recipe

RECIPE: Smoked Trout with Spicy Arugula and Grapefruit

ACCOMPANIED BY CRUSTY BREAD, this salad makes a fresh light supper in summer, with a lovely contrast in flavors between the salty fish, peppery arugula and the grapefruit. Red or pink grapefruit tend to pack a bigger nutritional punch—especially vitamin A and the antioxidant lycopene—and look prettiest in this salad I think, but when I cut this one open, surprise, surprise, it was white. Better luck next time.

 
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tbs lemon juice
1 large shallot, thinly sliced with a mandoline
1 garlic clove, cut into fine julienne
1 pink grapefruit
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper
8 oz smoked trout, flaked into small pieces
5 oz wild arugula (or 2 bunches, washed and torn)
1/2 small red onion, sliced very thinly
 
Whisk together mustard, vinegar, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper; let sit for 10 minutes
 
Trim off the top and bottom of the grapefruit. With a sharp knife, starting at the top, cut peel and pith from the grapefruit, following the curve of the fruit. Trim away any pith that’s left and then slice out sections of fruit from the membrane, placing in a medium bowl.
 
Add trout, arugula and onion to grapefruit and toss gently. Add dressing and toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
 
Adapted from Olives & Oranges: Recipes & Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus & Beyond, by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox.
 

RECIPE: Spring Market Dinner

 
LATE IN THE AFTERNOON on the last day of winter, there were definite signs that the season was changing. The 70º temperature was an obvious hint.
 
And the blossoms everywhere. Down at Union Square Greenmarket, bunches of pussy willows and forsythia were for sale.
 
 
And even at 4 o’clock, I found enough fresh greens for a spring market supper—or two.
 
 
Kale of all sorts...
 
 
And collard...
 
 
 
ONE VENDOR WAS GIVING OUT tastings of baby bok choy sautéed in garlic butter. I knew I had asparagus at home already. That inspired the idea of a simple pasta and sautéed greens for a Meatless Monday dinner. Perfect for a lazy Mediterraneanista.
 
 
After removing the tough bottoms of the asparagus, I chopped the stems in three-inch pieces. I blanched the stems first for 3 minutes, then added the tips for another 2, for a total of 5 minutes. I chopped the bok choy stems in thirds, pretty little yellow flowers and all.
 
 
RECIPE: Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add 2 minced garlic cloves for about a minute (don’t brown). Add asparagus and bok choy, a good pinch of salt, black pepper, and sauté until bok choy is tender. Serve over pasta—I used pennette— with another drizzle of oil. Top with coarse fresh bread crumbs that have been toasted golden brown in a skillet with a little olive oil. Add grated parmesan to the plate if you like. (I do.)
 
 
A half pound of pasta, a pound of asparagus and a bunch of bok choy made enough for dinner for two with leftovers for a couple of lunches. All for about $7 or $8. Farm to table rocks! 
 
Next up: something with swiss chard. Any favorite recipes you’d like to share? The bunches I brought home are pretty enough to be a bouquet.
 

RECIPE: Asparagus Wrapped in Pancetta with Citronette

WHEN ASPARAGUS SEASON COMES AROUND, I particularly like this antipasto from Mario Batali’s Italian Grill. (It makes a delicious lunch, too.) No grill? No problem. Just place the wrapped asparagus spears on a baking sheet and broil in your oven about 3 inches from the heat for 5 to 10 minutes, turning a few times.
 
 
Serves 4
 
2 pounds asparagus (12 to 18 stalks per pound)

4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1½ tbs finely chopped fresh thyme
 
1. Snap the tough bottom stalks off the asparagus. Unroll the slices of pancetta and lay them out on a work surface. Lay an asparagus spear on a slight diagonal across the bottom of one slice and roll it up, covering as much of the stalk as possible but leaving the tip visible. Place on a tray or small baking sheet and repeat with the remaining asparagus. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour (this helps the pancetta adhere to the asparagus).
 
2. Preheat a gas grill (or your oven) or prepare a fire in a charcoal grill.
 
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the orange zest, juice and mustard. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking until emulsified and smooth. Season the citronette with salt and pepper and set aside.
 
4. Place the asparagus on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, until it is just tender and the pancetta is crisped, about 4 to 6 minutes. (If the pancetta browns too much before the asparagus is cooked, move the spears to a cooler part of the grill.)
 
5. Whisk the citronette again, and pour half of it onto a serving platter. Sprinkle with half of the chopped thyme and pile the asparagus on top. Drizzle with the remaining citronette and sprinkle with the rest of the thyme. Serve warm or at room temperature with a small bowl of coarse sea salt for dipping. 

RECIPE: Shaved Fennel and Apple Salad


 
FENNEL MAKES ITS FALL APPEARANCE at the farmers’ market along with apples—a great tart/sweet flavor combo, especially when set off by a citrus dressing.
 
Variations: For the fresh herb, you can always substitute 2 tsp of chopped tarragon or mint for the parsley—experiment with your own favorite flavors. Asian pear (I learned this from my mom) works well in place of the apple. Or you can skip the apple, and instead, add segments of 1 red grapefruit and ¼ cup of pitted Niçoise olives. (I tried the olives with the apple combo but decided I preferred it without.)
 
This salad also makes a wonderful salsa to serve over simple grilled or roasted fish.
 
Serves 4
 
1 crisp, tart apple (Granny Smith, Cox’s Orange Pippin), peeled, quartered, cored, then sliced into matchsticks
1 fennel bulb, shaved on a mandoline or sliced thinly lengthwise (so the pieces form semi-circles)
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tbs olive oil
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp piment d’Espelette (a delicate crushed dried pepper from the Basque region of France)
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves or 2 tbs chopped fresh mint or 2 tbs chopped fresh tarragon
 
Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and piment d'Espelette in a small bowl. Combine the fennel and apple with the parsley or other fresh herb in a large bowl.  Add dressing. Toss gently to combine. 
 
Tip: Once you’ve cut the apple, you’ll want to go ahead and make and dress the salad right away, since the apple will turn brown if left too long. 

Meatless Monday Cure for Thanksgiving Feast Hangover

 
AFTER THE CORNUCOPIA OF COMFORT FOODS shared at the Thanksgiving table (and in the days that followed), I was in the mood today for something clean and crisp and refreshing. This Shaved Fennel and Apple Salad was the perfect answer. The tart apple and the fennel were fabulously crunchy, and the lemony dressing gave it a nice zing. You can substitute your favorite flavors into the salad. I used parsley today; next time I’ll try a couple of tablespoons of fresh tarragon or mint. And instead of apple, my mother uses Asian pear in her fennel salad—delicious indeed.
 
 
Fennel is popular in the traditional Mediterranean diet—particularly in Italy, but also in France and Greece. It’s full of nutrients—vitamin C, fiber, potassium, as well as various antioxidants and phytonutrients. The Florence fennel is what you’ll see in markets here, with a big white bulb, topped by long stalks and fronds, all of which can be eaten.
 
I think the first time I ate fennel was when my mother served her fennel and pear salad to us on one of my visits home. It’s not a dish she made when we were growing up; she’d learned it later on, from a friend during a long stay in Italy—making it her own by adding the Asian pears. Fennel is very versatile—eat it raw, as called for in the salad here, or steam, braise, grill or roast it (it caramelizes beautifully). Add it to soups and stews, serve over pasta or bake it with fish. This salad, in fact, works wonderfully served over grilled fish.
 
Wild fennel, a different plant, grows all around the Mediterranean; apparently it’s found on this continent in California, British Columbia and in other locales, too—perhaps where homesick Italians have planted the seeds. Once established, wild fennel is prolific. Wild fennel pollen, once known only in Tuscany, is prized by chefs like Mario Batali and Sara Jenkins (who uses it in her porchetta) for the flavor and aroma it brings to a dish.

At the Market This Week—Gathered from the Wild

INTERESTING ARTICLE IN YESTERDAY’S New York Times on chefs using unusual wild ingredients in their dishes. Nova Kim of Wild Gourmet Food (included in the article) was selling some beautiful mushrooms at New Amsterdam Market when I went last Sunday. 
 
 
 
Kim and her partner Les Hook are long-time gatherers of wild edibles from the fields and woods of northern Vermont—and spirited educators, whether at the Smithsonian or from behind their stand. “I’m so glad you used the word gather,” Kim exclaimed as we chatted about the mushrooms. “Foraging is about ravaging the woods. Gathering and wildcrafting is what we do.” (Whew, lucked out on that one.)
 
The pair have a wild food CSA (Judith Jones, Julia Child’s longtime editor, is a customer), and they supply chefs at the New England Culinary Institute (NECI) and high-end restaurants. If you like to gather wild edibles yourself or to cook with them or just think they’re a good thing to keep around, you might want to check out the nonprofit Wild Food Gatherers Guild, which Kim and Hook founded with NECI executive chef Tom Bivins—to “sustain the collection of wild foods as a craft and a livelihood.”
 
 
Wild Gourmet Food will be back at New Amsterdam Market December 19, the last day of this year’s schedule for the market. Maybe you’d like to visit them and make this Wild Mushroom Ragù.

Meatless Monday Gets Chefs to Dish for Thanksgiving

IF YOU’RE STILL LOOKING FOR IDEAS for the un-meat part of your Thanksgiving meal, Meatless Monday has invited its favorite chefs and cooks to share their favorite recipes. How about Mario Batali’s Sicilian rice balls, Martha Rose Shulman’s cranberry orange relish, or Dino Mash from Kim O’Donnel’s The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook? Check out all the recipes here. 

Move Over, Turkey

MUCH AS I LIKE ROAST TURKEY at Thanksgiving, I’ve always liked the side dishes even more, especially when combined in a crazy spill-off-the-plate sort of way. Now Tara Parker-Pope has a great series going, over at her Well blog at NYTimes.com: A Vegetarian Thanksgiving. Vegetables (and fruit) are the stars in dozens of fabulous recipes, some homey, some knock-your-socks-off chef’s masterpieces. She’ll add new dishes daily until Thanksgiving. Lots for Mediterraneanista to like here. How about Martha Rose Shulman’s Orange-Scented Sweet Potato and Fruit Gratin or Tom Colicchio’s Caramelized Tomato Tarts? The recipes are all so tempting, I think Thanksgiving will have to be a month-long celebration this year. That’s OK— I do have quite a lot to be thankful for. What about you? 

 

Husbands Who Make Soup Are, Well, Just Wonderful

I DON’T KNOW HOW Mr. Mediterraneanista (or BC, as he prefers to be called) got to Food52. Maybe he saw it mentioned on politico/foodie Ezra Klein’s blog, but that’s beside the point. One day last week I was tapping away at my computer, vaguely aware of kitchen rustle in the distance. An hour or so later, voilà—I’m being invited for a beautiful bowl of sweet potato soup for lunch. Olive oil, infused with zaatar—an eastern Mediterranean spice blend of sesame seeds, thyme and sumac—is drizzled on top. When I dip my spoon in I find crumbled feta is in the mix, too. What a wonderful combination of sweet and aromatic flavors. And what style (must be that two-careers-ago design training).
 
I don’t mean to imply that having BC cook a meal is something like the 8th wonder of the world. It’s not. He went through a long bread-baking phase in the 90s when our boys were little, and then there was the madeleine making period (we all really liked that) and the ceviche-as-school-project-with-kids experiments. Plus he’s certainly done his share of better-get-dinner-on-the-table-the kids-are-cranky. For the last while, he’s been the go-to pizza maker in our house. Mediterraneanista especially likes that. And if I can ever take a photo of one that does it any justice, I’ll definitely share. In the meantime, I’m just loving this surprise soup lunch development.
 
 

RECIPE: Wild Mushroom Ragu with Bucatini

 
WITH MUSHROOMS POPPING UP IN THE WOODS and in markets, this seemed like the perfect Friday night dinner this week. I did some one-stop shopping for the ingredients at Eataly, where I found shitakes and chanterelles, along with Barilla dried bucatini and prosciutto. (This recipe is a perfect example of the Mediterranean meat-as-condiment idea.)
 
Serves 4
 
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
3½ ounces prosciutto (sliced ⅛-inch-thick), cubed*
1¼ pound mixed wild mushrooms, such as shitake, chanterelle, trumpet or blue foot, trimmed and halved
¼ cup vegetable broth
¼ cup water
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¾ pound bucatini or spaghetti
½ cup heavy cream
 
*Although I didn't use it today, Citterio makes a 4 oz. package of cubed prosciutto (with no weird additives—ham and sea salt are the only two ingredients) that’s super convenient.
 
 
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add carrot, celery, onion and prosciutto; reduce heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes. Add mushrooms, broth, water and pinch salt and pepper; stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until mushrooms are very tender, about 30 minutes.
 
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. While pasta is cooking, warm cream to a simmer. Drain pasta, transfer to a large serving bowl, add hot cream and mushroom mixture, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, and serve.
 
Adapted from a recipe in La Cucina Italiana. 
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