Chez AAA is Closed for the Summer Season

Ordinarily, no one wants to come to New York in August and September. People complain of humidity, the subway is gross and window air-conditioning units can't stand a chance when matched against soaring temperatures. But this year a series of visitors and house-guests decided to buck convention, and fortunately, they brought lovely weather with them. For three weeks we had a great time seeing the city and eating delicious meals out. But such fun is a bit tiring, and this past Sunday I was ready for a quiet meal at home.

Tropical storm Hanna unkindly paid us a visit on Saturday and rained out my green market shopping trip, so the refrigerator was looking rather bare. There was a bunch of dandelion greens from the Urban Organic box, semi-hard pecorino from an earlier market shopping trip (yum -- I will write down the producer this week from Valley Shepherd Creamery) and some thyme that was nearing the end of its serviceable life. These are the results of a hastily cobbled together meal that was both simple and satisfying.

So many of the recipes I come across use dandelion greens as a soup component, but I really wanted to showcase the greens on their own. I thought a quick toss in a hot dressing would cook the greens just enough to wilt them a little and salty pancetta and cheese would be a good foil to the bitter leaves.

And A wanted some beans, so a twist on the ricotta crostini in the in the NY Times a while ago addressed that craving. The ricotta served to glue the lentils to little rounds of a crusty baguette. So we could dress the crostini to our own liking, I served the components separately.

Wilted Dandelion Greens with Pancetta and Pecorino

I tossed the greens with the hot dressing to wilt them, but unless you really like the bitter bite of dandelion greens, like I do, or if the greens are large and tough, I would recommend sauteing them with the dressing for a few minutes to mellow the flavor.

olive oil
small chunk of pancetta (about 1/4 lb), minced
cider vinegar
dry vermouth (but white wine would likely be better)
bunch of dandelion greens, stems removed and chopped
semi-hard pecorino

Warm a teeny bit of oil in a saute pan or skillet over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and saute until crispy. Remove the pancetta from the pan with a slotted spoon or spider to drain. Add a few tablespoons of cider vinegar and about 1/4 cup of vermouth to the pan. Raise the heat to high and reduce the mixture by three-quarters. Drizzle over the greens and toss until greens are wilted. Shave pecorino over the top and sprinkle with reserved pancetta.

Lentil and Ricotta Crostini

There are no measurements here, and the ingredients are just a formula. Combine to your own taste and preferences.

lentils du puy
sherry vinegar
thinned ricotta
dried oregano
coarse salt
crusty baguette
olive oil

Put lentils in a saucepan and cover with water -- a ratio of two parts water to one part lentils. Bring lentils to a boil and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain if necessary and stir in some sherry vinegar.

Meanwhile, thin ricotta with some milk to make it a bit more spreadable. The amount will vary depending upon the dryness of your ricotta, but aim for the texture of slightly thick yogurt (not strained). Stir in a spoonful of oregano and the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme. Salt to taste, and drizzle with olive oil.

Slice a baguette into rounds. Brush with olive oil and toast under the broiler or in a toaster oven until lightly brown. Slather a bit of ricotta mixture on each toast and top with lentils.

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