinaigrette

Remember last week when I baked English Muffins and then made Salmon Eggs Benedict? Well, I was patting myself on the back quite a bit for that and said to Ari how cool it was that I made almost everything on the plate from scratch, except the smoked salmon.

So that got me thinking about what goes into curing salmon and could I do it on my own?! Just so you know how my brain works – when it comes to food, my stubbornness and curiosity know no bounds. Now if only I could apply that to other areas in my life…

Anyhow, ’bout that salmon: it turns out that it isn’t at all hard to do.

It takes, literally, minutes to put together. Most of the work happens in the time it sits in the refrigerator under a few pounds of weight. Mind you, this isn’t smoked (I wonder if I could do that at home?), but rather cured. You’re pressing out most of the moisture and infusing it with fresh dill and parsley flavors as well as lemon zest, salt, and sugar. The texture is similar to lox but the flavor is different.
Please don’t judge me for the hack job on slicing the fish! I don’t have the right knife yet. Though my birthday is coming up soon…

Since I’d already done enough talking about Eggs Benedict, I wanted to create something that could showcase the salmon as well as the all the beautiful citrus flavors of the season.

I decided to incorporate the salmon into a classic fennel/citrus salad and use dijon mustard in the dressing to pull it all together. I am a HUGE fan of mustard and knew that it would play nicely with both the fish and salad.

Funny story, a few weeks back I came home to a ginormous box of grapefruits and oranges at my front door. These were a surprise gift from someone who likes me. (I have to specify they were from a friend, because when you open a box and see the massive amount of fruit you have to fit in your NYC sized refrigerator it’s hard to tell the spirit they were sent in.) It’s been fun using them up in different and creative ways!

Obviously you don’t have to cure your own salmon to make this dish. The salad can be served on its own and/or you can buy cured or smoked salmon. I chose to put slices under the salad instead of in it because I preferred controlling the amount of salmon per bite, and the pieces caught the dressing drippings perfectly.

In the spirit of being adventurous in our kitchens, do you have something you want to make just to see if you can? Or have you done it already? I’d love to hear about your epic kitchen moments! 

Fennel Citrus Salad and Cured Salmon with a Grapefruit Vinaigrette by Herring and Potatoes

Recipe for Salmon from CHOW: Cured Salmon 
I didn’t have white peppercorns so I upped the lemon zest (almost a whole lemon for a half pound of fish) and it came out great!

Fennel Citrus Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette
Ingredients
  • 1 small bulb of fennel, reserve the tops (fronds)
  • 1-2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 small shallot or ¼ of a red onion
  • 1 grapefruit, supremed (cutting the segments out: here is a good how-to) and reserve the juice
  • 1-2 blood oranges, supremed
  • Small handful of cilantro
  • ¼ cup fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard (cut to 2 tsp if it's too sharp)
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Slice the fennel very thinly on a mandolin or with a knife. Toss the fennel with a little salt and lemon juice and set aside.
  2. Slice the shallot or red onion very thinly on the mandolin, or with a knife. Add to the fennel along with the fruit segments.
  3. Chop the cilantro and add to the salad.
  4. Whisk together the grapefruit juice, mustard, honey, and olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Dress the salad with half the dressing at first and taste before adding more. You want the dressing to be light but enough that you can really taste it!
  6. Serve the salad with pieces of the fennel fronds on top and slices of the cured salmon underneath.

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Farro Risotto by Herring and Potatoes

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

The first time I heard about farro was on a cooking show like Chopped or Top Chef where the contestants are thrown unfamiliar ingredients for their challenge and have to create something brilliant. I remember googling farro then and not finding a ton of information about what it was. Now you can google “farro” and find out way more than a few years ago but it’s still not the most popular of grains.More and more I’m seeing it on menus and on shelves in grocery stores. In the past year, since I’ve started cooking with it, we’ve had it in stuffings, salads, and now (finally!) risotto. It’s a nutty grain that’s toothsome and hearty. It complements fall and winter flavors so well and I have a feeling it will do very well in the summer with light cheeses and fresh fruits. Farro is also high in protein, fiber, and iron, making it a great substitute for rices and other grains.

Most recipes will recommend soaking your farro before cooking it to help soften it and cook it faster. One night, in a stretch of being supremely lazy, I decided to try making a risotto without soaking it first. Not that I mind extra steps, but in order for it to qualify as a quick weeknight meal, it needed to have as few steps as possible. It took a few minutes more to get to the consistency that I wanted it at, but my supremely lazy self was victorious! And then, to celebrate, I ate too much risotto.

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Risotto wasn’t a food I was familiar with until a few years ago. I honestly didn’t eat a lot of rice dishes growing up, mostly because I thought rice was super bland. This bizarre prejudice lasted many years, and carried over to Risotto. I thought, ‘Why would anyone want to eat a big bowl of mushy rice?!”. I can’t remember when I had my first taste but it immediately changed everything I thought I knew about the dish. It was cheesy, creamy, and perfectly filling.

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

The first time I made a risotto I was nervous about how it would come together. I labored over every step and double, then triple, checked recipes to make sure I was doing it right. Would it not get creamy? Would I add the stock too soon? How will I know when it’s done? The final dish was super delicious and since that first stressful experience, I’ve created many risottos on the fly, because as it turns out, risotto is a pretty easy dish to pull together.

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Another bonus about making a risotto is that it’s a solid way to use up produce in the fridge. My other two favorite ways are frittata’s and big bowls of pasta. They make great ‘anything goes’ sorts of dishes.But this version – this is my ideal bowl of winter food. Portobello mushrooms, squash roasted until it’s spreadable, dark leafy greens, fresh herbs, and generous amounts of parmesan cheese make it what I want to eat too much of on a cold night.

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

If you’ve never made a risotto, I’m here to tell you that it isn’t difficult. You will not mess it up. It will be delicious. You don’t need fancy one-time-use ingredients to win at this dish and it won’t take up hours of your time. Once the farro exists in your cupboard start browsing online for all sorts of recipes and tips on how to dress it up differently, or just swap it out where you would normally use rice or barley. I’m seriously crushing so hard on farro these days. After you make this, let me know if you want to start a farro fan club….I have this idea for T-shirts…

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Farro Risotto With Squash, Mushrooms, and Kale

Serves: Serves 3-4

Ingredients
  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (1 for roasting, 1 for the risotto)
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • ½ cup white wine (a dry wine, like a Pinot Grigio)
  • 6 cups of stock, I used all vegetable stock for this but a mix of mushroom and vegetable is delicious too
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ¼-1/2 cup roasted squash (if using a sweeter squash like a Butternut use less, I also recommend a less sweet Delicata squash for this!)
  • 1 Portobello mushroom cap, roasted or grilled and sliced into small cubes
  • ½-3/4 packed cup of shredded kale
  • 6-8 sage leaves, finely chopped
  • Red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Halve a squash and place on a lined baking sheet, skin side down. If roasting the portobello, clean and place on the baking sheet as well. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over them. After 20 min check on your vegetables- the mushroom will cook faster. Depending on the squash you are using it can take anywhere from 25 min - 1 hr to fully roast. You want the flesh of the squash to be like a puree, and spreadable. You will be mixing it into the risotto later and it needs to be completely soft. You can also blend it up to give it that consistency.
  3. Pour your stock into a pot and get it hot. Once heated through, lower the heat to a simmer and ;eave it on the stove. You'll need your stock hot as you add it to the risotto.
  4. Place a pan (sauté or cast iron or any large pan with higher sides) on medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the minced onion and garlic and sauté 3-4 minutes until slightly softened and fragrant.
  5. Add the farro and continue cooking 3 minutes, stirring constantly. The goal is to lightly toast the farro. If you were using Arborio rice you would keep going until the rice became translucent, but the farro won't do that.
  6. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until most of the wine evaporates.
  7. Now you can begin adding your stock. Start with 2 cups of stock added to the pan. Keep stirring constantly until most of the stock is absorbed. Going forward add an additional 1 cup of stock at a time, stirring until mostly absorbed between additions. This is a great time to call your parents. It will take 35-45 minutes of stirring and adding stock.
  8. Taste the risotto towards the end of the stock in the pot. Farro will not lose it's bite entirely, but it will soften a lot. When the consistency is where you want it, lower the heat. I usually have about ½ cup of stock left but it's not an exact science.
  9. Stir in the cup of cheese until it is well incorporated. Add the squash and do the same. It will take a little careful maneuvering but the squash should distribute nicely, and just sort of melt into the risotto.
  10. Add in the kale and carefully mix it in, allowing it to wilt into the risotto. Stir in the mushrooms and sage. Sprinkle in the red pepper flakes to your liking and salt/pepper to taste.
  11. Serve and eat immediately; risotto is best when eaten right away. (Which is great if you're like me, and aren't very good at waiting!)

Carrot Cauliflower Soup and Roasted Chickpeas

Carrots and radishes are two vegetables that I can’t walk by in a farmers market without wanting to buy them all up and bring them home with me. They’re always stacked so beautifully, and their rainbow of colors against green leaves make me all sorts of happy. What happens next, of course, is that I end up with these large bunches of radishes and carrots and no plans of how to eat them.

This recipe is great way to put a big bunch of carrots to use and is, scouts honor, incredibly easy to get together. (For finishing up radishes, my personal favorite is on a open faced sandwich, thinly sliced and salted, on top of thick buttered bread.)

I know talking about the weather is all sorts of boring, but it really does play a big part in how I eat. I, and many of you I’m sure, eat with the seasons. Light salads and fruits for snack in the summer; carb/comfort food loading in the winter. Fall is for apples, warm spices, roots, and squashes. But the weather has been super wonky lately, leading me to fluctuate between summer and fall foods. 80 degrees in October is just mean. Pfth.

So, instead of a squash based soup, which would be my typical fall go-to, I went with carrot and cauliflower but brought in all the warm fall spices. It’s a soup for all seasons!

One of my pantry staples is canned chickpeas. They’re great for quickly mixing up some chummus, adding something extra to a salad, or just warmed with black pepper and salt (a classic 1930’s Lower East Side street snack). For this soup, I wanted a topping that would add texture AND be a vehicle for more spice. I’m not typically a fan of roasting chickpeas, but with enough time in the oven these turned out really well. Such a good snack! I had to stop myself from finishing them before the soup was ready.

Carrots and cauliflower are delicious vegetables, but when they’re sitting in a stock, simmering away, they lose some of their flavors. To kick this soup up, you’ll need to break out your spice arsenal and really pack a punch. This is no time to be spice shy!

This soup has the right balance of spice with a creamy (and cream-less) texture. Plus you get to break out the immersion blender (or whatever blender you use) to pull it all together. When I was growing up my mom didn’t use an immersion blender and now as an adult, it’s one of my favorite kitchen appliances; I still get giddy watching soups transform under its magical powers.

While writing this post, and feeling grumpy about the weather, I peeked ahead and saw all the “right” temperatures coming up later in the week. Doing a happy fall dance now and going to go make myself a bowl of soup.

Carrot Cauliflower Soup and Roasted Chickpeas

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
Soup
  • 1 Bunch of carrots (about 1 pound)
  • 1 Small head of cauliflower (about 1 pound) (both my carrots and cauliflower were a little over a pound)
  • 1 Small to Medium sized yellow onion
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • ¾ tsp Ground cumin
  • ½ tsp Curry Powder (I use a mild curry)
  • ¼ tsp Ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 3 Cups Stock (I used a vegetable stock but chicken would also be great here)
  • 1½ Tbsp Honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Plain Greek yogurt (optional)
Chickpeas
  • 1 Can of Chickpeas (15.5 oz), drained and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala**
  • ¼ tsp Cayenne (If you like heat add another ¼ tsp!)
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
Instructions
  1. Slice the carrots into half inch discs or chop into small cubes. Break the cauliflower down to small florets. Put aside.
  2. Place a soup pot on the stove over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Dice the onion and garlic and add it to the pot when hot and sauteé them until they are translucent and soft - about 5-6 minutes.
  3. Add the carrot and cauliflower and the spices (including a little kosher salt and fresh pepper but not the honey!). Stir so that the spices are distributed over all the vegetables in the pot. Add the stock and bring to a boil. When it boils cover the pot and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for 40 minutes.
  4. While the soup is cooking make your chickpeas. Preheat oven to 400°F
  5. Toss chickpeas with the olive oil and spices and spread them out in an even layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 40 minutes and turn the chickpeas over at the 20-minute mark. They'll be done when they have a little crunch on the outside but still a little soft on the inside.
  6. Test the carrots in the soup. If you can break them easily with a spoon or fork you're ready to blend it. Use an immersion blender (or your favorite blending method) and blend all the contents of the pot. Halfway through add the honey and continue to blend. Taste for salt and pepper.
  7. Garnish with your favorite greens and herbs and a dollop of yogurt. Sprinkle the chickpeas on the top. I dare you not to Instagram this.
Notes
**Garam Masala is an Indian spice blend that has turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, cardamom, and cumin. It's an awesome versatile spice but if you don't have it on hand make a little mix of these individual flavors or similar ones. Seriously, you can't go wrong when making this soup.