Vegetarian

Radish Panzanella Salad

radish7

Before you get upset that this doesn't feature tomatoes, please know I LOVE tomatoes. My home has been filled with them all summer in a ton of different forms; cherry, heirloom, beefsteak, plum, etc.. And if you're wondering why I would even mention tomatoes, a traditional Panzanella is overflowing with summer-ripe tomatoes. This is not a traditional Panzanella. radish9 My Bubbe (grandmother), had a thing for radishes. She used to eat them raw and sprinkled with a little salt and I carry on that snacking tradition. But it's hard to eat a whole bunch of radishes on your own...even if they're tasty and refreshing right out of the fridge on a hot summer day. radish2 A few weeks back, when I was deciding what to do with the radishes left in the fridge, I remembered another refreshing summer treat: Panzanella salad. And so my heat-baked mind decided to combine the two and try something new. radish4 If you have any crusty stale bread laying around, this is a great way to use it up. I did not have 2-day old bread on hand (because honestly, fresh bread doesn't last that long in my kitchen) so I went out and bought a beautiful sourdough loaf. It did mean I had to turn on the oven to toast it. Summer, oven, extra heat...hooray! (insert eye-roll here) radish6 Cranking up the oven aside, this is such a great last-minute salad that doesn't require a ton of input for awesome output. Even though it's best the day of I took it with us to our new house up in the Catskills and was munching on it well into the weekend! Oh yeah, we bought a house in the Catskills 🙂  Between my amazing job and the search/purchase/fixing up of the house, my time has been a little stretched thin. That is to say: I wish I could be blogging more than I have been. It's really awesome to be here now! radish7 The nice thing about using radishes here is the combination of spice and refreshment they add to a salad. I really dug this without adding tomatoes (I've been eating them like they're going out of style, and well I guess with Fall on the horizon they kinda are...) but you can totally add them back in or anything else that strikes your fancy! This is definitely a "by taste" sort of recipe - test out different amount of herb and vegetables till it tastes right to you and you can totally think of the bread, herbs, and dressing as a base for something different on the dinner table. Enjoy! radish8
Radish Panzanella Salad
Ingredients
  • ½ loaf of bread (I prefer a ciabatta or sourdough)
  • 1 clove of garlic (optional)
  • 4-5 radishes (mixed types)
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and sliced
  • 1 small shallot or ¼ red onion, thinly sliced
  • Handful of parsley, chopped
  • Handful of basil, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 1 Tbsp capers
  • ½ tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1½ Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Optional: slice garlic clove in half and rub the raw garlic on slices of bread to add an extra layer of flavor.
  3. Slice bread into cubes (or tear into chunks) - think bite size, about 1 inch or smaller.
  4. Place bread on parchment paper lined baking sheet and toss with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. You want the bread to be mostly coated, but not soaking.
  5. Place in oven and bake 15-17 minutes until bread is firm/toasted/golden but not browned/burnt. When finished, place the bread cubes on a rack to cool.
  6. Slice radishes thinly, either by hand or with a mandolin (although mandolin will get it perfectly thin!) and place in a bowl along with sliced and seeded cucumber, thinly sliced shallot or red onion, chopped parsley, ribbons of basil, capers, and toasted bread.
  7. Make dressing! Mix together mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  8. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss. Let it sit at least a half hour before serving so the bread can soak up some of the amazing dressing and everything comes together.

 

Cauliflower Pizza by Herring and Potatoes

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

Cauliflower Pizza by Herring and Potatoes

I eat lots of flour products. I bake bread on a weekly basis and pasta is often the center of a meal. But I also eat (and love!) veggies. Once upon a time, I probably would have scoffed at someone trying to pass off cauliflower as a classic pizza crust substitute. But A. the times and general population eating habits have changed. B. Just because this is called pizza doesn’t mean other pizza doesn’t exist (Oh. Wait. Be right back…need to confirm the truth of that last statement) …

Cauliflower Pizza by Herring and Potatoes

Yup. It’s true. {Wipes crumbs off mouth}
And C. There is no better name for this, that I can think of, than Pizza.

One of the many cool things about cauliflower is that it is a bit of a chameleon. Cauliflower’s texture is easily manipulated and it is a fantastic canvas for all sorts of flavors.

Take for instance the photo below:

Cauliflower Pizza by Herring and Potatoes

You can stop after you toss the cauliflower into a food processor and make this into a “couscous” or “rice”. You can quickly steam the cauliflower in a pan to release some moisture and then sauté it with other veggies and herbs or nuts and dried fruit to make a delicious (and unique!) side dish.

Cauliflower Pizza by Herring and Potatoes Cauliflower Pizza by Herring and Potatoes

If you’re going the full pizza route, you need to get as much moisture out as you can. I’ve made the crust before and even though it’s still delicious when you make it without squeezing it within an inch of its life, it won’t hold its shape as well after baking. Plus this is a great de-stress activity (or a fun activity for little hands!).

Cauliflower Pizza by Herring and Potatoes

Once the cauliflower is prepped it’s smooth sailing to the finish line.

Cauliflower Pizza by Herring and Potatoes

Go all out on toppings. These guys can stand up to them. In honor of fall, I roasted some butternut squash and added goat cheese, pepitas, and little strips of kale for one pizza and went classic mushroom and mozzarella with a tomato sauce for the other.

Let me know what other amazing flavor combos you come up with that make this pizza shine!

Cauliflower Pizza by Herring and Potatoes

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Ingredients
  • 1 small cauliflower (about 1 pound)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ⅛-1/4 tsp cayenne (depending on how much heat you like)
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Chop cauliflower into florets. Remove all core pieces and the largest stem pieces.
  2. Place the florets into a food processor in small batches so that you won't end up with large untouched chunks. Quickly process until the cauliflower resembles couscous or rice (about 10 seconds). Place the cauliflower into a large bowl once it's been processed.
  3. Pour the ¼ cup of water over the cauliflower and tightly cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap.
  4. Using your microwave (you can also quickly boil the pieces or steam then in a pan with a little water) microwave for 4 minutes. Let it stand, still covered for another 2 minutes.
  5. Carefully remove from microwave and let it cool (enough that you can work with it, but you need it to still be warm) about 10 minutes.
  6. While waiting, preheat oven to 400°F
  7. Remove the cauliflower from the bowl onto a clean kitchen towel, wrap tightly, and squeeze out all the water you can. This will help ensure crispy and strong crust later.
  8. Place the cauliflower into a mixing bowl and add all the remaining ingredients. Mix until well combined.
  9. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  10. With a 1lb cauliflower, you can make 4 individual size pizzas or create larger shapes (they will be a little more difficult to flip, but can be done!) Using your hands portion out the cauliflower onto the baking sheet into the shape you want - it will hold together! Make sure it maintains a consistent thickness all the way around.
  11. Bake 10 minutes on one side and then flip. Bake another 10 minutes, or until golden, on the other side.
  12. Remove and add toppings. Bake again until your cheese is melted and/or you can't wait any longer to eat it.

 

Balilah Salad with Bulgur

Balilah Salad with Bulgur by Herring & Potatoes

There’s been a lot of awesome recently. A few of the good stuffs: Rosh Hashanah meals and family gatherings, fall weather slowly rolling in, and an updated blog! After a year of writing recipes, taking photos, and putting together posts it was time for some changes. I’m shouting out a million thanks to Ari who created the new blog and transferred everything other for me.

He heard my groaning over lack of functionality on the last site and did all the things that I don’t know how to do to build this new site. Amazeballs. Thank you.

Balilah Salad with Bulgur by Herring & Potatoes

Now that I have this shiny new blog, it’s time for a shiny new recipe.

I first read about this salad in Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook Jerusalem, and really liked the simplicity but heartiness of it. Many middle eastern salads satisfy that possibility: simple to make and a substantial side dish.

Balilah Salad with Bulgur by Herring & Potatoes

In reworking this recipe, I added even more to it by introducing bulgur as part of the mix. Often, when I’m cooking for just us during the week, I’m not making multiple salads and side dishes. A side dish like this allows me to add a piece of protein to it and call it a meal.

Balilah Salad with Bulgur by Herring & Potatoes

This salad is also really flexible and doesn’t demand that you follow it exactly. Add a new ingredient like red onion or arugula or throw in more or less cumin or lemon juice. The ingredients aren’t expensive and it doesn’t take a lot of time to prepare; a recipe like this is great because it can help home cooks to build confidence in their taste buds and cooking abilities!

Now I’m going to finish off the last of my apple-raisin challah and take some time to reflect on the most excellent way this new year is beginning.

Balilah Salad with Bulgur by Herring & Potatoes

Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Recipe

Balilah Salad with Bulgur

Serves: 3-4 Servings

Ingredients
  • ½ cup of bulgur
  • 4 scallions in thinly sliced rounds
  • ¾ cup parsley
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup cooked (or from a can) chickpeas
  • 2½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Fresh pepper
  • 1.5-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Boil 1.5 cups of water on the stove. Stir in the bulgur, shut the heat, cover, and let sit 12-15 minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed. After 12-15 minutes drain the bulgur, fluff with a fork, and let it sit out uncovered.
  2. Roughly chop the parsley. Add it and the sliced scallions to a mixing bowl.
  3. Supreme the lemon (see the photo above) by slicing off the skin and pith and removing the sections. Chop up the lemon flesh (make sure you don't have any seeds in it) and add it to the mixing bowl. Reserve the rest of the lemon for juicing later.
  4. Over medium-low heat, warm a little olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the chickpeas, 2 tsp cumin, ½ tsp salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper and toss until all the chickpeas are coated in the spice and warmed through. You don't want to cook them again.
  5. Add the chickpeas and the bulgur to the mixing bowl with the scallions, parsley and lemon.
  6. Drizzle the olive oil, add a ½ tsp more cumin, and squeeze the rest of the lemon juice over all the ingredients.
  7. Toss well and taste for seasoning.
  8. Serve warm or room temperature.

 

Eggplant Involtini with Pistachios and Currants

Things you should know about me: I didn’t like tomato sauces until a few years ago and cheese and I are waaay too close of friends. Like Liz Lemon close.

I’m not sure what came first last week, a craving for melty cheese or a desire to highlight some of this season’s most delicious ingredients. Suffice it to say I ended up here, with eggplant involtini, and that’s not a bad place to be.

Involtini means “little bundles” in Italian and I only recently discovered their magic. This is an excellent substitute for making a big, heavy, eggplant parmesan in the middle of summer. It’s a perfect serving (or two) without the weight of a traditional parm. Unless you’re like me and you throw tons of mozzarella over the top. Then it’s really not so different, except that it’s prettier.
I wanted to lighten up the flavor profile and had some pistachios that needed to be used up. Typically eggplant involtini calls for pine nuts but you might remember (from way back when) that I don’t use pine nuts often because of a bad case of pine mouth (and their price!). The currants were for a bit of sweetness and texture and the basil ties it all together. Also tomato, basil, eggplant…whattup summer.

Usually I’ll call out a recipe for being simple and I really want to say this is but I think many might disagree. So let me clarify – there is nothing difficult in this recipe but there are a few more steps than the label “simple” would allow.

This is where the practice of Mise en Place comes in handy.

Mise en Place is French for “putting in place” and translates to having an organized, clean, and prepped work space so that when you’re cooking you aren’t also chopping garlic, zesting lemon, and hunting for spices while trying to saute, stir, and prepare things at the same time. By lining up all your ingredients beforehand – fully measured out and prepared- you can just add things as necessary without making yourself crazy.  

Once all the components are prepared this dish comes together in no time! It’s a great dish to share (if you’re into that sort of thing) and just so perfect and seasonal.
Eggplant Involtini with Pistachios and Currants
Ingredients
  • 2 cups of tomato sauce (either store bought or make your own)
  • 1-2 medium sized eggplants
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 3 Tbsp pistachios, toasted
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 8 oz part skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp dried currants (optional, you can leave them off and the dish will still be delicious)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • ¾ cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • Mozzarella to top (optional, unless you're like me and there's no such thing as "optional" cheese)
Instructions
  1. If you're making your sauce set it aside and let it cool while you prepare the involtini.
  2. Set broiler to high.
  3. Slice your eggplant lengthwise to about ¼ inch thickness. Try to get 8 -10 slices. Sprinkle with kosher salt and let sit for 10 minutes. Place on an aluminum foil-lined pan and brush olive oil on both sides. Place in broiler and cook 5 minutes on each side but make sure the eggplant doesn't burn or get too browned. After the eggplant is cooked, set aside and let cool.
  4. Place garlic in food processor and process until it's in small pieces. Add panko and toasted pistachios to the garlic and run the machine till you have coarse and well-blended crumbs. Then add the zest, ricotta, and egg and process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the currants (if you're using), basil, and ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Preheat oven to 375° F
  6. Take a pie or baking dish and pour 1½ cups of sauce into the bottom of the dish.
  7. Take a slice of eggplant and spread 2 heaping tablespoons of the cheese mixture over one side of the eggplant. Roll up the eggplant and place, seam side down, into the sauce. Repeat for remaining eggplant.
  8. When finished rolling up your involtini, pour the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese and (if you're using) some mozzarella slices.
  9. Bake 20-30 minutes until cheese is lightly browned and sauce is bubbling. Serve hot!

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.

Ramp and Pea Quiche

The mad rush for ramps is akin to Black Friday deals. They happen quickly, tend to be hectic and full of elbowing, and if you miss out you’ve got to wait till the next year rolls around. I was walking by the Union Square Farmer’s Market two weeks ago when I saw unusually long lines at some of the booths, and then I saw the signs: “WE HAVE RAMPS!”

If you aren’t familiar with this Allium, a ramp is a wild leek and has a quick season right at the beginning of spring. It’s versatile and delicious. They’re a little garlicky, a little oniony, and cross somewhere between savory and sweet. We love them grilled up with a little olive oil and salt and eat tons while they’re in season.

When my cousin’s girlfriend told me she was going foraging for ramps last weekend and asked if I wanted some, I answered with an emphatic yes! (Also, how cool…foraging for ramps?!)

The most annoying part of a ramp? Just like a leek it needs to be seriously cleaned before using. Especially when they’ve just been pulled up from the ground and still have the dirt attached to them.

Totally worth it, even if it took the better part of a half-hour to get these cleaned!

I’m a big fan of quiche – both for eating and baking. Making your own crust isn’t necessary, especially if you’re short on time. There are so many good frozen and pre-made crusts out there.

Though, I really love making dough and pastry so this was worth the extra time. I also like a thinner quiche. If I’ve got a pie or something in a crust at home, it’s not going to last long. A shorter crust at least helps ensure that I won’t be eating too much at once. ..Cook’s logic?

My friend, who foraged for the ramps (again, foraging, so awesome) proposed a barter for the ramps I was getting. Instead of money she asked for a quiche which is how this post came to be.

I firmly believe we should all be exchanging/bartering more often.

For her quiche, I did a ramp and asparagus version because that felt so incredibly spring-like and perfect. For this post, I realized that I had last posted about asparagus and should probably try on a different veg to pair up with the ramps. I’ve been really into peas recently and for this recipe I grabbed a bag of frozen peas to save on time (and money!).

The combination of cream, eggs, cheese, vegetables, and some basic spices goes a long way. It’s incredibly satisfying, is great warmed or room temp, and can be eaten any time of day. For instance, I had a piece for dinner and for breakfast! See how that works? Quiche: the all day, any day food.

If you’re on the ramp train this season, what delicious things have you been creating with them?

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s lunchtime and there’s a piece of quiche calling.

Ramp and Pea Quiche
Ingredients
  • 1 9-inch pie crust, homemade or prepared
  • 2-3 bunches of ramps cleaned thoroughly and dried
  • 1 cup of peas fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup romano or parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 2.5 Tbsp butter
  • ⅛ tsp grated nutmeg
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 °F
  2. Blanch peas in salted boiling water for 2-3 minutes (if fresh, blanch longer till cooked). Remove and plunge them into ice water to stop the cooking and cool them. Take them out and let them dry.
  3. Finely chop the ramps (stems and greens included!). Heat up a sauté pan and add the butter. Once hot but not browning, add the ramps and sauté for 4 minutes or so, until the greens are soft and smell amazing. Add the peas, salt and pepper to taste, and cook 1 minute more. Take off the heat and let cool.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, nutmeg, and cheese. Mix in the ramps and peas until thoroughly combined.
  5. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil (to catch leaks) and place your prepped pie crust on top. Carefully pour the mixture in. Any leftover filling can be poured into a buttered ramekin and baked alongside the quiche. That way you get to taste your finished quiche filling without have to cut a slice before you serve it!
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a knife or toothpick comes out clean, the quiche doesn't jiggle, and the top has turned a golden color.

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!