June 25 – July 1, 2018
Monday: Charred Cabbage with Goat Cheese Raita and Cucumbers
Tuesday: Spicy Grilled Chicken with Cucumber-Radish Salad, Toasted Pita
Wednesday: Romesco Pasta Salad with Basil and Parmesan
Thursday: Dunnings Group
Friday: Snapper Escabeche with Charred Scallions
Saturday: Summer Garden Pasta
Sunday: Il Pizzaiolo – Very good, pan-fried branzino, superb Martini
. . . please remember that, despite how much your hang-ups mean to you, nobody thinks highly of a person who won’t try new things. Let the people who are important to you be your guide to culinary awakenings. – Anthony Bourdain
Most of us were never addicted to drugs, have no tattoos and, in general, are far less adventurous than Bourdain. Nonetheless, we were saddened by his death and the loss of his distinctive attitude and voice. He was the ‘bad boy’ of celebrity chefs and food writers and, to channel him for a second – “Oh yeah, we knew we needed him to cut through the bull…t . . . that the conventional foody spews daily, like Mt. Kilauea, and just as toxic and destructive.”
Well, perhaps not the best channeling. But the point of the Bourdain quote is to draw your attention to our keeper of the week which, like last week’s keeper, is a bit strange: Grilled Cabbage with Goat Cheese Raita and Cucumbers. (Raita is a Middle Eastern condiment, usually with yogurt, herbs and spices.)
Cabbage, good God!
I grew up thinking of cabbage as a culinary curse visited on people of Irish heritage. Not only did I find the ham and cabbage dinner so beloved of the Irish American diaspora to be insipid (Mom was not big on seasoning), but the smell of cabbage the next day, even when refrigerated was enough to put me off my feed for a week.
But I have since come to appreciate cabbage when cooked and seasoned correctly. And we all love coleslaw and we all should love sauerkraut. AND . . . have a little faith and trust me, you will love this grilled cabbage. Our dinner on Tuesday was a further revelation that the hated vegetable of my youth can be very good (and pretty inexpensive) food.
Extra – For those who can’t get their hands on a cabbage for dinner tonight, we’re tossing in a very safe pasta dish from Ina Garten, just to remind you that tried and true recipes in your comfort zone are also good cooking. You have to let the tomatoes marinate for 4 hours to nail this dish – but you can sleep the entire time. And if this dish doesn’t transport you to the Amalfi Coast or Sicily, you have the imagination of slug, and you probably won’t try the cabbage.
Put a good char on the cabbage
CHARRED CABBAGE WITH GOAT CHEESE RAITA AND CUCUMBERS
(adapted from bon appétit, “Summer Grilling, June, July, 2018)
Timing: 30 – 40 minutes
Garlic Clove, smashed – we used about 1/3 clove and chopped it finely – our food processor has trouble with large pieces of garlic.
4 oz. fresh goat cheese
1 ½ cups plain whole-milk yogurt (skim will work, but will not taste nearly as good and will not save you a significant number calories)
2 cups of mint leaves, divided (we used maybe 1 ½ cups)
2 cups parsley leaves with tender stems, divided
2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, and more for drizzling
2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
1 medium head of purple (red) cabbage, outer leaves removed (you want the tightly bound, compact head of cabbage)
About ½ English cucumber, thinly sliced (the recipe calls for 3 Persian cucumbers, thinly slice)
½ cup crushed Corn Nuts (like Persian cucumbers, I have no idea where to get these – we used a package of fried chickpeas to add crunch)
Aleppo-style pepper for serving. Look, the point is to use a nice, hot pepper here. Korean hot pepper, Hungarian hot paprika, or red pepper flakes will do.
Pulse the garlic, goat cheese, yogurt, 1 cup of mint leaves and 1 cup of parsley, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice until smooth – it should be a pale green color. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt.
Prepare a grill for medium heat.
Cut the cabbage in half through the core and then cut each half into three wedges, again through the core. The core is needed to hold the cabbage together while it grills.
Drizzle wedges with olive oil and rub to coat, then season all over with salt.
Grill the cabbage, marinate the cucumber, serve:
Grill the cabbage wedges until deeply charred on all sides (really grill them – they will look fairly black – this is good, trust me). This will take up to 10 minutes per side (use some of that twenty minutes to grill the non-cut part of the wedge). When the cabbage is ready, a knife will slip easily through it.
Transfer the cabbage to a cutting board and let cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, toss the cucumbers with the remaining mint and parsley and the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice. Season aggressively with salt and toss again.
Spread some raita on each plate, place some cabbage on each (you can cut the wedges in half or thirds at this point). Top with the cucumber salad and whatever you’re using for crunch. Sprinkle with a nice hot pepper (Korean, Hungarian hot Paprika, Aleppo, or a few red pepper flakes). Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve.
SUMMER GARDEN PASTA
(adapted from Ina Garden)
Timing: 4 hours to let the tomatoes marinate, 20 minutes to cook
2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic (we used a scant ¼ tablespoon which still gave the tomatoes an earthy ground note, but did not overwhelm)
9 large Basil leaves, julienned, plus more for serving
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground black pepper (this is twice the amount Ina recommends, but we love pepper, use ¼ teaspoon if you don’t)
1 lb. dried angel hair pasta (angel hair clumps, so you’ll need to work quickly or even rinse it in hot water to remove some of the starch – use spaghetti if you want a less finish to your cooking pasta)
1 ½ Cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Prepare and Marinate the tomatoes (4 hours before cooking):
Combine the tomatoes, ½ cup of olive oil, garlic, basil leaves, red pepper flakes, ½ teaspoon of salt (we used more – cherry tomatoes need the salt to tame their acidity – I’d suggest at least ¾ teaspoon), and pepper in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for about 4 hours.
Cook and finish the pasta:
Bring a large pot of water to boil (add at least 2 tablespoons of salt and, if you’re using the angel hair, a good splash of olive oil to keep it from clumping).
Cook the pasta al dente (see the instructions on the bag or box) – angel hair does not take long at all. Maybe 3 minutes.
Drain the pasta well – you want as much starch to drain off as possible. With many pasta dishes you try to reserve the starch to thicken the sauce – but not with this dish.
Add the pasta to the bowl with the tomatoes, then add the cheese and some extra fresh basil leaves and toss. Serve in bowls with extra cheese and basil sprinkled atop.