Swiss Chard with Balsamic Butter

Another boom of Swiss Chard from the CSA and from my garden is making me scramble for recipes.  This one comes from Susie Middleton's Fast, Fresh & Green which, in my opinion, is one of the greatest veggie recipe books around.  I like that it uses both the leaves and the stems; especially if you have "Bright Lights" chard - with its array of jewel-like colors, it makes a very pretty dish, as well as a tasty one. So yesterday I made a huge batch of Debbie's vanilla-and-cardamom baked squash, using a Butternut from the CSA and two Delicatas from my garden. Tonight I made it into soup, using the basic two-two-two recipe for all my Cream of Whatever soups, and it was outstanding with the Swiss chard on the side, with some garlic bread.  Jeeps actually put the chard on the bread and ate it like a crostini.

A perfect Autumnal Equinox supper, if I do say so.


Susie Middleton's Swiss Chard with Balsamic Butter

  • 1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar (mine is this fabulous strawberry balsamic that Jeeps' partner Steve gave us for Christmas)
  • 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 3/4 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 bunch Swiss Chard with stems
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil (really try to get peanut oil, it's worth it)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts (optional; Jeeps doesn't like them so I kept them on the side)
  • Kosher salt

In a small bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and brown sugar.  Set aside

Wash and dry the chard.  Pull or cut the stems away from the chard leaves.  Cut or rip the leaves into 2- to 3-inch pieces.  Slice the stems crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces.

In a small skillet or pan, toast the pine nuts over medium-low heat, stirring constantly.  Really babysit them because they will burn in a second.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When oil is hot, add the chard stems with a pinch of salt and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant.

Add the chard leaves and 1/2 tsp Kosher salt.  Using tongs, toss the chard leaves in the pan until wilted down.  Scrape the balsamic mixture into the pan, stir, and remove the pan from the heat.  Add the butter and toss and stir until it's melted.  Fold in half the pine nuts.

Transfer the chard, stems, and cooking liquid to a small serving bowl and garnish with remaining pine nuts.

Fava Bean Salad

I posted about fava beans before. Prepping them is a little labor intensive but they are so, so good, and this salad, pinned from Whole Living, is just dynamite—bright, fresh and full of spring. I made it last night with Bouchons au Thon and roasted potatoes and there wasn't a scrap left.

I used my own vinaigrette instead of the garlicky dressing shown below, although it does sound delicious. I had no feta cheese. I had crumbled goat cheese but I'm the only one who likes it, so it ended up being cheese-less.

Fava Bean Salad (with Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette)

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 head garlic, 1/2 inch cut off top to reveal cloves
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup (2 ounces) walnuts, toasted and chopped

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the salad:

  • 1 pound shucked fresh fava beans (from 3 pounds pods; 3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels (from 2 ears of corn)
  • 1 medium cucumber, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Make the vinaigrette: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drizzle garlic with 1 teaspoon oil. Wrap in parchment, then in foil. Bake until soft, about 30 minutes. Squeeze garlic from skins. Mash until smooth.

Whisk together the remaining ingredients with 1 tablespoon of the roasted garlic and remaining 2 teaspoons oil.

Make the salad: Prepare an ice-water bath. Cook beans in a large pot of boiling water for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer beans to ice-water bath. Let cool completely, and remove with the slotted spoon. Cook corn in same pot for 1 minute, and drain in a colander. Peel thin shells off beans.

Toss cucumber, onion, parsley, feta, beans, and corn with the vinaigrette.


With a nice chiaaaaaaanti.

Golden Beet and (Green Bean) Salad

You have to laugh at yourself. You'd cry your eyes out if you didn't.

It's spring, which means beets. For those of you with beet issues, just leave the post now, because I love them in a very prejudiced way and I don't have time for non-believers.

DeCicco's always has beautiful produce and on my last trip they had gorgeous, fat, golden beets, which are my very favorite of all beets. I'd had my eye on this golden beet and green bean salad I pinned from Martha Stewart. I remembered to grab crumbled goat cheese and I swear, I swear I bought two bags of French green beans—one for Easter, and one for the salad.

I must have made both bags on Easter because after I'd roasted the beets and had the water boiling to blanch the beans, I went to the fridge beans. What? Of course there are beans, I bought two bags because I knew I was making this salad! No! No this is not happening!

You know that thing where you search the fridge thoroughly for something you know is there. But it's not. But you keep going back to the fridge and searching again? In weird places like the butter drawer?

So anyway, once I was convinced that there were no beans to be had, I kicked myself around the kitchen a couple times but then the show had to go on. I regrouped by roasting some asparagus and it worked out fine, it was delicious. Just imagine it's very fat green beans, OK?

One other thing: I usually roast beets wrapped in foil, but pressed for time, I cut them into 1" dice and roasted them direct on the baking sheet at 425. This is fine, but in small dice at high temp they will caramelize very quickly, and once you smell burning sugar, it's just a wee bit too late. Jeeps and I ate the really scorched ones and left the pretties for the photo shoot. It's all good really.

Golden Beet and Fat Green Bean Salad

  • 6 large golden beets
  • 6 ounces haricots verts, trimmed and cut in thirds
  • Coarse salt
  • 2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot (from 1 shallot)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed torn fresh basil, plus small leaves for garnish
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 425. Peel and trim beets and cut into 1" dice.

Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, spread on baking sheet, and roast for 10 minutes. Shake the sheet to redistribute and roast another 10 minutes. Watch carefully to avoid burning. (Alternatively you can wrap the beets in foil and roast for about an hour). Transfer beets to a large bowl.

Cook haricots verts in boiling salted water until bright green and crisp tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to ice-water bath, and drain. Add to beets.

Mix vinegar, shallot, and mustard in a small bowl. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking until emulsified. Toss with vegetables, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in torn basil and goat cheese. Garnish with basil leaves. I added some pine nuts as well. It's a salad, there are no rules.



Yellow Rice and Peas


I promised Stacie I'd tell her about yellow rice and peas although there's really not much to tell. I buy it pre-made in the store and it makes itself in like 20 seconds. Yes, one can make their own Mexican-style saffron rice but I've never had good luck with the recipes. I think it's the turmeric. Turmeric and I do not get along.

So Vigo brand it is, Goya also makes a nice mix. For the last five minutes of cooking I throw in half a bag of frozen peas. Redman is very passionate about yellow rice and peas, it's one of his very favorite things for dinner. I love it for sheer convenience but also because it goes with just about anything: it can be the backbone of a vegetarian meal, or it cozies nicely up to roast chicken, breaded chicken, grilled fish, grilled shrimp, meat loaf, tuna cakes. It's the little black dress of your pantry.

I have a soft spot for rice and peas myself. My junior year of high school, I went for two weeks to La Rochelle, France on an exchange program. My host student was named Christophe Roland. He had a reputation as a punk and I didn't know how we were going to get along. We had zero in common yet within two days we were brother and sister. He loved American music and I spent many an hour mooching his cigarettes and translating lyrics for him.

"Listen, what is this," he said, putting on Modern English. "These words...making love to you was never second best. What does that mean?"

I gave him a look. "What does making love mean?"

"I know what making love means, stupid," he said, laughing out a cloud of smoke. "What does he mean was never second best?"

Christopher was something of a loner within the Lycée. His best friend was in his twenties and lived alone in the center of La Rochelle. Christophe took me to his apartment one night and the two young men cooked for me. I was not allowed to help. They were like Oscar and Felix. It was hilarious, and also touching, to watch them collide and bicker in the kitchen, earnestly working to make this meal. Finally they marched out, beaming, bearing grilled fish with a side dish of rice and peas. I was seventeen and felt I had arrived among the ultra hip.

That dinner was not second best.

Smoky Carrots & Fennel

My friend Potter got married a couple weeks ago on Governor's Island. It was an exceptionally lovely wedding withe three (3) kinds of cake: red velvet, carrot and key lime. One of them had bride-and-groom rubber duckies on top.

On the way home, we had time to kill in Grand Central before catching our train. The boys went into the MTA museum while Panda and I wandered through Pylones, which is a funky little store with no end of cool things. Often they have great little books. And sometimes great great books. I got a present:

I read it the whole way home, with visions of vegetables dancing in my head. This is a great book—awesome recipes and mouth-watering photos. Vegetable porn. It's too great, actually, because I end up dog-earing every page and then when it comes time to actually cook, I can't make up my mind. I want to make everything. Or I lack some essential ingredient to make the one thing I've been dying to try.

Finally tonight I told myself to be sensible and use up the oldest vegetables in the fridge, which in this case was a head of fennel. I thumbed the pages and decided upon...(drum roll):

Smoky Spanish Carrots and Fennel with Toasted Hazelnuts

Minus the hazelnuts because I did have them, but not toasted. Toasting hazelnuts is a thankless, high-maintenance job which involves babysitting the nuts in the oven, and then giving them a brisk rubdown with a dish towel to remove all the skins. My cleaning lady came today and the last thing I wanted was bits of hazelnut skin all over my pristine kitchen, it was bad enough I was making breaded chicken. Always, always the day Celia comes to clean, I end up making breaded chicken on my immaculate stovetop.

So this dish, sans hazelnuts, uses the "Walk-Away Sauté" method.  As Susie Middleton says:

It does take time—about 30 minutes—to get the carrots and fennel to the perfect texture. But like most of the walk-away sautés, there’s not a heck of a lot you have to do during that time. Stir. Sip wine. Stir. Sip wine. That’s all. Oh, and you can fret a little when you think the pan is getting too brown. But it isn’t really a problem, I promise.

I'm in love.

Susie Middleton's Smoky Spanish Carrots and Fennel

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb (455 grams, and bless her heart, she gives measurements in standard AND metric) carrots, peeled, trimmed, and sliced.
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and cut into 3/4" slices
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp sherry or rice wine (I used sherry)
  • 1/2 tsp Spanish smoked paprika (I don't know if mine is smoked paprika or sweet or what, I just used what I had)
  • 3 tbsp coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts (blah blah blah)

In a straight-sided sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and fennel and season with the salt. Stir well with a silicone spatula to combine. 

Continue to cook, stirring occasionally at first, and more frequently as the pan begins to brown. Be patient, as it will not look like much is happening in the beginning. Keep stirring and cooking (and don't worry about the pan browning), until the carrots have shrunken quite a bit, are tender (test with a paring knife) and somewhat browned, and the fennel is tender—28 to 30 minutes.

Add the sherry to the pan and stir until it has almost evaporated. Sprinkle the paprika over the vegetables and stir for just a few seconds to incorporate the spice and release its flavor. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool a minute. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the toasted hazelnuts.

This was a perfect dish, Jeeps and I ate every bit. The fennel was smooth as silk and it and the carrots had great, smoky autumn flavor. This would be amazing over polenta. I can see where the hazelnuts would have added that extra something special so I will make a point of having them, pre-toasted, on hand, to make this again. Oh yeah, I'll make it again.

Slow-dance Chicken

I started writing "Slow-Cooked Chicken" but I guess I had something on my mind because it came out slow-dance. Anyway. I've had this recipe dog-eared for a while because it struck me as what the disastrous maiden voyage of David Crockpott was SUPPOSED to have been: an attractive dish of tender chicken and vegetables. 

Key word: attractive.

So I made it tonight. This is how it looks in the book photograph:

This is how it came out on my plate:

I'm just being honest here, guys! All my chicken slid off the bone and when slow-cooked chicken slides off the bone, it shreds. Especially the white meat. So while it was totally delicious, it obviously didn't have the same eye appeal as the book picture. But I can live with that because it really was delicious.

As Val said in A Chorus Line: "Dance: 10. Looks: 3."

Slow-Cooked Chicken Dinner

  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup All-Purpose Spice Rub (see below)
  • 1 roasting chicken, about 7lbs, or equal amount cut-up chicken
  • 1 1/2 pounds golden or red-skin potatoes, quartered (I used the red and the skins turned a very depressing color. You may as well use golden)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, cut into chunks
  • 24 baby-cut carrots (I used 30. Ha!)
  • 4 celery ribs, cut into 3/4" lengths (Use a ruler. Ha!)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons instant mashed potato flakes (stay with me, you'll see. It's genius)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

All-Purpose Spice Rub (Mix all in a small bowl)

  • 2 tsbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp ground dried sage
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper.

Boil the potatoes in several quarts of salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and place in the slow cooker.

Mix the flour and spice rub in a medium mixing bowl. If using whole chicken, cut into 6 pieces and remove skin from all except for wings. Remove wing tips.  Dredge chicken pieces in the flour mixture until thoroughly coated. Pat off the excess flour and reserve the flour mixture.

Heat half the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on both sides, working in batches, about 4 minutes a side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the skillet. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved seasoned flour and stir until vegetables are coated. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Add the chicken broth and simmer until slightly thickened. Pour into the cooker. Arrange first dark meat pieces, then white meat on top of the vegetables. Cover and cook for 3 to 4 hours on high, or 5 to 6 hours on low.

Remove chicken to a serving platter and surround with the vegetables. Turn the cooker up to high, stir in the instant mashed potato flakes, and continue stirring until gravy thickens. Stir in the parsley and spoon over the chicken.

I served it over polenta which was very reminiscent of my mother's baked chicken with polenta from my childhood. 

Vegetable Mess

Not really, I just love to say that. But I'll save it for the ratatouille post. Tonight I have a few roasted and grilled yummies to share.

First is grilled radicchio. Radicchio, also known as Italian chicory, is very bitter raw, but the bitterness mellows out when you roast or grill it. It's still on the bitter side, but in an appealing way. Like the girl with the interesting personality.

Grilled Radicchio with Interesting Personality

  • 1 small head radicchio, outer leaves discarded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Few grinds of pepper mill
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

Quarter the radicchio, leaving the stem end intact because this is what holds the wedge shape.  This never works for me but maybe it will for you.

Put wedges in a large bowl, toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme. My friend Rob recommends tossing in bacon fat if you have some left over.

Grill 3-4 minutes per side until lightly charred.  Below it's served with a quinoa salad with cucumber, tomato and feta, and would also be nice with a wild rice salad.


Next is roasted cauliflower. I fell in love with this method from Molly Wizenburg's A Homemade Life, which calls for slicing the cauliflower straight across lengthwise.

Molly's Lengthwise Cauliflower

  • 1 head cauliflower, leaves trimmed but leave stem intact (just trim the nastiest part of the end off)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • Few grinds of pepper mill

Preheat oven to 425

Slice cauliflower lengthwise about 1/4" wide. You're only going to get two, maybe three slices that end up looking like this:

The rest will just look like small, flat cauliflower florets but that's OK.

Put all the slices into a large bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, turning carefully to coat so you don't break up the nice, big flatties. Place on baking sheet, spreading evenly and as flat as possible—you want as much surface area as possible to caramelize as it roasts.

Roast 20-25 minutes, flipping pieces halfway through, until golden brown.  Below we have some lengthwise cauliflower served over coconut rice and beans and jicama slaw.  A spectacular Meatless Monday Meal if you are so inclined.

Faux Focaccia

I bought 2 bags of frozen pizza dough yesterday. I used one to make my onion tart for a party last night, and thought I'd just figure out some creative use for the other bag today, or else throw it back in the freezer. I had a lot of ripe nectarines and plums around, and toyed with the idea of making some kind of fruit pizza dessert, but when I searched the Internet for ideas, all the fruit pizzas were made with cookie dough crust. The one I found that used actual pizza dough went on to spread vanilla frosting on the dough and arrange the fruit on top.

Vile. I looked no further.

But what about dough for bread's sake—wouldn't it make reasonable focaccia? And couldn't I pick some rosemary out of the garden and knead that into the dough first? Maybe some chopped garlic as well?

You bet I could, and with an abundance of veggies from the garden tonight, dinner practically made itself.

The green beans are going crazy. I love the purple "Velour" ones, they're so pretty in the garden; unfortunately when you steam them they turn plain old green, which the kids find fascinating to watch.


Next, zucchini, yellow squash and eggplant, sliced lengthwise and thrown into a ziplock bag with the remains of the salad dressing cruet. Left to get happy for about 20 minutes, and then thrown on the grill.


Last, the pièce de résistance:

Faux Focaccia

  • 1 bag frozen pizza dough, thawed
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and ground pepper
  • 2-3 sprigs rosemary, needles stripped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled

Preheat oven to 400, spray a rimmed baking sheet with Pam.

Chop the rosemary needles and garlic cloves together fine. Spread out over the cutting board and sprinkle flour on top.

Pry the dough out of the bag, drop it right on top of the garlic and herbs, sprinkle more flour on top (a spouse or small child is a handy thing to have near for flour duty; your hands will be quite sticky).

Knead the dough a few times to fully incorporate the garlic and herbs.

Stretch out the dough on the baking sheet. It should look very sloppy and rustic. If you manage to stretch it into a neat rectangle, please leave my kitchen.

Drizzle olive oil on top of the dough, sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Slide off baking sheet back onto cutting board (serendipitous tip: don't wash off the flour and garlic-herb residue from the cutting board; the heat from the bread will pick it right up.  Yum)

Slice with a pizza cutter and serve. With the addition of some marinated mozzarella, and a jar of roasted red pepper spread I found tucked away in the pantry, this meal was awesome. Knuckles all around the table for Mom.

Thank you.

And good evening.

Beet a Path to my Door

Ha. Thanks to Betty, my Punmaster neighbor, for the title. The beet crop hath indeed arrived: Golden, Chiogga and Detroit Reds. I really only like beets two ways: roasted most of all, and pickled a very distant second. I don't like canned beets, and I don't like borscht (which annoys me because I hear great things about it. It seems like something I should like, but I just don't).

As I posted once before, Croton Creek does an amazing salad with golden beets, heirloom tomatoes and gorgonzola. I've tried replicating it several times but can't quite match it, I think they put crack in theirs or something.

But the other day I teamed up some thyme-roasted beets with arugula and gorgonzola and it was out of this world. And the most satisfying thing was that everything except the cheese came from my garden.

Everything but the Cheese Beet Salad

(And by the way, if beets are not your bag, baby, just substitute carrots, they are delicious roasted with thyme)

  • 9 beets of choice (I used 3 golden, 3 Chiogga, and 3 Detroit Reds)
  • 5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme (I grow lemon thyme which is awesome for roasting root vegetables)
  • Olive Oil, Kosher salt and ground pepper (be generous with all. The more seasoned the beets, the less of that "earthy" flavor there is. The oil you roast them in then serves as the dressing for the greens)
  • 1 bunch arugula or greens of choice
  • Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375. Scrub and trim the root and stem ends from the beets. Peel if you're obsessive (I am). Cut in half lengthwise, and then each half into 3 wedges. Put beets in bowl with thyme stems, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and ground pepper, toss well.

Lay out a sheet of aluminum foil.  Dump the beets into the center and fold up the sides to make a packet.

Roast for 30-40 minutes until fork tender. Remove packet from oven and leave open to cool. Pick out thyme stems and discard.

Put the arugula into a salad bowl. Dump in the contents of the foil packet—beets, oil, and bits of herbs, scrape it all in there. Add Gorgonzola and toss well.