Split pea soup with mushrooms, rye bread, miso bits

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Split peas have a very unique flavor that’s at it’s best when balanced by salty and savory. This soup is brothy and fatty and full of flavor.  One alternative to the miso bits that I want to try is to drizzle in a little fermented black beans with chili.  

  • 2 tablespoons high-quality miso
  • 2 cups rye bread cubes
  • 1 small bulb fennel, minced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 pint crimini mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 pint split peas, soaked in salted room-temperature water for 2-6 hours
  • 3 cups white wine or rice wine
  • 1 head garlic, broken into cloves and peeled
  • 1 medium carrot, washed
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch chives, minced

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Rice Dumplings, Coconut Curry, Tempeh, Persimmons

Their texture is more like rice gnocchi than rice dumplings or rice cakes. And their flavor is concentrated like nothing else - if you use jasmine rice you really do taste jasmine. This recipe is from the Dumpling book, and even though I wasn’t a fan of the Indian stew they made these with, the dumpling recipe was spot on. I have some plans to make these italianish sometime soon, but for now, here’s a nice red curry, based on one I found in David Thompson’s uncompromising book: Thai Food.  In this picture, I used Chinese black rice, which has it’s own unique flavor. And although I used a perfectly ripe hachiya persimmon - a fuyu one or pineapple chunks or pomegranate seeds would also work.

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Fettucine with Blanched Turnips and Basil Pesto

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     In the colder months, when I want something very fresh tasting, pesto is where it’s at. Since they’re so small, most herbs grow well all year round in greenhouses, and when done right, you don’t need much more than pasta and sauce. It’s always good to have a little something to contrast the fatty, intense flavor of a good pesto - in summer, peak tomatoes do the trick perfectly but in late fall and winter, I really enjoy using baby turnips. A perfectly poached turnip, especially something like a white hakurei, stands up perfectly to pesto. It’s subtle but not bland, moist and crisp. And if you can get them, turnips greens are some of the sweetest, most flavorful greens available - useful raw or braised. Radishes or beets are also good stand-ins, prepared the same way.

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gnocchi, green olives, clementines, dandelion

This is a more composed dish than I usually do, which is even more reason I should have taken a picture. On the other hand, beyond the cooking time for the potatoes, it’s a pretty quick dish to put together.  In that sense, this is sort of in the style of how we put together the gnocchi at Talula’s garden over the course of my year working there. The Spanish do a lot of various mixtures of olives, clementines (or oranges), almonds, sherry vinegar and cinnamon. Then cinnamon and potatoes is actually something I first did with Chinese food, but it fits. More than anything, though, I like the combination of textures on this plate.  Creamy almond puree, juicy clementines, crisp dandelion stems, tender gnocchi, crunchy almonds, fatty and bright vinaigrette. Yum.  

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Chestnut and black bread stuffing and gravy

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned how much I love bread.  Stuffing, done right, is possibly the pinnacle of bread cookery.   It doesn’t go with just anything, but simple rubbed and grilled seitan, a half of a roasted squash, roasted fingerling beets, or even a seared portabello or maitake could be a great foil.

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polenta agnolotti with porcinis, quince, and frisee

Corn is a grass.  There are thousands of varieties of corn.  No one knows how ancient people living in what is now Mexico transformed a particular inedible, small, unremarkable species of grass into the basis for the great civilizations that thrived there. Corn is a weapon of U.S. imperialism.  Corn’s unique chemical structure enables a lot of cool textures in foods.  Corn is a weapon against people in food deserts, as well as people who choose to buy into industrial food.  Many kinds of corn have to be treated with slake lime in order to become edible.  Corn is a lot of things.  Between 1500 and 1700 corn, along with potatoes, transformed European agriculture, especially in places where it was difficult to grow wheat, like in some parts of north/central Italy.  And polenta was born.  Here is a basic polenta agnolotti that can be served with lots of things, including tomato sauce.  Here it goes with a simple mix of fruit, vegetables, and mushrooms.  

Polenta agnolotti:

1 ball pasta dough (link below)

7 cups water

1 cup polenta

1 tablespoon of salt (and more to taste)

½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and crushed

¼ cup olive and argan oil, olive oil, or any flavorful oil.

Fricasse(?):

2 medium shallots

1 head frisee (or other bitter green)

2 Tablespoons of diced quince (or apple or firm pear)

1 fresh porcini mushroom or ¼ cup dried porcini.

½ a cup dry white wine, (or tablespoon of wine vinegar)

2 sprigs of thyme, picked

Marc Vetri(aka the dark lord) says this is the only way he knows how to make polenta:

Bring 6 cups of water to a simmer, whisk in 1 cup of polenta so as to avoid lumps.  Simmer this over the lowest flame possible for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring almost constantly.  I use a non-stick pan which helps, but you still have to stir a lot.  Most good polentas are unique, so you may have to add in some more water as it cooks in order to fully hydrate it, like I did with the “heirloom polenta” from Fair Food. At the end of cooking, it should be smooth so that as you stir in the ¼ cup of oil it becomes creamy.  While this is cooking, you can prepare everything else:

Make this semolina dough, but add a flavorful nut oil like walnut or argan instead of olive oil, if you so desire.  Now you can mince your shallots, dice your quince (or apple or pear),  slice your fresh porcini (if using), and trim your frisee (or kale or radicchio).  When the polenta is done, fold in your crushed hazelnuts. Here is a quick video of the basic process of folding agnolotti (the relevant section starts around 1:07).It’s pretty straightforward: After the dough is rested, roll it out as thin as possible into large sheets at least 3 inches wide.  Either using a pastry bag or just a spoon or whatnot, make a line of polenta down the dough long-ways, about 1 inch away from the edge.  Moisten the edge of the pasta and fold it over the polenta, pinching it closed, trying to get all the air out.  Then, using your hand, press on the encased line of polenta every inch or so, pushing the polenta out from under your hand and sealing the agnolotti.  Use a pizza wheel or a sharp knife to cut them into individual pieces.  

Bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil.  In a separate pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the fresh or dry mushrooms and season with salt and pepper.  When they’ve started to gain color, add the shallots and fruit.  Cook, stirring, until the shallots lose their raw smell.  At that time add the thyme and the wine or vinegar and cook until the pan is almost dry, or “sec.” Add ½ cup of water and cook until the quince and/or the dried mushrooms are tender. When they are tender, drop your agnolotti in the boiling salted water.  Add the greens to the mushroom pan, season them and stir them in.  Cook everything for about a minute longer and then, using a slotted spoon, drop the agnolotti in to the vegetables.  Stir to combine and then plate.