Persian food is unlike any other cuisine I’ve had before. It balances unlikely flavor combinations like tart, tangy pomegranate molasses and tannic walnuts. Recipes measure herbs in handfuls, not teaspoons or pinches. It feels opulent, drawing from a pantry filled with ingredients like rose water, cardamom and saffron. The only thing Persian cuisine celebrates more than its sweet, savory and sour stews (yes, all three are excellent at once) is its crunchy, crackly golden rice - tahdig.Read More
I can easily list all the things I’m not. I’m not a chef, nor a food journalist. Beyond Starbucks, I’ve never worked in the restaurant industry, where so many in the food world take pride in their battle scars…er, burns. I’m not a farmer. I’m not a dietitian. I’m a food blogger who hasn’t actually blogged in a year! Although my career is very clearly in the food industry and I take such pride in my job and what I’m learning, I still struggle to articulate my place in the massive, constantly evolving food system. It’s so easy to trick myself into thinking everyone has this very clearly defined “expertise” in their head and I’m the only one who has yet to nail it.Read More
Over Christmas break, my mom and I set out to recreate my great Grandma's recipes after they were mailed to me, packed snugly in a graham cracker box. It wasn't hard for us to figure out the one we should try first, as page one of Good Housekeeping Institute was marked with a handwritten note, "chicken pie 96." Page 96 was the only page bookmarked. Page 96 was also the only one marked with another handwritten note, "good pie." Great Grandma Lauer couldn't have given us any clearer of a sign.
What wasn't as clear was what side to pair with this "good pie." We knew we'd need something light and with texture to contrast with the warm, soft biscuit topping and vegetable sauce. We weren't totally sure what sides Grandma Lauer preferred, but a chopped kale salad at the salad bar kept catching our eye. It marked all the boxes for us - crunchy, fresh and bright. It also seemed easy enough for us to recreate!
With that as our "launchpad," the salad took on a life of its own with some other ingredients we picked up along the way - a fresh pomegranate instead of dried cranberries, thinly sliced radishes for extra crunch, and crumbled goat cheese with apricot and thyme. One thing that stayed the same was the matchstick carrots - doesn't that seem identical at every salad bar??
This salad is worthy of the title "Kitchen Sink Salad" for two reasons: 1) Essentially all prep can happen over the kitchen sink if you have a big colander and 2) The recipe is forgiving enough that you can toss in everything...but the kitchen sink. You can swap red onions for radishes for a bit of bite and crunch. Kale can easily be substituted with any other leafy green. If you prefer cranberries to pomegranate seeds, go for it! The sky (err fridge) is the limit.
The first step is to grab a large colander and place it in the sink. Then, chop the kale into bite size pieces and toss into colander. Rinse thoroughly and shake dry. As remaining water dries on kale leaves, prep your other ingredients and toss them into the colander as each one is prepared - peel and matchstick the carrots, thinly slice the radishes, deseed the pomegranate, chop the dates and crumble the goat cheese. This does require a bit of prep work, so think of it as good meditative time or turn on your favorite album. Enjoy the process.
When you're ready to serve, toss in the walnuts and a dressing of your choice. I've paired it with both a raspberry vinaigrette and cherry balsamic dressing. Something fruity pairs well with these flavors, but I think a poppy seed dressing could also work wonderfully. As with the other ingredients in this recipe, the dressing is also chef's choice - it is forgiving!
Kitchen Sink Salad
what you'll need:
1 head kale, roughly chopped into bite size pieces
1/2 pound carrots
1/2 pound radishes
seeds from 1/2 of a pomegranate
1/2 cup mejdool dates or apricots, roughly chopped
3-4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup walnuts
salad dressing, to taste (recommend flavors of raspberry, cherry or poppy seed)
what you'll do:
- In large colander, rinse chopped kale. While kale is drying, rinse carrots and finely chop into small matchsticks. Rinse and thinly slice radishes into quarters or bite size pieces. Add both to colander.
- Remove seeds from 1/2 of a pomegranate, dropping directly into the colander.
- Add chopped dates or apricots to colander, then add crumbled goat cheese. Finally, use hands to toss all ingredients in colander. Pour into large serving bowl.
- If eating immediately, toss in walnuts and dressing of choice to taste. Mix thoroughly and serve. If making in advance, add walnuts and dressing when ready to serve. This salad can be made one day in advance.
Pomegranate molasses is a thing of beauty. It's got a deep, rich ruby red color and a complex flavor that is all at once sweet, tart and fruity. It's a popular ingredient throughout the Middle East and its distinct flavor is incredibly versatile. I came to rely on pomegranate molasses as a near pantry staple once I discovered my love of muhammara, a roasted red pepper dip. It also plays a starring role in fesenjan, a Persian chicken and pomegranate molasses stew, a dish I've come to love during these cold winter months.
For this recipe, pomegranate molasses' flavors beautifully complement pan-fried Brussels sprouts. Like in muhammara, walnuts also add a bit of texture and irreplaceable nutty flavor. I initially served this as part of our family's Thanksgiving spread, but I think the colors and flavors work wonderfully for any holiday table. In this case, it's not too late to try it out for Christmas! Try to sneak it in before you do something silly like give up sugar in 2018.
Something that's important in this recipe is making sure your frying pan is hot before you toss the sprouts in. Place the pan over a burner on medium heat and let sit. Sprinkle a bit of water into the pan. If it sizzles upon contact, you're good to add the sprouts. Just be careful not to let any hot coconut oil splatter! And one other pro-tip: If you'd like something a bit heartier, add cooked beluga lentils to the mix once your sprouts are throughly pan-fried and tossed with all the other fixings. It makes for a hearty lunch on a cold day!
Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Molasses, Dates and Walnuts
what you'll need - pomegranate molasses:
4 cups pomegranate juice
2/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 pound Brussels sprouts, rinsed and chopped in half
3 tbsp coconut oil
5 large mejdool dates (approximately 1/2 cup), roughly chopped
1-2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (see recipe above)
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (roughly 1/4 pomegranate)
1/2 cup roasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp coarse salt, plus extra to taste
what you'll do:
for pomegranate molasses (recipe adapted from Tori Avey)
- Pour pomegranate juice, sugar, and lemon juice into a small saucepan.
- Over medium heat, bring sauce to light simmer. Whisk until sugar dissolves. Allow sauce to simmer very lightly for 60-80 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Simmer and stir until the liquid reduces by 75% to about 1 cup of molasses.
- The sauce is ready when it has a light syrupy consistency and coats the back of a spoon. Don't let it thicken too much, or it will harden when it cool. I always remove from heat just before I think it's just about done to be on the safe side.
for brussels sprouts:
- In large microwave-safe large bowl, put 2 tbsp coconut oil. Place in microwave to melt oil (should take 15-20 seconds). Once melted, remove bowl from microwave and add sprouts, plus salt. Toss to coat sprouts evenly with oil and salt.
- Place large frying pan over medium heat. Once pan is heated, toss in oil/salt coated sprouts. Add remaining 1 tbsp coconut oil and stir in to coat bottom of pan. Fry sprouts over medium-low heat for about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid burning and ensure even cooking. Remove from heat once sprouts have deep brown, slightly charred exterior, but be careful not to burn.
- Toss hot sprouts in serving bowl. Toss in pomegranate seeds, chopped dates, roasted walnuts, and pomegranate molasses. Adjust pomegranate molasses to taste based on desired sweetness.
At first, I thought there was no real distinct theme to this week's news round-up. It spans from the childhood malnutrition crisis in Syria to the unraveling crisis of sexual harassment in professional kitchens across the country. But, I spent a lot of my week buried in the latest Global Nutrition Report. This report underscores the importance of identifying the links between our global food system, good nutrition, human rights and more. Through that lens then, an argument could be made for exploring the relationship between global hunger, and the rights and treatment of women within and beyond our food system. Addressing both issues requires thinking about broader systems of justice and equity. A world free of hunger is very much linked to a world where there is gender equality.
On a lighter note, there's also a great episode included here on "the mysteries of olive oil," which inspired me to have my own olive oil taste test. I now regret doing this, as the more expensive olive oil was infinitely more delicious...
Women In The Kitchen Are Not Always A Sexist Cliché, Forbes
"The image of a woman cooking up a delicious meal in the kitchen is a cliché, often a sexist one. But, Pineapple Collaborative wants to transform that image, by creating a network of women who are combining their love of making delicious food with an entrepreneurial spirit."
A Harvey Weinstein Moment for the Restaurant Industry, New Yorker
"The long-term goal should be to get more women into positions of leadership, whether judging restaurants or running them. Those are the kinds of changes that will force a true evolution in kitchen culture, just as they will in other fields where women are underrepresented at the top. But, in the meantime, we have to keep rooting out the existing problems, one at a time, so that more women actually want to be a part of the restaurant industry in the first place."
Green Gold: Our Love Affair with Olive Oil, Gastropod
"In this episode, Gastropod visits two groves—one in the Old World, one in the New—to get to the bottom of olive oil's many mysteries. Listen in this episode as they find out why the ancient Romans rubbed it all over their bodies, and whether the olive oil on our kitchen counters really is what it says on the label."
Child malnutrition in Syria is at an all time high, Food Navigator
Childhood malnutrition in Syria is at its peak since the start of the civil war, with the most dire cases being seen in the youngest of children. This is heartbreaking and preventable.