Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wk 13/Meal 2: Spaghetti with braised kale

So it's been ages since I've updated and I've managed to fall overwhelmingly behind. 14 posts behind, to be exact. But that was a predictable situation, given my busy end of summer, my waning attention span and my propensity for laziness. One time I thought it would be a good idea to sit on an exercise ball at work instead of a desk chair. That lasted like four days. I've already exceeded my own expectations with this blog.

This is an odd entry to start with, considering it's neither the next meal, chronologically, or a particularly great one. But it was simple and I happened to have the photo handy, so here we go.

This meal was a one-time solution to the two problems that were common with this experiment: too much food, too little time. I often I found myself with a fridge full of something-or-other (this time, kale) that was on the verge of going bad and didn't present any exciting meal ideas.

My go-to source for recipes,, had this to offer.

Spaghetti with braised kale

1 pound lacinato kale (about 2 bunches), large center ribs and stems removed, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 pound spaghetti

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Finely grated Parmesan cheese


1] Rinse kale. Drain; transfer to bowl with some water still clinging.

2] Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat.

3] Add chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes.

4] Add sliced garlic and sprinkle with salt; cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

5] Add kale and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss until wilted, about 3 minutes. Cover pot and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until kale is very tender, stirring occasionally and adding water by teaspoonfuls if dry, about 20 minutes.

6] Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in medium pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid.

7] Add cooked spaghetti to kale mixture in pot. Add lemon juice and 2 tablespoons reserved cooking liquid; toss to combine, adding more liquid by tablespoonfuls if dry. Sprinkle spaghetti with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.


I halved the recipe and added, as I often do, white cannelini beans for protein. I used whole wheat pasta which was probably a mistake-- the heavy texture and grainy taste overpowered what little flavor the dish had. I think fresh or rice pasta would have been much better. I also added shredded parmesan to the top for more oomph.

Not terrifically exciting, but a great use of kale and a simple, healthy vegetarian dish. It's nice to have pasta options that aren't Italian. I'd probably make this again but kick up the lemon juice and use a lighter pasta.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

You've been (soft) served

I noticed today that the Tasti D-Lite across from my office went out of business.

When I first moved to New York more than five years ago, I was all about Tasti D. I would drag Mike whenever we passed one (despite his assessment that it "tastes like air") and sometimes spend my lunch hour people-watching with a cup of the nutrition-void frozen treat.

Then came a slew of
exposés outing Tasti D-Lite as deceptively unhealthy. I consequently pledged loyalty to the newly-arrived Pinkberry, which became a weekend habit when I found myself in SoHo.

When I discovered that even Pinkberry was unnatural, I settled on a neighborhood spot that cultures their own yogurt. No frills, no mysteries, no unpronounceable ingredients.

I can't help but feel that the closing of this Tasti D is a metaphor for my own changed taste and priorities.

And maybe not just mine, but all of New York.

Soon, I imagine, all Americans will be voting with their cones and choosing natural over chemical.

... Or maybe this particular location just had a ton of cockroaches and rat crap behind the counter.

At any rate, RIP Tasti D-Lite.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

WK 8/Meal 1: Tilapia With Leeks and Corn

I have a thing for "flavor friends". It's a phrase I like to think I invented, but the concept is common: some ingredients just play really nicely with each other.

From the classics (porkchops/applesauce) to the contemporary (miso/black cod), from the lowbrow (fried chicken/waffles) to the sophisticated (gorgonzola/pear)-- there are combinations that just

As I set out to find a second recipe to utilize the remaining leek, it occurred to me that leeks and white wine are total BFFs. I can posit an amateur theory: I think it has to do with the very delicate flavor of the leek. Although it's related to onion and garlic, the leek is like their sensitive little brother-- unpopular, quiet, and nowhere near as strong. To that end, I'm guessing that leeks don't really stand on their own as a side dish, and, as part of a sauce or soup, require a mild base; the perfect job for Best Friend white wine, which cooks down to create a light and flavorful sauce that supports -- not overpowers -- the sissy, little leek.

Tilapia With Leeks and Corn


2 Tb whole mustard seeds (or 2 Tb dijon mutard)

1 Tb chopped fresh thyme or 2 tsp dried

1 Tsp salt

2 Large tilapia fillets

2 Tb cup olive oil

1/3 cup sliced leeks, white and pale green parts only

1/2 cup fresh corn kernels

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 Tb fresh lime juice

3 Tb butter


Preheat oven to 350

Mix first 3 ingredients in small bowl; rub into fish

Heat oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat

Add fish fillets and cook until bottoms are brown, about 3 minutes. Set fish aside on a plate.

Heat leeks, corn and wine in the skillet and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits

Place fish fillets, browned side down, atop vegetables in skillet, and transfer to oven

Bake until fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer fish to plates.

Combine all vegetables and liquid in skillet. Add lime juice, then add butter and whisk over low heat until melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon vegetables with sauce over fish and serve.


My only change to the recipe was using dijon mustard in place of mustard seeds, which I indicated above. Not only did I not have the seeds, but I thought that slathering the fillets in the mustard would make for a better marinade.

I served the fish with a side of simple roasted potatoes with diced chives. I tossed them together with some olive oil, salt and pepper, spread it all on a tray in a single layer, and broiled in my toaster for about 35-40 minutes.

Success. Delicious in a down-home, comfort-food sort of way. The flavors were well-balanced and I liked the crunchy leeks and corn in contrast with the tender fish. While it didn't knock my socks off, I could see this served at the finest restaurant of some small town in the middle of America. Some place where cute, old folks go to celebrate their anniversary. This dish could sit squarely on the menu there, right above the porkchops and applesauce.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

W7/Meal 2: Stuffed green peppers

or How to Get the Recipe You Need by Stalking a Stranger

I've mentioned before that I loved stuffed vegetables. You're going to see a lot more of that. Considering I'm more than two weeks behind in posting these meals, consider that a teaser. There will be stuffed vegetables.

Awhile ago, when my mother-in-law gifted me with a life-changing hand-me-down slow cooker, I was on a hunt for a good crockpot stuffed pepper recipe and found a great one-- delicious, nontraditional, easy, and so healthy.

Upon setting out to make it again, I followed the link I had saved, only to discover that it had disappeared entirely from the interweb.


I was convinced that it must still be out there somewhere, and began searching with every trick I could think of-- cache searching, modifying URLs, looking for the related images. The only thing I could find was a discussion of the recipe on a Weight Watchers message board. The woman mentioned that she had the book that it came from --which I recognized as the source of the online version-- so I knew for sure it was the same one.

She had a Weight Watchers member profile, which linked to her Etsy page.

And I'm an Etsy member, so I contacted her.

I watch enough crime dramas to believe that this type of detective work falls under the category of "clever problem solving" rather than "creepy stalking".

But yes, it's a fine line.

The kind woman not only replied, but she actually SCANNED THE RECIPE for me. I have restored faith in humanity and dangerously high confidence in contacting strangers on the internet. Maybe I should forward this act of kindness by giving those friendly Nigerians my bank account number.

Slow Cooker Stuffed Peppers


This recipe is perfect as-is so I made no adjustments, other than omitting that pesky cilantro. I just tossed some frozen peas in for the last 20 minutes or so to round it out as complete meal. Otherwise, a side salad would work just fine.

I only used two peppers and put the remaining stuffing into a scooped-out zucchini, which then went straight into the freezer (with the sauce in a separate container) for a lazy cooking day.

Verdict: This is now officially my go-to recipe for stuffed peppers. It's just so flavorful and satisfying. And considering I saved the scanned image on my hard drive, in my email, and on Etsy-- I'll never be without it again.

Thanks again, kind stranger! Many happy, delicious, stuffed returns.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wk 7/Meal 1: Fixing Leeks

It seems like chicken and leeks are flavor friends. There are a lot of recipes out there that use the same basic principle: chicken sauteed with leeks and white wine. I also saw a lot of recipes for "cockaleekie", but a) at this point I don't care enough about soup to spend a lot of time making it, and b) that name makes me cringe and I want to pretend I never saw it.

Rachael Ray (more cringing) has a good chicken
recipe and the name isn't even that horrible.

She serves it over couscous but I still had zucchini left and was interested in trying a suggestion from my dear sister-in-law: using thin strips of zucchini in place of pasta.

My brother is sensitive to gluten and my sister has Celiac disease, so I've become aware of the risks of a high-gluten diet and try to use wheat-free alternatives when I can.

Leek-y Chicken


1-1/2 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1-1/2 pounds chicken, cut into bite-size pieces

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 medium leeks or 1 large leek

1 cup dry white wine


1] Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the EVOO, 2 turns of the pan. Add the chicken in a single layer, season with salt and pepper, and cook, turning occasionally, until browned all over, 3 to 4 minutes.

2] While the chicken works, trim the tough tops and root ends from the leeks. Cut the remaining white and tender green parts in half lengthwise, then cut the leek into 1-inch half-moons. Place the leeks in a colander and run cold water over them. Separate the layers to release the dirt and grit. Rinse the leeks well, then drain.

3] Stir the leeks into the chicken and wilt for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the wine and let it cook down by half, 3 to 4 minutes. The leeks should be tender, with some bright green color, and the chicken should be cooked through.

Zucchini Pasta

One large zucchini (serves two)


1] Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zucchini into long, flat noodles

2] Boil some salted water, and add the noodles to the water to cook for about 1 minute.

3] Take out and immediately blanch in cold water, or cold running water, to prevent overcooking


While each of the two elements had its own merit, I'm not sure it was a good pairing.

I should have anticipated that the sauce of the chicken would be a thin, clear broth-- better suited for a side that would soak it up, like couscous or rice (+1 Rachael).

The zucchini pasta was easy and fun and pretty good. I think I overcooked it and it was sorta slimy and clumped together and lukewarm. If it was tossed with a heavy sauce --like a hearty marinara-- this would have prevented the clumping and sufficiently warmed it.

I'd make both recipes again... just not together. Cockaleekizucchi will not go down in recipe history.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Fourth share! July 26

Another hot Monday, another exciting share.


Potatoes, which I was particularly excited about. I guess I forgot that potatoes grew on farms...?


More leeks:


Shiny, happy peppers:

Bonkers beets:

... And cabbage: I have big plans for you.

Friday, July 23, 2010


It's no secret that pizza is my favorite food. I'm not unlike a nine year old boy in that regard. When my good buddy Rick drove me out to Di Fara last fall, I had a private moment wherein I held back tears of joy. Seriously. Nothing gets me talking with wild animation quite like discussing pizza. Except maybe the topic of comfort footwear.

I tend to be a purist and believe that the best pies have tomato sauce, mozzarella, a bubbly crust, a little olive oil, a pinch of herbs and salt... nothing more, nothing less. And it was always my staunch position that a pie must have red sauce in order to be satisfying. White pizza belonged at a sad little party with decaf coffee, white chocolate and O'Douls.

A humble bunch of rosemary was the inspiration for the triumphant culinary breakthrough that follows. That's what I'm really loving about this farm share: letting the ingredients lead me down new and interesting paths.

Potato, Zucchini, Rosemary and Sage Pizza

Adapted from this recipe.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces unpeeled small Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced into very thin rounds
One small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 package of Trader Joe's whole wheat pizza dough
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 cup (packed) grated low-fat mozzarella cheese
About 2 oz. of chevre goat cheese, divided

1] Preheat oven to 400°F.
2] Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add potato slices in single layer, sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes. Cool briefly.
3] In the meantime, unroll dough on rimmed baking sheet. Bake about 5-6 minutes, until dough is golden brown.
4] Remove from oven. Scatter potato and zucchini slices over dough, leaving 3/4-inch plain border. Sprinkle with rosemary, sage, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Sprinkle with cheeses to cover.
3] Bake pizza until crust is crisp and cheeses melt, about 10 minutes. Using metal spatula, loosen crust from sheet. Slide out onto platter or board and serve.


I used a small bag of multi-colored potatoes from Trader Joe's for added intrigue. Maybe a pop of purple could distract me from the glaring lack of red sauce? I also rubbed olive oil and La Baleine sea salt on the crust, taking a cue from the focaccia I enjoyed in Cinque Terre.

The method for cooking the crust is something I devised after many attempts with Trader Joe's dough. I find that cooking it first without toppings ensures a nice crisp.

Verdict: OMG. (Hence the name.) Easily the tastiest savory dish to ever come out of my oven. So sophisticated, so successful. Not to go all Iron-Chef-guest-judge on you, but there was definitely a party of flavors happening there. A big, happy party. The original recipe did not call for the zucchini and the goat cheese --that was my invention-- so I have to give myself a pat on the back for making this recipe extra-special.

I like to imagine that Mr. DeMarco --old man Di Fara himself-- would have tasted this and wept. Probably not, but he at least would have given me a hearty high-five.