Any addition can make eggs devilishly delicious

I’ve never met a deviled egg I didn’t like. That goes for even those versions with commercially prepared sweet-pickle relish and pimentos.

With Easter still nearly two months out, the topic is perhaps premature for some. But for others, deviled eggs constitute the perfect party platter, just as suited to Super Bowl as to cocktail parties.

Dress them up with gourmet flavors or dress them down with just salt and pepper, eggs are infinitely adaptable, as depicted in one of the better single-topic cookbooks in my collection. “D’lish Deviled Eggs,” by Kathy Casey, (Andrews McMeel Publishing) takes off from traditional recipes into the realm of fusion cuisine with such interpretations as Caesar Salad Deviled Eggs, Tahini & Tabbouleh Deviled Eggs and even Pumpkin Pie Deviled Eggs.

If Casey proves that just about any ingredient belongs in deviled eggs, I’ll point out that there is one requirement for an egg to be “deviled.” The hard-boiled yolks must be scooped out, mixed with some sort of seasoning or binding agent and reunited with their whites.

Sorry, but the “deviled-egg shooters” so beloved of diners at a Las Vegas restaurant, and lauded on an episode of FYI Channel’s “Big Kitchens,” are a misrepresentation. Simply squirting housemade mayonnaise on top of a halved, hard-boiled egg may be delicious, but it’s hardly devilish.

Just a bit more involved than that shortcut is this recipe for the real deal, courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I’d also do double-duty with the newspaper’s recipe for Tapenade Mayonnaise, which writer Daniel Neman likes with raw veggies for dipping. I’d blend a few spoonsful with hard-boiled egg yolks for an adaptation of Casey’s Tapenade Deviled Eggs.

Tribune News Service photo

Sriracha Deviled Eggs

6 hard-boiled eggs

Pinch table salt

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon good-quality mayonnaise

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

Fresh chives or scallion, for garnish (optional)

Peel the eggs and slice in half. Remove yolks and place in a small bowl. Add the salt to yolks and thoroughly mash with a fork. Add the mayonnaise, lemon juice and Sriracha; stir to blend completely. Spoon or pipe mixture back into yolk cavity of eggs.

If desired, garnish yolk with half of a chive stem or a thin slice of the scallion’s green part.

Makes 6 servings.

 

Tapenade Mayonnaise

1 cup good-quality mayonnaise

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 dashes Tabasco sauce

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 ounce (1/2 can) anchovies, drained and finely chopped

2 tablespoons small capers, drained

2 tablespoons pitted and finely chopped Greek or French olives

In a small bowl, mix together all the ingredients. Serve with crudités. May be stored in refrigerator for several days.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Adapted by Tribune News Service from “The Frog/Commissary Cookbook,” by Steven Poses, Anne Clark and Becky Roller.

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Citrus-fennel salad an easy alternative to greens

Our friends had to hand it us. My husband and I pulled off a Sunday-style dinner of roast chicken and potatoes on a busy weeknight.

Hands-off dishes were the primary strategy. Once we seasoned both the bird and potato wedges, our pellet smoker did all the work. A balsamic-vinegar sauce simmered away on the stovetop while I stirred up a faux aioli with minced garlic and lemon zest and juice in Best Foods mayonnaise.

I craved a leafy green salad on the side but didn’t want to spend precious minutes washing and tearing greens. So I carved up some of the largest fennel bulbs I’ve found in local stores for braising in wine and stock, secure in the conviction that our plates would be delicious if monochromatic in color.

With a bit more foresight and just a few more minutes with knife in hand, I could have served the fennel thinly sliced as a salad with citrus segments and maybe a few toasted nuts. This one, courtesy of Tribune News Service, is an ideal example of that concept and calls for ingredients that I happened to have on hand.

Rather than segmenting the citrus into supremes, I would simply peel and section it, particularly if using clementines, tangerines or other fruits with thin membranes and little pith. Marinating the feta cheese is a nice touch, but the cheese could just as well be crumbled on top.

Note that the following recipe is a large batch. Cut it in half for serving four to six people. Unlike most salads, however, leftovers would be just as good the next day.

Tribune News Service photo

Orange, Fennel and Olive Salad With Marinated Feta

2 cups sliced fennel (halved lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise with a sharp knife)

3/4 cup chopped feathery fennel fronds

1 3/4 cups pitted whole Italian oiled-cured black olives (substitute Kalamata if desired)

8 navel oranges, divided

6 blood oranges or ruby red grapefruit

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red-wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a large mixing bowl, place the sliced fennel, chopped fronds and olives.

Place a navel orange on a cutting board; slice off both ends, then using a sharp knife, peel the away from flesh of fruit following the contours, removing pith or white part with skin. Using a paring knife, segment orange by removing flesh from membrane. Place in mixing bowl; repeat process with 6 more navels and all the blood oranges or grapefruit.

Juice 1 navel orange. In a small bowl, whisk orange juice with the olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Drizzle dressing over salad, tossing gently to combine. Salad can be made in advance and tossed before serving. Serve at room temperature or chilled with marinated feta alongside.

Makes 8 to 12 servings.

MARINATED FETA: Cube 1 pound of feta cheese into ½-inch squares; place in a mixing bowl. Pour 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil over feta. Add 1/4 cup roughly chopped or torn, fresh basil. Season with 1/2 teaspoon black pepper; gently toss and set aside.

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Make harissa at home, but make sure it’s spicy

Fiery condiments are a fixture in my fridge. Besides the de rigueur Tabasco sauce, the lineup includes Sriracha, chili-garlic paste, several types of curry paste and wasabi. Suffice it to say, my palate is pretty conditioned to heat.

So I was surprised to suddenly sputter and gulp some water after adding the tiniest dab of harissa to a bite of lentil stew with egg. The North African chili paste seemed an appropriate complement to this dish served with a side of flatbread. I offered it to my husband, then exclaimed that I didn’t realize it would be so spicy.

The little tube in my refrigerator came from The Jacksonville Mercantile. An ingredient as well as condiment, the thick paste can flavor marinades and dressings, soups and stews; it nicely accompanies grilled meat, fish or vegetables; and it spices up sandwiches or burgers.

While harissa’s ingredients vary from region to region, basic recipes typically include dried chilies, a few spices, garlic, olive oil and salt. Preserved lemons, anchovies, capers or tomatoes are sometimes added.

The flavor and heat level vary depending on how many chilies are used. Making it at home ensures just the right amount of spice. But remember: It’s meant to be hot.

Although harissa can be stored in the refrigerator for many months, it also freezes well. Make a large batch and freeze it in smaller portions to use as needed.

I’ve purchased Aleppo peppers at The Spice & Tea Exchange in Ashland. Or use a mix of Guajillo and New Mexico chilies, stemmed, seeded and softened in a bowl of boiling water for 30 minutes. Add more heat with Arbol chilies, smokiness with Chipotle chiles. For a very mild harissa, use roasted red bell peppers.

Then consider incorporating harissa into a marinade for kebabs. The chicken dish below also would be delicious with lamb and served with grilled flatbread. Both recipes are adapted by the Miami Herald from “Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking,” by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35).

Aleppo pepper (Sarah Lemon photo)

Harissa

1/2 cup ground Aleppo peppers (available online)

1 garlic clove, peeled

1 1/2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Pinch each of ground coriander and ground caraway

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup canola oil

In bowl of a food processor, blend the peppers and garlic with the vinegar, spices and salt to a coarse puree. Add the canola oil and process for another few seconds. Stop short of making it perfectly smooth.

Makes 3/4 cup.

 

Pargiyot (Chicken Thigh Kebabs)

1 1/2 cups roughly chopped onion

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup harissa (homemade or store-bought)

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks

In a blender jar, combine the first four ingredients and puree until mixture is smooth and about as thick as a milkshake. You may need to add a couple of tablespoons of water to thin mixture.

Toss the chicken with marinade and seal in a plastic, zip-close bag. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. When ready to grill, wipe off excess marinade, thread chicken pieces on skewers, and grill directly over hot coals (or in a grill pan), turning every few minutes, until chicken has lightly charred on exterior and is cooked through, for about 8 minutes total.

Makes 4 servings.

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Call it grits or polenta, corn mush makes a meal

Southern-style greens inspired a recent post to this blog. Grits to go with them would constitute a full plate.

But like my take on greens (I’ve never actually used ham hocks), my version of cornmeal mush is closer to what most cooks call polenta.

What’s the difference? As near as I can tell, the type of corn is key. Whereas grits traditionally are made from corn (often hominy) containing a soft starch, corn used to make polenta harbors a firmer starch. Yes, grits are white in many parts of the South while Italian polenta more often is yellow.

But I say if you’re neither in the South nor in northern Italy, the fact that you’re cooking coarse, preferably stone-ground, cornmeal is justification to use whichever term you prefer. Or as one source put it, if you like polenta and have the opportunity to try grits, do it. And vice versa.

I’m going to muddy the waters even more, possibly committing heresy, by suggesting that coarse cornmeal isn’t even a prerequisite for either. I used a mainstream, medium-grind cornmeal last week at my mom’s house with perfectly palatable results.

The main thing I keep in mind when making polenta is this basic ratio: 1 gallon of water to 1 ½ pounds of cornmeal. I often cut the recipe, gleaned from an Italian cookbook, back to one-third when cooking for two to three people.

It is necessary to whisk a bit more vigorously when incorporating more finely ground cornmeal, or run the risk of lumps. Stock certainly enriches the flavor.

And if polenta (or grits) are intended as the main attraction, rather than backdrop for a hearty stew, I would certainly use milk, cream or both, like this recipe, which has a cult following in Southern California, according to Tribune News Service.

Tribune News Service photo

Union’s Creamy Polenta With Mushrooms

1 pint heavy cream

1 quart milk

1 1/2 cups polenta

6 tablespoons butter, divided

1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (grated using a microplane and loosely packed)

Kosher sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon minced fresh sage

1 pound mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake, oyster and chanterelles

1 teaspoon thinly sliced garlic

Pinch red chili flakes

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup vegetable broth

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

In a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the cream and milk and bring to a simmer. Slowly whisk in the polenta and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring every few minutes or so, making sure to scrape bottom of pan so polenta does not burn. Cook polenta until it is creamy, for about 30 minutes, adding additional milk if polenta thickens too quickly before it is tender. Remove from heat, cover and set aside for 20 to 30 minutes.

Whisk in half of the butter and all of the grated cheese, then taste and adjust seasonings with the salt and pepper.

In a large saute pan, heat remaining butter with the oil and herbs over medium heat, cooking until herbs are crisp and butter begins to brown, for 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and season with 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper, or to taste. Toss, coating mushrooms with fat; increase heat to high, cooking until mushrooms brown a little, for 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium.

Make a well in center of pan and add the garlic and chili flakes. Stir garlic until it is cooked through, for 1 to 2 minutes, then combine it with mushrooms. Add the wine and broth, then remove from heat and add the vinegar. Taste, adjusting seasonings as desired.

To serve, fill a serving dish with polenta, then top with mushrooms.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Adapted by the Los Angeles Times from a recipe from Bruce Kalman of Union restaurant in Pasadena, Calif.

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Escarole, white beans marry well in soup or salad

These are salad days, or so proclaimed the headline on this week’s A la Carte.

But the story and recipes didn’t suggest mere plates of greens and shredded veggies with maybe a few fruit-and-nut garnishes. These salads are full of fiber, healthy fats, warming spices and winter’s indispensable citrus.

A lentil salad, couscous salad and spicy, zesty kohlrabi salad all made the cut. To that, I’d like to suggest a bean salad.

Bean salads can be a bit tricky. Many types, such as black beans or kidney beans, yield a muddy flavor profile and heavy texture. The goal is for a light and refreshing dish that’s still filling.

It was quite by accident, however, that I composed my favorite bean salad to date, which drew rave reviews at a gathering of volunteer cooking educators. I started with white beans, cooked from the dry legume, then added diced fennel bulb, clementine segments and crumbled feta cheese. I whisked up a vinaigrette with the clementine zest and chopped fennel fronds.

Fennel, of course, is an immensely popular vegetable in Italy. So is escarole, a green I’ve only recently started consuming as salad. I’d always seen it cooked, particularly in recipes for Italian wedding soup, which often combines small white beans, rice or orzo.

A head of escarole is more expensive than leaf lettuces, but the densely packed leaves are so numerous that they can make more than one meal. I like to strip off the coarse, outer leaves for sautéing, braising or simmering. The tender, inner leaves play like a cross between butter lettuce and endive, ideal for salads.

This recipe from the Miami Herald for cooked escarole and beans could just as easily be converted to a salad. To a basic white-wine vinaigrette, simply add the lemon zest and juice, the chopped rosemary and about half each of the suggested quantities for minced garlic and red-pepper flakes. Toss the dressing with the escarole and beans and garnish with the toasted pine nuts, maybe some crumbled feta or Parmesan shavings.

Tribune News Service photo

Escarole and White Beans With Lemon and Rosemary

2 tablespoons very good olive oil

1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced (about 1 tablespoon)

4 1/2 cups cooked cannellini or other white beans (1 pound dried beans, cooked, or two 15-ounce cans, rinsed and drained)

Zest and juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons juice)

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves (from 2 or 3 sprigs), chopped fine

1/2 cup vegetable broth or white wine

1 head escarole, rinsed and blotted dry, leaves torn or chopped into bite-sized pieces

Sea salt, to taste

Small handful pine nuts, toasted, for garnish (optional)

In a large soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Stir in the red-pepper flakes and minced garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until garlic becomes soft and golden. Add the beans and stir.

Add the lemon zest and juice, chopped rosemary, vegetable broth or wine. Gently stir in the escarole, which will start to wilt from heat of beans. Bring everything to a simmer, giving an occasional stir. Cook for about 20 minutes or until escarole starts to soften but keeps its frill and color and beans are heated through.

Season with the sea salt to taste, scatter the toasted pine nuts on top, if using, and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

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Southern-style greens can include any variety

Wet, cold weather brewing is the time for stewing. Or braising. Or any cooking method that produces a rich, filling, flavorful eating experience to counter the dreariness.

Tonight, it’s lamb stew with root vegetables. Greens also are a common component of this dish, particularly when I serve it with polenta. Or grits, depending on your sensibilities.

But in a meal of such uniform texture, I like greens to add some textural contrast. I saute them just long enough to wilt them a bit and crisp up the edges. A quick splash of vinegar or wine brightens the deep, complex flavor of stewed meat.

But there’s no denying the appeal of braised greens in the Southern style. For all this blog’s past posts that tout hardy greens, including more than 15 dedicated to collards, I’ve never included the quintessential recipe for long-simmered greens, which can incorporate just about any variety. Think kale, spinach and turnip, mustard and beet greens.

And while ham hock is the traditional flavoring agent, I was inspired by this recipe’s suggestion for smoked turkey parts, which I happen to have stashed away in my freezer. Birds cooked on our pellet smoker are a bit too distinctive for all-purpose stock but would infuse these greens deliciously while imparting less fat.

Varieties of hardy greens include lacinato kale, curly kale, Red Russian kale, hybrid Red Russian/collard greens and Swiss chard. (Tribune News Service photo)

Basic Southern Greens

2 pounds greens (collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, beet greens, kale, or a combination)

1 pound ham hocks or other smoked meat (neck bones, smoked turkey, etc.) or 6 strips thick-sliced bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

Water or chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

1 cup chopped onion (optional)

2 garlic cloves, put through a press (optional)

2 tablespoons vinegar (optional)

Salt, to taste

Cut out thick, tough center stems of the greens and discard; cut leaves into roughly 2-inch-square pieces. Wash greens thoroughly in at least 2 changes of cold water. Drain in a colander.

Unless you are using the optional ingredients, combine greens and the meat in a large pot and add enough water or chicken stock to cover them. Bring to a boil and simmer until greens are tender (anywhere from 1/2 hour for young greens to 1 hour for older collards).

If using the onion and garlic, in a pan large enough to hold greens and water, sauté the bacon over medium heat until fat is rendered but bacon is not yet crisp. Add the onions and continue cooking until they are translucent but not brown. Mash the garlic into pan and cook for about 30 seconds, being sure not to let garlic brown. Add greens, the red pepper flakes and enough water to cover vegetables. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until greens are tender. Just before serving, stir in the vinegar and season with the salt.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe from “Greens,” a Savor the South cookbook by Thomas Head from University of North Carolina Press.

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Wake up to the savory, spicy flavors of Vietnam

When I have homemade stock on hand, Asian-inspired soups are one of my favorite quick-cooking meals. Noodles in a long-simmered stock need few additions, maybe just a splash of fish sauce, squeeze of citrus and sprinkle of fresh herbs to wake up the palate.

This kind of noodle soup is the ubiquitous breakfast in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian locales. But the recent bone-broth craze in this country has made soups and savory porridge more familiar in the morning.

So Ashland Food Co-op is bringing “breakfast noodles from Vietnam” to its culinary kiosk, even if it’s at the hour usually reserved for brunch. Sample it at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 16. The recipe builds on a bone-broth class held earlier this week.

And if you like Southeast Asian fare for breakfast, try this twist on the traditional Vietnamese Banh Mi. Or make this spicy, vinegary bacon-and-egg sandwich anytime. I certainly will.

Tribune News Service photo

Breakfast Banh Mi

2 carrots, peeled

1 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce

2 tablespoons rice-wine vinegar

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 loaf ciabatta bread

1/2 cup mixed fresh cilantro and mint leaves

1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed, seeded and sliced into matchsticks

1/2 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded and sliced into crescents

8 slices brown-sugar bacon (recipe follows)

Canola oil, as needed

4 eggs

Use a vegetable peeler to carve the carrots into long strips. Pile strips into a bowl; rub with the sugar, salt and 1/4 teaspoon Sriracha. Pour in the vinegar and enough cold water to cover. Let soak at room temperature, briefly — or for up to 2 days, chilled. When ready to build sandwiches, drain carrots, rinse and pat dry.

In a bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, remaining 2 tablespoons Sriracha, the soy sauce and sesame oil. Chill this spicy sauce.

Cut the ciabatta into four squares, 3 by 3 inches. (Save any extra bread for crumb duty.) Slice in half horizontally. Open sandwich sets, crust down, crumb up.

Spread both crumb sides of each sandwich with spicy sauce. Sprinkle both sides of each with the combined cilantro and mint. Settle some of the jalapeno sticks, cucumber crescents and carrot curls on both sides. Fold 2 slices of the bacon onto each bottom half.

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in a little of the canola oil. When hot, fry the eggs, turning once, to your liking. It takes about 4 minutes for edges that are crisp, whites that are set and yolks that aren’t.

Top each bacon set with 1 fried egg. (They may hang over the edges a bit — that’s OK.) Close up sandwiches. Enjoy.

BROWN-SUGAR BACON: Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Set a rack on top. Spread out 1/3 cup dark-brown sugar on a plate. Brush 8 strips thick-cut bacon on both sides with soy sauce. Press 1 side into sugar. Set bacon strips, sugar-side up, on rack. Grind on some black pepper. Slide into a 350-degree oven and bake until dark brown (but not entirely crisp), for about 25 minutes. Cool.

Adapted by the Chicago Tribune from a recipe by chef David Sherman, of Cafe Cito, Baltimore.

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Vinegar, pickling add pucker to fresh cranberries

Holiday remnants continue to clutter my house nearly two weeks into the new year.

To go with the Christmas tree still dominating my living room, there’s a compartmentalized box with a couple of withering oranges on the kitchen table and a dwindling assortment of glaceed fruits and toasted nuts on the counter. The pantry holds all the ingredients for that holiday classic, Chex party mix. Now if I can get it made before my son polishes off the cereal and I finally devour the mixed nuts.

More forgiving of this post-holiday slump are the fresh cranberries that I picked up two days before Christmas and stashed away in the freezer until inspiration should strike. To be sure, I had intended to incorporate them into some festive gifts of fruit vinegar (see the recipe below, courtesy of Miami Herald columnist Linda Cicero). I’d also be keen to quick-pickle a batch of cranberries, explained in a previous post.

Happily, the hardy berries will keep for months and months, allowing me plenty of time — ironically — to decide on the next step in their preservation. When I do, I’ll use them in the following salad recipe. Maybe by that time, we’ll want turkey again.

Homemade Cranberry Vinegar

Tribune News Service photo

1 cup white vinegar

1 cup sugar

1 cinnamon stick

Peel from an orange or tangerine

1 (12-ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries

In a saucepan, combine all the ingredients with 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until cranberries burst. Push a wooden spoon against cranberries to release juices. Cool. Strain through a fine sieve or coffee filter into sterilized bottles or jars. Seal tightly. Discard cranberries and cinnamon stick. Chill until ready to use.

Makes about 3 cups

 

Bulla’s Ensalada de Cranberry

2 cups blended oil

1/4 cup cranberry vinegar (see recipe above)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 heads baby gem lettuce or Romaine hearts

1/2 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2 ounces (about 1/4 cup) chopped walnuts

1 ounce (about 1/4 cup) dried cranberries

2 cups shredded, cooked turkey

2 ounces crumbled goat cheese

In a mixing bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey and salt; whisk until combined.

Toss the greens, tomatoes, walnuts and cranberries with 4 ounces, or to taste, of vinaigrette. Top with the shredded turkey and goat cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from Bulla Gastrobar, Coral Gables, Fla.

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Lower-fat pasta in cook’s carbonara comfort zone

The recipient of some sad news, I scrapped last night’s dinner plan for a salad of grapefruit, avocado and seared sea scallops. Comfort food was in order, with a big glass of red wine.

In times like this, pasta is my go-to, and it doesn’t get much more comforting than pasta carbonara. Make that pasta carbonara with scallops seared in the bacon fat, a popular duo in many a dish.

And because I crave still more crunch and a slightly bitter note in my carbonara, I often top it with toasted pine nuts. A few crumbled, homemade — but oversalted — kale chips constituted my acknowledgement that this dish usually benefits from a vegetable.

Kale, collard greens, leeks, asparagus and spaghetti squash, or so I’ve mentioned in previous posts, are my preferred veggies for this dish. In a pinch, I’ll grab frozen peas. So the following recipe doesn’t seem too far outside my carbonara comfort zone.

Modified for a better nutritional profile, Jamie Oliver’s version of carbonara still features the traditional egg, cheese and bacon. His use of almonds, lemon and basil comes off as more of a pesto. And the yogurt is sure to impart more tang than carbonara’s typical savor.

This recipe, however, inspires me to substitute yogurt for a creamy pasta sauce when I don’t have heavy cream or half-n-half on hand. But the only plain yogurt I put in my fridge is full-fat. Sorry, Jamie.

Washington Post photo

Skinny Carbonara With Peas, Almonds and Basil

Kosher salt, as needed

7 ounces (1 3/4 cups) frozen green peas

5 ounces whole-wheat pasta, preferably linguine

1 tablespoon sliced, skin-on almonds

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 slice smoky bacon, preferably thick-cut

1 small garlic clove, peeled

Leaves from 4 fresh basil stems

2 1/2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 lemon

1 large egg

1/2 cup plain, low-fat or nonfat yogurt

Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add a generous pinch of the salt, then the peas. Cook for about 20 seconds, then use a strainer or Chinese skimmer to transfer peas to a colander to drain.

Add the pasta to boiling water. Cook according to package directions.

Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a medium-sized, dry skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned, shaking pan as needed to avoid scorching them. Transfer to bowl of a food processor to cool.

Line a small plate with a paper towel. Heat the oil in same skillet over medium-low heat while you cut the bacon crosswise into very thin strips. Once oil shimmers, add bacon pieces. Cook for about 5 minutes, until just crisped. Transfer to lined plate to drain; return skillet to stovetop, off heat.

Add cooked peas, the garlic, basil, cheese and a pinch of salt to food processor. Cut the lemon in half; squeeze in its juice. Pulse just enough to create a chunky mixture, then transfer three-quarters of it to skillet, stirring until just warmed through and combined with oil in pan.

In a bowl, whisk together the egg and yogurt until well-incorporated.

Drain pasta into a colander, reserving 1 cup cooking water, then transfer pasta to skillet, stirring to coat. Pour egg-yogurt mixture over pasta and toss quickly, until well-incorporated. Add just enough cooking water to create a silky, creamy sauce. Taste and add salt as needed.

Divide pasta between wide, shallow bowls. Top with equal amounts of remaining pea mixture (from food processor), and garnish with equal amounts of cooked bacon. Serve warm with a salad of peppery greens.

Makes 2 servings.

Recipe adapted by the Washington Post from “Everyday Super Food,” by Jamie Oliver (Ecco, 2015).

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Buckwheat flour makes savory crepes ‘complete’

It’s been five years since I resolved to master crepes.

Receiving a set of crepe pans for Christmas 2008 certainly set me on the path toward success. But as I averred in a previous post, a specialty pan isn’t strictly necessary, although it does make the process much more fun.

I’ve since filled crepes with all things sweet and savory. Some are as simple as apricot jam, a longtime favorite. Others are as involved as wild mushrooms bathed in cheesy béchamel.

Among the selling points of crepes is that the batter keeps for several days, so the vehicle for the previous evening’s dinner suggests the next morning’s breakfast. Cooked crepes also store for several days between layers of waxed paper in the refrigerator.

The one variation that keeps eluding me, however, constitutes the truly authentic version of France’s savory crepe, actually called a “galette.” These hearty buckwheat pancakes folded around meat, cheese and even egg cost just a few dollars at street stalls, perfect for my meager food allowance while I studied in France.

The buckwheat flour should be a simple adjustment to the basic crepe recipe. But I’ve never made a point to purchase it, only realizing the void in my pantry when that craving for galettes reasserts itself.

So this year’s New Year’s resolution — five years in the making, no less — is to spend a few dollars on buckwheat flour and prepare the following recipe, which should see me through seasons to come. Spring’s asparagus will be perfect in these before summer tomatoes and autumn squash insinuate themselves.

If you like, you can add an egg to the batter to make it smoother.

Galette Complete

Tribune News Service photo

5 1/2 cups stone-ground buckwheat flour

2 1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

2 tablespoons butter, plus more for greasing pan

1 egg

1/2 cup grated Comte, Gruyere or other semifirm cow’s milk cheese

2 ounces ham

In a bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, salt and 4 cups water; mix until smooth. Work batter by hand, beating in as much air as possible. Bubbles should appear on surface. Chill overnight, or for at least 3 hours.

Add an additional 2 cups water to batter, then bring batter to room temperature for at least 1 hour before making galettes. If you must rush, that’s OK. If batter seems thick, add a little more water. This recipe yields batter for many servings.

When ready to make galettes, heat a flat, round, cast-iron griddle, crepe pan or shallow frying pan. When pan is sizzling hot, wipe with a little butter. Pour 2/3 cup batter onto pan and swirl with a wooden spreader or by tilting pan so entire surface is covered with batter, then spread batter with half of the butter.

Break egg in middle of galette, spreading white around to separate it from yolk. Add the grated cheese and top with the ham.

Fold galette into a rectangle and let cook for 3 more minutes. Spread with remaining butter and serve.

Makes 1 galette.

— Recipe adapted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from “Crepes and Galettes From the Breizh Cafe” by Bertrand Larcher (Jacqui Small, September 2015, $29.99).

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