Category Archives: Vegetarian

Strawberry Freezer Jam

strawberry jam jar

If you read here often, you know that my favorite recipes aren’t really recipes at all. They are methods that are easy to adapt to what’s seasonal or craved, or both. They don’t have a lot of specific ingredients or steps, because I find those tedious to write up, and it’s not how I cook. There are many wonderful chefs and home cooks who do this assiduously and beautifully. Just not my thing.

BUT, this jam is awesome and you should make it. Up to you whether you share it with anyone else. I made it with some gorgeous litte Earliglow strawberries from New Morning Farm in Pennsylvania, who come to the Dupont Circle Farmers Market every Sunday. It’s called freezer jam because instead of going through the whole canning process, you can just freeze it. In this case, I only made one jar, so I’m just keeping it in the fridge.

You could easily use this same method with any of the berries that will come our way this summer — blueberries, blackberries, raspberries. The last gasp of the strawberries if you’re lucky enough to still have them around you. I think even peaches.

What have I been doing with my jar… dipping coconut popsicles into a little dish of it, spooning it over chocolate sorbet, smearing it on toast with salted butter, eating it with a spoon.

But I felt it’s highest calling would actually be it’s most humble — a peanut butter and jelly (jam) sandwich. Remember how much I love bread.

peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwich

I only wish I had made more.

Strawberry Freezer Jam
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Chickpea salad with parsley, sumac, red walnuts

Ok, not really knowing how to especially feature these delicious red walnuts I acquired, I went simple on this one.

chickpea salad

Chickpea, parsley, sumac red walnuts salad

Sumac is a spice used in middle eastern cooking. It is a purplish-red powder ground up from the fruit of the sumac plant, and has an earthy lemony taste. The color of my red walnuts reminded me of the color of sumac, so off we went.

You could round this out with some pita bread or quinoa, or serve along side some meat or fish, but it was lovely out of a bowl on its own with some sliced carrots tonight.

Chickpea salad with parsley, sumac and red walnuts
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No Knead Bread Journal + A Confession

I have a confession to make. And in light of the actual topic of this post, it’s going to be a bit weird. Bear with me.

You know how you have that blog/tumblr rabbithole you go down when you are mindlessly web surfing? For some it’s mommy blogs even though you don’t have kids, others maybe interior design even though you rent your apartment and have no intention of making it look any better, or maybe you just get stuck in an endless buzzfeed.com loop of cat gifs (we’ve all been there).

So for me, one of my web vortexes is paleo cooking blogs.

Now, this isn’t completely baseless. I am very active, and have gone through periods of intense training for various endurance events. Paleo and training go hand-in-hand in many fitness cults circles (looking at you here). And many of the paleo bloggers are legit cooks and good writers.

I actually find the paleo lifestyle fascinating, and some days I’m like hey, I haven’t eaten any grains today, go me! (not that no grains = victory, but of note, perhaps to balance out other cookie-heavy days). In general, I feel like people should eat how they want to eat. Or as Michael Ruhlman put it so succinctly and brilliantly earlier this year: Cook your own food. Eat what you want. (Think for yourself). Words to live by, if I ever heard any.

But here’s the thing — I think that bread is one of the greatest things that we as human society have ever created.

I could eat toast at every meal. Before I eat a piece of freshly baked bread, I hold it up to my nose and inhale deeply, to smell that satisfying yeasty bread smell. My last meal would be grilled cheese, slices of salted buttered bread, and cinnamon-sugar toast for dessert. Bread is the generic placeholder in idioms about our most basic needs as well as our greatest achievements.

So with that introduction, this post is the first in a series about one of my favorite things: bread. More specifically, the no knead bread method. I’m calling it my no knead bread journal.

The no knead bread recipe I use comes from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery, after it was famously published by Mark Bittman in the New York Times in 2006. Its premise is a minimalist technique that lets time do the work, instead of lots of yeast and kneading. Which essentially means: you dump the ingredients in a bowl, let them hang out for a day or so, take the dough out and shape it, let it hang out for a few more hours, preheat a pot in the oven, dump the dough into the hot pot, and bake it. And that’s it. It is both better and easier than most other bread recipes. Then you win.

I started with the classic recipe, linked to above. But then as many cooks do, I began to tinker. And now I actually keep a log of the variations I try, and how they end up. It’s just a google doc with the classic recipe at the top, and then my experiments in a running log below.

My first round of experimenting aimed for something a bit more hearty, with whole wheat flour, maybe some millet or seeds. More of a weekday bread. But using 100% whole wheat flour turns out to produce a very very dense loaf. I went down the no knead google rabbithole for a while, and learned that adding vital wheat gluten helps add some of the airiness back into whole wheat breads, so I gave that a try, and the recipe is below. The resulting loaf was crisp and crackly on the outside, tender and moist on the inside.

Here’s to bread.

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(Mostly) Whole Wheat Sunflower Flax Bran Bread
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Soft Boiled Eggs and Greens

I have figured out the perfect spring dinner. I think I’ve made it four nights this week. It takes advantage of the best of the spring produce, and is both quick and satisfying.

Soft Boiled Eggs and Greens

For this recipe, I will plug the beautiful eggs I get from The Farm at Sunnyside at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market on Sundays. I also work there a few times a month. Although interestingly, a few weeks ago one of our loyal egg customers gently complained to us that the eggs weren’t poaching very well. We explained that in the winter (this was February, I think), the hens aren’t laying as often, so the eggs we have are a bit older than when turnover is higher. In general, as eggs get older their whites get thinner and spread out more in the water, not ideal for poaching into a perfect little package.

Admittedly, at the time I thought she was being a bit cranky. But next time I went to poach some eggs from the farm, I noticed that she was right. That’s when I started soft boiling, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back to poaching. With soft boiling, you get an even more custardy yoke, you don’t have to watch them, just set the timer to 6 minutes and walk away, and they turn out the same every time. You could also easily do six or eight eggs at once, which is much tougher with poaching.

In this preparation (really more of a method than a recipe), you can use any kind of greens. I’ve been using some beautiful kale raab or collard raab, also from Sunnyside. Never heard of kale or collard raab? Some googling around found a nice explanation from growingcurious.typepad.com:

“Raab comes in the spring, from over-wintered brassica varieties. The raab is the flower buds that look like tiny broccoli heads — hence the classic “broccoli raab” that grows from mustard greens (also in the brassica family) and not from a genuine broccoli plant. You can have kale raab, turnip raab, arugula raab, mustard raab, collard raab, and many traditional Asian greens that feature the flower bud. They’re all good.”

A nice trick for peeling soft boiled eggs is to rap the fat end of the egg on the counter, where the air pocket is, and peel up from there. They should peel easily this way.

Soft Boiled Eggs and Greens
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Classic Basil Pesto

In this season of copious basil and fresh summer dinners, the question comes up often: do you have a good pesto recipe? I always balk at this question. Pesto and recipe don’t go together in my mind. You know, a few fistfuls of basil, some lemon zest and juice, some nuts, a few cloves of garlic, cheese if you want it, olive oil until it starts to come together in that softer green emulsified state. It’s just so forgiving and flexible, and can be successful with myriad combinations and ratios of ingredients. But nevertheless, it’s probably useful to have some rough quantities when shopping and preparing, at least until you get the hang of it, so here’s my go at it.

The lemon element is worth discussing since it might not be traditional… I like to add it for two reasons: 1) it helps the pesto to not oxidize and turn brown quite so much, and 2) it brightens up the flavor of the pesto without making it taste lemony, per se. Now, if you’re after that deep sweet earthy richness (who among us is not after that), the quantities here will give you just a shade of brightness without overpowering the richness. If you want more lemon bang, feel free to up the quantities. As I said, this is all very forgiving.

As for salt, go easy, since the parmesan will add some salt, but you just have to do it to taste. Salt, blend, taste, salt, blend, taste, gradually. You’ll know you’ve got it when it stops tasting like garliclemonbasilpinenutsparmesan in a food processor, and starts tasting like pesto.

Basil Pesto
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Cranberry Walnut Buttermilk Bread

So, it’s not remotely cranberry season, but do you know how long those suckers last in the refrigerator? A really long time! Six months and counting! A half-full carton of cranberries had been haunting the back of my fridge since Thanksgiving, and inspiration was just not hitting. A quickbread seemed like the obvious choice, but many of them call for dried cranberries, and well, I wanted to find one that called for fresh. I finally frankensteined a recipe for Cranberry Nut Bread from Simply Recipes to the point that it’s barely recognizable, and what resulted is a barely sweet rustic loaf with a tender crumb and crunchy crust, studded with cranberries and walnuts. Perfect for slathering with butter, peanut butter, and my most recent favorite, nutella. I even melted some shahp cheddah cheese on a piece last night and it was divine.

So, if you’ve got some old cranberries knocking around in your fridge or freezer, here is your vehicle. If not, well, forgive my insensitivity for seasonality, and make a mental note to come back to this one in November.

Cranberry Walnut Buttermilk Bread
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Sauteed Carrot Greens

This time of year farmers markets are bursting with greens. Lettuce, spinach, chard, fresh herbs. But many of the vegetables in season also come with their own greens– beets, tiny white hakurei turnips, and carrots… bonus greens! I work at a local market on Sundays where many customers ask us to discard the carrot tops. When this happens, in my mind I’m shrieking, “What! You don’t want the bonus greens?!” But, wily forager that I am, I try not to let my excitement show, because after they walk away I take their discarded tops and stash them in a shopping bag, and bring them home to cook them for myself.

As you’ve probably gathered, I am a greens fiend, but I had never cooked with carrot greens. Feathery and tougher than most, I wasn’t sure how best to prepare them, so I started with a standard method: quick blanch and saute, finished with some lemon and olive oil. The lemon and olive oil turn into a warm vinaigrette that I was eating with a spoon as it pooled on my plate. I’ve been serving these along side an egg and cheese sandwich for lunch, but they would also be nice mixed with chickpeas and rice, or alongside a roasted chicken.

A word to the wise, carrot greens carry a lot of sand and dirt, so unless you like gritty bites (the dental equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard), wash them really well. I generally trim my greens as little as possible, in part because I can’t bear to throw food away, but also because I like the texture differences between the leaves and stems. But with carrot greens, the stems are tough and fibrous even when cooked, so I recommend trimming them right up to where the leaves start.

Sauteed Carrot Greens
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