Green-Garlic Farro Salad with Marinated Zucchini and Herbs

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We’ve been traveling quite a bit, but whenever I’m in the kitchen lately, all I want is summer fruits and vegetables done simply. I grate tomatoes into pan-con-tomate pulp, add a glug of good olive oil, sherry vinegar and sea salt–it’s wonderful as it is, or spooned over grilled fish. I grill olive oil-ed asparagus and lemons together–and sauce the charred spears with the deep, grilled juice. Cut corn from the cob and fold it, raw, into every pasta/grain/salad that crosses your path.

There is certain summer produce that, once it comes into season, I cook and eat compulsively until it disappears from the market. Green garlic–the immature garlic bulb that isn’t yet papery on the outside–is one example. I use a mandolin to thinly slice the bulb whole, and then saute as I would with minced garlic cloves. Zucchini is another example. This year I’ve discovered the fresh joy of raw zucchini: marinate zucchini coins/ribbons/”spaghetti” with salt, lemon juice and good olive oil until the zucchini goes wilty and soft. That’s it.

In this salad, both treatments get elevated. I love grain-and-vegetable salads for summer: they’re happy in the fridge for many days, they serve a crowd and they’re great for picnics/cook-outs/travel.

green garlic Green-Garlic Farro Salad with Marinated Zucchini and Herbs

Green-Garlic Farro Salad with Marinated Zucchini and Herbs

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Best Veggie Burger Ever, V2

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I’m not sure whether this feeling is universal or not but, I’m finding twenty nine a very odd bird. It’s been a liminal time: I know what I want now (for the most part), but I haven’t yet figured out how to bring what I want for myself to fruition. It’s incredibly frustrating. Twenty nine is not not twenty four–I’m not trying to discover who I am. And it’s not thirty either, which in my mind is the mythical year when you are unequivocally not a child anymore.

Twenty nine has been planning a wedding, now only a few months away. From a distance, a wedding seems like a concrete action, an objective step forward. But in fact, being married isn’t a hurdle to conquer; instead, it’s a symbol (and symptom) of something much longer-brewing. In future, I don’t think we’ll think of the day after the big day as the start of our “real” relationship. Our relationship, the one that brings me comfort and joy and security every day, began six years ago. The slow work of those six years carried us here. One day isn’t a beginning or an end, but instead a (special, special) punctuation mark in the story of our life together.

But in my head, I’ve detached the symbol from the practice. I’ve spent so much time scheming and dreaming this huge party we’re throwing, this party I’m looking forward to so much. But even still, the event feels like an intangible monolith. My subconscious seems to agree, because I dream about it almost nightly now. These aren’t nightmares, but they are strange and highly vivid, so that when I wake up it takes me a full minute to realize the that dream does not reflect reality.

So many of the big questions have floated to the surface this year. Where will we live? The US and France are possibilities, but the nature of the Frenchman’s work opens up other domestic or international options, too. Will we continue to rent our narrow Brooklyn apartment, or should we buy? And if so, where? And when? If you’d asked me five years ago, I would have suggested starting a family at twenty nine. Now, that idea seems ludicrous and impossible. But if not now, then when?

Reading this over, I can see that I’m in need of an herbal tea, some yoga, and the cleansing purge of an Arrested Development marathon. I get that I’m more plan-obsessed than most balanced human beings. But even when I remind myself to forget the big things for a while, the fact is, they aren’t phantoms. The realities of twenty nine cannot be wished away, whether I like it or not. Whether I like it or not, I possess no crystal ball, and there is a limit to my agency.

Twenty nine is all the balls in the air. Twenty nine is waiting for them to fall down again, to see where they land.

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Orzo Salad with Scallions, Hazelnuts, and Golden Raisins

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On Sunday, the Frenchman and I organized a picnic and barbecue in Brooklyn Bridge Park. We met friends, and friends of friends, on a grassy knoll tipping toward the water, an open view of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty off to the left. We sat together on a massive tapestry, played cards, and drank gin, basil, and grapefruit punch.

That afternoon, the first warm one in eons, reminded me of many picnics past, first in El Retiro in Madrid, where we ate potato chips cooked in olive oil and sipped cheap Spanish beer, watching the rowboats pass across the pond, and then later in Paris, on the Pont des Arts or in Parc Monceau, with a bottle of rosé and a game of tarot to celebrate early summer.

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Slow-Roasted Carrots with Lamb and Spring Onion Dressing

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Despite the fact that it’s still freezing cold in New York City (literally); despite the fact that the forecast reads “winter mix” more days than not (a phrase that sounds like it should be a jazz CD sold in coffee shops, but is actually a horrendous blend of ice-rain-snow)–yesterday was the first day of spring.

Clearly, my fantasies of delicate pea tendrils and narrow stalks of asparagus aren’t coming to fruition as quickly as I’d like. The farmers market looks much the same now as it has all winter. Still, there are small signs of change: multi-colored carrots, new potatoes, and a small collection of scallions. This recipe utilizes two of the three.

And chives, and tender ground lamb! Two more ingredients that promise spring. My goal for this dish was to create something earthy and balanced; flavorful, but not at all winter weary. I think I’ve succeeded.

This recipe is packed with (brown) sugar, spice, and everything nice (namely, jalapeño slices, creamy dressing, and crunchy peanuts). The combination is fairly delicious, if I do say so myself. Read more »

Fennel, Merguez, and Preserved Meyer Lemon Braise

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Here is the thing about trying to recreate childhood dishes for the Frenchman: it is invariably a petit désastre. I have tried my hand at lentils, white beans, croque-monsieur. It’s not that my attempts are bad per se (well, except for the beans. I am bean-impaired), but they simply don’t live up to expectation; they aren’t the same. What can I say? Childhood memory is a cruel competitor, particularly in the kitchen.

The following “braise” was one such attempt. The Frenchman lived in Tunisia for six years as a kid, so the man knows his way around a couscous. He loves couscous. I, on the other hand, am quite new to the dish.

I did some research, but mostly I relied on techniques I was already familiar with (to me, winter is spelled b-r-a-i-s-e), and employed ingredients I thought made sense together. I even bought couscous imported from Tunisia, which I hoped might add some authenticity to the proceedings.

When the dish came out of the oven, I though it tasted really good: the vegetables were soft, and flavored with pan juices. The sauce itself was complex and spiced, a little spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. The couscous was downy, and tasted ever so slightly of the good olive oil I stirred into it. Read more »

Pearl Couscous with Roasty Roots, Chickpeas, and Pepitas

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Ce soir, the Frenchman and I depart for a nine-day visit to France.

We haven’t been to Angoulins since the summer. Then, we swam at high tide, ate every meal outside, and padded barefoot around the porch. In winter, his seaside home is no less beautiful, although obviously much colder. This time, we will curl up in front of the fire, eat foie gras on toast (it’s Christmas, in France, after all), and meander to the beach with a bottle of Champagne on Christmas Day (avec shoes, thankfully).

I am looking forward to the trip, and to the break. I just have one quibble: if it were up to me, we’d teleport directly from our living room, straight into the Frenchman’s living room. (I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve asked the Frenchman to invent teleportation. Then, he could sleep at home every night, even during business trips. He assures me he’s on top of it, although I have yet to see results.)

The trouble is, I am terrified of flying. I know, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, plane-safety statistics being what they are, and considering how often I fly. Still, I am thrown into a tizzy every time I board a plane. It’s not great. To make matters worse, the Air France terminal at JFK is just the pits. (I know, my life is terrible!) Unless you enjoy rubbery chicken with sprayed-on grill marks, or Chinese food languishing under a heat lamp, you’re out of luck. Read more »

The Best Veggie Burger Ever

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PLEASE SEE THE UPDATED VERSION OF THIS RECIPE HERE.

Yes, yes, the title of this post is bound to invite raised eyebrows. Could this really be the best veggie burger, of all time, ever? Well, I can tell you this with full confidence: this here veggie burger is the best I’ve tasted by some margin.

Because here is the thing–given the choice between a beef or lamb hamburger and a vegetable facsimile, I would never normally choose the later. Ever.

It’s not that I have something against vegetables. In fact, I quite like vegetables, in their natural state, or coaxed with a bit of heat, olive oil and sea salt. But veggie burgers are not vegetables. Veggie burgers have always seemed to me a strange and unhappy amalgamation of rabbit food mash, a strict and humorless attempt to appease those who forgo meat. Read more »