4 to 6 servings
An ode to the peak of the peach and tomato season.
A traditional panzanella (“little swamp” in a Tuscan dialect) is a bread salad with a lot of tomatoes, some olive oil, possible cucumbers, and other accoutrements. A delicious strategy for reconstituting stale bread, it is normally a pleasantly mushy affair, with yesterday’s bread having absorbed today’s tomato juices and olive oil into a little swamp of summer flavor, and hence, the name.
This panzanella is different.
Rather than being thrown into the heap to swampify, the bread is reincarnated as grilled toast, and served on the side as an eager sop for an expanded cucumber salad that has been graced with thick slices of perfect summer peaches and vine-ripened tomatoes.
• Make the cucumber salad at least an hour—and up to a day—ahead of time. Note that seasoned rice vinegar is the kind that is slightly salted and lightly sweetened. Not the same as plain. It should be readily available in the Asian foods section of any grocery store.
Green beans, cashews, mint, carrot, cucumber, and lime shine through the pearly noodles in this very pretty, mood-lifting dish. The noodles will seem undercooked at first, but they will soften as they absorb the marinade and the moisture from the other ingredients. If you cook them all the way, the finished dish would be mushy.
• Rice noodles of various thickness can be purchased inexpensively in most Asian-themed grocery stores, some supermarkets, and online. Use medium-thin ones for this recipe.
• You can freeze the unused coconut milk in an ice cube tray, then transfer the cubes to a heavy-gauge zip-style bag for making this (or something else) in the future. Don’t forget to label the bag.
• Frozen unsweetened mango chunks are widely available in supermarkets, near the other frozen fruit - and can easily stand in for fresh. It’s easiest to dice it while still frozen. Use 1 heaping cup.
• The green beans can be halved lengthwise for extra elegance, if you have the patience and a nice, sharp knife. You can also just cut them in half across the middle.
• This tastes best within a few hours of being assembled. So plan accordingly.
6 to 8 servings
I started out trying to create my own version of an ajo blanco – white, garlicky gazpacho made from puréed blanched almonds and bread. Many unsatisfactory tests later, I ended up deep-sixing the bread and almonds because I could not love their texture. Keeping the garlic and sherry vinegar, I then wandered into golden fruit territory, and deliciousness ensued.
• Choose smooth-surfaced nectarines, heavy for their size and fragrant. They should also give ever-so-slightly when gently squeezed.
• This is a good excuse to purchase a bottle of sherry vinegar, which is wonderfully potent and, when sniffed, leaves no doubt as to its origin. The cider vinegar lends another acidic element that pushes back nicely against the sweetness of the fruit.
• Very good olive oil makes all the difference here.
• This soup will keep for about 5 days, tightly covered and refrigerated.
• Seriously consider the suggested enhancements. So pretty!
Greenness, noodles, cheese: my kind of trifecta. This qualifies as the lightest lasagna ever.
Ideally, you'll be making your own Pea & Mint Pesto (recipe follows) ahead of time. And if you don't get around to this, no worries. Just use your favorite basil pesto, homemade or otherwise. All good!
Makes about 1 1/2 dozen
If you love cheesecake, but are hesitant to go after it in a big way, pursue it in a small way instead. These two-bite treats hit that spot perfectly, especially when adorned with a perfect, small, ripe strawberry heart.
Broccoli-flecked dumplings double-task as a Passover offering and an ode to Dr. Seuss. What could be bad?
Note to skeptics: Yes indeed, it works incredibly well to simply add finely chopped broccoli to a standard matzoh ball mix. The taste is so subtle, you can innocently, and seamlessly slip these to people who think they don't like broccoli. They will be surprised, if you choose to disclose.
The fleetingness of the rhubarb season adds a note of existential breathlessness to this otherwise grounded (and supremely lovely) dessert. A new signature dish for spring is now all yours.
Serve with some excellent vanilla ice cream or some honeyed-up Greek yogurt — or with a platter of cheeses and a little bowl of roasted walnuts.
• Make the bread crumbs ahead of time. To do so, toast a few slices of your favorite commercial whole wheat bread, and then break them into pieces and run through the food processor until fairly fine. Measure out a cup for this recipe, and then store any extra in a heavy gauge zip-style plastic bag in the freezer for other things.
4 - 6 servings
Bright green lengths of lightly cooked asparagus luxuriate in ginger-and-garlic-infused oil before being drizzled with elusive, dark, sweet Soy Caramel. Effective marinating requires contact space—as horizontal as possible. To this end, use a shallow bowl or gratin pan that is a good fit for the volume of asparagus.
• Choose asparagus on chubbier side, for maximally satisfying mouthfuls.
• For optimal beauty and tenderness, prepare it as follows: After you have snapped off and discarded the tough asparagus bottoms, shave the lower half (or so) of what remains by laying each piece on a cutting board and scraping lightly with a heavy-gauge vegetable peeler. (If you don’t lay them as flat as possible, they’ll tend to break, and for this dish, you want them whole.)
• The asparagus needs at least 30 minutes to marinate, and it’s also fine to leave it, covered and refrigerated overnight. Add the Soy Caramel (which can be made well in advance**) just before serving.
** You will need to make the Soy Caramel at least 40 minutes ahead of time.
Yield: about 1/2 cup
Something thick, dark, and mysterious —ready to drizzle onto vegetables and grains—should be handy in your kitchen at all times. You just never know when you’ll need or want it, but once you start making this amazing syrup, I predict it will be summoned often. Compelling—and thoroughly un-temperamental— this little reduction delivers a fine touch of ambiguity, as though umami is performing an exquisite mime routine on the edge of salty and sweet.
• The yield might seem low, but this is very concentrated, so a little bit will go far. And you can easily multiply the recipe.
• Store the caramel at room temperature. It will keep a long time.
6 - 8 servings
Dark chocolate pudding relaxes into a vanilla cookie crust and gets flounced with a nimbus of whipped cream. Bonus: your oven gets the day off.
• For a delicious vegan version, use vegan cookies or graham crackers and grapeseed or canola oil in the crust, and substitute soy milk in the filling. The vegan whipped cream option is made with coconut cream, available in Asian markets or the imported food section of many grocery stores (or online). It comes in cans, similar to coconut milk (but not the same thing). I use Chaokoh brand.
• The best cookies to use for the crust are Leibniz European Butter Biscuits, available in gourmet aisles and shops in most places. You can also use any delicious-on-its-own plain vanilla cookie or graham crackers.
• Prepare and assemble the crust and filling at least 4 hours — and up to a day—before you serve the pie. It needs to chill. Whip the cream shortly before serving. • Vegan whipped cream should be made at least an hour ahead, as it needs time to chill.
• The range of sugar in both the filling and the topping is to accommodate various preferences for sweet and less sweet. Unless you posssess a die-hard sweet tooth, consider trying this at the lower end the first time you make it, and adjust upwards from there.
...made with Your Favorite Beer
A golden path to popularity, this is a great use for leftover, flat beer. It can also be made with present-tense, still-perky beer— in the unlikely event that “leftover” means the other half of the one you’re drinking while you read this.
• Different beers can yield vastly different flavors, and it’s fun to experiment with various light and dark varieties when making beer-cheese sauces, such as this one (which is a riff on Welsh rarebit). Continuing the fun theme, plan to drink something that matches (chilled bottles from the same 6-pack, perhaps?) with your dinner.
• If beer is not a plan for you, swap in an extra cup of milk.
• In a pinch, you can use frozen chopped spinach instead of fresh. Defrost thoroughly, and squeeze as dry as possible ahead of time.
Wild rice partners amazingly well with bright chunks of mango in a chili-laced backdrop. The interplay of sweet mangos and pepper, bitter-ish wild rice, and the possible addition of some sour citrus is what makes this so good.
• Be sure to give the wild rice a 40-or-so-minute head start (first step).
• Frozen mango works beautifully for this, and conveniently comes in one-pound bags – the exact amount the soup requires. If you have access to fresh mangoes, and are willing to roll up your sleeves and extract their pulp, it's fine to do so. You’ll need to begin with about 3 pounds fresh whole mangoes to end up with the necessary amount for the soup. Don’t worry about smushing them while peeling and extracting the pits, as mango pulp will work very well. This is a soup, after all, and you don’t need neat little units.
• Some mangoes are sweeter than others. Most of the tests I ran on this recipe ended up quite sweet (in a good way) and called out for lime juice to add a nice, tart edge. But I made this again just the other night (not a test, it was dinner…I do love this soup) and the mango was so tart, I actually needed to add a drop of honey. So – taste your own batch and decide.
• If your soup comes out on the sweet side, don’t skimp on the lemon or lime wedges at serving time. Make them chubby and squeezable.
• This calls for chili powder, although there really is no standard formula. They all differ, so find and adopt your own favorite. And depending upon your palate, you could go beyond this (hotter and possibly even smoky) by adding touches of New Mexico chili powder (ground whole, dried New Mexico chiles) and/or chipotle chili powder (ground whole, dried smoked jalapenos) when you add the regular chili powder.
• Red rice (Bhutanese or Weehani) can substitute for the wild rice.
• This soup benefits from some serious simmering. You can serve it right away, or store it in the refrigerator for up to five days or even longer. It reheats very well, but does thicken during storage, so you can thin it with a little additional water or vegetable stock, if you like. Okay, also, to freeze.
Makes 5 or 6 servings
Note: The version of this recipe in the first printings of The Heart of the Plate (page 46 -47) has an error. It should read 4 cups vegetable stock, not 4 quarts. Very sorry for the mistake, which we will fix!)
A deep brick-red broth—spiked just right with chili and spice—provides a backdrop for happily dueling textures: soft avocados, chewy-crisp just-sautéed corn tortilla strips, and pillowy melted cheese. If you choose the optional pumpkin seed and fresh corn toppings, the playground becomes even livelier.
This soup is worthy of real tortillas (as are you) – so please don’t short-cut with tortilla chips out of a bag, regardless of how good they might be. There is nothing like the texture of freshly pan-crisped tortillas, still warm and slightly chewy. Prepare them at the last minute, as the soup sits, the avocados bathe in fresh lime juice, and your dinner guests sip their tequila in anticipation. The assembly that follows can then be a hands-on, make-your-own activity that everyone will appreciate – especially if you have all the enhancements set up on the table.
• This calls for a standard chili powder, although there really is no standard formula. They all differ, so find and adopt your own favorite. And depending upon your palate, you could go beyond this (hotter and possibly even smoky) by adding touches of New Mexico chili powder (ground whole, dried New Mexico Chiles) and/or chipotle chili powder (ground whole, dried smoked jalapenos) when you add the regular chili powder.
• The canned tomatoes can be the “fire-roasted” kind. (The soup will be smokier and hotter if you use the kind with added chilies.)
3 - 4 servings (about 3 1/2 cups)
Warm yourself with a bowl of bright yellow calm. Melt in some cheese or crown it with a single poached egg. Heap on a mound of mushrooms or top with a weave of garlicky greens. Many suggestions are included below.
Soft polenta cooks up in 15 minutes. If you make it firmer, and spread it out to cool on a plate, it will firm up sliceably. You can then fry the pieces until crisp – and that’s another fun way to go.
Polenta will keep for several days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Reheat it in a microwave, or by mashing it in a bowl and adding hot water or warmed milk.
Makes about 5 dozen medium-sized cookies
Once you start including ground nuts in shortbread dough, you might well never stop. The nuts get thoroughly coated with butter and toasted to perfection during the baking—and the cookies get infused with a flavor that is, simply, beyond.
• This dough freezes beautifully. So do the finished cookies.
• Unwrap the butter ahead of time and place it directly in the mixing bowl to soften.
Let your rice and beans put on their Christmas outfit, and you can serve this fun arrangement at your bigger holiday feasts and/or to keep the spirit going for lighter suppers in between. Begin with red rice, and then take it deeper into garnet-hued territory with cranberry-infused red onion - a little sweet, a little salty. This delicious, tart, burgundy pilaf becomes even more Celtic-ish when surrounded by a mélange of green beans, edamame and peas.
• There are several kinds of whole grain red rice available in natural groceries and gourmet shops—and online. I tend to alternate between Bhutanese and Wehani, each of which comes with a very cool back story.
•Wehani rice is a ruddy basmati iteration, developed by the Lundberg family; named for brothers Wendell, Eldon, Homer, Albert, and Harlan Lundberg. A dark reddish brown, it looks like a plump, blushing version of wild rice. If your curiosity is now triggered, the Lundbergs’ own description of Wehani’s aroma as reminiscent of “hot, buttered peanuts” should take you the rest of the way there.
• Bhutanese red rice is exported from Bhutan in the Himalayas. The American importers, Lotus Foods, have done double good, providing Bhutanese farmers with access to the global marketplace while protecting this beautiful, once-rare rice from extinction. It’s relatively quick-cooking (20 minutes).
• Cranberries need to be sweetened, even if just minimally, in order to be palatable. Both agave nectar and sugar will work, and I like to use a combination. When cooking this myself, I tend to add 2 tablespoons agave nectar and 1 tablespoon sugar. You can customize per your own inclinations.
• The large skillet might seem oversized at first, when you are cooking just the onion and cranberries, but you will need the space to accommodate the cooked rice. Prepare the other ingredients while the rice simmers.
• Not only is it okay to make this rice ahead and reheat it, it’s actually better that way. If you’ll be serving this with the green bean mélange, make the rice ahead, and reheat it while you prepare the vegetables just before serving.
• This will keep for several days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. It reheats well—covered, in a 250°F oven or toaster oven, or in a microwave.
If we get literal about green beans, we can include edamame (bright green soy beans) along with the more commonly expected haricots verts, and the result will be highly textured and elegant. This dish spells beautiful simplicity on its own, and is even better when spooned into scooped-out baked potatoes that have been sprinkled with grated cheddar and briefly broiled.
• You can blanch the green vegetables well ahead of serving time, and then heat-coat them with the scallions and garlic just before they go to the table. If you go this route, refresh them under cold running water after you drain them into the colander. This will arrest the cooking process, and seal the deal on the chlorophyll.
• Select the green beans carefully, one by one, to get an attractive set of matching size and smoothness. The dish will be all the lovelier for your effort.
• If you are serving these in the baked potato halves, bake and scoop out two large russet potatoes ahead of time. (Use the scooped-out insides for blending into and thickening a creamy soup, if desired.) Broil the cheese onto the potato halves shortly before serving.
Cauliflower enjoys the broadest acceptable texture range of just about any vegetable. When spanking fresh, it’s always delightful raw: crunchy white puff balls as a very satisfying crudité. And at the extreme other end, cauliflower is also brilliant when boiled and mashed. In this recipe, the high-temperature roasting process allows cauliflower to become simultaneously fork tender and chewy, with delicately crisp surface points surprising you at random. The cheese crust helps greatly.
4 - 5 servings
Hot, slightly sweet, slightly sour, this is about as refreshing as a hot soup can be. It’s a good last-minute-ish dish that can be made in less than an hour, requiring very little simmering beyond the initial sweating of the onion, garlic, and chili paste.
• For the chili paste, I use Lee Kum Kee Chili Black Bean Sauce. You can use any Chinese type; there are many to choose from.
• The fresh pineapple needs to be cut ahead of time so it can express its wonderful juices (all of which will become part of the soup). One medium pineapple should yield the 2 cups you’ll need for this recipe. Be sure to remove all the skin, so there will be nothing sharp remaining on the fruit . In a pinch, you could just open a can of pineapple chunks (packed in juice, not syrup). No need to drain – just dump in the entire contents.
• Don’t cook the vegetables all-the-way soft. Retaining a slight crunch makes all the difference.
• Thai basil is ideal, but regular basil works just fine. Since bunches of Thai basil tend to be smaller than those of regular basil, you can increase to two bunches if using Thai.
If you assume that food trucks are a modern concept, think again. The only thing that’s “new” is the truck part. Humans used to be the vehicles for street food, so the whole idea had legs well before it had fuel-powered wheels.
Tan tan refers to an across-the-shoulder pole carried by food peddlers in old Sichuan. Baskets—one with sauce and the other with noodles—dangled from each end of the pole, providing an inexpensive and nourishing meal to strolling locals. Eventually the noodles were named after the pole, coming to be known as "peddler's noodles.”
The traditional, original Chinese recipe is a chili-laced noodle soup strewn with ground pork, preserved vegetables, and scallions. My own version combines minced vegetables and tofu with a black bean-chili-garlic-peanut butter sauce to make a ground meat-like hash that coats the noodles with deep, dark essence and crunch.
• You can get the rest of the recipe going while waiting for the noodle water to boil.
• Make sure you use a large-enough, deep-enough pan to house the volume of this dish.
• I alternate between Lee Kum Kee Black Bean-Garlic Sauce and Chili Black Bean Sauce for his recipe, as they both work very well. You can also use a plain chili paste or any chili-garlic sauce.
• Use the least-processed, freshest-tasting peanut butter you can find. The salt measurement in the recipe is based on the creamy, lightly salted variety I use in my own kitchen. So keep that in mind if you are making the recipe with unsalted peanut butter, and adjust the seasoning accordingly.
• Almond butter can be swapped in for the peanut butter.
• Use the firmest firm tofu you can find. If you have any doubts, you can firm it up further by boiling it, already diced, for about 10 minutes well ahead of time. Drain and dry it thoroughly before adding to the stir-fry.
Romaine and arugula join forces with radicchio and fresh orange sections, and an orange-laced yogurt dressing coats the leaves, allowing a scattering of pistachios to adhere at random. If you choose to form a bed of couscous or extra yogurt underneath each serving, you will be rewarded with an extra layer that both absorbs the delicious trickle-down juices, and also boosts the volume of the dish, herding it into light main-dish terrain.
You can wash and spin the salad leaves (keeping them cold and very dry), prepare the vinaigrette, and section the oranges well ahead of time. Dress and finish the salad immediately before serving.
The tangy vinaigrette, free-standing, will keep very well —for weeks— in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. Shake well, or stir from the bottom, before using.
Makes 10-12 servings
Pastoral is the word that comes to mind whenever I even think about returning to this recipe. And return is another important word. Your first experience of baking lemon-laced pears into a sturdy, slightly crunchy pine-nut studded cornmeal crust, devotedly crowned with a beautiful lattice top, might well extend into a personal tradition.
The loving care you invest in this preparation will reward you with a tart that will feed many and can freeze and defrost seamlessly —so you can feed many again at a later time. Just be sure to wrap it tightly and thoroughly before freezing, and defrost completely before serving.
This tastes especially wonderful served a la mode with vanilla or salted caramel ice cream.
Beany and slightly spicy, this recipe combines two traditional American favorites. The tawny effect from combining red kidney beans, colorful peppers and chilies, and chlii powder is further enhanced if you use an orange cheddar. Not essential, but lovely. I love to serve this dish with a side (or a topping) or fried green tomatoes.
• This calls for a standard chili powder. They all differ, so find and adopt your own favorite. Depending upon our palate, you could add touches of New Mexico chili powder (ground, dried New Mexico chilies) and/or chipotle chili powder (ground, dried, smoked jalapenos) in addition to the regular chili powder.
• One 15-ounce can of kidney beans will do it for this recipe. If you happen to have 1 1/2 cups of home-cooked beans on hand, go ahead and use them.
Fresh kale is wilted ever so slightly by tender-crisp, hot onions – and glazed with reduced vinegar before being graced with freshly made croutons, shaved cheese, and figs (fresh or dried). A single pan handles all the parts of this recipe that need heat, and the flavor that accumulates in there is absorbed by the bread as it toasts. Deliciousness builds, step by step, and the results are glorious. (My feelings about this dish are pretty much summed up in the yield estimate.)
• The ripeness of the figs is key. Make sure they are very soft when gently squeezed. If you can’t find fresh figs, go ahead and use dried ones. Slice them first, and then give them an extra pre-soak (with some additional time) in a little balsamic vinegar or lemon juice —possibly beyond what the recipe calls for— as needed, to soften them up.
• Look for lacinato kale with smallish, very deep green leaves, for a more tender result. Also cutting the kale before washing and drying it ensures it will all fit into your salad spinner, and become drier and crisper.
• Soak the figs, and cut, wash, and dry the kale ahead of time, but plan to assemble the finished salad shortly before serving, as the perfect texture of the freshly grilled bread will not hold. (Store the prepared kale in the refrigerator—directly in the salad spinner, if your fridge has room.)
• Once the ingredients are ready, final assembly will go quickly. (Open your windows in anticipation of step 8.)
• Tongs are a great utensil for this.
• You’ll be pleased to know that no pan-washing is needed between steps.
Celery doesn’t get top billing very often—an understandable, but somewhat sad fact that makes this dish even more of a standout and conversation piece than it already is. The olive oil, lemon, dates, blue cheese, and almonds are so at home here, it will seem as though they made this dish without you —volunteering for it, and jumping into it, on their own while you were out doing something else. The Yiddish word “beshert,” comes to mind. “Meant to be.”
• This is delicious free-standing, as an appetizer, side dish, or after-entrée refresher.
• Use a very sharp knife — or possibly even a mandoline — to slice the celery super thin.
• This is a good opportunity to buy and taste a small amount of a blue cheese you might have been curious about. If you add the cheese sooner, it blends into the dressing. If you wait and then sprinkle it on top at serving, it will be more distinct.
• The cheese provides more than enough salt for the recipe. People can add some at the table, if they desire.
Makes about 4 dozen tiny cakes (up to 8 per serving)
Cooked quinoa is stirred into a simple batter with otherworldly results. These tender, easy "blini" are a reliable crowd-pleaser as an appetizer, side dish (dotted, perhaps, with sour cream), or light main dish for breakfast (ideally with a dab of blackberry jam).
• It's nice to use red quinoa for this, so it will be more visitble within the yellow cakes.
• To cook the quinoa, at least 45 minutes ahead of time, combine 1/2 cup rinsed quinoa and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to the slowest possible simmer (with a heat diffuser, if you have one, underneath). Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork as you let it cool a little, then measure out a packed 1/2 cup to use for this recipe. You can use any leftover cooked grains to sprinkle into a salad or on top of a cooked vegetable (very nice touch).
• The batter can be made as much as a day ahead and refrigerated in a tightly covered container. Stir to recombine before cooking.
Delightfully slippery noodles; soft tofu, ever-so-slightly crunchy cabbage, chewy mushrooms, and hot and sour kimchi make this a sensuous, even mysterious texture-fest. It stores and reheats well, adding an always-welcome convenience factor.
• Bean thread, aka “cellophane,” noodles are commonly (and inexpensively) available in most Asian grocery stores. They cook up quickly.
• There are many kinds of kimchi. Some are hotter—also some are sweeter—than others. Flavor characteristics are usually indicated on the label. Taste around to discover your preferred brand. Personally, I like the hot kind for this. Whichever kind you use, be careful when opening the jar. Because it is fermented (and still active) it’s a lot like opening a bottle of beer or sparkling wine, creating its own little celebration. In other words, do this over the sink.
• Consider using a roasted, rather than plain, peanut oil – both for the initial frying and also to “dress” it afterwards—in addition to, or instead of, the toasted sesame oil. It’s an aromatic oil usually used for finishing, but sturdy enough to cook with.
Back by popular demand from the original-original Moosewood Cookbook, this recipe now appears, adapted slightly, in The Heart of the Plate.
• You will likely want to serve this a la mode with some excellent vanilla ice cream. I wouldn’t blame you. And if you anticipate this need, be sure to have the ice cream on hand before you begin, so you won’t find yourself running to the store at the last minute to get some.
•The cake is quite sweet as is. If you are going to serve it with the ice cream, you might want to reduce the sugar a notch or two - maybe to 1 ½ cups. Experiment with this (my guess is you’ll be making it a lot).
•If you buy extra fresh whole cranberries in season and freeze some, you can enjoy them year-round. No defrosting necessary.
About 8 servings
4 - 5 servings
Frisée is a leggy chickory with a delicate, slender format, and an insistently spunky texture. It loves the crunch of a good nut partner (hazelnuts being ideal) and also readily pairs with pears. Hence this easy salad that is another winter favorite, compatible with a wide range of soups.
This semi-wilted preparation is sturdy, so (and unlike many other tossed salads) you can prepare it up to an hour in advance, short of adding the pears, which should enter at the last minute.
To blanch hazelnuts, spread them out on a baking tray and toast in a 300°F oven for about 10 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice during the process. Transfer them to a bed of cloth or paper towels, and, when the nuts are cool enough to comfortably handle, rub them vigorously. Most (not necessarily all) (but don’t worry about it) of the skins will detach.
Yield: About 2 cups – enough to top 6 to 8 servings of this or that
Thin to the point of transparent, with a whispery coating that all but disappears into the ephemeral crunch, these onion echoes melt so quickly in your mouth, you’re not sure what just happened. It might have been a quick little dream, but the amazing, lingering onion flavor hints that what you just experienced was real. Just to check, you reach for another.
• Fry in batches, as necessary, in very hot oil until they are golden and crisp, then drain on paper towels. For best results, use high-oleic (also sometimes called “high heat”) safflower oil or regular grapeseed oil.
• The oil doesn’t need to be deep-fry deep, just as long as it is deep enough to cover the onion slices, and instant-sizzle hot before you add them.
• This goes fast —only a minute or so per batch. Eat them immediately, or let them sit out at room temperature until needed. They can also freeze incredibly well in heavy gauge zip-style plastic bags. As with many of the Crowning Touches in this section, these are great for snacking as well as for topping things, so consider making extra.
4-6 servings, depending on the context
Red lentils (which are actually orange) cook up quickly into a mustardy yellow mash that is quite tasty on its own, even before you add anything to it. From that vantage point, a generous batch of long-cooked dark, sweet onions casts its spell on the entire potful, creating a secret cave of flavor. Suddenly, all you want in this moment is to waft into that cave in a little boat, bringing just a bowl, a spoon, and maybe a flannel blanket. This dish is its own category of comfort food.
Serve this as a bed under grilled or roasted vegetables of a contrasting color, or spread this thickly on toast. It goes very well with another piece of toast topped with Curried Mashed Carrots and Cashews (following recipe).
Get the onions going at least 45 minutes before you hope to have the finished dish, then put up the lentils, so both can cook at the same time.
This will keep for several days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. It also freezes beautifully, and reheats well —covered, in a 250°F oven, or in a microwave.
Moderately spicy from the ginger, and just the right degree of rich from the cashews, this mash is a definite mood booster. My kind of Code Orange. You can eat it plain for lunch, layered underneath the rest of your dinner, or simply as a bolstering afternoon snack, reheated in a microwave.
• The sweeter the carrots, the better this will taste.
• Stock option: If you put a few slices of ginger, some onion, and a clove or two of garlic into the carrot cooking water, you’ll end up with a lovely broth. You can heat it and serve it straight, as a very light appetizer or a nourishing snack— or add it to any soup you might deem compatible. You can also use it to thin this mash into a soup.
* You can do step 2 while the carrots simmer.
• This will keep for 4-5 days in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. It also freezes beautifully, and reheats well —covered, in a 250°F oven, or in a microwave.
Makes 1 serving. Easily doubled.
Here is something easy and inexpensive to round out and enrich your vegetarian meals. Top your favorite simple vegetable and grain dishes with this beautiful preparation, or simply eat the eggs free-standing (perhaps with a simple salad and a glass of crisp white wine) for a soothing, light weeknight supper.
To make the bread crumbs, toast four average slices of your favorite whole wheat bread. When they are crisp, buzz them to your desired consistency in the food processor. This will yield (approximately) a generous cup of fine crumbs, or 2 cups coarser hand-hewn crumbs (or anything in between).
You will need a medium-sized (9-inch) skillet with a tight fitting lid.
Strips of fresh lacinato kale cook on contact with hot noodles, then they marinate together in orange-garlic-chili oil. Fresh orange sections and almonds are introduced at serving time. This salad tastes so exotic that you’ll forget just how straightforward it was to prepare. Even the most labor-intensive preparations (cutting the kale, zesting and removing the orange sections from their membranes) are not difficult and can be done in advance.
I use Lee Kum Kee Chili Garlic Sauce, which is widely available. That said, if you have your own favorite brand on hand, go ahead and use it. The range of orange zest allows you to customize both the labor and the flavor.
However much you decide to use, you will be all the happier for remembering to zest the oranges before you peel and section them. Remove the orange sections from their membranes by first peeling the fruit completely with a serrated knife, and, holding each orange over a bowl, sawing in and out of the membranes with the same knife to release the sections. Squeeze in the juice and discard the membrane left behind. This is a wet, yet worthwhile, procedure. (Just keep a few damp kitchen towels handy.)
This tastes best within 2 hours of being made. It does not need to be all-the-way chilled, and in fact, tastes best at cool room temperature.
Crustless—and replete with an airy, custardy pancake-like texture (therefore, a popover), this is baked directly in a round skillet and then gets cut into wedges (hence, a pie). Very much fun, especially for mushroom lovers, for whom this could well become the new dinner fall-back plan.
• The combination of fresh domestic and shiitake mushrooms results in layers of deep mushroom flavor. If you can’t find shiitake, it’s okay to substitute crimini (brown) mushrooms or use all domestic ones.
• Room temperature eggs acquire much more volume when beaten than cold ones, so if you think of it—and your kitchen is not too hot— take the eggs out of the refrigerator a few hours ahead of time. Break them into a bowl while they are still cold, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate.
Makes 3-4 servings
Roasted eggplant readily soaks up this exotic (but not difficult) vinaigrette, elevating this salad to focal point status for a light summer lunch.
You can make the vinaigrette well in advance. It will keep for a good long time, refrigerated in a tightly covered container. Let it come to room temperature (and stir from the bottom – or just shake it) before using.
Although designed specifically for the salad, the vinaigrette goes swimmingly (if not surprisingly) with any tossed green salad.
After you’ve used your 3 tablespoons of coconut milk for this recipe, preserve the unused remaining can contents by freezing it in an ice cube tray. Once firm, transfer the cubes to a heavy-gauge plastic bag (label it!) for longer storage. Pull out what you need, when you need it, and you will have wasted not.
This frittata is like a crustless, veg-centric quiche. The zucchini, onion, and artichoke hearts—abstractly stacked like interlocking puzzle pieces, lightly spotted with goat cheese—provide the foreground. The egg serves mostly just to hold them together. Note that this preparer-friendly dish is both forgiving (you don’t have to walk on eggshells [sorry] as you might with an omelet) and forgiveness-worthy (if it breaks at any point, just piece it back together). This is a true keeper and a confidence-builder for any beginning cook.
Room temperature eggs acquire much more volume when beaten than cold ones, so if you think of it—and your kitchen is not too hot— take the eggs out of the refrigerator a few hours ahead of time. Break them into a bowl while they are still cold, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a plate.
4-5 servings, and completely adjustable / augmentable
The traditional tomatoes step aside to allow a new plateform for summer fruit in its prime. (I meant to write "platform," but I think my typo was actually a good one, so I'll leave it.)
You can also use strawberries, peaches, plums, or melon. It's all good, and it's so fresh and easy, you'll want to make this every day. And sometimes just for yourself.
5 - 6 Servings
Zucchini gets smacked out of its introversion with a good dose of stove—heavy pan, slick of oil, confident heat. Without passing go, it heads directly into a garlic and shallot-infused vinaigrette, sealing the deal on its newfound personality upgrade. Cue the maximally sweet, in-season corn and tomatoes, and the makeover is complete.
The zucchini should be sliced very thin and then cooked very quickly, so it becomes almost like sturdy-ish vegetable riboons. Use a very sharp knife, as always—but especially here, so you can get fairly uniform slices. You can also use the slicing attachment of a food processor.
This tastes best at room temperature, within an hour of being made. If you want to prepare it further in advance, it’s fine to let the zucchini sit (covered tightly and refrigerated), but hold off on adding the corn and tomatoes until shortly before serving.
4 - 5 Servings
Dappled like a fruit soup version of a Seurat painting, this refreshing summer special might come out slightly different each time, depending on the colors and flavors of your melon and peaches. Make sure to serve it very cold, for maximum effect.
You need to plan ahead for this one – as it’s at its best with a good 4-hour chilling time and is even better if it gets to sit in your refrigerator overnight. It’s not that it’s a lot of work, but rather that the components need time. The pickled onions need at least an hour, and can be made as far ahead as a week or two, stored in a jar with a tight fitting lid in the refrigerator. You will have a lot of them leftover, so you can use them as needed/desired for the many things they go well with. (That would be just about everything savory. They will remain crunchy, delicious, and gorgeous indefinitely.)