Lovely new treats this week! Romaine, broccoli, fennel. . . If you have the time (it’s mostly unattended time) try the Bulgur dish with Chard. Enjoy!
Vegetable Washing Notes
Classic Caesar Salad
Broccoli and Arugula Soup
Mac and Cheese with Broccoli
Fennel Notes and Several Fennel Salads
Spring Minestrone with Fennel Fronds
Morrocan Bulgur with Greens and Harissa
Vegetable Washing Notes
Another quick reminder to wash your vegetables well, especially the arugula, chard and romaine. Separate the leaves and wash both sides under running water. Shake off the water and wrap in a clean dishtowel to dry (or spin dry). I tend to wash the quantity I need for whatever I happen to be cooking. Greens stay fresher longer if only washed right before use in my experience.
Classic Caesar Salad
Serves 4-6 depending on appetites and what else is being served
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons good olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4-5 flat anchovy filets (or more to taste)
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or more to taste)
Freshly grated black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard (optional)
1 large head of Romaine lettuce, washed, leaves cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 1 1/2 inch ribbons
¾ – 1 cup croutons or toast a slice or two of good crusty bread and tear it into bite-sized pieces
You can either use a food processor or a mortar and pestle. If using the latter, put the garlic, anchovy, pepper and salt in it and pound it into a smooth-ish paste. Scoop the paste out of the mortar and put it into a bowl. Then whisk in the lemon juice and egg yolk and then slowly add the oil and finally the Parmesan. If using a food processor start with the garlic, anchovy, lemon juice and salt and then add the ingredients in the same order. Stir the parmesan at the end after you’ve removed the dressing from the processor.
Toss with Romaine lettuce, top with croutons and some more freshly grated Parmesan.
Moroccan Bulgur with Greens
This takes time to cook but putting it together is quick and just involves a bunch of chopping. It is delicious with a fried or poached egg and extra harissa and some Greek yogurt. And if you like lamb, it’s a perfect accompaniment to lamb in any form. Harissa is a Tunisian hot chili sauce whose main ingredients are piri piri (type of chili pepper), Serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers and spices such as garlic paste, coriander, red chili powder, caraway as well as some vegetable or olive oil. It is most closely associated with Tunisia, Libya and Algeria but recently also making inroads into Morocco according to Moroccan food expert Paula Wolfert. I particularly like the brand Mustafa’s Moroccan Harissa which is very flavorful and not too crazy spicy.
1 large onion, finely diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced (or more if it’s young and mild like what you have in your share this week)
1 bunch de-stemmed and chopped chard
1 cup bulgur
3 tablespoons. olive oil
2-3 teaspoons (or more to taste) harissa (see headnote)
Black pepper, freshly ground
Sea or kosher salt (at least 1 teaspoon)
More harissa and Greek yogurt for serving
Add everything but the lemon juice to a deep heavy, lidded pot. (Le Creuset is great). Mix it all together with a spoon or your hands. Add 1/2 cup water and mix thoroughly again.
Take several paper towels and lay them over the bulgur mixture, tucking them gently into the sides. Cover the pot and cook over very low heat for about an hour or so. Resist the urge to remove the lid since the steam generated is a critical factor. I typically start with high heat to get things going, then, when I sense the presence of steam and can start to smell the dish, reduce it significantly.
When it is finished, remove the paper towels, taste and, if necessary, continue to cook with the paper towels intact again.
Squeeze a lemon over the finished bulgur and top with more harissa and Greek yogurt or a poached or fried egg.
Broccoli and Arugula Soup
This is an unusual combination and you have to be careful not to overdo the arugula but it’s very good and happens to use two, make that three, of your ingredients this week.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large clove or several smaller cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 head broccoli, cut into large florets, about 2/3 pound
2 1/2 cups water, veggie bouillon or chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and black pepper, season to taste
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 cup arugula leaves (loosely packed) or a bit less if you’re nervous about the spicyness
squeeze of 1/2 lemon
sour cream or Greek yogurt for garnish (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic cloves and cook for another minute. Add the broccoli and cook for about 4 minutes, until the broccoli is bright green in color. Add the cumin, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Add the veggie bouillon, water or stock, lower the heat and cover. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the broccoli has been softened and is just tender.
Working in batches, transfer some of the soup liquid and broccoli to a blender. Add half of the arugula leaves and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl or another pot while you blend the second batch of soup with the rest of the arugula. (You can also use an immersion blender but the texture won’t be quite as smooth.) Return to a pot over a low flame, check to see if it needs more salt or pepper. Add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and serve garnished with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt if you’d like.
Mac and Cheese with Broccoli
I made this meal as a child, starting around age 10 and made it for years, and still do every once in a while. It’s simple, delicious and eminently satisfying. And it’s not really a recipe but a combination cooked pasta and broccoli with a basic béchamel/cream sauce and your choice of cheese. Here’s my version.
One of the time saving tricks to make this is to cook the broccoli florets and pieces of stem right in with the pasta. Just add it about 3 minutes before the pasta is done and drain it all together.
¾ – 1lb pasta (such as penne, ziti, fusilli, etc. )
However much broccoli you have/want to use
2 cups grated cheese (sharp cheddar, Emmenthaler, Parmesan. . . )
The béchamel (cream sauce) is really pretty quick to make so don’t be put off by it. It brings it all together.
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
Generous 2 cups of whole milk (2% can work in a pinch)
Salt & pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes (or more to taste, ½ teaspoon is very mild in this dish)
2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard
Pinch of ground nutmeg or cloves (optional)
Preheat oven to 375.
Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan over med/low heat. When melted, whisk in flour. Continue cooking the roux for 2 -3 min, whisking frequently. Meanwhile heat milk until it’s scalding. Whisk hot milk into roux and add several pinches of salt, grind in some pepper, add chili flakes (or omit if you’d like), add mustard and a bay leaf and a grating or two of nutmeg. Stir well and cook over med/low heat for about 10 minutes until thickened and bubbling. Add half the cheese.
Put the pasta and broccoli in a baking dish. Mix in the sauce and sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake until bubbly and hot throughout. Pass under the broiler for a few minutes if you’d like more of a crust.
Fennel is crisp, juicy, sweet and has its signature and pronounced anise flavor. It’s delicious added to salads of many kinds. Remove the fronds (tops) and trim any outer pieces that seem fibrous and tough. Then slice the bulb crosswise as thinly as you possibly can. Now you can toss with some of the romaine and arugula in your share and a lemony vinaigrette.
Another good combination is very thinly sliced raw fennel mixed with thin shavings of Parmesan, chopped fresh parsley, salt and pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. If you have a few oil-cured black olives, chop those roughly and toss them in as well.
Fennel is also good with fish. You can add a few slices of fennel and some chopped fennel fronds either to parchment paper packets of fish fillets seasoned with lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper or stuff a whole fish with same and bake.
Spring Vegetable Minestrone with Beans and Fennel Fronds
If you have any kind of cooked beans—white, pinto, black, chickpea—you can make a quick, flavorful soup in less than half an hour. I’ve included my standard bean cooking instructions in case you’re inspired to cook some.
You can use almost any vegetable here. If you have any turnips left over from last week, use them in the soup as well. Homemade veggie bouillon (and some bean cooking liquid if you have it and/or chicken stock makes a good base. The fennel fronds add a lovely fragrance to this soup.
½ a large onion, diced
1 bunch chard stems, finely chopped (you can use the rest of the chard leaves in the bulgur recipe)
3-4 chard leaves, well washed and chopped
3 small carrots, cut into thin rounds (optional)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 fennel bulb, diced
1 cup broccoli florets (cut quite small)
2-3 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
2 cups cooked pinto or other beans (see headnote)
3/4 cup small pasta like tubetti or ditalini (very small, short little tubes) You could also break up spaghetti but you want a small-ish pasta for sure
4-5 cups veggie bouillon broth, chicken stock or any stock or water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Good olive oil for drizzling
Saute onion, chard stems, carrots, if using, and garlic in a large soup pot in 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring often, until softened and starting to brown a little.
Add the cooked beans and all the broth or stock (or water) and bring to a simmer. Now add the pasta and after a few minutes add chard leaves, fennel, broccoli and fennel fronds. You’re trying to time it so that the pasta and all the vegetables are tender at the same time but even if some things are a little softer than others it’s a lovely soup. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve the soup drizzled with good olive oil and add some more good sea salt and some more chopped fennel fronds and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Basic Dry Bean Soaking/Cooking Instructions
If you aren’t in the habit of soaking and cooking dry beans here are the basic steps. The flavor of the beans is very good this way and they are much, much cheaper than cans. Once in the habit, it’s not much work at all. And I always soak and cook more than I need for any given recipe and freeze the rest in some of the cooking liquid.
4 cups dried beans (garbanzo, white, black, pinto. . . ) Rinse beans if they look dusty and pick out any stones. Usually I don’t find anything like that. Place in a large bowl covered by about 4 inches of cold water. Soak over night or 6-8 hours. Drain and rinse beans.
Place soaked beans in a large pot and cover with cold water by several inches. Add a few whole, peeled garlic cloves, a bay leaf and a chunk of peeled onion. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and let cook covered until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally (this helps prevent some beans from softening before others.) I’ve had good luck salting at the beginning of the cooking process but know that sometimes it can prevent beans from cooking properly, so salt mid-way through or at the end if you’d like. When you do add salt, be generous, as in at least 2-3 teaspoons salt to start if you’re cooking 4 cups or so of dried beans. They’ll probably need more still. The time it takes for the beans to cook will vary depending on the kind of bean and the freshness of the dried beans. Garbanzos take the longest, usually about 35-40 minutes. Black, white and pinto can be done in 20-30 minutes. Let beans cool in their liquid (if you’re not in a rush) and then use, freeze, etc. If you’re freezing some, fill your container with the beans and then ladle in the cooking liquid until the beans are almost covered. Cooked beans also keep in the fridge for 5-6 days.