Posts tagged simple
Friday, June 18, 2010

asian-inspired slaw with mango

asian slaw with mango

All right, my dears. I don’t have much time, so I’ll be brief. And I’m sorry to be so hasty and short. This salad right here – please make it. It’s going to help you get through the hot and sticky days of summer. The crunch of the cabbage, the sweetness of mango, the bite of the chili pepper, the cool, sweet burst of corn. This salad here – a keeper. And transports well for things like picnics and backyard barbecues. And I hope that you plan on going to a lot of those this season.

asian slaw with mango

There are many a joke made about Russians and their love of cabbage. We are a people that loves our cabbage pickled, stuffed, stewed, in soups and in pies. Cabbage, in Russian cooking, will be the main event, not an accessory. Perhaps, outside of the potato, it is the most loved vegetable in Russia. We, Russians, take our cabbage seriously. And here, I took the beloved Russian vegetable and put an Thai-ish spin on it. I should’ve thrown some peanuts in, but I didn’t have any on hand.

asian slaw with mango

The slaw is quite a deviation from a traditional slaws that involve mayonnaise. I’m not one to knock mayo, especially if it’s homemade, but sometimes, when the summer days grow sweltering and muggy, it is not exactly a condiment you dream of. Or maybe that’s just me. On the other hand, things like lime juice and a little spice are always welcome in my kitchen, especially when it’s warm outside.

asian slaw with mango

You might think to yourself, cilantro and mint together – an herb overkill, perhaps? I thought so before, until I accidentally combined them in a similar salad once and I haven’t looked back since. Somehow, oddly, they are complementary to one another and both are summery and crisp.

asian slaw with mango

I notice that around this time of year, I want more salad on my plate and less meat. And I know we’re entering grilling season, but still, my heart (and stomach) crave vegetables. Last night, at book club, one of the girls served a lovely goat cheese and spinach tart (oh how the wheels in my head are turning), a simple cucumber salad with parsley and creme fraiche, and some rocket with a simple vinaigrette. It was simple, it was crisp and it was perfect.

And in thinking this morning about the salad here, I realized that in the summer, what we want is to feel as light and breezy as the summer breeze itself. A cinch to put together, easy take along, wonderfully uplifting. What could be a better way to greet the summer season?

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Monday, May 24, 2010

strawberry rhubarb buttermilk pudding cake

strawberry rhubarb buttermilk pudding cake

We are, believe it or not, in the full throes of spring. I know, I know, those of us living in the Northeast are still wearing sweaters and can’t leave home without our umbrellas, but spring with its bounty and harvest has certainly arrived. Just look at the offerings at your farmers markets. My eyes (and heart!) leap at mere sight of the bounty: strawberries! rhubarb! sugar snap peas! asparagus! I can’t resist putting an exclamation point behind each of these because I am so excited to finally see these guys in season. Much as I love a good curry or soup, it’s finally nice to have more than just root vegetables in season. No offense to all the turnips and parsnips out there.

strawberries at the market

So when I finally got out to the Prospect Park farmers market this past Saturday (thanks to Jennie for bringing me along!), I nearly lost my mind. The smells alone render you faint with excitement. I pretty much gathered all the produce I could get my hands on. I also bought some meat and leaf lard from these guys as well for some future delicious experiments.

You know how sometimes you read a recipe through and you realize how good it’s going to be when you make it, and then a flash of brilliance goes through your mind and you figure out a way to make it even better. And then you make the recipe, hoping, praying that it does, indeed, deliver fabulous results. Lastly, you taste, worrying that instead of what you’re hoping to be the most winning recipe ever, you have on your hands an epic fail. And then, when you finally taste your creation, you want to dance around your apartment, squealing for joy, because what you made is not only amazing, but happens to be way better than anything you could have even anticipated in your mind’s palate.

strawberries!

This is such a recipe. Words elude me, my dear readers, because this is so breathtakingly good, and so breathtakingly easy, things like this, at least in the kitchen, should be illegal. You almost feel shame, yes shame, for creating something so delicious and yet with so little fuss. In fact, and this is my favorite sentence to write of all today, the whole thing comes together without the use of a mixer. So if you’re lacking one, or want to lessen that carbon footprint, or just want something unfussy to cook for your next Sunday supper, this recipe here is for you.

rhubarb!

The cake name itself is like a great seduction song to my senses. Strawberries! Rhubarb! Buttermilk! Pudding! Cake! Now put these words together and what you get is something that is transcendent: Strawberry Rhubarb Buttermilk Pudding Cake. Like a sweet nothing, a whisper in your ear. Much like the pumpkin bread pudding souffle I keep waxing poetic about Thanksgiving after Thanksgiving (and the most requested holiday dish to date!), this is going to be filed under of “now-why-didn’t-anyone-think-of-this-earlier” or “I’m-going-to-have-to-make-up-for-lost-time-and-eat-lots-of-this”.

stewing the rhubarbfruit, batter, fruit

I’ll claim part genius to this recipe since the buttermilk addition is my idea. The original recipe calls for regular milk, but I had some leftover buttermilk nearing its expiration date, and thought, if anything, it was going to add to the depth of flavor to this cake. And so, I substituted the buttermilk in, and hoped and prayed that it would work. It did. And then some. And what I’ve got now is a recipe that I want to make over and over. I want to serve it straight out of the oven and pour cream over it. I want to serve it at room temperature with some coffee. I want to drop a big dollop of ice cream on top and enjoy it as an afternoon snack. But most of all, I want to share it with you, if not in the physical I’m-going-to-put-a-slice-on-your-plate way, then here, on these pages. It’s not quite as nice as having you over for a Sunday supper, but it’s the next best thing.

strawberry rhubarb buttermilk pudding cake

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

cinnamon toasts

cinnamon toasts

Lest you think of me as a cool and hip individual, I should probably set the record straight. For a certain length of time in my childhood, H. G. Wells’ novel “Time Machine” was my favorite book in the world. I was obsessed to the point of a tantrum, refusing to admit that time travel was a thing of the fantasy world. I wanted time travel to be real. But if you asked me why, I couldn’t really tell you. I wasn’t trying to change the past or alter the future. I was just fascinated with time travel. Now, of course, I’d be glad to have a time machine on hand, if only to go back in time and tell my fifth grade self that New Kids On the Block were totally going to make a comeback. It would have quieted my weary mind.

But, I am pretty sure, I’ve discovered a time portal and its name is cinnamon toast. Cinnamon toast (I swoon as I type these words) – is magical. Really. It’s as if I’ve come full circle with it. Back to my childhood years. And all it took was one bite.

mmm... butter..

I know that I’m losing all of you now that you’re going, what, cinnamon toast? You’re writing about cinnamon toast? But I beg of you to hold on a minute and let me explain. The inspiration, the time-travel, was possible because Molly wrote about the cinnamon toast her grandmother used to make and told her readers – this is not just some toast you put sugar and cinnamon on. This is a cookie. This is special. This – is not to be missed.

Molly also warned these would be heavenly, downright addictive. Jennie tweeted they are to be dubbed “cinnamon crack”. And I was intrigued. Anything that’s covered in cinnamon and sugar is a welcome addition to my life.

cinnamon toasts

It’s funny how you read about a recipe and are instantly ignited to run to your kitchen and make it. Except you never stock any white bread and it’s eleven o’clock at night and while you’ve been known to make goulash at one o’clock in the morning, you’re not exactly running to your nearest bodega at such late an hour on a school night. So you’re forced to wait and wonder if, indeed, these are as good as the claims are, meanwhile you are reading tweets about how these little guys should be renamed as “cinnamon crack”.

And so I finally went out and bought some white bread, cut them into diagonal quarters. Melted my butter and brushed it onto the bread and dipped each side in cinnamon sugar. Which, by the way, let me tell you – it takes a strong person not to lick his fingers in between the dipping. That cinnamon sugar scent – oh my! Strangely though, even as I was going through the motions, I didn’t make the connection that this kind of cinnamon toast was a favorite snack of mine when I was growing up in Russia.

cinnamon toasts

And yet, it was not until I bit into a cooled-off toast, with a cup of tea at my side, that these toasts, like tiny little time-machines, instantly transported me to the time when I was five and lived in snowy St. Petersburg, where my mother tried just about everything to get me to eat. A finicky eater, (who isn’t one at five years old?), few things excited me food-wise. But anything covered in cinnamon and sugar was definitely something I could get behind.

And so, my mother, in a stroke of brilliance or desperation, devised to make me these cinnamon toasts. White bread in Russia came as these big loaves that look very much like Italian bread here does. She cut the loaf thinly into slices and lightly dipped each of the pieces in milk on both sides, careful not to soak the bread, and then dredged the sides in cinnamon and sugar. She then baked these shimmering toasts until they were crispy and the house smelled like sweet cinnamon heaven. I could have licked the air, it was so good.

These were promised to me as dessert, provided, of course, that I ate my dinner. Which I did. In a heartbeat. And then, I was left to my own devices with a plateful of cinnamon toasts and cups of hot tea with milk. I think those were some of my happiest moment: alone in the kitchen with my cinnamon toast and tea. I can tell you that to this day I could be made infinitely happy by a cup of tea and a simple cookie. Such as this toast.

cinnamon toasts

Now, were you to ask me, which do I prefer, the cinnamon toast of my childhood and the brainchild of my mother, or Molly’s buttery and rich cinnamon toast, I’ll tell you honestly – Molly’s. And I know that my mother, reading this, would agree. Because anything tastes better when it’s dipped in butter. It’s just that simple. But my mother’s toasts are pretty darn good too, especially if butter is the sort of thing you’re supposed to stay away from. I’m keeping both recipes within my reach because they connect my present and my past, bringing me full circle.

I might not have a real time machine on hand, but I have have this cinnamon toast. And that’s way, way better.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

eggs baked in cream

eggs baked in cream

Okay, my dears. Let’s put those take-out menus away for the night. You won’t need them this evening – I’ve got something better for you. In fact, I can offer you dinner in less than half an hour, and you can sip wine while you wait for it to cook. You like that? I thought so. Ready? Okay then.

Here’s what you do. Come home hungry and preferably a bit worn out by the day. Crave something comforting and warm. And be hell-bent on making your own dinner, but not breaking a sweat. The next part should be easy. I know you can do this and I know you’ll be stellar at it.

Find a few ingredients that you probably have lying around your kitchen anyway: eggs, onions (or leeks!), cream, some herbs. Really, any herbs will do, even the dry ones, but your fresh ones will be magical here; and make yourself a baked egg. It’s the perfect eat-alone food. Really.

dramatis personae

Last week, CBS’s The Early Show came to my apartment to find out what I eat alone, as they were doing a segment based on Deborah Madison’s new book. I showed them a plate of herring and potatoes, some pelmeni and this egg baked in cream. These were some of the easy go-to dishes I make for myself. The herring and pelmeni remind me of my childhood in Russia, and this egg is the perfect one-person meal: quick, easy, healthy and comforting. Best of all, no fancy ingredients are needed – this recipe requires things that are probably already pantry staples.

topped with harissa

The thing is, that it’s so easy for us, at least here in New York, to pick up the phone and order take out. We have our favorite restaurants on speed-dial and we even know what we want without having to glance at the menu. But here’s the thing, making these eggs for dinner, you’re really taking care to nourish yourself. You know exactly what goes into this meal. It is wholesome, nourishing, warm. And it cooks in minutes. In fact, it cooks faster than take-out arrives. I think there’s comfort in making something for yourself. It’s a little bit indulgent and even somewhat meditative. Layering your leeks, spreading harissa, gently sliding the egg on top, and pouring those few spoons of cream for softer, richer flavor. Simplicity can be luxurious too.

Of course, it was my most embarrassing, dark secret (not anymore!) admission – my love of bologna sandwiches – that made the cut on the television segment, and not this glorious egg. Of course, it serves me right, being so low-brow in my guilty indulgences. I should, in my defense, add however, that the bologna I had in mind, is what the Russians refer to as Doktoraskaya bologna – which I get in Russian delis. The Russian stuff is seriously good, and once you try it, you will never go back to your old bologna again. I promise you.

eggs baked in cream

And while this dish never got mention, I think it’s something you should try your hand at. Unless you have Russian bologna on hand. In which case, I say, make yourself a sandwich. And please – invite me over.

But wait! Can’t we watch this infamous clip of your bologna love?
Ah, yes, of course! Here is the clip of me embarrassing myself on national TV!

Continue reading eggs baked in cream.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

dandelion greens with shaved fennel, celery and parsley

dandelion salad with shaved fennel, celery and parsley

There was a time when fennel made me gag. In fact, I can’t believe the 180 I’ve done here, going from unadulterated hatred of all things fennel, to actually craving it. I’ve been told these things are not uncommon, that your palate does a shift every seven years or so, and I thank mine for letting me enjoy fresh fennel, shaved thinly in salads.

The salad is deceptively simple and yet it is a bit genius – everything in it works and does so beautifully. Sometimes, I fall deeply in love with a dish and can’t stop making it. I become a bit like a broken record as I cook the same thing over and over. Such is the case with this salad. I’ve had versions of it in a few places, most recently over glasses of wine at Lela Bar in the West Village, but their version didn’t offer dandelion greens or celery. Generously doused with olive oil, lemon juice and sprinkled with sea salt, shaved fennel mixed with parsley. Elsewhere, and quite some time ago, I had something that was shaved celery and parsley with sea salt and olive oil and lemon juice. The salad was celestial, but it disappeared off the menu after a week and I never saw it again. I kept thinking about making it at home, but of course, with so many things in the Sassy Radish kitchen, we’re on a bit of a time delay. The comforting glow of office fluorescent lighting has a particular allure.

shaved fennel

I know I blame everything on work and am afraid must use my my-work-ate-all-my-free-time-and-is-keeping-me-busier-than-imaginable excuse again. I love you, dear readers, and love that you come in this little space to read my somewhat fragmented thoughts, but work, being that it allows me to pay rent and have a roof over my head and have this wee site for you and me to congregate around, takes precedence over time in the kitchen. Or writing. Le sigh.

In any case, this salad. Run, don’t walk to make it. Unless you think fennel is vile. In which case, maybe try it without fennel? But if you do like fennel, this salad is for you. Also – a word about dandelion greens. Have you ever had them? I’ve been eating them since I was a child, but they haven’t caught on in the US until fairly recently. Please try them – they’re like a chewier and more exciting version of spinach. No, I’m lying – they’re nothing like spinach – they are way, way better. I wouldn’t think of using anything else here to offset the fennel and the celery.

dandelion greens

I made a very generous portion of this for my Sunday supper, which was the same night that this cake and this chicken made an appearance. The whole dinner was a home run. It all worked. And this salad – disappeared in minutes. Nothing left. Second plates for all. I mean, who does that with salad and gets into a tizzy over a bit of green on your plate? Right? It’s got to be good to have this kind of appeal. And it is.

Now, I won’t tell you how much olive oil and lemon juice to add. That is between you and your taste buds, my lovelies. I think that more dressing is lovely, but a restrained amount can work too. Personally, I use one lemon and juice it, but you might find that too acidic and opt for half a lemon. That’s okay too. I also just pour my olive oil over it for a few seconds, add lemon juice, sprinkle some salt and then toss. The trick is to use the best olive oil you can get your hands on. And that stuff can get expensive. While normally I wouldn’t tell you to go and spend lots of money on such things, here’s where it’ll really make a difference. Good olive oil will transform your salad into something totally different so you might want to use more of it. You might want it to coat your salad a bit thicker, or not. Either way, you can’t screw this up. Unless you use bad oil. In which case, you might wonder why I’m jabbering about a plateful of greens for six paragraphs.

dandelion salad with shaved fennel, celery and parsley

I was only sad I didn’t make more of it. I mean (suppressed sob!) I only got one (one!!!) plate and let my guests have seconds. But secretly, in my own head, what I really wanted to do was grab the salad bowl and steal away into the bedroom and eat the whole thing by myself. So much for fennel and gagging.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

citrus salad with cilantro and mint

citrus salad

Ok, there’s no way of getting around this. This post. Well, it’s just sitting down, looking me squarely in the face and refusing to budge. It’s taunting me, taking its time, making me carefully search for each word. I hate writing like this: arduous, painful, unnatural. There are days when these posts practically write themselves; my excitement is usually so hard to contain. But today, I’m just out of my element. Which is quite opposite of how I feel about this salad. I think my ardor for this salad is inversely proportional to my ability to convey it.

the suspect line-up

This salad is officially my cure for winter doldrums. Gray skies and snow banks, you’ve got nothing on me as long as I’m armed with this little burst of sunshine on my plate. It brings a smile to my face even as I type this because this salad is so delightfully happy, you can’t possibly be in a bad mood once you bring a forkful of it to your mouth. The fragrance alone is sparkling, giddy and invigorating. And to say I’ve become obsessed, would be a slight understatement. Minutes after I served this at book club, it was gone, second helpings and all. And pretty looks aside, this salad’s got looks and “brains” so to speak. It delivers on flavor even more than it delivers on looks. And just look at it – isn’t it a stunner?

citrus salad

I should also confess that had I not fallen for this salad hook, line and sinker, I would still have been forced to make it given that I’ve about twenty pounds or citrus sitting at home, on the account of getting a wee bit overzealous in ordering citrus for my grocery delivery. I sort of lost track being so excited to have some in-season fruit, and when grocery boxes arrived and half of them were oranges, lemons, grapefruit and clementines, I initially thought of starting my own juice bar. Vitamin C and I are such BFFs right now – we’re tight like you wouldn’t believe.

My zeal for all things citrus can be easily explained – what other fruit, besides bananas, looks good right now? None! The apples and pears are looking sad and taste uninspiring. Our local grocery store is carrying cherries at a price that made me gasp and price aside, they weren’t looking so great either. Berries are bland, as are melons and stone fruit. This leaves citrus looking quite attractive. And pretty too. My dining room table looks so much brighter with these orange and yellow orbs sitting pretty in a bowl. If nothing else, they cheer me up visually. But as these citrus guys are at their peak right now, they taste amazing as well.

citrus salad

All this salad needs is a little shallot, some slivered mint and cilantro, and a light vinaigrette sweetened with maple syrup to highlight the sweetness of the citrus. What you get is bright, clean, uplifting flavors full of sunshine. I eat this salad and I can’t help but grin from ear to ear; it makes me downright giddy and inspired. Much unlike this post.

Continue reading citrus salad with cilantro and mint.