Winter Endive Salad

Two weeks ago I was out for dinner on a Friday night with my friends from Boston, enjoying a fried fish taco and a margarita, when my body sent me a very strong message, marked urgent, respond ASAP or you’re fired: GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK. I sat there, continuing our conversation, clutching my exploding heart like it was a Southern strand of pearls.

So now I understand why everyone over 30 is on a cleanse in January.

I’m not on a cleanse, per say, but I am giving my body a break for the time being by eating vegan at breakfast, vegetarian at lunch, drinking less (which is so fun! don’t knock it till you try it!), and having whatever I feel like for dinner. And I usually feel like pizza, but my body is gracefully accepting that in return for our breakfast and lunch compromise.

I’ll tell you about breakfast another day, but right now I can’t stop thinking about, making, or eating tahini cream for lunch. I became deeply obsessed with it because of a photo I saw on The First Mess back in November and have been making it almost every week since. If you find yourself with random handfuls of extra herbs, tahini cream is a great place to put them. For this recipe, which I made a fussy finger food version of for a party last weekend, I think it’s best to make the tahini cream a little sweet to contrast with the bitterness of the endive. If you can’t find endive, look for another bitter green such as radicchio, frisee, or young mustard greens.

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You can absolutely fill individual radicchio or endive leaves with the tahini cream, herbs and pomegranate. The easier and lazier thing to do is to spread the tahini cream across the plate and pile the rest of the ingredients, roughly chopped, on top of it. Or, you can put the tahini cream in a squeeze bottle and drizzle it over the top of the salad. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the herbs!

Winter Endive Salad
-use about one whole endive and at least 1/4 cup tahini cream per person

For the tahini cream:
1/2 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 of a small to medium shallot, roughly chopped
filtered water
a couple Tablespoons honey
salt to taste
4-5 scallions, green and light green parts only

For the salad:
endive
plenty of parsley leaves (do not chop)
plenty of mint leaves (also do not chop!)
toasted sesame oil
pomegranate arils
flaky salt

Place the tahini, lemon juice and shallot in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Stream in water until it has like a…natural peanut butter at room temperature consistency? Somewhere in the ballpark of 1/3 a cup. You want it to be smooth and creamy, but thick enough to stay in place on a plate. Add salt and honey to taste, then pulse in the scallions until they’re very finely chopped. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 10 days.

To make the salad: roughly chop the endive, then toss it with the herbs and just enough sesame oil to coat it. Place it on top of the tahini cream and top with pomegranate arils and flaky salt.

Brown Butter Togarashi Chex Mix

Shortly after Christmas my friend Rebekka Seale, my oldest friend in Nashville, the first friend I made when I moved here, told me she was doing a solo art show and asked me to make snacks for it.

Rebekka is unlike anyone else I know (except maybe myself) in that she has been a great many things and I know she will become many more, too. When we met we were both cake bakers and decorators. Then she was an illustrator, which morphed into a career painting the sweetest house portraits. After that, she bought a spinning wheel and began her hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn business, Camellia Fiber Company. She sold the business to our friend Silbia Ro and expanded her exploration of shape, color and texture into painting. Her works are studies in color, expressions of her own synesthesia and many of them include hand-dyed and sewn fabric scraps that come from Elizabeth Suzann’s production line. They’re earthy and etherial, decidedly feminine, so very like this person I know so well, spread across a canvas in shades of peach.

I made a spread of finger food that mimicked the earthy tones and soft shapes of her paintings, the most popular being tender and crunchy little endive leaves filled with honey sweet tahini cream, topped with toasted sesame oil, parsley, mint, pomegranate arils and flaky salt. My favorite and I think yours, judging by how many people asked for the recipe, was the brown butter togarashi chex mix. It’s nutty, intensely salty and spicy- perfect for a party if you are drinking anything light and fizzy, from Miller High Life to champagne to lime seltzer.

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Brown Butter Togarashi Chex Mix
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serves 16 as a snack

4 cups wheat chex
4 cups corn chex
1 1/2 cups mini pretzels
1 1/2 cups sesame sticks
1 cup nuts (I used walnuts, but mixed nuts is classic)
6T unsalted butter
2T soy sauce*
2-3T shichimi togarashi*

1. Mix together the chex, pretzels and nuts in a large bowl. Measure out your togarashi, sesame sticks and soy sauce in separate small bowls.
2. Brown the butter over medium heat- as soon as it browns, pull it from the heat fast! and add the soy sauce fast! Give it a stir and start folding it into the chex mix immediately.
3. When everything is coated as evenly as possible and still a little warm, sprinkle in the togarashi while you continue to stir gently. Add the sesame sticks and pour the mixture onto a large sheet pan to dry out for at least an hour.

*if you are sensitive to salt or spice, I recommend using 1T soy sauce and 1-2T togarashi.

12/19/18

A late entry today, after a morning of meetings and correspondence about the future of Pantry Raid! All good news, all to be made public in the new year.

Yesterday I had a late breakfast as well, one centered around my on-going craving for hot sauce. My buddy Jeff Orkin of Greener Roots Farm gave me a jar of homemade hot sauce, which he says is akin to Sriracha, but I say is so superior to Sriracha it shouldn’t be compared. I doused a cheese quesadilla in it before leaving the house.

At midday I found myself at the Nashville Farmers Market, which is where I go to clear my head. A walk through the International Market in the main market house always puts me right. I have learned about many ingredients and have been inspired by the smells, colors and textures of it more times than I can count. Now, there is the added bonus of the Bubble Love stand right in front of it. I ordered a taro bubble tea- not a proper lunch, but satisfying all the same.

I’m hungry again at 4pm and I’m grateful to have a few things prepped for a quick meal. Remember on Sunday I made some ginger/garlic/scallion oil? It’s a bit like this Healthyish recipe. You’ll notice that many of the reviews say the dish is too oily or not ginger-y enough. If there’s one thing I know about ginger, it’s that it takes its sweet time to work it’s magic. I’ve let it sit in oil in the fridge for three days, meaning the oil is now so strongly ginger flavored, I can use less of it. I toss it with mushrooms, some very sad snow peas, and Sun Noodles from the freezer. I had intended to make miso eggs to go on top, but hunger outweighed my patience to cook even a soft boiled egg. So I gave it a dash of togarashi and inhaled it.

There are so few Dream Drops left, I’m rationing them. Dark chocolate dipped peppermint Joe-Joe’s before bed for a change.

12/18/18

Pixel woke me up early and we shared some yogurt, muesli and a banana. I’m not so crazy about bananas, but she ate it with her standard dog enthusiasm and then some.

I’m wanting Persian cucumbers more intensely and more frequently. By mid-morning, I eat them same as yesterday, salted and dipped in hot, hot sauce.

I’m learning to make hand shaped pasta from Linda Miller Nicholson’s excellent book, Pasta, Pretty Please. And I am very sorry to report that I am not a pasta prodigy, though I had expected I would be, given my special touch with other mediums such as pie dough and fondant. No, I have many practices to go before I show you a picture of the pasta I’ve been making. I ate it for lunch and it was terrible. I think the spinach in it had gone ever so slightly bad, I managed to over salt the water and I used too much toasty garlic olive oil. I ate it anyway and spent the afternoon grumpy about it.

Oh, and I’m still sick. My friend Kelli says there’s a special strain of cold going around that comes in three waves, which explains my miraculous recovery and subsequent demise.

Dinner was the exciting part, as promised. I got a Pantry Raid entry a couple weeks back about squash and yogurt and golden raisins and I told the person (I think it was my friend Paige) to roast the squash with warm spices and top it with yogurt, pickled raisins, and cilantro.

Last night I made a grain bowl version of that. I roasted butternut squash, cauliflower and sweet potatoes in olive oil, warm spices and a pinch of brown sugar- hot and fast until they were deeply caramelized. They sat on a bed of farro cooked in homemade chicken stock and topped with my herbed tahini cream and yogurt. To brighten it up a little bit, I also added slivered almonds and golden raisins I soaked overnight in pickled pepper vinegar. NOT. TOO. SHABY. Might even make it again and photograph it to share with you properly.

I believe I have formed a habit well out of my means…I ended the night with two more Dream Drops.