Ramp Pesto

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Few seasonal foods make a locavore’s heart go pitter-patter as quickly as ramps. Ramps — the word is spoken in hushed, reverential tones — are a foraged food that hits the markets in early spring. Their appearance marks the definitive end of winter and the beginning of the growing season.

IMHO, ramps also win the award for World’s CUTEST Vegetable as its soft, tender leaves always remind me of floppy bunny ears. Added bonus? Its stems are often tipped the prettiest shade of oxidized pink.

In terms of flavor, ramps taste garlicky and green onion-y at the same time. They taste young, new, and freshly-sprouted: the essence of spring.

It’s the very end of ramp season here in the Mid-Atlantic, but if you’re lucky enough to still be able to get your hands on a few bunches for pesto, buy as many as you can and freeze the sauce for later! Ramp pesto is lovely tossed with warm pasta or used to dunk hunks of crusty bread. You can also drizzle it on steak, or anything really.

This post also marks the end of a looooooooooong hiatus! For those readers who are still with me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

For anyone new who stumbles on this blog: Welcome!

To both old friends and new acquaintances, it feels good to be back.

Ingredients:

2 bunches of ramps, roots trimmed and cut into 1.5/2-inch pieces

1 knob of butter

1/4 cup of pine nuts

The zest and juice of one lemon

1/3 cup of grated Parmesan

Olive oil

Salt

How to prepare:

1. Heat the butter in a large frying pan set over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, add the ramps and sauté them until the leaves are just beginning to wilt and turn a shade darker. Season them gently and transfer them to a small bowl.

2. When the ramps have cooled, process them with the pine nuts, the lemon zest, the parmesan, and a pinch of salt. With the machine running, add the lemon juice and slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the consistency is nice and creamy. You may need to scrape the sides of the bowl once or twice. Adjust the seasoning for a final time and transfer the pesto to another container.

You should plan on using the pesto in about three days, but it will also keep frozen for about a month.

Puréed Fava Bean and Pecorino Spread

Viva la Fava!
I think that fava beans are one of those things that you need to prepare yourself in order to truly appreciate them. I’m sure that I came across them before I lived in France, perhaps randomly poking out of a spring ragoût or crushed and smeared on some olive oil-brushed toast. However, it wasn’t until that spring in Paris that I actually bought some of my own.

Fava beans appeared suddenly and seemed to overwhelm the markets overnight. They overflowed from round baskets made of thin slats of wood that were stapled together. To fill your flimsy paper bags, you had to first elbow your way through ruthless matrons who did not care if they knocked off your glasses as they pinched and squeezed each pod to see which had the biggest and juiciest beans.

They were ridiculously cheap, mere centimes for a kilo.

You needed kilos of them too. Given that one kilo equals roughly 2.2 pounds, 2.2 pounds of pods would yield slightly more than one cup of beans once shucked. That cup would be reduced again to a mere 2/3 of a cup after removing the waxy, unappetizing membranes from the beans.

Fava beans were so abundant and economical in France that I just assumed that they were as available and inexpensive everywhere else.

Wrong.

Priced somewhere between $2-3 per pound, fava beans in New York are not the budget treat they were in France. However, once I developed a taste for them, I began eagerly anticipating their springtime arrival. Given that a small 2/3 cup serving of fava beans tends to run me about $5-6, I tend to favor recipes that prepare them simply in order to let their earthy, nutty, slightly bitter flavor and buttery texture shine.

Fava beans are still available at the markets here in New York, but elsewhere the season may be ending or has already passed. If you can’t find them easily or find the price prohibitive, I imagine that shelled edamame makes a respectable substitute.

This is one of those recipes where I encourage you can feel your way through it and modify it to fit your tastes. I used Pecorino Romano, a sharp, tangy, and salty sheep’s milk cheese that traditionally partners up with fava beans in and around Rome. However, using grated Parmesan in place of the Pecorino Romano results in a very nice spread too. For a little more smoothness, you can add a soft dollop of good ricotta, or maybe even a spoonful of thick, creamy yogurt.

However you make it, this dip, spread, or whatever you want to call it, is a terrific thing to dunk vegetables in, particularly radishes. You can also slather it on crostini.

Ingredients:

About 2 pounds of fava beans in their pods

1/3 of a cup of freshly grated Pecorino Romano

1/3 of a cup olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

How to prepare:

1. First of all, you will need to remove the beans from their pods. This is easy to do and is much like shelling peas. Once shucked, discard the empty pods, and blanch the beans in boiling water for about 2 minutes — any longer than that, and they will be mushy. Have an ice bath ready to shock the beans after draining them. By submerging the beans in ice water after cooking, you will retain their beautiful green color. When the beans are cool, remove the waxy outer-covering of each one by nicking the end of a bean with your finger nail and easily squeezing each one out of its peel. Discard the peels.

2. Combine the beans with the grated cheese in a food processor. While the machine is running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until the consistency is nice, smooth, and thick. Transfer the spread to a bowl and season it freshly ground black pepper to taste. You shouldn’t need to add any salt because the cheese should be salty enough.

The spread should keep covered in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Unrelated query to Readers: Had a problem where this recently published post reverted back to a much earlier draft and “unpublished” itself. Spooky! Has this ever happened to anyone else? 

Pan-Roasted Lamb Rib Chops with Mint Chimichurri

Ewe should come for dinner!
Several years ago, I spent an entire month in Argentina and I do not recall ever seeing chimichurri sauce on the table.

How could this have been possible? Was I blind? How could I have traveled from the grassy Pampas to the Bolivian border without once encountering this iconic sauce?

I have no idea.

Since that trip, I have yet to see a something about Argentinian steak-eating that doesn’t make reference to chimichurri — that fabulous amalgam of parsley, garlic, red pepper flakes, vinegar, and olive oil — as being the ever-present condiment. However, I can honestly and sadly say that I never had it until I returned home.

It’s not like I wasn’t eating meat over there. After a leisurely breakfast of sweet, flaky medialunas and large cafe con leche, I would wander out into the street and try to figure out where to have my next meal — which would always be steak.

Yes, this was the decadent month where I had steak for lunch and dinner every single day, washed down with gallons of highly-alcoholic Malbec. Did I get sick of the repetitiveness? No. Did I eat anything else? Yes. Empanadas (both the meat and the cheese-filled varieties) and dulce de leche-stuffed alfajores filled in the nooks and crannies in-between meals.

Was it healthy? Most definitely not! By the time that me and my travel companion ended our trip, our alcohol tolerance was through the roof and we could document how much we had swelled in pictures. Looking at them chronologically was like seeing time-lapse photographic evidence of weight-gain.

Was it one of the most delicious vacations of my life? Most definitely yes.

Perhaps if I had seen either a bottle or a bowl of chimichurri sauce, I would have foregone the pathetic green salads that we would order in an effort to ingest something healthy. Who were we kidding? Those little bowls of greens were only gestures, mere tokens of the balanced diets we left behind in favor of steak, steak, more steak, and llama carpaccio.

Chimichurri is an excellent accompaniment for grilled and roasted meats. It’s green, garlicky, and salty with a little heat from the pepper and a little tang from the vinegar. It is amazing and beyond easy to make.

This version of chimichurri is a twist on traditional chimichurri. Instead of oregano, I have substituted fresh mint leaves to complement the lovely lamb chops that I get from my CSA. My introduction to the combination of lamb and mint — the mind naturally conjures up images of adorably delectable baby lambs fattening themselves on tender sprigs of mint and other herbs as if to say, “Here I am and I am pre-seasoned!” — came when I was spending a lot of time in Wales. A slick of mint sauce, usually store-bought and straight from a jar, was used to coat salty little marsh lamb chops in a sheen of jelly. Looking back, those chops would have been much better served by something fresher and more spring-like.

In lieu of red or white wine vinegar, I have opted for unfiltered apple cider vinegar which adds a little bit of sweetness to the final result. I actually got the idea to swap vinegars from the wonderful Hannah over at Inherit the Spoon, whose recipe inspired this one. As you can tell, chimichurri is quite flexible; you can adjust it to your personal tastes as you go along. What is given below is a reflection of what I like to eat, namely more salt and less tart, but you should feel free to play around with it. If the sauce feels too chunky, add more olive oil or more vinegar. Too tangy? Too garlicky? Too spicy? Add more herbs.

As a useful gauge, the final consistency should be like fine pesto. That being said, you can leave the sauce rougher if you prefer. It will still taste wonderful.

Ingredients:

2 thick-cut lamb rib chops per person

Kosher salt

Rice bran oil

1/2 a bunch of Italian parsley, trimmed so that the longer stems are removed

1 handful of fresh mint leaves, stems removed

2 cloves of garlic

Red pepper flakes to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3-4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

1-3-1/2 of a cup of good extra-virgin olive oil

How to prepare:

1. Generously salt both sides of the lamb chops and let them come up to room temperature while you prepare the sauce.

2. Combine the herbs, the garlic, the red pepper flakes, and the apple cider vinegar in a food processor with a hefty pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper. As the processor is going, add the olive oil in a steady stream until you reach your desired consistency. Adjust the seasoning if needed. Keep the sauce covered in the fridge until you are ready to cook the chops.

3. Preheat the oven to 350°.

4. Once the lamb chops have come up to room temperature, pat them dry with paper towels. In a heavy-duty, oven-safe skillet large enough to hold the chops without crowding them, heat about 1-2 tablespoons of rice bran oil or another kind of oil with a high-smoke point until the surface of the oil begins to shimmer. Arrange the chops in a single layer and let them cook undisturbed until you have a nice sear on them. When properly seared, the chops should release easily from the pan if the pan was hot enough to begin with. Flip the chops and move the pan to the oven.  You want to aim for them to be medium-rare. An instant read thermometer should read 135° when inserted in the thickest part of the chop. This should take about 7-10 minutes depending on how thick your chops are (mine were about 1.5 inches thick) and how many are in the pan. When the chops have reached the appropriate level of doneness, remove the pan from the oven and transfer the chops to a plate to rest for 5 minutes.

5. When the meat is done resting, serve them along with the chimichurri. Any uneaten sauce can be kept in an air-tight container in the fridge for about a week. There will likely not be any uneaten sauce 🙂

Sugar Snap Peas with Sesame, Soy Sauce and Mirin


Sugar snap peas are here! When snap peas are in season, I like to prepare them as simply as possible so that their wonderful sweetness can shine.

I like my sugar snaps barely blanched so that the pods retain their crunch, but lose their rawness. This mixture of sesame oil, soy sauce and mirin is barely a dressing; it’s more like a very thin glaze or wash. Even though the dressing is thin, it is remarkably flavorful — but not so flavorful as to overpower the peas.

It goes without saying that if you shun cooking wine (that awful shelf-stable, salty, sugary stuff that you see in the supermarket) and avoid cooking sherry (equally as salty, sugary and awful), you should probably avoid the “mirin” that is typically found in the Asian section at most grocery stores. Tomoko calls it “fake mirin” and it is certainly as gross as cooking wine and cooking sherry: salty, sugary, harsh, unpleasant and full of MSG.

If you can, try to get your hands on some real mirin. Just like how you buy wine and sherry at the wine store, you should find mirin where sake is sold.

Tomoko says that she finds hers at the liquor store, but it seems like the liquor stores downtown aren’t nearly as Asian-conversant as the ones uptown (“Mirin? You mean Wild Turkey?”).

Following a recommendation from the New York Times, I placed an order at a Sakaya, a store that sells almost exclusively sake.

“It’s not so easy to find here,” the woman at the store explained when I told her that I had a little bit of a hard time. “Oh, if I can’t get real mirin, I don’t even bother!”

So what should you do if you can’t get real mirin? As a substitution, you can dissolve a pinch of sugar in sake. Ideally, you’re looking for about a 3-to-1 ratio of sake to sugar, but you can adjust the sweetness to your taste.

The woman at Sakaya agreed, ” Yeah, yeah. Sake and some sugar.”

“Mirin,” she said, “After you open it, they say to put it somewhere cool and dark, but you should put it in the refrigerator. It lasts a long time. I use one bottle of mirin, maybe every one or two years.”

Since I have never held onto a bottle of mirin for one to two years, I don’t know if I can vouch for that. However, I will definitely say that having a bottle around the house is an incentive to use it more often!

Ingredients:

1 pound of sugar snap peas, topped and tailed

2 tablespoons of mirin

2 tablespoons of Japanese soy sauce

1 tablespoon of sesame seed oil

Salt

Sesame seeds

Shichimi or Aleppo pepper

How to prepare:

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the sugar snap peas and cook them briefly for about two to three minutes, no more than four. You want them to be a little crunchy, but not raw.

2. While the snap peas are boiling, set out a large bowl of ice water. Scoop the peas out of the boiling water when they are done and plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking and fix the color. Drain the sugar snap peas well.

3. In a small saucepan, heat together the mirin, the soy sauce and the sesame oil over low heat. Let the sauce simmer until it has reduced to a thin glaze. Adjust the seasoning if needed.

4. Toss the drained snap peas with the dressing in a large bowl. Sprinkle them with sesame seeds and shichimi to taste.

Kolpona Cuisine’s Muttar Paneer with Freshly-Shelled Peas


When Tahmina over at Kolpona Cuisine posted her recipe for muttar paneer, I knew that the minute shell peas came into season, I was going to make it. Before I started reading her blog, I always felt so intimidated by South Asian cooking. Long lists of spices — some ground, some whole — would freak me out so much that I would end up making something French or Italian-inspired instead.

But what I love about Tahmina is how accessible she makes Bengali, Indian and South Asian cooking. Don’t have a spice grinder for garam masala? No problem. Garam masala is better with whole spices anyway — just count how many of each thing you put in, and fish them out with your fingers while you eat. Don’t have paneer? Take that 2% milk you have lying around the house and make cheese!

This is the second recipe from Tahmina that I have cooked (the first being kale paneer), and I loved the results. The serrano peppers and chopped cilantro added near the end of cooking give the dish a wonderful freshness. The peas are also such a pretty contrast to the sunny yellow sauce. It’s really, really good.

I think that by the end of the summer, I will have succeeded in making everything that she posts!

I hardly changed Tahmina’s recipe with the exceptions of using freshly shelled peas, substituting ginger-garlic paste for actual ginger (I didn’t have any) and garlic, and using store-bought paneer. Tahmina recommends making your own paneer  something that I would totally do if I didn’t keep forgetting to watch the clock. I never seem to be able to factor in enough time to let the cheese drain! She also advocates making your own ghee, which is also on my cooking to-do list. I keep forgetting the fenugreek leaves too . . . I need to replace that Post-it pad in the kitchen!

I did have to French up this recipe a little bit by using some fancy crème fraîche in the place of heavy cream 🙂 Oh la la!

And the absolute best part about cooking from a friend’s blog? You feel like they are right in the kitchen with you, even when they are hundreds of miles away 🙂

For the her recipe, click here.

Ingredients:

For the tomato-onion base:

2 tablespoons of ghee or vegetable oil

1/4 cup of raw cashews

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon of red chili powder

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1 teaspoon of ground coriander

2 tablespoons of ginger-garlic paste

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

Salt

For the Garam masala:

Ghee or vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds

5 green cardamom pods

5 whole cloves

2 bay leaves

1 cinnamon stick

For the final dish:

1 cup of freshly shelled peas

2 serrano peppers, chopped

8 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) of paneer, cubed

1/2 cup of cilantro leaves, chopped

1/4 cup of crème fraîche

Salt

How to prepare:

1. In a large saucepan, toast the raw cashews in about two tablespoons of ghee or oil over medium heat. When the cashews begin to color, add the onion and sauté everything together until the onion begins to turn golden around the edges. Add the ground spices and fry them until they are nice and fragrant. Be sure to stir the onion mixture frequently so that the spices don’t burn. Add the ginger paste and the chopped tomatoes. Cook them until the tomatoes begin to break down. Adjust the seasoning.

2. Purée the tomato-onion mixture in a food processor or blender.

3. Using the same saucepan, heat the whole garam masala spices in about a tablespoon of ghee or vegetable oil over medium heat. When the spices are fragrant and the cumin seeds begin to pop, add the puréed tomato-onion base back to the pan. Let the it simmer for a few minutes so that the garam masala spices infuse the tomato-onion mixture. Add chili peppers and the peas and cook them until the peas are just start to become tender, about 4 minutes. Add the paneer, the chopped cilantro leaves and the crème fraîche. Continue to simmer everything together for 3-4 minutes more. Adjust the seasoning for a final time.

Serve with rice or, as Tahmina recommends, chapatis.

Japanese Baby Turnips Sautéed in Butter and Soy Sauce


I have a confession which really isn’t a confession since it’s pretty obvious : When it comes to Asian cooking, I haven’t a clue most of the time.

To this, I might add something possibly incendiary: although there are many people out there who are progressive, there are a lot of people who aren’t and it happens fairly often that I meet people who think that as someone of Asian descent, I eat rice like it’s going out of style, am quiet, reserved and demure, and have relatively little body hair.

Imagine their faces when they find out that I swear like a sailor, have no filter and can hold my liquor like a white divorcée.

The body hair part is true though 😉

In regards to the swearing, now that I’m older, I have made a concerted effort to swear less. Mostly because it makes the times when I do swear even better! Just kidding 😉 In all honesty, I think that I swore so much in my youth that I used up all of my swear words. I just don’t want to swear anymore. Can believe it? I can’t!

As for the filter? Visualize some big rusty grate with giant holes in it. The kind that lets almost everything through except for large, plastic soda bottles and shoes. I have worked hard on that too since I realized that speaking without thinking is best way to get misunderstood. I still think of my filter as that grate, but now it’s jerry-rigged with an intricate network of fishing line and wire. Some stuff still gets through, but much, much less than before. Thank goodness!

In terms of Asian food, I am not completely ignorant because I happen to know plenty about eating it. I have never met a sliced jellyfish, deep-fried octopus ball, bowl of noodles, dumpling (oooooh, dumplings), taro puff, sweet red bean fritter, bao, roll (spring and summer), lotus bean paste-stuffed pastry, chicken adobo, preserved egg, roast duck, suckling pig, hot-pot, under-cooked chicken meatball, wad of natto, head-on shrimp, whole fish, chili crab or Spam musubi that didn’t make my motor run.

However, when it comes to the nitty gritty of cooking, I am a babe in the woods.

The amount of times that I have stir-fried can be counted on one hand with fingers to spare. I did attempt a stir-fry about a week ago and it was an epic fail. I actually asked my mom right before I did it too.

“Mom, how do you stir-fry?”

Silence.

I pictured her putting the phone down and walking away in shame. Or maybe it wasn’t shame, but just a refusal to tolerate such a dumb question.

So after mangling that stir-fried chicken and bok choy dish (I wilted that poor bunch of greens into a pathetic nothing), I have decided that this summer, I am going to get in touch with my yellow-ness and make a good-hearted attempt to become a little more educated about how to cook some of that food over there. I know it’s kind of wrong to lump all the Southeastern and Far Eastern cultures together, but isn’t it much more efficient to refer to all peoples who use sticks as utensils as one group rather than many? I want to learn to cook a little Chinese, some Japanese, some Korean, some Filipino, some Indonesian, some Vietnamese, some Thai and more.

I’m going to try it all.

I’m almost completely new at this, so if I stick two things together that really don’t go, like using a sauce meant for fish on cheese, please do let me know. I bet you can all stir-fry circles around me, so I’m counting on you for help.

Because my mom won’t 😦

I’m also illiterate, so please make all comments or suggestions in English or in another Latinate language 🙂

Ingredients:

1 bunch of Japanese baby turnips (or regular baby turnips) and their greens, thoroughly washed

Butter

Sesame oil

Japanese soy sauce

Crushed Aleppo pepper or shichimi

How to prepare:

1. Separate the leaves from the baby turnips. Trim the turnips and cut them in half if they are too big. You want all the turnips and turnip pieces to be roughly the same size so that they cook evenly. Roughly chop the greens into 2-inch pieces.

2. In a large saucepan, heat a knob of  butter and about a teaspoon of sesame oil together over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam, toss in the baby turnips. Carefully add a splash of soy sauce to the pan along with some Aleppo pepper or shichimi to taste. Sauté the turnips until they begin to lose their opacity and turn translucent. Add the greens and continue to cook everything until the greens are wilted and the turnips are cooked through. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Orecchiette Carbonara with Freshly-Shelled Peas


On a hot and sticky mid-August night several years ago, I boarded an overnight train from Paris to Milan. The cabin was filled with two sets of bunk-beds that were meant to accommodate four people. Instead, we were five because the couple sharing the cabin with us had a toddler.

The family asked if they could have the bottom bunks, which was fine by me because I wanted to bunk closest to the itty bitty window that cracked open at a woefully insufficient angle.

Insufficient because the father had removed his shoes and the smell was horrific.

It was so bad that I couldn’t sleep. I was finally forced to look in my Italian phrasebook and scan the pages by moonlight for something appropriate to say that would make the man put his darn shoes back on!

Unfortunately, my phrase book had nothing related to shoes, or putting on shoes or telling people that the smell of their feet was intolerable. However, I did manage this:

“Per fevore, signore. I vostri piedi, è violazione dei miei diritti umani!”

Which worked out roughly to mean, “Excuse me, sir. Your feet, this is a violation of my human rights!”

No response. So I tried these other phrases:

I vostri piedi, sto svenendo . . . Non riesco a respirare . . . !”

Which means: “Your feet, I’m passing out . . . I cannot breathe . . . !”

Then I repeated, “I vostri piedi,” pointed to his feet, crossed my eyes and pretended to die.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

He must have understood me because he refused to acknowledge my existence. I tried not to take it personally, even though I hated him more and more as we crawled south to Italy. Maybe, I thought, he was trying to incapacitate his over-active son. Or maybe he was angry at his wife and was trying to suffocate her with the smell of his feet.

Seriously. If that smell could be weaponized, the war on terror would be over.

So what does this have to do with carbonara, that amazing Italian dish that uses the residual heat of freshly boiled pasta to transform bacon, beaten eggs and Parmesan into a creamy sauce?

In that very same Italian phrase book was a recipe for spaghetti alla carbonara, a recipe that I still rely on to this day.

The idea to use orecchiette and peas actually comes from Suzanne Goin‘s Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Her description of how orecchiette are perfectly shaped to cup small bits of bacon and peas was irresistible to me, but I prefer to stick with my old phrasebook’s way of making carbonara because it only uses one pan — and who doesn’t prefer that?

These proportions will make enough for two, but can easily be adjusted for more. For something richer, you could add about a 1/3 of a cup of caramelized chopped onions to the mix. This recipe was also a great way to start using the wonderful shell peas that are at the market right now, as well as the bacon and pullet eggs from my CSA.

Pullet eggs are small eggs from young hens that have just started laying. They say that two pullet eggs are the equivalent of one regular chicken egg, but I find that it’s really more like 3 pullet eggs = 2 regular chicken eggs. Pullet eggs are wonderfully rich in both flavor and mouthfeel, just perfect for carbonara if you can get a hold of some.

I also used up the last of my CSA bacon ends to make my bacon bits, but you can use crumbled cooked bacon strips in this if bacon ends are not handy.

Ingredients:

1/3 pound of dried orecchiette

1/3 cup of bacon bits or crumbled cooked bacon

1/3 cup of freshly shucked green peas or frozen peas

5 pullet eggs or three regular eggs

1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan

Freshly grated black pepper

Olive oil

How to prepare:

1. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. When the water has reached a rolling boil, add the pasta. While the pasta is cooking, set up the other ingredients. This recipe moves quickly near the end, so it is a good idea to have everything ready to go.

2. Combine the Parmesan and eggs in a small bowl with freshly ground black pepper.

3. When the pasta is not quite al dente, add the peas to the boiling water. Let the pasta and peas finish cooking together. Drain and pour the pasta and peas back into the saucepan. Add the bacon along with a quick drizzle of olive oil. Pour the beaten egg mixture over the pasta and begin stirring everything together quickly. When you add the eggs, the pasta should be warm enough to barely cook them. You want the sauce to be just thick enough to coat the pasta with a glossy sheen. If the sauce seems soupy instead of creamy, put the pan over a very low flame and continue to stir and toss the pasta quickly until the sauce turns smooth and creamy.

Don’t worry if you accidentally overcook the eggs and they scramble a little bit. It will still be delicious.

French Breakfast Radishes Sautéed in Butter


The idea for this side dish came from Susan over at Susan eats London. It’s hardly a recipe, just French breakfast radishes split in half and sautéed in butter and olive oil.

French breakfast radishes are elongated, rosy-colored radishes tipped with white at the root end. The French adore them. You see them everywhere, but I can’t recall ever hearing them called breakfast radishes in France. No “radis petit-déjeuner.” No “bweakfast wadeeesh” either.

The exact reason for why they are called French breakfast radishes is unclear. From what I can find out, their name has nothing to do with the French having them for breakfast. Instead, it comes from the Victorians who liked to eat them for breakfast or afternoon tea. “French breakfast radish” is the blanket term for any small, oblong, pink and white-tipped radish. These kinds of radishes were considered French because of their association to the French from the English perspective (the English observed that the French liked to eat a lot of them). They became known as those French radishes that you had while sipping your English breakfast tea.

French breakfast radishes are the quintessential radish for slathering with good soft butter and dunking in flaky sea salt. They are also delicious sautéed in butter. Cooked, the radishes lose their bitter bite and they turn into succulent butter bombs. During cooking, the radishes give up some of their essence and make the most beautiful pink-hued sauce. They are impossible to resist.

Susan calls them food crack, and who can resist food crack? Not me!

Ingredients:

Butter

Olive oil

1 bunch of French breakfast radishes, trimmed and halved lengthwise

Salt

Chives

How to prepare:

1. In a skillet large enough to accommodate all the radishes, melt a big knob of butter with a little bit of olive oil. When the butter begins to foam, add the radishes. Season them with salt and sauté them until the radishes lose their opacity and they all begin to turn translucent. Transfer the radishes to a serving dish and snip fresh chives over them before serving.

Welsh Rabbit with Radish Greens


You can admit it: the title of this blog post made you want to speak like Elmer Fudd.

Because what’s better than a post about Welsh rabbit?

A post about wascally Welsh wabbit with wadishes! Specifically, wadish gweens!

You’re vewy, vewy welcome.

I was buying even more radishes at the market on Friday when I noticed that my hands and arms were itchy. Why? Because radish leaves have little prickles. They don’t sting, but they can irritate if you have sensitive skin. So while I was waiting in line, rubbing my hands and arms, my mind naturally drifted to stinging nettles — whose short season I seem to have missed completely. Then I started thinking that maybe radish leaves would be a good substitution for them in recipes.

The inspiration for this dish came, not from Bugs Bunny, but from from Nigel Slater‘s recipe for Welsh rabbit with nettles.

Welsh rabbit (also known as rarebit) is basically cheese on toast. The best cheese on toast that you will ever have. I’m not entirely sure of the origins of the name. I read that it was a term coined in the 18th Century by the English to make fun of the Welsh who had lots of cheese but little meat. But there seems to also exist an English rabbit, a Scotch rabbit and an Irish rabbit — none of which have any rabbit in them either. They are all just cheese on toast.

Technically, this should probably be called American rabbit — specifically New Hampshire rabbit because the Welsh-style cheese that I used is made New Hampshire, USA at Landaff Creamery. Landaff Creamery is named after the Welsh hamlet of Llandaff, just to the north of Cardiff. I’m not quite sure why they lopped off the extra l. Maybe there was some kind of international branding issue. Or maybe it’s because the difficult to pronounce Welsh double l supposedly gets lopped off by Welsh capital dwellers, and the creamery’s owners figured that if it was too hard for them, it would be impossible for us. My cheesemonger didn’t seem to have any trouble pronouncing it as if it had double lWhere did he learn that?!

Ingredients:

About a cup of radish leaves, washed

Olive oil

2 tablespoons of crème fraîche

1 teaspoon of grainy mustard

1/2 cup of crumbled Caerphilly, Caerphilly-like cheese or Cheddar (see here for more alternatives)

Freshly ground black pepper

Freshly grated nutmeg

2 slices of sourdough bread, lightly toasted on both sides (you can also use multigrain bread)

How to prepare:

1. Heat some olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When the oil becomes fragrant, add the radish greens to the pan along with about a tablespoon of water. Sauté the greens until they just wilted. Remove the greens to a colander to drain.

2. When the greens are cool enough to handle, gently press as much liquid out of them as you can. Roughly chop the leaves.

3. In medium-sized bowl, mix together the chopped greens, the crème fraîche, the mustard and the crumbled cheese. Season the mixture with freshly ground black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste. Divide the mixture in half and mound it evenly onto each slice of toast. Arrange them on a large sheet of aluminum foil and place the toasts under the broiler until browned and golden.

Wild Spinach and Radish Green Spanakopita


It used to always kill me to buy a bunch of radishes and discard the leafy tops. I have never had the space to compost, so all of that plant matter would go straight into the trash.

It killed me every time until I found out that you can eat those radish greens and they are delicious.

Yes, you can eat them! Raw, they have a nice, spicy bite. Cooked, their flavor mellows and they taste warm and wonderful. Like the best tasting, silkiest spinach ever. To think that I was throwing them away for all those years!

They are a bit of a pain to clean since you have to fastidiously wash all the dirt and grit from the leaves and stems. It is worth it though.

When I saw wild spinach (also known as lambsquarter) at the Greenmarket, I immediately thought that spanakopita would be a great way to use both greens. When I think about Greek food, I think about the Greek landscape: scrubby in parts, dotted with wild herbs and craggy olive trees. There is something a little rustic about the combination of wild spinach and radish greens that fits my little Mediterranean fantasy (never mind the fact that there is nothing rustic about the Greeks; they are as polished and well-turned out as the Milanese).

Spanakopita is wonderful mix of greens and feta wrapped up in flaky phyllo dough. You can make these little triangles, or alternately layer the phyllo dough sheets and the filling in a ceramic dish to bake as a giant pie.

Some might be disappointed to see that I didn’t make my own phyllo. Does anyone really make their own phyllo anymore? I think the oft-repeated saying goes that a woman is good Greek marriage material when she can roll phyllo thin enough for her prospective husband to be able to read a newspaper through it. I don’t plan on being anyone’s Hellenic housewife any time soon, so store-bought phyllo dough it is!

Ingredients:

6 cups of radish greens, washed

6 cups of wild spinach, washed

Olive oil

1/2 pound of feta, crumbled

The zest of one lemon

Salt and pepper

A pinch of nutmeg

1 egg, beaten

6 sheets of frozen phyllo dough, completely thawed

1 stick of butter, melted

How to prepare:

1. In a large pot, heat some olive oil over medium heat. When the oil becomes fragrant, add the wild spinach to the pot along with a few tablespoons of water. Sauté the spinach until it is just wilted. Remove the wilted spinach with tongs to a colander to drain. Repeat this process with the radish greens.

2. When the greens are cool enough to handle, use your hands to gently squeeze and press as much liquid as possible out of the leaves. You will be amazed how much liquid there is. Try to be thorough; the less moisture there is in the leaves, the better your filling will be.

3. Finely chop the greens and put them in a large bowl. To the bowl, add the feta and the nutmeg. Stir everything together until the cheese is evenly distributed throughout the greens. Adjust the seasoning before adding the beaten egg.

3. Preheat the oven to 375°.

4. Fold the phyllo sheets in half lengthwise and cut them in half. Fold each half lengthwise and cut them in half again. Each phyllo dough sheet will give you 4 long strips of dough. Cover the strips snugly in plastic wrap. Working one strip at a time, make the spanakopita. Gently brush each strip with melted butter. Starting at one end, put a dollop (about a scant tablespoon) of filling in the upper corner. Fold the phyllo dough down over the filling to make a triangle. Now fold the filled triangle up. Continue to fold the strip into triangles, like folding an flag (or at least how we Americans fold a flag). Don’t worry if the folds aren’t perfect. Working with phyllo can be very forgiving because you can always make the uneven edges stick to main triangle with more butter.

If you want crunchier spanakopita, you can layer two strips of phyllo dough together with brushed butter and then fold the triangles up as you would with one strip. Just remember that you will need double the number of phyllo dough sheets in this case.

Continue folding with the remaining strips of phyllo dough. Arrange the completed triangles in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. You should end up with 24 filled triangles total.

5. Brush the triangles with the remaining melted butter. Bake them for 20-25 minutes until they are golden and crisp. Serve hot.

Variation:

I had planned on adding about 1/4 cup of fresh dill, a 1/4 of a cup of fresh parsley and a 1/4 of a cup of freshly chopped green onions, but I got distracted by a terrible werewolf movie on television called Blood and Chocolate. I think lost brain cells! It wasn’t even corny, or cheesy or cool in a bad cult-movie kind of way. It was just bad.