Beet-Avocado Salad with Hard-Boiled Eggs and Pepitas

During the week, lunch can be a disastrous time. Without a plan, I find myself pushing off eating until my blood sugar is so low, I can barely see straight. Then I down a few spoonfuls of peanut butter and an apple, feeling slightly lightheaded until dinner. Or, worse, I go out and get some kind of over-the-top sandwich that leaves me feeling sluggish all afternoon. I’m sure this sounds familiar.

When I take the time at the beginning of the week to cook a batch of lentils or grains and prep some vegetables to use throughout the week, I eat lunch most days like a superhero.

I recently came across the recipe for chef Cathal Armstrong’s favorite salad in Food & Wine’s March issue and was immediately struck by how perfect it is for work-at-home lunches. It’s full of brain-boosting healthy fats and the main components—the beets and hard-boiled eggs—can be prepped ahead. Instead of the onion and scallions called for in the original, I add Lars’ Own crispy fried onions, which aren’t exactly healthy, but man, are they tasty. I also toss in some sliced radish and fennel for extra crunch.

The original F&W recipe wasn’t photographed, so it might have easily gotten lost. I hope this convinces you that this salad is definitely worth making!

Beet-Avocado Salad with Eggs and Pepitas
 
I wrote up this recipe to show how I approach it as a work-from-home lunch that I eat over several days. I prefer to slice fennel and radishes just before I'm about to eat them but if you want to prep them in advance or serve 4 portions of this salad at once, start with a whole fennel bulb and 8 radishes (or one large watermelon radishes). To keep them extra crisp, refrigerate them in a bowl of ice water.
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • To prep early in the week:
  • 1 pound beets (I prefer golden beets)
  • 4 large eggs
  • ¼ cup sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • For each salad:
  • ½ avocado, chopped
  • 2 radishes or 4 slices of watermelon radish, cut into matchsticks
  • ¼ bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
  • 4 cups mixed greens
  • 2 tablespoons toasted hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fried onions
  • Flaky salt and freshly ground pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook the beets to your liking: I prefer to steam them in a small amount of liquid until tender, 20 to 40 minutes depending on the size of the beets. You can also wrap them in foil and roast at 450°; this usually takes at least 40 minutes. After the beets cool to warm, slip off the skin and cut the beets into bite-sized pieces. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Boil the eggs: Bring a pot of water to a boil and carefully lower the eggs into the water. Cook for 8 minutes if you like a slightly sticky yolk or 10 minutes for truly hard-boiled. Drain and cover with cold water. When they're cooled, drain again and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Make the dressing: In a bowl, whisk the sherry vinegar with the mustard. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the olive oil until incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. To assemble the salad:
  5. In a bowl, toss one-quarter of the beets with the avocado, radishes, fennel, greens, pepitas and one-quarter of the dressing. Season with salt and pepper. Peel and half or quarter one of the eggs and arrange it on top. Sprinkle with the fried onions and enjoy.

 

Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy HachisuThe second time I met Nancy Singleton Hachisu, author of Japanese Farm Foodshe tried to convince me to make my own miso. More accurately, she tried to convince me (and a fellow food editor at Food & Wine) to produce a story about making miso. “It’s so easy!” she said. She described the process, saying how you mash soy beans with cultured grain, salt and a starter in February or March so it has at least a month to rest at cold temperatures before fermenting throughout the summer. The process sounded cool, but I knew that a recipe with a six-month-long lead time would never fly. A story about Nancy on her farm, however, would, so that’s what we did.

Last year, Nancy’s second book, the newly James Beard Award nominated (!) Preserving the Japanese Waywas published. I expected a slim follow-up to the farm food book. Nope, this one is just as big. The more time I spend with the book, the more I love it and see how important it is.

You see, for the past few years, chefs and food cognoscenti have been obsessing about fermentation and waxing on about umami this and that. This book showcases how to make many of these fermented, umami-rich ingredients, including soy sauce and miso as well as lesser known koji (which I wrote about here) and Japanese-style fish sauce. The book also covers other types of traditional preserving, including salt-pickling, vinegar making and air-drying.

If you glance at the book, I would excuse you for thinking that it’s a little out there. (Not many cookbook authors would dare to include a recipe for half-dried barracuda, for example.) But even if you never plan to brew your own soy sauce or ferment your own miso, Preserving the Japanese Way is still useful because Nancy shows you intriguing ways to use these Japanese ingredients, which are widely available at supermarkets. Much like Japanese Farm Food, many of the recipes call for only four to six ingredients. For example, a carrot salad with miso vinaigrette is nothing more than julienned carrots, sliced scallions, miso, brown rice vinegar and oil. For another salad, cucumber are marinated with dried chiles, ginger and soy sauce.

After my recent move from Brooklyn to Bucks County, I decided that a fun way to start my new life outside the city would be to make miso. The hardest part of the recipe, really, is tracking down the ingredients and the fermentation vessel. I cheated, a bit, and purchased a kit of sorts from The Brooklyn Kitchen (which recently hosted a miso-making class. Get on the list for next year!) The kit included already-cooked soybeans, so all I had to do was mix everything together and mash. Whether you cook them yourself or not, mashing them is a great way to earn that post-work cocktail.

The miso-making kit. You know you want it!

The miso-making kit. You know you want it!

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Ok, you got me. This bibimbap made with quinoa is not traditional. But it's good!

Ok, you got me. This bibimbap made with quinoa is not traditional. But it’s so good!

Until last week, I lived in New York City for eleven years. That’s long enough, according to many people, to have called myself a New Yorker. As any New Yorker knows, the city is one of stark dichotomies. It’s exhilarating but maddening; convenient but difficult; overwhelmingly wealthy but shockingly poor. Ever since having my daughter a few years ago, New York has felt harder and harsher and not just because of the school situation.

So when my husband and I realized we no longer needed to be in the city every day for our jobs, we started to look around for an easier place to dwell. We eventually settled on a small, walking-friendly town in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, that’s near family and friends but close enough to NYC to commute as needed. (And get an occasional Russ & Daughters fix.)

I will miss so many aspects of living in New York, including the incredible public transportation, the wild diversity, and the buzz I felt every time I stepped into the street. (Not to mention, the food!) But the thing I will pine for most, my friends, is the 24-hour bodega.

For those who don’t know, one meaning for the Spanish word la bodega is grocery store and it’s the term of choice in NYC for the corner store. (Here is more about the history.) It is not like a Wawa—a beloved Philadelphia area convenience store—and don’t even think of comparing them to 7-Elevens. Would a 7-Eleven deliver coffee and an egg sandwich to you when you’re hungover on Saturday morning? Or chicken soup when you’re sick? Not a chance.

Like the city itself, bodegas are masters at the use of vertical space. You can often find batteries, duct tape, and packets of Advil hanging so high that they’re only reachable with one of those handy arm-extending grippers. Groceries and cleaning products line the shelves and refrigerated cases, and the inventory often goes way beyond the basics. The yogurt selection, for example, rivals that at any suburban grocery store. Because bodegas are independently owned, they’re perfect launching pads for new products—in fact, coconut water started its massive rise in popularity in New York City bodegas.

At most bodegas, you’ll find dry goods, fresh produce and flowers (that last no longer than three days, mind you), as well as deli sandwiches and other prepared foods. Most fun, however, is that each shop reflects its microcosm and owner’s background. For example, when I lived in Washington Heights, a largely Dominican and Puerto Rican neighborhood, I could find limes sold 10 for $1 as well as dried chiles, Caribbean vegetables, and various kinds of pig parts.

I most recently moved from a pocket of Bed Stuy that is home to Caribbean immigrants; African and Middle Eastern immigrants; African-American families who have been there for generations; and yuppies and hipsters from everywhere. The local bodega stocked yucca and plantains, halvah candy, and a wide variety of Bob’s Red Mill grains, nut milks and alt sugars. Because the owners are Muslim, they do not sell pork products or beer.

While I never did all of my grocery shopping at the bodega, I loved that, in a pinch, I could make a full meal from ingredients sold there. And I’m not talking a Roy Choi-style gas station taco but a dish that’s actually healthy.

In honor of bodegas, I created this bibimbap (a Korean-style rice bowl) using only ingredients I could buy across the street. I wrote the recipe to be flexible (so flexible, in fact, that I used quinoa instead of rice as a base). You can use whatever grain you fancy, whatever vegetables look fresh, and whatever proteins are available to you.

And before you think I’m a weirdo for my bodega obsession, know I’m not the only one: Elizabeth Moss confessed she couldn’t wait to return to New York after months in Australia because why? The bodegas.

I made bibimbap with these ingredients from the bodega.

Yep, all of these ingredients came from the bodega.

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This dip is made a little healthier than the usual with Greek yogurt and fresh onions.

Confession: I may or may not watch the Super Bowl this weekend. I don’t care much about the commercials, let alone the game. And the idea of gorging on football food and beer leaves me bloated just thinking about it. You might think I’m a snob, or, even downright unAmerican. Sorry, folks. That’s just how I feel.

All of that said, there is one traditional game day snack I love and that’s onion dip. I can mindlessly eat 1000 calories worth, even when it’s the store-bought stuff scooped up with the greasiest potato chips

If I were to host a Super Bowl party, however, I’d class up the dip a bit and cook onions in butter until sweet and browned and then mix them with Worcestershire and smoked paprika-spiked Greek yogurt. Then, I’d buy the fanciest potato chips I can find. (I’m a big fan of the crisp, almost flaky Terra Blues. And blue chips have more antioxidants, right? ;))

If we’re going to keep this whole experience highbrow (and you know I would), I’d eat this with a well-chilled gin martini. If someone called me unAmerican for skipping the usual beer, well then there’s one less drink I’d have to make. (And you couldn’t blame me for keeping the dip to myself, could you?)

Smoky Double Onion Dip
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
To make the dip even more sweet and oniony, you can also add leeks, red onions, and shallots.
Serves: Makes about 1 cup
Ingredients
  • 4 scallions
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup plain 2% fat Greek yogurt (or one 7-ounce container is fine)
  • ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ⅛ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Potato chips or crisp vegetables, for serving
Instructions
  1. Thinly slice the scallions and separate the white and light green parts from the dark green parts.
  2. In a medium skillet, melt the butter. Add the onion and a large pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until it starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the white and light green parts of the scallions and cook until the onions are very soft, about 5 minutes longer. Increase the heat to medium-high; as some of the onions brown and the pan seems like it might start to burn, add a teaspoon or so of water. Continue cooking, stirring, and adding a little water as necessary, until the onions are very soft and very browned and all of the liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes longer. Let the onions cool to warm, about 15 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, fold the onions with the yogurt, Worcestershire sauce and smoked paprika. Fold in ¼ cup of the dark green parts of the scallions. Season the dip with salt and black pepper, garnish with more scallion greens and serve with potato chips or crisp vegetables.