On Sunday, I left all my responsibilities in states of semi-completeness on my desk. We drove away from the city in search of oysters, dodging potholes and listening to bad pop music on the radio. The day was bright and brisk, downright cold really.
I wanted to write about the romance of driving across Long Island in search of oysters with someone you love. But the trees are still completely bare, the landscape a dull green-brown. Snow banks have lost their luster, half melted and speckled with grime.
I do not know what to say, lately. Or maybe, I do not know how to say it. The state of things seems marred by banal stretches dappled with small disappointments. The Frenchman’s finger is not healing the way it should and there is absolutely nothing I can do about this. I suggest oysters.
And how to talk about Florida, where we business tripped for a week–the bleached sun that took my light-starved body several days to adjust to, as if I were a bear stumbling out of hibernation. After all of the grays of this New York winter, Florida was blinding–checkers of matte pearl replaced by an open expanse of bombastic blue. And the sameness of that blue and tan, blue and tan; sky the color of water, low flat buildings the color of sand. I think it took me a week to get warm, finally, to notice the soft and carrying wind, to start scratching down recipes again; and then we flew home.
Here is what I need now: just the promise of spring. The secret, hidden life propagating underground. I am weary of not feeling fully alive. I want to trade my coats and socks for the funk-musty smell of wet soil. And texture, yes, that too–the snap of green stalks, young and vegetal amidst a swirl of mint-laced cream. I crave daffodils, whole galaxies of bright fresh things.
Sometimes, I forget to remember happiness. I become so consumed with my ever-growing to do list that I forget to appreciate the plans I made, the plans I worked so hard for, actually coming to fruition.
Here is to mindful appreciation, to purposeful acknowledgment. Here is to the inevitability of spring, and all that I hope it brings.
You may have noticed a new look around here. It was a long time coming, and I hope you like it as much as I do. The bike in the new header–drawn from a photograph of the bike I actually pedal around Brooklyn, collecting foodstuffs–was created by the talented Clint at the Tillman Project. Peruse the new Recipe page, which breaks down by category, season, but also into special diet considerations–I hope this makes finding exactly what you are looking for quicker and easier. Of course, none of these changes would have been possible without the The Frenchman, who put an enormous amount of work into the new site. What can I say? He is the best there ever was, and I am eternally grateful.
These toasts make a satisfying lunch or dinner, especially with the addition of a runny egg. Both the salad and the whipped Feta can be made ahead, although neither takes long to pull off. The salad also makes a good accompaniment to pork and lamb; try it instead of coleslaw on your next pulled pork sandwich. Or, stir it into couscous, or the grain of your choice. The Feta can also be repurposed: spooned over pasta, with potatoes, or with sliced apples (and maybe some crushed Marcona almonds, why not?) on more toast. You can also serve this on small crostini at a party. Both elements are multi-purpose, and I think speak to late winter–deep and flavorful, but bright. I used French Feta for my whip, which tends to be mild and not too salty. Feel free to use your favorite origin Feta, but keep in mind that saltiness will vary; taste before you add any additional salt or not. The whip can be made up to 4 days ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The salad is good for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Makes about 10 toasts.
- 1 small red onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon harissa
- 2 teaspoons za’atar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 14-ounce can chickpeas
- 1 medium fennel bulb
- 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
- 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 12 ounces Feta cheese, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 loaf Italian sesame bread
- Set out a large mixing bowl–you will toss all the salad ingredients into it as you prepare them. Mince the small red onion and the garlic cloves. Pull the leaves off the thyme sprigs. Add the harissa, the za’atar, the salt, and several cracks of the pepper. Rinse the can goop off of the chickpeas, and then add them to the bowl too. Cut the fronds away from the fennel. Wash the bulb, and peel away any brown spots. Halve the bulb lengthwise, and then shave each half crosswise into thin slices (I use a mandoline). Add 1/2 cup of the lemon juice and 1/4 cup of the olive oil to the bowl, and stir all of the ingredients together, until all is evenly incorporated. I like to make this salad a night ahead (store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container). An hour before eating, take the salad out of the refrigerator, and stir in the chives and the parsley. You can also make the salad just a few hours ahead, or make it and serve it right away.
- Now whip the feta: Roughly chop the Feta, and add it to the bowl of a food processor, along with the cream cheese. Pulse the cheeses a couple of times. Start the machine, and slowly pour in 6 tablespoons of the olive oil, and then the remaining 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Mix until the whip is creamy and smooth. Add a flurry of cracked black pepper, and pulse just to combine.
- Heat the oven to 375F. Cut the bread into chunky slices, about 3/4-inch thick. Lay the slices on a baking sheet and brush each with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Move the toast to the oven for 10 minutes, or until the the bread is crisp on the outside, but still soft on the inside. Allow the toast to cool for 5 minutes.
- When the toast is still warm but no longer hot, pile a dollop of the whipped feta onto each slice. Scoop the marinated salad on top of the Feta. Serve as is, or with a fried or poached egg on top.