Feast on This

I can eat a good meal anywhere. But I love love love eating at the dining table I got to work on at our shop. And now, in addition to the custom work we do, we have some pieces that allow you to choose a top and base. It definitely elevates the meal. If I may say so myself. Available here.

New semi-custom dining table from Where Wood Meets Steel

New semi-custom dining table from Where Wood Meets Steel

Semi-Custom Dining Table Where Wood Meets Steel

Avocado Citrus Chili Shooters

I have spent a fair amount of time this week considering the avocado. Unlike anything else, avocados can really make a dish. Whether in a taco, paired with a sticky, Asian grilled meat and rice or wrapped around a beautiful piece of raw fish, they are able to transform a good dish into something really spectacular. And it is painfully obvious when they are missing and you eat each bite thinking….if only.

During this avocado ponder, I thought about the various pairings that were the best and how I could isolate them in a way that showcased the avocado itself but took the avocado to a higher level. One of my favorite sauces is the Japanese eel sauce. Done correctly it is at once sweet, smokey, depthy and coats your mouth just enough. Drizzled on avocado and rice with sesame seeds it is one of my favorite flavors. And I recently tried to re-invent that concept in my crispy barley cakes with avocado and brown butter balsamic. It was different, but delicious and I was really happy with it. But I kept considering.

The other flavor I love best with avocado is citrus. I did not want just another salsa or salad- I wanted to create something new. I had been thinking about ajo blanco, the white gazpacho, lately and started to daydream ways to incorporate the avocado. I did not want to weigh it down with bread or overshadow the flavors but I loved the idea of a silky cold soup that could be lightened up and slightly sweetened with cucumber and white grape juice. And instead of topping it with a flavored oil and all the various toppings I wanted to taste the delicate avocado first and end with an exclamation point of flavor. So I created a citrus chili sauce that you would swallow in the very last bite.

At first I had just mixed some chili garlic with clementine juice and a bit of vinegar but it was too thin and I wanted the avocado soup to sit on top of it. I thought about using orange marmalade but wanted better control of the sweetness and chose to reduce some juice to a thickened spoonful. That did the trick- slightly tangy with a hint of sweet and a burst of orange. I thinned the soup with a bit of the fresh juice which helped tie it all together but still let the avocado shine.

The colors are beautiful and the effect was just what I was after. A silky, smooth, refreshing couple sips followed by a powerful kick of flavor that all seems to blend harmoniously on that last swallow. Easy to make, impressive to look at and a great way to wake up your palette for whatever is to follow.


Makes 8
2 1/2 cups cucumber, peeled, seeded, chopped
1/2 cup green grapes, halved
1 tablespoon lime juice
3/4 cups clementine or tangerine juice
1/2 cup avocado
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar

Mix cucumber, grapes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and lime juice and allow to marinate at least an hour or even overnight, stirring once or twice. Blend until smooth and strain through a fine meshed strainer, pushing on solids to extract as much juice as possible. You should have about 12 ounces. Blend with avocado and about 3 T clementine juice until very smooth. It will be thick, but should be pourable, so thin with a bit more juice or tablespoon of water if needed. Chill.

Reduce 1/2 c clementine juice in a small pot over medium heat until you have about 1 tablespoon. Mix with vinegar and chili garlic.

Once avocado mixture is cold, taste and adjust salt to taste. Divide chili garlic mixture between 8 shot glasses. Very carefully pour avocado mixture on top. Shoot/slurp/sip!

Crispy Barley Cake with Avocado and Brown Butter Balsamic

It has been quite a while since I have had the time/energy/patience/lack-of-other-priorities to spend any sort of time on Savor This. In fact, it seems like ages since I’ve crafted any new recipes worth writing down and sharing. But the day before yesterday I found half an hour to go for a walk in the sweltering heat and I dreamed up a tasty appetizer. And today I found a little time to cook it and eat it. And it is definitely worth sharing.

It started with an avocado (and if you know me at all you will assume that Food52 is having an avocado contest). There are a couple ways I enjoy avocado that are not just on toast with salt and lime. Mostly I think of a Japanese-ish dish- either paired with a sticky, sweet glazed meat or mixed with a bit of mayo. Both versions are usually served with sticky rice and are garnished with cucumber, sesame seeds, and sometimes pickled ginger. Those dishes are decent without avocado, but stellar with it.

As I already had a pretty good recipe using trout in place of the usually sweet eel with an avocado cream sauce I decided to try to transform those flavors into a non-Japanese dish. I still wanted a slightly sweet, deep brown sauce, and settled on a brown butter balsamic that I usually drizzle on green vegetables. But I was still thinking Japanese when I remembered a crispy rice cake topped with spicy tuna, avocado and an eel sauce from Japango. I decided I could use a different grain like barley for the cake and hazelnuts instead of sesame.

I started by cooking up a pot of pearl barley. I let it get very soft and stirred it a lot at the end to release the starches. Taking it a step further, I blended half the pot with an immersion blender to make a consistency like oatmeal. Once it was cool enough to handle, I formed some cakes and made the butter sauce. The cakes fried up really crispy and nutty and were a great platform for the creamy avocado. The sauce needed a little more sweet so I added a bit of honey. To finish the dish I garnished with the nuts and some green onion.

While I still love love love the crispy rice/tuna version, this was a great twist and opened up all sorts of possibilities.


Makes 8
Canola/vegetable oil
1 cup Pearl barley
4 cups water (or half water, half broth)
1/2 cup hazelnuts
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon aged balsamic (the thicker the better!)
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 avocado
1 green onion for garnish

Rinse barley and drain well. Heat 1 T oil in a medium sized pot and toast barley until it begins to brown a bit. Add water and 1 t salt, bring to a boil and simmer until very thick and creamy. Set a timer for about 25 minutes and stirred frequently toward the end to avoid sticking on the bottom and to break up the starches a bit. The barley should be very tender and very creamy so add a bit more water if needed. Let cool slightly and blend half the barley with a hand mixer or blender and stir back in to the rest and season with salt if needed. Allow to cool enough to handle and then form into small patties. You might want a bowl of water to dip your hands into as the mixture gets pretty sticky.

Toast hazelnuts in a small pan over medium heat, stirring often until beginning to brown. Fold into a clean kitchen towel or napkin and press and rub to remove the skins. It is ok if some skins are remaining. Coarsely chop.

Add butter to pan and cook until the solids begin to brown. Whisk in soy, vinegar and honey and pour into a bowl. Taste for salt- you might want to add a pinch.

Heat 1/4″ of oil in a large pan and fry barley cakes until nicely browned on each side, draining on a paper towel.

Cut avocado in half and (carefully!) whap a sharp knife across the pit, twist slightly and remove. Cut thin slices of avocado and, using a large spoon, scoop avocado from skin. Thinly slice green onion.

Place a few slices of avocado on each cake, drizzle with sauce and garnish with hazelnuts and green onion. Enjoy right away.

Sake Glazed Salmon with Garlic Chive Egg Noodles

I just revisited these noodles for the scallion contest. It was a no-brainer to use them in place of the garlic chives from before. I modified the ratio slightly, but they are still as tasty as ever. For lunch I will be eating them with kabocha turkey burgers from last night…which might sound weird, but they were great: ground turkey, roasted kabocha, pickled ginger, garlic, shallot, soy, sherry, leftover scallion oil from these noodles…

These egg noodles are great for spring. Eat them as is because they are so tasty or top them with grilled fish or chicken, toss them with broccoli, brussles, avocado. Drizzle with chile garlic or oyster sauce. Done.


Once again, it began with a Food52 contest: Your Best Spring Alliums. As our yard is overrun with garlic chives right now, that seemed the place to start. So from morning until sitting down to dinner, this is the menu monologue that ran continuously in the back of my brain yesterday:

A flan or custard. I can steep the white bulby parts in the milk, blanch the greens and line the ramekins with them. Some parmesan. Some toast.

I don’t want to buy or eat heavy cream.

But I like a good egg custard. Maybe a chawan mushi? A delicate chawan mushi studded with tiny slivers of chives. But it needs a small, but decadently wonderful item on top. Just one or Ryan will tell me there is too much in it.

A shrimp? No. Not after that awful story on NPR about what has happened to Gulf shrimp. Blargh!

But a seafood. Black cod! A tiny, $29/lb piece of black code- just a fleck on top….marinated in sake, mirin and miso…blackened under the broiler. But crap, it has to marinate overnight. Hmmm…..salmon!

But maybe not chawan mushi. Maybe slow cooked, very creamy scrambled eggs. Cooked in a double boiler,  flecked with garlic chives.

Or maybe no eggs. Maybe just stir-fried garlic chives chinese-style.

No. I want eggs. What about chinese-y scrambled eggs and salmon? And toast?

Or…..noodles! Noodles made from eggs. With asiany influence. And something green. And sweet. And earthy. And sweet, sticky salmon.

Yes. That is it.

So I went to the store. I usually would try for an Alaskan salmon but it was $29/lb and I like to have leftovers. And, they were having a ONE DAY SALE! on salmon FROM NORWAY! and the guy behind me cooking samples KEPT YELLING to COME TRY THE NORWEGIAN SALMON! He even promised to keep my place in line. I tried it. It was velvety, rich, crazy good. Like dry skin slurping all the lotion you applied, I felt my omega reserves slurp up that salmon oil and ask for more. So I turned to the fish monger man in his rubber overalls and ordered a pound of the fatty salmon love.

I then turned to the produce. Crisp, green, sweet said my brain. Snow peas. Check! Earthy. Shiitakes! And then my brain went yammering again.

I will slowly steep a pile o’ chives in some oil and use it to cook the egg noodles AND roast the mushrooms. I am a genius!

The salmon gets marinated first. In sake for whatever that wonderful pairing is with sake and fish. And soy and mirin for a caramely glaze…and….that’s it. Just enough love, but not too much.

The mushrooms will roast first while I cook the noodles, then the oven will get cranked to broil for the fish. Streamlined.

One pan- to heat the oil, to cook the noodles, to quickly toss the peas.

One rack to broil the salmon.

One plate to eat it all up. Ok, maybe two, because Ryan needs to eat too.

And that is what I arrived home with. In just under an hour it was done. The salmon was crazy good but also crazy rich. I only ate 2/3 of mine saving the rest for breakfast. It could easily marinate longer, but that’s all the time I had and I actually appreciated how subtle the flavors were. The egg noodles had just a slight flavoring as well allowing the deep mushroom flavor and super sweet snow peas to burst through it all.

I had learned the “noodle” technique while catering in the Hamptons in college. The daughter of some super VIP Chinese guest came in a day early to show me how to make them for the main dish. I was 17 and mildly horrified at the responsibility, but they turned out great and I’ve used them here and there ever since for a quick and different platform for a variety of toppings. And this was the best outcome yet.

1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup sake
3 tablespoons soy or tamari
1 pound salmon, skinned, cut into 4 portions

Egg Noodles:
1/2 cup garlic chives, thinly sliced, divided
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
10 shiitakes, stemmed
12 snow peas
8 eggs
1 1/2 tablespoon mirin
1 1/2 tablespoon soy or tamari
1 pinch salt

Heat oven to 350.

Place salmon in a baking dish. Mix all liquid ingredients, pour over salmon, and marinate salmon at least an hour or two.

Put the peanut and sesame oils in a medium, nonstick pan and heat 1/2 the chives over the lowest heat for about 15 minutes.

Toss the mushrooms with 1 T of the chive oil and roast for 10 minutes. Let cool then slice thinly. Turn oven to broil.

Beat the eggs, mirin, soy and scant pinch of salt until completely blended. Stir in the rest of the garlic chives.

Pour the rest of the chive oil into a bowl and set aside. Heat the pan over medium heat, stir the egg mixture gently and pour just enough into the pan, tilting it as you would for a crepe, until it just covers the bottom of the pan. Cook until set, flip briefly, then stack on a plate. Repeat with rest of egg mixture brushing the pan with more chive oil as needed. Fold the stack in half and cut into noodles. Drain any remaining oil from the chive mixture reserving for another use and set the chives aside.

Add the snow peas to the same pan and cook until just starting to blister, tossing a few times. Cut on the bias, toss with the shiitakes and noodles and mound onto four plates.

Cover a rimmed cookie sheet with foil and put salmon on a rack on top. Heat the remaining marinade in the pan on high with the reserved, cooked chives until it starts to thicken. Cook salmon in the upper third of the oven, basting with sauce twice more until crispy and glazed (about 8-10 minutes). Place on top of noodles, garnish with extra chives and enjoy. Also very good with chili garlic sauce.

A Favorite New Platform

The best part about a cooking challenge is the rare discovery of something great. Forced to think outside your cooking or ingredient box you might find a new technique or ingredient that will soon become part of your regular rotation. This was exactly the case with this chickpea recipe. Having not long ago discovered the delicious socca, I had chickpea flour on hand and was searching for something else to do with it. I also happened to have some smoked salmon that I thought would be great atop a chickpea pancake or similar platform. I thought adding a shredded or mashed potato could be good but only had sweet potatoes on hand and decided they would lend a nice color and sweetness.

My search led me to some panelle recipes which include cooking the chickpea flour with water and herbs and oil, allowing it to cool and become firm like polenta, before frying it to crispy goodness. This sounded like a great method and I decided to see if I could add some mashed sweet potato and herbs to the mix. I cooked a test piece and it far surpassed my expectations. It was crispy, light and fluffy, sweet, nutty….delicious! I tried a few different shapes, dips and toppings and enjoyed them all. They were great with just a bit of salt as french fries (though I also dipped them in an herbed aioli), as a platform for that smoked salmon with sour cream, cucumber and lemon, and topped with a smoky caponata.

Because you can stir up the batter ahead of time, you can keep it in the fridge for a couple days, frying it as the whim strikes. They come together in no time and will absolutely be part of my appetizer rotation from here on out.



Makes 16 canapés, 28 fries

1 small sweet potato
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cups water
1 cup chickpea flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
oil for frying

Cook the sweet potato to tender in the microwave (about 5-6 minutes) or oven. Let cool. Blend 1/2 cup to smooth with the water. Heat the mixture in a medium pot with salt until just boiling. Whisk in flour slowly and stir until smooth. Stir in 2 T olive oil and cook until thickened. Scoop into a greased 11×7 baking dish (you can use a portion of a larger one as the mixture is quite thick) and smooth the top.

Let cool, then chill for at least 30 minutes.

Heat 1/4″ oil in a pan, cut chickpea mixture into shapes (fries, rounds, squares) and fry on each side a couple minutes until browned. Drain on paper towels adding a sprinkle of salt if desired.

* These are great as is or topped with a variety of items:
** sour cream, smoked salmon, cucumber, pepper, lemon
** mayonaise, garlic, lemon, parsley
** stewy mix of eggplant, smoky tomatoes, garlic, capers, onion, parsley

Burnt Orange Fig Charoset

We celebrated the rare feast of Thanksgivvikuh with my sister’s family in Austin. It was an exercise of collaboration and creativity that produced some delicious surprises and new favorites. And so it was with great enthusiasm that I pondered my sister’s request for some reinvented seder dishes for an article she was writing on the Passover feast.

Among the dishes we discussed, I was drawn most to the charoset which, in my somewhat limited experience, has been wonderful or dreadful. The dreadful versions involved browning apples sitting in a liquid of sorts that more immediately reminds you of the actual mortar it represents than something truly edible. So I was compelled to try something more in the Sephardi style using figs.

In a completely separate culinary brainstorm for Chinese New Year I was planning a pork belly with charred oranges and decided that a toasty, caramelized citrus would be a great pairing. Recently enamored with all things pickled, I chose to steep the figs in a vinegar solution while toasted walnuts and a vibrant parsley completed the dish. I think this updated version would be a great addition to the Passover meal alongside a crispy roasted chicken. Though it was also amazing with some incredible berkshire pork chops…unorthodox, but divine.
A Food52 Wildcard Winner

Makes 2 cups

1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 teaspoon coriander seed
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup packed dried figs, cut into about 8 pieces each
2 clementines, peel cut away, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
1/2 lemon, peel cut away, sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
1/4 cup packed parsley, leaves only

Heat your broiler. Heat a medium-sized pot over medium low heat. Toast walnuts until just fragrant, stirring often. If you are easily distracted do not leave the pot! They will burn easily. Remove walnuts and let cool. Coarsely chop.

Toast fennel and coriander until fragrant (same rule as above). Add vinegar, water, salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar and stir until dissolved. Add figs and simmer for a couple minutes, then let cool. Place clementines and lemon on a baking sheet and sprinkle remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar on top. Broil about 10 minutes until they start to char, rotating the pan halfway through. Keep an eye on these as well — they can go from pleasantly charred to miserably charred very quickly. When done, cut slices into quarters. Your figs might have soaked up all the liquid, but if not, remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl. Toss gently with citrus, walnuts and parsley. Arrange on a platter and drizzle with honey. (To make ahead, you can toss figs and citrus together and fold toasted nuts and parsley in just before serving).

A Pile of Greens

Food52 recently had a contest for your best recipes using hearty greens. I had a bazillion ideas, but less free time than ever and a promise to myself to do a better job with priorities. I did, however, have kale and spinach and I do have to eat and feed my family so a few recipes got through. The results of the contest are not yet published, so I will type with crossed fingers. And regardless, these are just good recipes that will continue to be in my repertoire.

This first recipe is a silky, umami-rich condiment made with spinach, garlic, anchovy and tomato. It was great on some really meaty, grilled mushrooms and paired well with steak as well (duh).

Melted Umami Greens
Makes 1 cup


1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 anchovy fillet
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 handfuls spinach or chard
1 pinch sugar

Melt butter in olive oil and add anchovy, chopping up and stirring until it melts. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Mound greens on top, cooking for a minute before gently stirring and flipping while they compress. Stir tomato paste into 2 tablespoons warm water and stir mixture into greens when they have all just wilted. Continue cooking for another couple minutes. Add slight pinch sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Don’t be shy- it is a condiment meant to accompany and boost the dish and should be well seasoned.

One day for lunch I was craving a big pile of kale in a salad. I used to make this dressing for spinach quite a bit and have long been a sucker for the creamy, sweet, nutty combination in a salad. I will say that bacon takes this salad to a whole new level, but it is equally satisfying without thanks to the rich taste of the sesame paste.

Tahini Kale, Dates and Almonds
Serves 2

1 bunch kale, chard or spinach
1 tablespoon tahini
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon lime or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sriracha
1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon water
1/4 cup sliced almonds
2-3 medjool dates, pitted, sliced
1 green onion, sliced

Remove stems from greens, lay in a flat pile and roll up tightly. Slice crosswise into very thin strips. Whisk tahini, honey, juice, sriracha and oils until smooth. It will be quite thick. Add water a bit at a time until it is smooth and creamy, but not too runny. Toss greens, almonds, dates and green onions* with dressing. Season with a pinch of salt and some cracked pepper. *I often will rinse green onions to reduce the bite when served raw.

Another salad I have made for years also using spinach is a version of the Japanese Gomaae. It is the small, but depthy sesame salad often served at sushi bars and Japanese restaurants. I have tweaked it with all sorts of ingredients, but really liked the citrus in this version. You can make a big batch of dressing and have it on salad, tofu or leftover chicken throughout the week.

Orange Gomaae Greens
Makes 1/4 cup dressing

1 bunch kale, spinach or chard
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons soy or tamari
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (brown rice vinegar is equally good, just a bit sweeter)
1 orange (or similar)

You can use the greens raw, but when using kale I will usually blanch it for a minute in boiling water, then shock it in ice water. Chop greens and set aside. Gently toast sesame seed in a dry pan until fragrant, being careful not to burn. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and grind with sugar. I usually leave some seeds whole, grinding the rest to a sand consistency. Stir in vinegar, soy, 1 teaspoon zest and 1 tablespoon juice from orange. I use a generous tablespoon for one cup of tightly packed greens. Toss together and eat as is or top with your favorite ingredients.

Velvety Cauliflower Custard

The dinner parties my parents hosted were mesmerizing. From the buffet spreads to the complicated dishes involving lazy susans or a Peking duck that took three days, I was ever impressed by the formula they seemed to follow promising magical results. From the exotic to the classic there were always some standouts that oozed elegance and gourmet charm.

Thinking back to those times I wanted to create something classic and elegant that would elevate a simple grilled steak for dinner. With a cauliflower on hand and being limited to the stove top (why? Food52 contest of course) I decided to do a steamed custard. The milk was infused with the sweet cauliflower and garlic, a touch of Parmesan was folded in for depth and it was topped with caramelized florets which brought a few bites of crispy goodness to each creamy bite.

I made a lot in this recipe but it can easily be halved or even quartered. Just follow the rule 2 part liquid, 1 part egg or 16 ounces milk, 8 ounces egg (or about 4 large eggs). I’ve got Ruhlman’s Ratio to thank for that…


Serves 12

1 Medium cauliflower
4 cups Milk
8 Eggs
1 ounce Parmesan
2 tablespoons Butter, divided
1 tablespoon Oil
White pepper
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Sugar
Herbs for garnish (tarragon, chervil…)

Cut three to four florets off cauliflower and slice thinly crosswise. Chop remaining cauliflower and bring to a boil with milk and salt. Turn heat to a simmer and cook about 12-15 minutes until tender. Blend with cheese until really smooth. Strain through a fine meshed sieve and cool.

Butter 12 ramekins with 1 tablespoon butter. Whisk eggs into cooled mixture and if you are extra particular, strain again. I did not and it was no tragedy. (You could also mix everything in the blender again, but you would want to scoop the bubbles off the top to ensure a smooth custard.) Pour into ramekins and steam over low heat until outsides are set and center is barely jiggly. Remove ramekins from steamer.

Cook florets in remaining butter and oil for a couple minutes until they begin to brown. Sprinkle sugar on florets and flip, browning other side. Top custards with florets and fresh herbs of your choice.

* You can make the mixture, fill the ramekins and chill a day before cooking. I also was able to gently steam the cooked custards to eat the next day, though I’d recommend steaming right before eating as you would also be able to invert them onto a plate for serving.

I Got Scarlet Fever

In the summertime my daughter is obsessed with playing out in her mud kitchen. She spends hours mixing, stirring, pouring and garnishing with sprinkles of chives and sage before proudly offering up each creation. One day she handed me a soupy slop adorned with twigs and leaves. “What is it?” I asked. “Scarlet Fever,” she announced without hesitation. This was due, no doubt to the fate that befell her good buddy’s family the week before, resulting in the (gasp!) cancellation of his birthday party. And just as that event made a serious impression on my four year old, so was I mesmerized by the notion of a dish called “Scarlet Fever.”

I’ve considered it off and on all summer. Usually I come back to a soup of sorts, likely a version of the velvety and surprising caramelized carrot soup from Modernist Cuisine. But of course it needed heat of some sort and I continued to picture swirls of chili paste or smokey chipotle. And it wasn’t until the spicy foods contest at Food52 that I decided to really make something.

As I thought about it, the soup decided to be a sauce. A joining of the deeply rich and sweet caramelized carrots, the fresh spice of red jalapeños, some vinegar tang and the all important garlic. I didn’t have time to toy with fermenting (which I’d like to try next) so I settled on adding a bit of fish sauce for funk and more depth A final drop of orange added brightness (thanks to my ex-cook, food taster husband) and I had it. Scarlet Fever.

I chose not to strain it, leaving it a little chunky, but if you are a lucky sucker with a vitamix you might choose to make it a bit smoother. It was great on chicken adobo over rice, scrambled eggs for breakfast and sriracha beef with broccoli. An ideal accompaniment to some simple, pan seared fish and a must for any sandwich. My daughter even tried a couple small dabs of it, making some amazing spicy faces with each bite. I can’t wait for the next inspiration.


Makes 1 1/2 cups
1/2 pound Carrots, peeled, cut into coins
3 tablespoons Unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon Baking soda
3/4 teaspoons Salt, divided
3/4 pounds Red jalapeños
3 Large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons Palm sugar (or brown)
1/3 cup Rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Fish sauce
2 tablespoons Orange juice

Melt the butter with the carrots in a pressure cooker. Add 1/4 t salt and baking soda and cook on high for 10 minutes. Cool under cold water, release lid and set aside.

Cut stems off jalapeños and roughly chop. I removed the seeds and ribs from half…the heat can really vary so you might try a couple and see what you think. Put jalapeños, garlic, vinegar, sugar, fish sauce, carrots and salt in a blender of my dreams or make do with a food processor and blend until it is as smooth as you can get it.

Pour the mixture back into the pot and simmer over medium stirring often for about 10 minutes until thickened. Stir in orange juice, taste and adjust if needed for salt. At this point you can blend again for a smoother consistency.

A Culinary Milestone

This recipe is a huge milestone for me. HUGE! For most of my life I have hated beets. As far as I was concerned they were the vegetable kingdom’s embodiment of pure evil. Flowery dirt that I could pick out even as coloring agents in smoothies. And despite this beet loathing, I dutifully tried them year after year. Once at a dinner party, I arrived at the table horrified to see a plate of beets at every seat. They were roasted and crispy with rosemary, cracked pepper and salt and if I was going to like a beet, that would surely be it. But as soon as that crispy exterior gave way, that same florally earth filled my mouth and my soul. I swallowed about 2/3 of the plate whole (chasing with wine) just to be polite and strategically moved the remaining few about the plate.

But after all those years I started to notice a subtle change. Very subtle. At a Japanese restaurant of all places I was served a very simple steamed beet. I gave it a go and still did not like it but could finally understand just a little bit why someone might. Next time I encountered them roasted once again and felt the ick meter move just a little bit more. And finally I decided to try and cook my own.

I was not comfortable enough to just serve them plain so I roasted, peeled, oiled and roasted again until crisp and served them with toasted walnuts, an orange balsamic dressing, piles of arugula and some slightly stinky blue cheese. I actually liked them and I was very proud. Since then I have cooked beets only one other time but for some reason I felt a need to go all the way and try them raw.

Brandishing some rubber gloves my husband uses for staining furniture, I peeled and shredded the beets. I decided to pickle them just a bit in some orange scented sherry vinegar and toss them with carrots, apples and tons of herbs. The dressing needed to be simple but complementary. Recalling how good the walnuts were previously I chose to use walnut oil, the juice from the orange and some toasted coriander and chile to play up the floral notes in the beets. Finally I added a pile of fried quinoa which is surprisingly crunchy and nutty.

I think it is a really satisfying and well balanced salad- good on its own or boosted a bit with the help of some good cheese and shredded chicken. Next I might tackle that vicious attack lettuce frisee….

Fried Quinoa, Roots and Herbs

Serves 4

1 cup black or red quinoa
1 cup beets, peeled, julienned (about 2 medium)
1 cup carrots, peeled, julienned (about 3 large)
1 apple, julienned
1/2 lemon
1/4 cup brown or turbinado sugar (white would be fine as well)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 orange
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chives
2 tablespoons walnut oil
1/4 teaspoon coriander, toasted, ground
1/4 teaspoon aleppo or red chile
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard

Bring quinoa to a boil in 3-4 cups salted water and cook 15 minutes or until done. Drain well, spread on a baking sheet and let dry a bit. I put mine in the oven with the convection on, but no heat. Can be made ahead and kept in an airtight container in the fridge.

Toss carrots and apples together, cover with water. Squeeze lemon into bowl, add peel and chill in fridge (up to a day).

Simmer vinegar, sugar, water, salt and 4 thick strips of zest from orange until sugar is dissolved then let cool. Pour over beets and chill at least an hour and up to two days.

Heat about 1/2″ vegetable oil in a small pot and working in batches, fry quinoa. Drain on paper towel and salt lightly.

Mix 2 T juice from orange with mustard, chives, coriander, chile and salt to taste. Whisk in walnut oil until emulsified. Drain carrots and apples pressing gently. Drain beets. Toss together with dressing and parsley. Stir in quinoa just before serving.