A Chinese Caesar Salad with Umami

above photo by Sarah Anne Ward for The New York Times
My brother sent me a link to this recipe with the request that I try it out as a bon appétempt on his behalf. I was intrigued from the start, as he rarely makes such requests. And when I clicked on it, I was almost completely won over by the title alone: "A Chinese Caesar Salad with Umami." Then I looked at the list of ingredients (kasha, hijiki seaweed, shio kombu) and was discouraged. But then, I actually read the article and was sold once again. See, the chef responsible for the salad, Danny Bowien, gives you carte blanche to skip any of the ingredients you don't have on hand. Here's the quote, just to be clear: “Yeah, if you don’t have it, leave it out... That’s cool. It still works.”

If you say so, Danny! 

Here's the recipe's original ingredient's list with my changes:

½ 3/4 head red cabbage
1 medium-size beet, ideally candy-striped 2 carrots, peeled and chopped into thin rounds
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon dried hijiki seaweed  2 teaspoons wakame seaweed (For some reason, at Whole Foods, a small bag of hijiki seaweed was $20 so I went with the $5 wakame.)
1 teaspoon ume vinegar or red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sweet white-miso paste
3 tablespoons tahini
1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon shiro shoyu or light soy sauce (Somewhere along the way, I started buying shoyu instead of soy sauce.)
8 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons neutral oil, like canola
½ cup kasha
2 tablespoons aonori seaweed, green seaweed or finely shredded nori

3 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon shio kombu or salted kombu, optional Pinch of salt, or to taste

Cut cabbage in half, and remove core. Cut into 1-inch wedges and then into 1-inch pieces. Toss these lightly in a bowl, and set aside.

Under running cold water, scrub beet with a vegetable brush or paper towel. Trim the beet top and beet root to provide a flat base for slicing on a mandoline. Set thickness to 1/8 inch, and slice beets into flat rounds. Toss the carrots into the bowl with the cabbage and season with half the lemon juice. Set aside.

Make sesame-anchovy dressing. In a small bowl, cover hijiki wakame with warm tap water. Allow to bloom for 15 minutes, then drain well, and season with the red-wine vinegar. Add miso, tahini, rice vinegar, shiro shoyu, the remaining lemon juice and the anchovies, and whisk to combine. Dressing should have a thick, almost mayonnaise-like consistency.

Make the kasha furikake. Pour neutral oil into a sauté pan, and place over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer. Pour kasha into the hot pan, and stir it quickly with a spoon to coat with oil. Allow kasha to fry in the oil, stirring constantly, until it has darkened by two shades of brown. Drain kasha through a fine strainer, and transfer to a plate covered by paper towel. While it is hot, season with the seaweed, which should adhere to the kasha. When it has cooled, mix kasha in a small bowl with the toasted sesame seeds and, if using, the shio kombu. Salt to taste.

Make the salad. Add 3 tablespoons of the sesame-anchovy dressing to the bowl with the cabbage and the beets carrots, and mix well to combine. Add more dressing if necessary. Transfer the salad to a serving bowl, and sprinkle 4 tablespoons or so of the kasha furikake over the top with lightly toasted sesame seeds.
All I can say is: Danny was right. Despite all of the changes, this salad was so delicious. We served it with a couple of grilled boneless skinless chicken breasts I'd marinated in some rice vinegar, garlic, and shoyu, which without the accompanying salad, would have been pretty sad. 

Everyone should now go and leave a personal thank-you note to my brother Bill in the comments section. (Something about how cute Teddy and his two teeth are would also work.) 

Until next time!
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Behind the Scenes of Season 3!

My dear friend / best bud, Mary Anne, recently sent me a link to this video and told me I should do a send-up of it. Well, here goes!
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Yellow Gazpacho & More Plum Cake

This past Saturday, I had a minor meltdown searching for something to make for dinner that would please myself, Matt, and my mom. I really wanted to make this eggplant dish, but when I mentioned it to my mom, she responded with a half frown and an emotionless: "Eggplant isn't one of my favorites." 

To Matt, I said, "I was thinking of making this baked eggplant dish unless you had an idea for something else?" to which he responded: "I'd probably rather have anything else."

I spent the next hour looking through cookbooks and getting more and more annoyed that I wasn't finding anything I wanted to make. At which point, I got up, announced that we were going to have the eggplant (dammit!) and I was going to the farmers market to pick up the ingredients. "Byeeee!!"
But as you can see from the above photos, I didn't end up buying eggplant. The sun was so bright and the air so hot and the tomatoes and plums so pretty, that I decided to make gazpacho and put my mom in charge of making another plum cake. 
I know this is the way a lot of people shop. They go to the market and see what inspires them, but it's not typically the way I go about things, especially post-Teddy. (I now understand those women with their grocery carts so full they seem like they are about to topple over. They are moms who aren't sure if they'll ever get back to the grocery store again.) But I enjoyed my little stint as a farmers market wanderer and gatherer and hope to do it again from time to time, just as I'm enjoying writing this post centering on two recipes I've already made and written about before. The yellow gazpacho goes way back to 2009, back when I sometimes didn't even include a recipe. Here it is, though, in case you want to give it a try, and I recommend that you do. It's so refreshing and delicious. (I also recommend that you skip the step of straining it and that you eat it with lots of bread and possibly butter.) Oh, and word to the wise: the recipe says it serves six, but the three of us devoured our portions and could've eaten more. 
Sadly, my mom has already come and gone. And doubly sadly, Teddy and I are both a little sick. But at least we have the long weekend ahead of us. Plus, Matt and I have a new "behind the scenes" (giant winky face) video to share. Hopefully, we'll post that on Tuesday. In the mean time, have a great weekend! xox
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Purple Plum Torte

You guuuuyyyyyyys, of all of the cakes I've made on this site, this one wins the award, hands down, for most surprisingly miraculous. It's just so simple to make, and then it ends up tasting like something you might get at a Michelin-starred restaurant.

But perhaps you know about this miracle cake already? Because according to Deb at Smitten Kitchen, the recipe was "first published in the New York Times by Marian Burros in 1983... and was published every year during plum season between then and 1995." I love this fact for so many reasons, but mostly because I feel like we don't see that kind of repetition in today's popular culture. Like, what if I posted this recipe every year at the end of August or September? You guys would probably be like: Wow, Amelia really let motherhood get the best of her and her brain.
Oh, and one more thing, this cake is even better the second day. In fact, Deb recommends not even slicing into it until day two! Matt and I couldn't do this, as we shared a slice a few hours after pulling it from the oven, but something does happen to it by day two. All those plum juices absorb into the cake, and well, what more can I say? It's a really special cake; there's a reason the NYT ran the recipe for 12 years straight! 
In other news, my mom gets in tomorrow! YAYYYYYY!!!!! 

(The Famous) Purple Plum Torte
From Elegant but Easy and The Essential New York Times Cookbook and Smitten Kitchen

1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
Large pinch of salt
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar plus 1 to 2 tablespoon
1/2 cup (115 grams or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
12 smallish purple Italian purple plums, halved and pitted (obviously, I used 6 larger ones)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat over to 350°F. Sift or whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until fluffy and light in color. Add the eggs, one at a time and scraping down the bowl, then the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into an ungreased 9-inch springform pan (but if you’re worried, you can always lightly coat it first with butter or a nonstick spray) and smooth the top. Arrange the plums, skin side up, all over the batter, covering it. Sprinkle the top with lemon juice, then cinnamon, then remaining sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into a center part of the cake comes out free of batter (but of course not plum juice), about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on rack.

And remember, once cool, if you can stand it, leave it covered at room temperature overnight as this cake really is even better on the second day. (But don't beat yourself up if you can't wait. We tried a slice on the first day and it was amazing then too.)
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Video: Pasta with Chickpeas, Parmesan, and Parsley

A couple of non sequiturs:
1. After reading this great post from Luisa on A Cup of Jo, Matt and I had a semi-serious conversation about moving to Germany.

2. I want to say thank you for all the lovely comments I get here on the site, especially back when my grandma and dad died. I'm saying this now because I recently went back to those posts and reread some of the messages and realized that I hadn't written back to most of them individually. Point being, thank you. I always love reading what you guys have to say!

OK, that's it for now. I hope you all laughed at Teddy's ambitious army-crawling across the kitchen floor in the above video as much as I did.

Pasta with Chickpeas, Parmesan, and Parsley 
serves 4

For the chickpeas:
NOTE: This makes about 3 cups of cooked beans, which is more than enough for the pasta, so you have extra to either purée for baby food or hummus or to simply reserve to add to a salad.

1 1/3 cup dry chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
2 tablespons kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large carrots, peeled and halved
8-10 garlic cloves
1/2 yellow onion, halved
NOTE number two: 1 dried arbol chile and/or a halved celery stalk would be great to add to the cheesecloth bundle too

Drain the chickpeas and put them in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover them by 1 1/2 inches. Add the salt and the olive oil. Place the carrot, garlic, and onion in a double piece of cheesecloth and tie it into a closed bundle with kitchen twine. Add the bundle to the pot with the chickpeas and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the chickpeas until they are very tender and creamy, about 2 hours, adding more water to the pot as needed but never covering them by more than an inch to an inch and a half. (Cooking them in just enough water yields richer-tasting, creamier beans than if you were to just boil them in tons of water.) (Note: the time will vary greatly depending on how long you soaked the beans and how old the beans are; the time could be anywhere from 1 hour to as long as 4.)

Turn off the heat and allow the chickpeas to cool in the cooking liquid. Remove and discard the cheesecloth bundle. The chickpeas can be prepared to this point up to a week in advance. If you are using the chickpeas now, drain them, reserving the cooking liquid to use in the pasta. To use both later, transfer the chickpeas and the cooking liquid to an airtight container and refrigerate until you are ready to use. Bring the chickpeas to room temperature and drain them before using.

For the chickpea pasta:
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
the reserved chickpea broth from the above recipe (I ended up with about 1 1/4 cups)
6-7 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth (Between the chickpea broth and chicken broth, you want to end up using about 8 cups total, so if you're using canned chickpeas, just use 8 cups of chicken broth)
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
kosher salt
1 pound angel hair pasta (or thin spaghetti)
approx. 2 cups cooked chickpeas from above recipe (or of course, you can substitute with canned chickpeas)
1 heaping cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
plenty of grated Parmesan

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the broths, the crushed red pepper, and ¾ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil.

Add the pasta and cook, stirring, until the broth is nearly absorbed and the pasta is al dente. Turn off the heat. Stir in the chickpeas and parsley.

Divide among individual bowls and top with a few tablespoons of Parmesan.
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