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.
Last week at R&D Foods in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, I got a quesadilla that was just perfection. These types of assembled lunch meals can seem so simple—R&D has a creative, flavor-forward menu and is very mindful about ingredient sourcing, but the set-up is loosely based on the same model as a sandwich shop or deli, where all the sauces and fillings are prepped and pre-made, so that sandwiches only need to be assembled and heated up to order—but it’s so easy for things to go wrong.
When the ingredients are fresh, flavorful, and used in balance; when the sandwich (or in this case, quesadilla) is heated properly to create all the right crisp and gooey textures and isn’t flecked with the burnt bits of fifteen other meals that were cooked on the same sandwich press; and when it hasn’t been sitting in a paper bag for very long, so that when it’s unwrapped from the parchment and eaten out of hand on a park bench, in a patch of some of the last of the hot, early-afternoon sun for the year . . . In other words, when every little detail is exactly right, it can make a person pretty happy to be alive. Such was my Friday afternoon.
One chance, I thought. I only get one chance to call something a “Crack Fill-In-the-Blank,” so don’t waste the opportunity. The fact is, I didn’t know what else to name this salad. It’s just a really good tumble of leftovers and odds-and-ends that I served to friends earlier this summer. “That Crack Salad” is what my friend Lesley called it when she emailed me about it a few days later about it.
But “Crack Salad” really isn’t my style. Would “Just Really Good Salad” work? Or “Delicious Chopped-ish Salad of Leftovers and Odds and Ends”? Neither of those seem to get at the scrumptious, addictive quality of this unassuming list of ingredients. Maybe I should just be very literal about it, with “Chopped Cabbage, Lentil, and Arugula Salad with Fried Shallots, Radishes, Almonds, Feta and Shallot-Oil–Dijon Vinaigrette?” No? Too long? A little unwieldy? Fine. Crack Salad it is. Continue reading
Last time we did kimchi, 2 years ago (every day, week, month, and quarter—it’s been a quarter of a year since I wrote anything here—just picks up more and more speed, snowball style), it was a quasi-traditional, vegetarian, napa cabbage one, and I live-tweeted the whole process. This one is similar, but a little quicker and therefore arguably a little easier. Scallions are one of the easier-to-get-your-hands-on spring vegetables, available in abundance, so I thought it’d be a good thing to highlight here. Farmer’s market scallions—you can pick up some purple ones!—are thinner and have longer, bushier tops than the grocery store varieties do. They’re also grittier and need a more rigorous cleaning, in several changes of water.
This recipe comes from the latest issue of my digital magazine, Feast by Lukas. In this issue, called “Building Blocks,” kimchi functions as one of those little accessories that makes for easy, tasty, component-style meals. I’ll add kimchi to lots of things—sandwiches, rice and noodle bowls, savory pancakes, in soup, as a topping for crostini, and right out of the jar with a fork. Other dishes in this issue include a “slaw starter,” primers on the #putaneggonit egg, some excellent vinaigrettes, a recipe for “nut muffins” (saying that out loud still makes me chuckle), and more. Also, I’m proud to share that photographer Cara Howe collaborated with me on this issue, and her gorgeous photos—that’s hers up top, and on the cover of the issue—are such a huge improvement to the project I still can’t even believe it. You can download the Feast by Lukas app in the iTunes store, and within that you can subscribe or purchase individual issues. Continue reading
It’s almost over. 2013 has been good to me, with exciting developments and lots of change, but with all the fluster and the bluster, with all the new types of stress and the unrelenting, unfamiliar feeling (for me) of not quite being able to maintain the grip on things in the way that I would like to, I know that I’ll be just fine when 2013 is a speck in the rearview mirror. Maybe it always feels this way, with the rush that November and December always are. And maybe the fluster and bluster is just a sign of activity. Whatever. Next.
My grandmother had the tradition every New Year’s Eve of setting outside a coffee mug that contains a quarter, nickel, dime, and penny. The coins should be shiny, and the mug should go out where it’ll get lots of air circulation. This was thought to promise prosperity, and I’ve never missed a year, never deviated from it or questioned it. The only thing is that living in New York, my access to the outdoors is a fire escape, so I’ve never been sure if that’s enough air circulation or not. Maybe you’ll want to give this a try. Continue reading
A green salad seems so easy, so boring, but it’s one of those essential dishes like pasta, scrambled eggs, or a pot of beans, where the magic is in the details. I make one with pretty much every dinner I serve, and it ranks high in my list of favorite foods—salad with dinner is how I grew up, though I’ve come a ways from the Thousand Island dressing-ed and bagged Caesar salad-ed days of my youth. Nothing is quite as reliably refreshing. A pile of perfectly dressed greens, speckled with few or many adornments, and glistening with some bright zing and rich fruitiness in the form of a vinaigrette, is just what I want to round out a meal.
Good lettuce is a no-brainer. Save rubbery or wilted lettuce for . . . well, you might sauté it if it’s a hearty green like spinach or arugula or throw it into a smoothie, but for the most part you’ll probably just want to compost it. Some lettuces, if it looks like there’s some life left in them, can be revitalized by soaking them in ice water for 10 to 15 minutes. There are lots of good-quality pre-washed organic baby lettuces and lettuce blends out there, and I’m certainly not embarrassed to buy them. But lately, I’ve been most often drawn to the heads of green- and red-leaf lettuce sold still attached to its roots, from one of the stands at the farmer’s market near my apartment. It’s incredible how long these lettuces last—the one pictured, I bought it over a week and a half ago. I just pluck off leaves as I need them. Continue reading
Wherever you stand on the cold soup spectrum—do you think they’re silly and have no reason to exist? Or do you just think we ought to call them smoothies, rather than soup? Didn’t we discuss this last year?—today’s recipe is one I was excited about well before I found time to make it. I wanted a simple edamame soup that would provide a good base for some fun garnishes. It turned out to be rich and hearty whether you serve it hot or cold, and easy and cheap, too.