Having a life-long love of (especially Greek) diners myself, I have taken my son to quite a few. A Post-Botanical-Garden-Nature-Class lunch date at the rather famous Tom’s Diner a few months back has led to an epic journey to find the ‘right’ kind of diner tuna melt closer to home. I have gotten rather weary of tuna melts as a result, and was eager to develop something else that a canned-fish enthusiast might really dig. I have never made a pasta salad quite like this before. It was a hit at a recent picnic.
I have been trying to use whole wheat pasta the past few months. It isn’t all totally terrible, but I am not sold on it either. Barilla is kind-of okay, if you must. I recently heard a segment on WNYC that made me feel better about returning to regular Italian pasta. If you are looking for an excuse to abandon gummy whole wheat pasta, you may find it there.
- 1 lb Macaroni (I like Colivita), uncooked
- 8-10 oz Smoked Trout *see cook’s note, gently separated into large flake
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise (homemade, or Helman’s)
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 4-5 peperoncini peppers, seeded, diced fine
- 1/2 cup fennel, fine dice
- 1 fat handful arugula, finely chopped (a scant 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 a roasted red pepper, very fine dice (optional)
- sherry vinegar and/or lemon juice, to taste
- salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
- While waiting for the water, combine 1/2 cup of buttermilk & 1/2 cup mayonasie in a jar and shake vigorously (or whisk in a small bowl). Set aside.
- Salt your water; it should taste like the sea, I use at least 2 tablespoons of kosher salt (salting boiling water is advised, it can pit your pot if added cold), then pasta. Cook al denté (or according to package directions), drain, reserving a 1/2 cup or so of the cooking water & transfer to a large bowl.
- Let the pasta cool a few minutes, but while it is still quite warm, pour in your buttermilk mixture and toss to coat. Allow the pasta mixture to cool while you ready the vegetables and trout.
- Check on your pasta. If it seems sticky, and more buttermilk & mayo in alternating equal proportions with the reserved cooking water. Continue until you like the texture. This is not a very creamy pasta salad, but neither should it be sticky. You may need more or less dressing than I have called for to suit your taste. If you are not serving immediately, but will chill several hours to overnight, keep a little dressing on hand to adjust texture just prior to serving.
- When the pasta is cool to room temp (or nearly, or chill if you want to be quick about it), tip in the peperoncini, fennel, arugula & red pepper (if using). Stir to combine throughly.
- Add trout, combine quickly, with as few strokes as necessary to distribute evenly, but not break down the fish overly.
- Taste, add a little lemon or vinegar to brighten if desired. Add more buttermilk/mayo mix, if needed. Add salt & pepper to taste. Give her a quick stir & you’re there! Serve, as is or well chilled. Voliá!
*On smoked trout: buy all means if you can get your hands on a whole smoked trout, use it. My beloved Rexcroft Farms left my local Greenmarket for greener pastures a few seasons back; I sure miss their trout & and their squash blossoms. I don’t get an opportunity to use whole smoked trout much anymore. You can use the vaccumed packed stuff, it’s not bad, but there is a fair amount of picking over for bones to be done, and the result, unlike whole fresh, isn’t so much better than canned to be worth the trouble. Trader Joe’s sells good quality canned trout alongside the sardines, and kippers – those will do just fine if this is to be a side dish for a crowd. Sexy intimate picnic dinner for 6 where this gets primo billing? Go find that elusive fresh-smoked fish.
This is a simple riff on a Heidi Swanson recipe banged out in response to my son’s sudden desire to purchase a butternut squash. René is deeply enamored of books about gardening, and Strega Nona’s Harvest is one of our longest running favorites around here. The winter squash element, hardly seasonally appropriate, may seem a bit off putting at first, but I did make use of some market chives here, and this sweet-savory, soft-crunchy room temperature salad is a welcome addition to a late spring lunch.
I have made the recipe several times with the kobocha squash, this is easier and quicker. Kabocha is a bear to cut and peel. I have almost always used fennel in place of the celery, and chopped dried tart cherries in place of the currants – I always sub cider for the beer. Luckily for me, René doesn’t like beer.
Roasted Butternut Squash Salad
- 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded in 1/2 inch dice
- 1/2 a small fennel or anise bulb, small dice
- 2 big handfuls of walnuts, toasted and chopped
- 3 tbsp chives sliced fine (or chopped scallion)
- 1/4 cup chopped dried cherries (tart) or currants
for the dressing:
- 2/3 cup apple cider or juice
- 2 tbsp whole grain Dijon mustard
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 generous pinches fine sea salt
- fresh ground pepper
- On a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment, toss the diced squash with a few nice glugs of olive oil (2 tbsp?), and a sprinkling of kosher salf and fresh ground pepper. Bake, stirring once or twice, in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 25-35 minutes, or until tender and browned on a few sides. Remove from oven and allow to cool while preparing the dressing and other veg.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing,
- In a large bowl place the fennel, currants, walnuts and chives. Add the cooled squash, and about 2/3 of the dressing, toss to coat. Taste, adjust seasonings, and allow to sit for 10- 15 minutes. Taste again. As Swanson points out, the squash will drink up a lot of the dressing as it sits, how much you need will vary sightly – dress to taste.
Jamaican Veggie Patties are my favorite NYC convince food. Little shops all over Brooklyn (and beyond) offer a variety of stuffings and flavors, they are inexpensive, and totally portable. At Christie’s on Flatbush Avenue a week or two back, I promised my son it would be “totally easy” to make these ourselves (I say that a lot). What we ended up with might beat the original.
I have been deeply enamored of this pasty dough recently. When I found it, I was out of butter, but dying to make empanadas, so my innovation is subbing in coconut oil. I couldn’t be more thrilled. For Pumpkin Emapanadas with Black Beans and Banana, the subtle coconut flavor couldn’t have been a better compliment. And, while you still get the rich flakey crust you want from a pie, you get a much healthier fat. Yay! Eat more pie!
Crust and assembly:
- 1 cup water, boiling
- 1 cup coconut oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1cup red whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- In a small mixing bowl combine the coconut oil and boiling water. Whisk dry ingredients together in a separate larger bowl. When the fat is throughly melted, pour the wet mixture over the dry and beat with a rubber spatula until; well blended. Cover, and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight.
- Heat oven to 375º F with one rack in the top third and one rack in the bottom third of the oven.
- Turn refrigerated dough out onto a heavily floured pastry board (or counter top). Some of the fat will have separated, knead the dough several times ton integrate any large gobs. You will need a fair amount of dusting flour to get through the rolling process.
- Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into an 8- to 9-inch round. (alternately, you can divide the dough in half, roll out one, and use a bowl or saucer to make even ‘cookie-cutter’ forms). Either way works. I used the cutter method here, and got 9 pies.
- Favoring one side a bit, mound about a half cup of filling into the center of a shell, leaving about an inch clearing from the edge. Dot or brush (I use my fingers) along the edge of one side to help insure a good seal. Fold the top half of the dough over, and gently press the filling into a half circle shape. Press the dough rim together, crimp (I used a fork’s tines) to seal. Repeat with each dough round. Place the patties on 2 parchment lined baking sheets as you go along. As the dough warms, the patties will become impossible to handle. Set each patty down where you want it to stay.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, trading rack positions and turning baking sheets 180º midway, until light golden brown begins to show, and the tops feel crisp when tapped. Transfer to a rack to cool (10-15 minutes) before serving.
- If you want to preserve some for later, freeze them, uncooked, on a baking sheet for an hour or two before transferring to an appropriate freezer container. They will make a great no-fuss snack, or lunch later.
For the filling:
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 head cabbage, about the size of a large grapefruit. Savoy or green; either is great here.
- 1-4 tsp Jamaican Jerk seasoning
- 3/4 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup apple cider, apple juice, or water (plus more as needed)
- 1 16 oz bag frozen mixed veg (you know the one, carrots, peas & corn)
- 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
- Core and chop cabbage, a meduim-wide shred, quickly chopped to so that nothing is beyond bite-sized is ideal.
- Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the cabbage, and cook, stirring occasionally until cabbage begins to wilt, and perhaps brown at the edges, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the Jerk seasoning and salt, stir briefly, the pour in the cider and vinegar, stir quickly, cover and reduce heat to medium.
- Sweat the cabbage, stirring occasionally, until fairly tender. 20- 25 minutes.
- Add in the frozen medley (and nutritional yeast if using), stir, taste for seasoning. Add more Jerk & salt if desired, add more cider (or water) if required. Cook until the pea and carrot mix is heated through.
- Remove from heat, allow to cool until comfortable to touch, then proceed with the assembly instructions above. Rolling and forming the dough is a great way to spend you time while you’re waiting.
Having read Lance’s last post, the linked recipe, and returning later to the sighs in the comments over the excessively long list of ingredients, I felt compelled to post up this super-simple quinoa ‘burger’ I knocked together in a pinch; I was lacking eggs and The Boy was asking for Spinach Pie. Spinach Pie is a staple in my repertoire. I use a quiche plate and crust to marry spanikopita to a low-egg quiche-like torta a high school friend’s mother used to make. The friend’s family was from Uruguay, and her spinach-dense pie was wonderful, albeit lacking in feta cheese I adore in the Greek version. My mash-up is a house favorite, for both children and adults. But I digress…
To answer a bit of the commentary to Lance’s post; in the interest of thrift, I generally stick with white quinoa, and have never dealt with the black. That said, in the interest of aesthetics, I often mix 1 part red to 3 parts white while dry – it cooks up the same and looks extra tra-la-la on the shelf in the larder.
These patties were the sleeper smash of the week. We ate them three times that week. And when I say we, I actually don’t mean that I served these, and then watched my dining companion desecrate them. We ate these three times that week. And, we ate them for lunch today.
This is an eggless ‘veggie-burger’ that does not stoop to clever ‘replacements'; I’m feeling pretty proud of that. It makes quite a few patties, I like to have some to freeze. You could cut down to 1 cup of quinoa and a 10 0z pack of spinach if you wanted, but you’d have to do the math yourself. Also, make sure your hands are clean, I work this like meatballs, you need to get the goat cheese and spinach fully integrated to get the patties to keep their shape during cooking.
Quinoa Spinach Cakes with Goat Cheese & Feta
- 1 1/2 cups quinoa (white, red, or mixed)
- 1 16 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, and squeezed dry
- 1/3 cup fine, unseasoned bread crumbs, plus extra for dredging
- up to 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp sherry (or wine) vinegar
- 1 cup pureed tomato (canned or fresh)
- kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper
- 1 3.5 oz package chèvre (goat) cheese
- 1/2 cup finely crumbled feta, preferably brine packed
Place quinoa in a medium saucepan and rinse well with several changes of water. Drain, add 2-3 cups fresh cold water, then bring to a boil. Lower heat, simmer about ten minutes. Quinoa seeds should be cooked tender, but still have structural integrity, a little bounce to the bite – al dente. As soon as the quinoa feels done to the teeth, pour into a fine sieve, and leave to drain completely and steam-off over the cooking pot while you see to other elements. Letting the quinoa rest in the sieve will end the cooking time, and give you a soft, fluffy result.
In a large mixing bowl fluff out the thawed, drained spinach. Add the quinoa, bread crumbs, oregano, garlic powder, vinegar, 3/4 cup tomato puree, salt and pepper and work with your hands until well combined. Now unwrap and finely crumble the chèvre into the quinoa mixture, work again with hands. You are going for as uniform a mass as you can get, the mixture will be quite sticky. If it is too dry, try another tbsp or two of tomato, or even a tbsp or two of water or vinegar – if it seems too wet, add a 1/4 cup of bread crumbs.
When you feel you’ve got a good mix, stir in the crumbled feta, and taste for flavor – if necessary, adjust with pepper, salt, garlic or oregano.
To form the patties:
In a deep plate or shallow dish, pour about a 1/2 cup of additional bread crumbs.
With your hands pick up enough of the mixture to essentially fill your palm, and make a ball about 3-4 inches in diameter. The size you settle on will determine the size of your patty. It is up to you; 2 1/2″ balls will give you little croquettes, 4 1/4″ balls will give you fat patties suitable for your burger night.
Flattern your ball gently into a disk, and set it on the breadcrumbs in the dredging dish. Continue flattening, the disk as you gently push it into the breadcrumbs, patting it round the sides to keep a nice circular shape and thick, strong edges. The patty should be about 3/4″ to 1″ thick. Flip, and repeat the process on the second side.
The patties can be pan-fried in olive oil at moderate heat, or baked in a 375° for about half an hour. For baking, you will need to spray the patties with oil (both sides) on the baking sheet, or dip/brush the patties with oil, prior to dredging in breadcrumbs. Either way, you are looking for a crisp brown crust to the out side. be careful not to over bake, so as not to dry out the patties.
As promised in my header, I am also including here one of my favorite condiments, Roasted Red Pepper Yogurt. I am a great fan of red pepper and chipotle aioli (among other mayonnaise and sour cream based sauces) and I have been, the past few years, slowly morphing all of my favorites into yogurt based sauces. The caveat is that they usually finish a little loose, and benefit enormously from a little time spent the ‘fridge before use as a spread or dip. Here the sauce is rather a drizzled coulis so don’t worry about the ‘fridge time. At room-temp, this can even be a great salad dressing.
You can roast your own peppers over the gas flame on your stove, or if you are using jarred, try to get a European brand with the point-end peppers, rather than the American ‘bell’ peppers. Also, if you don’t already, get a can of chipotles in adobo, and run the entire contents through your processor or blender, then keep it in a jar in the ‘fridge – you will find a thousand uses for this piquant, smoky hot sauce (thank you Alton Brown!).
Roasted Red Pepper Yogurt Spread and Dip
- 3/4 cup greek yogurt (I like Cabot, full fat – or Sahadi’s handmade!)
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup diced r. r. peppers
- 1/2 tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dry – ground slightly between your palms)
- 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
- plenty of fresh-gound black pepper
- 1 tsp to 1+ tbsp pureed chipotle in adobo (optional)
- 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
- kosher salt to taste
In a food processor, mini prep, or vessel you like to use with your stick-blender, combine the yogurt, peppers, thyme, vinegar, about a 1/2 tsp of salt, pepper and chipotle, if using. Pulse until well combined, nearly fully pureed, then switch to ‘on’ and add the olive oil in a steady stream.
I have been buying “Barney Butter” Almond Butter as my brand of choice. I first tried it because it was the cheapest almond butter in the organic section at Fairway, and was often on sale. I thought it’s sweet, creamy taste superiority was because, as it says on the top, it’s made with “a blend” of marcona almonds. You can also get this treacherous product at Whole Foods. And then just recently I thought, wait a minute, why is this one so much sweeter than my other almond butter, and looked at the ingredients. Yes, it has “evaporated cane juice”–i.e. SUGAR as its second ingredient. It also isn’t organic. Boo.
Word to the wise.
Fairway, as all you Brooklynites know, is about to reopen.
I’m excited, of course, because I live right on top of it, and since it flooded out in October it’s been a hassle of epic proportions to get food, though nice, in a way, to learn about some of the specialty shops in the surrounding area that I never would have visited.
But what’s been really nice, was that in addition to having no Fairway, our fridge broke about a month ago, and then Ivan went out of town, and it’s been too cold and windy to leave the house, and the result of those factors is that I have almost no food. And it’s so much better this way.
All of what I’m about to say, I realize, falls under problems of abundance, and is gross considering that there are people who actually have no food.
But abundance, when it comes to food, is, realistically, a large segment of American society’s problem, and that’s always bothered me about living above Fairway. A lot of Americans waste food, and I think our household wastes even more than normal people, since our supply is so right-there.
I can run down for any specialty ingredient, any recipe essential I’ve forgotten and be back in under five minutes. I have almost every foodstuff known to man at my fingertips, from 8a.m. to 10p.m. And I have the disorganized pantry to prove it, the pileup of unfinished bags of nuts, the boxes of pasta with less than an inch left, the spelt and tapioca flours and one-off oils. The ancient pickles no one will ever eat. The drawer of cheese rinds. The deli container with six olives stuck in an unappetizing chartreuse sludge. The overstuffed vegetable drawer, the rotting herbs. Ivan’s habit of buying a chicken we won’t be home to eat “just in case.”
Now, with the cleaned out fridge, no Fairway and just me and the kids, I’m able to see what I buy, and easily able to understand what we need. Our staples, basically, are milk, eggs, oatmeal and vegetables, and for the rest of it I’ve been supplementing here and there while cooking through the random pantry items.
The discoveries have been exciting. The foodie anathema, dried herbs, worked just fine in my Bonne Femme bouillabaisse, in which I substituted celery root for fennel, too, and vinegar for wine. I’ve been making whole wheat pancakes from this recipe (just sub whole wheat), that are better than my usual. I ran out of olive oil and started using unrefined sunflower oil for roasting vegetables with spectacular results. Ditto stir-frying garlic-ginger chicken in unrefined coconut oil. I’m going to stick with both of these oils even after the olive returns. I also rediscovered the Gomasio condiment from my Portland Apothecary share, and have been giving it the use it deserves–it’s especially wonderful as a salt substitute on scrambled eggs. Basically, I’m being forced to cook off recipe much more than I usually would, and use up my impulse buys, and it’s delicious. I’ve been eating more, better, than I have in years.
The best lesson, though, is simply how helpful a pared down fridge and cabinets are to not wasting food. You remember what you have, you see your leftovers right in front of you, nothing slides to the back and is forgotten. You finish things. I want to make this more of a priority in my life, in general, as the right way to live, and this has been a valuable start.
So, Fairway, welcome home, I guess.