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Posts from the ‘salads’ Category

flat-roasted chicken with caramelized oranges and truffled polenta with parmesan

I don’t use the word feast lightly.

My family has always been a feasting one, and if images of Arthurian banquets pop to mind you’re not terribly off the mark. Reunions are planned with no thought for where cousins will sleep or what outings will be had, but everyone knows precisely what and who will be cooking each night for months in advance. Christmas Eve is marked by a giant, flaming pudding (soaked in brandy and ignited with a match); “Birthday Eves” are occasions for multiple courses and—alas no more—once featured homemade cakes fashioned into corrals for model horses or voluminous skirts for Barbie. It’s no surprise that the most-requested Christmas carol in our home is “Good King Wenceslas,” which features the good king’s spirited declaration, Bring me flesh and bring me wine!

Wine is all-important when it comes to the family feast. Bottles are purchased with care and hoarded with zeal until the appropriate occasion, which is, if not Saturday dinner, then certainly Sunday supper. The wine is swirled, inhaled, tasted, exclaimed over and discussed, each step partaken of with great earnestness and animation. “There are no great wines, only great bottles of wine,” my grandfather likes to say, hinting that a golden evening of fellowship infuses the chosen bottle with an added glow. That being said, I have had some truly wonderful wines in my life, and last night’s was memorable indeed.

The evening began, as it often does, in the early afternoon. I had selected the 2009 Cilla’s Blend from local winery Cimarone (a Syrah and Bordeaux blend from their Three Creek Vineyard estate collection) and planned a menu to match. Now, at 2 p.m., I was out in the garden picking kale and fresh herbs, which I rinsed and laid to dry before pulling a chicken from the fridge to prepare for flat-roasting.

Studying wine pairings recently I was interested to read that when it comes to Syrah, it’s often not so much the type of food you choose as how you prepare it. Grilled foods (preferably with a bit of char) pair particularly well, and strong herb flavors like rosemary and thyme play up complimentary flavor elements in the wine. Texture is also important, and grains like polenta make for friendly sides.

When I put our meal on the table at 8 p.m. (never fear—I took my time but the cooking could easily have been done start-to-finish in two hours) it was greeted with enthusiasm by family and wine-loving friends. We poured the blend and savored it with each dish: flat-roasted chicken with caramelized, charred oranges, creamy polenta with parmesan and a hint of truffle, kale and cabbage salad tossed with lemon and avocado and a platter of crispy grilled turnips and broccoli. We sighed deeply over the delicious complexity and peppery finish of the wine, which our friend Ken declared was like a “balanced portfolio.”

“It doesn’t just have one strong note,” he mused as I reached again for the bottle, “It’s like a major 7th chord.”

Flat-Roasted Chicken with Caramelized Oranges and Truffled Polenta with Parmesan

This wonderfully simple and delicious recipe for flat-roasted chicken is adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, David Tanis’ Heart of the Artichoke. The truffle-infused oil I used for the polenta was from La Tourangelle and relatively inexpensive, and a pinch of truffle salt would likely do the trick as well. The chicken and polenta went well with a creamy kale slaw and simple grilled turnips and broccoli.

For the chicken:

1 whole chicken

1 large handful fresh rosemary sprigs, plus 1 Tbsp. rosemary, chopped

2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, minced

1 Tbsp. fresh sage, minced

1 orange, sliced into rounds

olive oil

salt & pepper

Rinse the chicken and remove the innards. Pat dry and lay the bird on a cutting board with the breasts facing down, then use large kitchen shears (or powerful scissors) to remove the backbone, cutting along one side and then the other. Spread the chicken out until it is lying completely flat, cutting the collarbone if necessary. Rub the bird with olive oil, salt, and pepper and lay breasts-up on top of rosemary sprigs, then rub the breasts, thighs, and legs with the chopped rosemary, thyme, and sage. Arrange the orange slices on top of the bird, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator, discard plastic, and slide into heated oven, roasting until juices run clear (about one hour, or until your meat thermometer registers 160 degrees). If orange slices start to burn you can cover the chicken loosely with foil, but some char on the fruit is good. Remove from oven, let rest 10 minutes, and serve.

For the polenta:

1 1/2 cups course-ground polenta

6 cups water

olive oil

2 Tbsp. salted butter

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp. truffle-infused oil

salt & pepper

In a medium saucepan, salt the water and bring to a boil. Add the polenta and a glug of olive oil and whisk quickly and thoroughly to prevent lumps, then turn the heat to medium low and simmer uncovered until the polenta is cooked to your liking, 10-20 minutes. Turn heat to low and stir in the butter until melted, then add the parmesan a bit at a time, whisking after each addition. Add the teaspoon of truffle oil and taste: the truffle flavor should add depth, but not be too obvious or overpowering. Season with salt and pepper, then remove from heat and keep warm until serving.

butternut squash with cauliflower and crispy edamame

Recently, in what felt like a return to my English lecture days, I was asked to write on what makes a compelling character in a book or movie. So often in novels or films we see protagonists accomplishing death-defying feats, I began, they are heroes in the face of mediocrity, extraordinary beings in an ordinary world. The authors I love are those who acknowledge that the reverse is truer to human experience: we are ordinary characters in an extraordinary world. The characters whose lives I fall into with abandon are those who make spaghetti, drink beer, and buy pantyhose at the drugstore while things of utter strangeness go on around them.

I’ve long been a fan of authors who don’t flinch from providing mundane detail. My childhood heroine Nancy Drew couldn’t so much as climb into her blue roadster without a description of her pastel-colored outfit, an authorial move both entirely unnecessary and thoroughly enjoyable. The characters in the novels of one of my current favorites, Haruki Murakami, might be in the throes of mind-altering mysteries, but they go about their lives in much the same way I do: there is lots of opening the refrigerator and boiling water for pasta, many Friday nights spent in bed reading a book.

We tend to go about our daily activities on autopilot, and recently I realized just how powerful our neurological cruise control is when I read David Eagleman’s fascinating book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. Once we learn to chop vegetables or spin lettuce for a salad, there’s no need to focus on it—the activity is seared into the brain’s wiring, and in fact it’s often impossible to describe exactly how we wield the knife the way we do. But just because we can cook and eat without focusing on what goes into our mouths, does that mean we should? Jeff Gordinier’s compelling article in the New York Times yesterday on mindful eating offers a glimpse into a world where each bite is carefully savored, a practice that doesn’t come naturally to our efficient brains.

The concept of mindful eating appeals to me for the same reason that ordinary, spaghetti-making characters do: there is something deeply meditative about daily moments spent preparing and eating food. Cooking reminds us that life has a rhythm, that no matter how exciting or dull things become we pause several times each day and eat. These times can be rushed affairs, scarfing down a banana on the fly, and sometimes they have to be. But they can also be moments of unhurried reflection, of ordinary, everyday delight that lends itself more to happiness than heroic victory does.

Butternut Squash with Cauliflower and Crispy Edamame

The key to this simple and satisfying dish is roasting until the edamame are browned and crunchy–they add wonderful texture to the sweet, soft squash and crispy florets of cauliflower.

1 medium butternut squash

1 head of cauliflower

1 cup frozen edamame

sweet Moroccan paprika

olive oil

salt & pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel butternut and cut into cubes; spread on a baking sheet with frozen edamame. Cut cauliflower into bite-size chunks and add to the sheet, then sprinkle vegetables with sweet paprika, salt and pepper. Use your hands to coat veggies well with olive oil, then slide into the oven to cook for 30-40 minutes, or until butternut is fully roasted and edamame are browned and crispy.

roasted cauliflower with almonds, raisins and capers

I’m a list-maker by nature, and the end of the year brings with it unlimited list-making opportunities: books read, restaurants visited, James Bond movies watched in a single week (thank you instant Netflix!). The most rewarding list, however, is always my “year in recipes.” Nothing reminds me more vividly of the distinct settings of my year–New York, Columbia, home, the farm–than the things I cooked and ate, and each of the following recipes was a genuine favorite, made multiple times and either shared or joyfully hoarded. I hope that you enjoy this selection, and that it reminds you of the recipes and meals that make up your own.

Guilt-free cookies with coconut, banana, ground almonds and dark chocolate.

Spicy spaghetti with fennel, lemon, pancetta and parsley.

— A goat cheese tart with Greek yogurt, honey, berries and oats.

Orzo salad with feta, lemon, broccoli, asparagus, and sprouts.

— Baked brunch oatmeal with bananas, berries, vanilla and almonds.

— Hearty meatballs with breadcrumbs, parmesan, parsley and egg.

— A refreshing ice cream with cream cheese and handfuls of fresh mint.

— A perfect bread pudding with toasted bread, vanilla, raisins and pecans.

— And lastly, a personal favorite from our Christmas Day lunch:

Roasted Cauliflower with Almonds, Raisins and Capers

1 large (or 2-3 small) heads of cauliflower

olive oil

large handful almonds, chopped

1/2 cup raisins, red or golden

1/4 cup capers

salt and pepper

red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop the cauliflower heads into florets, then toss in a bowl with several glugs of olive oil. Add the chopped almonds, raisins, capers and salt and pepper to taste, and continue to toss until everything is nicely mixed and coated with oil. Spread on a baking sheet and sprinkle with pepper flakes, then roast in the oven until the almonds are toasted and the florets begin to brown, tossing occasionally. Serve as a side, warm or cool.

cranberry, chestnut, and apple salad with lime dressing

Browse any website or magazine rack beginning early November and you’ll come away with one vision of Thanksgiving: it’s about the food. It’s almost as though the idea of being thankful has been quietly engulfed in glossy photos of turkeys and latticed pies, and for a while it bothered me as a “socially conscious” high school sophomore that the defining characteristic of our holiday of thankfulness was excess. I can’t say my self-righteousness was entirely misplaced, but there was so much joy to be gained in letting it go.  The role of eating and food in celebration is sacred, and really, what better way is there to express gratitude?

For the last several years my family has shared hosting Thanksgiving with close friends, and this year we made the pilgrimage to their home for our holiday meal. I use the word pilgrimage with absolute seriousness, because Nick and Jane’s home has always held a special spot of reverence in my parents’ (very) discerning eye—it is beautiful in a way that is both effortless and tasteful. Then there is the food… gold-rimmed plates with soft-rind cheeses and soft-boiled eggs in china egg cups and large wedges of tea cake resting regally on the counter. It is one of the few places I know that is truly wonderful to visit.

This salad exemplifies the ways Jane’s cooking has inspired my mother and I over the years–simple and visually stunning, it was the perfect accompaniment to cold slices of ham and turkey the day after Thanksgiving. One week later the five of us sat at Manresa tasting the arugula flowers I’d shown them in the garden, and in a way I felt I’d come full circle: after the beautiful way of eating I’d experienced in their home since childhood, I had the chance to share something of my time on the farm with them.

Cranberry, Chestnut, and Apple Salad with Lime Dressing

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine, November, 1981

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, cut in half

3 Tbsp sugar

2 bunches of watercress

1 cup chestnuts

3 green apples

1 Tbsp grated lime rind

juice of 3 to 4 limes

2 tsp Dijon mustard

pinch salt

2/3 to 1 cup olive oil

Zest the limes and set aside. Toss cranberries with sugar in a small bowl and let sit at least one hour covered and refrigerated.

In a large glass or ceramic bowl, combine 1/4 cup lime juice with the mustard and salt. Whisk in the olive oil.

Core and cut the apples into bite size pieces.  Toss into the dressing.  Quarter the chestnuts and add to the bowl. Cover and refrigerate.

Line a glass bowl with the watercress (set the stalks up against the side of the bowl to create a nice visual presentation, and add more leaves on the bottom). Add the apple-chestnut mixture creating a small hollow in the center, then fill the hollowed-out space with the tossed cranberries.  As a final touch, sprinkle the lime zest over the salad and serve.

lemony basil dressing with honey and pepper

The mustards are my babies.

I’m not one for baby talk, I assure you. (My sister might shake her head and remind me of an ill-fated high school relationship, but “babe” will never pass my lips again). I don’t refer to pets as babies—cuteness notwithstanding—and even babies themselves get little more than an indulgent smile, usually for the parent’s benefit. My nano-pet died as many times as it achieved virtual heaven, and the only thing I find irresistibly cute is the Squishable I have asked for the past three Christmases (with no results—I’m looking at you Rae).

The mustards aren’t cute in any sense of the word. By mustards I mean the mustard greens we grow for the restaurant—Mizuna, Purple Mizuna, Golden Frill, and Red Frizzle—and like babies, they require an enormous amount of attention: several flats of each variety must be sowed weekly, harvested bi-weekly, and watered daily. Since it takes roughly a month from sow-date to harvest-ready they span half the greenhouse, a quilt of green and red in various states of maturity.

There’s always so much to do in garden that with our ever-increasing task list and rotating schedules it’s rare for one person to see a process through in its entirety. I may pull zucchini from a bed that Christine amends and Ross shapes and Phillip plants out and Adam harvests from, a cycle that can take anywhere from several weeks to several months. With the mustards, though, it makes more sense for one person to oversee their care and cultivation, so as to gauge how much is needed of each variety and what quantities of sowing and harvesting are necessary to meet the restaurant’s needs. When Ellen left that job fell to me, and within a few weeks I was smitten. How could I not be, watching their little shoots pushing determinedly up from the growers mix or clipping mature, frilly bunches I imagine are my own personal contribution to the restaurant?

In sowing what I think the restaurant will need in four weeks’ time I do happen to miscalculate (just two bunches of Purple Mizuna this week? Impossible!) and a few weeks ago we had ourselves a mustard glut. While the restaurant uses them to make the Garden Beignets I wrote about a little while back, they are amazingly good as a simple salad with a great vinaigrette or a light and lemony dressing. I’d never been much good at making dressings (my family has come to expect a last-minute oil-and-balsamic splash on my salads) but I recently learned a trick that makes any dressing deliciously creamy. The key is to make your flavor profile first—the vinegar, mustard, honey, lemon, etc.—then slowly add your oil while whisking constantly. It works every time, and when we gathered for a low-key farm dinner in the gardening classroom one rainy night and I had to make do with what was there, I found that even the simplest ingredients—lemon, honey, pepper, basil and oil—can become something rich and wonderful.

Lemony Basil Dressing with Honey and Pepper

1 lemon, juiced

handful fresh basil, finely chopped


black pepper


canola oil

In a small bowl whisk lemon juice, basil, honey, pepper, and salt, tasting as you go and adding a bit more of whichever ingredient is needed to reach your desired balance of tart and sweet (dressing making is very much about personal taste and intuition, so it’s actually easier to taste rather than going with exact amounts). When you have the perfect balance, add the oil by pouring into the bowl very slowly with one hand while whisking constantly with the other. Keep up the slow pouring/whisking action until your dressing thickens and looks creamy in texture, then dress your salad and enjoy!

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