hardly a salad

Since late January, I’ve been spending time in the pottery studio on the weekends. It’s my newest artistic endeavor, and I’ve gotten pretty caught up in it. It feels so good to make something real with my hands, to practice an art the way it’s been practiced for thousands of years. Especially good after spending the week tethered to my computer pushing pixels around, typing furiously on a keyboard, sending 1s and 0s into the ether. It’s a pleasure to create something you can hold in your hands, to transform a ball of wet dirt into something beautiful. I feel the same satisfaction when I cook. That raw, human pleasure that only comes from making something useful,  nourishing or beautiful with your very own hands.

pottery-1 pottery-collage

I’ve lost hours in the studio. I’ll sit down at the wheel, blink and somehow it’s 3 pm. I think the experts call it flow. And then I’m absolutely starving. If I’m lucky enough to have had the foresight, there’s this salad at home in the fridge waiting to be devoured.  I’m calling this a salad, but I use that term liberally. It’s got more grains and goodies than it does greens, but salad seems to be an acceptable catchall term for this type of dish. I’m going for it.

I like this dish because it really excels at using up bits in your fridge. I hate to see those bits go to waste. Got a bit of cheese leftover from earlier grilled cheese sandwiches? Perfect. Some rotisserie chicken? Throw it in. Greens inching past their prime? Why not! Add in grains and something acidic and you’ve got a perfect, rather substantial salad.

This is a flexible recipe. You can swap things out for whatever you have on had and want to use up, but it’s good to keep this formula in mind: a grain, a protein, a green, something creamy, something acidic, and don’t forget the salt! Why fall victim to wasted food guilt when you can make this.


Farro Salad with Chicken, Cheddar, Arugula and Apple
2 cups farro, cooked according to the package directions
1 apple, sliced
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, cubed
1 cup leftover rotisserie chicken, cubed
2 – 3 cups arugula
1 lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
pickled shallot for garnish (1 thinly sliced shallot, mixed with 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt)

Cook the farro according to the package directions. I’m a fan of Trader Joe’s Quick Cook Farro because it cooks in 10 minutes instead of 40. Food science magic right there. You could also use another grain like barley or quinoa or rice if you have it lurking in your pantry, but I prefer the nutty taste of farro.

Cube the apple, cheddar and leftover chicken. If you can find an aged cheddar, all the better. Toss the farro with the olive oil and lemon juice. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add in the apple, cheddar, chicken and arugula. Toss together. To serve, top with pickled shallots. Everything is better with pickled shallots.




pasta with creme fraiche, kale and mushrooms

Each year, we have what we’ve come to call the “pasta of the year”.  The pasta of the year is a pasta dish that we turn to for a reliably tasty and soul-satisfying dinner every other week or so. It quickly becomes part of our regular weeknight dinner repertoire, dominates for nearly a year, and then mysteriously fades away, only to be rediscovered occasionally by browsing our own blog archives. It’s a strange phenomenon, but we’ve come to accept it’s benevolent presence in our lives.


The pasta that started it all was a marinated tomato and ricotta pasta. You’d let some peak of summer tomatoes hang around with fresh herbs, olive oil and lemon juice for 20 minutes or so. Then toss your pasta with an excess of ricotta cheese and top that with the marinated tomatoes. Heaven from June through September.

There was the pasta carbonara kick, which featured an incredibly poetic post from Jordan about his love for the dish. And then there was orzo topped with burrata cheese. My spicy soba noodle salad was certainly a contender in 2014.

And now, though the soba noodle salad is making an honorable attempt to defend the title in 2015, we have our new favorite pasta equation. Pasta + creme fraiche + sautéed shallot + wilted green, and it’s sister pasta, pasta + creme fraiche + shallot + al dente veg. Creme fraiche is a genius way to arrive at a solidly sauced pasta with nearly no effort, and we’ve already established that shallots are good on everything. Toss in whatever green or quick-cooking veggie (mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, favas, peas) you have around and you’ve got yourself a supremely delicious, decently well-balanced meal. If you happen to live at our house in the winter/spring of 2015, you have this pasta every 10 days.


Pasta with Creme Fraiche, Kale and Mushrooms
1 lb pasta
1 shallot, diced
2 cups (8 oz) cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 cups kale, sliced
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1/2 cup creme fraiche
salt and pepper

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Dice your shallot and slice your kale and mushrooms. Throw your pasta into the pot of boiling water to cook.

Meanwhile, in a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter, and sauté the mushrooms. When the mushrooms are nearly done, add the shallot and sauté just a few minutes more. Taste your mushrooms and season them with salt. Then add the kale. Turn the heat off and just let the kale wilt a bit.

Drain your pasta and add it back into the pot. Throw the mushroom mixture into the pasta pot, along with a generous dollop of creme fraiche. Stir to distribute the creme fraiche. Season with bit more salt and pepper, and serve. Feel free to embellish with parmesan cheese and herbs, though it isn’t necessary.