French Lentils with Crème Fraîche and Chives

Vermont Creamery provided ingredients for this recipe.

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Here's a recipe to prove that the lowly lentil can be fancy and sophisticated, and really delicious. You could serve this for a casual dinner party, with a simple salad and a bottle of wine––won't you seem chic!? But they are easy (and cheap) enough to cook for a night when you're feeding only yourself. If you're lucky, you'll have leftovers to eat for lunch: warm them and toss them with grainy mustard, more olive oil, a little vinegar and some peppery greens––they're reinvented! And the extra crème fraîche and chives you have left will be as beautiful on scrambled eggs or omelets as they are on this elegant bowl of lentils.

French Lentils with crème fraîche and Chives

serves 3 as a main course, 4-6 as a side dish

  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 large shallot
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 pound (1 heaping cup) French lentils
  • sprig thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • crème fraîche, for serving
  • chopped chives, for serving

1. Cut the celery, carrot, and shallot into very fine dice, nearly as small as a lentil: this is your mirepoix. In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté the mirepoix in 1 Tablespoon olive oil until the vegetables brown a little. Add the wine, and simmer until it reduces by half. 

2. Add the lentils, a sprig of time, and 2 cups of water. Simmer until the lentils are tender but firm, and much of the water is gone. If the water disappears before the lentils are tender, add a bit more and keep simmering. Er on the side of undercooking when you turn off the stove.

3. Season the pot of cooked lentils with salt and freshly ground pepper, and the remaining 2 Tablespoons of olive. Cover the pot and let the seasoning settle in for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm lentils in shallow bowls with a generous dollop of crème fraîche and liberal sprinkling of chopped chives on each bowlful.

Apple and Rye Pancakes with Crème Fraîche

Vermont Creamery provided ingredients for this recipe.

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The humble pancake is as infinitely variable as it is easy to make. Mixing basic pancakes from scratch takes maybe a minute or two longer than ones from a packaged mix. This variation with apples, rye flour and crème fraîche asks only that you slice an apple and add one extra ingredient (and if rye flour is not on your shelf, that you shop the day before). 

Buttermilk might not be a pantry staple for you, but let me make the case. I don't really drink milk, I use it mostly for baking. Real buttermilk, because it's cultured, lasts longer, and it makes more tender and flavorful cakes, biscuits, and pancakes. It's not hard to use up a quart. It's tang compliments the rye flour in this recipe, as does crème fraîche.

If you're not familiar with crème fraîche, it's thick cultured cream. It tastes rich, subtly complex, and slightly sour. The best use, as far as I'm concerned, is to serve it with fresh berries: dessert in an instant! But berries aren't in season now. In this batter, crème fraîche makes the pancakes rich and tender, and served on top it's like whipped cream for grown-ups.

Apple Rye Pancakes

serves 2 hungry adults

  • 1 medium apple
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (or 1/2 teaspoon table salt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche, plus more for serving
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • butter and maple syrup for serving

1. Peel and core the apple, and cut it into very thin slices. Set aside. Heat a griddle to 375, or a skillet over medium-high heat. Heat the oven to 150-200 degrees, and set out an oven-safe plate or pan.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: rye flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg. Whisk in the crème fraîche, then the buttermilk. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir only long enough to moisten the flour–lumps are ok and stirring too much will make rubbery pancakes!    

3. Swipe the griddle or pan with butter to grease it. Dollop about 1/4 cup of dough onto it, spreading it out sou it's about 1/2 inch thick. Press a few apple slices into the top of the dough. Cook until the bottom edge look firm, and you see a few bubbles in the top of the pancake. Flip, and cook a few minutes more. Place the finished pancake on the oven-safe plate or pan, and keep warm it in the oven. Repeat until you've used up all the dough.

4. Serve warm pancakes with butter, maple syrup and crème fraîche.

 

You might also like:

5 Things to Put on Pancakes when You're Out of Maple Syrup


Good Morning, Blueberry Corn Muffins

A basket of warm blueberry muffins on the breakfast table is a romantic notion, but in fact it's quite easy to execute. You can mix them up as quickly as pancakes and they bake for just twenty minutes--long enough to brew coffee and set the table (or wash your face and put some pants on).

I grew up a quarter mile from a u-pick blueberry farm, just across the river. When I was little, my whole family would walk down the road with pails and fill them up with berries, plopping and plinking the fruit into our mouths and buckets. Muffins, pies and jams followed. When I was old enough to walk to the blueberry farm by myself, I'd bring along my pet goats and tie them up to a fencepost while I picked. What a silly sight we must have been!

The freezer is still full of blueberries whenever I visit my folks. Making blueberry muffins always takes me home. 


Blueberry Corn Muffins

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup fine cornmeal

1 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup melted butter

1 1/4 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon demerara (raw) sugar 

scant 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

 

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners. 

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and soda, salt, and sugar.

3. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg; mix in the milk, and then the butter. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing as little as possible. Lumps are ok! Toss the blueberries with 1/4 cup flour, then fold them in too.

4. Divide the batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups. Mix the demerara sugar and cinammon in a small bowl, then sprinkle the mixture over the tops of the muffins.

5. Put the muffins in the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer goes off, rotate the pan, then bake the muffin for 10 more minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops are browned a little.

6. Serve warm or at room temperature. These will keep for a day or two wrapped in a clean dish towel.

 

Hannah's Hint: The key to tender muffins is not to mix too much! 

 

Soothing Sorbet

Cool melon and mint, slushy and a little sweet: this may be the most refreshing thing I’ve ever eaten! Sorbet is quite easy to make if you have an ice cream maker. If you don't, the same mixture makes fantastic ice pops. I suggest you try some of both!

 

Cantaloupe & Mint Sorbet

  • ½ cantaloupe (about 1 ½ pounds)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • ¾ cup mint simple syrup (recipe follows)
  • small mint sprigs for garnish 

1. Cut the cantaloupe into cubes–you should have about 4 cups–and put it in a blender. Add the lime juice and syrup. Blend until smooth.

2. Churn in an ice cream maker until it holds together. Serve immediately, garnished with mint sprigs. Whatever you can’t eat right away you can thaw and re-churn, or freeze as ice pops.

 

Mint Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • one bunch mint, stems removed

1. Stir together the boiling water and sugar to dissolve; this is your simple syrup. Put it in the refrigerator until it’s cool to the touch.

 2. Add the mint to the cooled simple syrup. Steep for at least an hour, but ideally overnight. Strain, and discard the leaves. This syrup will keep well for a few weeks, and is wonderful for sorbets and summer cocktails like mint juleps.

 

Herb Butter

You could spoon melted herb butter over pan-cooked steak. Spread it, softened to room temperature, on thick slices of sourdough. Toss green beans with a spoonful of it and a squeeze of lemon. Whisk a dollop into a sauce or creamy soup. I’m eating a sandwich spread thick with the stuff as I write this.

Herb butter is a simple way to season all sorts of things, and to use up those bunches of herbs that always seem to wilt before you can finish them. (And it makes a lot more sense to me than putting olive oil in ice cube trays.)

It’s nearly as easy to make as it is to use. Chop up any combination of herbs, to make two to four tablespoons. Stir the herbs into a stick of room temperature butter. You could add salt too, if the butter is unsalted. Press the herb butter into a dish and refrigerate it, or if you won’t get to it in a week or two you can freeze it rolled in saran wrap.

Now you’re ready to dollop and spread, season and savor.

Rhubarb: Three Memories and a Recipe

Our rhubarb plant, with it’s dark green umbrella-like leaves shooting out from brilliant ruby stalks, grew lushly in the back corner of the garden, across from the compost pile and the raspberry patch. Even the chickens wouldn’t eat the toxic greenery, but my mom had taught me to break off the stems and dip them in sugar for a sweet-tart treat (and the leaves made a nice parasol for a little girls). My mouth still puckers just thinking about it.
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Tatsoi and Eggs with Crispy Spring Shallots

My friend Kate can tell you who grows the best watermellon radishes, when and where to get lovage, and which stalls to check out at the farmers markets in New York City any day of the week. If I want to plan a special dinner two months from now, Kate can tell me what will be in season. If I want to make a batch of Tequila Por Me Amante (I'll give you that recipe soon), she'll show up at my door with a flat of the first local strawberries. Even with all that esoteric knowledge, she's a down-to-earth cook.

I'd only dreamed of Kate doing my grocery shopping, but now she does. If you live in New York, her new company, Quinciple, will deliver a weekly box of reasonably priced farm-fresh food. I've been having a lot of fun with what Kate brings me, and now I'm contributing some recipes for the neat little set of cards that comes in each box. A version of Tatsio and Eggs with Crispy Shallots was in this weeks Quinciple box. You can find the ingredients any time of year in Chinatown if not at the farmers market.

Tatsoi and Eggs with Crispy Spring Shallots

  • 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce, best you can find
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 5-6 spring shallots (or scallions), cleaned and dried
  • 3 Tablespoons good canola or peanut oil
  • pinch kosher salt
  • ¾ pound (1 bunch) tatsoi*, stems trimmed and separated, cleaned and dried
  • 1 cup loose-packed cilantro leaves, cleaned and dried
  • 2 eggs
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • serve with rice or rice vermicelli

*baby bok choy works just as well

1. This dish works best cooked in a wok. Any wok will do, as long as it’s not non-stick. The keys to a good stir-fry are a very hot pan and very dry vegetables (so they don’t steam and get mushy). Once all the ingredients are prepped, the cooking goes quickly.

2. Set your wok over low heat while you prepare your ingredients. Make the sauce. Zest one of the limes into a small bowl. Juice both the limes into the bowl (you should have about 2 Tablespoons juice). Stir in the fish sauce and sugar. Set aside.

3. Trim off and discard the roots of the shallots. Cut the dark green tops off, leaving about 2 inches of white and pale green stalk. Chop the dark green tops into thin rings; set aside. Slice the pale base of the stalks lengthwise on a slight diagonal, to make one-inch strips. Set aside.

4. Make sure all your ingredients are ready to cook. Turn the wok to medium-high. Set out a serving plate for the finished dish. Set out a bowl with a sieve or tea strainer over it.

5. When the wok is visibly hot and you can feel the heat radiating if you hold you hand over it, add the oil. Let the oil heat for just 30 seconds before adding the pale part of the shallots. Stir the shallots in the sizzling oil, keeping it just below the smoking point, until they are golden brown (they will continue to cook to dark brown as you remove them from the pan). Pour shallots and oil into the sieve. Reserve the oil in the bowl. Sprinkle the shallots with kosher salt.

6. Return 1 Tablespoon of the oil to the hot wok. Keeping it over a high flame, add the tatsoi. Toss it around the wok for a minute or two, until it’s uniformly bright green and barely becoming tender. Transfer it to the serving plate.

7. Add the remaining oil to the pan, and let it heat for 30 seconds. Crack the two eggs into the pan. Break the yolks. Fry undisturbed until the edges are crispy and golden. Flip, and break into bite-sized pieces. Quickly add back the tatsoi along with the sauce and sliced scallion-tops; toss everything together. Transfer to the serving plate, add the cilantro leaves and crispy shallots, and season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve warm, with rice or rice vermicelli.

Goat Milk Custard with Pomegranate Molasses

Goat Milk Custard with Pomegranate Molasses

You know when you travel somewhere foreign, but there's something about the place that makes you feel like you've come home? That's how pomegranate molasses tastes to me. Its sweet floral tang is mysteriously familiar. I find myself mixing it with seltzer, substituting it for balsamic vinegar and adding it to desserts–even sneaking a spoonful from the fridge now and then.

Pomegranate molasses might sound exotic to American cooks, but it’s cheap and pretty easy to find. Middle Eastern markets stock it right next to the rose water and orange blossom water (at 1/3 the price they sell for at Whole Foods, you might want to pick those up too).

Here's a sweet recipe to get you started–Goat Milk Custard with Pomegranate Molasses. Serve this effortless and sophisticated dessert to impress dinner guests. While the ingredients may seem exotic, the preparation is simple. You don’t even have to turn the oven on.

Goat Milk Custard with Pomegranate Molasses

  • 4 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1-2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup goat milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla, or seeds scraped from on vanilla bean
  • fresh pomegranate seeds for garnish

1. Pour one tablespoon of pomegranate molasses into each of four small ramekins. Set aside.

2. In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the yolks, egg and sugar until well mixed and a little frothy. Slowly whisk in the milk. Stir in the salt.

3. Gently warm the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it begins to thicken watch closely, it will cook fast. Turn off the heat when it’s about not quite as thick as runny yogurt. Whisk in the vanilla.

4. Carefully spoon or pour the custard into the ramekins, dividing it equally between them. Place them in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, until set. They’re best consumed within a day, but will keep for a few days.

5. Sprinkle some fresh pomegranate seeds on top before serving.

 

I say frittata

Fritatta, Spanish tortilla, flat omelet–whatever you want to call a skillet of beaten eggs baked with stuff–this is my favorite dish to serve last minute guests. Brother and his friends stopping by on their way through town? Potluck to attend? Fridge looking nearly empty? If there are eggs, you can make a fritatta.

Here’s how I do it. Look at what’s on hand and gather some ingredients: potatoes, greens or parsley, cheese, eggs, olive oil. Heat the oven to 375°F. Pour about 1/8 inch of olive oil into a cast iron skillet. Coat the sides with some of the oil. Thinly slice the potatoes, lay them in the skillet, and put it in the oven.

Now you have some time to fix your hair or wash the dishes while the potatoes soften. Check them after 15 minutes. Take the pan out of the oven when the potatoes are fork-tender but firm.

Chop up the parsley or greens (unless you’re using salad mix or baby greens), then scatter it over the potatoes. Shred or crumble a cup or so of cheese and sprinkle that on. Beat some eggs (I use about 8 for a ten inch pan) with a little salt and pepper, and a splash of milk or cream if you want. Pour the eggs over everything. I like to sprinkle a little more cheese on top.

Bake this until the eggs are nearly set, but a little wiggly in the middle. If it seems like it’s taking forever, turn the oven up to broil. Cool for a few minutes before slicing. You can serve frittata warm or at room temperature. It’s fine to make it hours ahead. I like to set out salt & pepper, hot sauce, and fancy ketchup and let everyone season their slice of fritatta as they like.

Pantry really really bare? Just onions and dried herbs will do, especially if you have a sprinkle of parmesan for the top. Just sauté sliced onion in the pan until translucent before adding anything else. Mix the herbs into the beaten eggs. Proceed as above.

You could also add leftover cooked vegetables instead of greens, or stew some canned tomatoes in the pan for a few minutes with sautéed onions. It’s hard to go wrong. And the leftovers make great sandwiches.

Quick Sriracha Pickles

I hadn’t thought about what I would do with pounds of cucumbers, but I bought them because they were on sale. The next morning, still bleary-eyed, I improvised these quick pickles while I waited for my coffee-making water to boil. They turned out so delicious that I went back to the market for another sack of cheap cucumbers, and then another.

If I could make these before my first cup of coffee, then the clumsiest novice cook will be equally successful. The sriracha (aka cock sauce) does all the work of seasoning, so you don’t even need to peel garlic! These aren’t the kind of pickles you’d put up for next winter, but I doubt you could resist eating them that long anyway. You might catch me sneaking one straight from the fridge before breakfast.

 

Quick Sriracha Pickle Recipe

  • cucumbers, preferably English, Persian, or Kirby
  • vinegar, white or cider
  • kosher salt*
  • sriracha

*table salt is fine too, but it will make the brine cloudy because it contains anti-caking agents.

Cut the cucumbers into whatever shape appeals to you, I’ve been going for spears. Pack them into a jar, leaving at least half an inch of space at the top. Fill the jar halfway with vinegar, then fill it the rest of the way with cold water, so the liquid covers the pickles but isn’t spilling over the top. Add a heaping spoonful or two of salt, more than you might think. Squeeze in some sriracha: if you like it hot, use a lot. I like just enough to tint the water pink, so they’re flavored but not really spicy. Close the jar and shake it. Put the pickles in the fridge, and wait at least six hours before you eat them.

Flash Stir-fried Pea Greens

For a good stir-fry, you need a very hot wok and very dry vegetables. Heat your wok over a high flame for a few minutes, until you can feel the heat radiating from the sides when you hold your hand above it. While it’s heating, peel a few cloves of garlic, and get your sauce handy: soy or fish.

Turn the heat down to medium. Splash some oil, a tablespoon or two, into the wok. It must be oil with a high burn point like canola or safflower, NOT olive oil.  Throw in the garlic; tumble it around until it turns golden, in a matter of seconds.

Throw in a handful (or three) of clean dry pea greens. Shuffle them about for only as long as it takes for their color to change, to a deeper vibrant green with a gloss of oil. Turn the tendrils out of the wok, sprinkle and toss them with soy or fish sauce (or both), and serve with rice.

Ohanami Onigiri おはなみのおにぎり

Onigiri are easy to make, and all the ingredients are available in most American supermarkets. Hand formed balls of rice with a savory filling, wrapped in nori seaweed, these are a perfect picnic snack. My favorite filling is ume-boshi, Japanese pickled plums. Canned tuna mixed with mayonnaise is a popular filling, and one that doesn’t require a trip to a specialty grocer.

Onigiri Recipe

sushi rice
salt
filling
of your choice
nori*

Cooking good sushi rice in a pan requires patience and precision, a rice cooker makes it easy. In whichever vessel you’ll cook it in, rinse the rice in several changes of cool water, until the water runs clear. Cook the rice. When it is done, spread it on a plate to cool slightly.

Mix a few spoonfuls of salt into a bowl of cool water. It should taste like sea water. Dip your (very clean) hands into the water: to season the rice and keep it from sticking to your hands.

Cradle a small handful of rice in one hand. Make an indentation in the middle. Place a teaspoon or less of your filling in the indentation. Press another small handful of rice on top.

Traditionally, onigiri is shaped into a triangle. Bend your hands into right angles, and press the rice into the angle of your hand. Rotate and squeeze the onigiri to form its corners (nigiri means squeeze).

Wrap a small piece of nori around the onigiri. To preserve its crunch, wait to add the seaweed until you are ready to eat.

*Japanese markets and some grocery stores carry small strips of seasoned nori, perfect for onigiri. If you can’t find those, cut sheets of sushi nori to a manageable size (to make them extra delicious, you can brush them with soy sauce and toast them for a few seconds under a broiler).

Hard Boiled Heaven

egg cookery part 2

 

My mom used to pack a hard boiled egg in a wax-paper bag with salt & pepper at the bottom for my school lunch. I'd peel the egg and dip it in the seasoning. It was a way of doing things she'd picked up from European train stations while backpacking after college. I still love to eat eggs this way. These are my criteria for a great hard boiled egg:

1. easy to peel

2. yolk doesn't turn grey-green

3. white not rubbery

My Perfect Fried Egg

I love sopping up a gooey yolk with a thick piece of toast. In this video, see how I make my perfect fried egg. Yes, that's tons of butter, but I don't eat this every day!

Why butter instead of olive oil? Olive oil has a higher burn point than butter; the butter tells you when it's getting too hot because it starts to brown. Cooking the egg at that lower temperature yields a tender texture. Also, butter just tastes good! You can replace some of the butter with water, but then it splatters a lot. Another less-butter method is to put a lid over the pan to hold the heat and steam in: this works, but changes the texture.

How do you make your perfect fried egg? Please comment.