Tag Archives: olive oil

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Squash with Raisins and Thyme

DSC_5186Every winter when the colder weather moves in I become anti-social.  It’s one of those things I know will happen every year– like when you first notice the guys selling Christmas trees on the corner the weekend after Thanksgiving­– and yet I always seem to think, “I will manage better this year.”  I have been feeling so good for so long, that my reclusive behavior has crept up albeit very slowly over the last month.  It really became apparent when my husband was away on a business trip last month.  Usually when he goes away for several weeks at a time, I have a strategy in place to ward off the loneliness.  I try and fill my social calendar and make a long list of things to do to keep myself occupied.  Although I braced myself with my usual approach before his most recent trip, rather than going to a book reading or a movie, I found myself coming home after work most nights just to hunker down in front of the television to watch Jeopardy and Gilmore Girls.  Endless episodes.  But the strange thing was:  I didn’t feel lonely.  Or sad.  I was actually in pretty good spirits.  However, that was over a month ago.  Eventually, my unsociable behavior catches up with me, and coupled with the cold weather and shorter days, it usually ignites the winter blues at the very least.  Sometimes it can lead to a full-on depressive episode.

I am determined to manage my depression this winter.  That is, after all, the best anyone with this illness can do.  It’s like the required radios in North Korean homes:  they can never be turned completely off, only turned down, so as to ensure that the propaganda is heard.  I can’t get rid of my depression, but I can manage it by doing what I know works for me.  I have to force myself out of the apartment at least a few nights during the week, as well as on the weekends.  My brain needs external stimulation to counter the incessant internal messages.  And it becomes really hard to do in the winter when all I want to do after work is go home, put on my pajamas, and curl up on the couch.  The impulse is so strong– it almost feels like a biological instinct.
DSC_5188Maybe it just boils down to finding something every day to ensure a moment of quiet contentment.  My husband and I discovered a great coffee shop that opened in our neighborhood recently.  We’ve started going for afternoon coffee every Sunday to make certain that we get out of the apartment and check in with each other before the day is over.  Today we decided to also purchase our first Christmas tree.  Carrying it home, I had a big, stupid grin on my face.  Of course, I suggested we put on Christmas music while decorating the tree.  Seeing our little, lopsided tree all lit up made me very happy.

This is one of the easiest things you could possibly make.  And dare I say one of the most delicious.  I pack it up for my weekday lunches, but it could also be a vegetable side if you feel the need to have something heartier during the day.  The original recipe called for dates, but I’m not a huge date fan.  You could also substitute currants, golden raisins, or most likely any other dried fruit you are fond of.
DSC_5193Squash with Raisins and Thyme
Adapted from Bon Appétit

3 small acorn squash, scrubbed, cut into 1/2″ wedges
1/2 bunch thyme
4 garlic gloves, crushed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup raisins
Flaky sea salt

1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2.  Toss squash, thyme, garlic, olive oil, and butter in a large baking dish; season with sea salt and pepper.
3.  Roast, tossing occasionally, until just tender, 40-45 minutes.  Add raisins;  toss to coat.
4.  Roast until squash are very tender and raisins plump up a bit, 12-15 minutes.
5.  Arrange squash, raisins, garlic, and thyme on a platter, spoon any oil in dish over squash, and sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

Apple, Bacon and Goat Cheese Salad w/ Ginger Vinaigrette

My husband and I just returned from the best vacation we’ve ever taken.  We went up to Cape Cod for 5 days, and then spent another 3 days in Boston.   I love getting away from NYC in the summertime.  There is something about breathing in the smell of fresh cut grass, strolling outside with a hot dog or ice cream cone, and adjusting to the slower rhythms of small town life that makes me nostalgic for childhood summers.

For the first three days of our vacation I walked around with a big, idiot grin on my face.  I kept remarking to Mr. K that something would inevitably go wrong on this trip since everything up to that point had been so perfect.  He would simply respond by shaking his head at me.   Whether slurping down raw oysters, reveling an IPA, or breathing in the smell of salty ocean air, I was in a kind of vacation trance, whereby everything we did seemed to me to be the perfect thing to be doing at that exact moment.

One of the highlights of our trip to Cape Cod was the 3-course breakfast we were served every morning out on the back patio of our Bed and Breakfast.  The owners of the B&B were this extremely gracious older couple, and the husband proudly told us that he made all the meals.  Every morning I would go for a jog, and then my husband and I would proceed downstairs like two kids on Christmas morning, eagerly anticipating that day’s breakfast.  The courses included dishes like baked eggs in prosciutto “cups”, applesauce pancakes with bacon, and fruit parfaits.  Mr. K and I would take our time savoring every bite, and I took added pleasure in being served a home-cooked meal.

After we returned home, one of the first things I did was write down all of the great moments from this trip that I didn’t want to forget.  The next time I have a stressful day or week, I will look at that list to be reminded of life’s pleasures.
DSC_5026Speaking of which, this salad is truly of one of my current pleasures.  I can’t eat it without moaning just a little bit.  I got the idea for it from a local restaurant that makes a similar salad.   If you like bacon at all, you will enjoy this salad.  Oh, and my apologies for only taking one picture this time around.  I was running late and we were starving, so it was the best I could do.  Quick tangent:  when we were in Boston we ducked into a run-of-the-mill pub near Boston Common for lunch one day.  I wasn’t that hungry so I ordered a BLT, thinking I would just eat the 2 or 3 strips of bacon out of the sandwich along with the tomato and lettuce and that would be that.  Well, the sandwich had a PILE of bacon in it.  We’re talking at least 8 strips of bacon.   I ate a pile of bacon for lunch, and I had absolutely no regrets.

Apple, Bacon and Goat Cheese Salad w/ Ginger Vinaigrette

Yield:  4 servings

5 oz. baby spinach
4 oz. goat cheese
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 Fuji apple, quartered and diced
8 strips of applewood-smoked bacon

Ginger Vinaigrette
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
sea salt
black pepper

1.  In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high heat until crispy, around 8 minutes.  Remove from skillet and place on a paper towel-lined plate.
2.  Meanwhile, place spinach on 4 plates.
3.  Crumble goat cheese and distribute evenly, along with walnuts and apples, over each salad.
3.  Roughly chop cooked bacon and distribute onto salads.
4.  Add olive oil to a medium-sized bowl.  Whisk in lemon juice, ginger, sea salt and black pepper.  Dress salads, toss, and serve.