Radicchio Panzanella from “Eat This Poem”

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“Because when we eat and when we read, we honor what was made for us to consume. We savor every last bite.” -Nicole Gulotta, Eat This Poem

One of the great gifts of poetry is attention. Have you ever tried to read poetry like prose? It doesn’t work. You scan the lines and end up losing the thread halfway through. No, to read poetry you must slow down. Let the rhythm wash over you. Luxuriate with the feel of the words in your mouth. To understand poetry you have to fall in a little in love with it.

Cooking is the same. There’s a world of difference between cooking pasta and setting a pot of water to boil, adding a steady stream of salt, running your fingers through the pasta before adding it to the roiling water, and testing it until it embodies the perfect marriage of yielding and firm. When it’s done with attention and care,cooking ceases to be a chore and becomes a meditation.

If you care about both food and poetry you’re likely already following Nicole Gulotta’s brilliant site Eat This Poem. And if you’re following Nicole online- and even if you’re not- you need to check out her new book of the same name.

I say this as someone who was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of her  book. When I was taking notes for what to make I filled three pages of a legal pad. I started using symbols to keep everything straight- , a circle for make at work, a star for must-dos, a heart for date night. Her book is filled with simple, good food made with attention.

Nicole’s book is organized not around meals or seasons but by theme. These themes- On Splendor, On Moments in Time, among others- speak to the rhythms of our life. These themes are filled with poems and accompanying recipes. And what poems. I found myself lingering over old favorites from Theodore Roethke, Naomi Shihab Nye, Billy Collins, and Mary Oliver. And I fell for new to me poets like Jehanne Dubrow and Richard Levine (whose enclosed poem, “Believe This”, I emailed to two separate people in with the title OMG OMG. Look it up. Fall in Love.). There is splendor here.

It’s a brilliant idea. And what transforms a brilliant idea into a treasured work is that it works beautifully. The recipes are elegant creations, delicious and creative but written with life in mind. This is a working cookbook that exists in a space that’s been sorely neglected. Nicole is not preaching the gospel of a 30 minute meal. She’s not a chef whose sub-recipes have sub-recipes. Instead she’s an evangelist of the calming, attentive power cooking brings- choosing a peach, chopping parsley, gently cooking garlic until it’s just fragrant. These actions nourish us just as much as what we place in our mouth does, and Nicole appreciates these acts without fetishizing them.

In response to “Tree” by Jane Hirshfield, where Hirshfield speaks of “That great calm being/ This clutter of soup pots and books-” Nicole offers a segment of simple, comforting meals that feed the calm being in us. For this lovely radicchio panzanella found with Hirshfield’s poem radicchio is quickly seared then chopped. It’s then tossed with whole grain croutons, Parmesan cheese, white beans, and a punchy dressing and topped with chives. I was curious but cautious when I saw the recipe- radicchio is famously bitter and can be overwhelming. But I trusted Nicole and recommend you do the same. The heat tames radicchio’s bite enough that it will play nice with the other ingredients. It’s a dish unique enough to stop you in your tracks, but no harder than boiling and tossing pasta. And by the act of making something both commonplace and special you are are practicing the poetry of cooking.

Eat this Poem is released on March 21st and you can find it here. I already have a list of people I’ll be buying it for as gifts. Congratulations Nicole! You’ve created something truly exceptional.

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Radicchio Panzanella

Adapted from Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry by Nicole Gulotta, © 2017 by Nicole Gulotta. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com
Nicole recommends drizzling the radicchio with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper, then searing it in a dry pan. I seared my radicchio in a healthy drizzle of olive oil because I was distracted and not paying close attention. (I am fully aware of this irony.) This meant that the radicchio was a bit more cooked, but was still excellent.

Serves 2-4

4 cups whole grain bread cubes (cut from about 4 slices each an inch thick)
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 pound radicchio (about 2 medium), wilted outer leaves removed and quartered
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans such as cannellini, or one 14.5 ounce can
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
minced chives

For dressing:

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the bread cubes onto a sheet tray and toast until golden and crisp, about 12-15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

In the meantime, warm a healthy drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the quarters of radicchio in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sear until the leaves are soft and just going brown in spots, then turn. Repeat until all sides of the radicchio have been kissed by oil. Transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop the radicchio. Place in a large bowl and top with the beans, bread, and Parmesan cheese.

To make the dressing, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar, and honey. Add in the olive oil and whisk while it’s combining. Season to taste with a healthy pinch of both salt and pepper, then pour over the salad and toss well. Top with a flurry both of Parmesan and chives.

 

 

 

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Farro and Lentil Salad with Currant and Pine Nut Relish

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Hi! It’s good to be back.

I wasn’t planning on being gone for so long, but the combination of celebrating Christmas/ being with my family/ having 5 consecutive days off/ turning 27 made me reluctant to open my computer. This past week has been packed full of good things, from a 2 hour game of Clue with my family to late night drinks with friends to finally finishing the book I was reading. I hope that whatever you celebrate, your week has been similarly refreshing.

Two weeks ago I wrote about our date nights. Last week, right before my family came into town, I made a version of this salad for a light, pre-holiday date night dinner. And now I’m here to share it with you. The inspiration for this recipe came from The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin, an inspiration of a chef and owner of one of the restaurants I most fantasize about visiting.

But something happened when I was making this salad- I was reminded of work.

Last year there was a meat pie on my station. It was a relatively straightforward dish- meat, potatoes, gravy, pastry. And making everything from scratch was a 4 day process. Even if the recipe was mine to share, I would only share it with the most ambitious of home cooks. And then only with plenty of caveats. A lot of restaurant recipes are like that. Your eye is towards consistency of result. You’re making a huge amount of food. You’re not shying away from sub recipes. And you’re relying on the person who is making the recipe to know how to adjust it.  That makes following any recipe from a restaurant a slightly fraught proposition. My first few weeks cooking at a restaurant I couldn’t stop asking the most annoying questions- I didn’t understand how restaurant recipes differed from the ones I was used to following.

Aaron and I devoured the salad. It was delicious- hippie chic, if you will. And it’s lovely in an earthy way- blacks and browns and greens. But as tasty as it was, I still had some qualms. There were some steps that made little sense. Goin had you reduce balsamic vinegar by half before you added it to the salad, making it thicker and sweeter, but it was so sweet that I spiked the salad with additional vinegar before serving. Farro and forbidden rice were paired together, and they were delicious, but they were cooked separately with almost the exact same ingredients and very similar cooking times. And despite the gorgeous ingredients- sweet, plump currants, toasted pine nuts, peppery mustard greens, gently cooked onions- the salad tasted little flat. If I had been at work, I would have added more salt, but I was wondering if there was another way to bring that spark in.

While eating it Aaron and I started to make notes on how we would change it. It became pretty clear quite quickly that those changes might make it easier. It might be suitable for the home cook who doesn’t possess an infinite amount of pans, a walk-in full of fresh herbs, and an employee whose job is to wash dishes. I swapped the forbidden rice, which can be difficult to find, in for lentils, which also make the salad more filling. I added capers to the relish. Lentils and farro were cooked in the same pot, with the same aromatics. Sweet balsamic vinegar was changed out for slightly less sweet sherry vinegar. The tartness could sing, and finally the sweetness came from the currants and onions alone. Capers rounded everything out. Mustard greens provided a sharp relief. Aaron told me he liked the second version even more. I agreed. I had to order him to stop eating it so I could save some for work on New Year’s Eve (hello, double).

This complex restaurant dish didn’t magically turn into a 30 minute, 1 bowl meal. It still takes time and a few components. But by my account, I halved the pans used and streamlined the process, turning it from a special occasion meal to a leisurely weeknight dish. And isn’t that what we want from a hippie chic salad?

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Farro and Lentil Salad with Currants and Pine Nut Relish

adapted from The A.O.C. Cookbook by Suzanne Goin

This salad is highly adaptable. If you can’t find mustard greens or Aleppo pepper, I would replace them with kale and red pepper flakes, respectively. This salad makes a great light meal. Goin mentioned pairing this with white fish if you’d like a restaurant quality dish, but I found adding a soft boiled egg to the leftovers is a great way to make it more hearty.

Serves 4-6

Salad:

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 an onion, diced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cup farro
3/4 cup French green lentils
2 big handfuls of mustard greens, chopped

Relish:

1/2 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup dried currants
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 an onion, diced
2 tablespoons drained capers in brine
1 small rosemary stalk
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1/4 cup sherry vinegear
salt and pepper

In a medium pan over medium heat warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, the bay leaves, the chopped rosemary, the Aleppo pepper, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions have softened and smell incredible, about 8 minutes. Add the farro and lentils, and stir well. Cook, stirring often, for about 3-4 minutes- just long enough so that the farro and lentils start to toast a bit. Add 8 cups of water and a generous pinch of salt. Bring the whole thing to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until both the farro and lentils are cooked through- about 35 minutes. (I started checking at 20 minutes, then checked every 5 minutes after that.) Drain the farro-lentil mixture, then spread it out on a sheet tray to let it cool and dry. Remove the bay leaves.

While the farro and lentils are cooking, place the pine nuts in a small pan over low heat. Stir often, until the pine nuts start to smell fragrant and take on some color. As soon as they’re golden but not dark, tip the pine nuts into a medium bowl. This will only take a few minutes, so make sure to give the pine nuts your undivided attention- they will burn quickly. Add the dried currants to the same bowl.

In a sauté pan, warm 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the onion, the rosemary stalk, the capers, Aleppo pepper, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are just starting to color. Add in the sherry vinegar, and immediately turn off the heat- you just want to warm the sherry vinegar through. Pour the whole mixture onto the pine nuts and currents. Remove the rosemary stalk. Let it all sit and infuse together while the farro and lentils cook.

Once everything is ready, warm the last 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan. It can be the same one that you cooked the onions and capers in. Add the farro-lentil mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon. You want to stir often enough that you can scrape up the brown bits on the bottom before they burn, but not so often that the farro and lentils can’t crisp up. Once everything is warmed through and crisped (this took me about 5 minutes), add in the mustard greens. Stir them to combine well, and let them wilt down. Once they’ve wilted down, add the pine nut-current-onion mixture and stir well. Taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.

This is one of those rare dishes that’s as good warm as it is at room temperature. And it’s even better after it’s sat a bit, and allowed all the flavors to mingle.

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White Bean and Cabbage Soup with Rosemary

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As someone who celebrates Christmas this is the home stretch. There’s cookies to bake, an apartment to clean, and a dinner to plan. There’s also family to host and a tree to buy and presents to wrap… uff da. And so in the spirit of the holiday and of business, here’s soup. Soup is an excellent meal for many reasons- it’s easy, it’s nutrient dense, it’s warming. Soup is the ultimate comfort food, and it’s what I want to eat right now.

A few weeks ago our friend Anne and Brian made white bean soup for Aaron and I when we all got together for dinner. I’ve been thinking about that soup ever since- it was hearty and satisfying and exactly right for a wintery dinner party. This is my wintery lunch variation. Onions and cabbage are slowly cooked in butter with a good dose of chopped rosemary and chopped thyme. Stock and canned beans are added and simmered together, then it’s half-pureed, a compromise for the chunky (Aaron) and smooth (me) soup eaters.

I hope you enjoy this. And I’d love your help- if you’re celebrating a holiday in the next week, what are you making? (And what are you celebrating?) My brain stuck, and inspiration would be very welcomed.

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White Bean and Cabbage Soup with Rosemary

If you’d like a creamier, thicker soup then I would start with 2 cups of broth, and add water from there as necessary.

Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped thyme
2 cups finely chopped cabbage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 fifteen ounce cans cannellini beans
4 cups light vegetable broth
1 tablespoon lemon juice
flaked almonds, to serve
shredded parmesan cheese, to serve

Heat a heavy bottomed pot over medium-low heat. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Add the onion and stir well to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and has started to take on a golden color. This should take between 10 and 20 minutes. If the onions are cooking too quickly or taking on more color than you’d like, turn down the heat.

Add the rosemary, thyme, cabbage, and spices. Stir well and cook for another few minutes, until the cabbage is starting to soften. Add the beans and the vegetable broth, and bring to a simmer.

Skim any foam that comes to the top of the pot. Simmer the soup for 20 minutes, until it’s reduced a bit and the flavors have concentrated.

Using an immersion blender, blend in quick bursts. You want for the soup to be smoothed out a bit, but still have some texture- about half-pureed. Alternatively, you could use an upright blender, blend half the soup, and then return it to the pot.

Stir in the lemon juice, and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and lemon juice as necessary. Serve hot with flaked almonds and a dusting of parmesan.

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Baked Oatmeal with Earl Grey, Prunes, and Almonds

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So. Let’s talk prunes.

Aaron makes a face whenever I mention prunes. He was forced to drink prune juice as a kid, and still has the memories.

I found prunes as an adult. I love their deep, wine-like sweetness. I love the rich flavor. To me, they are a comforting but sophisticated dried fruit. When I first graduated from college I was a nanny for a toddler. I would bring prunes for my snack, and she would beg me, over and over, for just one more prune. I can’t think of any better proof that hatred of prunes is learned, not innate.

I’ve seen prunes starting to be sold as dried plums, which is factually true. But it also seems a bit silly. I don’t mind eating prunes, no matter the unglamorous name. I suppose it’s further evidence that I’m actually in my 50s, not 20s.

Prunes are the star of this baked oatmeal, and the idea that made it all fall into place. I wanted to make a baked oatmeal that felt wintery, as most baked oatmeal recipes I’ve seen call for berries. This seems silly, as I don’t know a better time for a hearty, hot breakfast than winter. Winter is also the best time for dried fruit, at least here in the Upper Midwest, because there’s so little that’s fresh. Winter has long been a time for food dried and stored. Perhaps I am actually 80, not 50. Prunes take up the place of berries here. They’re soaked in Earl Grey tea and tossed with lemon zest, almonds, and maple syrup. The maple syrup reinforces the rich sweetness of the prunes, and the lemon zest and tea balance it. The almonds provide a delightful crunch, and help make the whole thing feel like a meal.

This is a comforting breakfast if you’ve already finished off all of your Thanksgiving pie, and even if you haven’t. It’s a sturdy oatmeal, the kind that will keep its shape as you serve it. It’s the type of breakfast I like to make for a lazy morning, and then store the rest for busy days.

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Baked Oatmeal with Earl Grey, Prunes, and Almonds

If your prunes are very moist and you’d like to skip a step, you could pass on soaking the prunes in tea. And if you’re absolutely against prunes, I bet this would be stellar with dried figs.

Serves 6

Adapted from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

1 cup hot Earl Grey tea
1 cup (about 15) pitted prunes
2 cups (190 grams) rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (100 grams) slivered almonds
1/2 cup (60 grams) unsalted sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons (16 grams) poppy seeds
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat your oven to 400.

In a small bowl combine the Earl Grey tea and the prunes. Set aside to steep until the tea has cooled and the prunes are soft, about 5 minutes. Drain the tea and roughly chop the prunes.

In a large bowl combine the oats, baking powder, lemon zest, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk well, then add the chopped prunes. Whisk well again, and set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together the almonds, sunflower seeds, and poppy seeds. Add half of the seed mixture to the oats and whisk the oats again. Set the rest of the seeds aside.

In another medium bowl whisk together the milk, maple syrup, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla until the eggs are completely incorporated.

Turn the oats out into a 8×8 pan. Pour the milk-egg mixture evenly across the oats. Top with the remainder of the seed mixture, being careful to spread the seeds evenly. Transfer the pan to the oven, and bake until golden and fragrant, 30-40 minutes. Serve warm.

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Cranberry Chutney with Crystalized Ginger and Currants

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I know. It’s the day before Thanksgiving. If you’re a planner, you may want to tuck this post away for next year. You’ve probably already gotten everything assembled. You’ve got your grocery shopping done. You had your menu planned weeks ago. You are a Thanksgiving machine and you’ve got this.

If you’re not a planner, then you may still be looking for last minute additions to the Thanksgiving table. I am not a planner, which is why I’m posting this the day before Thanksgiving. If we’re in the same boat, may I suggest this cranberry chutney as a worthy addition to your Thanksgiving table?

I’ve been making a version of this cranberry chutney for at least 7 years now. I first found it on Orangette, and I don’t remember the first time I made it, but I do remember not being legally able to buy the booze that Molly’s version calls for. It was such a success that I’ve made it for every Thanksgiving since (save the one I spent in England and we held a feast for almost 80 people. There were some sourcing and scalability issues there).

There’s a reason this cranberry chutney’s a classic. I love its bracing, sweet-tart taste, and the way the ginger sneaks in and out, giving brief glimpses of its fiery bite. The texture is yielding but not soft or gelatinous, the sort that I want to accompany all sorts of Thanksgiving goodies. On the table, in a beautiful cut-glass bowl (the kind I borrow from my mom) the vibrant cranberries and dark currants are suspended in a beautiful, jewel bright sauce. It looks festive and elegant, just right for your Thanksgiving table. And I also love how easy it is. The whole thing takes less than 15 minutes, and the most complicated part of making the chutney is chopping the crystalized ginger.

This recipe also takes very kindly to adaptations. Every year I pull out Molly’s book and turn to the most tattered and stained page. And every year I change things up just a bit. I might swap out the vinegar, or use different preserves, or sub allspice in for cloves. Here’s this year’s adaptation, filled with apple butter and currants. It’s sweet-tart and bright, the perfect bite of relief after a mouthful of buttery mashed potatoes and rich gravy.

Happy happy Thanksgiving. May your meal be delicious, your company even better, and your day be full of things to be grateful for.

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Cranberry Chutney with Crystalized Ginger and Currants

Be sure to check your cranberries before making this chutney- there are usually a few soft, mushy, or otherwise inedible berries hiding in a bag.

adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

Makes 1 quart

12 ounces apricot preserves
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons cranberry juice
1 teaspoon apple butter
pinch salt
pinch ground cloves
12 ounces (1 bag) fresh cranberries
1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup finely chopped crystalized ginger

In a medium saucepan combine the apricot preserves, vinegar, cranberry juice, apple butter, salt, cloves. Stir well and cook over medium high heat, stirring often, until it’s thickened a bit.

Stir in the cranberries. Let the cranberries cook for a few minutes, until you hear a few pop. Remove the mixture from heat and stir in the currants and ginger.

Allow to cool completely before serving.

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