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Recipes for Friends: Kimchi-Tofu Stew with Greens

photo by Allison Adato c. 2015Made this last night, and had requests from a few friends for the recipe after I posted a pic on Instagram. Among them was the friend who hates to cook, and who started the new year in a new home with her sons, one of whom has been since the age of 5 a philosophical vegetarian. And the friend who has been eating hospital cafeteria food in Iowa for the last month, while she waits for her beautiful twin baby boys to get hearty enough to venture back to the East Coast. I made it just because it was a rainy night and my husband needed the dregs of a cold kicked out of his system. I think it would be good for any of these situation

I adapted the recipe from Bon Appetit, adding more vegetables and taking down the spice a bit (though you could certainly bring it back up).


serves 4, with some leftovers for breakfast.



kosher salt

1 16-oz package soft or silken tofu, cubed

1 tablespoon oil (canola or other vegetable oil)

1 16-oz jar of cabbage kimchi

1 tablespoon (more or less, to taste; fine to omit) Korean hot pepper paste

1 cup shredded napa cabbage

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

6 scallions, cut to 1/2-inch pieces

1 cup delicate greens (spinach, baby bok choy leaves, komatsuna, whatever), chopped

toasted sesame oil

toasted sesame seeds

ground pepper

1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil, drop in the tofu cubes, bring back up to boil for 4-5 minutes, until cubes are puffed up.  Drain and keep tofu in a bowl.

2. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat, add the drained kimchi and the fresh cabbage (and the pepper paste, if using). Sauté, stirring frequently just until the vegetables start to brown, but don't let them get dark.

3. Add kimchi liquid and 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until kimchi cabbage is translucent.

4. Add the soy sauce, the tofu cubes, and most of the scallions (hold back some for garnishing the bowls), and simmer for about 20 minutes, until tofu takes on flavor of the stew. Stir in the greens just so they melt into the broth.

5. Serve in bowls with a shake of sesame seeds, a small drizzle of sesame oil, a grind of pepper and a few scallions.



Summer Greenmarket Brunch, with jam

Temptation meets hostility at the Union Square market; this scared me off those peaches, good as they looked.I've discovered that with the Citibikes, I can haul more stuff back from the greenmarket. Here's some of what I very carefully rode back with today, and how we used it.


Pullet eggs from Violet Hill Farms



The eggs -- from pullets, which I learned are chickens that have just started to lay eggs, basically the sixteen-and-pregnant gals of the barnyard -- became a tarragon-heavy egg salad, served with tomatoes, lettuce and challah, and a fruit salad of blueberries, plums and mint.

Then, this:

It's SOUR CHERRY season.My friend Ellen Shapiro, who was the excellent fact-checker on SMART CHEFS, stopped by my office yesterday all excited about sour cherries coming into their very short season.  So when I saw them at the market this morning I grabbed a bunch, tasted them, and decided they would be jam.

Here's the recipe:

Use 3/4 the amount of sugar to the amount of cherries. My bag of cherries weighed (after pitting) 9 oz, so: 6.75 oz of sugar.  (You can eyeball this with measuring cups too, if you don't have a scale.)

Put in a heavy pot over medium-high heat with juice of one lemon, a cinnamon stick, and Why I save jam jars from the store.a couple whole cloves. Stir until the heat and the juices released from the cherries dissolves the sugar. Simmer for 30-45 minutes or so, until the fruit is broken down (help it along with a fork if you don't like big pieces in your jam) and the liquid is starting to gel.  Cool, and store in the fridge. Enjoy.


A Hummus to Remember

A little while ago we attended a memorial service for Lou Rispoli, the husband of my son's first piano teacher and our friend Danyal Lawson.  In 2011, just after New York changed the law to allow same-sex marriage, Lou and Danyal wed (after 31 years together -- about time!) and we were honored to celebrate with them at a backyard garden wedding with loads of their friends. It was a gorgeous August day in Queens, NY.

Lou Rispoli.

I didn't know Lou very well; we saw his friendly face only occassionally at the music school, where upstairs Danyal introduced my son to Mozart. But one of the first things you learned about Lou was that he was a wonderful cook. The home-cooked wedding spread included many dishes to honor moments in their long love story, including "our bagel sandwich" with bacon that they used to order regularly at the old Bagel restaurant in the Village. I love how a life together can be told in meals.

At the memorial, speakers and musicians offered a warm portrait of Lou, filled with admiration, humor, and tears.  The last person at the dais shared something Lou loved to share with his loved ones: great food. She simply recited his full written directions for a homemade hummus.  Reading it, you get a notion of how he felt about taking care with cooking—and his rather direct way of expressing himself to those who care to differ. 

I urge you to read it to the end. Press on past the instruction to remove the skins from a bowl of chick peas. If you believe life is too short to fuss with such tasks, I can only offer that, yes, life is too often  shockingly, tragically short. Let us not waste our precious time eating chalky hummus. And let us appreciate while we can those people willing to fuss for the pleasure and joy of others.

- chick peas (aka garbanzo beans), 1 lb., soaked, simmered, shelled and split [or use canned/jarred, rinsed, shelled and split.]
- tahini (sesame paste), ½ cup, only ingredient is sesame seeds (or make your own: ½ cup seeds, toasted lightly, cooled, powdered, blended using sesame oil)
- garlic, 4 large cloves, crushed or minced very fine
- aromatic broth (or water), ¼ cup, made with chopped onion, carrot, bay leaf, parsley, celery, garlic—strained
- lemon juice, ¼ cup, juice of 2-3 lemons
- olive oil, ¼-½ cup
- spices, to taste, use the following or choose your own: salt, black pepper, sweet paprika (2 teaspoons), hot red pepper (½ teaspoon), ground cumin (2 teaspoons)
- garnishes: olive oil, paprika, fresh parsley or basil (chopped), lemon wedges, pitted olives

1. Prepare the chick peas:
• soak 1 lb. of dried chick peas in cold water overnight
• rinse thoroughly, put in a large pot with cold water, bring to a boil, turn down to a very low simmer, cook for 20-30 minutes; drain, rinse with cold water till cool, leave peas covered with cold water till you shell them
• shell the peas and split them apart in half
• In a food processor, mix 2½ cups of the chick peas, ¼ cup of lemon juice, and ¼ cup olive oil. Puree to desired texture. Add more olive oil if too thick–but only enough to keep the ingredients moving.
2. Prepare and add the tahini:
• put ½ cup of sesame paste in a bowl, slowly stir in ¼ cup of broth (or water) until the mixture is creamy and white. Add to chick pea mixture. Blend well. Add more olive oil if too thick.
3. Finishing the dish:
• press the garlic and add to food processor. Puree.
• add spices, a bit at a time, tasting constantly
• correct texture and taste using additional lemon juice, olive oil and spices.
4. Garnishes [optional]: sprinkle top with olive oil, then paprika, then chopped parsley or basil, then lemon wedges and olives. Make it pretty.

A note about shelling chick peas: many friends have banged their head in incredulity when I tell them I shell the chick peas. Apparently, that’s too compulsive-obsessive crazy for them. Obviously, you can make this spread without shelling the chick peas. However, I say peel one chick pea and eat just the shell. It’s CHALKY beyond belief, and not a taste I want to add to anything. You do what you want. My choices are driven by taste, and I’m not lazy if taking extra time improves the taste. If, on the other hand, you conclude the benefit to taste is not worth all the time it takes to shell all those chick peas, I say, “Enjoy your hummus, lunkhead”.

Recipes That Don't Need a Recipe: Saturday lunch for Spring

I don't often cook and sit down with the family for lunch, but I had some shad in the fridge that needed to be cooked -- and we are going out tonight.

So: Fish simmered in water and lemon until opaque -- less than 5 minutes, dressed with olive oil and dill (which has been living in my window box for a week), with sliced tomatoes and radishes (olive oil + Maldon salt), and at my son's request, a side of pasta with butter and (window box survivor) parsley.  The most effort here was waiting for pasta water to boil.Dill, Parsley, Chives thriving for a week so far...

Shad has a pretty short season. If you can find it boned, I recommend grabbing it up.  Also recommended: slowing down on a weekend long enough to cook a little and eat together, rather than our usual practice of three people grazing solo throughout the day.




Last Gasp of Winter (I hope) Menu

Italian plum and port wine tart Really? Snow less than a week before Spring? Okay, one more warming soup, this one for company.

This is a great, pretty quick vegan soup from Mario Batali that first appeared in Food & Wine. To make the meal we put out slices of a crusty baguette, two cheeses (sottocenere and an asiago fresca), olives, apple slices and Italian dry salami, as well as an herby salad with a walnut oil and lemon dressing.  And an Italian plum tart with port wine for dessert.


Yes, burning a candle near your cutting board keeps the onions from making you cry! (h/t to America's Test Kitchen)MIXED VEGETABLE AND FARRO SOUP

  1. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  2. 2 celery ribs, thinly sliced
  3. 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  4. 1 medium leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
  5. 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  6. 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  7. 2 quarts water
  8. One 15-ounce can borlotti or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  9. 2 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
  10. 1 1/2 cups frozen peas
  11. Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  12. 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil
  1. In an enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add the celery, onion and leek and cook over moderately high heat, stirring a few times, until softened, 5 minutes.
  2. Add the farro and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the grains are coated and shiny, 30 seconds.
  3. Add 1 quart of the water and the beans and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.
  4. Add the carrots and the remaining 1 quart of water. Cover and cook over low heat until the carrots are tender, 30 minutes.
  5. Add the peas, cover and cook until tender, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, top with the basil and serve.

The tart had a basic pie crust dough (from Martha Stewart) pressed into the pan and the filling of plums, sugar and cinnamon was similar to the roasted fruit recipe in Smart Chefs (with the addition of corn starch to thicken), and a reduction of port wine with sugar and molasses.