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
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
The other night I found myself sitting at my computer thinking about ghee. Several years ago I had a habit of regularly making it, and I’d use it in all manner of curries and sautés—it was fun to keep on hand, and it would last for forever. It’d been a while since I’d made a batch. As I was sitting there, I had the realization that ghee is nothing more than—get this—strained browned butter. It’s not that I ever thought ghee was a complicated thing to wrap your head around—surely others have conceptualized it this way before. But in any case, it was revelation enough that it catapulted me into the kitchen.
To make ghee, melt a stick—or two or three or fifteen—of butter over medium heat in a saucepan or small skillet that’s not black (it’ll be hard to gauge the ghee’s color if you use a dark pan, such as a cast-iron skillet). As it cooks, sizzling away as the water evaporates, the solids will separate, clinging to the sides and dropping to the bottom of the pan, and they’ll begin to take on color. You’ll want to watch closely, because once the solids start to color, they can go from blond to black in a matter of seconds. Look for them to turn reddish-brown—which is when you have browned butter! Remove the pan from the heat and immediately, carefully pour the butter through a cheesecloth-lined sieve to strain out the solids. (The purpose of separating the solids is to allow the ghee to have a high smoke point.) Once it cools, you can keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks. 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
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
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.
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.