Archives for category: Asparagus


I went into work one day this past week and overheard one colleague squeal to another, “Did you see? Asparagus at the Greenmarket today!” Truth be told, I hadn’t realized that was a new thing. I, somewhat obliviously, picked up a bunch for $4 at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket last weekend. Asparagus was everywhere, at nearly every stand; I just figured it’d been around for a couple of weeks at least.

I wanted to eat it raw and crunchy, although I do also love it roasted with garlic and dressed with lemon and parmesan. Also check out my friend Valerie’s recent post on green asparagus salad with parmesan. At the market, the radishes were calling to me too so I grabbed a bunch of those for $2 and a 1/4 pound of bright green tatsoi for $3 and headed home to make lunch.

Take advantage of the season, carpe diem, get to your local farmer’s market and see what calls to you. It may be tatsoi, it may be ramps, it may be an apple cider donut. Speaking of ramps, you can check out my recipes from past years for an omelette with ramps and feta, and ramp butter.

Asparagus & Radish Salad
Serves 2

1/2 bunch of asparagus (approx. 8–10 spears), washed
4 radishes, washed
bunch of greens like tatsoi, baby kale, lettuces, rinsed and dried
fresh lemon juice and approx. 1 tsp lemon zest
olive oil
salt and pepper

Cut off the tough bottoms of the asparagus spears and discard (usually the bottom one inch or so). Chop the top part of the spear and slice in half or thirds, setting aside. Using a vegetable peeler slice the remaining asparagus spears lengthwise.

Slice the radishes very thinly. You can either do this with a paring knife or the vegetable peeler. Combine in a bowl with the asparagus tops and sliced spears.

In a small mason jar or measuring cup, combine the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, salt, and pepper, adjusting proportions to your liking. I would use something like 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, a big pinch of salt and a few cranks of freshly ground pepper. Shake (or whisk with a fork).

Toss the dressing with the asparagus and radishes, then add your greens, combining a little more. Plate the salad, adding a few more thin slices of radish on top, and maybe a little more salt and pepper. Serve.




Step away from the matzo. That’s what I keep telling myself during Passover when matzos appear everywhere from Jacques Torres to each seder table in town—whether that’s your feminist seder on the Upper West Side, queer seder in Park Slope, conceptual non-seder in Bushwick, or Bubbe’s in Brighton Beach. When you walk into the coop you’re bombarded by towers of them. I used to eat matzo with my grandmother (still do), buttered and sprinkled with salt, and we decided recently our favorite is Yehuda, for its black char, like good brick-oven pizza. But never had I made matzo ball soup before yesterday.

Passover is bittersweet—it commemorates the story of Exodus, marking the Jews’ freedom from slavery in Egypt. They fled through the desert, leaving no time for bread to rise, and thus the tradition of avoiding leavened bread for the eight days. In order to avenge the Jews’ enslavement, ten plagues are said to have been put upon the Egyptians, including the murder of their first-born sons. As a kid, and to this day really, it was hard to get past the imagery of lamb’s blood and children dying, but that’s actually part of the commemoration—the acknowledgement of suffering as well as the joy of freedom.

I was raised Catholic, but my siblings and I are actually part Jewish, although I’m just about the only person in my family to identify that way. My mother’s father was Jewish (his mom’s last name was Levy), but I’m named after my father’s family, Catholics from the Normandy coast in France. It’s not difficult to understand why my grandparents and great-grandparents wanted to disavow their Jewish heritage during World War II—even in Flatbush, Brooklyn—but it does kind of break my heart that that part of our identity got lost.

I wasn’t able to attend a seder for Passover this year but was eager to eat matzo ball soup (and brisket, but that’s another post), and therefore took it upon myself to forge ahead and DIM (do it myself).

So one day last week I put on some Prince and started looking up recipes. In good Jewish fashion there’s lots of arguing and kvetching about what to do and not to do, whether to make your matzos light as air or heavy as lead, whether to use seltzer or not. I combined a few recipes to create my own version and prepared to make this vegetarian take on Jewish dumpling soup while at my grandmother’s yesterday.

On an unrelated note, I find it sort of depressing listening to the song “1999” now. When it was written twenty years ago the millennium sounded so cool and futuristic and now it’s ancient history. “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” on the other hand, timeless. I mean, c’mon “I wanna be your lover, and your mother and your sister, too…”

Anyway, you start with the stock. It goes without saying that traditionally matzo soup is made with kosher chicken stock. But I didn’t feel like schlepping a four-pound bird back to my apartment only to boil the crap out of it for broth, and besides I didn’t know who might be eating my soup. Also, yes, been eating less meat. But still, other than the matzo balls there’s really just broth so it’s important to attend to this aspect of this dish. I bought leeks, carrots, onions, garlic, and celery and sauteed these in butter and olive oil in my stock pot. To that I added two quarts of water and a spice sack I rigged out of a tea bag because I forgot my little cloth spice sack—tea emptied, and bag filled with black peppercorns, juniper berries, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds, then tied in a knot. I was cooking in my grandmother’s tiny kitchen that hasn’t changed since 1955 (we’re gonna party like it’s…) and I know the drill: I bring all my own knives, cutting boards, cheese graters, salt, pepper, olive oil, pots and skillets when I cook out there. She just laughs when I barge through the door like I’ve just robbed a Williams Sonoma.

While your stock is simmering you can quickly put together the matzo dough. Then let it chill in the fridge for at least an hour while you go play tennis and maybe pick up a dessert.

My matzo dough came out a little darker and chunkier than I expected, but I think that’s because a) see point above about the char on Yehuda matzos and b) I didn’t quite grind the matzos into as fine a breadcrumb as perhaps I should’ve. No matter, these were still really flavorful, light, and buoyant. And the stock practically tasted like I had in fact boiled a whole chicken in there—it was light and rich at the same time, well seasoned and a nice accompaniment to the matzos, which I served two to a bowl with sprigs of fresh dill for some springtime green.

It got a little steamy here…

Matzo Ball Soup [for heathens and devotees]

For the matzo balls:
6 matzos, pulsed in food processor to a fine crumb
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
2 tbsp melted butter
1/3 c seltzer water

For the stock:
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, sliced in thin rounds
2 celery ribs, sliced
2 leeks, green tops discarded, whites cleaned thoroughly and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
spice sack: some combination of black peppercorns, juniper berries, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, etc.
1-2 bay leaves
Fresh dill for garnish

Get the matzo balls going: in a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients, then add to the dry mixture, combining but not over mixing. Chill in the fridge for at least one hour (more is fine).

While the matzo balls are hanging out in the fridge, start your stock: add the butter and oil to your stock pot and heat on medium. Add the diced onion, carrots, celery, leeks, and garlic, and wilt for about ten minutes. Then add about 2 quarts of water (you can also use vegetarian stock but I didn’t) and bring to a boil. Toss in your spice sack, bay leaf, and salt to taste. Simmer the stock on medium heat with a lid slightly ajar for about one hour.

Bring a separate pot of salted water to boil. After the matzo has chilled, wet your hands a little bit to make handling easier. Roll the dough into small rounds about the size of golf balls (they expand when you cook so don’t make too big!). Turn the stove down a little so water is gently, rather than rapidly, boiling, and carefully add matzo balls to the pot. Cover with a lid and don’t lift the lid for 25 minutes or a curse will be placed on your first-born child. After 25 mins. check to make sure they’re done and if so turn off the water and remove with a slotted spoon and add to the veggie stock and let them get hot in there for about 15 minutes so they absorb the flavorful stock. Serve with fresh dill.

I roasted this asparagus as well, finished off with lemon juice, parmesan, and slices of garlic that I cooked in a separate skillet in a little bit of olive oil. Mm hm.

I’ve been wanting to try Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen ever since it opened a little over a year ago in ABC Carpet & Home in the Union Square/Flatiron neighborhood of New York.

A celebrated chef, known for his elegant, dare I use the word ‘fusion,’ of classic French techniques with the flavors of other lands—Japan, or in this case, upstate New York—Jean-Georges has opened restaurants all over this city, most of which are successful (Jean-Georges, Perry Street, Mercer Kitchen) and only one or two considered misses perhaps (Vong, Spice Market).

ABC Kitchen is his version of capturing the gastronomical zeitgeist – casual, local, seasonal, downtown, and affordable (relatively speaking), as some chefs of his ilk have done of late (Daniel Boulud’s DBGB comes to mind). I don’t normally wish for chefs to expand their restaurant empires or jump on food trends, but I do wonder what Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin or Dan Barber of Blue Hill would do with more casual offshoots of their formal flagship restaurants. Of course, I don’t want either of these upstanding chefs to dilute the strength of their focused efforts, I just fantasize about the possibility of a weekday lunch of, say, a Fin Dorset lamb sandwich with garlic scapes and micro arugula (at my imaginary Blue Hill); or yellowfin tuna, shaved chives, and olive oil layered on a toasted baguette (at make-believe Le Bernardin).

ABC Kitchen promises a changing menu based on the seasons and local produce surrounding New York. The produce is reared without exposure to synthetic fertilizers or pesticides (the culinary equivalent of television); the meat and fish are pasture-raised, or line-caught, or sustainably harvested; the dairy is free of antibiotics, from animals treated humanely and fed a free-roaming diet of grass and probably coconut water.

My first view into the restaurant was on the Sundance Channel’s Iconoclast program last year, on an episode with Jean-Georges and Hugh Jackman, where the two prepare a charity dinner at the newly opened ABC Kitchen. Furnished with wares that can be purchased at ABC Carpet & Home, including the tables, chairs, bowls, plates, stemware, flower vases, and lighting fixtures, the restaurant has a comfortable, urban farmhouse feel about it. Downtown meets Upstate. French fries meet foie gras. Fine dining meets…ABC Carpet.

My dining companion once again was my friend Sarah (of Sunday’s Roman’s adventure), in town briefly from Vancouver. I made the reservation one week prior to our lunch which, to my relief, was plenty of time to book a 1 pm table on a weekday. The first thing I noticed upon our arrival was the gracious efforts of the host and the light-hearted chattiness of the fellow who escorted us to our table (“isn’t this weather so fresh?”)

I often have difficulty deciding what to order, especially if I know I may not return to a restaurant before the menu changes. In this case indecision would be an understatement. The cocktail menu alone included an entire section on fresh-squeezed vegetable-herb juices, fresh-fruit smoothies, and homemade sodas infused with herbs and citrus. I’m surprised they weren’t serving kombucha on tap! I opted for the coconut water and Sarah chose a dry, acidic white wine.

I love a restaurant companion who enjoys sharing plates as much as I do. That way you get to try twice as many items on the menu than you would if eating separate dishes. Sarah was game, so for our first course, we ordered the sweet pea soup with carrots and mint and the roasted carrot and avocado salad with crunchy seeds. It was difficult neglecting the appetizer of raw diver scallops with sea beans and serrano chilies and the crab toast with lemon aioli. We’d stare at waiters passing by with dishes for other tables to assess whether we’d made good decisions. (The crab toast, I have to say, being devoured by a neighboring table, looked quite good.)

I half-expected the pea soup to arrive chilled, but bucking that trend it is served hot, a bright green purée with crunchy pesto croutons and what tasted like the zest of lime. The salad was an abundance of micro greens (that may have been grown on the restaurant’s rooftop garden) sitting atop two perfectly roasted whole carrots, with quarters of ripe avocado.

For our main courses, we chose the steamed hake with roasted maitake, asparagus and spring onions; and the asparagus and heirloom tomato sandwich on focaccia with mozzarella and what I remember as pickled onions or radishes, hot peppers, and a side of house-cut french fries dusted with fresh rosemary and salt.

We lingered over the flavors of our first course for so long that we were startled out of our oohs and ahhs by our server bringing the second course before we were done with the soup and salad. They asked to clear our first-course plates when Sarah and I simultaneously and defensively pulled them in close and asked to keep them. I couldn’t discard the three spoonfuls of soup left or the tiny nub of roasted carrot remaining on the plate!

The second course did not disappoint. The focaccia was a soft and salty foil to the heat of the peppers and pickles, the mozzarella a smooth and silky pillow for the ripe red tomatoes. Olive oil oozed over my hands as I took big bites, taking care to get each layer of the sandwich in each mouthful. The hake was flaky, moist, infused with a light vinaigrette and when eaten together with the maitake produced the perfect bite. The asparagus was diced into tiny round pieces laying underneath and on top of the hake filet.

We were entirely too full to tackle dessert but coveted our neighbor’s sundae of vanilla ice cream with caramel and popcorn. Next time. Because this is, after all, Jean-Georges downtown, so there can be a next time.

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