Don’t miss Mark Bittman’s article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine about grilling watermelon and, of all things, cabbage. Several of the recipes sound like interesting and relatively easy side dishes: Vietnamese-style Portobello Mushrooms, Teriyaki Cabbage Steaks, and Curry-Rubbed Sweet Potato Flanks.
A few weeks ago, The New York Times‘s Mark Bittman wrote a column called “Pasta Primavera: The Remix.” Bittman explained the back story of the dish, how the name means “spring pasta” and that it was invented in the 1970s by Sirio Maccioni, the owner of the New York mainstay Le Cirque. And he, Bittman that is, goes on to offer several new and more interesting approaches to the dish.
I should say now, that I’ve never liked “pasta primavera” and wouldn’t have considered serving it to The Professor, who doesn’t really like the concept of vegetarian pastas.
But one night last week, I came down to the kitchen without a solid plan for dinner. I opened the refrigerator, rifled through the drawers, and found a bunch of kale and some asparagus. I knew I had peas and walnuts in the freezer. So, with Bittman’s inventive spirit in mind, I served a “pasta primavera” made of peas, roasted asparagus, and a pesto of kale and walnuts. And, of course, pasta — I served it with a short, shell-like pasta that would catch the pesto and other yumminess.
The Professor loved the mixture of flavors and textures. The nutty, earthy richness of the pesto. The sweet pop of the peas. The bright crispness of the asparagus.
The result: The Professor gave the dish a B+, saying, “I like it better than other vegetarian pastas we’ve tried.” He loved the taste and “interestingness,” faulting it only for it’s ability to completely satisfy.
What can I say? I’ll work on it!
I’ll also keep track of the measurements next time so that I can post a recipe.
From the basic shallot-lemon vinaigrette to the Southwestern Arugula Salad with a spicy chipotle dressing, there are options for weeknight dinners and dinner parties alike. Next time The Professor’s family comes up North I’m going to serve them greens like they’ve never had ’em — Bittman’s Cooked Collard Salad with Peanut Vinaigrette.
The New York Times columnist Mark Bittman — aka The Minimalist — has a great video on making Four-Spice Salmon. It reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write two posts — one on the matter of eating seafood and one on how to cook fish. So I’ll take Bittman’s video (which includes two tricks I use myself) as my excuse to write up my cooking tips. While Bittman pan fries his salmon in the video, my tips are geared towards roasting or grilling.
#1: Cook Individual Pieces: Cut the filet into individual portions before you cook it. Not only will it look nicer on the plate, but it will help you cook all the pieces evenly and make it easier to determine when the fish is done. If you’re cooking an uncut three-pound piece, it’s sooooo difficult to know when the thickest center pieces are ready.
#2: Use a spice rub: This is Bittman’s second tip and I second it. No I third it! In any case, I approve. In the video he mixes cumin, coriander, nutmeg and clove. Because I sometimes don’t have time to make my own spice mix, I’ve also bought them. My current obsession is Whole Food’s Tequila Lime spice mix, a combination of chili pepper, coriander, cumin, oregano, garlic, onion, parsley, lime and tequila. Or “tequila flavor,” at least. Bittman puts the spice mix on top of the fish. Why stop there? I smear the mix on all sides of the fish.
#3 Buy an oven thermometer: The oven gods are fickle and rarely heat the oven to the temperature that you set it for. An inexpensive thermometer will tell you your oven’s true temperature, helping you reach your pre-heating goal. And when it comes to cooking fish, you need to have confidence in your oven temperature so that you can be confident in your cooking time.
#4 Time It: Rather than going by the old “10 minutes per inch of thickness” rule of thumb, I recommend using a resource like Weber’s On the Grill app, which provides standard cooking times for different kinds of seafood (and meats as well). if you’re making tuna or salmon, which some people eat rare or medium rare, adjust the time to suit your taste. If the timer goes off and you’re not sure that the fish is really cooked through, take it out of the oven, cover it with tin foil and let it “rest” for 5 minutes. It will keep cooking but much more slowly than it would in the oven, so you’re not as likely to over-cook it by mistake.
Our lilac is blooming. A small basil plant has taken up temporary residence in a sunny spot on our kitchen island, waiting until it is warm enough to move outside. And it’s raining. In other words, spring is here!
The season brings fresh peas, fava beans, and fiddlehead ferns. It also brings recipes for asparagus. Every magazine, newspaper and cooking blog seems to be offering its take on the quirky vegetable. (I guess asparagus is to May what turkey is to November!)
Over at The New York Times’ Sunday Magazine, Mark Bittman recently offered a dozen recipes, with options for steaming, roasting, grilling, and stir-frying. Some of his suggestions seem worth trying — steamed asparagus served with home-made aioli or a fried egg, for instance, or asparagus roasted with carrots and drizzled with soy sauce. But none of the twelve feel substantial enough to be the main course of a vegetarian meal.
Deb, the cook and writer behind the lovely blog Smitten Kitchen, has a recipe for Ribboned Asparagus Salad, and I’m dying to try it. The salad isn’t main course material, but she also offers a recipe for Shaved Asparagus Pizza — a dish The Professor will be sitting down to soon.
Over at food52, a recipe for Absurdly Addictive Asparagus rose to the top of the site’s Your Best Asparagus Recipe competition. The recipe calls for cubed pancetta, though I’m going to try a vegetarian version.
Do you have a favorite asparagus recipe? If so, send it to me. In the meantime, I’ll be cooking up Deb’s asparagus pizza and will let you know what The Professor thinks of it.
Mark Bittman actually calls the recipe “Roasted Carrots with Scallion-Ginger Glaze,” but words aside, the carrots were delicious. Packed with flavor and easy to make. I served them with a simple roasted salmon and spinach sauteed with olive oil and garlic.
I’m a big fan of soups, and already make several similar to those he suggests — a creamy and gingery butternut squash soup; a tomato soup with fresh basil; a black bean soup. I find the challenge is turning a yummy soup into a satisfying meal.
With the tomato soup, for instance, I serve grilled cheese sandwiches or bruschetta (as my “Italian” Mom taught me to call thick cut toast) rubbed with garlic and olive oil, and served with a selection of cheeses.
The butternut squash soup I served with seared scallops until I suddenly and inexplicably turned against the tasty molluscs. Now I’m struggling to find a good complement.
In any case, I’ll post my soup recipes soon. In the meantime, enjoy Mark Bittman’s.