Fregola with Arugula Pesto



Looking for some inspiration for your lunch box or picnic basket? This fregola with arugula pesto comes together in a jiffy. I think you’ll find  that the peppery taste of arugula, with a spark of lemon, is a refreshing change from your usual pesto and pasta.

Fregola is a lesser known pasta, it’s extremely similar to Israeli cous cous, so feel free to interchange if that’s all you can find. The round beads of pasta are delightfully comforting on the tongue. It’s very easy to get addicted to these pearls of goodness.

Arugula has always felt more to me like an herb than a lettuce green. I find myself tossing the tender leaves into a bowl of hot pasta the way one would with basil leaves. They delicately wilt into the dish and add a bright bite that I really enjoy. These days arugula is easy to find, especially the baby arugula leaves, unlike basil that tends to come and go. Far less of a hit on the wallet too- and I find it more versatile. It always pains me when I purchase a fragrant bunch of basil only to have it wither in the fridge.

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Cabbages & Fennel Salad + Calabrese Frito: Preserved Lemon Dressing

At last the unveiling! I present to you the preserved lemons I put up this past summer. They’ve been patiently marinating in the back of my fridge all these months. They’ve been shoved back and forth, used to prop up other things, been in the way, and sometimes completely forgotten- but now here they are- front and center!

Last week, while walking the streets of the city, I was sure I picked up the faintest scent of spring. There was that damp earth coolness, with the back end of sunshine in the breeze. I smelled it, I’m sure I did. Like a drug it got my heart to beat faster and put a smile on my face.

I remember once while riding the subway, I overheard someone (who apparently was from California), say, “New Yorkers are so desperate for sunshine and warmth that when they get a nice day they practically get intoxicated by it!” She scoffed and Pfft!, and then went on to say something to the effect that a life living in perpetual sunshine was the way to go- Really? I don’t doubt that continuous loveliness would not be a fine thing, but I DO get all giddy at the change of seasons. It’s magical to me, and who doesn’t like getting intoxicated from time to time?!?

I ask you, is a steady stream of nice really better than a life with bursts of delight? I am not a particular fan of the gray doldrums of winter, but there is a rhythm to it. It touches my soul that the earth can take such a beating from the bitter winds, and then come back with heartbreaking beauty and tenderness. How wonderful it is to be reminded of regrowth, of the ups and downs of life, that even though things look bleak- it’s really just an incubator for the next. It’s the wane to the wax. It’s Grace.

I’m all about it.

All this is to say that good things are the gifts of patience. Like my lemons. Ah my lovely little lemons! I packed them with love, with anticipation, with slow expectation- and now they have surfaced as my winter blossom.

This is a simple salad, full of heart healthy cruciferous vegetables. Layers of finely shredded green cabbage, thinly sliced Brussels sprouts and shaved fennel, dressed with a creamy yogurt and preserved lemon dressing. I pan fried slices of Calabrese salami to a delicate crisp for a little fine texture and saltiness.

We are always growing and evolving and changing. As the Buddhists say: Life is a river. The river flows and moves along its course, and though it may seem like a static thing- that river over there- it is in fact, always changing- and never the same.

I believe that I am a river- and I take pleasure in the splashing.

Cabbages and Fennel Salad + Preserved Lemon Dressing
Perserved lemons can be found in many markets these days. Be sure to rinse them well to remove some of the saltiness of the brine. Preserved lemons have a mild, unique taste that I invite you to try, but if you can’t get your hands on any, you can use grated lemon peel in its place.
serves 4
1 preserved lemon, rind only, finely minced
1 c Greek yogurt, plain
2 t white vinegar
1T olive oil
{no need for salt, there is plenty in the lemons}
4 slices Calabrese salami

2 c finely shredded green cabbage
1 c Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, shaved thinly on a mandoline

In a small bowl combine the lemon, yogurt, vinegar and oil. Set aside and allow the flavor of the lemons permeate the yogurt.

Prepare the vegetables. With the fennel, place in cold water after slicing until ready to use.

In a saute pan, over medium heat, carefully fry the salami until crisp, about 2 minutes each side. Drain on paper towels and set aside.

Remove the fennel from the water and pat dry.  Layer the vegetables amongst 4 plates, then drizzle with the dressing.

Top with a slice of the salami.

Happy almost end of winter!


Amaranth Breakfast Bowl with Seeds and Warm Maple Apples

It’s another gray stormy weekend here in the Northeast. It’s an insular overcast morning of warm breakfasts and lingering coffee. A porridge morning.

Bored with the idea of oatmeal, I decided to make my morning cereal bowl with a lesser known whole grain, Amaranth. To add some depth and character, I found on my fruit plate an apple, which had reached its peak and did not promise good out of hand eating. A fine dice and a quick sautee in some butter and maple syrup added the sweetness and richness that rounded out my porridge. A sprinkle of Chia seeds and pepitas provided some crunch, and a quick toss of some dried cranberries provided more color. At the last some warm milk floated around the edges and coddled it all together.

You don’t hear about Amaranth very often. It is a seed, indigenous to Central and South America. Like quinoa, it is high in protein and fiber and quite good for you. For those who are refraining from gluten, this is another great alternative. Amaranth seeds are much tinier than quinoa, I would say at least half the size, which makes these babies quite petite. They cook up the same, and have a much milder flavor, sort of mellow and neutral. If you find quinoa too crunchy and grainy for you, I invite you to try this.

Because the seeds are so teeny, the texture similar to that of farina, which to me is very satisfying and comforting. It’s less stick-to-your-ribs hearty as compared to steel cut oats. It’s not nearly as gummy and chewy, but rather a silkier  mush with a refined character.

Amaranth Porridge with Warm Maple Apples
As with any hot cereal the possibilities are endless. Pears, dried apricots or fresh berries would be divine, and feel free to let any spare nuts tumble into your bowl too.
serves 2
.66c Amaranth seeds
2c water
pinch of salt
1 small apple cut into small dice
1T unsalted butter
2T maple syrup
4T warmed milk
A few tablespoons of assorted nuts and seeds
In a medium sized saucepan over medium/low heat, combine seeds, water and salt. Bring to the boil and gently simmer until the water is absorbed and the seeds are tender. About 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter and then toss in the apples. Saute gently for 2-3 minutes, then stir in the syrup and cook together for another 2-3 minutes until the sauce is bubbly and slightly thickened.
When the porridge is cooked, divide between two bowls. Spoon the warm apples and sauce over each and sprinkle with nuts and seeds of your choosing.
Stay warm and cozy!