Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Preparations: Poptart Alternatives

Us in the metro NYC area have been freaking out about the pending hurricane. So far, it's just been sporadic heavy rain and a few gusts of wind. Like most people, I prepared early, have been hunkered down for hours and am totally bored (despite knowing the worst is yet to come). Before going into lock-down mode, I: dragged my terrace furniture in, located my old Walkman (for the radio), ran out to buy AA batteries (and water. and good dark chocolate. and wine. and a new trench coat for fall), and dropped by the farmers market. Yes, my market was open and hopping. But ironically, while the tomatoes and squash were still plentiful by the time I rolled in, practically ever single sweet was sold out. No chocolate chip walnut scones from Bread Alone. No Pie Lady & Son. It was pretty depressing. So rather than resort to strawberry poptarts, inspired by one of the many blog posts I've been reading to pass the time this afternoon, I cranked the oven to 400 and baked. I used some Italian plums I had picked up a few weeks ago in plum muffins, based on a recipe from the Joy of Baking. The yogurt and oil-based mix is super moist. The plums, which I quartered and folded into the batter, gave off a lot more juice that I expected. Although I baked the batter in muffin tins, it still almost took the full recommended baking time. In the meantime, I decided to make Julia Child's eggplant and zucchini gratin since it's a dish that tastes good hot or cold (or room temperature, if it comes down to it). The beauty of this recipe is that you "pan fry" the eggplant to start the cooking and then combine it with the other vegetables so it cooks evenly. So between the baked goods, the veg, the chocolate, the wine and my retro yellow Walkman tape player with radio, I think I am set. Best of luck to everyone...and stay safe!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hummus and Quinoa: A Match Made in Heaven

Earlier this summer, I went to an outdoor baby shower at Brooklyn Bridge Park. It was blazing hot, but that did not stop my appetite. The mom-to-be's mother in law is an amazing cook (and owner of a deli in Ithaca, NY that specializes in Middle Eastern food). She put out an amazing spread of grain- and vegetable-based dishes that were perfect for a hot afternoon, as well as a variety of dips and spreads.

So of course, when I got home, I fought the heat exhaustion and attempted to recreate a quinoa salad with herbs and beans (as well as creamy hummus using the Cook's Illustrated method). The quinoa salad served at the shower was extremely light and fluffy, with fresh herbs, crisp celery, black beans and artichoke hearts tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. I gilded the lily and added feta cheese and additional vegetables to my version. Frankly, I wished I left them out. This salad is best dressed right before serving, as it gets a tad soggy after sitting. And of course, it is best eaten outside, with friends, in the sunshine.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Fresh Herbs


1 C. Quinoa, rinsed

1 3/4 C. Water

1 Lemon, juiced

.25 C. Olive Oil

2 Scallions, thinly sliced

1 stalk Celery, finely diced

1 14 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

.25 C. Minced herbs (cilantro, mint, basil or some combination thereof)


Freshly Ground Black Pepper


In a small pan, bring the quinoa and water to a boil, cover and turn down heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed.

In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil.

Add scallions and celery and beans and toss to coat. Add slightly cooled quinoa and herbs.

Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Danish Potato Salad

I have yet to meet a potato salad I don't like. Scratch that - a homemade potato salad I don't like (some of the grocery deli case specimens are just gross). With mayo, with Miracle Whip, with a herbed vinaigrette, it's all good in my book.

So when I had my first taste of Danish potato salad this summer, I was hooked. And it's a perfect farmers market salad this time of year. You can literally find almost every ingredient there: new potatoes, jewel-like radish, crisp cucumbers, leafy celery, slender scallions, a variety of herbs and maybe even farm-fresh eggs. I used red new potatoes in my version, but they were a wee bit firm, so I'd suggest using a potato with a higher moisture content (that will break down a bit after cooking). I also used a bit too much scallion, so would also suggest tasting your vegetables as you go (How much of a bite do those onions have? Does the radish taste mild or bitter?) so you can adjust quantity as needed.

Sadly, summer is speeding by, so do yourself a favor and hit up your farmers market soon so you can try this salad the way the Danes intended.

Danish Potato Salad
Apparently, a true Danish potato salad has what's called a cooked dressing. I cheated and used prepared ingredients.
4 C. Diced white potatoes
Water for boiling
Salt for boiling
2 T. Cider vinegar
2 T. Dijon mustard
1 C. Miracle Whip
Splash of pickle juice (optional)
2 Eggs, hard boiled and chopped
1/2 Cucumber, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
5 Medium Radishes, sliced into thin half moons
1/4 C. Red onion or scallion, chopped
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Handful of chopped herbs (parsley, tarragon) (optional)
Boil potatoes in salted water until just cooked through. Reserve one cup of the cooking liquid.
A la the Julia Child Method, drain and combine hot potatoes with vinegar and about a third of the reserved cooking liquid. Allow to sit and cool for 10 minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, Miracle Whip and pickle juice (if using). Add potatoes and toss to coat. Then add the egg and chopped vegetables, herbs (if using). Combine well.
Add additional salt and ground black pepper to taste. Chill before serving.