Monday, February 25, 2013

Winter Bright Salad

A while back, I was visiting my friend Ali in Brooklyn, and, when lunchtime rolled around, we got a salad from her friend Anna’s unbelievably good Italian restaurant Al Di La (if you are ever near there, please try to stop by and eat even just one thing from her menu). This salad was called Winter White and if I’d never eaten Anna’s food before, I would not have been enticed by the description of it: raw vegetables, mostly roots (turnips, celery root, and radishes), but also fennel, cauliflower, fennel, and leeks, thinly sliced, lightly dressed, and topped with a bit of crumbled blue cheese. It sounds about as exciting as notebook paper, but it was, of course, extremely, shockingly delicious. And now I’m a little obsessed.
We don't exactly scream "salad". . . 
The fact of that salad, combined with the fact that we continue to reap the grubby, endless root harvest from our CSA share, has inspired me to rethink the way I go about preparing a salad in wintertime. I’m starting to be less about the lettuce and other “boughten greens” (as I like to say, like Ma Ingalls), and more about the veggies that are actually right here, in the house with us, begging to be seen and understood for the bright, crisp sweetness that lies beneath their earthy hides. Hence this recipe.
but we clean up nice!
I tried making it with finely sliced vegetables first (also done on the mandolin), and that was good too, but everyone likes it better this way: everything finely julienned, which I accomplish easily if treacherously on my beloved Benriner. You could grate the vegetables in the food processor or on a box grater, and it would be a little shaggier and juicier as a salad, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing—but I do love the beauty of the distinct twiggy lines of color here.

The salad is good as is—which is how we are mostly eating it—but you could also use it to top a simple collection of green leaves, or as a taco or sandwich filling. You can use any good, sharp vinaigrette (we are still using this, which Ben makes for us in big batches every five days or so) and add cheese or not (a handful of coarsely grated parmesan is our favorite right now). A couple of anchovies would be heavenly—but I defer to the vegetarian in the house.

Oh, and the veggies. As long as they’re sweet and delicious, use any firm friends you’ve got kicking around: carrots, beets, and turnips (like I use here), but also rutabagas, radishes, celery root, or parsnips, in addition to other crisp, hard winter veggies like cauliflower and fennel. And then add some herbs if you like—a handful of parsley just brightens everything up so beautifully, doesn’t it?

p.s. Thank you all for your sweet anniversary (bone-iversary! you remembered!) wishes. xo

Winter Bright Salad
Makes 4 servings (this is a dense salad)

The herbs and cheese are optional here. Leftovers are fantastic.

Enough winter veggies (carrots, beets, turnips, rutabagas, radishes, celery root, parsnips, cauliflower, and/or fennel) scrubbed or peeled and finely sliced, julienned or grated to make around 2 or 3 packed cups
A good, garlicky or shallot-y vinaigrette, see below (you'll use around 1/3-1/2 cup, or so)
½ cup slivered parsley (or a couple tablespoons of another fresh herb of your choosing)
1/3 cup coarsely grated parmesan or crumbled blue cheese or feta (optional)

Toss the veggies with some of the dressing to taste then, um, taste it. If it needs a little more something to brighten the flavor, consider adding an extra splash of vinegar and/or a pinch of salt rather than more of the vinaigrette. Add the parsley and/or cheese, toss again, and taste. Serve right away, or cover it and eat it later (but taste it again at that point--you may need to drain off some liquid and redress it).

Actually, I'll just re-post the vinaigrette here, for the sake of ease. You won't use it all, but leftovers are so great to have around.

Perfect Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup

1 clove garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon dried marjoram (or oregano, if you prefer)
2 teaspoons kosher salt (or half as much are you even paying attention?)

Shake it up in a jar. Store it in the fridge.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Be Mine

This year's Valentine's Day shirt was based on our new favorite character from this movie
I've probably mentioned that I make the kids t-shirts every year. Others have been more classically romantic. . .
This one, made with an old-lace napkin. (Me, choked up over that little Ben face? Don't be silly!)
Or this, made by painting over a doily (see link below).
And every year I feed them yogurt with a heart of raspberries arranged on it.
So Birdy was just little then. Who even cares? [sob]

And I make the table super-fancy. Or as super-fancy as one can get without remembering if there is an iron, and where it might be.
The bad photo quality might make this look depressingly like your grandma's tenement-era apartment.

And I make some sort of a treat.
I have no feelings about this face whatsoever. [sob]

Nothing says "I love you" like root vegetables!
Valentine's Day is my number-one favorite holiday of the year! It is possibly the only holiday that never, ever results in me tantruming around the house referring to such things as "the fucking turkey" (as in "Maybe next year you can stick your hand inside the fucking turkey.") or "the fucking teacher gifts" or "the fucking snowflake garland that I have now sewn my sleeve into" or "the fucking oven mitt that is on fire, you asshole." In fact, it could be that I have never once cursed with respect to Valentine's Day! Although, having said that, I admit that it's unlikely to be true.

If you need a quick last minute idea, I've got loads scattered around the internet! Try one of these:
  • For truly quick and lovely doily-print t-shirts, click here.
  • For PBJ thumbprint heart cookies, click here.
  • For our romantic musings on paint colors, click here. (warning: not a useful idea!)
  • For my fancy doily-patterned cake, click here.
  • For little kids, a Valentine lacing card here.
  • For a romantic heart-beet salad, click here.
  • And for the oldy-but-goody of Birdy's preschool cards, click here. (warning: not a useful idea!)
Happy Valentine's Day, my sweethearts.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Mid-winter Pursuits

Blowing bubbles in the snow. (Have you heard about the snow here? Two feet! The children have grown hunchbacks and long beards since they last went to school.)

And teaching herself to play the guitar, which she is doing beautifully. Ben, meanwhile, is learning the ukulele. This ukulele, in fact, which he bought with his birthday money. If I had a single musical cell in my body, we could have quite the family string band!

All stop-motion animation all the time. His latest movie is here, and it features his own original ukelele soundtrack! (Don't believe his generous credits; this is really all him now, although, yes, I did wrap that teeny-tiny package, and Birdy did draw the ad.) The rest are all here. You can even subscribe, if you like, which will thrill him no end.

Watching the snow from the nest of Ben's bed. And also sleeping.

This particular cat posture is called "Bunny Feet."
Blanket-making (Tutorial coming soon! I actually took pictures this time!)


My friend Amity's brand-new book, which is harrowing and unforgettable (and--yay!--getting rave reviews all over the place). It's a little like Room, which I also loved, in that it's a story about parenting under duress and you're not sure how you feel about anything. I couldn't put it down.

You can't see the jalapenos, but I swear they are in there.
Jalapeno-Cream-Cheese Scrambled Eggs. A new eggy favorite, although the Vinegar Egg is still my truest love. To make this new-comer, beat an egg in a cup with a nice pinch of salt and a teaspoon of cold water. Heat a generous half tablespoon of butter in a small pan over medium-low heat. When it's hot, add the egg to the pan with a tablespoon of cream cheese and a tablespoon of chopped pickled jalapenos (I blot them dry first on a paper towel). Scramble until done to your liking. (Easily doubled.) Yum.

Also nagging everybody about snowy boots and Lego everywhere and, most romantically, Valentines, and why haven't you done them yet? [No photo.]

Shoveling. And shoveling.
(Thank you, sweetheart! Kiss kiss kiss.)

What are you guys doing? Is it snowy there?


Monday, February 04, 2013

Adobo Carnitas

I have a chicken-wing hangover today, so these photographs are not actually as unbearably tempting as they typically would be.

Meat that has been cooked into submission and is collapsing into succulent shreds might really be my favorite thing to eat in the world. So, if you want me to say something I like about February, besides the spring light of morning, it’s that. Long-cooked meat. It might not sound like much, but it’s good.

Although they are still pretty tempting, actually.
Although, and now this is February speaking through me more sighingly, I am having a little trouble feeding my kids lately, my kids who are bifurcating into a blood-smeared teenaged carnivore—like something out of a vampire movie—and a doe-eyed, leaf-chewing herbivore. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That Ben’s actually going to end up eating Birdy? I know. Thank goodness everybody likes beans is all I can say.

This recipe is so easy and so good. You can cook it in a crock pot and stop at the point where the meat is falling apart, and it’s delicious. I cook chicken legs this way, and also pork chops. Yum. Or, and here’s where things get crazy, you can cook it in a Dutch oven, and then finish it on the stove top, watching closely as the liquid evaporates and the pork starts to brown in its own fat. We call this adobo carnitas, and it is pretty much as good as you can imagine: the vinegar boils away into a profound and tangy sweetness, and the meat goes all crisp-edged, and all that fat you would have skimmed off if you were serving it at the stew stage—well, it all mysteriously “evaporates”! Just like that. It’s gone, so don’t give it another thought.

We eat this in tacos or burritos mostly or, as shown above, in a pile of shreds on a plate.

Edited to add: This is similar, but not identical, to the "Pork So Good It Could Make You Cry," thank you for wondering! The flavor is different (bay/pepper/onion/garlic/vinegar here versus scallion/ginger/sugar/sherry there) even though the sweet/salty succulence is the same.
This is the meat in the crock pot, stopped at the stew point. It is juicy and delicious like this.
Pork Adobo
If you stop at the stew stage, serve this over rice. If you take it all the way to carnitas, eat it in tacos or by itself, since it won’t be saucy any more. As noted above, feel free to swap in chicken legs or thighs (cook these for 2 hours or so) or bone-in pork chops (ditto) and stop at the stew stage.

1 onion, halved and sliced
4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
2 bay leaves
¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
4 pounds pork (country ribs, a Boston butt, or a boneless picnic shoulder)
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup white vinegar
1 cup water

Put the onions, garlic, bay leaves, and peppercorns in the bottom of a crock pot or Dutch oven. Add the pork, then pour the liquids over it, cover it, and cook it: in the crock pot, this means high heat for 6 hours or some lower heat for more hours; in the Dutch oven, this means tightly covered in a 325 oven for 4 or so hours, but you’ll need to check it every hour or so make sure there’s still liquid in there. Add water if there’s not.

The pork should be inclined to fall all to pieces—to shred up if you even so much as press it with a wooden spoon. At this point, remove any bones and any obvious solid clumps of fat, skim the surface, and serve over rice.

Or: cook it in on the stove top, in the Dutch oven, over low heat, until all the liquid boils off and the meat starts to fry in its own fat. Watch closely at the end so that it doesn’t burn. Die happy.

You probably already have everything but the pork. 
If your pork comes with those weird stretchy undies that keep the maxipad in place after you have a baby in the hospital--just remove them! 
Shouldn't you brown the pork and onions? No! Easy, right? 
Everybody gets really well acquainted in here. There won't be enough liquid to cover, but it doesn't matter.
A different meal, cooking it to the carnitas phase in the Dutch oven.