Shoulder Season Soup

Dinner: September 28, 2010

I’m in commuter hell this week – I’ve had a succession of early or late buses in the morning, consistently late trains, and unplanned cab rides home from the train station which, in addition to being annoyingly expensive and sometimes terrifying, have put me in a big ole cranky mood in the evening, and craving exactly what we’ve been trying to get away from – comfort food.

I sat on the train in my work clothes drenched to the bone after a rain-soaked spin through the Boston Public Market on Tuesday, with tomatoes and fennel and green beans and squash globes and all sorts of other goodies in my totes, and decided a big veg-laden soup was in order. After I got home, I peeled off my damp clothes and changed into something warm and dry, and then I got to chopping: slender leeks, carrots, fresh celery, beautifully ripe plum tomatoes, sweet red peppers, globe zucchini, fresh thyme branches and green beans all went into my pot at various stages, sprinkled with salt and bathed in dribbles of olive oil and a judicious amount of red wine as they cooked down. I added a little bit of orzo to the mix, and when it was tender, added a good amount of freshly grated parm to the soup off the heat. I blitzed up a fresh parsley and fennel frond pistou in the mini chopper to spoon on top, and served up our soup with a few thick slices of Olga’s Pane Francese and some gooey, runny cheese from Farmstead.

As antidotes go, this was just about perfect.

Buffalo Stance

Dinner: July 13, 2010

(To those of you who have found your way over here via thekitchn, welcome!)

The mercury has dropped a bit in the last week, but I’m still stuck on big, bright, crunchy salads for dinner. I’ve accumulated a ton of gorgeous vegetables between our regular Saturday farmers’ market in Providence and the two I spin through in Boston during the week, and I really can’t think of a better way to put them to use.

Buffalo-style chicken salad

I’ve made a variation of this salad for years, with planks of chicken either breaded and fried or simply grilled or roasted, tossed with my version of “wing sauce” and served with lots of crunchy vegetables and my homemade buttermilk blue cheese dressing (the sauce and dressing recipes can be found here). Last night’s version had its chicken fried crisp, served on a bed of butter lettuce from Kimball’s Fruit Farm, shredded red cabbage, sliced radishes and shredded carrot (also from Kimball’s), chunks of juicy, ripe Woodstock Farm tomato, and cutting celery from our garden (via City Farm). It’s the perfect thing for when I’m craving the flavor of that classic bar snack but want a slightly lighter take on it.

Who knew?

I like raw celery.

Specifically, now that I know what super-fresh celery that wasn’t trucked or flown over hundreds and thousands of miles to my local grocer tastes like, I like raw celery. It’s a revelation, really. I mean, I’ve always cooked with it – it’s one of the building blocks of so many dishes, after all – but the thought that I would actually see a recipe that features celery in its raw state and decide that I had to make that dish, immediately if not sooner, well, that’s something new.

My creation

It doesn’t hurt that the recipe also features pomegranate, one of the few fruits I truly love, and bulgur, an item I always have in my pantry but forget about unless I’m making tabboule, but the celery, those thin slices of crisp green goodness, the celery is what really made this dish sing for me.

Dinner:  January 6, 2008

I of course switched things up a bit from the original recipe, but the idea was the same, and the result was a beautiful mix of textures and flavors, earthy, bright, crunchy, sweet, tart – simply delicious and simple to make. The salad is substantial enough to stand alone, but I served it alongside lemony roast chicken breast. We loved the combination of flavors so much that we shredded some of the leftover chicken into the remaining salad for lunches this week.

Bulgur, Celery and Pomegranate Salad
Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s recipe on 101 Cookbooks

For the dressing:
1 garlic clove, mashed to a paste with coarse sea salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
1/4 cup best quality olive oil

For the salad:
1 cup medium or coarse bulgur
1 small bunch celery, leaves trimmed, stalks sliced thinly on the bias
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 cup picked flat-leaf parsley
1 cup picked fresh dill

For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together until emulsified. Taste and add additional salt if desired, then set aside.

Put the bulgur in a large bowl and just cover with boiling water. Allow the bulgur to sit about 15 minutes – it will be soft but still have some bite to it. Add the celery, pomegranate seeds and walnuts, pour the dressing over and stir to blend. Add the parsley and dill and gently stir through. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.