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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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deviled eggs w fresh herbs

egg plates

Is everyone sick of deviled eggs? Between Easter and Passover, they get a workout this time of year. But if you aren’t, I recommend grabbing some of the super-springy herbs at the farmers’ market and getting to work. While I’m giving out unsolicited advice, I would also recommend trying out those medium-size eggs in the grocery store.

I seriously feel for the medium eggs. No one uses them. I often wonder who, besides me, ever buys them. But when you’re boiling eggs, you want ones that are a week or two old. I figure you get that and more with the mediums. No recipes ever call for them, even though, really, they aren’t that runtish.

cute and medium

Generally I buy my eggs at the farmers’ market—and they’re mostly mediums, with a handful of larges and usually one super-giant egg in each dozen. Using these eggs for baking, I’ve long been used to measuring the cracked eggs to make sure I’m getting the right quantity of fluid in sensitive baking recipes. So, when I’m making deviled eggs, especially for a cocktail party, I like them bite-sized. And they hard-boil in no time. (Nine minutes off the heat after bringing to a boil; then you plunge them into an ice bath. The eggs are still a mite soft in the middle; this makes the filling extra gorgeous in the end. Change the time to 12 minutes off heat for large eggs.)


Adding butter to the yolks, just a bit, at room temperature, is a trick we have all by now seen on Food52, where this technique was shared by Virginia Willis in a “genius recipe” feature. It’s pretty clever. The filling is just gorgeous, and handles easily. The chopped herbs get stirred in by hand at the end so as not to turn the filling green. I am partial to the chervil, and add quite a lot, showering the finished eggs with a heavy hand. Its pert citrus flavor livens up the proceedings, and marries beautifully with a nice cocktail like a Negroni.

Do you have an old hobnail or pressed-glass egg plate? Run out and get one! Cheers, it’s spring.

Deviled eggs w fresh herbs

Adapted from Virginia Willis’ recipe at Food52

  • 1 dozen medium eggs
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons room temperature butter
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, if needed
  • 4 tablespoons chopped tarragon, chives, or chervil, plus more for garnish

1. First, boil the eggs. Place eggs in a pan and cover with water by 1 inch. Place on stove over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cut off heat just as water boils, place lid on pan. Set a timer for 9 minutes. (This is for medium eggs. For large, time 12 minutes.) When it rings, carefully transfer eggs to a big bowl of ice water and cool thoroughly. At this point you can refrigerate eggs for several days until ready to make deviled eggs.

2. Peel eggs. Slice in half lengthwise. Remove yolk to food processor; add mayonnaise, butter, mustard, cayenne. Pulse until very smooth. Scrape mixture into a bowl. Add chopped herbs. Taste for salt. Add salt as needed.

3. Scrape mixture into a quart-size plastic zipper bag. Push out air, seal bag, snip off corner. Use this to fill eggs, or simply spoon filling into the whites. Garnish with remaining herbs.


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smothered cabbage

heads will roll

Two hours. In two hours you can do your laundry, pop a bowl of popcorn and watch an entire episode of Miss Marple, meet a friend for a leisurely lunch. It turns out that in two hours you can also transform a humble head of cabbage, which will cost you roughly $2, into something fairly well sublime. First, you must sharpen your knife. You’re going to take the head of cabbage and remove the outer leaves, and then slice down one side of it making thin, paper-thin shredded slices, until you reach the core. Then you’ll lay it on that flat side and slice down another side until you reach the core. You’ll do this five times—four sides plus the top—until what you have left is a cube of cabbage core and a giant bowl of thinly shredded cabbage. Doing this is a meditation, if your knife is sharp. If you knife is not sharp, it is a chastisement. What did you do wrong? Think about it. It will come to you. It is Lent, after all.


I cannot tell you what happens inside the pan that transforms this most humble of brassicas into something sweet, yet not slimy. Maybe it involves quantum mechanics, or Maxwell’s demon. I could not say. What I do know is that the produce section of the supermarket is loaded with inexpensive cabbages after St. Patrick’s Day. And if there were ever a dish that is the exact opposite of boiled wedges of cabbage in every respect, this is that dish. Even better is the fact that cabbages will keep a good old time in the crisper of your refrigerator. I like to have one on hand for nights when the vegetable for the meal has not yet revealed itself to me. The trick is getting home early enough to let this cook along while the rest of the meal is emerging.

shredding with a knife

When it is cooked, does it look pretty? No, it does not. But it is March. There are no vegetables. We have had our flings with rutabagas, parsnips, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts. Those days are over. It is the time of year when I discover anew that the winter of my discontent actually occurs fairly near the vernal equinox. On an evening when you have the leisure to let something simmer away for two hours, I hope you make this smothered cabbage, and ponder sunnier glories.

Smothered cabbage

Adapted from Essentials of Italian Cooking, Marcella Hazan; serves 6 or so as a side dish

  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, trimmed, and thinly sliced
  • 3 fresh cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • five to six cranks of freshly ground pepper
  • 1 head of green or Savoy cabbage, about 2 to 3 pounds, thinly shredded
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1. In a large, heavy casserole pan with a lid, warm the onion, garlic, and olive oil over medium heat. Cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, until very soft and onion is beginning to turn gold. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and give a few more turns. Add shredded cabbage, tossing completely together five or 10 times. Add red wine vinegar, toss three or four more times, and add the lid.

2. Reduce heat to lowest setting and cook for two hours. You can do something else. Come back every 30 minutes and give it a good tossing. If it is getting dry, sticking, or browning, add 1/4 cup water, and stir. After two hours have passed, remove from heat and serve. I like it with roast chicken, or pork roast, or sausages, or chops.


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borlotti beans w fennel + tomato

The beans and legumes are having a heyday here in our kitchen, even more than usual. With a recent shipment of beans from Rancho Gordo, we are on a bit of a tear. Borlottis, a type of cranberry bean, are a particular favorite, and if you have just two people in your family, you can cook a one-pound bag on Sunday and eat them all week. In fact, we made this dish with fennel and tomato in the same week that we made this other dish that involved serving the Borlotti beans over bread cubes toasted in olive oil, with just a little frizzled sage on top. They don’t need much adornment to really sing.


Combining the Borlotti beans—you can use any cooked cranberry bean—with a lot of fennel, kale, and tomatoes seems less like a bean dish and more like a winter vegetable dish. For the first time in weeks, I felt like I had eaten vegetables in the way I feel I’ve eaten vegetables in the summer. It feels totally reckless to have so much fresh stuff in the pot, but really these are winter produce staples. The fennel mellows and loses its licorice-y taste, leaving behind a complicated sweetness. The kale is earthy and the tomatoes provide their characteristic acidity, which balances the dish. It is a bonus that if your beans are already cooked, this takes only a few minutes to get to the table.

beans and such

I based this concoction on a recipe in Paula Wolfert’s amazing book, The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen, which my sister bought me for Christmas. The book is marvelous, and I was enchanted by a recipe for black-eyed peas with fennel and tomatoes that Wolfert said was from Crete. That was enough to sell me on it. A little bit of Crete in my kitchen? In February? Yes, please.

Borlotti beans w fennel + tomato

Adapted from The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen by Paula Wolfert

  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 4 to 6 large kale leaves, ribs removed and cut into a fine chiffonnade
  • 3/4 cup plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cups cooked Borlotti beans, or other cranberry type bean (about 14 oz)

1. Warm onion, fennel, and olive oil over medium heat. Toss and cook for about 15 minutes, until vegetables are pale gold in color. About halfway through, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and toss to continue cooking.

2. Then add kale and toss for a few moments. Add tomatoes and water and bring to a simmer. Stir and add cooked beans. Simmer for about 15 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Taste for seasoning, and add a bit more salt as needed. Serve warm.

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rye drop biscuits

Oh, how I hate to go to the store in this wintry weather.

This tells you that I’m ridiculously lazy, since there is a lovely co-op only two blocks from my house. But January is a month in which I rely more than usual on my pantry, and rarely have a nice fresh loaf of bread in the house, in spite of the temptations routinely proffered by our talented neighborhood bakers. I make regular runs for aromatics (leeks, shallots, onions, garlic) and citrus (oranges, lemons, limes), but I mostly stock up at the weekly winter markets and hope for inspiration to strike each evening when I survey my kitchen in the dark hours after work.

biscuits on a tray

Often in these cases I resort to soup or beans, and the best way to provide these dishes some comfort is with a nice quick bread. Quick breads are breads leavened with baking powder or soda, rather than yeast, and include biscuits, cornbreads, soda breads, scones, and farls. Once my soup or stew is gurgling away on the simmering burner, I will often whisk together flour with a leavener or two and salt, fold in some melted butter and cream or buttermilk, and make some nice buttery breads to go with the supper. The trick to this recipe, and others in my repertoire, is one that I learned from Cooks Illustrated a long time ago: melt the butter and let it stand for a few minutes. Then pour it straight into the ice-cold buttermilk or milk. It curdles into small particles when it hits the cold liquid, which creates the same effect as cutting or rubbing the butter into the dry ingredients, but with none of the work. Perfect for someone too lazy to even walk two blocks to the co-op for a fresh loaf.

biscuit on a plate

For this batch, I used half-and-half mixed with lemon juice to sour it, which makes a rich and fluffy biscuit. You could use buttermilk for a less fatty version and omit the lemon juice. Or, you could whisk some plain nonfat yogurt into your milk or half-and-half as well. There is more than one way to skin this cat. Enjoy experimenting with it.

Rye drop biscuits

Makes 6 to 8 biscuits.

  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons or 1/2 cup) of butter
  • 1 cup dark rye flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of half-and-half
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or grease lightly with butter or shortening. Melt butter gently in the microwave (at 50% power) or on top of the stove just until barely melted. (I turn it off before it melts entirely and whisk to get the remaining solid butter to melt.) Set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. In a 2-cup measure, combine half-and-half with the lemon juice. Stir with a fork. It will curdle. Pour in cooled butter. Stir again with a fork.

3. Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in the butter mixture and use a rubber spatula to mix into a large mass. Using a metal spoon, drop mixture into 6 or 8 large, craggy biscuits on the prepared baking sheet. Pop biscuits into the oven and bake for about 15 to 16 minutes, until golden brown on top and bottom. Serve immediately, while piping hot.


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balsamic + honey glazed brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are our bread and butter around here this time of year. We probably eat them three or four times each week. Sometimes I roast them in the oven, and sometimes I roast them in a pan on top of the stove. Reflecting on this vacillation, I can divine no method to my choices. I think in this I am completely mercurial; sometimes I feel like preheating the oven to 425 F, and sometimes I don’t. Maybe it has to do with whether there is something else already in the oven, though not always. Either way, the sprouts are delicious, and deserve a spot on our plates regularly in the winter.

These are of the pan-roasted variety. The key here is for the first sear to let the pan be nice and hot, and let the sprouts rest with their cut sides on the cooking surface much longer than you would find natural or sensible. Then you pop the lid on the pan to steam the sprouts until they are just cooked through. In the end, much depends on the acidity of your balsamic. I have had balsamics that range widely in their balance of sweet and tangy. Taste, taste, several times before you serve. I always think this recipe will yield leftovers with just the two of us. About this I have always been wrong.

Balsamic + honey glazed brussels sprouts

Enough for 2 to 4

  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 to 1.5 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and washed, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • kosher salt or fleur de sel
  • freshly cracked black pepper

1. In a large nonstick skilled, warm the olive oil and shallots over medium-high heat. Cook until shallots are fragrant and browning. Add sprouts and work your way around the pan flipping them so they are cut side down. When cut side has browned well, begin to stir the pan, modulating the heat as necessary, for about 5 minutes. Crack some pepper over the sprouts. Then place a lid over the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. (If your sprouts were enormous, it may take longer to mostly cook them through in this step.)

2. Meanwhile, whisk together the honey and balsamic. Remove the lid of the pan and pour in the honey and balsamic mixture. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until sprouts are glazed and have absorbed the sauce. Sprinkle with salt and taste. Add more vinegar or honey as needed, and serve.


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potato salad w grainy mustard and thyme

I know potato salad isn’t the first dish that leaps to mind when the weather turns cool, but there is something to be said for making the dish even more savory than usual with the addition of musky herbs, such as thyme, or sage, and lots of grainy mustard. It pairs well with nearly every main course, year round, and is particularly amazing with these pork chops.

If you’re an inveterate potato-salad maker, you know that there are as many ways to make potato salad as there are moments in time. Lots of crunchy vegetables can—and in my opinion should!—be added to the mix. You can try finely diced fennel, celery, snap peas, or carrots, for example. You can leave out the mayonnaise and use Greek yogurt; you can make a dressing of olive oil and vinegar like you do for other salads. Most people have their own way to make potato salad and I’m no exception. I learned from my grandmother (no measurements, of course) and in the summer I still use her method when I’m making a traditional summer meal with fried chicken, or hamburgers. This recipe is a variation on that theme, with the addition of a lot more vegetables and a healthy dose of grainy mustard. The market is brimming, still, with yellow and red bell peppers, potatoes, and thyme, so now is our moment. Granny wouldn’t like this potato salad much, I can tell you. But for the rest of us it’s a great fall option that keeps well in the refrigerator for a few days, and gets better with time. I’d make a double batch this weekend, if I were you.

Potato salad w grainy mustard and thyme

Serves 4 as a side

  • 12 small potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1 small bell pepper, any color, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup grainy mustard
  • Leaves stripped from 12 stalks of thyme
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • up to 1/4 cup red wine or apple cider vinegar

1. Place potatoes in a pan of cold water, with enough water to cover. Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Bring to a boil and boil gently for about 25 minutes, or until a sharp knife inserted into one of the potatoes slips in very easily with no resistance. Drain potatoes and cool. Quarter potatoes with a sharp knife, removing any skin that peels off, but keeping skins that cling to the potatoes.

2. While potatoes are cooking and cooling, combine the remaining ingredients except vinegar. Mix vigorously to dissolve sugar. Add vinegar 1 tablespoon at a time until the dressing reaches the consistency you desire. (Remember you want the dressing a little runnier at this point, as the potatoes will absorb some dressing.) Taste the dressing and add salt if needed, 1/4 teaspoon at a time. If dressing is too tart for your taste, add another teaspoon of sugar. When potatoes have cooled, combine them very well with dressing. Refrigerate until you plan to serve it, and stir very well before serving.

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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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kale w bacon + garlic

I recently read, in a fashion blog I follow, that kale is the new “It veggie.” While I’m not entirely sure what that means, I am delighted to hear that I am for once in the vanguard of fashion. If breadcrumbs become the new It topping, or thighs become the new It chicken part, I will be on the cover of Vogue in no time flat. In any case, these days we are eating kale on alternating days with gigantic Greek salads. You might think this would be boring, but in fact it is delightful. By January we will long for these days.

For the past few weeks I have been meaning to bake some kale chips à la Stay at Stove Dad. You know what they say about good intentions, though, and it seems to be true. I always have these little odd bits of bacon around the house or in the freezer, and when I run home from work at night and pull a big bunch of kale out of the refrigerator, well, the bacon, it calls to me. (That doesn’t mean that sometimes we don’t have a simple kale salad, or a more complicated salad with kale.)

I suppose everyone knows that greens love bacon. (Well, except my mother, who prefers that pork be separated from both greens and beans. This will forever remain one of our few culinary disagreements, I am afraid.) And given how classic that combination is, it is very hard to screw up. If you feel, though, that your hearty greens—and you can use kale, collards, turnip or other greens here—are lacking that certain something, try following the directions below precisely. I find that cooking the bacon over medium heat (instead of trying to hurry with high heat) really caramelizes the bacon’s exterior and renders all the fat. Then blanching the kale quickly, cooling it and squeezing out every possible drop of water helps intensify the flavors of kale and bacon in the pot. Rather than steaming in its own moisture, the kale really picks up the flavors of the garlic, bacon, and crushed red pepper. The mixture stays very dry, but these means that you don’t lose any flavor in the pot liquor. In cooler weather I love having the pot liquor from braised greens, but by August I am ready to embrace this more intense version. And really, isn’t intensity the very least that an It vegetable deserves?

Kale w bacon + garlic

  • 2 bunches kale, any type, washed
  • 4 to 5 slices smoked bacon
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, smashed and sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • kosher salt, if needed

1. Place a large pot of salted water on to boil. When it comes to a boil, immerse kale in the water and black until kale is wilted and bright green, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove kale from pot to a colander to drain. Let it cool until it’s easy to touch. Then squeeze the kale to remove most of the moisture. (*)

2. In a skillet or shallow pan over medium heat, fry the bacon. Let it cook slowly and turn very dark brown on each side. Meanwhile, chop the kale and set aside. When bacon is cooked, if the pan has plenty of rendered bacon fat in it, proceed with the recipe. If not, add the olive oil to the pan and then proceed.

3. Add garlic and crushed red pepper, and saute until garlic is just turning color and is quite fragrant. Then add chopped kale and toss vigorously, taking care to scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until kale is heated through. Taste for salt. Whether you need to add more or not will depend entirely on how salty your bacon is. If you taste and the kale needs more salt, add it a little at a time. Serve kale piping hot.

* To make this dish ahead, you can refrigerate the kale at this point for up to 4 days. When ready to proceed, remove kale from refrigerator and proceed with recipe, draining any additional liquid that has accumulated in the meantime.

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