Grilled Fruit and Watermelon Burgers

There is no way that "a watermelon burger" wouldn't grab the attention of, well, almost anyone. That is exactly what happened with the story in the New York Times magazine section this past Sunday (July 10, 2011.) Written by Mark Bittman, it pushed the envelope of what to grill that might tantalize anyone who didn't eat grilled meat, or raw meat, for that matter. I would definitely venture to try any of his alternative protein-ate ideas -- sweet potato planks, jicama rafts, and cabbage steaks, too, but wished that the watermelon slices were round instead of triangular, you know, somehow, more "burger-like."

In truth, I've been grilling fruit for the past 31 years, when in 1980, the Daily News did a feature story about a roof-top meal I cooked for then-restaurant critic, Arthur Schwartz. I made four different kinds of grilled ribs (pork, beef, lamb, and veal) and paired each with a grilled fruit, including nectarines, pears, pineapple and plums. It was special alone that I took my hibachi on the roof on my apartment -- not too many people were doing that, then. Later that year, when I was consultant to the quirky Manhattan restaurant Caliban's -- famous for its wine list and literary, motorcycling owner Harry Martens -- I ventured to put a slice of sweet, chewy, charred pineapple under a juicy rare duck breast and will never forget the dismay of a New York Times reporter who deemed the idea "dangerous." To this day, I'm not sure why (in fact, the enzyme bromelain in pineapple actually helps digest food and the acidity in the fruit acts as a welcome mat for the fatty duck.) Anyway, times have changed, and clearly watermelon is the new tomato.

As much as I enjoy grilling the unexpected, one of the summer recipes I love most is one that I created for Bon Appetit more than ten years ago. My "Grilled Vegetables Salsa Verde" has you marinating thick slices of potato (unexpected), asparagus, scallion, big beefy mushrooms, zucchini, bell peppers and red onions, in a marinade of salsa verde, extra-virgin olive oil, cumin and cilantro. The vegetables sit in this mixture, absorb the great flavors, then get grilled to perfection. Now, thanks to Mark, I may slip in some jicama, pineapple, and watermelon, too.

Grilled Vegetables “Salsa Verde”

2 cups prepared salsa verde, mild or medium 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 2 teaspoons ground cumin 1 large bunch cilantro 3 large Yukon gold potatoes 4 medium zucchini, about 6 ounces each 4 medium red onions 2 red and 2 yellow large bell peppers 8 fat asparagus or scallions 3 large portabello mushrooms

Put salsa verde, olive oil, cumin and ½ packed cup chopped cilantro in bowl of food processor. Process until thoroughly blended.  Wash and dry vegetables. Scrub potatoes and slice lengthwise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and then crosswise. Cut onions in half through the equator. Cut peppers lengthwise into sixths and remove seeds. Trim ends of asparagus or scallions. Quarter mushrooms. Place all vegetables in a large bowl and cover with marinade. Let marinate a minimum of 2 hours. Light the barbecue. When hot, place vegetables on grill and cook on both sides until tender. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn often. Drizzle some of the remaining marinade over top. Garnish with coarsely chopped cilantro.  Serves 8

The Recipe that Made Me Famous

While walking through the splendorous Union Square Market yesterday, looking for new arrivals, I noticed small fragrant strawberries and the loveliest asparagus I've seen in a long time.  Those strawberries would wind up in a wonderful dessert I had last night at abc kitchen (located just a few blocks from Union Square) -- a kind of strawberry compote decorated with tiny meringues and topped with a quenelle of sour cream-poppy seed ice cream. But those asparagus, crisp and green and just the size I love -- not too thin and not too thick -- reminded me of  "the recipe that made me famous."  Way back in 1995 when no one was roasting asparagus, except for my friend Arthur Schwartz, nobody, and I mean nobody, was frying capers, except me!  The resulting recipe for "Oven-Roasted Asparagus, Fried Capers" was to appear in Recipes 1-2-3: Fabulous Food Using Only Three Ingredients, published in 1996 by Viking.  The headnote went like this:  In less than ten minutes you can have the most addictive asparagus you've ever encountered. An intense dose of heat keeps these spears green and snappy.  Deep-fried capers add a startling accent.  A wonderful Mediterranean-inspired first course or side dish." (recipe below)This recipe would come to be a favorite of Ruth Reichl, the restaurant critic of the New York Times.  Fifteen years later, in Radically Simple, I added a fourth ingredient -- fresh bay leaves -- which impart a mysterious perfume.   Just this morning I decided to punch in "roasted asparagus and fried capers" into the humming Google search bar.  There are millions (I exaggerate) of citings for this recipe -- with no mention of me or where the recipe came from.  But now you know.

Some years later, in my book Healthy 1-2-3, I also did something no one had done with asparagus.  For a lovely, and very healthy asparagus and orange salad, I boiled the peelings from the asparagus until they were al dente and topped the salad with my original "asparagus fettuccine" -- for it is exactly what it looked like! Just recently I noticed this idea in a new cookbook.  But now that I've begun a practice of daily "meditation" and reflection, this stuff doesn't bother me at all.  Enjoy!

The Original Recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Fried Capers (from Recipes 1-2-3)

2 pounds medium-size asparagus 4 tablespoons olive oil 1/4 cup large capers, drained

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  Trim the stems of the asparagus, cutting off the ends to make even.  Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Place the asparagus on the pan and coat with the oil.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Roast for 8 minutes and transfer to a warm platter.  Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil.  Fry the capers for 1 to 2 minutes until crispy.  Pour over the asparagus and pass the pepper mill.  Serves 6

A Kugel for Passover and Easter

With Passover and Easter just around the corner, here is an exciting side dish that fulfills the requirements for both celebrations.  I developed this cauliflower-leek kugel with its vibrant almond-herb crust for Bon Appetit when I was writing the "Entertaining Made Easy" column.  While kugels are typically "Jewish," and most often connote "sweet," this kugel is savory and, according to the editors at Bon App, tastes remarkably like artichokes!   You can find the slightly-altered recipe on Epicurious, but the recipe below is the original, where the almonds are more finely chopped and the filling more compact.  Part pudding/souffle in texture, it is a perfect offering for Passover as the dish is parve, with no dairy or any leavening in it.  The cauliflower "mash" is thickened with matzoh meal.  It is also perfect for Easter as the flavor screams "Spring" with its fresh burst of dill and parsley.  It is a wonderful accompaniment to roast lamb and equally delicious nestled up to pot roast or a golden roast capon.   It also fulfills the "entertaining made easy" requirement as it can be easily prepped and assembled and baked up to two days before serving.  I am imagining it now, on my palate, with rosy slices of garlicky-minted lamb and a puree of carrots flecked with fresh lemon thyme for Easter.  For Passover, I am licking my lips as I think about my slightly sweet-and-sour pot roast made with sticky dates.  Either way, try it.  You'll like it.

Cauliflower-Leek Kugel with Almond-Herb Crust

1 large head cauliflower, about 2 ¼ pounds or 1 ½ pounds florets 4 large leeks, about 1 ½ pounds 5 tablespoons olive oil 3 extra large eggs, beaten 5 tablespoons matzoh meal ½ teaspoon salt 1 small clove garlic 1/3 cup whole shelled almonds with skins ½ cup packed flat parsley leaves ½ cup packed dill fronds

Wash cauliflower. If using whole head, trim leaves and cut into florets.  Cook, covered, in a large pot with ¾ cup water until tender, but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Toss periodically and if necessary, add small amount of water.

Trim dark green leaves from leeks.  Cut remaining leeks down their lengths into quarters.  Then cut across the leeks into ¼”-1/2” pieces. Wash thoroughly.  Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large skillet and add leeks with their moisture still clinging.  Cook over medium high heat, stirring, for five minutes, then lower heat and let cook slowly until soft and slightly brown, about 20 minutes.  Stir often.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Drain cauliflower and put in large bowl.  Mash with fork into coarse pieces.  Do not make mushy.  Toss well with leeks, beaten eggs, matzoh meal, salt and freshly ground black pepper.   Pour into 8 ½” soufflé dish.

Put garlic and almonds in a food processor: pulse frequently until finely chopped  and place in a medium bowl. Put parsley and dill into food processor and process until finely chopped; do not overprocess into a puree.  Add to almonds and toss with 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon water.   Distribute herb mixture over cauliflower then gently press down to flatten.  Bake 50 minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.  Cut into wedges or spoon from soufflé dish.  Serves 8

Crunchy Salmon with Wasabi Peas & Lime

A few days ago, my friend Lauren C. was browsing the web and came across a recipe she was crazy about, salmon with wasabi peas and lime. It was a recipe from Bon Appetit from a few years ago. It turned out that the recipe was mine -- one of the few times that credit was given in the Internet's vast virtual cookbook --which delighted her (and me) even more. In the true spirit of radical simplicity, this is a dish that requires only a handful of ingredients and can be put together in less than 15 minutes. Wasabi-coated peas -- the 21st century's new snack food -- once the darling of specialty food stores and now available in every 7-11, get crushed to smithereens and packed onto thick fillets of fresh salmon to form a crunchy topping. Whereas these little peas are searingly hot, their spiciness lessens as it cooks. At the same time the salmon roasts in a 400 degree oven, slivers of red cabbage and sugar snap peas get flash-cooked in an oil-slicked wok, to form a gorgeous bed upon which the salmon sits. It is at once beautiful and delicious. My 14-year old daughter is still a bit squeamish about eating fish but she loves to crush the peas in a small plastic bag and then smash them with a rolling pin. Alternatively, it can be done in a food processor. This is a great warmer-weather dish, one that is inherently healthy, and gets you in and out of the kitchen in a flash. All you need to do is cook up some fragrant jasmine rice and pour yourself an icy glass of sauvignon blanc. Here's the recipe: Crunchy Salmon with Wasabi Peas & Lime 3/4 cup wasabi peas, about 3 ounces 4 6-or 7-ounce thick salmon fillets 1 large lime 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 cups sugar snap peas, about 6 ounces 3-1/2 cups finely shredded red cabbage, about 10 ounces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the wasabi peas in the bowl of a food processor and process until powdery, but still with tiny pieces. Sprinkle the fish with sea salt. Pat the crushed peas onto the fish, making sure that the top is evenly coated. Grate the zest of the lime and sprinkle onto the top of the fish. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place the fish on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the fish is cooked through but still moist. Meanwhile, trim the ends of the sugar snap peas. Heat the remaining tablespoon of the oil in a work or large skillet. Add the red cabbage and sugar snaps and cook over high heat, stirring constantly for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the fish from the oven. Cut the lime in half and squeeze juice over the fish. Transfer the vegetables to 4 large warm plates and top with the fish. Serve with additional lime wedges, if desired. Serves 4

Kohlrabi is King

If you are in the tri-state area, you may be able to tune in today at noon to Leonard Lopate's riveting radio show on WNYC -- 820 AM -- where I, and Alice Walton, the farm coordinator from Katchkie Farm (upstate New York) will be talking about "the new meat" -- ROOT vegetables. They are getting the respect they deserve and have, so to speak, come out of the closet (or root cellar.) Leonard's producer mentioned that we would be exploring the glories of winter's weirder vegetables -- namely kohlrabi and salsify and, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have never made either one. I am currently in love with parsnips and rutabagas, and you will find many recipes for these rapacious roots in Radically Simple (from parsnip fries to a dreamy rutabaga, creme fraiche & havarti torte that looks a lot like a birthday cake.) But in the last few days, kohlrabi is king in our house. Both green and purple varieties, I have roasted, boiled, steamed, and fried them, and slivered them raw. Kohlrabi, known as a German turnip, is a low, stout, spherical relation to the cabbage that will grow most anywhere. Its leaves can also be eaten. In fact, kohlrabi is the "national veg" of Kashmir where it can be found on many kitchen tables, three or four times a week. The taste and texture is similar to that of a broccoli stalk but it is sweeter and the flesh is more translucent. Hands down we now have two favorite ways of eating this at home. Boiled whole, then refrigerated until very cold, I peel them (the skin slips off easily) and cut them into meticulous 1/2-inch cubes. I dab each with a bit of creme fraiche and sea salt. That's it! I know this will be my next hors d'oeuvres for a party, topped off with a smidge of caviar. Gorgeous alabaster cubes of sweet earthiness and salinity. Our second favorite way is to boil and chill them, cut them into 1-inch cubes and fry them in olive oil until golden brown and crispy all over. We sprinkle them with salt and West Indian curry powder. Fabulous! Healthy! Meaty and fleshy! Stay tuned to Roots, part 2 tomorrow.

It's 6 a.m. Do You Know Where Your Turkey Is?

If you are the host of today's festivities you are, no doubt, up early to start cooking your turkey.  If you are me, however, you are at a good friends home in Maryland, with a cafe filtre in hand, sitting alone in a dark kitchen, dying to share a few last minute ideas with any takers.  As promised yesterday on Twitter and Facebook, here follows a recipe for roasted root vegetables that I recently starting serving as a Thanksgiving hors d'oeuvres. Radically simple to prepare, these veggies are surprisingly delicious at room temperature and satisfy many gustatory issues on this rather peculiar eating day.  First, they can be made early in the morning (and drizzled with good olive oil and a splash of fresh lemon juice just before serving.)  Second, they fulfill the commandment to respect any vegetarians coming to visit. Third, they are inexpensive.  Fourth, they don't compete for oven time later in the day.  Fifth, they look dramatic on a large platter.  Sixth, they don't fill you up in the way that cheese logs and artichoke-spinach dip often do.  Seventh, the pecan gremolata is addictive.  And last, but not least, they taste good with Prosecco, apple cider or...Scotch!

Equally compelling is my gently spiced Sweet Potato Gratin.  It looks a lot like a birthday cake and can be transported (and reheated) easily in the cake pan in which it's baked.  Intriguingly spiced, it taunts your taste buds with nary a marshmallow in sight.

Happy Thanksgiving.  I'm going back to bed.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Pecan Gremolata If you don't love turnips, you may substitute an equal amount of butternut squash or rutabagas, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces.

1 pound carrots 1 pound parsnips 1 pound turnips, butternut squash or rutabaga 1-1/4 pounds Brussels sprouts 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling 3/4 cup pecans 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 2 large lemons 1 small clove garlic

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Peel the carrots, parsnips and turnips.  Cut the carrots and parsnips in half lengthwise and then in half across the width.  Peel the turnips (butternut squash or rutabaga) into 1-inch wedges or chunks.  Trim bottoms of Brussels sprouts and cut in half lengthwise.  Place the vegetables in a large bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Put vegetables on large rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast 45 minutes, tossing several time during baking.  Roast 10 to 20 minutes longer until tender.  Transfer to a large platter.  Make gremolata;  Put pecans in food processor and pulse until finely ground (like bulgur wheat). Transfer to a bowl and stir in Parmesan and parsley.  Grate the rind of both lemons and add to pecans.  Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Push garlic through a press and add to mixture.  Add a pinch of salt, if needed.  Scatter on top of vegetables.  When ready to serve, drizzle with more olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon.  Serves 8

Spiced Sweet Potato Gratin This can be made up to 8 hours in advance and reheated in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.  You will need a 9 or 10-inch removable-bottom springform pan.

7 large sweet potatoes, 3-1/2 to 4 pounds 1-1/2 cups sour cream 12 ounces extra-sharp white cheddar, shredded 1 tablespoon curry powder 1 tablespoon ground cumin 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Put sweet potatoes in a large pot with water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil and boil 20 minutes until potatoes are just tender when pierced with a small knife.  Be careful not to overcook as they need to be sliced.  Drain in a colander under cold water.  Slice potatoes 1/4-inch thick and pat dry with paper towels.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of the springform pan with a round of foil.  Line the bottom with a layer of sweet potato slices (about 2-1/3 potatoes per layer.)  Fill in any spaces with potato pieces.  Press down lightly to make a thick layer.  Spread 1/2 cup sour cream over potatoes to cover completely.  Mix spices in small bowl; sprinkle with 1/3 of the spice mixture.  Sprinkle evenly with 1/3 of the cheese.  Repeat process, making 2 more layers, ending with cheese on top.  Place pan on rimmed baking sheet; bake 35-40 minutes until top is golden and bubbly.  Remove from oven.  Serve while hot or reheat later.  Cut into wedges.  Serves 10 to 12

Turnips in the Morning

I was gifted last night with two specimens that looked a lot like large shrunken heads.  One weighed a little more than two pounds, the other closer to three -- similar to the weight of a human brain.  But these were no ordinary gifts.  They had a unique provenance, discovered in a sleepy Vermont town in the early 1900's. My friend, pleased as punch to plunge these offerings into my arms, informed me with a Cheshire grin, that I was the proud recipient of two bona fide Gilfeather Turnips celebrated by yearly festivals, commemorated in poetry, and one of only two vegetables registered on the list of heirloom varieties in Vermont.  The tuber in question is large and egg-shaped with crannies and crevices and a rough outer covering.  (It is easily peeled with a vegetable peeler.)  It was "discovered" by the bachelor John Gilfeather in Wadsboro, Vermont whose population could fit into the dining room of Tao on a quiet night (pop. under 900).  The fairweathered Gilfeather (say that three times fast!) was cunning:  he cut off the tops and the roots from his turnips so that his variety could not be reproduced.  Nonetheless it has survived his demise and has achieved culinary status as a member of Slow Food's Ark of Taste.  But when it comes to the art of taste, the unusual, sweet root has demonstrated great versatility and finesse. At 6:35 a.m. (instead of sticking my finger in yesterday's carrot cake), I cut the smaller 2 pound turnip into large chunks and laid them out on a rimmed baking sheet. I coated them lightly with olive oil and liberally sprinkled them with kosher salt.  In a preheated 400 degree oven, I roasted them for 20 minutes, turned them over and continued cooking them for another 20 minutes.   They were dark golden brown and delicious.  But the roasting concentrated the natural sugars and were a bit too sweet.  A little more salt?  Didn't quite do it.  But then I sprinkled on just a few drops of rice vinegar and oh boy, was that fabulous!  It made the turnip taste a bit like Jerusalem artichokes.  Also delicious was the addition of fresh thyme leaves from my window box.  Fresh rosemary was also a felicitous match.

In sum, the real allure of the Gilfeather Turnip is its sweetness and interesting texture.  The early Vermont frosts increase the root's dulcet tones.  This turnip attracts attention because it does not behave like a turnip, nor look like a turnip.  It looks like a big knob of celery root (celeriac), whose mouthfeel is more similar to a rutabaga, but with notes of horseradish and sugar.   It is used in soup making, in souffles and casseroles, in turnip bread, and vegetable "cakes."  It is also mashed with potatoes. The coupling of potatoes and turnips (regular white turnips) is a recipe known as alabaster.  It is the ultimate three-ingredient dish and you might consider it for Thanksgiving.   If you are lucky enough to snag a Gilfeather Turnip however, simply roast them as above.  They are delicious hot, at room temperature, and quite interesting in the morning.

Alabaster (Turnip and Potato Puree) This is creamy and white as alabaster.

2-1/2 pounds large white turnips 2-1/2 pounds large red-skinned potatoes 8 tablespoons unsalted butter

Scrub turnips and potatoes but do not peel.  Place in a large heavy pot with a cover and add salted water to cover.  Bring to a rapid boil then lower heat to medium. Cover and cook 40 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.  Drain in a colander.  Peel turnips and potatoes under cool running water.  In a large bowl, mash both vegetables well with a potato masher.  Add butter, a little at a time.  Add salt and white pepper to taste, then whip with a wire whisk until smooth and fluffy. Serve immediately or reheat over low heat.  Serves 6 or more

White Carrots

I was planning to write about parsnips this morning -- my new favorite veg -- but something curious happened along the way.  Last night as I was flipping the tv remote, I came upon a show on the Cooking Channel in which the chef (a new face to me) was peeling root vegetables.  He referenced carrots, yellow potatoes, salsify and...white carrots.  "But those are parsnips," I declared, and decided to share a few new recipes with you.  But I was curious, too.  I know there are lots of varieties of carrots being grown today as evidenced in riotous colors in today's farmers markets.  I was also aware that red carrots have been grown in Egypt for centuries: They are sweet and often baked in the oven.  But I had limited experience with white carrots.  So I set about doing a bit of research and stumbled upon a whole new world:  The World Carrot Museum, in fact! ( According to the museum, "the cultivated and edible carrot dates back about 5000 years and were first found in the Iranian plateau (including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran) and then later in the Persian Empire.  At that time they were purple, yellow, red and probably white."  They became orange sometime around the 1500's but you can read as much as you'd like about carrots on your own.  This morning, I am interested only to find out why I'm writing about carrots at all.  Here is the answer!

Throughout the Classical Period and the Middle Ages, writers constantly confused carrots and parsnips. "There was (and still is!)," according to the site, "enormous confusion when trying to sort out the individual histories of carrots and parsnips.  The Latin name for the parsnip genus is thought to come from pastus, meaning "food." This would further explain the historical confusion of the two vegetables, as well as offer a testament to how important they both were in the ancient diet."  Amen.

That tv chef is clearly struggling with this too, but, for clarity's sake, those were parsnips he was peeling.

In honor of this historical debate, I offer you, no kidding, a prescient foreboding of this dilemma from my book, Radically Simple.  It is called Milky Carrot and Parsnip Puree, and would make a very nice addition to your Thanksgiving table.

Milky Carrot and Parsnip Puree When carrots and parsnips bubble in a milk bath with fresh sage and a clove of garlic, the resultant puree is the color of orange sherbet with a voluptuous texture and an alluring flavor.  Nice with pork...or turkey.

1 pound carrots 1 pound parsnips 2 cups whole milk 4 large fresh sage leaves 1 large clove garlic 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Peel the carrots and parsnips and cut them into 1/2-inch pieces.  Place in a large saucepan.  Add the milk (it will not cover the vegetables), sage, garlic and salt to taste. Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, place the cover askew, and simmer 20 minutes, until very soft.  Drain, saving the liquid.  Transfer the vegetables to a food processor and process until very smooth; adding cooking liquid as needed to make a thick, creamy puree.  Add the butter and process; season with salt and pepper.  Serves 6

The Window Box

One of the most special presents I ever received was an enormous window box made for me by my husband. It hangs outside the window of my brownstone kitchen where it soaks up the sun and, sometimes, too much rain.  Once the entire bottom of the box fell out and lots of dirt (and precious herbs!) landed in our backyard garden.  But my beloved husband simply made me another which has lasted for years and whose contents are thriving. I'm not much of a gardener but overlooking my neighbor's trees, flowers and well-manicured gardens, I am the master of my herbs.  What a pleasure to pick off tiny leaves of fresh thyme, to add sprigs of fresh mint to any dessert in a moment's notice, or muddle a few for a warm peppermint tea. More pleasure still from crumbling fragrant rosemary into a soup or stew, or to mix sweet-smelling lavender with goat cheese and spinach and stuff it under the skin of a chicken.

One of my most requested recipes was a result, however, of the abundance of basil in that window box years ago.  Salmon with pesto and pistachios has been copied by chefs and made by home cooks alike since 1996 -- when I first introduced the dish.  I simply slather a thick tranche of fatty salmon or voluptuous Chilean sea bass with homemade pesto and thickly blanket the top with freshly-ground pistachios.   It is virtually fool-proof and can even be made with a good-quality prepared pesto if you have no time to make your own.

I like to serve the fish with lemony mashed potatoes (you can use your own favorite recipe and add lots of freshly grated zest and a bit of lemon juice)  and a pile of something  I call green bean "fries."  Sometimes I serve a platter of "melted tomatoes" (from Recipes 1-2-3) alongside. Open a bottle of sauvignon blanc -- one of those crisp, delicious ones from New Zealand or South Africa.

Chilean Sea Bass with Pistachio-Pesto Crust & Green Bean "Fries" This is also great made with fresh salmon.   Make your own pesto (see below) or use the best-quality store-bought -- fresh, bright green and herbaceous.

4 thick Chilean sea bass, or salmon, fillets (about 7 ounces each) 2/3 cup pesto (made from fresh basil) 1/2 cup finely ground pistachios 12 ounces green beans, trimmed 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Season the fish with salt and pepper and arrange on a rimmed baking sheet.  Spread fillet with pesto, about 2-1/2 tablespoons, to cover completely.  Pat the pistachios heavily on the pesto to form a crust.  Drizzle the green beans with the oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place around the fish.  Roast for 16 minutes, until the fish is just firm.  Grate lemon zest on top.  Cut the lemon into wedges and serve with the fish and beans.  Serves 4

Pesto Presto 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried well 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 6 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons pine nuts 1 large clove garlic

Put the basil in a food processor with the cheese, oil, pine nuts, and garlic.  Process until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Ultimate Comfort

My 14-year old daughter loves "cabbage and noodles" as much as I did as a child.  She insists she wants to eat it every day of the year. Cabbage!  But Shayna is merely following in the footsteps of an ancient history -- the one that connects generations through food and recipes. For more than 50 years my mother and I expressed our deep connection by cooking special things for each other all the time.  We used to derive the greatest pleasure by surprising the other with her favorite dish.  In my case, my mother made me cabbage and noodles -- a homey Hungarian standard that she, too, ate in her childhood.  It was our ultimate comfort food and I never knew exactly when a steamy, buttery bowl would make an appearance on her dining room table.  Until the day she died, I delighted in its random offering and in the joy she showed in preparing it.  My mother would always say, "It's not as good as the last time," but it always was. I have learned that some recipes, even more than photographs, provide the most intimate transfer of information from mother to daughter. As victims of a horrendous time in history, most of our Hungarian relatives never made it through World War II.  This simple dish is a witness to our past.  It is a poignant conduit of things unspoken.

Sometime in 1930, somewhere in Astoria, Queens, my maternal grandfather and great-grandmother (whose wedding ring I wear) opened a Hungarian restaurant that featured...cabbage and noodles.  Naturally. Sometime in the mid-90's I had an epiphany:  It was the moment I realized that this complex-tasting, deeply satisfying dish was made with only three ingredients.

Marion Gold's Cabbage and Noodles My mother was gorgeous, inside and out.  More Zsa Zsa than Julia in the kitchen, she cooked her heart out and still managed to look glamorous. The goal in making her special dish is to squeeze the water from shredded cabbage after it is salted and left to wilt and then to "melt" it in sweet butter until it is transformed into dark golden strands.  It can be served as a first course or as a felicitous side dish with pot roast or roast chicken; or it can be eaten all by itself on wistful days.

3-pound compact head of green cabbage 1 stick unsalted butter 12 ounces wide egg noodles

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Cut the cabbage in half and remove the core.  With a sharp knife, shred the cabbage into 1/8-inch thick slices.  Place cabbage in a large colander and sprinkle with 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt.  Toss well.  Cover with a plate and put a heavy object on it (a filled tea kettle) to weight it down.  Put the colander in a pan to collect any liquid or set it in the sink.  Let sit 4 to 6 hours.  Press down hard and squeeze the cabbage with your hands to extract as much water as possible.  Melt the butter in a very large skillet and add the cabbage.  Cook over medium-high heat for almost 1 hour, until the cabbage is very soft and dark brown.  Cover from time to time to help soften it. Add salt at this point, if needed.  Cook the noodles in a large pot of salted rapidly boiling water.  Cook until tender and drain very well.  Add cooked noodles to the cabbage and heat gently.  Add freshly ground black pepper.  Serves 4


Happy Halloween

I woke up with a terrible headache. Just before going to bed, I ate half a large bag of candy corn.  It's my guilty once-a-year pleasure. And in that spirit, I begin to blog on Halloween day 2010. This very "farm-to-table time" of year is one of the most transitional times in cooking.  Slowly disappearing are the brightest hues of the color spectrum -- vivid tomato reds, sharp basil greens, and sunny corn yellows -- are gradually replaced by the gold, russet, ochre shades of roots and the paler tones of brussels sprouts, and other harbingers of winter.  The "winter whites" I call them -- cauliflower, turnips, parsnips, even horseradish.  I love them all. But let's not rush so quickly.  Yesterday at the farmer's market up the street from my house, located in Park Slope's Grand Army Plaza, was the most riotous offering of summer's last gasp  -- the bounty of the summer of 2010 -- all clamoring for attention.  My best friend, food maven Arthur Schwartz, who lives just a few blocks away was seduced to a farethewell.  "I bought way too much food," he reported after his morning visit.  And did I.  I couldn't resist just one last tomato salad -- this time it was what I affectionately call a "Stoplight Tomato Salad" made with red, green and yellow tomatoes, topped with a shower of shaved ricotta salata and a simple dressing of olive oil, garlic, sea salt, and a splash of sherry vinegar.  I found some corn and made a corn soup -- the last I'm sure I'll savor this year -- and topped it with slivers of Granny smith apple.  I bought the biggest head of broccoli I've seen in a long time and will steam its florets and toss them bits of sauteed red onions, blue cheese and mint (recipe below).

Then at night, when the ghosts and goblins have gone, and the shaving cream and broken egg shells have been swept away, I will finish the bag of candy corn with my daughter.

Happy Halloween.

Steamed Broccoli with Blue Cheese, Red Onions & Mint This is such a pleasure to make and then eat with a steak or...instead of a steak!

2 large or 1 very large head broccoli 2 large red onions 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling 6 ounces good blue cheese, crumbled 2/3 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped

Bring a pot of water fitted with a steamer basket to a rapid boil.  Cut the broccoli into florets with 2 inches of stem.  Add the broccoli to the steamer basket, cover and steam 10 minutes, until tender but still bright green.  Cut the onions in half through the root ends and thinly slice lengthwise.  Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook over high heat until soft, dark brown, and crispy, 10 minutes.  Transfer the broccoli to a large bowl.  Add the onions, cheese, and mint. Toss, adding salt, pepper and additional olive oil.  Serve slightly warm.  Serves 4