Caroline Lange

private chef // new york

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those preserved lemons

A few weeks ago, I smashed some lemons and salt into a jar and thus began my preserved lemon journey. They're ready—and the first way I used them was in a chickpea-cauliflower-bulgur situation, inspired by Sam Sifton's little no-recipe ditty in his NYT newsletter:

Just massage a few lamb shoulder chops with salt and pepper, some ground cumin and coriander, cinnamon, red-pepper flakes. (You could use curry powder instead. Or a harissa paste. Something warm in its spiciness, nothing bright or acidic.) Then fry them in a big pot slicked with oil and, when they’re crisp at the edges and still quite pink inside, fish them out and put them on a cutting board to rest.

While the lamb’s cooking, chop up a handful or two of mixed cocktail nuts, some raisins or prunes or dried currants or cranberries. Add those to the lamb fat in the big pot with a couple of cups of couscous. Stir that all around over medium heat for a few seconds, and then add two cups of chicken stock. Let it all come to the barest of simmers, then give the pot a final stir, put on the lid, turn off the heat and let it just sit, the hot broth filling out the couscous, the fat and the spices and the fruit giving it flavor.

I don't eat lamb, and cauliflower doesn't, uh, give off much fat of its own, so I lost out on that gamey, savory lamb fat. But olive oil did the trick, as it always does. I used apricots instead of the suggested raisins/prunes/etc.

The first night we ate this, I hadn't added the preserved lemon—we just ate it with little lemon squeezies alongside. But the leftovers felt flat, and that's when I cracked open my jar and added a few slivers of lemon (flesh and rind both) to the pan as the bulgur and cauliflower reheated. It was so good; it was just what I needed.

Last night, I was revisiting Canal House Cooks Every Day, which I always find moving and inspiring and hungry-making. (Something about having it all separated by month, with the day's weather noted next to the recipe. It's perfect.) They add slivers of preserved lemon to their lemon meringue tart, which—*kisses fingers.* We're about to leave for Taipei and Tokyo—10 days away!!!—but as soon as I'm back in my kitchen, that's what I'm making. And what good April food. 

 

Pilaf-y Bulgur with Chickpeas, Pine Nuts, Spiced Cauliflower, and Preserved Lemon
4ish good-sized servings

1 large cauliflower
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground coriander, divided
Fat pinch red chile flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Handful pine nuts or other nuts (almonds or walnuts would both be A+)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Handful dried apricots, roughly chopped (or raisins)
1 1/2 cups bulgur
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 small preserved lemon, rind and pulp, very finely chopped
Handful cilantro and/or mint and/or parsley leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped
Plain Greek yogurt or lebne to serve

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Cut the cauliflower into florets and toss thoroughly with the cinnamon; cumin seeds; 1/2 teaspoon coriander; chile flakes, salt, and pepper to taste; and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Arrange as many pieces of cauliflower as you can cut-side down—this is fussy, yes, but helps you get a really nice "sear" on that side. Roast 20 or so minutes, until the cauliflower is browned and tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, make the bulgur: In a medium saucepan or skillet, stir together the pine nuts, coriander, and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. When the pine nuts begin to turn golden, add the chickpeas, apricots, bulgur, and a pinch of salt. Stir together and cook about 3 minutes, stirring regularly, until the bulgur begins to smell toasty. Add the water and increase the heat to high. When the water is at a steady simmer, give it all a stir, cover the pan, and turn the heat as low as it will go. Cook until all of the water is absorbed and the bulgur is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Stir the preserved lemon and the chopped cilantro into the bulgur. At this point, you can either combine the cauliflower and the bulgur or keep them separate. Whatever you do, serve with a big dollop of cool yogurt alongside. 

desperation noodles

Hi out there. This is me, writing the blog. Part of the reason I am doing this is to cook, in a way, for friends who aren't nearby. If you make one of these crazy things, tell me! Tell me how it goes! I really want to know. 

Anyway, the other day I got home from work needing and having failed to have eaten lunch about two hours earlier. My first once-over of the fridge found nothing that could become lunch as quickly as I needed to eat it, and the hungrier, less responsible part of my direct brain-belly connection began to shout for emergency rations of Pocky.

But a second appraisal led me to peanut butter (my personal all-hours, all-purpose Old Faithful) and leftover rice noodles, and the ever-present lump of tofu we keep just for these moments. And this is what I made. 

 Raffi: in it for the peanut butter.

Raffi: in it for the peanut butter.

Not-Not Sesame Noodles
1 serving

1 tablespoon peanut butter (chunky or smooth or Skippy or natural or whatever you want)
1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar, divided
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, divided
Soy sauce or tamari to taste
1 tablespoon sriracha
2 ounces cooked cold rice noodles
1/4 block firm or extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Handful thinly sliced or shredded napa cabbage
Cilantro leaves, thinly sliced scallions, and sesame seeds to serve

Stir together peanut butter, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, soy sauce or tamari, and sriracha in the bottom of the bowl you'll eat in. Use the back of a spoon to swoosh it like a big comma along the inside edge of the bowl.

Toss the cold noodles with the remaining toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar, then pile on top of the peanut sauce. Top with tofu, cabbage, cilantro, scallions, and sesame seeds. 

things in common + sausage-less sauce

My grandmother, my mom's mom, was pretty crunchy-hippie as far as I can tell (apparently she loved flowy jumpsuits and I am dying for pictures, hand-me-downs, anything, I mean c'mon). She was a vegetarian for years and years, making an exception only when there was kielbasa offered. I love this fact about her.

It's an exception I understand: I've been a vegetarian since 2010 and the thing I miss most is sausage—the snappiness and the juiciness and that insane fatty-spice flavor (which neither tempeh nor tofu, much as I love both, will simply never be able to replicate). 

My mom has said before that Nona would make tomato sauce with fennel seeds to get at that fragrant Italian sausage flavor, and last night I tried it and then some, adding smoked and hot paprika too. L and I both loved it over polenta (which I always bake in the oven rather than do on the stovetop, because it's SO easy. The first time I ever made polenta, in college, it was with Joy the Baker's oven-baked polenta recipe, and I've basically never made it any other way). Next time I'll try this with a thinly sliced bulb of fennel in addition to the onion, and garnish it all with fennel fronds.

Hot Italian Sausage-less Tomato Sauce
4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced into half-moons
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
Good pinch chile flakes
Kosher salt to taste
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
4 ounces frozen chopped spinach (optional)

Stir the olive oil, onion, garlic, fennel seeds, paprikas, chile flakes, and a big pinch of salt in a good-sized pot. Turn the heat to medium and stir regularly until the onions are beginning to soften and go translucent and silky, about 7 to 10 minutes. (Starting it all in a cold pot will help keep the garlic and spices from burning.) 

Add the tomatoes, plus about half a cup of water (use the water to rinse out the inside of the tomato can). Stir together well and simmer gently, partially covered, for about 45 minutes, until the sauce has really come together. Stir in the spinach if using (no need to thaw) and taste for seasoning. 

Oven-Baked Polenta
4 servings

1 cup polenta or coarse-ground cornmeal
4 cups water
A few big pinches kosher salt
Pinch red chile flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino

Heat the oven to 350° F. Stir together the polenta, water, and salt in a 9x9-inch pan or a smallish, shallowish baking dish, and bake uncovered for 45 minutes.

Remove the polenta from the oven and stir in the chile flakes, olive oil, and grated cheese, stirring well to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. 
 

any-way-you-want-it muffins

A couple weeks ago I wrote a not-recipe-style piece for Food52 about how to freestyle my all-time favorite muffin, the morning glory, and today I'm sticking a recipe-ish version of it here for safekeeping. 

I have two big bags of these in my freezer now: a classic morning glory (apple-carrot-raisin-walnut) and a crazy, crazy-good parsnip-sweet potato-prune one, which I made using applesauce for half the oil since I had it left in the fridge (from Hanukkah, oops) anyway. They suffer no dryness—I might even prefer them to the glories. A different kind of glory, I guess. 

Endlessly Adaptable Root Muffins
24 muffins

3 ½ to 4 cups grated roots and fruits, liquid squeezed out
3 cups mixed flours (at least 2 cups of this should be AP flour, whole wheat flour, a mix of the two, or a gluten-free all-purpose flour; the remaining cup can include cocoa powder, wheat germ, ground flaxseed, almond meal, bran, rolled oats…)
Warm spices to taste (try 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ginger)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
¾ to 1 1/4 cups white or brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup yogurt or buttermilk
1 cup oil (coconut, olive, safflower, grapeseed are all great; or substitute ½ cup applesauce and ½ cup oil)
2 eggs
1 to 2 cups toasted nuts or seeds, flax seeds, fresh or frozen berries, raisins, dried fruit (cut into small pieces if large); maybe don't add 2 cups of something tiny like flax or poppy seeds or whatever—stick to 1/2 cup max of those

Combine the grated and squeezed muffins with all the dry ingredients, stirring well to combine thoroughly. Stir together the yogurt, oil, and eggs in a separate bowl (I like a quart-sized Pyrex measuring cup for this), then stir into the dry mixture until there are no streaks of flour left. Fold in any seeds or other add-ins, then let the batter rest for 20 minutes. (That's what gives you nice muffin domes!) Scoop with a 1/4-cup measure into a greased muffin tin, then bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes, until very fragrant and the domes of the muffins spring back if you prod at them.

 

coconut broth that won't cure everything but certainly feels like it could

Not in a Here, drink this raw garlic/ginger/cayenne/vinegar tonic sort of way, the good old-fashioned it will hurt but it's good for you method.

On the contrary, the comfort comes from its creaminess (of course) and its simplicity. Honestly, it's right on the brink of plain: hot, a salty-savory-sweet all at once, a subtle edge of heat, plus a heap of slippery noodles, which everyone knows make anything better—the blues, heartbreak, political woes, the flu (none of which anyone in this house has at the current moment, except maybe political woes, thank goddess). Also it takes only 15 minutes to make. I don't know why I don't make this soup once a week.

I should say that A once made this soup for me and I have stolen and fiddled with it after marveling at it—simultaneously both clean-tasting and full-tasting, the sort of straightforwardly delicious thing I want to eat when the world feels the opposite of straightforward. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, and I think that's especially true with food. Thanks, A.

Coconut Broth with Rice Noodles
4 servings

1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
Generous pinch kosher salt plus more to taste
1 13.5-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
1 green chile, halved
1 8-ounce (or so) package rice noodles (the teeny vermicelli or the thicker banh pho ones are both good)
1 pound firm tofu, cut into small cubes
1 large carrot, peeled and shaved into ribbons with a peeler
1/4 to 1/2 small napa cabbage, thinly sliced
Cilantro leaves and thinly sliced scallions to serve

Sauté the shallot and ginger with the olive oil and the pinch of salt in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the shallot and ginger are soft, fragrant, and translucent—don't let them color much.

Pour in the coconut milk, then fill the can with water and add that too, along with the split chile. Increase the heat to high, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-high and simmer gently 10 to 15 minutes. Taste the broth for salt. Discard the chile.

While the broth is simmering, cook the noodles: Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil and cook until the noodles are tender (according to package instructions). Drain and rinse the noodles well. Set aside.

To serve, divide the noodles and tofu between 4 shallow bowls and ladle the broth on top. Top with the shaved carrots and cabbage, plus any cilantro and scallions. Serve very hot.