Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Fishy Thoughts and Oranges for Dessert

What’s cooking? A Round-up of Seafood Dishes and Oranges in Cardamom Syrup

 Again with the Lent. Seems like it was just here. And while I don’t ordinarily find some way of punishing myself for the season, I have discovered something to give up this year.

The idea came to me while I was reading the latest news from the good folks at Kellogg. Apparently, the company is launching – in a limited edition, mind you – a cereal called Unicorn Froot Loops. Really. And if you’re not offended by the spelling of “Froot,” and if the word “Unicorn” doesn’t make you want to rush out and buy some, you’ll surely be enticed by what’s in it: red, blue, and purple cereal pieces with white “crunchlets” and a “magic cupcake” flavor.

The company is so psyched about this news that they’ve opened a cereal-focused café at Union Square in Manhattan, ironically in the same area as one of the premier farmers’ markets in the country. The highlight of the café is a DIY cereal bar with more than 30 “playful toppings,” but you can also get “specialty” cereal drinks, Pop-Tarts, and ice cream sandwiches. Also an Instagram station where you can artfully photograph this crap that you’re about to shovel down your throat. Or – even better – down your kid’s throat.

Let the Kitchen Goddess offer a translation of some of these terms:
● crunchlets = pieces of candy that are cheaper to make than the actual cereal and take up weight in the box that would otherwise be actual cereal.
● magic cupcake flavor = let me take a wild guess... sugar?
● playful toppings = because I can see some of them in the website’s photos, these include marshmallows, crumbled chocolate chip cookies, multicolored white chocolate chips, jam, and what looks like crumbled energy bars drizzled with white frosting. Yum-my.

With all this in mind, I’m excited to announce that I’m giving up all Kellogg cereals for Lent.

Instead – for contrast – I’m going to focus on fish. I know that many of my friends, Catholic or not, like to observe meat-free Fridays for these 40 days. And the Kitchen Goddess supports any reasonably healthy eating habits. So we’ll start with a handful of the best fishy dishes I’ve recommended in the past. (Click on the name to get to the recipe.) And we’ll close this post with a really lovely salute to citrus season.

No-Fuss Crabby Cakes with Tartar Sauce

Fennel Flounder

Tuna-Spinach Soufflé 

Simple Salmon Cakes with Tartar Sauce

Best Broiled Fish with Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

So now that you’ve decided on dinner, let’s remember that we’re still in the heart of citrus season, and take advantage of the outstanding variety of oranges available while they’re all at their best prices.

For the dish below, the Kitchen Goddess used Cara Cara oranges and standard navel oranges. Cara Caras are also called red-fleshed navel oranges, and from the outside, the two are almost indistinguishable – at least, I haven’t found a way to tell the difference. Inside, the Cara Cara flesh is the color of ruby grapefruit but with the sweetness of standard navels, and a more complex flavor that includes hints of cherry and blackberry.

I found this recipe in a search for a way to serve stewed oranges with budino (Italian pudding). They went beautifully with the pudding, but were equally delicious the next night with nothing more than a dollop of whipped cream. You could also serve them with pound cake, angel food cake, or baked meringues (as with a Pavlova).

The strongest flavor in the syrup comes from the cardamom, a spice found frequently in dishes from Asia – India, Bhutan, Nepal, Malaysia,... Along with cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg, it’s one of the warm spices that may remind you of fall, and it’s frequently combined with them. A little spice trivia: my research says it’s considered the queen of spices (third in price after saffron and vanilla), and is useful in treating or guarding against gastrointestinal diseases including colorectal cancer, stomach disorders and urinary tract infections, improving cholesterol and blood circulation. It’s also a remedy for nausea and vomiting. And most significantly, it has aphrodisiac properties. Better stock up! Dried seeds and pods – stored away from heat or sunlight in containers with tight-fitting lids – will keep 3-4 years. Test by crushing a small amount and smelling it – if the flavor isn’t obvious, replace it.

Kitchen Goddess notes: (1) When we finished off the oranges in the first batch, I saved the syrup and added more oranges. The syrup flavor wasn’t as strong as with the first batch, but still quite good. (2) Somewhere in the process of making the syrup, the KG decided that – because ginger and oranges are a great combo – it would be really fab to add a splash of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, or perhaps one of the orange-based liqueurs (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec). Then the doorbell rang and the thought went clear out of her head. She plans to try this another time, but you can try it on your first go. Please report in if you do.

Oranges in Cardamom Syrup

Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2002

Serves 4.

Mise en place -- what you see here is cardamom seeds on the left and pods
 to their right. Either will work.
5 oranges in a combination of navel and Cara Cara
5 cardamom pods, or ½ teaspoon cardamom seeds
3 cups water
1½ cups sugar
one 5-inch long strip of lemon peel [KG note: This is the way it was described in the original recipe, but frankly, five 1-inch pieces would do, if you get my drift. You just need lemon peel.]
1 cinnamon stick
Optional: splash (1 tablespoon?) of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, or an orange-based liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Triple Sec)

With a vegetable peeler, cut a strip of peel about an inch wide and 6 inches long from one of the oranges and set it aside. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel from all the oranges, being careful to remove as much of the white pith as possible. Slice the peeled oranges in half lengthwise and cut each half crosswise into slices about ⅓-inch thick. Transfer the oranges to a large bowl.

Use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder (I use a clean electric coffee grinder) to pulverize the cardamom pods or seeds to get ½ teaspoon of powder. Don’t worry about making it a perfectly fine powder, as you’ll be straining the syrup of solids at the end; and if you are using the pods, it’s ok to pulverize the husks as well.

In a small (2-quart) heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the cardamom, orange peel, water, sugar, lemon peel, cinnamon stick, and liqueur (if using). Stir only until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the syrup to a boil, then reduce the heat enough that the mixture is only simmering. Continue simmering until the liquid is reduced to 1- 1½ cups, which will take a little more than an hour.

Once the syrup is reduced, move it off the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, and discard the solids.

Pour the warm syrup over the oranges and chill (covered) at least a couple of hours or overnight. Serve oranges with a dollop of whipped cream or over slices of pound cake or angel food cake or baked meringues. Or warm budino, for which you can find the recipe by clicking here.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Super Food -- What to Eat While You Watch

What’s cooking? Cheese Crisps and Mexican Popcorn

It is a tenet of the professional football players’ code that if you haven’t played in a SuperBowl, you don’t attend as a spectator.

Well, that does it for me: a baked-in excuse for never making it to the game. I did once participate in a game of flag football, but could never get the hang of dodging and weaving my way down the field. I grew up in Texas, where not liking football is considered at least a misdemeanor, so I faked my way through the high school games. Then I went to Vanderbilt, where football wasn’t really much more than a fun excuse to drink too much. It’s a great school, but hopelessly outnumbered in large, muscular types by its cohorts in the SEC. So the idea of taking a perfectly good weekend and immersing myself in all things football is, well,...

And now that I mention “a perfectly good weekend,” I would like to call your attention to the fact that this year’s game is being held in Minneapolis, where, as I write this post, it’s 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Hahahahaha...

So not only is it warmer to watch the game – if that’s your plan – on TV, but the best food is at someone’s house.

Speaking of food, here’s another amazing factoid: the National Chicken Council – just the thought of which makes me laugh – released its annual estimate of chicken wing consumption during the Super Bowl, and they’re predicting 1.35 billion wings (that’s billion, with a “b”) will be eaten this Sunday.

Friends, friends – as much as I like chicken wings, which, okay, isn’t all that much, there are so many more gratifying things to eat that won’t get red goop all over your hands. And just to prove it, the Kitchen Goddess presents six of her very best crowd pleasers that also won’t leave you wondering what to do with the bone.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup:  A lovely down-to-earth taste, served in small glasses or cups

Cheesy Black-eyed Pea Dip: One of the all-time great party hits, and yes, I did recommend them for last year’s game.

Sausage-stuffed Dates: Ditto.

Marinated Zucchini:  A healthy snack – who’d have guessed?!

Parmesan Gougères: Not as frou-frou as they sound, and you can make the dough, form the balls, and freeze them. Pop ’em into the oven frozen, and add a couple of minutes to the cook time.

Ultimate Mac 'n Cheese: Yes, you’ll need a plate, but who doesn’t like macaroni and cheese at this time of year?

None of these take much time, but in case you’re really strapped, here are two more that are so simple and easy you can practically make them with your eyes closed (though I wouldn’t recommend it).

Cheese Crisps

Pre-heat oven to 375º. Line two half-sheet baking pans (13" x 18") with baker’s parchment. [N.B. The Kitchen Goddess is here to warn you against trying this recipe with anything but baker’s parchment or a Silpat sheet. Without one of these treatments, that cheese will harden to something like permafrost on your pans.]

For the cheese, you’ll need a tablespoon of grated cheese per crisp, so if you want 16 crisps, for instance, you’ll need a cup of grated cheese (about 4 ounces).

The cheese should be coarsely grated using the large holes on a box grater, or the grater blade on a food processor – not the fine grate of a rasp. Hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano or Peorino Romano work well, as do cheddar and Manchego (Spanish sheep’s milk cheese). You can also make the crisps with a mix of cheeses.

Using a tablespoon measure, place mounds of cheese onto the parchment. With your fingers, spread the cheese out to form thin circles 2½ -3 inches in diameter, making sure to leave 1-1½ inches between the circles.

Bake 5-7 minutes, watching carefully in the last couple of minutes because some cheeses will cook faster than others, to make sure they don’t burn. Cool them on the baking sheet, and store them in an airtight container.

If you’re feeling adventuresome, add a bit of cayenne pepper or other favorite herb or spice to the shredded cheese; but really, they’re just fine as they are.

* * *

Kitchen Goddess notes: (1) You will notice here that the KG has used store-bought popcorn, which normally she would see as heresy. But sometimes you just want to go the easy route. If you’re in this camp, just be sure to buy popcorn with the least amount of seasoning, so as to maintain the flavor profile of the spices you’re going to add. (2) Nutritional yeast sounds like some weird, hippy thing, but it’s available in the bulk food area of most grocery stores. It’s a deactivated yeast – so no making bread with it – that has a great cheesy, slightly nutty flavor. And it’s a “complete protein,” so it comes with iron and B12, as well as other B vitamins. It’s low in fat and sodium, sugar-free and gluten-free. (3) The KG had no limes (!), so she pulled an Omani dried lime out of her spice pantry and ground it to a fine powder. If you have Omani dried limes – and a few friends do – it’s a fabulous substitute here.

Mexican Popcorn

1 6-ounce bag low-sodium, low-fat popcorn (or pop your own)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ cup nutritional yeast flakes (see note above)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper (freshly ground is best)
zest of one lime

Put the popcorn into a large bowl and toss it with the melted butter, starting with about a quarter of the butter and working in 3-4 stages as you toss the popcorn and add more butter.

Mix the salt and spices and lime zest together well. When the butter has been evenly incorporated into the popcorn, add the spice mixture, also in 3-4 stages: sprinkling some over the popcorn, then tossing it.

Enjoy the game!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The No-Cost Gift

What’s cooking? Curried Squash &  Red Lentil Soup with Parsley Oil

In this Age of Acrimony, the Kitchen Goddess has been thinking that maybe we just need to start small, rebuilding trust and good will on a truly local level. So here are a handful of suggestions – admittedly, not all of which are no-cost, but we have to start somewhere...

The truly no-cost gift

1. Shake someone’s hand, and while you do, look them in the eyes and tell them how glad you are to see them or how much you appreciate what they do or who they are in your life. If hand-shaking seems inappropriate, try putting your hand on his/her arm or shoulder. Scientific research now correlates physical touch with a broad assortment of benefits, including decreased violence, increased trust, greater well-being in terms of reduced cardiovascular stress and increased production of white blood cells, and increased cooperation.

2. Hold the door open for someone. Expressing kindness to others, even strangers, makes you feel better about yourself.

3. Take a moment to tell a sales clerk “Thank you.” It’s a pretty brutal time of year for those people – they have to find the energy after work to do their own shopping. So say something nice to them. Especially grocery store clerks – you have no idea how many of them get little acknowledgment of their work or their presence in your life.

The low-cost gift

1. Drop a $5 bill in a Salvation Army bucket, and thank the man/woman in the Santa suit for helping out.

2. Pay it forward. Cover the cost of the car behind you in line at your favorite drive-through. At one fast-food restaurant in Canada, the spirit was so infectious, it caught on for more than 200 cars in a row.

OK, maybe this one might cost more than a little

If you keep your eyes open, you’ll find opportunities everywhere. In my grocery store the other day, the elderly man in front of me was having a hard time making his credit card work. “Let’s use this one,” I said, as I swiped my card through the machine. When he realized I was offering to pay for his groceries, he was so overwhelmed, I thought he was going to hug me. The clerk and I just grinned at each other. Made my day, I can tell you.

And in the spirit of feeling warm and fuzzy, here’s the Kitchen Goddess’s gift to you. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes in total (even with the chopping!), as long as you can find pre-cut butternut squash – if not, add another 20 minutes. It’s gluten-free and lactose-free, and it tastes like a quiet evening in front of a crackling fire.

Kitchen Goddess notes: (1) Ginger is one of those herbs or spices that pack a tremendous punch in raw form – so much more than the powdered stuff. It may be the most important ingredient in this soup, so make an effort to pick up a nice big piece of ginger root at the grocery store for this recipe. Freeze what you don’t use – peeled or unpeeled – there’s always a knob of ginger in the KG’s freezer, and it’s almost easier to grate in the frozen state. To remove the skin – even when frozen  use a veggie peeler or scrape the edge of a spoon against the ginger. Grate it on a rasp.

(2) The Omani lime I mention is a great flavor-enhancer for soups and stews, especially ones like this with a Middle Eastern flavor. Small limes boiled briefly in salt brine, they are then dried in the sun for several weeks, until they start to resemble..., well, something that’s been boiled in salt brine and dried in the sun for weeks. Dimpled, musty smelling, and almost black on the inside. Sort of like some of the lemons and limes in the bottom of my fridge’s fruit drawer. Only these are rock hard and have an amazing citrus flavor. An article in The NY Times described them as “one of those power ingredients that can transform a whole range of dishes with virtually no effort on your part.” The KG gets hers from – where else? – A 4-ounce bag will run you about $8.

(3) The parsley oil (or cilantro oil) isn’t a must but it adds another level of flavor to this dish. I know, it sounds very frou-frou, but it’s really easy to make and will last quite a while in your fridge. If you make it with parsley, use only leaves (the stems are bitter); with cilantro, you can use leaves and stems.

Curried Squash and Red Lentil Soup

Adapted from a recipe by Ruth Cousineau in Gourmet magazine, February 2009

Serves 4-6 (main course)


For the soup:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
1 large onion, diced (about 1¼ cups)
2-3 medium carrots, diced (¾ cup)
2 celery ribs plus leaves, diced (¾ cup)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2½  tablespoons grated ginger
2 tablespoons mild (sweet) curry powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper (can substitute ¼ teaspoon chili flakes or a dash of cayenne)
1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 quarts water
6 teaspoons Knorr powdered Chicken Bouillon (or 3 large bouillon cubes)
1 dried Omani lime (optional – see Note above)
1-1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice

For cilantro/parsley oil:
½ cup chopped cilantro (or parsley)
½ cup vegetable oil or grapeseed oil
½ teaspoon salt

Accompaniment: cooked basmati rice (optional)


In a large heavy pot over medium heat, melt the butter with the oil until the foam subsides. Add the squash, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes.

Add the curry powder, cumin, and Aleppo pepper (or chili flakes) and cook, stirring constantly, for another 2 minutes.

Stir in the water, then add the lentils, the Knorr powder, and the dried lime (if you have any). Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, covered, until lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, make the cilantro/parsley oil: purée the herb of your choice in a blender with the oil and the salt.

Take the soup off the heat and stir in the lemon juice plus ½ teaspoon salt. Discard the dried lime. If you like a creamier look, purée a cup or two of the soup in a blender, and add that back to the pot. Season to taste with additional salt and freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle about a teaspoon of the herb oil on each serving of soup.

The original recipe called for serving the soup over Basmati rice, but the Kitchen Goddess prefers it straight, and only adds rice when there’s not enough soup for a meal.

Happy holidays to you all, and may the spirit of giving embrace you and guide you throughout the year.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens... The 2017 Gift List for Foodies

What’s cooking? Are you kidding? Who has time to cook?

Who’s on your shopping list this holiday season? A newlywed outfitting a new house or apartment? Someone whose kitchen got wiped out in one of this year’s natural disasters? Maybe you just need ideas for your own letter to Santa. Whoever it is, if your friend or loved one is food- or cooking-obsessed, the Kitchen Goddess has some great suggestions for you.

Disclaimer note: The Kitchen Goddess, being a paragon of virtue, has not received as much as a Christmas card for her endorsement of these products.

Stocking Stuffers

The Kitchen Goddess finds herself apron-deep in kitchen tools this year.

The latest word is that tongs are so 2000s, having been replaced by many in the professional world with tweezers. I know, you think tweezers are for eyebrows, but not these beauties. The extra-long 12-inch Tweezer Tongs by Kuchenprofi ($12.49 at are great for turning steaks or chicken or tender sea scallops, and much easier to use than traditional tongs. They’re also way better for grabbing a piece of pasta out of a pot of boiling water when testing for doneness. For plating food and picking up small items – as when you’re sautéing tiny bay scallops or fishing olives or capers out of those ridiculous jars – the smaller, 6½ -inch stainless steel precision tongs with offset tip by Mercer Culinary ($11.15 at are amazing. The Kitchen Goddess also prizes them for placing decorations on rollout cookies. Just about anything tongs can do, tweezers work better.

As much as the KG loves baker’s parchment and the labor it saves from not having to grease baking sheets or scrub to get them clean, those rolls of parchment never cut as neatly or easily as, say, wax paper. And then there’s the trick of trying to keep the corners from curling while you’re laying out dough on them. No more! The Kitchen Goddess has discovered pre-cut parchment sheets. Want to start small? The Smart Baker will send you 24 for $8.80. If you don’t need convincing, get a pack of unbleached sheets from EntreBake, where they’re $11.98 for 100 or $19.98 for 200. But if you’re going to buy 200 (the Kitchen Goddess’s choice, naturally), get the ones from 2DayShip, which sells 200 unbleached sheets for $12.99. All of these are at

Those people at America’s Test Kitchen will take on any challenge. Most recently, they spent a ridiculous amount of energy testing veggie peelers. You heard me. But the KG is not ashamed to take advantage of such studies. The one they liked best is the Kuhn Rikon Swiss Peeler (model 2212) – fast and smooth, with minimum food waste, cheap, and comfortable to use. And eight great colors. Winner winner lobster dinner! The KG bought five (she has stockings to stuff, too), and agreed with ATK on all points. You can buy one for $3.95 at Chef’s Resource (online), or $4.50 at Or get three for just under $10 at or Walmart or Bed Bath & Beyond.

In the KG’s humble opinion, you can never have too many strainers. The only one she doesn’t yet have is a chinois – a conical sieve with an extremely fine mesh. It’s used to strain custards, purees, soups, and sauces, producing a very smooth texture. It can also be used to dust food with a fine layer of powdered sugar or cocoa. A 10-inch version from is $23.49; but if you have the storage space, there’s a totally cool version, the Fox Run Food Press with pedestal, that comes with a stand and a pestle, that’s only $26.09 at Ace Hardware online.

Actual Gifts

I know, it sounds like a treatment at a high-end spa (and there’s another great gift idea!), but in truth, the Sous Vide Immersion Circulator is the latest in sophisticated cooking equipment. Sous vide (pronounced “soo veed”) cooking involves sealing the food in a plastic bag and immersing it in a water bath that is precisely controlled at a specific temperature. Eventually, the food reaches the same temperature as the water, and it’s ready to eat. (For meat and fish, you’ll still want to quickly sear the finished product to give it a more traditional look.) The low cooking temperature offers a few game-changing benefits: 1) meat remains juicy – never dry; 2) use of a specific temperature delivers a consistency that can’t be achieved with a stove, oven, or grill; and 3) there’s virtually no risk of overcooking.

High-end restaurants have been using this technique for years, and the equipment has finally gotten small enough for home use.

The folks at America’s Test Kitchen ran a bunch of  immersion circulators through their paces, and they recommend the Joule by ChefSteps. It’s not the cheapest around, but it’s small, powerful, and works via an app on your phone. How cool is that? It’s available in white polycarbonate for $179 (plus tax) at, or in stainless steel for $199 (plus tax). Free shipping.

One of the women in my book group told me she’d only recently purchased her first piece of Le Creuset. She called it a life-changing piece of cookware and she can’t believe it has taken her so long. I agree – on both counts. So if any of you don’t have the Le Creuset 5½-quart Dutch oven, or are buying a gift and don’t mind spending a bit of moola (best price I could find on these is $329.95 at Bed Bath & Beyond), there’s hardly a better gift for the money. Williams-Sonoma has a broader selection of colors, but you’ll pay an extra $36 in shipping cost for the privilege.

Actual Food

About a year ago in New York City, I ate at David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar, the birthplace of the whole ramen noodle craze in the U.S. A great lunch, the highlight of which was discovering Chang’s Ssam Sauce. This spicy, umami-rich seasoning can transform a bowl of ramen noodle soup into a near hallucinogenic experience. Now you could make your own, because the recipe is right there on the internet. But you’d have to go out and find two kinds of fermented chili pastes, and frankly, I’d just as soon skip that step. So I buy it online, at Momofuku Foods, where I gladly pay $7.50 per 11-ounce bottle. They’ll charge you an additional $6.95 for the shipping, but that same $6.95 is also the charge to ship up to five bottles, so get at least one extra while you’re at it. Or maybe go in with a friend and get more. It’s a great gift for anyone who likes Korean food.

At the end of the olive harvest, farmers in the Abruzzo region of southern Italy create special oils made by pressing citrus fruit simultaneously with the olives. The cold-extraction process releases the oil from the citrus peel directly into the olive oil, which makes the flavor clearer and more intense than with infused oils. While you can find it in tangerine and orange flavors, the lemon is the most widely known: Agrumato Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 200 mL ($25.54 on It’s a great finishing oil for any seafood, as well as grilled veggies and salads.

I know, buttermilk doesn’t sound like a gift. Read on. Why is it the milk industry doesn’t offer 8-ounce containers of buttermilk? I don’t know anyone who drinks it, and most recipes call for, ... oh, half a cup. But it adds moisture and flavor to baked goods, so you buy the quart – the smallest that stores have – and you keep it and you keep it, and maybe you throw another half cup into some soup or a salad dressing, and finally you throw it out because it’s about a month after the due date. Then the next week, you have to buy more for another half cup. The KG has the solution: powdered buttermilk. (The one pictured here –  and in my pantry – is Saco Cultured Buttermilk Blend, which is $5.48 at Walmart.) It only needs refrigeration once you’ve opened it, and it’ll keep for 2-3 years(!). When you’re making something that calls for buttermilk, just stir the powder in with your dry ingredients and add water in the appropriate amount.


In 1998, New York Times food writer extraordinaire Mark Bittman published How to Cook Everything. Then, in 2007, he emerged with the definitive book on vegetarian cooking, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, and in 2008, the Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition of How to Cook Everything. So you’d think he’d have covered the waterfront. Hah! This year, we have the Completely Revised 10th Anniversary Edition of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (hardcover, $15.40 at This one is the usual doorstop (at 830 pages), but the first, to my knowledge, that includes color photos, which is a great help. And in an interview on NPR, he says this new version has less egg/cheese, and generally lighter cuisine. I didn’t get the first edition, but this one is remarkable – Bittman’s usual tips on cutting, cooking, and storing, as well as separate sections on soups, pasta, breads, and sauces, plus 150 pages of A-to-Z details on all the major fruits and veggies. I guess that is everything.

Winning the prize for the longest title is A Meatloaf in Every Oven: Two Chatty Cooks, One Iconic Dish and Dozens of Recipes - from Mom’s to Mario Batali’s, by Frank Bruni and Jennifer Steinhauer (hardcover, $16.32 at Two more New York Times journalists (Bruni was the Times’s restaurant critic for 5 years, and Steinhauer has covered Congress since 2010) got together one day and started talking about food. It turned out that both were fanatics on the subject of meatloaf. So they wrote a cookbook. The only criticism of note that I’ve seen is that it’s too chatty for some. But I like chat, especially about food, and 46 of 53 amazon reviews gave it 4 or 5 stars, with many commenting on how much they enjoyed the chat. It’s worth noting that the authors solicited recipes from a number of famous chefs, including Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, April Bloomfield, and Alex Guarnaschelli, and – in a nod to the Capitol beat – Republicans Susan Collins and Paul Ryan, and Dems Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Something for everyone.

Happy shopping!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Go! And the Race Is On... – Day 4 of the Marathon of Sides

What’s cooking? Mâche, Watercress, and Endive Salad with Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette

As you’re dashing around making the stuffing and the turkey and the pie and the sides, the final dish to prepare should also be the easiest. That last dish is almost invariably the salad, because the ingredients can’t really be readied the day before, can they? It would be a sad salad indeed that has been sitting in the fridge overnight.

Now let me stop for a moment and make a confession: the Kitchen Goddess doesn’t like to make salad. I’m not sure why – maybe because it doesn’t really involve cooking. Salad dressings are interesting enough, but not salad. So my favorite salads are the kind that, once you assemble the ingredients, you’re essentially done. I don’t mind cutting up a few things, but I don’t want to shred cabbage or tear all those large lettuce leaves into small pieces, or julienne the celery, or any of those other salady tasks. Crazy? Probably. But we all have those tasks we avoid – taking out the trash, washing dishes, making the bed, ... Mine is making salad.

So this salad, which in my humble opinion is a really good salad, is particularly notable for fast, easy assembly. The endive must be sliced (minimal task), the oranges must be peeled and sliced (which actually can be done a day or two before) and the pomegranate seeds must be dug out (surely you have a son/daughter/spouse/guest to whom you can hand off this job); but then it’s all along the lines of throw-it-in-the-bowl and add some dressing.

The mâche (pronounced "mahsh") is one of those greens that used to be a weed and is now chic. Also known as “lamb’s lettuce,” it may be the most delicate of all salad greens; but unlike most salad greens, it’s a good source of the B-group vitamins, vitamin C, iron, potassium and folic acid. Mâche’s soft, sweet, almost nutty-flavored leaves pair well with the peppery flavor of the watercress and the sharp, citrusy Belgian endive. Add the lightly tart pomegranate seeds and the sweet orange pieces, and you have yourself a flavor rainbow. I like to toss on some toasted almonds at the last for a bit of crunch and because they go so well with the honey-lemon vinaigrette.

Watercress: For this salad, I trim the tough stems way back.
Shopping tips: I find the mâche at Whole Foods; it’s supposed to be available year-round, but it’s especially common in winter salads, so you should be able to find some. If not, just add extra watercress and endive. When buying Belgian endive, look for firm heads with tips that are pale yellow-green; avoid those that seem wilted or are browning. Store the endive wrapped in a paper towel and placed in a plastic bag. For watercress, look for perky, dark green leaves – avoid bunches that have been smashed or are wilted or yellowing.

You can, of course, make the vinaigrette a day or two ahead. Use it sparingly on the salad, as you don’t want to overwhelm the delicate flavor of the mâche.

Pewter is a great salad bowl material. Chill the bowl separately or with the undressed salad, and  the salad will stay fresh a long time.

Mâche, Watercress, and Endive Salad

Serves 6.

1 large navel orange
3-4 ounces watercress
2 large heads Belgian endive
2+ ounces mâche rosettes
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
1-2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

Cut a thin slice of the orange off to give you a stable base. Slicing down the sides of the orange in long, continuous strokes, remove the peel and any of the white pith showing. Cut the remaining orange ball crosswise into slices about ⅜-inch thick. Cut the slices into pie-shaped bits and reserve.

Lay the bunch of watercress on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut off the thick stalks. Toss any yellow or limp pieces, and further trim back any thick stalks from the sprigs.

Slice across the endive heads in ½-inch widths.

In a large salad bowl, combine the watercress, endive, and mâche rosettes and toss well. Sprinkle the orange pieces and the pomegranate seeds on top. If not serving immediately, lay a damp paper towel across the top of the salad and refrigerate.

When you are ready to serve, toss the salad with a couple of tablespoons of the vinaigrette, taste and add more vinaigrette if necessary. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and sprinkle the toasted almonds on top.

Honey-Lemon Vinaigrette

Makes about 1½ cups.

3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons lemon juice (regular or Meyer lemons)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8-10 grinds of fresh black pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Combine the honey, lemon juice and salt in a jar and shake well to dissolve the salt. Add the remaining ingredients and shake well until emulsified.

For the Mâche, Watercress, and Endive Salad, start with 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette, toss the salad well, and add – sparingly – more dressing to taste. Store extra dressing in the fridge.

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Thus ends the 2017 Marathon of Sides. As usual at this time of year, I am especially thankful to all of you for cooking along with me, laughing along with me (please tell me you are occasionally laughing -- life is too short not to), and learning along with me. I wish you all a happy and at least somewhat stress-free Thanksgiving. I'll be back after my grandchildren leave, with a holiday shopping list for the foodies in your life.