Asparagus Manicotti with whole garlic cloves smothered in a parmesan béchamel. Because why not.
Does this look busy to you? Okay, maybe. BUT it’s so easy to put together and even more easy to put into it whatever the seasons offer. I first got the cauliflower salad idea from Ottolenghi in Simple, where he uses both roasted and freshly grated, then adds a variety of greens, pistachios, and pomegranate. It’s refreshing and absolutely beautiful. His recipe has transformed a bit in this household and I wanted to share it with you in case you needed some fresh ideas for your stay in.
This was the latest version I made. I used:
-1 large head of cauliflower, 1/4 of it set aside in a thick wedge for grating
-olive oil, enough to coat
-1/4 tsp turmeric
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1 cup cooked wild rice, or any leftover rice/grains you have
-1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
-2 large garlic cloves, chopped
-1/2 cup parsley, chopped
-1/2 cup dill, chopped
-pomegranate seeds from 1/2 of medium pomegranate
-juice from 1 lemon
-ground cumin, to taste
-ground allspice,to taste
-almonds or pistachios, optional
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cut the cauliflower into florets and place in a baking sheet. Toss in olive oil, turmeric, salt and pepper. Roast til they just begin to brown, about 20 minutes. You want them still firm, not entirely caramelized and softened to the point of no return. Let cool.
While the cauliflower is in the oven, saute your asparagus in a heated pan with olive oil,. salt and pepper, and chopped garlic. This should take about 8-10 minutes. Let cool.
Grate 1/4th of reserved cauliflower and place into a large bowl. Add the chopped greens, seeds, rice/grains, and everything else when they’re cool enough to not soften the fresh herbs.
Season with lemon, drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, and allspice. Toss til everything seems evenly dressed. Pop in the fridge for at least a 1/2 hour before serving. Then add your optional nuts and feta.
My mom allows me 1 serving, while she eats all other servings available.
There have only been two cookbooks my hands have ever taken turns being attached to: Aromas of Aleppo, and Tasting India. With Ottolenghi’s Simple now being added to the list, (thank you Danny) my hands don’t even know what to do with themselves. I’ve made about 8 of his dishes within 3 weeks, and have picked up certain things from them that I can’t wait to try out in some of my own recipes. For instance,
FRIED CAPERS. Shut the front door.
On the day I came back with the first of the asparagus, purple and green, I knew I wanted to smother them with buttered, toasted almonds, fried capers, and dill. Because that’s what page 82 told me to do. Everyone at the table loved that extra touch of salt on fresh tender stalks.
The next day, I wanted to try the capers out in a cantaloupe salad, because while I crave sweetness, I tend to crave the saltier side of things a tad bit more. I’m still developing the recipe for this one but YES, it worked out pretty nicely: cantaloupe, blood oranges, green olives, sumac caramelized shallots, crispy tarragon, fried capers, feta, sorrel and radish microgreens.
ORANGE PEELS and SEAFOOD and SPICE oh my (a much-needed reminder)
My family’s favorite was this shrimp with orzo and marinated feta. It reminded me of mussels I make with orange peels and canellini beans (which is a recipe I should definitely write up!). I’ve had a similar dish, minus the peels, at MP Taverna about a year ago. It was called a seafood paella and it, too, had feta and orzo and lots of red pepper. In short, Ottolenghi had me at orange peels. And marinated feta. If you look back in the archives, I have at least 10 recipes using orange peels, and one with marinated cheese. I’m a little in love over here.
GRATED FRIGGEN CAULIFLOWER
Now on to this bright one. I adored this salad. While most of the cauliflower gets roasted (including it’s leaves, which is so very elegant and is zero-waste friendly), some of it is grated raw and tossed in with pistachios, pomegranate seeds, parsley. It added a beautiful crunch and freshness to this salad and I can’t wait to grate cauliflower into other dishes, too.
PEAS AND CILANTRO (and how it’s currently peas season so let’s play)
I took some liberties with this one by adding cumin and aleppo pepper to the green sauce, and blistered shishito peppers to the potatoes. I want to put this sauce on everything! I also want to try out other herbs and flavors, so look out for something similar by me in the near future. We are in the thick of sugar snap season!
MARINATING TWO DAYS IN ADVANCE: Chicken Marbella
When I read that this chicken can be left alone, in the fridge, with olives and capers and dates and all the things, I was happy. This meant I could spend my Thursday morning working on my blog instead of being in the kitchen, fussing over chicken, because I did all that fussing two days ago. All I had to do was pop it in the oven and go about my business, and return to a beautifully flavored meal, sticky with pomegranate molasses.
I’m not even close to spending less time with this book. My rose harissa just arrived, the very one that Ottolenghi suggests we use. There’s also tomato after tomato recipe, eggplant recipes…I’m simply waiting for the right time.
In the Garden
We just planted Black Cherry tomatoes to go along with 3 other tomato plants, and scarlet runner beans that hopefully will not find it’s way to our Sicilian eggplants’ mauve flowers. If they do, (or if the new furbaby does) well, there goes that roasted eggplant with curried yogurt my hand keeps returning to. Page 66.
If you’re anything like me, then you, too, got overly excited to see many of your favorite greenmarkets return, selling many of your springtime favorites.
This means you purchased everything (beets, radishes, asparagus, ramps, chives, thyme, rhubarb, tomatoes, lemons, the list goes on) for ONE MEAL. I did this for Mother’s Day. Mom deserves it all, amiright? Even fava beans! Which I walked to 4 stores to find them and took 20 minutes to shell them (worth it), just to make the Spring Pilaf she requested. The prep work itself was a meditation. I missed it.
But let’s just say not everything made it to the table. Yes, I slow roasted cherry tomatoes again, to accompany Branzino.
Yes, the Spring Pilaf was a thousand times Spring in taste AND color. (Always add shredded carrot, maybe shredded purple cabbage, and ALL the greens you can stand).
Yes, I threw baby potatoes, chunks of purple cabbage, ramps, asparagus, slices of lemon, chives into a cast iron and roasted it all with two, lightly seasoned branzinos right on top. But where the hell are my beets? My radishes!?
So two days later, this very simple, very earthy, very spring soup happened. Cooked gently in your favorite stock with thyme, ramps, ginger, garlic, and chives, it’s sunshine broth will make you feel good.
- drizzle of coconut oil or olive oil
- 3-4 thyme sprigs
- 1 small onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-inch knob of ginger, grated
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 4 small golden beets, halved and sliced
- 5 radishes, halved and sliced
- 4 whole ramps
- chives, finely chopped
DirectionsIn a heated pot with oil, add thyme, onion, garlic, and ginger. Sautee for a few minutes. Add your stock and bring to a light boil. Add beets and let it do its thing for about 20 minutes. Then add your radishes and ramps. Cook another 8 minutes. Add salt and pepper and any fresh herbs/greens you’d like. I used chives. I imagine dill would be beautiful here. Enjoy warm or even chilled!
I can’t wait for more spring cooking (and cleaning! and gardening!), though I have a feeling summer will arrive much sooner than scheduled. Hit your local market and/or farm ASAP! Let me know what you come home with <3 I’ll be trying this recipe again when my own variety of beets start growing. Or sooner!
When Spring returned to us in all its young green finery,
I wanted to eat it. To squeeze a little lime on it
in broad daylight and find my way, past
the beefsteak tomatoes,
standing strong on the sides of heirlooms,
the tall, bruised green of the earth.
The day before Easter, I grabbed the first asparagus of the season at my mom’s local farmers market and decided I was going to create a spring feast, highlighting these thick spears along with other bright and deep greens, such as peas, spring onions, cilantro, thyme, arugula. I wanted fava beans but I couldn’t find any. I stopped by my favorite kielbasa vendor and he handed me the cutest, smokiest ham I’ve ever held, and tasted. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it then, but knew I had to leave with it.
“You can use it as decoration for your Easter table,” he told me. I politely shook my head no. I can–and will–use it in everything throughout the week, beginning tomorrow. After tomorrow, then they’re going in omelets, slow-cooked beans, etc. But it was tomorrow I wasn’t exactly sure about.
Before bed, I cracked open my notebook and brainstormed dinner, which I’m doing more often these days before dinner parties. It relieves stress knowing that I’ve some idea as to what I want to accomplish the next day. I’m very used to just winging it. Once dinner is over, I return to the journal and jot down what I actually ended up doing, which helps me to better understand my kitchen-mind. Here’s how it stormed that night! I actually made everything on this, with some minor changes.
I’ve such a fondness for this time of year. Easter morning I ran some errands, grabbing the last of the ingredients that I needed to complete our dinner. It felt like the first, true warm day of the season and I was at peace. Outside the supermarket, an older woman asked me if I could walk her a few blocks to the bus. While I held her hand, we talked about family dinners. She’d cook for a family of 10. She’d make 3 different salads, 2 different cakes, she’d roast a fish and a chicken and sometimes, on special occasions, would make brisket. She had zero help because she never asked, and she thought it was beautiful I was going to spend the day in the kitchen with my mother making a meal for a family of 7. There was so much we agreed on in those three blocks: we love the farmers market, springtime awakens a hunger for healthier things, and food is love.
When I returned to mom’s kitchen, I moved around with such light feet. What I ended up doing with the greens I have since done often.
I am calling this a Spring Pilaf and rice will never be boring to me again. You can add anything you want to it. It can be made fresh, or made with leftovers. This one is smoky due to the ham I purchased from the market, and the shredded carrots truly makes this a festive-looking dish. I used jasmine but now only use basmati.
After I made this one, I started toying with the recipe and included seasonings I love most.
Here’s my Indian-Spiced Spring Pilaf.
1/2 cup Basmati, cooked with a pinch of turmeric and salt, butter.
I like more veggies than rice so eyeball amounts according to your preference. I used green beans and asparagus, corn, sliced mushrooms, a small red onion, 3 garlic cloves, grated carrot (towards the end), quickly stir fried in cumin seeds & powder, garam masala, 4 cardamom pods (cracked open a bit), fresh herbs such as cilantro and thyme, pepper and salt to taste. Use whatever herbs you love!
I made this again for Valerie’s Poetry & Coffee BBQ yesterday, just because I want to feed people as much of spring as they can get. And then they’ll have to deal with my summer pilaf shenanigans.
A few days ago I went with my love to the Queens County Farm and saw rows of asparagus shooting from the earth. It was a beautiful sight, how they stood, perfectly, like soldiers we hold in our hearts today, every day.