<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\0757793856\46blogName\75Orangette\46publishMode\75PUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\46navbarType\75BLACK\46layoutType\75CLASSIC\46searchRoot\75http://orangette.blogspot.com/search\46blogLocale\75en\46v\0752\46homepageUrl\75http://orangette.blogspot.com/\46vt\75-5071095333567389549', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

3.26.2007

Hot sauce

I hope you’ll bear with me. I wish I could say otherwise, but the truth is, I’ve still got my head in the pantry closet. There may be tiny flowers popping out of the hedge of the house across the street, but where springtime is concerned, the produce section isn’t quite so forthcoming. I bought a bundle of early-season asparagus a few days ago, but the spears were watery and dull, as though their flavor were still hidden away under the soil, hibernating for winter. I saw spring onions at the market yesterday, but even they were a little wimpy and anemic, picked a week too soon. Thank heavens, I say, for the pantry, my little haven from the seasons. This week, once again, it did us proud. It brought forth a bag of chiles de árbol and from it, a bang-up hot sauce.

Now, before I go any further, you should know one thing: Brandon is a hot sauce fiend. As of this writing, our refrigerator contains eight bottles of assorted hot sauce. That’s three more than five, and only two less than ten. We are the only people in this house. That means that hot sauce outnumbers us four to one. I could have guessed it would be this way from our first date, I suppose, when he made a salad dressing – a delicious one at that – consisting of lime juice, olive oil, and a copious amount of Vietnamese chili garlic sauce. My lips were ablaze, and that was before any hanky-panky. I have since watched him plow through a few squeeze bottles of sriracha, not to mention vials of Tapatio, Cholula, and similar sauces. Cholula, he tells me, was once his favorite. Recently, however, its makers seem to have changed the chile blend – from piquin to piquin and árbol – and, he says sadly, it doesn’t taste the same. You should have seen him the first time he noticed the difference. He was genuinely distraught. I am marrying a man who is serious about his hot sauce. Luckily, I like it too, although eight bottles does seem a little excessive.

Anyway, all this to say that Brandon likes hot sauce, and that this weekend, for the second time in only a few weeks, he made hot sauce. The collection in our refrigerator has just accepted its ninth member. It’s a nice one.



The sauce in question comes from Mexican cooking guru Rick Bayless, whose recipes do not disappoint. Once, when I was eighteen, I went to a dinner in Oklahoma at which he was the guest chef, and let me tell you, the man is good. I was especially enamored of his Yucatecan fresh coconut pie. I ate my slice, half of my mother’s, and the last bit from the plate of the woman at the end of the table. A few weeks later, my mother and I made the pie ourselves. None of the usual methods worked to pry open the coconut, so we went outside and pitched it, four square-style, at the driveway. It split with a spectacular crack, sending shards of coconut under the car, and the resulting pie was stupendously good. Rick Bayless is a great man. His recipe for chile de árbol hot sauce is just one more reason why.

Rich and nutty with sesame and pumpkin seeds, smelling of warmth and chiles and places with plenty of sun, this homemade blend is the new favorite of the house. Even the merest whiff at the jar – lightly smoky and with a wallop of spice – makes my stomach start to grumble. It’s toasty and complex and creamy-textured. It’s also tinted that lovely orange color that interior designers tell people to paint their dining rooms. And as luck has it, it’s very easy to make. A little fiddly, maybe, with all those chiles to be stemmed, but well worth the trouble. We like it with beans of any sort, and with chips and beer. We’ve even sneaked it into Malena’s, our local taqueria, to dribble it into tacos, corn tortillas, and guacamole. For those who don’t mind mixing cuisines, it’s also a winner with hummus and mujadara, its comrades from the pantry closet. It’ll keep things warm for a while around here, which is more than I can say for the weather.



Chile de Árbol Hot Sauce
Adapted from Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico, by Rick Bayless

Rick Bayless arranges the steps of this recipe in a different order, but for efficiency’s sake, we’ve changed things up a bit. Bayless called for stemming and seeding the chiles first, but it’s a time-consuming process that can be done easily while other parts of the recipe – like toasting seeds and such – are underway.

1 ½ Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 scant teaspoon salt
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. shelled raw pumpkin seeds
1 ¼ oz. (about 50-60 mixed-size) dried chiles de árbol
¼ tsp. cumin seeds (or a generous ¼ tsp. ground)
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
A big pinch of ground cloves
Water

Place a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the sesame seeds and toast, shaking the pan occasionally, for several minutes, until they turn golden and pop.

While the sesame seeds toast, put the oregano, salt, garlic, and vinegar in the blender. When the sesame seeds are ready, scrape them in as well.

Return the skillet to the stove, turn the heat up to medium, and add the pumpkin seeds. When the first one pops, stir frequently for a few minutes, until all are golden and have popped up into a rounded shape. Add them to the blender.

While the pumpkin seeds warm and toast, start prepping the chiles. Pull off their stems; then gently roll them between your thumb and fingers, pressing gently to loosen the seeds inside. Break them in half, shake out as many seeds as possible, and add them to the blender.

In a mortar or spice grinder, pulverize the cumin, allspice, and cloves. Add them to the blender. Blend for several minutes, until the mixture is orange-red, a bright brick color, and feels quite smooth when a drop is rubbed between your fingers.

Strain the sauce through a medium-mesh sieve, stirring and pressing on the solids with a spoon. There will be a fair amount – a few tablespoons’ worth – of chile seeds, skins, sesame hulls, and other debris left in the sieve. Rick Bayless discards this thick paste, but Brandon likes to save it. (It’s milder than the finished sauce, and he likes to dip chips into it. He also puts it in black beans. First, he sautés some chopped onion in olive oil; then he adds a bit of chile paste and lets it cook a little; then he adds a can or two of drained beans.)

The strained sauce will be somewhat thick and creamy. You can leave it as is, or you can add some water to thin it. Rick Bayless suggests adding ¾ cup. The first time Brandon made this, he didn’t add any water, and he loved the resulting sauce. The second time, he added ½ cup water, and it made for a lovely consistency.

Whatever you choose to do, pour the sauce into a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid, and refrigerate it for 24 hours before serving.

Note: Refrigerated, this sauce will keep indefinitely, and it tastes even better (and gets pleasantly milder) over time. Brandon liked it very much after 24 hours, but he loved it, and I mean loved it, after a week.

Yield: About 1 cup (if you added ½ cup water)

3.19.2007

Into the pantry

I love winter foods. You know I do. You’ve been listening to me yap about them for a long time now. I’m always trotting out some strange, frost-nipped something: a Brussels sprout here, an old celery root there, an unruly head of escarole that no one else wants. It’s what I do. I’ve got a reputation to keep.

But I have to tell you, this winter has rung me out. I’m tired. I’m through. If I have to eat another cabbage, I’m going to fall to my knees and cry. That’s pretty much what I felt like doing at the market on Saturday morning, as I stared out over the sea of winter produce. Pretty though it was – so many shades of neutral, like a layout from Martha Stewart Living – I could hardly muster the energy to pull out my wallet. I really tried hard to find the oomph. But there’s no two ways about it: winter and I are over. The only problem is that spring isn’t quite here yet.

Faced with such hard facts, there’s not much for a person to do, I find, but seek refuge in the pantry closet. For the past week or two, that’s what I’ve been doing, and I highly recommend it. It’s oddly inspiring, in its way. I’ve made two batches of scones with various dried fruits. I put a good dent our supply of crystallized ginger. I even organized the rice area, which had formed a sort of impromptu sandbag levee, barricading the chilies into a corner. I also made mujadara. Twice, in fact, in five days. That’s another thing I recommend.



Photogenic it is not, but in the mouth, mujadara makes up for all misgivings. I’m not sure how it should be translated, but for me, mujadara means an enviable meal made entirely from the pantry. It’s a Middle Eastern dish comprised simply of lentils, rice, and onions, with doses of olive oil and salt for good measure. Also called megadarra, mejadra, and a variety of other similar names, it most often resembles a moist pilaf, although sometimes it borders on porridge. Either way, it’s nothing fancy, nor is it particularly pretty. What it is, however, is simple, fragrant, exotic, and cheap. That’s a combination that doesn’t come around too often. In my mental recipe archive, I file mujadara in the same category as Brandon’s chickpea salad, the category for things dead-simple, delicious, and made from ingredients often on hand. Mujadara takes more foresight and time, but it also makes your kitchen smell good enough to eat.

I came upon it several years ago in Oklahoma, at the home of family friends Pam and Bill Shdeed. Pam makes a mean Lebanese meal. It was in her dining room that I had my first bite of mujadara, along with homemade labneh, the spiced lamb patties known as kibbeh, and chicken cooked under a mound of cinnamon-scented rice. Not long after, she gave me a staple-bound cookbook – with typewritten pages and a tan cardstock cover – called Our Favorite Lebanese Recipes, by Julia Bayouth and Helen Jabara. Not long after that, I started making mujadara. Using the cookbook Pam gave me, as well as hints from Claudia Roden, I worked up a formula that I liked. My boyfriend at the time was vegan, and he loved it. Mujadara was one of our staples. I made it all the time. But after we split up, I sort of forgot about it. It went the way of history, along with our hokey terms of endearment and other relationship memorabilia. It took until last week, when winter chased me into the pantry, for me to remember it again.

This time, I won’t be forgetting it so easily. It’s the ultimate between-season dinner solution. It’s not quite a lickety-split supper – those onions do take their sweet time – but that’s okay. It’ll help pass the time until spring.


Mujadara (moo-jha-dra)

The key to this dish is the onions: they must be browned well, and with patience. Caramelize them to within an inch of their lives. Heck, burn them a little, even. In cases like this, it’s almost impossible to overcook them. Their intense, deeply toasty flavor is the main player here, so don’t rush it.

As for serving, mujadara is often presented with a green salad. I like mine with a chopped romaine salad, something similar to this one. It would also be nice with some labneh on the side, and flatbread.

¼ cup olive oil
2 medium yellow onions (about 1 ½ lb.), finely chopped
1 cup brown or green lentils, picked over for stones and other debris
½ cup basmati rice
Water
1 tsp. salt, plus more for serving

In a large (12-inch) sauté pan or skillet or a Dutch oven, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are deeply caramelized, a rich shade of amber. If they’re burnt and blackened in spots, even better. This is a fairly slow process. Depending on your pan and your stove, this could take between 30 minutes and 1 hour in total. On my stove, it takes about 50 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, place the lentils in a medium saucepan, add water to cover by an inch, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook, undisturbed, for 20 minutes. Drain the lentils, and set them aside.

When the onions are ready, stir in the rice. Then add the cooked lentils, along with 2 cups of water and the salt. Stir to mix well, and bring the pan to a boil. Reduce the heat to keep the pan at a slow simmer, cover, and cook. Depending on the size and shape of your pan, this last stage – cooking the onions, rice, and lentils together – could take from 20 to 40 minutes. Basically, the dish is done when the rice is done. I use a 5-quart sauté pan, which is wide and flat, so the rice cooks pretty quickly, in about 25 minutes. I used to use a Dutch oven, however, which was narrower, and the rice took 30-40 minutes to cook.

After about 20 minutes, remove the lid, and give the pot a gentle stir. If there is still some liquid visible, replace the lid and keep cooking until it is fully absorbed. On the other hand, if there is no obvious liquid, take a taste. If the rice is tender, the mujadara is ready. If the rice is not yet ready, add another splash of water, replace the lid, and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked. The mujadara is ready to eat when the rice is tender and there is no liquid left in the pan.

Serve, with additional salt, if needed.

Note: Mujadara is even better on the second day, so if you can, make it ahead. Reheat before serving. I like to eat the leftovers for lunch, with a grapefruit for dessert.

Yield: 4-6 servings

3.13.2007

The wait and the wonky molasses

A while ago, around my nineteenth birthday, I had my tarot cards read by a woman named Marlene. Sadly, I don’t recall the faintest bit of what the cards said. It’s kind of disappointing, to tell you the truth. If I came seeking answers to some juicy question, I’ve long since forgotten what it was. (Not that anything juicy had happened to me yet, but that’s another story.) I’m not even sure how I found Marlene, other than to say that some female members of my family have a weakness for such things, including yours truly. I remember only two real tidbits of my meeting with her, and neither amounts to much. First, there was the squirrel thing. When she closed her eyes, she told me, she pictured me as a squirrel, stuffing my cheeks with nuts. I’m not sure what she meant by that, but I think of it occasionally, namely on nights involving multiple helpings of dessert. Then, second, there was the bit about delayed gratification.

You want what you want, when you want it,” Marlene said solemnly. “You want instant gratification. Right now. This minute. You’ve got to work on that, hon. You’ve got to get more comfortable with delayed gratification.”

I have no idea what she was talking about. Sure, I was raised as an only child, so I guess I’m accustomed to getting my way, but I don’t know. Delayed gratification is okay, I guess. I’ve never seen it as much of a stumbling block. Or I hadn’t, at least, until this past week, when I found myself moping about a cookie recipe. I couldn’t get it right. And I wanted it the way I wanted it, right now.




It all started in Oklahoma, the weekend before last. Brandon and I always do a lot of cooking there, both because my mother’s kitchen is bright and roomy and because being there is so relaxing. We were only in town for three nights, but we cooked for two of them. We even baked cookies one afternoon, to have with coffee. That’s when the trouble started.

I had a vision of a certain cookie, but I didn’t have a recipe. I wanted a ginger cookie with molasses, a crackly-topped disc with a soft, dense center. I’ve written about something similar here before, but it didn’t crackle quite the right way. I wanted something crisp and bendy, craggy and crackly, and with chocolate chips. All in one cookie. I know what I want, and I wanted it immediately. You know, like, without delay.

So we searched the shelves and online, and we hemmed and hawed, and then we hawed some more. Eventually we settled on a good, standard formula, with plenty of ginger and cinnamon and molasses and butter. While I set to work on dinner, Brandon made the dough. We drank wine. We ate dolmas. We listened to Django Reinhardt. The cookies were in the oven and already smelling quite nice when Brandon announced, looking sheepishly at the pantry closet, that he’d forgotten the molasses.

Now, mind you, they were very fine cookies anyway. Given that a good chunk of their flavor had been left in the closet, they were very fine indeed. I ate four of them that night and another three on the plane ride home. They were snappy and sweet, with a good, firm kick. But my tiny, hard, cookie-judging heart wasn’t happy. They were gingersnaps, to be honest, and the cookie of my dreams was a nimble, chewy thing, with a soft crumb that swayed to the tooth. Granted, had we not forgotten the molasses, these cookies might have been it – the be-all, end-all – but I couldn’t be sure. I decided to do some research. In the seven days since our trip home, I’ve read a half-dozen recipes and made eighty-odd cookies. That’s more than four score, for the history scholars. That’s a lot of cookies. The women at Brandon’s work are going to hate me pretty soon for sending in so many sweets. Somewhere, Marlene is proud, I’m sure.

First, for a chewier cookie, I fiddled with the fat. Ordinarily, I’m not a big fan of shortening – it’s kind of weird, like an especially crumbly cake of Dove™ soap – but in some cases, it does wonders for texture. (Because it doesn’t melt as quickly as butter does, cookies made with shortening spread less in the oven than all-butter ones, and they have a puffier, chewy consistency.) For good measure, I also tweaked the spices and threw in a good slug of chocolate chips. Then, because a bag of demerara sugar is a very bad thing to waste, I gave each cookie a sparkly, crystalline coat.

It all sounds like fun, I’m sure, like a field trip to the local bakery with your chemistry class. But by Saturday or so, and the third go-round, I have to tell you, things were looking pretty grim. Given enough time, delayed gratification starts to rot. It stinks. Nobody tells you that, but it does. It’s a tough, nasty business. By the time the cookies were done, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to try them. I made Brandon go first, like a royal taster at court. But I’m happy to report, after all that futzing and fiddling, that the fuss made good. Never mind the wait and the wonky molasses. I got my cookies. They’re smart with spice and ginger, crisp here, chewy there, and chock-a-block with chocolate. Marlene would be pleased. They’re just right, she’d like to know, for stuffing in my cheeks.



Chocolate Chip Ginger-Molasses Cookies

When choosing shortening, be picky, and steer clear of brands that contain trans fats. I keep a tub of Spectrum brand shortening in the pantry closet, and it works like a charm.

Also, you’ll note that this recipe calls for molasses. In this particular cookie, I like a mild one, such as Brer Rabbit Mild Flavor Molasses, but you could also use a standard dark variety. I wouldn’t, however, reach for blackstrap molasses. It’ll make the cookies taste too dark and Christmasy. Plus, it covers up the flavor of the chocolate chips. That’s just wrong.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 ½ tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground allspice
2 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
1 ¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup unsulphured molasses
½ cup demerara sugar, for rolling

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, baking soda, and salt. Whisk well. Add the chocolate chips and crystallized ginger, and whisk to blend. Set aside.

In a large bowl – preferably, a stand mixer – beat the butter and shortening briefly to soften them. Add the sugars, and beat until fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg and the molasses, and beat to blend well, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the flour mixture in two doses, beating briefly after each until the flour is just absorbed. Do not overmix. Use a rubber spatula to give the dough a final stir if necessary; it will be quite firm and stiff. Cover the bowl, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Pour the demerara sugar into a small bowl.

Using damp hands, pinch off blobs of dough and roll them into 1 ¼- to 1 ½-inch balls. Roll each ball in sugar to coat. Place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Roll only as many balls as you can fit on the sheet pans, and cover and refrigerate the remaining dough. I found that 8 balls per sheet was about right.

Bake the cookies until they are cracked on top but still soft to the touch, about 12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. Cool on the sheets for 1 minute; then carefully transfer the cookies – still on the parchment or silicone liner – to wire racks to cool completely. When they are cool, remove them from the parchment or silicone liner.

When the baking sheets (and silicone liners, if using) are cool, repeat with more dough.

Yield: about 40 cookies

3.06.2007

Carrot, kale, carry-on

I may be the first person in history to say such a thing, but I sort of miss airplane food. I don’t mean those roast beef sandwiches in foil packets, the spongy ones that look like they’ve been sat upon, or the pizza pockets warmed in plastic baggies. I mean real food. I’m talking about the stuff of twenty years ago, back when airfare bought not only a seat but also a tray of somewhat edible food. Back then, eating on the plane was kind of fun. You could file all sorts of requests for elaborate special meals, and some of them were actually pretty good. My parents were fond of the “Cold Seafood” option, which usually came with shrimp cocktail, a salad, and a piece of decently poached fish. It wasn’t anything to smack your lips about, but it was perfectly serviceable. Heck, you wouldn’t go hungry, at least, which is more than I can say about air travel now. R.I.P., Cold Seafood. Today, it’s all pretzels and Sesame Snaks and greasy cheese crackers.

I think about this sort of thing more than you might expect, because in order to see my family, I have to board a plane. My mother is in Oklahoma, and my siblings live in D.C., Boston, and New York. I have aunts, uncles, and cousins in California, Maine, and Canada. This is troublesome, as you might guess. Not only does it add up quite unpleasantly, but long flights can make a person pretty hungry. On the average day, I feel nibbly about every four hours. My internal clock is wound tight, and travel does nothing to change it. Come mealtime, it jitters and chirps like those old-fashioned nightstand alarms, the round ones you see in cartoons. Some women hear the tick of a biological clock, but I hear my inner dinner bell. It’s very noisy and persistent and annoying, especially at 30,000 feet, and it can only be quieted with a carry-on bag of food.

I can’t even remember the last time I flew without a food bag. I’m getting pretty good at packing them. Breakfast is easy: a scone or muffin, or leftover pancakes in a baggie. For lunch or dinner, a sandwich works, or a big hunk of bread and some cheese. Ratatouille is good, and so is lentil salad. For a while, I was into boiled eggs, but they can smell pretty bad, so I put a stop to that. Then, a few days ago, I stumbled upon a new favorite airplane food. It tastes good; it smells good; and unlike the jar of peanut butter with my name on it that now sits at the bottom of a landfill somewhere – wah! – it won’t be confiscated at the security checkpoint.

Last Friday morning, Brandon and I boarded a plane to Oklahoma for a long weekend with my mom, and with us came two Tupperwares: one containing a carrot salad, and the other a frittata streaked with ribbons of kale.



I’ve written about a frittata here once before. (Back in what seems now like another lifetime.) It’s a testament to the goodness of the genre, I think, that it’s making a repeat appearance today. To me, a frittata is the ultimate “kitchen sink” meal: it will accept nearly any bit or bob or half-forgotten thing from the crisper drawer and, a few eggshells later, render it eminently edible. That makes it a perfect way to clean out the fridge before a trip, or to use that leftover something you weren’t so excited about to start with.

In our case, we had a handful of kale in the crisper and a lonely red onion in the basket, and let me tell you, what a frittata they make. Happy bedfellows, those two: with a little oil and heat, the onion goes sweetly brown, and the kale curls around it like a savory green knot. Beaten with a fork into a bowl of eggs and sharp cheddar and cooked gently in a heavy skillet, the mess comes together into a rich, satisfying omelet of sorts – only flat, minus that fussy folding part. Not only is it a wildly easy meal for two, but it tastes delicious at room temperature – a rare feat, you know, for an egg-based dish. To go along with, we chucked together a carrot salad that I first ate in France, a simple, slivered job with lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic. It would have been a shame to let a bag of good carrots go unused, and anyway, something crunchy always helps to clear the pressure in the ears, mid-flight.



All told, the duo was tasty enough that we made it again yesterday for our return trip, giving the julienne blade of my mother’s food processor a much-needed workout in the process. It’s nobody’s Cold Seafood, but that’s okay by me.



Kale and Cheddar Frittata

Frittatas are a cinch to make, except for the business of the skillet. First, you need one that’s oven- and broiler-safe. That means no wooden or plastic handles, unless the latter is formulated to be heat-resistant. [My cousin Katie has also been known to sneak her wooden-handled pan under the broiler, but she watches it carefully and keeps the oven door open.] Secondly, you need a skillet that won’t cause the frittata to stick like crazy. In theory, a nonstick skillet would be best, but I’m wary of putting Teflon under the broiler. It just sounds like a bad idea. My preference is for anodized aluminum, such as the Calphalon One line, which works wonderfully. You could also use a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. That’s what I used in Oklahoma, and though the frittata did stick a touch, it was easy to rectify with a slip or two of the spatula.

Keep in mind, also, that the recipe below can be used as a template for any number of frittatas. It makes a fairly thin one – about a half inch deep – so if you like yours thicker, try adding a couple more eggs. As for flavorings, you can throw in nearly any cooked meat or vegetable. We made a great one recently with gruyere and two medium leeks that I sliced and cooked slowly in a tablespoon of butter with a pinch of sugar and salt.

3 ½ Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 small red onion
4-5 oz. lacinato (also known as dinosaur) kale
5 large eggs
½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, such as Black Diamond
¼ tsp. salt, plus more to taste

Preheat the broiler of your oven.

In a 10-inch heavy skillet – (see note above) – warm 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent but not browned. Add the kale, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and a pinch of salt, and stir until just wilted. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The kale should be very tender, and the onions should have taken on a rosy brown color. Set aside.

Break the eggs into a medium bowl, and beat them well with a fork. Add the cheese and salt, and beat again to blend. Add the kale and onion mixture, and beat to mix well.

Wipe any burnt bits from the skillet, and add the remaining ½ tablespoon oil. Place the pan over low heat. When it is warm, pour in the egg mixture. If necessary, use the fork to gently push the kale around a bit, so it is evenly distributed. Cook over low heat until the bottom of the frittata is lightly browned – tease the edge up with a heatproof spatula and peek underneath – and the top looks mostly set.

Remove the pan from the heat and slide it under the broiler until the top is nicely browned, 30-60 seconds. Don’t walk away from it while it’s under the broiler; it cooks very quickly.

Cut into wedges, and serve warm or at room temperature, with additional salt, if needed.

Yield: 2 servings as a main dish, or more as a side

Note: Refrigerated in an airtight container, a frittata will keep nicely for up to 48 hours, although it is most tender within the first day.

____


French-Style Carrot Salad

You can find this salad all over France: in bistros, in homes, even in the packaged-foods section of the corner grocery store. It’s a classic lunchtime starter, as cheap and simple as they come. It’s all about the carrots, so be sure to choose good, sweet ones. Try them before you use them, and if they don’t taste good, well, this may not be the day for your carrot salad. You’d be smart to wait for better ones.

1 lb. carrots
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¼ tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/8 tsp. pressed or crushed garlic

Rinse and dry the carrots, and trim away their ends. Cut them into short segments, and using a mandoline or food processor fitted with the julienne blade, cut them into matchsticks. [If you don’t have a mandoline or food processor with the proper blades, you can also grate the carrots on the large-holed side of a box grater, but they won’t be quite as crisp or as pretty.]

Put the julienned carrots in a medium bowl, and toss them well with the lemon juice. Add the oil, salt, and garlic, and toss again to mix well. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve.

Yield: 2-4 servings

Note: This salad is a great traveler. It stays crunchy for a good 24 hours – meaning that you can make it the night before an early-morning flight – and it tastes just fine at room temperature.