I took a trip even further upstate (than my hometown of Hudson, NY) to celebrate the arrival of the new year. I went to visit my friends who live in the northern Catskills. I drove up route 23 two days after a rather big snowstorm that blew in from the Midwest and swept through the northeast . Fortunately the main routes were clear but the landscape was covered with shimmering snow. My ears always pop as I climb up higher and higher. This time, driving west into the setting sun, popping ears, and the incandescent light made me feel almost light-headed as I seemed to be at the top of the world.
I arrived to cozy house filled with already arrived guests and the welcoming smell of caldo verde, the great Portuguese kale and sausage soup. Oh, what a felicitous start of things to come.
I came with an offering for our last meal of 2012 - Root vegetable slaw with labneh. The recipe for the slaw comes from my favorite new cookbook Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Ottolenghi is the author of last year's favorite cookbook, Plenty - and the owner of a group of eponymous restaurants in London with Tamimi. I'm absolutely crazy about the combination of ingredients that these two use to create their delectable dishes. They are both from Jerusalem - Ottolenghi is an Israeli of an Italian father and German mother, and Tamimi is Palestinian. They came to London, from their divided native city, independently of each other - met in the food world and have been cooking their own mixed, and shared cultural foods together ever since. If I could, I would fly to London tomorrow just to eat at their establishments which get rave reviews from everyone I know who has eaten in one of them. Barring a trip to the UK, I've been cooking, with great success from their most recent book.
Here's what they say about the vegetable slaw:
We make this slaw in the winter or early spring, before any of the summer crops are around. It is incredibly fresh, ideal for starting a hearty meal. It is also great served alongside grilled oily fish. The labneh can be substituted with Greek yogurt, well seasoned with some olive oil, crushed garlic, and salt and pepper. It can also be left out altogether, if you prefer to keep it light and simple. this recipe was inspired by a dish from Manta Ray, a great restaurant on the beach in Tel Aviv.
I was lucky to find almost all the ingredients that I needed to make this salad from local sources - all gathered together at Lick the Market. I couldn't find kohlrabi so I just added more of the other ingredients to make up for it. I used sheep's milk Greek yogurt instead of labneh - which is quite easy to make as it's basically drained whole milk yogurt - from Lick as a garnish plopped in the center of the salad.
3 medium beets - 1 pound in total
2 medium carrots - about 1/2 pound
1/2 celery root - about 3/4 pound total
1 medium kohlrabi - about 1/2 pound total
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
3/4 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup mint leaves coarsely shredded
2/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 cup labneh or Greek yogurt
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel all the vegetables and slice them thinly, about 1/16th inch thick. Stack a few slices at a time on top of one another and cut them into matchsticklike strips. Alternatively, use a mandoline or a food processor with the appropriate attachment. Place all the strips in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside while you make the dressing.
Place the lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and stir until the sugar and the salt have dissolved. Remove from the heat.
Drain the vegetables strips and transfer to a paper towel to dry well. Dry the bowl and replace the vegetables. Pour the hot dressing over the vegetables, mix well, and leave to cool. Place in the fridge for at least 45 minutes.
When ready to serve add the herbs, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the salad. toss well, taste, and add more salt if needed (yes, needed - I added more). Serve with labneh - or yogurt - on the side or on top.
The salad was a bright accompaniment to a grand selection of other things - a meal that began with blini and assorted caviars consumed with Prosecco and single malt Scotch around a blazing fire. And; baked ham glazed with mustard-pineapple sauce - ah, but the ham came from the East Village (NYC) Polish butcher and was filled with real flavor, puree of very local (backyard) potatoes and rutabaga, roasted - backyard too - Brussels sprouts and winter squashes, chutneys, a green salad with currants and shaved Parmesan, etc.
Filled with good food and the bonhomie that comes from being the company of simpatico people, I believe that I fell asleep before the clock slipped away from 2012 into 2013. Well, hello 2013, I expect more good food and friends.
The penultimate day of the year was feted at a stunning open house at the Haldeman-Aguiar's mid-century, Ringtop Ranch in Kingston, NY with more friends, good food and drink.
I made Jerusalem's Cod cakes in tomato sauce for Sunday lunch with a friend. I used very reasonably priced fresh pollack in the recipe (Lick the Market) and it was very tasty. The recipe is another keeper.
SUSANSIMONSAYS: My new kitchen is shaping up into a very comfortable place to cook - and just be in, in the afternoon when the sun is setting over the Catskills streaming favorable light to the room. Page is open in Jerusalem's recipe for Roasted chicken with clementines and arak (anise liqueur). Report coming up.