Tender

Tender (plus beet)

After a bit of a dry spell, we bought ourselves a new cookbook: Tender, by Nigel Slater. Nigel is one of those people that could write a shopping list and I’d buy it. When it’s a discussion of fresh vegetables and home gardening and things to cook in season, there’s definitely no question. I brought it home and immediately read it cover to cover.

The way I envision using this book is the all-too-frequent case where I have a vegetable languishing in the fridge and I can’t think what to do with it. I might not follow one of Nigel’s recipes – much of what he does is very similar to what I do when I’m winging it – but having all the possibilities laid out at once is tremendously helpful, and his tone is deeply encouraging. In this case, I had some beets.

beet

We ate the greens off the beets a couple of weeks ago, and it was about time to use up the roots. Nigel’s recipe for beet tzatziki actually only used one beet, but it reminded me of their existence and I made borsch with the remainder a few days later.

beet tzatziki

Beet tzatziki is pretty darn simple: just yogurt seasoned with garlic, fresh mint, and grated raw beet, in pretty much any proportion. The trick seems to be finding any middle ground between the moment you start stirring it together and the moment (very soon afterwards) when it suddenly looks like thickened Pepto Bismol. Or raspberry ice cream. Something very, very pink. In any case, it tastes good. It makes your dinner plate look kind of awful, though.

beet tzatziki

about to process

The chickpea fritters that Nigel suggests to go with the tzatziki were a lot of fun. I’ve made falafel many times from a mix, and read recipes for making it with soaked, ground chickpeas, but it never really occurred to me that I could just puree cooked chickpeas with herbs and an egg and fry it. It might not be a true falafel but they were extremely good. They’re very soft-textured, though, so I think they’re best eaten with a fork rather than stuffed into a pita, which would just mush them into hummus. Not that that wouldn’t be tasty, too.

falafel ingredients

falafel

falafel

Chickpea Fritters

adapted from Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch by Nigel Slater

  • one can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 egg
  • bunch of parsley
  • handful of mint
  • salt and pepper

Roughly chop the parsley and mint leaves and the garlic. Put everything into a food processor and whirl it around until it’s mixed but still just a touch chunky. Let it sit for ten minutes (apparently this is important, although I didn’t notice much difference).

Heat a film of olive oil in a nonstick pan (or two, if you don’t have a pan big enough for all of the fritters at once). Add the chickpea mixture in dollops – it will be very soft. Smooth out the dollops with the back of the spoon, then leave them the heck alone until they begin to brown on the underside. Don’t poke at them, they’ll fall apart! When they seem to be getting a good crust, flip them over quickly with a thin spatula and cook the other side.

Serve with tzatziki (beet or otherwise) and a green salad.

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another yogurt cake

cake

It was all because of the blood orange curd.

blood orange curd

My parents gave us a jar of blood orange curd for Christmas (it was a very food-centric holiday all around). I’ve been trying to decide what to do with it – tarts, ice cream, biscuits? Finally I thought of my favorite yogurt cake, a simple dessert that lends itself well to fruit toppings of all sorts. Instead of my usual recipe, though, which is from the blog Chocolate and Zucchini, I thought I’d try Dorie Greenspan’s variation on the traditional cake. The main differences are that it has half as much yogurt, one extra egg, and vanilla instead of rum. She also suggests rubbing lemon zest into the sugar, but I decided not to since I was pairing the citrusy curd with the cake.

yogurt cake with orange curd

The result was marvelous. The cake was perhaps a bit less tangy, but the texture was fluffier and finer-grained: delicate enough to serve for a dinner party, but sturdy enough to eat out of hand over the kitchen sink. It went spectacularly with the tart-sweet curd. It will also go very well with fresh berries next summer, I feel sure. And whipped cream. Just a little.

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nary a duck

dinner

It was hard to know what to eat after getting home from Duckfest. We’d eaten so much good food, I found myself wanting meals relatively light on carbs but not too depressingly healthy. I didn’t want to give us whiplash, after all.

This was a dinner that really hit the spot. Jon made up his favorite recipe for kofte kebabs with a mix of beef and lamb, but turned it into meatloaf instead of individual burgers or kebabs. I roasted a panful of cauliflower florets tossed with olive oil, cumin seed and mustard seed, and stirred up some yogurt with fresh garlic, dried mint, salt and pepper.

It was the perfect combination of comforting, spicy and virtuous.

lamb-yogurt noodles

lamb noodles

Perhaps you remember the lamb pizza I posted about way back when? How good it is when you’ve rolled it up with a mint leaf and dipped it in a bowl of garlic-laced yogurt? This dish is just like that, only on noodles. Oh my god it was so good. Heading straight into the repertoire, this one is.

I found this recipe in the book Olives and Oranges, which is a wildly attractive cookbook and full of the kinds of things I like best to eat. The recipe is really straightforward and simple, and takes hardly any time to prepare – about as long as it takes the pasta water to boil. The resulting pasta is a thick tangle of noodles drenched in tart yogurt sauce, studded with lamb and pine nuts and the occasional spark of hot chile or raw garlic.

lamb noodles

This would be great with a tossed green salad or cooked greens, but we ate it with cold grilled eggpant and it was beyond sublime. Add a bottle of good red wine and you, like us, will be happy.

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köfte kebabs

cool skewers

One of the treasures that we brought back from Kansas City (and, no doubt, were responsible for our suitcase being searched) was this bunch of gorgeous skewers. They’re just what we’ve been wanting: long, flat and wide. Finally, we thought, we can make ground-meat kebabs without the meat falling off the skewer!

kebabs
whoops

We were wrong, of course. Continue reading

the last farmer’s market + mizuna pesto

farmer's market haul

The Mount Vernon Farmer’s Market had its final day this weekend, so we made sure to go stock up. Squash, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, beets, peppers, a pumpkin for the porch and a big bunch of dahlias – we did pretty well. There will still be a few farmstands open, of course, but it’s never as easy as the market for getting all our shopping done with one fell swoop. Ah, well.

mustard greens

Before leaving on our market trip, wondering what we might end up having for dinner, I was paging through The Babbo Cookbook by Mario Batali, and found an enticing picture of lamb rib chops dancing around a pile of something green. It was, apparently, a pesto made of broccoli rabe. What a good idea, I thought, I’ll get some at the farmer’s market and try it out! Naturally, not a single booth was offering it…but Blue Heron Farm did have lovely fresh bunches of mizuna, or Japanese mustard greens. Thinking one bitter green might well replace another, we bought a bunch and proceeded to wing the recipe. Continue reading

the last farmer's market + mizuna pesto

farmer's market haul

The Mount Vernon Farmer’s Market had its final day this weekend, so we made sure to go stock up. Squash, carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, beets, peppers, a pumpkin for the porch and a big bunch of dahlias – we did pretty well. There will still be a few farmstands open, of course, but it’s never as easy as the market for getting all our shopping done with one fell swoop. Ah, well.

mustard greens

Before leaving on our market trip, wondering what we might end up having for dinner, I was paging through The Babbo Cookbook by Mario Batali, and found an enticing picture of lamb rib chops dancing around a pile of something green. It was, apparently, a pesto made of broccoli rabe. What a good idea, I thought, I’ll get some at the farmer’s market and try it out! Naturally, not a single booth was offering it…but Blue Heron Farm did have lovely fresh bunches of mizuna, or Japanese mustard greens. Thinking one bitter green might well replace another, we bought a bunch and proceeded to wing the recipe.

Continue reading