02 October 2011

Warm pasta salad with rainbow chard, pomegranate and pistachio sauce

I don't like pasta. There. I said it. I basically overdosed on it while I was playing ultimate, and the last straw was when I lived in Bologna--please don't tell the Bolognese about this. As it turns out, one can live without pasta, and I've found that I actually live much better without it. My problem is, the Slovak loves it, and not only did he learn how to cook it while in Bologna, that's still almost the only thing he can cook (we are working on correcting this). There are days I end up so tired I can't even lift a wooden spoon, so he'll offer to cook, and I just have to hang my head and resign myself because I know what's coming.

On the other hand, I'm passionate about legumes. It's in my genes, to me they are as essential as brushing my teeth. All sizes and shapes and colours, there a sure value for the money and prepared properly (soaked overnight with wine vinegar, cooked with garlic and herbs and a piece of kombu), they are delicious, nutritious and reliable. I'll put the pressure cooker on at least twice a week with those little pearls. The Slovak, however, does not share my enthusiasm for beans; sometimes he'll even-gasp!-boycott them altogether.

Tonight we weren't our usual tired, and we'd had a big lunch (it's goose and young wine season here in Slovakia), so we had some time and energy to get into a not-too-big dinner, but something special nevertheless. I was in the mood to be conciliatory. I offered the Slovak to meet halfway, and to prepare a dish that would include beans and pasta. He agreed with a silent nod, not lifting his eyes off his Blackberry.

I went to my usual source of inspiration, 101 Cookbooks, and just plugged into the search bar 'pasta'. I'd tried none of the recipes that came up, of course. But this one caught my attention, because it had kale (a vegetable impossible to find in Bratislava--kale, if you read this, come by for a visit) and pomegranate. Yesterday I had indulged and bought one at the market, right after I'd bought some rainbow chard. See where I'm going with this?

I was all set to follow the recipe, substituting rainbow chard for kale, but halfway through decided to throw in some tahini which I hadn't used in a while, and the adzuki beans I'd cooked in the afternoon (adzuki beans tend to have barely any flavour, so they're a good 'background' bean to have, you can add them to almost any dish and they're bonus without altering the flavour). In the end this is what happened:


  • 8 ounces spaghetti, broken into 1 inch pieces
  • 2/3 cup pistachios, chopped coarsely by a Slovak if one is available
  • about 2-3 cups rainbow chard, with stems, choped into half-inch strips, not dried from the rinse
  • 1 and 1/2 Tbsp tahini (organic and dark, that's all I had)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed and chopped
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate seeds
  • About a cup of cooked adzuki beans
  • fine sea salt to taste


  • Toast the pistachios, about 3-4 min.
  • In a food processor, puree the pistachios, tahini, and garlic as much as you can/like (I still had pieces of pistachio). Slowly add the lemon juice and puree some more. Place into the serving bowl, and mix with the beans. It's okay if the beans still have some water, it'll make the pistachio-tahini sauce less like a chunky paste and more like a sauce.
  • Put the pasta to cook, as per packaging instructions. Place the Swiss chard still dripping with water in a non-stick pan, and cook it for about 5 minutes, preferably covered, stirring often so it cooks evenly. Strain in a mesh colander to get some of the juice out, and mix in with the beans and sauce.
  • When the pasta is done, strain in the same mesh colander, and rinse out with cold water to cool it down. Add to the bowl and mix so the sauce is evenly covering the other ingredients. Taste to adjust the salt.
  • Add the pomegranate seeds, mix without crushing the seeds and you're ready.


Really good warm salad with appealing colours. It was our luck that the garlic clove we chose was very pungent, and so much so, it made the dish spicy. (I'll have to think of an ingredient that will step up to the plate when the garlic doesn't...). The pomegranate seeds were tangy and not sweet at all, but I think the dish could be fine with either--I certainly wouldn't skip those, they are too beautiful, tasty, and crunchy to be left out. The pistachios weren't too present, but that's probably because those I used were not the freshest. I think what did it for me is that I buried the pasta under that web of flavours (tahini, pistachios, garlic, pomegranate), and got my full meal out of that one dish. It was a bit of work with quite a few steps (prying out the pomegranate seeds, toasting the pistachios, timing the Swiss chard and the pasta cooking times), but nothing too horrible, just perfect for a Sunday dinner after a day of running around trying to optimize the hours of unexpected excellent sunny weather...

04 September 2011

Smokeout Menu - 3 September 2011

Long time no blog!

In commemoration of tomorrow's smoke-out, I'll actually be making an effort to document what gets made. Some old favorites, some new jacks – should be a grand old time.

No-Knead Rolls

Tired of spending $3 a pack on rolls, and with enough experience and confidence in my bread making, I decided to actually make the rolls this time. I'd just started a batch of the Sullivan Street no-knead bread and found a roll recipe almost the same, so tripled the ingredients and set up two bowls to rise over the next 18 hours. Via Fabulous and Delicious:


  • 1 1/2 C. warm water
  • 1/4 Tsp. dry active yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/4 Tsp. salt
  • 1/2 Tsp. sugar
  • 3 C. flour
  • cornmeal for the baking pans

  • Add all ingredients (except the cornmeal) to a bowl and mix with a spoon until the ingredients are decently mixed. The dough is going to be very sticky. 
  • Once mixed, cover the bowl with a towel or saran wrap and let the dough sit for 12 hours. (I've done as little as 8 hours with success.) After the dough has sat for at least 8 hours (ideally 12), it will be bubbly and at least doubled in size. 
  • Place a generous amount of cornmeal on a baking sheet to keep from sticking while baking.
  • To prepare the rolls, place a 1/4-1/2 cup of flour on a plate or counter top. 
  • Separate the dough into 8 pieces; take each piece of the dough and roll/dust the outside with the flour, then mold the piece of dough into a round shape and place it on the baking sheet.
  • Once all the rolls are made and placed on the baking sheet, let them sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour so they may rise some more.
  • Place broiler plan in the oven and heat to 425 degrees. 
  • Bake the rolls on the middle/top rack for 25-30 minutes or until they are golden on the outside and sound hollow when tapped on top. 
  • Remove from the oven, and let them cool on rack


Pulled Pork
Via Alton Brown, my stand-by recipe.


    •    8 oz. molasses
    •    12 oz. pickling salt
    •    2 quarts water
    •    6-8 lb. Boston butt

    •    1 Tsp. whole cumin seed
    •    1 Tsp. whole fennel seed
    •    1 Tsp. whole coriander
    •    1 Tbsp. chili powder
    •    1 Tbsp. onion powder
    •    1 Tbsp. paprika


  1. Combine molasses, pickling salt, and water in large pot
  2. Add Boston butt making sure it is completely submerged in brine, cover, and let sit in refrigerator for a minimum of 8 hours. 12 hours is ideal.
  3. Place cumin seed, fennel seed, and coriander in food grinder and grind fine. Transfer to a small mixing bowl and stir in chili powder, onion powder, and paprika.
  4. Remove Boston butt from brine and pat dry. Sift the rub evenly over the shoulder and then pat onto the meat making sure as much of the rub as possible adheres.
  5. Place butt in smoker and cook for 12 hours
  6. Remove from smoker and set aside to rest for at least 1 hour; pull meat apart with 2 forks


Just amazing.

Vegan-But-Great Refried Beans


  • 2 c. pinto or black beans
  • 6 c. veggie stock
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 poblano (or large jalapeño and small spicy) pepper
  • 1 Tsp. ginger powder
  • 2 Tsp. tumeric powder
  • 1 Tsp. chili powder
  • 2 Tsp. salt
  • oil


  1. Heat generous amount of oil to medium-high in deep, heavy pan or pot - cast iron is the best, or non-stick
  2. Add garlic, fry until fragrant and then add onions, and fry until translucent
  3. Add pepper and combine, stirring until pepper begins to soften
  4. Add spices and mix together well
  5. Add beans, mix all together
  6. Add stock, stir, and raise heat to high; bring to boil
  7. Keep pot at a low boil for quite a while (at least an hour), adding more water when necessary
  8. When beans have softened, use a potato masher to pound them to a paste; add more water and oil if necessary to cohere, and lower heat to medium-low
  9. Continue cooking, stirring, and adding water – having a bit stick to the bottom isn't bad if you can scrape it up and avoid burning
  10. When it reaches your desired level of consistency, remove from heat and serve with soft corn tortillas
  11. Enjoy!



09 June 2011

Daily Food Bag - Thursday, 9 June 2011

Brekkers: juice, coffee.

Lunch: saffron rice and spicy Greek bean burrito; cold chicken thigh.

Dinner: pulled chicken BBQ sammich on potato roll; fried rice patty.

Daily Food Bag - Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Brekkers: toast, coffee, juice.

Lunch: toasted pulled chicken, cheddar, guacamole, spicy bean on roll.

Din-din: 1/2 Building on Bond Veggie Sandwich; asparagus.

Daily Food Bag - Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Brekkers: scrambled egg, turkey pastrami and Jarlsberg on toast.

Lunch: Mamoun's falafel pita.

Din-din: Roberta's Cheesus Christ.

Daily Food Bag - Monday, 6 June 2011

Brekkers: toast, coffee, juice.

Lunch: (1/2) chicken, cheddar, guacamole, Ajvar sammich

Din-din: (1/2) chicken, cheddar, guacamole, Ajvar sammich; salad.

Daily Food Bag - Sunday, 5 June 2011

Lunch: MEAT. Italian sweet and hot sausages; steak (yeah, I did); rolls; grilled peppers; slaw.

Dinner: seared ahi tuna in ginger, garlic and soy on sushi rice.

Daily Food Bag - Saturday, 4 June 2011

Lunch: scrambled egg and cheddar on potato roll.

Din-din: tofu half-sandwich; mac'n'cheese

04 June 2011

Daily Food Bag - Friday, 3 June 2011

Lunch: roasted pine nut hummus, stir-fried tofu and Cubanelle pepper on hoagie; fried rice cake topped with Ajvar.

Dinner: white and fava beans with onion, garlic, red pepper, oregano in olive oil with vermouth; modified potato curry with corn and carrot; cole slaw.

Daily Food Bag - Thursday, 2 June 2011

Lunch: fried egg sandwich with cheese

Din-din: mixed grill! Pork sausage, chicken sausage two kinds, paprika grilled potatoes, Cubanelle peppers, veggie burgers.

Daily Food Bag - Wenesday, 1 June 2011

Lunch: iced coffee; pressed sandwich on kaiser roll with chevre, Ajvar, tomato and avocado. REALLY GOOD.

Din-din: Pinche pescado burrito.

01 June 2011

Daily Food Bag - Tuesday 31 May 2011

Brekkers: banana; iced cappuccino.

Lunch: sigh. sandwich of some sort? forget.

Din-din: stir-fried tofu with shallot, garlic, ginger, onion, sesame seeds, soy sauce on saffron rice.

30 May 2011

Daily Food Bag - Monday, 30 May 2011

Lunch: iced cappuccino; lettuce, tomato and chevre with Ajvar on homemade bread; oil-cured olives.

Snack: Weihenstephaner Hefeweiss.

Din-din: red beans and rice; sautéed okra; fried flouder po'boys with spicy remoulade and lettuce on kaiser roll,

29 May 2011

Captain Lawrence Captain's Kölsch

A lovely summer beer, Captain Lawrence Captain's Kölsch is close to perfection as a session beer. Tasty, not too sweet, with a crisp but neither flowery or too bitter hop finish - a really excellent pilsener and highly recommended.

Daily Food Bag - Sunday 29 May 2011

Brunch: espresso; remnants of zuke-eggplant-leftovers egg scramble with chevre and toast from homemade bread; mango juice.

Din-din: Cornell chicken sandwich with lettuce, tomato and spicy mayo; everything-in-the-fridge chicken soup; Captain Lawrence Captain's Kölsch.

Daily Food Bag - Saturday 28 May 2011

Brunch: cheese grits; espresso; banana bread; two-fried-egg-and-jarlsberg sammich. Carbs!

Snack: bread; entirely too much excellent cheese; grapes.

Din-din: grilled eggplant, zucchini, fennel, red pepper, and corn; pork-and-lamb burgers.

28 May 2011

Daily Food Bag - Friday, 27 May 2011

Lunch: Half-baked-bean quesadilla; curried brown rice.

Snack: Slice of bread; scallion hummus; half-dozen oil-cured olives.

Water: Constantly.

Din-din: Cornell chicken leg-quarter; grilled corn.

26 May 2011

Daily Food Bag - Thursday, 26 May 2011

New feature, to get me blogging more, and to get me more thoughtful about what I'm eating.

Brekkers: Iced Toddy coffee; milk; simple syrup. Late morning and big dinner last night.

Lunch: turkey bacon, cumin/caraway/mustard-seed slaw, Ajvar and Jarlsberg on no-knead bread (modified with 1 C. wheat flour, dusted with bran), toasted.

Snack: More Toddy coffee; apple; banana.

Water: Constantly.

Din-din: brown rice cooked with onions, garlic pickle, biryani paste, and veggie stock; baked bean and cabbage quesadilla.

19 April 2011

Spicy Garlic Green Beans

Basically I like green beans, full stop. Hard to beat fresh out of the garden in the summer - hard to beat dilly beans - and a simple stir-fry with garlic is always fantastic. Following on my friend Manfred's  technique when I visited over the summer, I made the following simple and super-satisfying preparation.


1 lb. green beans, trimmed
1 large or 2 small shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt


In a large skillet, heat oil to medium
Add shallots, garlic, pepper and salt
Stir into oil and cook 2-3 minutes until garlic is fragrant and shallots begin to soften
Add beans, and cook, stirring to cover entirely in oil and frequently enough to redistribute, for 10-15 minutes or until desired level of softening
Serve and enjoy!


Fantastic - spicy, garlicky, beany. The oil is great for putting over rice, mopping up with bread, whatever.

18 April 2011

Mackerel Fillets Simmered in Soy Sauce

Some delicious Boston Mackerel from the market the other day, and Bittman provides a great recipe.


  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup sake
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 6 thin slices peeled fresh ginger
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon 
  • 4 crushed garlic cloves
  • 4 mackerel fillets, ~1 lb. total, skin on


  1. In a 12-inch skillet with a cover, mix together all ingredients except fish. 
  2. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes, uncovered.
  3. Add fish skin-side down and simmer until cooked through, 7-10 minutes - once the fish turns opaque, poke it with a small sharp knife. When the point meets little resistance entering the thickest part, the fish is done. 
  4. Spoon a fillet and some sauce onto a mound of rice
  5. Enjoy!



23 March 2011

Minar Indian Restaurant

After venturing out to the Post Office around lunchtime, I was lured into a cafeteria-style Indian restaurant offering 10 different dosas - basically I can't turn down any food if it's encased in a delicious, starchy wrapper. And I'm glad I went to Minar - the dosa was top-notch, tasty if a little on the soggy side in places after my trek back to the office. The potato-and-pea filling was solid, but the real standouts were the coconut chutney on the side (could eat a cup of that) and the sambar. Man, the sambar - super-flavorful, savory, and with a slow-building burn that set my scalp pleasantly sweating. And at $5.95 for the masala dosa ($7.25 for the paneer, which I plan on trying in the future), an excellently economical and filling lunch.

22 March 2011

Butter beans from Scotland

One of the goals of the week end in Edinburgh was to get my hands on some stuff that I either can't find or aren't that great tasting in Slovakia. My friend took me to the local organic store, and I returned with curry leaves, massala, shortbread cookies (hey, when in Scotland...), some lentils, and those huge, lovely butter beans (half a kilo).

As soon as we got back to the landlocked country, I soaked half of them in anticipation of today's lunch.

Google gave me this recipe option: Butter Beans in Sesame (incidently, submitted by someone in Glasgow).

This is how I adapted it:


half a Tblspoon olive oil
quarter teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 and a half Tblspoon sesame seeds
one small onion, chopped into small pieces (not just strands)
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
1 teaspoon of Hungarian spicy paprika
half a teaspoon of salt
about a cup of cooked butter beans
2 cups of chopped fresh spinach

Popped the cumin seeds in the olive oil on medium-low heat in a non-stick pan (the only pan I have). Added the onion for about 5 minutes. Added the ground cumin, mixed and a minute later added the sesame seeds. 3 minutes later added the turmeric, paprika and salt. Mixed, waited a minute, and added the butter beans, mixing well so that the beans were covered in the spices and sesame seeds, but without turning them into a mush. Then I folded in the spinach (it was left over in the fridge, didn't look too good for a salad). Cooked the whole thing for another three minutes, until the spinach was cooked.

Nice mixture of spices. It reminded me of the Greek dish with fava beans in tomato/cinnamon sauce. Basically, if I'd gone ahead with adding the chopped tomato can early on, and added cinnamon,I could have been in for a similar treat. But this was a very nice surprise find, and the mild butter beans are a very good template on which to lather spices. I recommend the butter beans, cooked with a piece of kombu and a clove of garlic, even though it takes an hour and a half on the stove (I really need to get myself a pressure cooker...).

09 March 2011

Great Burrito Mexican Fast Food Restaurant & Pizza

At first blush, a hole-in-the-wall lunch place with not just tacos and pizza but also pitas and "Italian Heroes" on the menu is not going to be a winner. But going on a recommendation from a friend, I decided to give Great Burrito a go and am glad I did. In addition to tacos, the Mexican side of the menu (where I'd advise you stay) also features burritos, tortas, quesadillas, tostadas, sopes, enchiladas and huaraches. Meat choices go from chicken, steak, chorizo, to pork carnitas and al pastor, lengua and "a la casa" (chicken, beef and pork together). For the first test-run I went with one chicken taco and one each carnitas and al pastor.

The tacos (at $2.50/per) were big enough that two would've sufficed, but I'm glad I tried all three. Each was complimented with raw onions, cilantro and a salsa particular to the taco, and each featured very nicely differentiated marinade. The al pastor was savory and a little sweet, pork meltingly delicious and tender. The carnitas were spicier and had a nice pepper edge to the flavor, while the chicken was oddly but nicely definitely marinated in soy sauce (in part, at any rate), and nicely charred. Served with a wedge of lemon (not lime) each, washed down with a Jarritos Mandarina, a truly excellent lunch. Definitely worth a return trip, or worth stopping by if you work in this part of town or find yourself here around food-time.

25 February 2011

Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles

Wandering around Chinatown on a chilly Sunday afternoon, I stumbled into the (vaguely recalled as recommended) Tasty Hand-Pulled Noodles, and am glad I did. Unadorned entirely, with a short menu (about a dozen choices of noodles either in broth or fried, with a few supplementary appetizers and dumplings), the food was simple and perfectly delicious.

Roast duck with hand-pulled noodles in soup was intensely flavorful, with tender bits of duck hacked alongside the fresh noodles and tender greens in a rich broth. The cucumber salad to start was spicy, savory and delicious, the tea was served in styrofoam cups, and the bill for two ran to <$20, with tip.

The place is tiny and fills up quickly, so going for an early or late lunch (I did the latter) is recommended.

Food and Memory

An excellent comment from an open thread at Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog:

I agree that it's more than just the food or the convenience. It's a whole host of ancillary stimuli. I go to Popeye's, this specific one right across the Harrison bridge, when I'm feeling disappointed, which is about once in two or three months. It's just a place where I feel it's okay to be disappointed. It's that ambience, the people there, just something, I don't quite know what that allows for it. Man, after that first bite of Popeye's, it's all disappointment. If I wanted, I could make better chicken than they do and with less guilt attached. But that's not the point. I'd rather not take my disappointment home and cook with it, nor clean up after. 
Food is not just about eating.

13 February 2011

Sichuan Peppercorn Chicken Stir-Fry


  • 1 lb chicken breast meat cut into strips
4 carrots, julienned
  • 1 red pepper, sliced

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1/2 c. mushrooms, sliced

  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground or crushed Szechuan peppercorns

  • salt to taste


  1. Marinade chicken strips with ground Szechuan peppercorn and salt for 30 minutes.
  2. In a hot pan, drizzle some oil and pan-fry chicken strips until golden brown; remove and set aside.
  3. Add a little more oil to pan and sauté the garlic. 
  4. When fragrant, add carrots, red pepper, and onion; stir-fry for about 5 minutes, adding water when necessary.
  5. Cover, and steam for several minutes.
  6. Add mushrooms and cover for 2 minutes.
  7. Return browned chicken strips to the pan and continue stirring. 
  8. Add salt to taste and ¼ cup water to loosen brown bits in the pan. 
  9. Cook until combined.
  10. Serve, and enjoy!

17 January 2011

The Financial Times in my kitchen

As we were leaving the brand-new fancy hotel by the Danube near Karlova Ves, I grabbed the FT Weekend Edition (there were three copies left for the others). In the Life & Arts section was a column by Rowley Leigh (never heard of him, he's a chef at Le Cafe Anglais in London, a place I've never heard of either), which included a recipe for beetroot, orange and red onion salad. Beetroots, now, I've heard of those.

With some adaptation, I gave it as a lunch project to the Slovak, who usually needs very, very specific instructions when it comes to cooking (but as someone who learned to enjoy cooking only after college, I'm not really in a position to throw stones).

The result:

Beetroot, orange and spring onion salad

3 medium pre-cooked and pre-peeled beetroots
Ume boshi vinegar
1 large orange
2 spring onions
no mint leaves (unless you do have them)
no black olives (unless you also have them)
olive oil

Slice the beetroots into little sticks. Place into bowl.
Slice the orange into the same size as the beetroots (without the skin, of course). Chop the spring onion thinly.
Add salt and pepper, vinegar, oil, and mix. Milan added pumpkin seeds.

Pretty nice! A keeper, I think, colourful and refreshing. A nice change from my usual sliced beetroot+lemon juice+salt salad. I can see how it could use some mashed or chopped black olives, but the mint might be overkill. It keeps well for the next meal, too.