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Photo by  Andrew Scrivani of NY Times

Photo by Andrew Scrivani of NY Times

The frost has left the ground, the daffodils, hyacinths and forsythia are all in bloom BUT we’re still a ways from seeing any of the grand summer fruits and vegetables. :(

What to do when you’re hungering for some greens and a hot meal on a cool (almost cold) night?  I adapted this recipe from one I saw in the NY Times.  I dumbed it down a bit for myself to make it easier and quicker and it worked just fine.  It has the warm triumvirate of Tunisian spices – coriander, cumin and caraway.

COLLARD GREENS TAGINE WITH FLAGEOLETS

INGREDIENTS

1 15oz can of small white beans

1 large onion

4 large garlic cloves; 2 crushed, 2 minced

1 tsp of coriander seeds  ( I used crushed)

1 tsp of caraway seeds

2 tsp cumin seeds ( I used crushed)

2 TBS EV olive oil

1 large fennel bulb, cored, diced, fronds chopped and reserved for garnish

Salt to taste

1 tsp paprika or Aleppo pepper

1 lg jalapeno, minced (about 2 TBS)* I substituted harissa sauce which I had in refrigerator

2 TBS tomato paste ( I put the rest of the can in a small plastic bag, flattened it and put in freezer)

1# (large bunch) Collard greens ( I used pre-washed and cut bag)

1 large bunch cilantro, chopped – about 1 cup and some for garnish

2 TBS minced preserved lemon (optional)

Cooked grains or couscous for serving (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Cut onion in half; cut one of the halves in half and chop the rest. Set aside chopped onion and put the quarters in a pot with the drained beans.  Add 5 cups of water (6 if serving over grains) and the crushed garlic and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Let simmer for about 30 minutes and remove garlic and onion and discard.

Meanwhile in small skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat, toast corriander, cumin and caraway seeds together just till they begin to release their aroma, 2-3 minutes. * I only put the caraway seeds in the pan. Transfer to spice mill. * I didn’t have my spice mill so I smashed the seeds with a hammer. Put aside.

Heat oil over medium heat in large heavy skillet (I used my braising pan) and add remaining onion. Cook stirring till tender, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic, diced fennel and generous pinch of salt and cook another 5 minutes, until fennel has softened slightly.  Stir into beans* (since I was using braising pan, I added the beans and liquid to the braising pan). Add the ground spices, paprika, jalepeno if using or your substitute, and tomato paste and return to simmer. Cover and simmer 30 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile, stem and wash collard greens (so much easier to use bagged) Cut into 1/2″ strips.  If you have bought bagged and cut, then just slice in some semblance of strips.  Add collards to beans and vegetables. Bring back to a simmer and cover and simmer 15-30 minutes until greens are tender.  Stir in cilantro and chopped fennel fronds, simmer another 5 minutes.

**Ladle into wide soup bowls and if using preserved lemon, place a a tsp on each serving.  Garnish with chopped cilantro and fennel and serve.  I cooked some farro and put a portion in the bottom of the bowl before adding the stew. Or you can serve grains on the side.

Recipe from Martha Rose Schulman – NY Times

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Death is…final, painful, dark, lonely and forever.  And as the song goes,”…forever is a long, long time“.  Death is a passage, a cyclical expected conclusion.  We know death is nearby when a person is very old and frail.  Or when someone is suffering from an incurable disease.  Then death is welcomed with open arms.  We pray – please make the suffering stop and when our prayers are answered, we cry.  Isn’t this what we hoped for?  But loss is painful even when you know it’s inevitable. It feels like there’s an anvil sitting on your heart and you think the knot in your stomach and the lump in your throat will never go away.  The loss is real, the pain is real, our hearts are heavy.

Life is affirming, death is negating.

BUT, but.. what happens when death like the proverbial thief in the night, swoops in and steals a life? Who knew? NO ONE!!! Nobody knew death was lurking nearby, no one suspected the Angel of Death was about to pounce.  We didn’t know that yesterday was the last day we would ever see, hear or speak to our friend?  How could we know? There was no time to prepare ourselves for her SUDDEN DEATH.  The horror and shock and disbelief do little to take away the knife-like pain in your chest.  This isn’t a heavy heart, no, it feels like someone ripped your heart out!  Denial shows up and for a bit, you tell yourself this can’t be true.  She can’t be dead…I just saw her, I just texted her, we were together all day on Easter, I made her hat for God’s sake. And you don’t really believe it happened anyway – because sometimes the tragic truth is too much to bear, to comprehend.  Yet the pain, the searing, stabbing pain, you know it’s true.

What am I going to do? Where am I supposed to go? Why isn’t she sitting at the desk next to me? How could she do this to me?  Yes, pain is personal and self-involving.  I ask…why did you leave me? 

Sudden unexpected death is horrible., SNAP! Just like that. She was my friend and now she’s gone.  She was a mother and now the girls are motherless, she owned 2 adorable little dogs – what’s going to happen to them?  A whole life has to be dealt with; leases, electric bills, credit cards, phones and on and on.  Who is going to remember that there is food in the refrigerator?  Who stops all the mail? What will they do with all the furniture?  Shall I clean out your desk?  Our lives are filled with SO MUCH (stuff and such) that the dismantling of a life is one hell of job!

“…and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”.  I hope your soul and your spirit are in a good place.  You left us without warning and that wasn’t very nice of you.  I miss you already and wonder what I’m going to do without your laughter to make my day at the office fly by.  Who am I going to tell my Peter grocery store tales to?  Who am I going to walk home with?  It’s all very empty right now. 

I’m so sorry you’re gone, I’m so sorry you’re not here, I’m so sorry for your daughters and I’m so sorry for myself and my husband who misses you terribly.  He really did want to hang those drapes you know.  You have left behind so many people who are really really hurting right now but thank God, you left us with some wonderful memories and nobody can take those away.

See you in the ‘ hood…

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Pappardelle with Caramelized Onions

Pappardelle with Caramelized Onions

 This was supposed to be yesterday’s Friday meatless pasta but yesterday was spent cleaning the house and prepping for a small dinner party.  Just in case you were wondering  what I served and I hope you are, I made Chicken with Lemon and Olives and Rigatoni with Roasted Vegetables and Arugula.  I will post the chicken dish sometime soon. 

Back to today’s pasta – This dish is not a quick weeknight meal BUT certainly if you have about an hour and half  you will be rewarded with one delicious pasta dish.  We have to caramelize the onions first, so let’s start there with the Caramelized Onions.

INGREDIENTS:

6 TBS unsalted butter

15 medium yellow onions (about 6 lb), halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 tsp coarse salt or 1 tsp table salt

1 TBS sugar

DIRECTIONS:

In a 8 quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, melt butter over medium-high.  Add onions and salt.  Cook, stirring often, until softened and just beginning to brown, 35 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium.  Add sugar and cook, stirring often to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of pot, 35 -40 minutes (lower heat if bottom of pot begins to scorch).

When done, onions should be deep golden brown and have a jam-like consistency.  Remove from heat; season with salt.  Let cool completely.  (To store, refrigerate in an airtight container, up to 2 weeks)

INGREDIENTS:

Coarse salt and ground pepper

9 oz pappardelle or wide egg noodles

2 TBS EV olive oil

1 cup Caramelized Onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

1/2 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente.  While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet (braising pan) over medium-high.  Add onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant, 1 minute.

Remove 1 1/2 cups pasta water from pot and to skillet.  Drain pasta and add to skillet.  Cook, tossing occasionally, until liquid reduces to create a sauce that coats pasta, 3 minutes.  Add lemon juice and toss.  Serve pasta topped with parsley.

Recipe from Martha Stewart EveryDay Food

Did you ever wonder where things come from and where they end up?  Well, of course I’m not talking about something you bought in a store because we all know that item originated in China, Korea or Taiwan passed through the port of New York and ended up in Chicago!

Actually a friend of ours needed a curtain rod;  Not just any curtain rod, a certain kind that might extend the length of her oversized floor to ceiling window.  My husband prowled around all the obvious stores in the neighborhood and nothing was to be found.  He happened  to mention this when he was at the drugstore (and God only knows how you work that into a conversation) and the druggist mentioned he might have what we needed.  Why would the drugstore have a curtain rod?  Turns out, he owns the building and he is about to renovate the apartments  upstairs and invited Peter to go upstairs and help himself.  

It Looked Like This One

It Looked Like This One

He wandered through a couple of units and sure enough he found a lovely rod with finials and he removed the brackets that held and triumphantly returned home with his prize.  I took one look at it and said, “That won’t work”.  Sorry I deflated his balloon but facts are facts and it just wouldn’t fit.  

Naturally I wanted it to immediately find its way to the trash room but oh no, he thought it was good to throw out.  Once again for at least the 100th time, I remind him that items put in the trash room are hardly ever really thrown away.  First it has to get past the porters and the Super;  If they don’t need it or know of a tenant who can use it, it gets put out on the sidewalk with the bagged trash, BUT.  Things on the street in New York have a way of finding new homes for themselves long before the sanitation workers arrive.  However, apparently even this potential new life wasn’t good enough for this rod.  My husband wanted to give it to someone who needed it!

Naturally, if you know this household and the dynamics of our relationship, the rod hung around for a couple of weeks.  Finally I said,  “Enough is enough, out it goes”!  That certainly sent quivers through him and so I offered an alternative;  At least take it to the thrift shop and let someone who needs it, buy it.

It just so happened that he was on his way to New Jersey and so the rod, its brackets, a few books, two Beanie Babies and a stereo receiver and two speakers were sent to Habitats for Humanity in Asbury Park, NJ.  So as you think about it, the rod which began one of its lives in Manhattan will probably be holding up curtains somewhere on the Jersey Shore.

And there you have the life and times of a curtain rod or a weird version of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

Photo from eatwell101

Photo from eatwell101

It seems like all of the recipes coming from Ada Boni’s The Talisman Italian Cookbook either use spaghetti or rigatoni.  Personally as a kid growing up, my favorite was shells because I could scoop up sauce inside each one.  This dish was/is a standard in most Italian restaurants in America.  There are slight variations to this classic and I wonder how today’s great chefs like Batali and Colicchio make their Carbonara dishes.  This one is very simple as are most recipes in this cookbook.

INGREDIENTS:

1 lb spaghetti (#8)

1/4 b lean bacon diced

3/4 cup Romano or Parmesan cheese

3 eggs lightly beaten

1/4 cup white wine

1 tsp pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Cook spaghetti in rapidly boiling salted water until tender.  While spaghetti is cooking, fry bacon over low flame until bacon is crisp.  Add cheese (and wine) to beaten eggs.  Drain spaghetti and return to the pot.  Pour egg mixture over the hot spaghetti;  add pepper and two TBS of very hot bacon fat.  Stir.  The heat of the spaghetti should cook the egg mixture.  Transfer to hot platter; garnish with bacon.  Serve.

Call the cardiologist!

Recipe from The Talisman Italian Cook Book

The Macaroni Marathon has left old world Italian cooking (just for a while) and moved forward with yet another contemporary version of vegetarian pasta with beans for protein.  I’m telling you the combinations are seemingly endless!

INGREDIENTS:

8 oz rigatoni

2 cups broccoli florets

1 19 oz cannellini beans, rinsed, drained

2 tsp minced garlic

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup snipped basil leaves

2 slices of bread cut into small cubes

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Snipped basil for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

In Dutch oven cook pasta, adding broccoli during last 5 minutes of cooking.  Reserve 3/4 – 1 cup pasta water.  Drain pasta and broccoli and return to pot.

In large bowl combine beans, garlic and 3TBS oil.  Mash about 1/2 cup of the bean mixture.  Stir in basil, pasta water and 1/2 tsp salt.  Stir into the pasta and broccoli – Cover and keep warm.

Heat remaining oil over medium heat in frying pan.  Add bread cubes and red pepper.  Cook, stir 1-2 minutes until crisp.  Top pasta with croutons and basil.

Recipe from Better Homes & Garden

Yesterday was the first glorious day we’ve had here in NYC in a long time;  Not only was the sun out but it was also the first day of Daylight Savings Time and that makes everyone’s day that much brighter.  So even though I spent 5 hours at the office, I walked home and it was still so light out I felt like it was 3:00 in the afternoon instead of 5pm.  I stopped at Fairway to pick up some ingredients for dinner.  I had it in my mind to make a pasta dish and as I was walking I had a running debate going on in my head about exactly what would this dish be.  The roasted red onions and squash won out.   I knew it would be simple to throw together and that along with a salad and a warm baguette from Fairway, there would be plenty left over for Tuesday night’s supper.  That’s the night we are going to the movies on the West Side and won’t get home till around 8:30 pm so it’s nice to know there’s food ready to be heated up.

Roasted Red Onion and Squash Pasta

2 medium red onions, cut into 6 wedges, layers separated

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, cut into 3/4″ pieces (I buy already prepped)

1 TBS coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves ( I used 2-3)

1TBS olive oil

coarse salt and pepper

1/2 # short ribbed pasta such as rigatoni (I used 1 lb)

1/4 cup grated Fontina cheese (2 oz) (I used about 1/2 cup)

1 cup of reserved pasta water

Preheat oven 450 degrees

On rimmed baking sheet, toss onions, squash, sage leaves with oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Arrange in single layer and roast until tender, about 25 minutes, rotating sheet and tossing  vegetables, halfway through.

Meanwhile, in large pot, cook pasta till tender to preference.  Reserve 1 cup of pasta water;  drain pasta and return to pot.  Add vegetables and cheese and toss to combine, adding enough pasta water to create a thin sauce that coats pasta.

Recipe from Martha Stewart EveryDay Food January-February 2011

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