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Posts tagged ‘feta’

spring salad with asparagus, feta, and soft-boiled eggs

There are days when, despite all your efforts, someone else just says it better. Today happens to be one of those, and so I give you… a poem and a recipe.

Black Oaks

Okay, not one can write a symphony, or a dictionary,
or even a letter to an old friend, full of remembrance
and comfort.

Not one can manage a single sound, though the blue jays
carp and whistle all day in the branches, without
the push of the wind.

But to tell the truth after a while I’m pale with longing
for their thick bodies ruckled with lichen

and you can’t keep me from the woods, from the tonnage
of their shoulders, and their shining green hair.

Today is a day like any other: twenty-four hours, a
little sunshine, a little rain.

Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight from
one boot to another—why don’t you get going?

For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees.

And to tell the truth I don’t want to let go of the wrists
of idleness, I don’t want to sell my life for money,
I don’t even want to come in out of the rain.

Mary Oliver

Spring Salad with Asparagus, Feta and Soft-Boiled Egg

I made this for myself as a satisfying spring lunch, but feel free to double the ingredients to serve as a colorful salad with dinner.

1 egg

1 small head of tender green lettuce

5 stalks of asparagus

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 squeeze lemon juice

1 Tbsp. honey

1 small handful fresh parsley or cilantro leaves, finely chopped

olive oil

1 2-inch cube of feta, crumbled

salt & pepper

To soft-boil the egg, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and gently lower in the egg. Simmer for 6-8 minutes (depending on whether your egg is smallish or rather large) then remove and place immediately in a small bowl of ice water. Peel underwater and carefully slice into quarters.

Arrange the leaves from your head of lettuce to make a nice nest on your plate. Cut your raw asparagus stalks into one-inch pieces and scatter over the lettuce. Whisk together the balsamic, lemon juice, honey and fresh herbs, then slowly add olive oil, whisking and adding until the dressing reaches your desired thickness. Sprinkle the dressing over the salad, then crumble feta on top and nestle in your egg quarters. Finish with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

grilled fennel flatbread with olives and sultanas

When it comes to cooking, simplicity seems to translate roughly to time is of the essence.  Each food magazine has its “meals in 30 minutes” section, and frankly, there are nights (specifically nights involving a glass of wine, the couch, and saved episodes of Downton Abbey) when egg on toast can be transcendent. One of the key aspects of my college education was developing an entire repertoire of meals that were quick, simple and cheap, from arugula tossed with balsamic and brown rice to peanut butter and fig jam Paninis.

Funnily enough, it was also in college that I discovered the joy of cooking. With my limited budget I quickly found it most rewarding to cook an elaborate meal for six, then guiltily store it in the back of the communal fridge (away from prying eyes and forks) to eat for six meals running. Friday nights I would arrive home from my eight-hour internship and one-hour Trader Joe’s expedition just in time to wish my housemates well on their way out for the night. For the next delicious hours I had the place entirely to myself, and it was then and there that I discovered the pleasures of the unhurried meal.

The things I made were simple—there were no emulsions, no expensive cuts of meat, no kitchen tools fancier than the celebrated Panini press. It was a college kitchen, after all, and in New York to boot: small, grimy, and cheaply installed. After unpacking my groceries I did a thorough clean of the counters and sink, dumping plates in the dishwasher and sweeping up the crumbs that kept the mice our loyal companions. I laid out all of my ingredients and happily set to work with my knife, chopping along to the tinny speakers of my laptop and trying not to splatter the screen with lemon juice.

Surrendering to the sheer time it took for beans to soften or meatballs to simmer became the most comforting experience of my week. Chopping carrots and turnips was methodical and reassuring; peeling butternut squash was a practice in patience. I developed an affectionate reliance on simple recipes with multiple stages, like a warm potatoes gribiche flecked with roasted broccoli and hardboiled egg, or a fragrant African curry with spices packaged for separate additions over the course of two hours.

This flatbread recipe (an instant favorite I’ve made three times this week) is wonderful in its simplicity, easy to prepare but perfect for leisurely cooking. I mix the dough at some point in the afternoon, then make the spread and topping after turning out the dough for a second rise and heating the oven. It’s an old saying, the one about the journey and the destination, but I somehow keep discovering it anew.

Grilled Fennel Flatbread with Olives and Sultanas

The dough for this recipe is adapted from Jim Lahey’s wonderful book My Bread, which has been out on the kitchen counter from the day I got it. I love the aroma of fennel and the salty-sweet combination of olives, feta, and golden raisins, but this dough is a true blank canvas–experiment away!

For the dough:

1 3/4 cup bread flour (I have also been successful with a mix of white and whole wheat)

1 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. sugar

2/3 cups water

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and then mix in water with your hands to form a moist dough (add a bit more water or flour if dough is too dry or sticky). Cover and let sit at room temp for 2 hours (longer is alright too).

For the second rise, loosely shape dough into a ball (it will have increased in size) and set on a well-floured plate. Cover with a damp towel and let sit at least half an hour.

For the topping:

2/3 cup Kalamata olives

1 small handful fresh thyme

olive oil

2/3 cup Sultana raisins (golden raisins)

2 medium fennel bulbs

red pepper flakes

juice of 1 lemon

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 large cube feta cheese, crumbled

honey, for drizzling

To make the olive spread, add the first three ingredients to a blender with 1/3 cup of the sultanas and pulse until roughly blended. Set aside. Slice the fennel into thin slivers and toss with red pepper flakes, lemon juice, half the parmesan, the other 1/3 cup sultanas and a glug of olive oil.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Spread out the dough on a well-oiled cookie sheet by stretching it first the full length of the pan and then the width, gently nudging it outwards until the whole sheet is covered. Cover the dough evenly with the olive spread, then arrange the sliced fennel mixture on top. Sprinkle with the crumbled feta and other half parmesan and drizzle with honey, then bake at 500 degrees until crust is crispy and toppings are browned, about 15-20 minutes.

broccoli soup with white pepper and feta

It’s the New Year and I’m brimming with resolutions. It might be that I spent my new year’s week with all the things that make me most happy—my family, fresh writing projects, and a new novel by Haruki Murakami—but 2012 feels full of promise, and resolution #1 is to sustain that feeling of buoyancy for as long as possible. Resolution #2 (which handily edged out #3: honoring my parents’ orthodontic investment and finding the will to wear my old retainers) is to spend more time with Girl Farm Kitchen, and on that note I have a special introduction to make.

Shepherd Farms is my family’s “home farm”—we live on Shepard Mesa, and the travel time from door to door clocks in at four minutes. We’ve been members since they started their CSA program several years ago, and when I’m home I’m the designated produce shopper, stopping by the farm cart on weekday afternoons to chat with Kjessie and select jewel-toned cabbages and crisp, sweet gnarled carrots.

The welcome is always warm: in the summer two Polish chicks gamboled in a play-pen by the farm cart, and last week they came leaping comically over the nearby rows of rosemary to greet me when I arrived. The farm’s characters don’t end there—regulars are well-acquainted with “Stan” the turkey, who makes soft warbling noises in her throat when you get too close to her chicken friends, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who feeds my strawberry tops to the three woolly goats as I leave (lucky for them I’ve usually eaten half the punnet by the time I get to the car). Driving by it’s not unusual to see Tom Shepherd out on his tractor, wide-brimmed hat on head and wandering chickens in tow.

Living in California (especially under the sway of winter heat spells) we’re fortunate to get ripe strawberries and tender lettuce greens year-round, but having planted and tended brassicas at Love Apple I have a sweet spot for broccoli and cauliflower as the traditional winter crops. This soup was a play on the many broccoli and cheese numbers I’ve tasted over the years, and as a lover of feta—especially tangy, moist feta—I thought I’d give that a try. Resolution #4? Celebrate winter veggies, the farms that grow them, and the tables they end up on.

Broccoli Soup with White Pepper and Feta

3 medium heads of broccoli

2 onions, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 good sized potato

5 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth

1/2 cup crumbled feta

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 cup yogurt

fresh coriander (cilantro) for garnish

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut broccoli into small florets and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, then arrange on a baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes, or until florets are nicely browned on the edges. Set aside to cool.

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat and saute onions and garlic. Cube potato and add in with the broth, then simmer until potato pieces are cooked through, adding broccoli towards the end. Let soup base cool a bit before stirring in feta, and season with white pepper, ground coriander, and salt to taste.

Puree warm soup in a blender in two batches, then return to pot and whisk in yogurt. Reheat if necessary and serve warm, garnished with fresh coriander and crumbled feta.

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