RECIPE: Beans and Red, Yellow and Orange Peppers Salad

 
SOMETIMES A FARMERS’ MARKET STAND JUST LEAPS UP AT YOU and says, “Make this dish!” At this time of year, that dish often involves peppers. Piled up in gorgeous multicolored heaps, who can resist?
 
 
For this recipe, I add chopped up peppers to a few staples from the cupboard—canned cannellini and garbanzo beans, which I stock up on at Whole Foods, plus extra-virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar—and a generous handful of mint. It makes a fall meal full of wake-you-up tastes and crunch. If you like, you can top it off with crumbled feta or goat cheese—adding a salty zest and some extra protein.
 
 
Oh, and a loaf of crusty bread and a bottle of crisp Albariño from Spain are always welcome accompaniments.
 
Generously serves 4 as a main dish
 
1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 15-oz. can cannellini beans
1 15-oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
½ small red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbs. red wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
A good handful (½ cup or more) fresh mint leaves, cut into thin strips (chiffonade) or left whole if very young and tender
Fresh feta or goat cheese (optional), for topping
 
Core, seed and dice the peppers into ¼-inch pieces and place in a serving bowl big enough to fit all ingredients. Drain and rinse the beans. Zap them for 20 seconds or so in the microwave, ’til just warm, and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and garlic, and pour over the beans. Let sit for 10 or 15 minutes. Add beans, onion and mint to the peppers, and gently mix. Season with sea salt and pepper, to taste.

 

At the Market This Week: Desperado Chefs and Salade Niçoise Royale

MY FRIDAY MORNING RITUAL is to visit my neighborhood farmers’ market on West 97th Street, often with one friend or another who lives nearby. Today—because it was pouring rain of course—I decided to switch things up a bit and make the trek down to Union Square Greenmarket. I have to say the sights just made me feel like singin’ in the rain.
 
 
 
 
I was early enough to bump into (be run over by) chefs foraging for the day’s ingredients. You can learn a lot from how they eye the produce and then hone in on, say, the romano beans and buy four big bags of them. Plus perfect bunches of dandelion greens. You look at what they choose and see that, yes, it is at its peak of perfection that day, at that farm stand. (And as Mario Batali once pointed out—in encouraging people on all sorts of budgets to shop at farmers’ markets—when you buy a particular crop at its season’s peak, it’ll also be at its cheapest.)
 
 
One hyperfocused chef/cook (maybe he was running late and worried he’d miss out on a crucial ingredient) rushed into the Migliorelli Farm stand and said, “I want all your Tuscan kale, all of it. I’ll take all you have.” Now this is not a small farm stand, so that’s a big load of kale! Tuscan kale soup? Sautéed Tuscan kale? Maybe the menu will reveal all.
 
 
As usual, I bought enough beans and tomatoes and potatoes and greens to feed an army and give me a good upper body workout at the same time. With a lovely piece of Yellowfin Tuna from Mermaid’s Garden in my fridge, I have all the makings of a Salade Niçoise Royale, as Nancy Harmon Jenkins refers to the new-fangled version of this dish that includes tuna. In The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, she reminds us that traditionalists don’t include tuna, or even potatoes. I guess in this case I’m not a traditionalist.
 
 
On the way home, I stopped by Eataly to refuel with a latte and apricot croissant. It was just after opening hour and the place was amazingly calm. I relaxed for a while and then strolled through the store, spotting the frisée (above) I needed and hadn’t found at the market. That will be for a salad with golden beets. But more about that another day.  

At the Market This Week

ABUNDANCE! I GO TO THE FARMERS’ MARKET year-round, but there’s nothing like the pleasure of seeing pristine summer crops piled up one after the other. Since I don’t have a family of eight, I try to be reasonable in my purchases but it’s hard to resist.  

  
 
What do you get for $16 at the market?
 
A Renaissance painting.
 
  
Cherry (tomato) candies.
 
 
A riff on the Italian flag.
 
 
Peaches so juicy you have to eat them over the kitchen sink.
 

Sometimes a Cookbook Is More Than Just a Cookbook

PANZANELLA DI FARRO, a Tuscan-style tomato salad with farro, from Olives & Oranges, by Sara Jenkins and Mindy Fox, is the recipe that got me started eating farro. At the time, I didn’t know much about farro, except that it was a grain, so making that dish led to all sorts of research and then expeditions all over the city to find it.
 
 
After that, since I travel regularly to Montreal and Toronto, I had to find farro sources in those cities, too, because the salad had become something of an extended family favorite as well. (Travelers: Dinah’s Cupboard in Toronto; Milano Supermarket in Montreal). 
 
 
A bag of farro even made the trip north with us to Georgian Bay (above) and 45 minutes across the water to my brother’s cottage on an island one summer (we’d found wild rice on its shores, but weren’t holding out any hope for farro).
 
All this adventure, thanks to one recipe.
 
Beyond farro, though, that dish introduced me to a whole wonderful world of cooking with chef Sara Jenkins. I’ve been down to Porchetta, her little shop on East 7th Street where she makes herbed roast pork sandwiches that get raves from anyone who’s tried them. And I’m looking forward to more visits to her pasta restaurant, Porsena, in the same neighborhood.
 
But the East Village is not exactly next door, so back to the cookbook. I usually like to cook and eat at home anyway, so I’ve branched out to try other recipes in this very approachable but sophisticated book. Roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce. Orange and mint leaf salad with roasted beets. (Both great for Meatless Monday!) Baked pork chops with peaches (time for this one again, now that peaches are appearing in the market). Spaghetti with lemon sole, almonds, capers and parsley. Monkfish with olives, potatoes, and sun-dried tomatoes. And recently for dinner, smoked trout with arugula salad, pictured here.
 
 
 
 
Along with the recipes, which are helpfully labeled quick-cook and slow-cook, Jenkins shares her knowledge of the Mediterranean pantry and offers flavor tips that make you an all-round smarter Mediterranean cook. I’m still a little obsessed with that farro salad, though. Planning to make it for another family get-together some time soon. Purslane or arugula? We’ll see. 
 
Porchetta
110 East 7th Street  
New York, NY 10009
212-777-2151
 
Porsena
21 East 7th Street  
New York, NY 10003
212-228-4923
 

Jealous of My Delicious Weekly Fish Dinner? Want Your Own?

MONDAY, JULY 23 IS THE LAST DAY to sign up for Season 2 of Mermaid’s Garden CSF. As you know, I’ve been loving the once-a-week fish fix myself.

There are now five pickup locations in Brooklyn: Park Slope, Bushwick, Red Hook, Clinton Hill/Bedford Stuyvesant and Cobble Hill. Space is limited so act now if you’re interested. Go to: Mermaid’s Garden CSF for more information.

 
 

Fish for Dinner—Mermaid's Garden Makes It Happen

FRIDAY WAS FISH DAY IN MY FAMILY, for as long as I can remember growing up. Initially a religious observance, it eventually just became the custom and what we all enjoyed eating. It helped that we lived in a town on the shores of Lake Huron. Depending on where we were or what was convenient, dinner might be English-style fish and chips wrapped in newspaper, bass or perch caught in Georgian Bay (and the occasional pike!), shrimp fried rice or pickerel from the fishing boat at the dock down by the bridge.
 
In my own household, I’ve always cooked fish, although I drifted from the Friday fish idea—and it didn’t always happen weekly. Ever since I became smitten with all things Mediterranean, though, I’ve been enjoying fish and seafood more again—and exploring new ways to serve it.
 
This Catalan white bean soup with shrimp, from Nancy Harmon Jenkins’s The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, makes a meal “handsome enough for a dinner party,” as she puts it. She’s right.
 
 
These ocean perch are baked with lemon slices, a little wine, capers and olive oil in the pan. Talk about fast food.
 
 
Oven-baked fish fillets with cherry tomatoes, lemon zest, garlic, capers and olive oil are always a hit. These are red snapper.
 
 
And here’s red snapper again, a couple of big ones from a Portuguese fish store in Toronto, ready to pop in the oven. (It was Christmas Eve and we were cooking for a crowd.) This is another Spanish recipe from Jenkins—the fish is roasted on a bed of sautéed onions and small potatoes, and then topped off with red pepper slices and tomatoes. A one-dish dinner—lazy Mediterraneanista loves it.
 
 
This summer, I’ve found a new and wonderful way to get a regular fish fix—I’ve joined Mermaid’s Garden Community Supported Fishery. It was started by Bianca Piccillo, a marine biologist who left academia to work in the food business, and Mark Usewicz, the French-trained executive chef at Palo Santo in Brooklyn. As consultants, Bianca and Mark work with restaurant professionals helping them “knowledgeably and confidently chose delicious, sustainable fish.” Now, as a CSF member, I get that benefit too. Which is nice because shopping for fish that’s good for you and the ocean can be confusing.

The CSF works like a CSA does—you buy a 4-week share (fish for two in my case) and pay $66 up front. On Thursday morning we get an e-mail from Bianca, telling us what fish we’ll be getting, how it’s caught, even who caught it—and ideas from Mark for cooking it. Later that afternoon, I head to Brooklyn to pick up my share of fish. So far, we’ve eaten tuna, hake, black bass, striped bass (probably my favorite), pollock. The fish has been fresher than fresh, and although I don’t collect if off the boat myself, there’s something nice about knowing something about where it came from. I’ve been enjoying learning a bit more about fishing practices—and different types of ocean fish. And there’s something very comfortable—and comforting—for me about reviving that weekly rhythm of fish for dinner that was implanted at a young age. Thank you Bianca and Mark!

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.
 

Best Med Diet Dish at...Pasha Restaurant

MEETING UP WITH FRIENDS for Turkish meze at Pasha, near Lincoln Center, is always a great way to end a work day. We usually sit up front in the bar area, pulling up the kilim-upholstered armchairs in a circle around the low mosaic-tiled table. Something about the deep crimson walls and friendly service makes the place cozy and chic at the same time.

Before long, our little table is filled with appetizer plates that we share—shepherd’s salad with tomatoes and cucumbers, manti (small lamb dumplings in mint yogurt sauce), octopus salad, grilled feta with tomatoes, imam bayildi (stuffed eggplant), calamari with garlic and walnut dipping sauce. (Most plates are $7-9, with a few $10-12.) I often order a glass of Cankaya Kavaklidere, a blended white wine from Anatolian grapes, or one of the other Turkish wines on the list, which gets you completely in the spirit of being transported to Turkey for a few hours.

 

 

Pasha New York
70 West 71st Street
New York, NY
212-579-8751

 

Ready for Winter Stews? Not Me

I KNOW IT’S OFFICIALLY AUTUMN, but I’m not at all ready to say, ‘goodbye summer’ yet. Despite tropical storm Irene—and the date on the calendar—tomatoes are still showing up in New York City’s farmers’ market in a stunning mix of shapes and flavors. There are peppers of every shade—and peaches, too. And this weekend on a visit to the Hudson Valley, I ate the most delicious just-picked corn. Now what could be more summery than tomatoes and corn on the cob?

Repeat after me: Winter will never come, winter will never come....

 

 

 

 

 

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. 
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