Good thing it’s still winter (haha, NOT), because at least I’m still not sick of brussels sprouts, especially when charred in the oven and tossed with my all-time favorite pasta shape, the adorable orecchiette. The key is a bracing amount of aleppo pepper, lemon zest, and a splash of starchy pasta water to bring everything together. A big handful of grated pecorino doesn’t hurt, either.
Election day-derived anxiety calls for comfort food! We picked up a beautiful branch of broccoli from Birri, and I roasted it with lemon zest, olive oil, garlic cloves, and red pepper flakes until charred, more charred than you can imagine. (If we’re getting technical, about 10-12 minutes in a 450 degree oven). With some good bacon, grated pecorino, toasted pine nuts, and a handful of tiny, tender orecchiette, I enjoyed a big plate of coziness to help ward off election day jitters.
Have you ever heard of dakos?
I had never tasted this simple Cretan dish until very recently. With its blend of dried bread, chopped tomatoes, herbs, olives, and crumbled feta, Dakos reminds me of panzanella. But I prefer dakos even more, which features huge, crunchy lumps of dried barley rusk — way more fibrous and interesting than normal bread. (Though I would love to make dakos with a loaf of my own sourdough!) The rusk is soaked in a mixture of water and olive oil until it becomes tender, and then gets dressed with a mixture of vegetables and cheese. Magically, soaked rusk gets both mushy and crunchy. It’s insanely delicious. (We added fresh basil, dried oregano, and sun-dried tomatoes to our dakos, which is a little less traditional but no less tasty.)
We made a few other traditional Cretan dishes, like an addictive dip of pureed fava beans. Cretans like to pair the dip with finely chopped raw cipollini — so genius. They also tend to douse their pureed favas in a lake of olive oil, but we were a little more cautious. A little goes a long way.
(P.S. That slaw-looking thing at the bottom isn’t cabbage — it’s my new favorite vegetable in the world, white radicchio. It looks like chicory and tastes a little like Belgian endive. I love bitter, so it really, really hit the spot, especially when dressed up with a touch of Grecian honey, sunflower oil, and some Dijon mustard.)
Enjoying peas, new potatoes, radishes, mint, crispy shallots, zucchini, wheat berries, shaved carrot, red leaf lettuce, and fennel at our tiny place in Sanary-sur-mer. (Nice view, right?) My kind of salad, aka the kind that has a million ingredients and is seemingly never-ending, a byproduct from my California upbringing of monstrous chopped salads. But it needed something more, so we bought a few wedges of pissaladière, a Provencal onion, anchovy and olive tart. (Here’s Richard Olney’s version if you’d like to make it yourself.)
Ever since I’ve traded the hours spent in my kitchen for another, cooking elaborate meals at home feels less and less appealing these days. A strange adjustment since I’ve always loved cooking at home and entertaining. Not only do I lack energy to plan and execute multi-course meals — “cooking” these days is basically toast with almond butter in the mornings, and popcorn dusted with nutritional yeast late at night — I can barely muster the enthusiasm to cook proper, simple meals for myself.
So I’m extra grateful when Adam shows up, eyes bright from the market, bearing a tote bag bursting with juicy, sweet tomatoes, bufala mozzarella, field basil, and a hunk of bread from the new (amazing!) bread-by-the-pound place, Joe La Croûte, all of the perfect ingredients for the best no-cook lunch that my tired brain could have imagined. Shamefully, this was the very first Caprese salad I had assembled yet this year, the most iconic of summertime dishes, but I almost wept over the results, a joyous marriage of licorice-sweet basil, milky cheese, and tomatoes streaming with juice and dotted with salt.
A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Katherine’s delicious and virtuous shredded beet and carrot salad, seasoned with lemon juice and parsley; River Cafe-style navy beans, simmered until just tender (stewed with fresh bay, tomatoes, swiss chard, and butter; a similar recipe here); roasted beets with orange blossom water, pine nuts, dill, and sunflower oil; a few new potatoes roasted in duck fat and sage. It was pretty good eaten warm and fresh the night I made it, but even more satisfying when consumed right out of the tupperware the next afternoon, at room temperature.
The perfect Birri et Frères summer salad: crisp, cool micro arugula, cucumber half moons, coins of French radishes, halved cherry tomatoes, toasted walnuts, shaved Pecorino, lemon juice, sunflower oil, a little salt, lots of black pepper. Perfect for when it’s so hot outside you can’t bear the thought of eating, unless it’s cool and crunchy and soaked in lemon juice. So good even kittens are curious.
I’ve held on to these images by friend and photographer John Cullen for a long time — it’s time I shared his amazing work with everyone else, too. The images were outtakes from a photoshoot that we organized for Kinfolk Magazine last fall, for a story that appeared in their third issue. I’m thrilled to finally share these images now, in several parts.
This first set is from the pre-dinner prep — I enlisted pals to help get everything ready, like rinse pomegranate seeds, chop dill, cut bread, tear lettuce, pour drinks. Because John had to shoot early “to chase the sunlight,” as he called it, our “dinner party” was actually a luncheon. (We sat down to eat around 3pm — it felt weirdly glamorous to eat so early.) I think we cracked open our first bottle of wine around 11am, early even for my standards! It was chilly that afternoon, so I bribed people to stay out on the roof with bites of my homemade gravlax and special creme fraiche… so I don’t think anyone minded too much.
[All images by John Cullen]
Posted in lunch, memory, party, people, photography
Tagged creme fraiche, gravlax, john cullen, kinfolk magazine, photography, photoshoot prep, rooftop hang
I had all the ingredients for a simple fried rice (day-old rice, Thai basil, fresh eggs, cucumber, ginger and garlic), so I just went for it. The lunch came together in less than 8 minutes, and so, so good with a swirl of sriracha on top.
[Fried rice-style barley, chickpeas, sesame oil, green beans, shallots, soy sauce]
[Red leaf lettuce + pine nuts + walnuts + manchego + sunflower oil + apple cider vinegar]
[Baby penne + spinach + swiss chard + canned tomatoes + garlic + harissa + navy beans + olive oil]
Lunch has been so simple lately, just lots of same-ish combinations as I comb through the sad-looking contents of the fridge. I’m really on the edge of my seat, waiting for spring — I can’t stop daydreaming about fresh peas, lettuce, fava beans, spring onions, garlic, and asparagus!!!!
Also, I have a fun announcement for Montreal readers: We’re hosting a fermentation workshop at Le Pick Up on March 27. All of the information for registration can be found here. (There’ll be a tutorial on how to make yogurt!)