vegetarian

Warm Escarole Salad with Apples and Nuts (Success!)

by Caroline

As Tolstoy didn’t write, easygoing eaters are all the same; every picky eater is picky in his or her own way.

So I was reminded the other night when I unpacked our CSA share and pulled out a bunch of escarole bigger than my head:

“Yum!” said Ben. “What’s that?”

Can we just pause a moment to unpack those two short sentences? To marvel at the uncharacteristic enthusiasm — “Yum!” — which precedes the question? Because this cheerful reaction came from a child who generally approaches the world with a healthy dose of skepticism, and examines each bite he takes as carefully as the local health inspector. He will not tolerate butter or cheese (especially–shudder– if they are melted); frets if I put any kind of cooked dried bean (black, white, navy, garbanzo) on his plate; and rejects tomatoes in all their glorious forms (fresh, sauced, dried). On the other hand, he will eat whole wedges of lemon (rind and all), loves pickled burdock root, any manner of candied peel, and all cooked greens. The more sour and bitter, the better.

So I thought I had a good shot at getting him to eat escarole, especially when the sheet of recipes from our CSA included one for a warm salad of escarole, apples, raisins and toasted nuts. The original has cheese, which sounds delicious to me, but I didn’t have any, and Ben wouldn’t have eaten it that way, anyway. As it turned out, Ben liked it (though he found the escarole a bit chewy; I’ll tear the leaves up smaller next time), and even Eli, who of course is his own brand of picky (he doesn’t like any cooked vegetables), gave it long consideration rather than reject it automatically. So I’m calling this one a success.


Warm Escarole, Apple and Walnut Salad (adapted from a recipe by Jonathan Miller):

1/4 c raisins
1 apple, peeled and cut into wedges
1 head of escarole (my bunch was so big, I used less than half, which turned out to be one pound)
1 lemon
1/4 c chopped walnuts or pecans
2 oz gruyere
butter or olive oil

Cover the raisins with boiling water and let sit while you prepare the rest of the dish.
Zest the lemon and then squeeze out the juice. Keep them separate.
Wash the escarole and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Heat a large skillet with a couple tablespoons of butter or olive oil. Add the apples and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until the apples have softened. Put in a large serving bowl with a splash of the lemon juice.

In the same skillet, toast the nuts until they’re dark brown and fragrant. Remove from the pan and set aside (don’t put them in with the apples just yet, or they’ll get soggy).

Now add a bit more olive oil or butter to the pan, the lemon zest, the remaining lemon juice, the escarole and a splash of water; cover the pan and let the escarole cook. As soon as the water begins to steam, uncover the pan and continue to cook, stirring, until the escarole is just wilted. Transfer to the serving bowl with the apples. Drain the raisins and sprinkle both those and the toasted nuts on top. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the gruyere on top and serve.

Click here for other escarole recipes.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

by Caroline


A friend of mine reviews reviews for websites; you read that right: if you write a product review of an item you buy online, chances are she or one of her colleagues will vet your review before it is published, checking for inappropriate language, slander, and other no-no’s. But even acceptable reviews are often riddled with punctuation and grammar errors, and I often think of my friend, waging a lonely, one-woman battle against misplaced modifiers and comma splices. The excerpts she posts on Facebook every day — especially the ones with grammatical errors that introduce unintentionally hilarious meanings (think, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”) — make my day.

But it’s got me thinking about recipe-writing and reviewing. I use recipe websites all the time, and often use the reviews to guide my choices, but I’m always amazed (and kind of amused) at the reviews that say something like “This cake was terrible!! I cut the sugar by 50%, replaced the butter with pureed prunes, and used wheat germ and ground flax instead of white flour; it was so dry! it wasn’t nearly sweet enough! I won’t ever make this again!!” (Online reviewers always use multiple exclamation points). Yes, well, serves you right, I think.

I adapt recipes, and I do often cut sugar or replace shortening with ground flaxseed meal, but usually not until the second time around. It doesn’t seem right to tinker until I really understand what the recipe’s doing. And when I tinker, I’ll let you know so that you can make your own decisions about the changes.

The chocolate zucchini cake recipe I made this week from Epicurious has a raft of reviews and for some reason this time they really drew me in. As usual, a number of reviewers simply praised the recipe; others (helpfully) explained changes they made and their result; others criticized the recipe after make unsuccessful changes; and then — my favorite — others told off the critics who had made ill-advised substitutions:

“Yep, if you start making substitutions, don’t blame the recipe.”

And even better:
“Did anybody actually make THIS cake???? By the time you make all the substitutions and revisions, it’s not the same cake. Who gives a rat’s behind about what everyone did to alter the cake, just RATE THE DAMN THING! Whooo, now that i got that off my chest, yes, I do feel better. Incidentally, the cake I made using THIS recipe, was fabulous.”

I have to agree. I made this cake and it is good.

Pasta with Arugula, Tomato and Egg

by Caroline

I am trying to get back into a regular yoga routine (a routine abandoned years ago, after two good stints of beneficial prenatal yoga, after Eli proved uninterested in mom + baby yoga) and I’m getting better at getting to class and moving through the poses. But concentrating on my breathing? Concentrating on the poses? That’s not really happening yet. Instead, I have to admit, I spend much of the 90 minutes, especially the final savasana, pondering my next meal.

So it was today. I lay there, eyes closed, bolster over my legs, thinking about the tub of leftover pasta in the fridge, the arugula going wild in the backyard, the juicy tomatoes from the CSA. On the drive home, I remembered we still had some eggs. And so, with a grating of fresh parmesan and a sprinkle of lemon zest salt, a quick lunch was born. Its origins remind me a bit of garbage salad and although its perhaps prettiest at first, like this:

It is most delicious, like that salad, when you take your knife and fork to it and slice everything up in your bowl, letting the arugula wilt and mellow a bit with the heat of the pasta and egg, the runny egg yolk and tomato juice making your sauce, like this:

It made a great lunch, though of course it would make a nice simple dinner, too, with some crusty bread on the side; your salad is already in the bowl.

Lemony Zucchini Carpaccio

by Caroline

When Tony and I were first dating, we used to eat at a wonderfully low-key Italian place, Jackson Fillmore, with the most delicious zucchini carpaccio, light and fresh with parmesan, toasted almonds and parsley. We’ve tried to replicate it a number of times but never quite gotten it right. So when this recipe appeared in my inbox this morning from Food 52, I thought it was time to try again. I thought the crunch of the raw zucchini and almonds would appeal to my son Eli, who doesn’t like cooked vegetables, and knew the zesty hit of lemon in this recipe would appeal to my lemon-loving son, Ben.

Personal preference and our pantry dictated a number of changes to the recipe; we all like almonds, so I used those, slightly toasted, in lieu of pistachios, and we didn’t have any thyme. My sea salt isn’t fine, and my grinder is full of coffee beans, so I just did a rough chop of lemon zest with coarse sea salt, which worked out fine (and the extra has now become my sons’ favorite topping for vegetables and pasta). I don’t have a mandoline, but a vegetable peeler achieves the same effect: lovely fresh ribbons of zucchini.

Click here for the original recipe; here’s how I did it:

First make the lemon zest salt by combining
• 1 tablespoon lemon zest
• 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
Mince or grind in a spice grinder and set aside. (Store the extra, sealed in a small jar, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. After that the lemon flavor will begin to fade.)

Next prepare the salad:
• 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest salt
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 4 small, fresh zucchini (about 4 ounces each), rinsed and trimmed at both ends
• 1 large ripe avocado
• 1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

1. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest salt. Add the oil and whisk to blend.
2. With a mandoline, vegetable peeler, or very sharp chef’s knife slice the zucchini lengthwise as thin as possible. Arrange the slices on a platter and pour the dressing over them. Tilt the platter back and forth to coat the slices evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, so the zucchini absorbs the dressing and does not dry out.
3. Halve, pit, and peel the avocado, and cut it lengthwise into very thin slices. Arrange the slices of marinated zucchini on individual salad plates, alternating with the avocado slices, slightly overlapping them. Sprinkle with the almonds. Garnish with another sprinkle of lemon zest salt, and serve.

Fresh Corn Pancakes

by Caroline

When my husband and I decided to get married, I told him I could imagine making a life in his native San Francisco as long as we spent one week every summer somewhere I wouldn’t need to wear a scarf.

That means, happily, an August week in Northwest Connecticut, visiting my parents, and that also, very happily, means corn. Usually, we’re eating my Dad’s corn, but this year the crop failed so we’re getting it from local farm stands. My Dad likes the one the First Selectman sets up at the end of his driveway (presumably because he can get caught up on local political talk); my Mom (and I) like the bigger one that also offers fresh, homemade mozzarella. Either way, with this much corn around, you are bound to have leftovers, and this recipe is my new favorite way to use them. Don’t be put off (as I nearly was) by the somewhat fussy step of blending and straining some of the corn with milk: it makes a difference.

You can eat these the way my kids do, drenched in maple syrup (and when the syrup’s homemade, I won’t stop them), but you can also eat them savory, as I’ve pictured, with guacamole and fresh tomatoes. It’s summer on a plate.