• The Hustle Issue

    Food to Usher in Spring: Roasted Yams, Chard with Golden Raisins, Tahini Dressing, and Basic Ass Pesto

    The Hustle Issue
    Small plates

    We need to feed ourselves once and a while to keep the gears sweaky and moving. Here's a guide to cooking and eating for the Young, Broke, and Restless.

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    Olivia Starkie is a West Coast girl living the broke eastern life in Brooklyn, New York. When she is not food service hustling, she can be found cooking, writing, making visual art, sitting in sun patches in the park, riding the train for fun, or eating bagels.

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    Small Plates

    Food to Usher in Spring

    Vivid recipes to go with your spring-time feelings: Roasted Yams, Chard with Golden Raisins, Tahini Dressing, and Basic Ass Pesto.

    Vivid recipes to go with your spring-time feelings: Roasted Yams, Chard with Golden Raisins, Tahini Dressing, and Basic Ass Pesto.

    There is something incredibly beautiful to me about the elevated trains in New York. Their tracks are ugly bones crisscrossing the low-hanging sky, but they are also like fragile pale cutouts and the trains grind and squeal against them and tremble like losing your virginity to a boy with freckles around his eyes. Or like being a teenager and discovering music that unsettles you and makes your desire wild. The sound fills your heart with a feeling you can't describe and sends a ghost shiver up and down your arms the same way it felt when a boy touched his tongue to your skin for the first time and you couldn't stop thinking about it for days, or the same way you still feel beautiful when it snows and the flakes collect like disappointments on your eyelashes. All this is the elevated train in New York as you walk under it and smell hot dogs and gyros, and the shit and blood from the live poultry shop. The train rattles itself in and through your mind and you think about being a kid in Germany and riding trains back and forth through white blond wheat: breath coming slowly but surely here today now.

    The sidewalk is pungent with salt from last week's snow that has been power-washed away. Is there a power washer for emotions, because I want one and I want the spring below the trains and between his thighs to absolve me and erase my vain baby heart. Come cup me in your hands and I will feed you my words and my pictures and turn myself inside out for you. You will see the sweater pills and the long red hairs and the flour dust that collect in the corners of myself and I will be a little embarrassed at first but hoping that all of this, all of me, all of someone, a whole person conglomerate like scraps of crumpled notebook paper glued back together, will be ok with you. Kiss your way up my arms, my legs, my torso. I will hold you, I will ride train after train with you and maybe on the train you will look at my collarbones, my eyelash smile flushed cheeks gleam and you will say nothing, you will say nothing with your eyes drinking my face. I will feel them on me and think of the electrical fires I have seen in the subway when the train runs fast over empty potato chip bags. That spark of light in a dark winter tunnel that feels forever but only lasts until, gasping, the train surfaces into the elevated sun.

    I love the time of year when sun patches begin to grow wider and you can smell rain on the air and you imagine beach days and legs tangled with someone you almost could love and pushing ice cubes along each other's damp salty bodies. But for now this is just anticipation, just a suggestion in the outline of a barely clothed tree or the yelp of a dog two apartments away. A breeze slipped in through your open window sometime around 9:00 am and it made you wish for past iterations of this day, for round slow sunsets and mosquito sting. It always seems like the ice takes the longest to melt when we feel like moths trapped near a burning bulb. But I think it is beautiful, the way you hold on too long. The way you look just a little too long.


    Foods to usher in spring, for all you combusting moths in New York and beyond.

    Tahini everything. I found some tahini for under five dollars at my local supermarket a couple weeks ago and have been going crazy with it. Mostly I’ve been making different iterations of lemony, garlicky tahini dressings. I’ve also been making hella hummus.

    Roasted yams with coconut oil and salt. It’s super simple. I cube a yam, toss it with a couple tablespoons of coconut oil, shake some salt over the whole thing and bake it at 450, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are soft and a little crispy on the outside. I put them on salads, eat them alone, etc. Sweet potatoes are great for you and will chase away the demons of winter.

    Pesto. You can make pesto out of pretty much anything, but my favorite is a classic basil, pine nut, olive oil, and lemon juice affair. Traditionally, basil pesto has parmesan in it as well, but I like it without. I put it on pasta, egg sandwiches, salads, and eat it off spoons. It’s also great spooned over sautéed or roasted veggies.

    Greens. Greens! Greens! Eat them to replenish vitamins in your body. The winter tends to get us down and we wither in the darkness. Greens can help with that. Now that spring is sprung(ish), it’s the perfect time to get on this ish. I’ve been eating chard and kale like a mofo. I love to sauté kale lightly with olive oil, garlic and a minced anchovy filet or two. Sometimes I also add pine nuts. I’ve also been massaging kale with olive oil and lemon and then eating it as a component in salads. I eat chard raw in salads and have a favorite recipe that involves sautéing it with onions, golden raisins, garlic, and olives. Mustard and collard greens are also good for you. And they’re cheap. Go out and stock your fridges, my loves.

    Avocado. My love affair with avocado is eternal. I’ve been making avocado tahini salad dressings, olive oil and avocado breakfast toast, and topping pretty much every savory bowl of everything I eat with avocado. It tastes like buttery sun love. Fuck yeah.

    Pistachios. I put them on salads. They are salty, nutty, funky beautiful. They make me want to be in love in the spring time.

    Za’atar. This middle eastern spice mix is available at many specialty Middle Eastern grocery stores and is basically my holy grail of spices. Sprinkle it on salads, on fried eggs, over hummus, on roasted vegetables, whatever. It will make everything taste like sumac oregano sesame heaven.

    Some Recipes:

    Chard with Golden Raisins, Pine Nuts, Olives and Capers

    Ingredients:

    • 1 – 2 bunches Swiss chard (it cooks down quite a bit)
    • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced and minced
    • 2 – 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
    • 1 – 2 tbsp golden raisins
    • 2 tsp – 1 tbsp capers (depending on your taste – I am a caper fiend) handful of your favorite olives (kalamata, cerignola, picholene and niçoise are some of my favorites), chopped and with pits removed
    • handful of pine nuts (maybe 2 tbsp)
    • 2 – 3 tbsp of good olive oil (for the pan)
    • squeeze of fresh lemon juice (you won’t need more than half a lemon)
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Wash chard thoroughly (it tends to be very sandy) and remove leaves from stems. Finely chop stems crosswise. Roughly chop leaves – they don’t have to be super finely chopped, and will shrink down anyway.

    Heat oil in a nonstick pan or cast-iron skillet. Add onions, golden raisins and chopped chard stems and sauté on medium-high heat until the onions become translucent and start to break down. (They can even get a little browned but try to avoid too much of this.) Add garlic and sauté a little longer, until it begins to melt.

    While the onions are cooking, toast the pine nuts in a nonstick pan. Be careful and put them on low heat if you have to, because they’ll over-toast and burn pretty quickly. They’ll start to release a delicious, toasty, fatty aroma and turn slightly golden. At this point, they’re ready. Remove from heat immediately.

    When the garlic and onions have broken down, add the chard leaves, turn up the heat and put on a lid for a couple minutes until they wilt. Add in olives and capers and let sauté some more, stirring and watching while the chard shrinks. You can put a lid back on or just turn down the heat a little and leave it off, but make sure to keep stirring everything so that nothing burns. You also don’t want to retain too much water from the chard – if it looks like it’s swimming in liquid, take off the lid and let it evaporate. When the chard is sufficiently wilted (it will probably shrink to a third of its original size), taste and add salt and pepper as needed. The capers and olives will add a lot of salt, so make sure that you don’t salt until after they’ve had a chance to lend their flavors to the chard. This whole process shouldn’t take more than about five to six minutes.

    To finish, add a generous squeeze of lemon juice to the chard and then allow it to cook off a little on low heat. Taste and add more salt or pepper if necessary. If it tastes good, cut the heat and sprinkle the toasted pine nuts over the chard. Serve alongside protein, over pasta with grated parm, or simply eat by itself or alongside a slice of crusty bread. Also, if you wanted to go for a saltier, funkier version, the addition of 2-3 finely minced anchovy fillets to the garlic and onions at the beginning would be fantastic.

    Lemony, Garlicky, Herb Avocado Tahini Dressing

    Let the salad-and-greens eating commence with this green dressing. Hell yeah.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 clove garlic
    • handful of fresh herbs (I like to use a mix of thyme and oregano)
    • pinch of za’atar (if you have it)
    • 2 – 3 tbsp tahini
    • half a ripe avocado
    • juice of one lemon
    • splash of red wine or apple cider vinegar
    • splash of good, preferably spicy olive oil
    • salt to taste

    In a mortar and pestle, mash up the garlic cloves and the fresh herbs to form a paste. Add the avocado and mash until it’s smooth (ish). Add tahini, za’atar, and lemon juice and whisk together. Pour in olive oil and vinegar and whisk again. Taste. If it’s too tart, add more oil. It will probably need salt. Add until it tastes right. If it’s too thick and you want to thin it out, you can add a little water or just add more oil (depending on what you think it needs). This is so good on salads, grains, roasted veggies. Try it on the sweet potatoes I mentioned above.

    My Springtime Staple: Basic Ass Pesto

    Sometimes basic isn’t bad.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 large bunch basil, stems removed
    • generous handful of baby arugula
    • ¼ cup (you could do more if you wanted, you could do less – it’s pretty flexible) pine nuts (toast them if you want deeper flavor)
    • lemon juice (like half a lemon, or more if you want)
    • salt to taste
    • olive oil (I never really measure, I just drizzle it in until the pesto is my desired consistency. I like it a little thicker and chunkier, but others like it very smooth and runny. Do what feels right for you!)

    Throw everything in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. You may need to keep adding oil through the top of the blender and food processor until everything blends together. If you don’t have a food processor and your blender sucks (like mine), you may have to mash up the garlic, pine nuts and finely chop the basil before adding them to the blender. Or you could forgo the kitchen appliances altogether and use a mortar and pestle (which I do frequently). This will give you a coarser, but no less-delicious pesto.

    Variations

    • Swap pine nuts for toasted almonds, cashews, walnuts or pecans. I’ve even used peanuts out of desperation before and it was honestly pretty good (if not exactly what I was looking for). 
    • Add in a quarter cup of grated parm, piave, grana or romano cheese. 
    • Add in fresh oregano or thyme for extra herbaceous flavor. 
    • Double the recipe, put the pesto in a jar and top with olive oil to store in your fridge for future meals. If you’re like me, it probably won’t last for more than about a week anyway.

    Go forward and eat, my friends. And then ride a train in the gathering sunlight. Preferably to a beautiful park, alongside someone you want to make out with.

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