Last weekend, while it was still unseasonably warm here in New York, I bought a bag of mixed soup beans at the farmers market and set out to make chili. (I found the beans—beautiful beans!—through a great new initiative called the Greenmarket Regional Grains Project.) I wondered if it was too warm, that chili was the wrong thing for the weather. But then a cold, icy front blew in on Monday and it turned out that chili was a smart move.
My go-to recipe, which was on Buzzfeed a while ago, is like most chili recipes in that you can approach it with loose attention to the rules (well, don’t quote me on that, because I know there are strong opinions on this subject). I always grind up the vegetables, which makes for a luxe, velvety consistency because of caramelized goodness, and use chunks of squash that offer some nice juicy texture against the beans. This time I used a combination of ancho and guajillo chilies that go into the garlic-ginger paste, and left out fresh ones (didn’t have any), and went with red wine instead of beer. It’s a very good batch. I’ve posted my slightly revised recipe at the bottom of the post.
My book Bowl, which will be out in March, began several years ago because of a transformative bowl of vegetarian ramen at Chucko here in Brooklyn. It featured a rich, complex, steaming broth that fogged up my glasses, a tangle of fresh wheat noodles, chunks of sweet and juicy vegetables like squash and cabbage, and a soft egg that gloriously melted into the whole thing. That inspired me to start making ramen at home, which in turn, led me to some of the other classic, similarly comforting dishes of Asia like bibimbap and pho. These were such wonderful recipes to be immersed in and at some point I realized that the commonality was the vessel itself, as I was also making some of the grain-based all-in-one bowls that are currently in vogue.
So with a book called Bowl, that celebrates the vessel and the comforting and healthy meals that can be enjoyed from it, it seemed obvious to team up with a maker of bowls! I’m pleased to announce that ceramics designer Jono Pandolfi, who makes some of the most gorgeous ceramics I’ve ever seen (for many of New York’s top chefs and for Food52’s exclusive line) is offering a set of four bowls to one lucky person who preorders Bowl! All you need to do is order the book before March 7, 2016 and forward the order confirmation to firstname.lastname@example.org. A winner will be picked at random. More details over here. I’m excited for this book—I think you’ll like it.
My friend Lesley and I drove up to Narrowsburg, NY, a few weekends ago and had dinner at the culinary draw there, a restaurant called The Heron. We ate rich, decadent, dare I say “Brooklyney” fare that hit the spot on that first bracingly cold night of the season.
The celery salad was the highlight for me. It’s rare to see celery treaded so simply yet elegantly, and as a refreshing winter salad it struck me as just perfect. Rather than burying it in cream and cheese, celery’s texture and flavor are showcased—a perfect balance of crunchy and juicy, sweet and saline. I went home to make it. Continue reading
Here’s a salad for these final dog days of summer, one that’s juicy and refreshing and not too much work. It’s not very different from other watermelon salads out there except for the addition of cornichons, those little French pickled gherkins. They add a crunchy, vinegary zing that I never knew was missing from watermelon salads. I first tried it this way at Saraghina, an Italian restaurant in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Saraghina does things like that—adding quartered cornichons to their watermelon salad—tricks that seem obvious and revelatory at the same time. They’re quartered lengthwise, too. Why does that matter—why can’t you just chop them up into little rounds? I don’t know. Maybe it’s that they’re easier to spear with your fork, or that you get the right amount of puckery zing per bite. You just have to do it.
It’s best served very cold—start with a cold, refrigerated watermelon, or allow time for the salad to chill before serving. This might even be the time to chill your salad plates and serving platter, too. Serve it over a pile of arugula or other favorite salad greens, as directed here, or make it into a heartier main by adding a scoop of cooked quinoa to the greens. Most summery, juicy fruits and vegetables are good additions—stone fruits, cucumbers, even halved grapes. In one round for this recipe I added some torn chunks of fresh mozzarella, which made it terrifically decadent. Be creative and let the farmer’s market inspire you, but make haste. September is approaching. Continue reading
I love entertaining, even if I’m not as good at it as I’d like to be. I’m always a little too ambitious, where my guests find me sweating over a few simmering pots and an open oven when they arrive; too adventurous, excited to try out a brainy, untested dish over a failsafe standby; and I hate this but I sometimes I just choke in those crucial last minutes, sending rookie mistakes like under-seasoned or cold dishes out to the table. One reason I like to entertain is that it’s a muscle, and you can develop it, but more than that, hanging out at a dining table with new and old friends is one of my favorite things to do, and if I could do it every night I would.
So last weekend, after a very long dinner party hiatus, I had some friends over. I’d been rereading my Diana Kennedy books and was discovering Rick Bayless ones, so I decided a few Mexican-inspired dishes would be nice on a balmy July day. I made:
- A batch of creamy poblano rajas from More Mexican Everyday, to which I added a sheet pan’s worth of mixed roasted mushrooms; this was taco filling and I’ll write up the recipe sometime soon.
- This corn salad: a hit.
- From a pound of Rancho Gordo Bayo Chocolate Beans—one of the fruits of their partnership with Xoxoc—some vaguely refried beans. I cooked them with bay leaf and onion until creamy, then fried them in a bit of olive oil and garlic and mashed them with some of the bean-cooking liquid until creamy, but still a little chunky. Very good, and great with breakfast the next day.
- And because I’d bitten off more than I could chew, I enlisted the help of two of my guests for the rest of the menu: genius guacamole, from Kristin Miglore’s wonderful book Genius Recipes
- . . . and a platter of ceviche, served cold and heady with grapefruit zest, serrano and fresno chilies, and lots of herbs.
It was quite a feast. There was even a galette for dessert. I should have taken pictures, but—too much to do. Continue reading
Someone once told me that the intended glory of a chopped salad is that you can eat it with a spoon. This sounds silly and I wasn’t able to verify it it, but I did glean that a “chopped salad” is derivative of classic, component-based salads like the Cobb or Nicoise. In the past several years, it’s evolved into a bastard child of those, something no longer tied to lineage or ingredients but to method: hacking up a bowl of lettuce and toppings with a mezzaluna, assembly-line style, at one of its namesake franchises here in the Northeast. Enthusiasm for the chopped salad has since waned a bit, but there were strong opinions on this subject during its heyday.
Here’s a quick recipe for a style of meal I’ve been eating a lot lately. It’s one of those “component” bowls, a cousin of a Korean bibimbap, that I make so often that I rarely think it merits a recipe. If I were to post a photo like the one above on Instagram and someone asked me for the recipe, it would seem sufficient to just say: Fried egg + soy-glazed tofu + sautéed greens + hot sauce, over mixed grains.
But there are a few tricks and details that elevate a rice bowl from a patchy mishmash to the kind that that you’ll crave. As with most things in the kitchen, it comes down to details: tasting along the way, cooking with care, making sure that each individual component is something you’d want to eat on its own. Here I’m sharing my favorite method for tofu—the results are slightly sweet, a bit caramelized and crispy around the edges—and it requires no time pressing or marinading. Continue reading
Do you have a bottle of mirin in the back of your fridge or cupboard? Do you remember what you bought it for? I used to forget about my mirin until a recipe like Heidi’s Black Sesame Otsu came along, and then afterward I’d let it get pushed back into the shadows all over again. Thank goodness it takes a very long time to go bad. But over the past year I’ve been reaching for it a bit more frequently and experimenting with it in some less obvious ways.