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a bowl of beans


There may be more written about Italian food than any other cuisine on earth. For this reason it is intimidating to write about one’s food experiences in Italy. Nonetheless, I just returned from Rome and also a village in Perugia called Montefalco, and about this I must write.

fennel scraps

One of our first meals in Rome wasn’t even in Rome. It was at the cafeteria at Ostia Antica, on a Sunday at noon, when we were suddenly ravening and miles away from anything else to eat. Ostia Antica is an abandoned Roman port city right outside of Rome. Unearthed in the late 19th century, it is hauntingly beautiful, elegant, and organized. So different from the hot chaos of the Roman streets, here weeds grew quietly up between the ancient paving stones, and ancient tablets marked graves and directions. The city had been immense, Rome’s first colony, when it found it needed a port. Imagine the chaos of boats, bringing hundreds of African animals each day, bound for death in the Colosseum. Other boats carried wheat from Egypt, and slaves. People lived on top of people. You can see the remains of enormous apartment buildings. At several points I thought, just the trash from the amount of food consumed in the city itself—it must have been daunting.

The place was more or less devoid of tourists, except for a gaggle of German high-schoolers who were clearly Latin students traveling with their teachers. It was a brilliantly sunny, cloudless April day, and hunger struck us quickly. As miserable as cafeterias at a tourist site can be, we dutifully trouped in to find something to eat. The format was tavola calda, meaning there were dishes piled with warm items to one side, and dishes piled with cold items to another. The food looked good.


I selected a number of salads, including one of borlotti beans: celery, celery leaves, carrots, all doused in olive oil, perfectly salted. We sat outside in the chilly sunshine with our dishes, scooping up bites of frittata, or cheese, or beans. Clearly, I thought, there is a conjurer in the kitchen, cooking up an insurrection in this a cafeteria.

Every meal was wonderful, even sandwiches from a cart in the park. Eventually we did find a real conjurer, at an enoteca in Montefalco called l’Alchimista. It is almost tragic that this restaurant is so hard to find, perched in this little town made entirely of rock. It is absurd how good it is to consume the layers of crepes, besciamella, and mushrooms they call “lasagne,” and it is almost silly how you begin to covet each remaining bite of grilled quail, or beef.

giant meringues indeed

Since I returned, I’ve begun to replicate my favorites modestly, beginning with that bean salad. I cook a pound of Rancho Gordo borlottis, or Ojo de Cabra, or cranberry beans at the beginning of the week. Then each night I scoop some out and make a new salad. Cafeteria food.

A bowl of beans

  • 3 cups drained and rinsed cooked or canned beans (Borlottis, cranberry beans, or Ojo de Cabra work well)
  • 1 carrot, peeled and then sliced thinly with a mandoline or vegetable peeler
  • 1 stalk celery, strings removed, finely chopped, leaves included
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley (if you have it)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt (much less if using table salt)
  • freshly cracked pepper

1. Select a bowl that will hold all of the ingredients. Mix together all ingredients except for salt and pepper. Mix well. Taste and add fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt, and cracked pepper, as you feel necessary. Finish with another drizzle of olive oil. Serve at room temperature.


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orange + avocado salad

salad forever

I learned this salad about halfway through my college years. I lived in Cabot House at Harvard, where the residential quarters are divided into 12 houses, each with a professor in charge, and a number of graduate students and other scholars kicking around to keep an eye on the undergraduates. The professor in charge of our house was a faculty member who had a remarkable wife, a phenomenal cook, a brilliant host, and a lively spirit.

Though I had grown up in a house where we fed every soul who walked through the door, Emanuela taught me a lot about the military-drill precision involved in preparing for entertaining. While she had a genius for flavors, textures, and more than anything, technique, she also innately understood when things had to be ready and how to get them ready. Just as hordes of college students and faculty would push their way through the door, platters and bowls arranged themselves flawlessly on the table. There was never any stress involved; even though people overuse the word “effortless” in this sense, she really made it all seem effortless. Suddenly we would all be tamed, civilized. Perching on chairs, eating carefully, listening to the speaker who was invited, mulling the topic. Civilization.


Civilization; that is what this salad represents, and it charmed me from the beginning. Before college, I had never eaten or prepared an avocado. And we certainly never used a knife to take the skin off of an orange, creating glistening, jewel-like slices. Emanuela would toss this with giant tubes of pasta for a salad, dousing it in just the right amount of olive oil. These days, I leave off the pasta and serve it on its own. I recently made it for a big party and loved the proportions of it on the platter. If you’d like to be the genius of your next party, give it a shot. It will all seem so effortless, and civilized.


Orange + avocado salad

This is scaled for a big crowd on a huge platter. You can bring it all the way back to 1 avocado and 1 orange.

  • 10 ripe Haas avocados
  • 10 juicy navel oranges
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
  • extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt for sprinkling

1. Peel the avocados and cut into 6 to 8 lengthwise slices. Use a sharp knife to take the skin and pith off of the oranges. First, slice off each end, then set up on one of the flat ends and cut with the knife just under the pith, rotating the orange and removing skin and pitch in sections. Flip to the other flat end and remove remaining pith with your knife. Slice in half lengthwise and remove the center of the orange. Cut each orange into 8 or so slices. Place slices in a bowl as you go. Collect up all the juices from the cutting process and reserve.

2. Arrange orange and avocado slices in alternate on a large platter, in concentric circles or however you like. Drizzle all the juice from the orange over the platter, making sure avocados are covered. Sprinkle onion over, and drizzle olive oil over. Sprinkle with just a little Maldon salt or fleur de sel. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Serve.

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kale + mozzarella salad

As tomatoes become grainy and corn becomes starchy, and many other summer vegetables flame out or fade away, kale—at least in Connecticut—is a vegetable that makes the transition with us from spring, to summer, to fall. A lot of the kale we are getting here now is hardier than usual, maybe with a touch of frost burn around the edges. But it’s no less delicious and no less welcome for those blemishes, at a time of year when our fairer summer friends take their leave from the kitchen.

Nothing can be simpler than making a raw kale salad for supper. You can make it a million different ways. In fact, I had every intention that this particular salad would in fact be one of those different ways: a raw kale, lemon and avocado salad. But the avocado I’d been ripening all week had other plans. (Don’t you hate it when you slice into an avocado, one that you’ve been babying along to ripeness, only to discover it is slimy and brown inside?) Luckily I had a nice ball of fresh mozzarella in the refrigerator, ready to take its place beside finely sliced kale, red onions, and lemon juice. The key with any raw kale salad is to rub it down properly with an acid, like lemon juice, and then olive oil—at least 15 or 30 minutes before you plan to eat. (Be warned: if you have an office job where you tend to get paper cuts, you better be a masochist to undertake this particular procedure.) The acid and oil kind of “cook” the kale a bit—it will still be verdant and crunchy, but a little easier to eat. I like to mellow it out with something a bit fatty (in this case mozzarella and not avocado) and make sure just before supper that the whole thing is properly salted after all. (Sometimes I find I need to add a bit more salt at the end.) Enjoy improvising on this theme over the next few weeks, a not insignificant consolation in the face of fall.

Kale + mozzarella salad

  • 2 bunches (about 20 large leaves) of lacinato kale, washed and cut into a fine chiffonade
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 4 oz fresh mozzarella
  • freshly cracked black pepper

1. Combine the finely sliced kale, lemon juice and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, massage the lemon juice into the kale leaves for about 3 to 4 minutes. Assiduously work it into the leaves. Add olive oil and honey and continue to massage for 1 to 2 more minutes. Set aside while you prepare other dishes, at least 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Just before serving, add onion and mozzarella. Grind black pepper over, to taste. Serve.

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greek salad

Dinners at our house are super boring for the past three weeks. Tomatoes have been peak, and with little rain, the fruits are rich, and lush, and flavorful. After a trip to Greece a couple of years ago—which would have been utterly worthwhile if the only thing that happened was that I learned to make Greek salads—I made the mistake of making a Greek salad as I learned on my trip. Now, during tomato season, Ty is disappointed by any other side dish. (Not that this is only a side dish; we had a Greek salad by itself for supper twice in the past week.) He gets twitchy if we start running low on feta, or olive oil. We both vigilantly eye the supply of tomatoes ripening on the sideboard, eager to be certain that there will be one that becomes perfectly ripe each and every day. In the same way that college football fans talk about “clock management,” I am obsessed with tomato management, worried that the tomatoes I selected at the market on Saturday or Wednesday might not ripen in daily succession, one after the other, ready for a trip to the salad bowl.

I was never really a yellow tomato girl, but I think the farmers are learning more about which varieties are most tasty with each passing year. The salad I photographed for this post had a yellow-to-red ombre tomato in it, and it was gorgeous and delicious. It’s an extraordinary year for flavor in our Connecticut cucumbers and bell peppers as well. The vegetables are all crispy and toothsome. Even though I posted this Greek panzanella recipe last summer, I think I skipped right over the main attraction. I hope you’re not offended by the simplicity of this recipe. Enjoy the rest of tomato season and try to squeeze in a few of these salads.

Greek salad

For every two adults:

  • 1 large, ripe tomato, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 large, green bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/8 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeds removed and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • fleur de sel or kosher salt
  • 3 to 4 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 3 to 4 thin slices of feta
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of fruity extra-virgin olive oil

1. Combine tomato, bell pepper, red onion, and cucumber in a salad bowl. Rub dried oregano between your hands into the bowl. Sprinkle with a few pinches of fleur de sel (about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon) and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss to combine. You can let the salad sit at this point for 15 minutes or so while you prepare the rest of the meal.

2. Just before serving, add feta to salad and drizzle with olive oil. Gently toss to combine ingredients.

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chard, bean + quinoa salad w pickled golden raisins

A friend inspired this dish by telling me she had made a similar salad with her CSA haul earlier in the week. We needed to fortify our supper offerings over the weekend with more complete proteins and slow-burning carbohydrates (there were many rounds of golf to be played) and something like this salad seemed just the thing. And it was: the perfect partner to poached chicken, pan-roasted pork chops, and all by itself. The market is currently full of greens that would fit the bill for this salad. You could blanch beet greens, kale, or spinach as indicated for chard below and the result would be a marvelous salad. I have to take an extra-large sack with me to the farmers’ market on Saturdays because even one of the giant bunches of kale or chard I collect while I’m there will fit in a normal tote bag.

Most of my recipes involving chard will use the ribs. In this one, since the chard is barely wilted, I knew the stems would be too crunchy. But I urge you to take my note below seriously. Use them for another purpose! At the very least throw them into your next pot of bones or scraps to make broth. Or do something more exciting. For example, I have been dying to make Lulu Peyraud’s salt cod and chard stem gratin.  Or if you were willing to take a few extra minutes, you could chop the stems separately and add them to boiling, salted water for about 5 to 7 minutes, until they’re tender. They would make a delightful addition to the salad. In any case, try making something with them—they’re flavorful and wonderful.

Let me say that you could easily slice radishes in here, or avocado, or roasted beets (which make poor neighbors in salads, turning everything fuchsia), or serve it with hard-boiled eggs, or poached eggs, or goat cheese. Or any crumbly cheese. Instead of quinoa, you could try this with cooked lentils, or bulgar, or cooked spelt grains, farro, brown rice or wheat berries. These heartier options would probably require a more orthodox stance on dressing. (The way I put this together, with such a light grain as quinoa, didn’t really require any dressing besides the olive oil still clinging to the leaves of the Swiss chard, and the hint of vinegar from the raisins.) Variations on this salad theme—beans plus grains plus vegetables—are a summer staple. Make a double batch of this to last through the week. It’s a true chameleon at the dinner table, and a wonderful partner in the kitchen.

Chard, bean + quinoa salad w pickled golden raisins

  • 3/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 large bunch Swiss chard, roughly chopped, stems removed for another purpose
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 cup red quinoa (or black or white if that is what you have)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups drained, cooked beans (I used cannellini)
  • salt, to taste

1. In a small bowl, toss together raisins and vinegar and set aside. As you prepare the rest of the dish, stir and toss the raisins in the vinegar periodically.

2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add Swiss chard and toss until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Add minced garlic and crushed red pepper. Continue to cook only until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and drain and cool the mixture in a colander until it is cool enough to handle.

3. Meanwhile, rinse quinoa in a fine mesh strainer until very well rinsed. Add to a sauce pan with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until quinoa is done. This takes approximately 10 minutes. (Carefully taste quinoa to ensure it’s done.) Drain cooked quinoa in the fine mesh strainer.

4. Squeeze all the liquid you can from the drained chard. Remove to a cutting board and chop into a chiffonade. Drain any remaining vinegar from the raisins in the bowl. In a large bowl, combine the cooked chard mixture, the drained, cooked beans, the drained, pickled raisins, and the drained quinoa. Mix vigorously with a spatula; taste for salt and add more if necessary. If the salad is dry for your taste, add a drizzle of olive oil. Serve at room temperature.

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eggplant salad

Sometimes I forget that the simplest of salads often don’t involve leafy greens. Just before an abundance of salad greens hit our farmers’ markets, I was at the co-op and spotted an eggplant. I usually don’t buy out-of-season vegetables, but I thought about what a nice change it would be to indulge in one of summer’s signature ingredients. Virtually every eggplant dish I make is a variation on this theme: plunk the eggplant down on one of my gas range’s burners, char it until it is totally blackened, covered with ashes, and seeping fluid onto the range, scrape out the smoky, roasted innards, and then mix that with whatever makes the most sense at the time.

I had a bit of red onion around and so I thought a simple salad with a kick of cumin might do the trick. You could use lemon juice if you have one around. I didn’t, but vinegar did the trick.

Since last week I have visited the CitySeed markets and stocked up on rabe, spinach, carrots, and other seasonal treats (check back soon!) but this salad was a great preview of what summer has to offer.

Eggplant salad

Adapted from this recipe from Gourmet

  • 1 eggplant, about 1 pound, more long and skinny than stout
  • 1/4 red onion, minced finely
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • coarse salt

1. Roast the eggplant. I place it, whole, over a gas burner directly on my range. As one side chars and blackens, I rotate it with metal tongs, until the entire eggplant is charred and the flesh has collapsed and is cooked. Alternatively, you can slice it in half lengthwise, place both halves cut-side down on a baking sheet, and place under a high burner (about 1.5″ away from flame) for 15 – 30 minutes, until it is charred and the inside is soft and cooked.

2. Scrape the eggplant flesh from the inside into a medium bowl, and discard skin.

3. Break up the eggplant with a fork. Stir in the other ingredients: onion, vinegar, sugar, olive oil, cumin, parsley. Add a little salt, taste, and add more if needed.

4. Serve at room temperature as part of a selection of tapas, or to accompany roast fish, chicken, or lamb. Heap on toasts to make crostini, garnish with a bit of crumbled feta. This is a flexible dish so enjoy playing with it.

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smoked trout + asparagus salad

After we feasted on this salad the other night, I got the third degree from Ty: where did the recipe come from? I’m not quite sure really. I kind of applied the transitive property to a couple of things in the refrigerator, and landed on this particular combination. So much of cooking is this way for home cooks, I think. We know that A traditionally goes well with B, and that C traditionally goes well with B, and therefore A and C also make a great pairing. Sometimes you get several degrees away in these relationships and still end up with something stunning. So with this salad.

I think the original inspiration here is our annual trip to the Adirondacks, where we stay in Keene, N.Y., at the delightful Dartbrook Lodge. (Note to self: plan this year’s trip.) While there, one of the delights of local cuisine that we enjoy is smoked trout. It is served there on Club crackers (why are they so good?) and on spinach salad, and with eggs, and in all cases with some combination of horseradish cream, capers, or red onions. Every restaurant in the area seems to feature smoked trout in one dish or another, and like many foods that we associate with a particular place, we love the food more because of the location where we’ve enjoyed it. And vice versa.

Asparagus pairs as naturally with eggs as does smoked trout, which you frequently find with scrambled eggs at breakfast. Potatoes are a lovely companion to asparagus, and also eggs. Red onions and capers are both the frequent companions to these items. And asparagus, smoked trout, eggs, and potatoes all love horseradish. I should pause here to say that my lovely colleague Lani, who makes her own horseradish each year with her husband, gave me a jar of the potent stuff. Without it, this dish would not have been possible! I know the pain and suffering involved with grinding one’s own horseradish, and I therefore treasure it all the more.

Each component of this salad is blanched or browned separately to prepare the final dish: bacon crisped, eggs hard-boiled,  asparagus blanched,  potatoes boiled. All of these things can be done in advance—a few days in advance, even. (Except the asparagus, which is always more crisp-tender if blanched and iced just before eating.) The dressing, a simple mixture of Greek yogurt, mayonnaise, horseradish, and lemon juice, can also be prepared the day before. Or, you can do as I did, and come home from work and set a pot of water to boil and fry your bacon. (Truthfully I should also note that the bacon is absolutely unnecessary to the success of this dish. It is marvelous without it.) Everything gets cooled with chilled water before composing the salad (now is when you can fry up your croutons) and you are ready to eat.

While putting this together has its logistical challenges, none of its components are difficult, and all in all it is a route to an easy weeknight supper. Happy spring!

Smoked trout + asparagus salad

Serves 4

  • 4 eggs, hard boiled
  • 1/4 cup greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 medium waxy potatoes, such as red bliss or Yukon gold, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch cubes
  • 1 bunch asparagus (about 20 spears), washed and trimmed of tough stems
  • 3 slices bacon (optional)
  • 8 ounces of smoked trout, skin removed
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 8 slices of ciabatta or baguette
  • olive oil for frying ciabatta or baguette

1. If you do not have hard-boiled eggs on hand, make them first. Place 4 eggs in a pan, just covered with water. Put the lid on the pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit, without disturbing the lid, for 10 minutes. Remove eggs from pan and plunge carefully into very icy water until you are ready to prepare the salad.

2. Make dressing: combine yogurt, mayonnaise, horseradish, and lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup or small pitcher. Set aside.

3. Place potato chunks in a pot with a lid and cover with cold, salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat and leave at a simmer until just tender, about 10 minutes. Test a large potato chunk to be sure they are cooked. Drain in a colander in the sink and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Set aside.

4. Refill potato pot with fresh water. Salt lightly and bring to a rolling boil. When it boils add asparagus and blanch until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove asparagus from pan into another pan filled with very icy water.

5. Meanwhile, if using, in a skillet over medium heat, brown the bacon until it is very dark and crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Wipe out skillet and add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Heat over medium-high until shimmering. Add ciabatta or baguette slices and fry until deep brown on the first side. Quickly and carefully flip the slices and brown on the second side. Remove to a paper-towel lined plate.

6. Assemble the salad: Remove eggs from ice water (or refrigerator if already cooked) and peel them and cut them in half lengthwise. Arrange asparagus, tips pointing to rim of platter. Heap potatoes in the center of the plate (on top of asparagus stems). Drizzle some of the dressing over potatoes and asparagus stems. Arrange halves of eggs around potatoes among asparagus spears. Break up smoked trout and distribute over potatoes, asparagus and eggs. Do the same with bacon, if using. Distribute chopped onion and capers over entire platter. Drizzle everything with more dressing. Serve with croutons on the side.

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simplest vinaigrette

In a lot of ways this feels like a totally bogus excuse for a post. Everyone knows how to make delicious salad dressing out of what’s in the pantry, right? Oddly, this is probably my most requested recipe, so I thought I would post it here. I have to give a hat tip to my sister, Hope, who taught me to make salad dressing. My attempts at making salad dressing were all over the place before she took me in hand. She tends to be rather orthodox in her approach to most things, and she was very clear on what needed to go into vinaigrette. Nothing earth-shattering—but there was nothing on her list that could be left out, and nothing else she thought should be added, either.

Over the years, I have come to believe that it is true—the ingredients in salad dressing are simple and available in your pantry, but it’s not something I am ever tempted to go messing around with. True, I use a different vinegar each time (I keep white balsamic, apple cider, sherry and rice vinegars in the pantry), but the rest stays the same each time. I have never measured what goes into the dressing until now. So when my mom called the other day for the “recipe” I kind of stammered out what I thought was in it—but like everyone else I do it totally by eye.

So you can take this recipe or leave it. I bet your vinaigrette is really delicious, and you like it just the way you make it. But if not, shake this up in a little jar and use it throughout the week. There is never a good reason, in my opinion, to pay for bottled salad dressing. If you adopt my point of view you can have not only great salad, but also a satisfying sense of thrift and moral superiority to boot. (Just kidding. Kind of.)

Simplest vinaigrette

This quantity makes enough for a generous salad for four.

  • 2 tablespoons vinegar (cider, white balsamic or sherry vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons grainy mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 smashed garlic clove
  • coarsely ground black pepper

1. Combine all ingredients except for pepper in a small jar. Shake, shake, shake. Check bottom of jar to make sure honey is totally incorporated. Taste a little of the dressing and make sure it isn’t too tart or too sweet. (It depends on your vinegar.) Add more honey or vinegar as needed.

2. Shake immediately before pouring over salad greens. Toss vigorously. Grind medium or coarse black pepper to your taste, and give salad a final toss. Serve immediately.


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kale salad with raisins + pecorino

I identify more as a huge food blog fan than I do as a food blogger. My Google Reader is filled with dozens of them. I love these windows into other people’s kitchens: it’s like standing on the stepstool in the kitchen as a kid, or sitting in a restaurant with an open kitchen, watching the choreography involved in meal preparation, where multiple people waltz around each other with pots and pans and knives. I find it mesmerizing, like watching the man at the circus juggling the flaming rings or something.

One blog I have loved reading is Stay at Stove Dad. And for a while now I have been making versions of his Fly Sky High Kale Salad. I don’t get along very well with pine nuts, so I have been making the salad without them and adding garlic. But as we know, I have this thing with adding raisins to savory dishes. When my sister was in town last week, I added raisins to the salad after a soak in white balsamic vinegar. The tart vinegar, the sweet raisins, the mellow kale and the aged pecorino just sing together. This is a great dish to make when you’re fixing a larger meal, because the raisins need to soak, and after cooking the kale needs to cool, so you can do it in stages in between everything else.

We had a wonderful meal (including a veal stew that will be posted later) and enjoyed every bite. It made me think of Stay at Stove Dad’s daughters, Nina and Pinta—two other sisters, who share this salad regularly—what lucky girls! Thanks to his family and many other bloggers who open their kitchens to all of us regularly.

Kale salad with raisins + pecorino

Inspired by Fly Sky High Kale Salad at Stay at Stove Dad

Serves 4

  • 1 clove garlic, sliced paper thin
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 to 12 ounces lacinato kale (cavolo nero or Italian kale), washed and ribs removed, sliced into a thin chiffonade
  • 1/2 cup raisins, black or golden
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic or cider vinegar
  • pecorino cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • coarse salt

1. Select a large salad or mixing bowl. Mix raisins and vinegar in the bowl, submerging raisins as much as possible. Set aside for up to an hour.

2. Select a large saute pan. Warm olive oil over medium-high heat and add garlic, and stir just until garlic is fragrant. Add kale to the pan and saute very quickly, just until it turns bright green and before it wilts very much. Scrape kale mixture into the bowl with the raisins and vinegar. Toss thoroughly with tongs and set aside until it reaches room temperature.

3. Sprinkle kale with salt and several grindings of fresh pepper. Toss once more and divide among salad plates or bowls. Using a vegetable peeler, shave a few shavings of pecorino cheese on each serving. Serve.


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chard, butternut squash, farro + goat cheese salad

Making salad when we have turned the corner to fall is not quite the straightforward matter it is in summer. There are plenty of green tomatoes in the market this time of year, cut off before their prime. These are great for frying or pickles, but not so much for salads. There are green peppers, but no cucumbers. And the greens trend hearty—chard, kale, collards, cabbage—rather than leafy and delicate. I do think that while salads in this season present a greater challenge, there are also great rewards in combining these more substantial vegetables.

Thursday evening, faced with a potluck lunch at work and Ty’s parents coming into town, I found myself pulling out everything from my trip to the downtown CitySeed market on Wednesday. Bags of chard, squashes, arugula, pears, eggplants, apples, turnips, all rearranged themselves into a manageable chorus (heard mostly in my head) and I started cooking. The squash and chard singled themselves out for salad for the potluck.

I had farro on hand, and I do think it’s best in this type of salad, but you could also use reconstituted bulgar, wheat berries, quinoa, or another hearty grain. I love farro because it is chewy and, to me, it tastes like fall. It absorbs dressings beautifully while retaining its own character. I threw raisins into this; you could also use dried cranberries. And if you wanted, I think some diced tart apple or pear would be great in this salad as well. It’s a pattern for fall and winter salads that you can follow until spring appears, and with it tender lamb’s lettuce and Claytonia. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Chard, butternut squash, farro + goat cheese salad

  • 1 bunch (mine was 10 ounces) Swiss chard, sliced into thin ribbons
  • 3 shallots, finely sliced
  • 3 cups butternut squash, cut in 3/4-inch dice
  • 3 cups cooked farro* (you can substitute cooked quinoa or other grains)
  • 3 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • coarse salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. In a small bowl, mix together raisins, vinegar, honey, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, plus about 1/4 teaspoon of coarse salt. Stir thoroughly and let it sit while you prepare the rest of the salad.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, toss butternut squash cubes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of coarse salt and a few grinds of pepper. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet and place in hot oven until well browned and cooked through. Cubes should pierce easily with a knife. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool a bit.

3. Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet until it shimmers. Add shallots and saute until golden brown. Add the ribbons of chard, and stir to coat completely with olive oil. Sprinkle with a few pinches of coarse salt. When greens have collapsed a bit and are a bright emerald green color, turn off the heat.

3. When chard, squash and farro are no longer hot, but still warm, assemble the salad. In a large bowl or serving dish, place the farro and chard mixture. Add the raisin mixture and mix very thoroughly using a large spatula or tongs. Take your time here to distribute the dressing thoroughly. Taste for seasoning and add salt or pepper, or more vinegar or olive oil if needed.

4. Add the roasted squash and combine a bit, leaving most on the top of the salad. Crumble the goat cheese over. You can hold the salad in the refrigerator overnight, or serve it right away.

* Farro is an ancient grain that you can find at Anson Mills. Used widely in Italy, you can sometimes find it in New Haven at Skappo Merkato at the corner of Orange and Crown, or at Liuzzi’s. To make farro, soak 1 1/4 cups farro overnight by covering it in 3 cups boiling water and letting it rest at least 8 hours. Then, bring to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes until tender but still chewy and springy. (I taste it often after 25 minutes until it is done.) Drain and spread out in a colander or on a sheet tray to cool.

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