The thing about early spring, at least here in the Hudson Valley, is that it basically looks and feels exactly like winter. For most of March and even into April, it’s cold and damp, and nothing in the garden will grow. During these dog days, a bright and zingy citrus salad feels like a life-saver. And it’s simplicity itself: juicy, sweet blood oranges (and a few mandarins for variety’s sake), tossed with crisp endive and some quick-pickled red onions. Toss over a little peppery mint and pistachios for crunch and that’s it. A drizzle of good olive oil and a sprinkle of flaky salt is all the dressing it needs.
Happy New Year, pals! Whoo! Last year did fly by, didn’t it? No, I’m kidding of course, it didn’t fly by, it was grim and interminable and everyone hated it, but at least we’re spinning away from the winter solstice. January 2021 is now upon us, and we can fall back on tried and tested aphorisms such as “it’s darkest before the dawn” and “soup is the best thing to get you through January”. (Sometimes we change that to “whisky is the best way to get through Tuesday” but a lot of you are doing dry January and we don’t want to put you off your game.)
Soup is so essential to maintaining our sanity through the short, cold winter days that we always cook up a big batch of stock from the roast turkeys and rotisserie chickens that we’ve made since November, and then freeze it in large ice cube trays or plastic containers, so we have a store of rich, versatile broth for any soup recipe we need. Often, too, we’ll make a large pot of soup from the broth, and then freeze that so it’ll last several weeks. We’ve already blogged some of our favorites: a thick Nettle (or Spinach) and Potato soup, a Creamy Mushroom Soup with Black Rice, which quickly became a favorite, a classic Tomato Soup (with cheesy toasts that will blow your mind) and a Chicken and Potato Chowder (which we made a batch of last month and thawed this week). There’s a reason why “Chicken Soup for the Soul” is a trademark, and there’s a reason why chicken soup works so well to raise the spirits. We’d like to introduce you to our new favorite variation on the theme: Gingery Chicken and Rice Noodle Soup with Crispy Garlic.
Our annual Thanksgiving recipe round-up has a little twist of something special this year. We published our first cookbook, Cork and Knife, earlier in the year, and it celebrates cooking with alcohol. If you haven’t picked up your copy yet, now’s the perfect time — and it’ll make a great holiday (or Thanksgiving host) gift. We’ll soon post an exclusive recipe from the book, but in the meantime, in the summaries below, we’ve marked recipes which contain booze in bold.
If one thing on this green earth is certain, it’s that in about a week and a half, most of the US will be engaged in stuffing a turkey and then stuffing themselves, with the turkey, like some kind of human Turducken. Let’s call it a “Turkhuman” (unless you’re actually stuffing yourselves with a stuffed Turducken, in which case I don’t know what to call you. Answers on a postcard please.)
This simple, elegant tart has a layer of creamy whipped feta cheese topped with lightly marinated roasted beets. A puff pastry shell makes it a breeze to prepare, while a scattering of fresh mint and crunchy pistachios adds crunch and freshness.
We’ve been finishing up a few projects here at Nerds with Knives, which is why you might not have seen a new post from us for (checks watch) six to eight weeks. One of those projects is, we’re thrilled to announce, our new cookbook, Cork and Knife, which will be published in six days! You can follow the link to read all about it and pre-order. Please check it out!
In the meantime, our summer garden has been producing some delicious harvests, and this week we’d like to talk about our beets (that’s beetroots to you in the U.K.). There’s a reason why beet and goat cheese salads have been ubiquitous on menus for as long as we’ve had menus to peruse: it’s a fantastic combination. But like any classic pairing, the devil is in the details. I adore beets, but they often need a little coaxing to bring out their best flavor. They are referred to as having an “earthy” flavor by those who love them, and “like dirt” by those who don’t. That earthiness, which is found in many root vegetables like carrots and potatoes, is produced by a compound called geosmin.
(Nerd note: geosmin is also found in one of my favorite scents, and favorite words, petrichor – the smell of the earth when it just starts to rain.) Acids break down geosmin, which is why beets are often paired with a tart vinaigrette. Tart cheeses, like chèvre, feta and some blues are a tasty foil to that sweet earthiness.
After a long, hard Northeast winter, nothing makes me happier than looking out on the deck and seeing row upon row of fresh herbs, sitting up in their little pots all bright and perky, like, “what? I was always here.” No, Rosemary, you weren’t. And I know that for a fact because I paid a freaking fortune for a few measly sprigs in January since I just couldn’t bear to use the dry, desiccated jar of rosemary-scented dust that languishes on my spice rack through the winter.
Even though spring is yet young, the herb garden still feels like a cornucopia. Chives! Mint! Cilantro! Sure it’s still too cold for the basil, but don’t be greedy, it will be here soon. Anxious for a recipe that uses this green bounty, we decided on a Black Rice Salad which, along with crisp red cabbage, sweet golden raisins and crunchy peanuts, uses a full cup of fresh herbs. We went with cilantro and mint (because that’s what we have) but basil, when it’s fresh, would be fantastic too, especially spicy Thai basil if you’re growing it or can find it in the store.