mujaddara, summer edition (with roasted tomatoes, goat cheese, basil, and lemon)

breakfast, dinner, lunch, main dishes, salads, summer, vegetarianFieldandForestComment

What can I say about mujaddara...

If Mujaddara were a person, and I took him as my +1 to a party, he would not necessarily be the most attractive person there, or the tallest, or the most athletic, but he would be the snappiest dresser and get along with everyone and he would be an amazing dancer and he would tell the funniest jokes and everyone would be like, "oh, Mujaddara, you're so funny," and Mujaddara would be all "I know, right?" but not in a narcissistic way, because that's just not the kind of person Mujaddara is.

And, if this was your party, Mujaddara would also stay late to help you wash the dishes, and maybe drive the random dude that passed out on your carpet back to wherever he came from (which is likely across town because it is a law of the universe that a random dude will always pass out an inconveniently far distance from his house) and give him a box of saltines and a ginger ale from the stash that Mujaddara keeps in his car for just such occasions, because Mujaddara doesn't care who you are, he just wants you to feel great.

Mujaddara is pretty much the perfect addition to any party, and you would be happy to have met him. He would have helped you to have a great time, and you would invite him back in the future. And I would probably be in your good graces for bringing Mujaddara along in the first place.

Serves 4-6 as a vegetarian main course, or 8-12 as a side dish

I like bringing things like Mujaddara to potlucks and collaborative dinner parties, because you just never know what's going to be at a potluck. I have been to a dinner potluck where every person (including me!) brought cheese and crackers. Let's not do that again! This dish will quickly serve as either a hearty side or vegetarian main dish, seamlessly filling any gap in your dinner party. Not to mention that it tastes fantastic at room temperature, making it the perfect dish for picnics or events where the official meal time is unclear. It's just the best!

Cooking notes: you can make this with any kind of rice or leftover rice, but jasmine has a really nice flavor for this dish. Cooking the jasmine rice with a glug of olive oil will help the grains remain separate, which means they can be more easily mixed with the lentils and onions.

2 cups cooked beluga lentils (about 1 cup uncooked)
2 cups cooked jasmine rice (about 1 cup uncooked)
2 medium yellow onions, caramelized (instructions below)
1 cup cooked greens (I sautéed some finely sliced kale leaves in olive oil and garlic), optional
salt, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
1 pint mixed cherry, grape, and/or pear tomatoes, roasted (instructions below), and divided
1/3 cup chopped pistachios, divided
2 ounces soft goat cheese (I used chevre)
1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves
Piment d'espelette or hot paprika, to taste (optional)

In a large bowl, combine the lentils, rice, caramelized onions, and greens. Add salt and lemon juice to taste, and mix gently using your hands (so you don't break the rice grains). This lentil/rice/onion combo is what is known as Mujaddara.

Add half of the roasted cherry tomatoes and half of the pistachios to the bowl, again mixing gently with your hands to combine. Transfer to a serving dish. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate the dish for up to 3 days. (The pistachios will soften a bit during this time, but the dish will still be very tasty.)

Just before serving, scatter the remaining roasted tomatoes and pistachios over the Mujaddara, then crumble the goat cheese over the tomatoes and pistachios. Finely chiffonade the basil leaves, and scatter them over the Mujaddara. Finish with a sprinkle of piment d'espelette or hot paprika for color and heat.

For basic caramelized onions: peel and halve the onions, and thinly slice from top to tail. Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium low heat, and add the onions, tossing to evenly coat them in the fat. Cook over medium low heat until their texture is meltingly soft, about 15-20 minutes. Once soft, sprinkle with a good pinch of kosher salt and crank up the heat to medium-high. Keep an eye on the onions and stir frequently, allowing them to brown and color. Once the onions are a deep amber in color, deglaze the pan with a little water (or white wine) to scrape up any tasty caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan. Let the water cook most of the way off (the onions may still look slightly wet), and transfer to a bowl to cool. The onions may be made up to a day in advance of making the Mujaddara.

For the roasted tomatoes: preheat the oven to 400˚F. Halve the tomatoes, and place in a single layer on a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and gently toss with your hands to evenly coat. Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until the tomatoes are slightly wrinkled and reduced in size. Remove from the oven, and set aside to cool. The tomatoes are best roasted on the day that you plan to make the Mujaddara.

Other serving ideas: - top with chicken or steak kabobs for a heartier dinner - top with a fried egg, avocado, and hot sauce for breakfast or brunch (I do this with Mujaddara leftovers) - add roasted or grilled squash or replace the cooked greens with arugula (added just before serving).

(On an unrelated note, can we all agree that my friend Vanessa has the most amazing wine stopper you have ever seen?)

kale and brussels sprout salad with chickpeas, almonds, and pecorino

autumn, salads, vegetarian, winterFieldandForest2 Comments

If you are what you eat, then I am currently cookies. Every holiday season, I go on a bit of a bender as I try to get my fill of chocolate dreidels and pepperkaker, and this winter was no exception. And while I enjoyed every crumb to the fullest, I am, shall we say, not feeling super-duper amazing as a result. Maybe you are in that boat, or an adjacent one. Perhaps you are currently cake, or pie, or candy. Or perhaps you are smoothies, in which case, maybe you should stop reading this and go get a cookie?

As my New Year's present to you, I give you the dish that I turn to when my body feels meh and I need a pick-me-up. Every time I eat it, I think "This is exactly what I want to be eating right now." No joke. I have even had this for breakfast with eggs and toast. In fact, I would recommend that you try that exact breakfast sometime! I have a hunch that it will make you feel awesome for the rest of the day.

Sidenote: The above photos are of me doing one of my favorite things in the world, which is simultaneous reading cookbooks/writing/eating. Richard just looked at the second picture and said, "I wonder if anyone will comment on how weirdly you hold a pen." I guess we'll find out, won't we?

Kale and Brussels Sprouts Salad with Chickpeas, Almonds, and Pecorino
adapted from Epicurious; serves 2 as a main course, or 4 as a side salad

2-3 small garlic cloves, minced or finely grated with a rasp (microplane)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon (preferably Meyer) juice
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
generous pinch (1/2 teaspoon) kosher salt
2-3 tablespoons olive oil (I prefer my dressing on the brighter side, so I usually use 2 tablespoons)
1 bunch lacinato (dino) kale, washed, stems removed, and thinly sliced
1/2 pound brussels sprouts, cleaned of outer leaves and tough bottoms, and thinly shaved or sliced
2 cups cooked chickpeas (approximately 1 can) OR 1 1/2 cups cooked French or Beluga lentils
1/4 cup sliced almonds, fried in a little olive oil until golden brown and sprinkled with a pinch of kosher salt
scant (or, if you're me, generous) 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or other sharp, aged cheese

In the bowl in which you plan to serve the salad, combine the minced or grated garlic, lemon juice, mustard, and salt.  Whisk briefly, and let sit for 5 minutes to mellow the garlic and let the salt dissolve.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking continuously. Continue to whisk after the oil is added until the dressing thickens. Set aside.

Add the kale and brussels sprouts to the bowl, and toss to evenly coat with the dressing. Using your hands, give the leaves a few brief squeezes, like you're massaging the shoulders of someone you like.  You'll notice the leaves soften slightly; this is a good thing!

Add the chickpeas or lentils and almonds, and toss to combine.  Add the pecorino, and toss to evenly coat the salad with the cheese.  While this is best served immediately, it keeps extremely well; pack leftovers (if any) in an airtight container and eat for lunch the following day.

beet, carrot, and kale salad with pistachios and feta

salads, spring, summer, vegetarian, winterFieldandForestComment

My parents are notorious among friends and family for their fierce hatred of beets.  There was an incident many years before I was born involving a cabin, a power outage, beets, and food poisoning, that I believe has festered and expanded into almost a PTSD-level association where the mention of them incites physical shuddering*.

Oh wow, I just thought of the best April Fool's Day joke... I am going to give my dad a copy of Harry Potter, but I'm going to cross out each place that says "Voldemort" and instead write-in "beets."  HA.

Because I trusted my parents' judgement, I thought that I, too, was a beet hater, just like I thought I was a democrat (which turned out to be true) and I was scared of roller coasters (which turned out to be false-ish).  I don't actually remember my first beet, but somewhere in college, I must have ventured out of my comfort zone and given them a try, because I have spent many meals since then trying to make up for lost time.  Beets are freaking amazing.

This salad is a favorite winter-into-spring-into-summer recipe, and is great for when you want your meal to be vegetables, but you want vegetables to be a MEAL.  You will not feel hungry after you finish this salad, though if you're worried, you could always do what I do and make the entire recipe for just yourself.

Beet, Carrot, and Kale Salad with Pistachios and Feta
(serves 1-2 for dinner, or 3-4 as a side salad)

3 large beets, roasted, peeled, and cut into 1-inch dice (see note on roasting beets below)
1 pound carrots, peeled and roasted (I had baby Paris Market carrots on hand; you can use unpeeled young carrots, simply scrub them well before roasting)
1 bunch purple (or other) kale
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped, divided
1/4 pound sheep's milk feta, divided

For the dressing:
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, finely minced 1 teaspoon kosher salt
A few grinds of black pepper
A few good glugs of olive oil (2-4 tablespoons; I usually err on the side of less, and use just enough to create a dressing with a little body that is still nicely bright from the acid).

Make the dressing in the bottom of the bowl you'll use for the finished salad.  Combine the lemon juice and red wine vinegar, and add the garlic clove, salt, and pepper.  Let it hang out for a moment while the salt dissolves and the acid tempers the garlic slightly (this is a great time to pick the parsley leaves off of their stems or chop the pistachios if you haven't already, OR you can watch this if everything's prepped and ready to go).  Whisk the oil into the acid mixture to emulsify, and taste using a bit of a kale leaf.  Adjust seasoning as necessary, and set aside.

Rinse the kale leaves well, and towel dry.  Lay a leaf flat on a cutting surface, and slice out the stem (you can save the stems for soup, or give them to some soon-to-be-happy chickens).  Repeat with the rest of the kale leaves.  Once all of the stems have been removed, stack the leaves on top of each other and roll them up lengthwise.  Slice (chiffonade) them into 1/4-1/2 inch thick "ribbons" (depending on your kale, you may get pieces of different sizes in your finished salad, which I think is lovely). Run your knife through the ribbons once or twice if you prefer smaller pieces of kale.

Place the kale in your salad bowl, and add the carrots, beets, and parsley leaves.  Toss the salad gently with your hands until everything is evenly coated with dressing.  Crumble 2/3 of your feta over the salad, and sprinkle over 2/3 of your pistachios.  Toss again gently.  Crumble the remaining feta over the salad, and sprinkle on the remaining pistachios.  Serve immediately.

*UPDATE: so, after speaking with my parents, I learned that the cabin/power outage/food poisoning combo was related to CLAMS not BEETS.  The beet hatred, to quote my father, "is genetic."