Sticky Lemongrass Chicken Thighs with Black Rice Salad

Chicken thighs nestled in black rice on a platter

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. 

A platter of black rice sprinkled with herbs

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Nettle, Leek and Potato Soup with Garlic-Brown Butter Croutons

Nettle, Leek and Potato Soup

Spring is here, and one of the first areas of the garden to poke up green leaves is the stinging nettle patch. If you can avoid the sting, the nettle is one of the healthiest, most delicious perennials that’s super-easy to propagate — and is the superstar of this soup, made with leeks, potatoes, and the green, green nettle. 

There’s no getting around the fact that the stinging nettle is the unloved weed, the lurking Triffid, the snarling Caliban, if you will, of the British landscape. If you thought otherwise, let me show you the plant in its natural habitat:

Wild nettles growing up an English phone booth.

But despite its rather unprepossessing appearance, its urban ubiquity, and the unpleasant electric-shock feeling of walking into one, nettles are one of the most nutritious and tasty spring greens you can cook with. Last spring we made a nettle risotto with garlic and taleggio, and this year we’re combining nettles with leeks and potatoes to create a rich, green soup, sprinkled with brown butter – garlic croutons and wild violets from the garden. 

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Creamy Mushroom Soup with Black Rice

Delectable, creamy winter soup created from a blend of mushrooms, herbs, and wild rice — this is our choice for an easy and healthy vegetarian or even vegan supper that highlights the variety and richness of the fungi kingdom.  

Quick-Marinated White Bean Salad With Feta

Quick-Marinated White Bean Salad With Feta

A white bean salad doesn’t have to be boring. Creamy cannellinis absorb the bright flavor of a vinaigrette in just a few minutes. Paired with briny olives, fresh cucumbers, tomatoes and feta cheese, and served in lettuce cups, they make a quick and substantial dinner.

Note: This recipe is part of our series for Serious Eats.

We’re as guilty as anyone else of “lazy salad syndrome”. If we can get away with opening a box of pre-rinsed greens and throwing on a dab of supermarket dressing, we’ll do it. As a side salad, that might just about be acceptable. But if we’re making a salad as its own dish – for a quick summer meal, for example – it’s inexcusably lame. But with just a little effort and really no time at all, I can prepare this white bean salad with ingredients I already have in the pantry. Most of the ingredients for this recipe are kitchen staples, and the only things I need fresh are cucumber, tomatoes, feta, and lettuce.

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Cumin-Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Feta

Cumin-Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Feta

Roasted cauliflower flavored with cumin and served with a feta cream cheese dip.

Post update: I wrote a cauliflower article in fall 2016 for our local (Beacon-based) food and restaurant magazine The Valley Table. Hop over and take a look!

Before we moved to Brooklyn (so way before we headed up to Beacon), Matt and I lived in one of the most cross-cultural neighborhoods in New York City, Astoria, Queens. It was like the real-life version of one of those 90s comedies. You know, the ones where the cab driver is sitting next to a lawyer who’s sitting next to a dominatrix and they’re all eating souvlaki prepared by a Sikh cook and served by a Russian waitress. It was like that.

It’s still one of the best places in the city to find ingredients from all over the world, especially Mexico, India and Greece. If the area is known for one type of food in particular, it’s Greek. Our weekends often involved a stop at Titan Foods where we would spend most of our rent money on olives and Feta cheese. If you’re ever in the area, check it out. It’s like the Disney-land of Feta up in there, not even kidding.

In this case we’re using feta as the sauce (more of a dip, really), for some incredibly delicious cumin-dusted roasted cauliflower.

Cumin-Roasted Cauliflower with Whipped Feta
The Whipped Feta Dip is delicious with crudités or chips, or as a spread for sandwiches.

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Roasted Cipollini Onions with Thyme

Roasted Cipollini Onions with Thyme

Roasted cipollini onions are a great accompaniment to any meal – they have a sweet and savory caramel flavor that we combine with thyme for added depth.

If you’re not familiar with them, Cipollini onions (pronounced chip-oh-lee-knee) are a thin-skinned, mild onion about the side of a golf ball. They’re pretty easy to recognize because they have a flattened, almost UFO-ish shape that’s very distinctive. The name literally means “little onion” in Italian. Go figure.

Duck-Fat Roasted Cipollini Onions with ThymeThese little guys are my all-time favorite onion to roast because they caramelize beautifully and become incredibly soft and sweet.

Like all little onions, they are kind of annoying to peel but if you boil them for 30 seconds and then run ice-cold water over them, it’s really not too bad. My advice is to make more than you think you’ll need because they will disappear quickly.

Duck-Fat Roasted Cipollini Onions with Thyme
Trim off the little root end and peel back the brown skin.

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