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.
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
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 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
I don’t have a recipe today, but I’m still sharing some Instagram shots some of my lunches—on the days I work from home and when, most importantly, the natural light is good—over on the Facebook page, which you can follow if you’d like to. My Instagram is @LukasVolger if you care to follow there.
Hopefully one or two of these will inspire you in the kitchen, give you something new to try, particularly as far as summer food goes. Let me know in the comments if you have any specific questions. Happy July—almost August. I hope you’re enjoying vacations and hikes and summer produce and the steamy outdoors as much as I am.
Up top is a garbanzo salad with upland cress, roasted bell peppers and tomatoes, and a smoked paprika vinaigrette.
Here’s a sandwich with sharp cheddar, avocado, and a spicy corn salad on a toasted baguette. Continue reading
Now that asparagus and ramps and spring onions and all the verdant promise of a springtime farmers market are finally inching onto our plates, how about a nice and hearty Lentil and Cabbage Bake for dinner. Does that sound good? No? Am I a little off base? Oh well, this happened last spring, too. I suppose I’m always a little reluctant to close the book on cold-weather comfort food.