everyday green lentils

I can’t remember the last time I missed the sight of brown dirt in the winter. It’s been over a month since a few major storms covered my part of the Northeast with snow, immediately becoming frozen in place. We literally have boulder-sized piles on the street made of solid ice and a thick layer of white on the ground you can walk on without making a dent.

All this icy whiteness is making me think about what spring will look like – one season I haven’t seen here in New Jersey yet – and what plants I’ll plant as soon as it thaws.

I always try to grow my favorite perennial herb plants like thyme, lavender and rosemary. Depending on what kind of winter blast Mother Nature sends, they can survive a few seasons, the lavender plants spreading out with fragrant flowers all summer.

Why did I start out writing about dirt?  It must be a sign of deprivation. Lentils taste nothing like earth or dirt to me, but their humbleness never fails to make a comforting, simple meal especially suited for eating while things go Arctic outside.  [Read more...]

chile chickpea brodo, chorizo and greens

chili chickpea brodo with chorizo and greens
Chickpeas, garbanzos, ceci — by whatever name you choose, I love them.

Last week, as I was lying face down on a mat focusing on my breath and the sorry state of my pedicure, I misheard my yoga teacher ask that we take a moment to look into our inner beans.

And so I found myself asking this eternal question, one that can only be answered after a sweaty yoga class and a few minutes of peaceful contemplation – what is my inner bean?

chili chickpeas, chorizo and greens

I emerged from that brief meditation certain that my inner bean was a cannellini; earthy, velvety soft and creamy at the core. A bowl of warm cannellini beans drizzled with delicious green olive oil, strewn with tiny slivers of chopped fresh rosemary and some Parmigiano grated over is one of the most comforting foods I can think of.

However, I came to the conclusion that if I am truly a cannellini being at the core, then the outer being must be all chickpea. I eat them almost every day!

I’d gotten into the habit of using canned chickpeas after many frustrated hours trying to cook dried ones that more often than not were old and stale. But now that diet trends veer toward the Gluten Free Vegan Cave Dweller, chickpeas are a very popular protein choice for many people, which translates into faster turnover and fresher dried beans.

I fell for a method of cooking garbanzos I found in Suzanne Goin’s AOC Cookbook , which is genius because the cooking water becomes a fabulous light broth – or brodo – that is so tasty I keep the chickpeas in it and build a soup meal along with some smoky, slightly spicy chorizo and dark greens.

I find the combination of sharp cheeses with chile peppers hard to resist. Coach Farms was kind to send me a sample of their Grating Stick, an aged goat cheese that my Microplane turned into savory dust on my chickpeas – yum. But lacking that, a good sharp and salty sheep’s milk Pecorino or even feta would be perfect substitutes.

chile chickpea brodo, chorizo and greens

Serving Size: 4 - 6

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight

3 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped

2 dried chile de arbol, crumbled (or 1 or 2 teaspoons crushed red chile pepper)

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon paprika

Kosher salt

8 ounces short tubular pasta, such as ditallini or tubetti

4 ounces cooked chorizo, cut into cubes

1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and sliced

A few handfuls of washed mixed leafy greens (spinach, kale, arugula, etc.) stems trimmed; torn into bite-sized pieces

Aged sharp cheese, such as Pecorino or Provolone or dry goat

Instructions

  1. Drain the soaked chickpeas and put into a 3 or 4 quart heavy saucepan along with the garlic, shallot, chiles, bay leaf and paprika. Pour over enough water to cover by 3 inches and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and loosely cover. Cook an hour or so, then add 2 teaspoons salt. Continue cooking until chickpeas are tender - 30 minutes or more depending on the age of the chickpeas. Remove the bay leaf.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.
  3. Just before serving, warm the chickpeas and broth over low heat. Stir the pasta, chorizo, roasted red pepper and greens into the pot and taste for seasoning, adding a little more salt if needed.
  4. Serve in bowls and grate cheese over the top.
http://familystylefood.com/2014/01/chile-chickpea-brodo-chorizo-and-greens/

brussels sprouts with pine nut gremolata

Are Brussels sprouts the new kale? I’ve been seeing them in markets and on menus all over the place – shaved raw into salads and roasted to a smoky-edged char in wood-fired ovens.

I didn’t know how much I could love Brussels sprouts, but that’s because when I was growing up my mom didn’t cook them – I don’t remember intriguing miniature cabbages appearing anywhere on the table when I was a kid. Were they not farmed on a large scale back then or were they just not a part of my family’s food tradition? I have a feeling they were the kind of vegetable you bought frozen in the 70′s, which might explain why I never laid eyes on a fresh Brussels sprout until I was an adult.

Even a just few years ago, those fresh-picked stalks with the sprouts still attached were kind of a novelty in produce departments, but now I see them everywhere.  It also never occurred to me that they could be so easily – and quickly – cooked in the microwave, with really delicious results. [Read more...]