Spring

linguineEvery Friday night I like to do pasta night. I love pasta dishes because they're quick to make and so satisfying to eat. And they don't at all need to be complicated. Sometimes all you need are a few pantry staples like canned tomatoes, capers, or olives to make a delicious sauce that doesn't take hours to cook. That's the true appeal of pasta.

Oftentimes when I don't feel like eating meat I'll whip together a vegetarian-style pasta or I'll make a quick Carbonara. Other times I'll make pasta with fish, adding seared cubes of fish to finish cooking in the sauce—you'd be surprised how wonderful fish is with tomato sauce. This recipe for pasta with swordfish is one of my favorites.

The best part about this recipe is that you use one pan (not including the pasta pot). Start by making the lemon and parsley crumb topping. Then wipe out the pan and sear the fish. And finally make the sauce and cook the pasta. Once it's all done, add the fish back to the pan along with the pasta to let the flavors mingle. Serve the pasta sprinkled with the crumbs instead of grated Parmesan, since cheese on fish is frowned upon by Italians (and I happen to agree with that assessment). Enjoy this dish for dinner any night—it's also great for Lent.

Read more ...

mixedgreens.jpgBags of organic arugula at the store always tempt me. "Buy me!" they say, "Eat salad for a week, it'll be great!" Of course after three or four days the bag is half full and the contents start to look rather wilted and sad. Then comes regret. Why did I buy that bag in the first place? Recently I found the solution to the problem of wilting greens, a problem that I'm guessing may also be yours. 

It turns out arugula is quite wonderful when lightly sauteed in olive oil. It's somewhat bitter and earthy but in a good way. It's even better if you mix it with some other greens. I use a bit of frozen spinach which is mild but silky and some fresh escarole which has a lovely spring flavor and juiciness when it's cooked. The mixture of flavors and textures creates a compelling dish that isn't just a terrific side dish, but begs to be layered in a grilled cheese sandwich. With or without ham or bacon, this is good stuff!

Read more ...

beet.jpgCilantro haters have been vindicated.

The New York Times recently ran a story: Cilantro Haters, It's Not Your Fault, in which Harold McGee, respected food scientist and author, explained why cilantro really does taste like soap to many people.

According to experts from flavor chemists to neuroscientists, some people "may be genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro." Turns out that cilantro's aroma is created by fragments of fat molecules called aldehydes. Flavor chemists have shown that "the same or similar aldehydes are also found in soaps and lotions...."

So cilantro-haters are not crazy after all. But what about beet-haters? Why do so many people say beets taste like dirt or metal? Is it chemistry? Canned beets? Craziness?

Mention beets and people react extremely. Lovers wax that beets are as sweet as sugar. Haters wane that they're dull as dirt. Literally. This could be because they failed to properly clean their beets and ate dirt, which studies have shown tastes like dirt.

Read more ...

kalemixLet’s talk about spring greens, specifically baby kale. I am very excited that baby kale is finally making it into mainstream supermarkets. I’ve seen more of it just in the last couple months, since I first mentioned it in a blog post back in February. Mostly I am excited because baby kale is a much more versatile veggie than mature kale. It is also tastier, more tender, and a whole lot more palatable. Roy and Farmer both eat the stuff without blinking.

I’ve never been a big fan of the tough leaves of huge, curly-type kales, and in fact, when I wrote Fast, Fresh & Green four years ago, I insisted that everyone par-boil kale before using it in most other dishes, or confine it to soups and braises. I still think it’s a good idea to soften kale first before adding it to pastas or gratins, but now I don’t necessarily freak out when I see chefs and cooks “sautéing” raw kale. With a young or tender variety, a simple sauté is just fine. (But try “sautéing” the older, tougher leaves and you will still have something pretty chewy on your plate.) I’m even embracing kale salads!

Read more ...

fishfiddleheads.jpg One cooking feat that has eluded me until now is searing fish with extra crispy skin. I've finally managed to do it after much experimentation and lamentation. After eating so many fish dishes with crispy skin in restaurants, some so crispy that it seemed I was eating a potato chip, I've wanted to try cooking it myself. The technique I use here is a lot like the one used on roasting chicken, where you smear it with butter before setting it in the oven to ensure a crispy brown skin. Here I smear the salmon skin with butter and sear it skin-side down. The result is not only crispy but also a lovely brown—it's just delicious.

For a unique springtime pairing, I adore fiddlehead ferns, which can only be found in early spring. You won't necessarily find them at the market since their harvested in the wild, but more likely at the farmers' market. But it just so happens that I did find mine at my local supermarket to my surprise. They were so beautiful that I couldn't resist buying a bagful. They look quite funny, because they're actually unfurled fern leaves. Don't worry, they are edible. Some say they taste like a cross between asparagus and artichoke, but I think they taste even better—of fresh spring.

Read more ...