You’re a Star, Green Bean: Loubieh B’Zeit

loubieh2Eggplant has eggplant parmesan. Spinach has spanakopita. Even the humble cabbage has cabbage rolls. But green beans too often get cast in only a supporting  role, shuffled off into perpetual side dish territory. And that’s too bad, since beautiful green beans are pouring in these days, from both our CSA and our own garden.

Luckily, there’s a delicious Lebanese dish that gives green beans their moment in the spotlight. It’s called loubieh b’zeit, and you can find many, many versions of it (and almost as many different spellings) on the ol’ Internet.  I used some combination of them to come up with my own. Most recipes call for Lebanese Seven Spice, but if that seems way too exotic for your neighborhood grocery, you can make a pretty good simulacrum from spices that are probably already in your cupboard: equal parts black pepper, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, allspice and coriander, all ground up together. (I think the real thing has fenugreek, but this will get you pretty close.)

Another great thing about this dish is that it’s often served cold or room temperature as a mezze, which means it’s practically begging to be a leftover. Stuff some the next day in a pita with some tzatziki sauce and you’ve got yourself a mean sandwich. And you know how I feel about sandwiches.

Loubieh B’Zeit Continue reading

Lemon Kale & Chili Chickpea Salad ~and~ Caramelized Peach & Mint Arugula Salad

Summer salads!  We currently have a mere two rows of rocket arugula, each maybe three-feel long, planted in one of our gardens, and even though I’ve instructed all the neighbors to help themselves, we’re overrun with arugula.  If you don’t harvest it, it will bolt (produce flowers and seeds) according to Evolution’s imperative, and then you’re out of luck stuck with flowering plants sporting dinky, anemic leaves.  The solutioLemon Kale & Chili Chickpea and Caramelized Peach & Arugula Saladsn, obviously, is endless salads.

We also happen to be in peach season and kale season, and thus we give you:   Lemon Kale & Chili Chickpea Salad and Caramelized Peach & Mint Arugula Salad.  These are awesome salads because they are hearty but not heavy, and they keep well in the fridge.

Lemon Kale &… Continue reading

The Beer Cocktail: Friend or Foe?

Beer Cocktails! (Sorry...)

Beer Cocktails! (Sorry…)

As many of you already know, cooking is not my “thing.” That’s why I write about beer and not the epicurial challenges of the kohlrabi, whatever that is. Left to my own devices, I’d be eating salads or sandwiches for every meal — the sandwich being basically the salad between slices of bread. I am really quite righteously impatient, though, so sometimes I just get a fistful of raisins and a fistful of peanuts and take bites from alternating hands.

Beer appeals to me for a number of reasons: it’s cold, it’s tasty, it can get you a little fucked up. We mustn’t forget, though, that it is also extremely easy to prepare.

  1. Open fridge.
  2. Pull out beer.
  3. Open beer.
  4. Drink beer.

My sense of economy is therefore threatened when approached by the idea of beer cocktails. I realize this has been a thing for a while now (as has calling something “a thing”), but I’ve never explored beer cocktails due to the above elegance of simplicity. I am understandably wary about a beer drink that involves more than these four steps. But then I had a Joan Harris at the Market Garden Brewery in Cleveland, OH. Continue reading

Shannon’s Guide to NYC’s Best Vegetarian Sandwiches

parisi

The greasy paper, picnic table majesty of a Parisi sandwich

Recently, I went to a Volume 1 Brooklyn event celebrating the launch of their sandwich-themed essay collection. It’s not hard to surmise why I attended. Just about everyone in the audience had a deep love of sandwiches; you could see it in their eyes. And while I had no complaints about the quality of the writing, I was underwhelmed by the quality of the sandwiches discussed. It felt a little like a group therapy session for those suffering from sandwich guilt, finally airing their dirty secrets about Arby’s, Subway and White Castle.

People! You live in New York City, a veritable cornucopia of beautiful sandwiches! I am a vegetarian, so a large percentage of these sandwiches fall outside of my purview, and STILL I can list a number of sandwiches that are absolutely-cannot-miss experiences. In fact, I think I will do just that.

Parisi Bakery, Little Italy: Early in our relationship, I was reading a manuscript by Jason that had an extended sandwich-eating scene. My comment in the margins was something like, “I don’t really see how this scene moves the plot along,” and he sheepishly admitted that he wrote it mostly because he wanted to describe a Parisi sandwich. Now that I’ve had them, I know why. Parisi is the most old school of Italian bakeries, and when they pile their fresh rolls with loads of fresh mozzarella, pesto, pepperoncini and just about any other topping your heart desires, all for about eight or nine bucks…marone! Now that’s a sandwich.

Noodle Bar, West Village: Most people wouldn’t go searching for sandwiches at a spot that specializes in a very different kind of food, but I can’t get enough of the vegetarian sau bien at this place. Continue reading

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Kohlrabi?

kohlrabi

It kind of resembles a Muppet, which is another reason to like it.

I hope that when you read that title, you sang it in full-lunged Sound of Music style. But if you Google “kohlrabi” and see the articles that pop up, you may be convinced that this vegetable is even more trouble than a certain spirited chanteuse/nun. No one quite seems to know what to do with the rather starchy, fibrous outcast cousin of the cabbage family.  Should you cut it up and dress it like a salad? Grate it and fry it into fritters? Steam it and puree it into some kind of vichyssoise-like soup?

I am typically too lazy to blend or fry much of anything, so when a couple kohlrabi landed in our CSA haul, I went looking for a different solution. Amidst the online kohlrabi hand-wringing, I found a few sites that mentioned that it’s often used in Indian cooking and pairs well with Indian spices. This struck me as odd, since I have never seen kohlrabi on the menu of any Indian restaurant, nor did I confront it during my very brief visit to India. But maybe the Indian restaurateurs are hiding this delicacy from Western customers, certain that their palates can never fully appreciate the full magic of the kohlrabi. Anyway, it was worth a shot.

curried kohlrabiSo I made up the following kohlrabi recipe, and I have to say that kohlrabi does pair well with Indian spices. I used half pav bhaji masala and half chaat masala, but use whatever mix you can get your hands on, and it will probably turn out just fine. And don’t worry, all you kohlrabi purists out there: the spiciness does not cover up the essential cabbagey complexity. Problem solved.

Curried Kohlrabi and Lentils Continue reading

Farmer Dwight’s Garden Remedies

dwight gardenMy father, in between maintaining a grueling pickleball schedule and winning a silver kayaking medal in the Ohio Senior Olympics (Jason: “Wait, there’s actually one person over sixty-five who can beat him?”), manages to grow a pretty bangin’ garden. His zucchini look like zeppelins; his cabbages inspire envy. And if you lay a gardening quandary on Farmer Dwight, he’s quick to come up with a homespun solution. Here, straight from his lips, are some answers to your most pressing vegetable questions:

One: Hungry Critters. This one is the bane of just about every gardener I know, including Jason earlier this season. Farmer Dwight’s first recommendation is to build a better fence. But if you’re in a community garden and you don’t have that luxury, here’s another answer: HAIR! “Barbers just have bags of that stuff lying around,” Farmer Dwight says. So you go to your nearest barber, obtain a bag of hair clippings, and scatter them around the vegetables while trying not to feel like too much of a serial killer. This works because animals don’t like the human scent. Some say that putting little pieces of Irish Spring soap in the garden achieves the same effect, but soap is harder to style into a bouffant.

Hair will work great for little animals, but the small print is that you might need to get even sneakier for deer (who scoff at your hair, collecting it and reassembling it into jaunty wigs that they wear while taunting you). Continue reading

Session Beers: The Freedom to Drink Outside, All Day

Drinking outside at the Phoenix Brewing Co. The light!

Beauty pageant winners in my book. At the Phoenix Brewing Company in Mansfield, Ohio

Independence Day is an important holiday for both its historical and cultural significance. We celebrate our independence from Britain, we wave mini flags at beauty pageant winners grinning stiffly from convertibles, we use copious amounts of lighter fluid in our meals.

Most importantly, we openly exercise our freedom to drink. Outside and all day. This year I enjoyed a beer on my stoop while the local Fourth of July parade went by. The insurance agents and scout leaders who handed out swag eyed my beer avidly and threatened to return. They didn’t though; and does anyone want a State Farm water bottle?

Drinking outside is really one of my all time favorite summer things to do, if you can call it “doing” (which you can, and that’s part of why I love it). It’s perhaps second only to my love of backyard badminton, at which I am a crack shot. It’s hard to pinpoint precisely what it is that I find so appealing about indulging outside: the glow of a pint in the midday sun, the crisp bite of hops on a muggy day, or how much more charming I become over the afternoon. Continue reading

Quick Lemon Pea & Avocado Salad

It should be too late for peas right now, but Spring and Summer have been cool enough thus far to keep pea plants producing.  I picked up one of those small, plastic trays of some at the Grand Army Plaza farmers market to compliment my own modest, backyard-garden haul and improvised my way through the following.  I sIMG_2128imply had the avocado on-hand and needed to use it, but the crispness of the peas contrasted very nicely with its silkiness.  This recipe makes two salads to accompany entrees.

Lemon Pea and Avocado Salad

  • 12 ounces of fresh peas
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbs dried thyme
  • 1 dash of chili powder
  • 5 or 6 cloves of garlic crushed and minced
  • 1 avocado
  • salad greens
  • olive oil and salt & pepper, each to taste Continue reading

Chicago: The Culinary Nostalgia Tour

tapas

Hello again, beautiful.

Which was more essential: Tapas Barcelona or Dave’s Italian Kitchen? What had happened to Giordano’s? And above all, what was the maximum number of meals I could squeeze into a forty-eight-hour period? It was questions like these that tormented me as I worked and reworked our tight schedule.

As some readers may already know, I spent a handful of formative years in Chicago and have had reason to travel there for work lately. But Jason hadn’t been there for many years and he’d never been there with me, which meant that his consumption of cheese in the Windy City was sorely lacking. He decided to join me there for a weekend, but immediately after the plane ticket was purchased, the nail biting began—how to fit six glorious years worth of high-metabolism memories into a single weekend? Tough decisions had to be made. In the end, though, I think I did a good job of picking places that can’t be matched anywhere else (yes, even NYC). Here are a few highlights for the next time you’re in the neighborhood.

Al’s Deli: Yes, I know that “deli” is in the name, but that description doesn’t quite capture the magic of the place. It made me feel oddly at peace when I saw that the two aging brothers who run this place were still at it. One nervously takes the orders; the other, almost invisible to the customers, diligently makes the impeccable sandwiches. We got a Gruyere and a Jarlsberg and took them to a picnic table at a nearby lighthouse. I was so enchanted I forgot to take picture. Continue reading

Rainy Day Cauliflower and Potatoes

cauliflower and potatoesIt’s been a gray and cool spring around these parts, but there’s no reason that a little chill in the air needs to rain on your culinary parade. After all, the days are surely numbered until it’s so hot that you’d rather, I don’t know, be chained down and forced to watch that terrible new Cameron Crowe movie instead of turning on your oven. So embrace the cool; make a casserole.

Here’s one I came up with this weekend. Full disclosure: I wanted to make something that necessitated that I slice at least one ingredient because my friend Mignon gave me a sweeeet new mandolin for my birthday. This handy tool makes me feel at least fifty-three percent fancier as I am cooking, and my potato slices really were shockingly even. But even if you don’t have a mandolin (or a Mignon) in your life, fear not: you can totally rock it old-school and slice them by hand.

Rainy Day Cauliflower and Potatoes Continue reading