Category Archives: Food and Drink

Add a Bit More Green to Your Fall Diet

It’s November, and snow has already fallen in parts of the country. Usually those first snowflakes have people reaching for comforting soups and stews, but some, myself included, may still yearn for lighter fare. Personally, I always want a salad, whatever the weather.

There are many interesting cool-weather salad ingredients. Pleasantly bitter greens, like endive, frisée, radicchio and their colorful chicory cousins, are lovely combined with fruit (apples, pears, citrus) and toasted walnuts. You’ll find them at them available now, at farmers’ markets and in the produce departments of most supermarkets.

But the other day, one of my favorite market stands was offering gorgeous spinach with medium-size crinkled, curly leaves. Freshly picked, this spinach had enough body to stand up to a forceful vinaigrette. You certainly can’t say that about the ubiquitous packaged baby spinach that more or less wilts on contact with dressing. I prefer the larger leaves for a chewy salad with crunch.

Cucumber, daikon, spinach, edamame, as well as pumpkin and sesame seeds, add crunch and flavor.CreditKarsten Moran for The New York Times

If you can’t find hearty spinach leaves like that, choose another kind of green with texture, such as Japanese jagged-edged mizuna, a member of the mustard family; Napa cabbage, sliced into wide ribbons; or large arugula leaves. A mix of several kinds of sturdy greens is another possibility.

I considered what kind of salad to make: Of course, there’s the classic spinach salad tossed with crisp sizzled bacon and a hot dressing made in the skillet with bacon fat and cider vinegar. I often serve a spinach salad dressed with a zippy mustard vinaigrette, chopped hard-cooked egg and shavings of Gruyère cheese or Provolone. With or without bacon, it makes a great first course or light lunch. Delicious as those may be, I craved something with a fresher feel.

On this particular day, I wanted a salad substantial enough to be a main course, and came up with this one, which takes cues from Japan. I enhanced the gingery, garlicky dressing with miso, toasted sesame oil, soy sauce and splash of sake for good measure. For texture, I added chopped cucumber, thinly sliced daikon radish and edamame beans, along with a shower of sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and peanuts. To make it even more of a meal, I tucked in slices of baked marinated firm tofu.

The hearty, handsome salad fulfilled the urge for something green, healthy, vegetarian and light, even with a chill in the air. For that matter, though, this exceedingly satisfying spinach salad could easily be served year round. NYT > Food

A Dish to Comfort on Those Cold, Dark Days

In a perfect French pommes aligot, it’s hard to know where the potatoes end and the cheese begins. A molten, creamy mass of potatoes permeated with mountain cheeses, aligot combines the stretchy pull of fondue with the silky suppleness of potato purée. Soft, gooey and eminently soothing, it’s just the thing to make on an icy, dark day, or at least, when it feels that way deep in your soul.

I first saw aligot potatoes, a dish from the wind-swept Aubrac plateau in France, being whipped up tableside at a restaurant in the Auvergne. Into a well-used copper pot, the waiter beat boiled yellow potatoes and handfuls of grated local tomme fraîche (sometimes spelled tome fraîche) until he could pull it above his head. Then he mounded the steaming, elastic mix next to browned sausages, and I ate them together, spreading the aligot over sausage slices like a thick, savoury sauce.

If you can’t find Tomme de Savoie cheese, you can substitute fontina or mozzarella.CreditAndrew Scrivani for The New York Times

In this version, sweet potatoes stand in for regular ones, making the whole thing sweeter and beautifully autumnal. And instead of hard-to-find tomme fraîche, I use a mix of easier to find semifirm cheese — Gruyère, Emmentaler, Saint-Nectaire, Tomme de Savoie and the like.

Finally, as a crisp, herbal garnish, I add fried sage. Try to find the biggest sage leaves you can: They are easier to fry than small leaves, which can burn almost as quickly as you add them to the oil. In either case, set everything up before you start frying, and work quickly. Then season the leaves while they are still hot so the salt sticks. (Then try not to gobble them all before the aligot is ready.)

Although in France aligot is usually a side dish to roasted or grilled meats, I like it as a meatless main course, served with a snappy green salad, preferably one made from assertive lettuces like watercress, escarole, frisée or radicchio.

Aligot is most impressively served right after it’s made, when the potatoes are best able to stretch to dramatic heights in front of your guests. But if you must, you can make it up to three days in advance. Reheat it on low, stirring in a little cream until the mixture is melted and smooth. Then sit down and exhale. Dinner doesn’t get more comforting than this.

NYT > Food