It’s been a helluva week, to say the least. Salad might not exactly be the most obvious comfort food, but having a big batch in the fridge certainly helps make lunchtime easier (and healthier). This one is earthy, crunchy, full of spice and umami warmth, with bright herbal notes. Black-eyed peas are often eaten on New Year’s Day as a good luck food; I say we take all the good luck we can get.
Obviously we can’t rely on luck alone. I don’t care if I’m bringing politics into a place where it doesn’t belong because A) it’s my blog and I do what I want, and B) what’s happening goes way beyond liberal and conservative and into the realm of right and very, very, very wrong. None of this is normal or okay, and we must remain vigilant. We need to seek out reliable news sources and stay informed. We need to be active. We need to stand up to bigotry and hold our leaders accountable. We need to help out where we can and support organizations that do good work (Jezebel posted a pretty comprehensive list, to which I would add NRDC). Stay strong, friends.
3 cups cooked black-eyed peas, if canned then rinsed & drained
1-2 radishes, sliced into thin half-moons
1 cucumber, sliced into thin half-moons
1 scallion (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
3 tbsp mellow white miso
1 tbsp grated ginger
1½ tbsp olive oil
1½ tbsp water
handful of parsley, chopped
salt (if needed; miso is salty) & black pepper, to taste
To make the dressing, whisk together the miso, ginger, olive oil, and water.
Toss the black-eyed peas, radish, cucumber, and scallion together with most of the dressing, setting some aside for left-overs (the black eyed peas really soak it up!), and stir to coat evenly. Gently mix in most of the parsley, saving a little bit for sprinkling on the top, and season to taste. Garnish with remaining parsley.
Recently I went out west. It had been a really (reallllly) long time since I had been on a real trip anywhere, and I relished every moment. First Philip and I went back to 95 degree summer weather in Austin, TX. We wandered through an enchanted park, explored a cavern full of stalactites and stalagmites and tiny sleeping bats, ate delicious breakfast tacos from a food trailer (check!), visited the flagship Whole Foods (I know… but it is actually really cool), hung out on a rooftop with a friend from home, visited the capitol building, marveled at grackles, drank delicious coffee and juice, and interacted with friendly locals who would not seem at all out of place in a Linklater movie. Then it was on to Los Angeles, a city which had long been on my list of places to visit. Ever since I was Weetzie Bat books loving kid, I dreamed of LA’s hills and canyons, its punks and starlets, its purple jacaranda trees and old Shangri-LA magic. Now that my friend Charles was getting married at the Malibu West Beach Club, I had an excuse to go. And while I wasn’t crazy about all the driving and big box/chain stores everywhere, I was indeed enamored with pretty much everything else: the dessert hills juxtaposed with the blue Pacific, the coyote we saw one night casually trotting across the street, colorful flowers and equally colorful homes, teetering palm trees, winding roads, charming plant-enveloped alleys, the incredible architecture and landscaping of the Getty Center, dreamy Mulholland Drive, the PCH… I want to go back! Best of all I got to spend time with dear friends at a truly lovely celebration. The day after the wedding, we checked out of our hotel, got some iced coffees, and went back to Malibu Beach. After soaking the bottoms of our jeans (despite our best cuffing efforts), we decided it was warm enough to go all the way in the water and besides, when was the next time we’d get to go swimming in the Pacific? We changed into our bathing suits in the car and took turns holding the car keys while the other went in the water. Then it was fries from In-N-Out, a quick drive through Echo Park, and finally LAX, where we returned the car and waited around for our after midnight flight home. Naturally it took us some time to get back into the groove of things. (I literally did not know where I was when I woke up in my own bed the next day.) And the erratic weather– 80 something degrees and sunny followed by total blustery cold dreariness and full on fall– certainly didn’t help. Still, home is where the cat is. And the seasons, too.
These vanilla maple tahini truffles are perfectly autumnal and so tasty. They’re easy to make, too, unless you count the waiting parts. I’m pretty crazy for tahini and maple syrup (see my recipe for vanilla maple tahini spread)– so much so that sometimes I’ll skip the mixing and simply heap the two ingredients precariously onto a spoon and then shovel it directly into my mouth while standing over the sink. Because you know, dishes. Anyway, it was only a matter of time until chocolate entered the mix. These truffles are sweet and salty and feel just indulgent enough, the kind of treat I think we could all use right about now, wherever we are.
½ cup tahini
heaped 1½ tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ tbsp refined coconut oil, melted, plus another scant 1/8 tsp
1/16 tsp fine sea salt
one 3.2 oz bar of dark chocolate, chopped
bit of flaky sea salt
Use a food processor to mix tahini, maple syrup, vanilla, and fine sea salt until well combined, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the machine running, slowly pour in the melted 1½ tbsp coconut oil and process until smooth. Transfer to a dish and freeze, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, or until firm but not totally frozen.
Line a plate with parchment paper. Use your hands to roll tahini mixture into balls, approximately 1” in diameter, and set on the lined plate. Freeze for 25 minutes.
Melt chocolate with scant 1/8 tsp coconut oil in a double boiler over low heat, stirring frequently. Alternatively, melt in the microwave in short increments. Once melted, remove chocolate from heat. One at a time, drop each tahini ball into the chocolate and use a fork to roll it around, then gently lift and let excess chocolate drip back down through the fork tines. Place back on parchment lined plate and sprinkle with a little flaky salt. Freeze for 10 minutes, then transfer to a container and store in the refrigerator.
When I made this for dinner a few nights ago, Phil told me it was “very fall.” While cooking, I had thought I had been making a very summery meal–eggplants! peppers! fresh basil and mint!– yet had to agree that my hot bowl of pasta full of roasted things was pretty damn cozy. Even the fact that I had turned the oven on at all was evidence of the seasonal shift. To be sure, this is a transitional dish, showcasing late summer’s abundant harvest while gently easing us into fall’s rhythms and encouraging us to slow down– even if for just a bit.
*To smash the garlic, peel each clove and pressed down gently but firmly (and very carefully!) with the side of a chef’s knife, taking care not to break the clove completely.
13 or so fairytale eggplants, stemmed and halved
2-3 red peppers (I used 3 not too big frying ones), cut into 1-1½” pieces
1 small red onion, diced medium
2 garlic cloves, gently smashed
1½-2 tbsp olive oil (enough to evenly coat vegetables)
1 12 oz package of pasta
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ cup basil, chopped
½ cup mint, chopped
sea salt and black pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and spread evenly on a roasting pan. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring once half way through, until vegetables are tender and browning around the edges. Remove from oven.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water according to package directions. Just before draining, reserve about a ¼ cup of the pasta water (use a mug with a handle to scoop directly from the pot). Drain pasta.
To the pasta, add the tomato paste, vinegar, and pasta water and stir to combine. Then mix in the roasted vegetables, breaking the garlic with your spoon. Season with salt and pepper, and top with basil and mint.
Savor summer’s last hurrahs with this colorful salad, featuring nutty and slightly sweet black rice, crunchy edamame, a tangy sesame-tamari-lime dressing, and peaches, the season’s fuzzy stone fruit darlings. If you live in the New York tristate area, you might have noticed a peach shortage this year. Still, they’ve been showing up at the markets, and while they might be a bit pricier than usual, they are as wonderful as ever right now, if not even more precious.
*The drop of olive oil in the rice is totally optional but very helpful if you’re like me and tend to have rice stick to the pan. Skip it if you use a rice cooker.
*If you’d like a spicier dish, leave more of the jalapeño’s seeds and pith intact. If you prefer a milder dish, remove all the seeds and pith.
1 cup black rice
drop of olive oil, optional
1 cup frozen shelled edamame
2 ripe, sweet peaches, pitted and sliced
2 scallions, light green and white part only, thinly sliced
1 jalapeño, removed of most (but not all) of its pith and seeds, finely chopped
3 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
juice from 1 lime
1-2 small squirts of agave
generous handful of basil, chopped
To cook the black rice, place in a small pot with 2 cups of water, a pinch of salt, and a drop of olive oil (if using). Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for 40 minutes. Turn off heat, let sit for 10 minutes (covered), then fluff with a fork. Let cool.
To cook the edamame, place in a small pot and cover with water by a few inches. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, until cooked through. Drain and rinse with cold water. Dry and season with a bit of salt.
To make the dressing, combine tamari, sesame oil, lime juice, and agave in a jar. Secure lid, then shake vigorously to mix.
Toss cooled rice with edamame, peaches, scallions, jalapeño, and dressing. Taste for seasoning– you may wish to add more tamari and/or agave– and top with basil. Let sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors to mingle, then serve.
Full disclosure: I’m a born and bred New York stater. I grew up eating bowls of cereal for breakfast on weekdays– I especially loved the free junky ones that came in the mail sometimes– and pancakes or bagels on the weekends. Sometimes we had danish or donuts or eggs or oatmeal or hash browns from McDonald’s, but it wasn’t until I was a preteen traveling to Florida that I ever tried grits. At a Waffle House no less. As an adult, my interest in that Southern staple was rekindled by Bryant Terry’s books (particularly this one) and a new found love for polenta (make this at your next dinner party. You’re welcome.). My own version of savory breakfast grits is super simple and full of summer flavors, decidedly inauthentic but definitely comforting, and utterly delicious.
1 cup corn grits
¼ tsp salt, plus more to taste
2-2½ tbsp nutritional yeast
extra-virgin olive oil
In a saucepan, bring 3 cups of water and salt to a boil. Add grits and reduce heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring somewhat often. Remove from heat, stir in nutritional yeast, cover, and let sit for a few more minutes. Stir again, then serve topped with chopped tomatoes and basil, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper.