Monthly Archives: April 2015

Seared Sweet Potatoes with Merguez and Radicchio

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I turned 39 this week.  Hoo-boy.  I only have one year left in my thirties!  All of a sudden I feel an  anxious eagerness to pack in as many things as I can before turning 40.  I’m not sure why. There has never been a better time to be 40, really.  But for whatever reason, in my mind–and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way–there is a dividing line between everything pre-40 and post-40.  40 means adulthood for real.   Like, if you don’t have your shit figured out by the time you hit 40, well, now you’re just that 40-year-old who never got their shit together.  Maybe I’m being too harsh on 40-year-olds?  Regardless, I feel pretty damn good about where I am in my life as a 39-year-old.  So I will try and focus on that in the coming year, and not dread the big 4-0 staring me down.
DSC_5803DSC_5806I innocently made this recipe a few weeks ago, and had no idea just how obsessed with it I would become over the course of several days.  I am a big fan of sweet potatoes and garlic, and you get a nice dose of both of them in this recipe.  But you also are treated to the deep flavor of merguez, bitter radicchio and sweet pecans, forming a sweet, sweet symphony in your mouth. You must make this recipe today.  I can’t image anyone not loving this dish.
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Seared Sweet Potatoes with Merguez and Radicchio
Adapted from Food & Wine

Sweet Potatoes and Nuts
1 garlic clove, finely grated
3 Tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp. olive oil
2 large or 4 small sweet potatoes, scrubbed
Sea salt
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Sausage and Assembly
1 head radicchio, leaves separated and torn into pieces
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
8 oz. merguez sausage, casings removed
1/2 tsp. Aleppo pepper or 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses
1 tsp. Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Sea salt
1/3 cup plain sheep’s-milk or Greek yogurt

Sweet Potatoes and Nuts
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Mix garlic and 3 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl.  Prick sweet potatoes all over with a fork and rub with half of garlic oil; set remaining garlic oil aside.
2.  Season with salt and roast on a rimmed baking sheet, turning once, until flesh is soft and yielding, 45-55 minutes.  Remove from oven; reduce heat to 350 degrees F.
3.  Toss pecans and remaining 1/2 tsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt.  Toast, tossing once, until slightly darkened and fragrant, 8-10 minutes.
4.  Let sweet potatoes cool slightly, then cut in half lengthwise.  Brush cut sides with reserved garlic oil.  Heat a large heavy skillet over medium.
5.  Cook sweet potatoes, cut side down, pressing lightly with a spatula, until browned and charred in spots, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and reserve skillet.

Sausage and Assembly
1.  Place radicchio in a large bowl.  Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in reserved skillet over medium-high.
2.  Cook sausage, breaking up with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Stir in Aleppo pepper.  Transfer meat to a plate with a slotted spoon and pour off all but 2 Tbsp. fat from skillet.
3.  Reduce heat to medium.  Combine pomegranate molasses, vinegar, and 1/4 cup water in skillet, stirring to combine and scraping pan to loosen browned bits.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often , until sauce is slightly thickened, about 3 minutes, then drizzle over radicchio.  Add reserved sausage and toss to coat; season with salt.
4.  Mix yogurt and remaining 1 tsp. oil in a small bowl, thinning with a little water to make pourable; season with salt.  Divide yogurt among plates and top with sweet potatoes.
5.  Arrange sausage mixture over, along with any pan juices.  Top with pecans.

Haricots Verts and Snow Peas with Hazelnut and Orange

DSC_5534Everyone always told my sister and I that we would become good friends when we got older.  I’m not sure if they said this because we fought like cats and dogs, or because they really believed it.  By the time we were teenagers, we barely spoke to each other, and when we did it was usually in a passive aggressive tone.  When I went off to college, I barely saw her, other than a few times when I was home for the summer.  Throughout our 20’s (we are merely 17 months apart) I waited for the intimacy that everyone said would magically happen to us.  It never did.

Heidi, my sister, and I couldn’t be more different.  As a teenager, she ran with the “wild” crowd­–she smoked, drank, and listened to heavy metal.  I, on the other hand, found her world to be a bit scary and intimidating.  I was drawn more towards the funny, smart kids, and listened exclusively to pop music.  I have to believe that our troubled home life informed both of our worlds at the time.  Perhaps she gave in to the hopelessness of it all, or maybe it was just her way of coping.  I desperately wanted to believe that there was a bigger world out there, and tried to find people that had access to a brighter reality.  I remember getting all A’s in the 9th grade, for the first time ever, and understanding that somehow this was key to me transcending whatever it was I was trying to escape.
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One of the characteristics that make us so different is that I really enjoy having thoughtful, in-depth conversations with people in general.  I am fascinated by human behavior and relationships between human beings.  Of course, I realize that not everyone is comfortable with intimacy.  And I have always gotten the sense that this type of conversation makes my sister squirm, that true intimacy in general makes her uncomfortable.  Again, it might have something to do with the way we were raised.  Perhaps she is merely trying to survive out there, but I am often times searching for meaning and connection with other people.  Because of this dissonance, our relationship has always felt stagnant.

My sister recently went through a divorce, and I think her heart has been cracked open a bit.  Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”  I do think that some people’s hearts have to be cracked wide open by life before they can start feeling joy.  My sister and I have grown closer since her divorce, and I think we are both making an effort at our relationship.  We are still polar opposites in so many ways, but I think we are both becoming more accepting of our differences.  Instead of waiting for us to develop this incredibly affectionate relationship, I am trying to appreciate that we are two distinctly different individuals who just happen to be sisters.
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I don’t think I knew what haricots verts were until I was in my late twenties.  I had a friend who was a Francophile and made them for dinner one night.  Simply because of their fancy-sounding name, they seemed so much more appealing than regular ol’ green beans.  And if fact they do have a much more complex flavor than their American counterpart.   They scream spring weather to me, and so I made this recipe a few weeks ago in hopes that it would help Mother Nature induce warmer climes.  It’s a nice, crunchy vegetable side that is packed with flavor from the garlic, hazelnuts, and orange.
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Haricots Verts and Snow Peas with Hazelnut and Orange
Adapted from Ottolenghi:  The Cookbook

14 oz. (about 2 cups) haricots verts
14 oz. (about 2 cups) snow peas
1/2 cup unskinned hazelnuts
1 orange
3/4 oz. chives, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. hazelnut oil (or another nut oil, if unavailable, or simply olive oil)
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Using a small, sharp knife, trim the stalk ends off the beans and the snow peas, keeping the two separate.
2.  Bring plenty of unsalted water to a boil in a large saucepan.  You need lots of space for the beans, as this is crucial for preserving their color.  Blanch the beans in the water for 4 minutes, then drain into a colander and run them under plenty of tap water until cold.  Leave to drain and dry.  Repeat with the snow peas, but blanch for only 1 minute.
3.  While the beans are cooking, scatter the hazelnuts over a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes.  Leave until cool enough to handle, then rub them in a clean kitchen towel to get rid of most of the skin.  Chop the nuts with a large, sharp knife.  They should be quite rough; some can even stay whole.
4.  Using a zester, zest the orange, being careful to avoid the bitter white pith.
5.  To assemble the dish, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, toss gently, then taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve at room temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

Black-Eyed Peas with Coconut Milk and Ethiopian Spices

DSC_5501I have been leveled by PMS this past week, and wanted to write about it since I can’t seem to muster up the desire to write (or think) about anything worthwhile that isn’t maudlin.  In lieu of a typical blog post, I thought I would share a poem with you that I wrote tonight on my commute home:

Hopelessness, negating everything
I was looking forward to yesterday.
It’s a cliché to say every woman
turns into a monster during her time
of the month.  But I feel the change,
right down to my cells.  Nothing
can alleviate this sensation of dread.
I have to ride it out, like a nasty storm
that causes you to lose your bearings.
And know that when this passes, I will
once again look forward to my favorite things.

DSC_5481DSC_5484And one of my new favorite things is this dish.  I’ve never made an Ethiopian dish before, although I really like Ethiopian food.  It’s a Marcus Samuelsson recipe, so I knew it would be delicious.  A word of caution when making this:  wear gloves when handling the chiles!  I failed to do that and spent several hours with my hands writhing in pain.  After several attempts at trying to wash the oils off, I finally succeeded by slathering my hands in vegetable oil, then washing it off with a mixture of baking soda, hydrogen peroxide and a splash of dish detergent. Thanks, Google!  That being said, I could eat this every day.
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Black-Eyed Peas with Coconut Milk and Ethiopian Spices
Adapted from Food & Wine

2 cups dried black-eyed peas (12 ounces)
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large red onion, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 habanero chile, seeded and minced
2 teaspoons berbere seasoning (see Note)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
2 scallions, thinly sliced

  1.  In a large saucepan, cover the peas with water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat until tender, about 40 minutes.
  2. Add a generous pinch of salt and let stand for 5 minutes, then drain well.
  3.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and chile and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add the berbere and turmeric and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir in the coconut milk and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down and the sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes.
  6.  Add the peas to the sauce and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the peas are lightly coated, about 10 minutes. Fold in the cilantro and scallions and serve.
Note

Berbere is an Ethiopian ground red chile spice mix. It’s available at specialty food shops and from kalustyans.com.