Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wednesday Market Madness

I went wild at the "Wednesday market" at Christopher Morley Park.  Not even a cranky six-year-old, already "bored of life," and hating on vegetables could slow me down. 

In addition to all of the fresh produce begging to be bought, dayboat scallops and offerings from Orwasher's Bakery, two french guys had set up shop and were peddling an exciting array of smoked meats, including this incredible chewy, funky chorizo sausage (smoked duck breast, I will be back for you next week!). 

I diced the chorizo and gently warmed it in the pan, adding fresh corn, halved grape tomatoes, and a splash of cream to the flavorful fat released from sausage.   A (small) handful of basil from the pot on the porch, and a pinch of aleppo pepper (more flavorful and less "in your face" than ordinary red pepper flakes) made a divine bed for seared scallops.

There is something to be said for a lack of restraint.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Summer Round Up, Part II

Bread and butter pickles.

Jimmy Bradley's Mulligatawny Soup with homemade naan.

Thomas Keller's Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon and Fennel, on a bed of sauteed broccoli rabe.

Ina Garten's "grown-up" mac and cheese.

It was a delicious summer!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Summer Round Up, Part I

A round up of all the meals I was too hot, or too tired, or too cranky, or too hot to write about:

Making raspberry jam on a 95 degree day...

Yes, I am a glutton for punishment.

The jam was tasty, if a little seedy. 

My little helper shelling a stubborn cranberry bean.

Caponata and ciabatta bread, one of many sandwich-like meals I ate this summer.

I ate an awful lot of this too.  Newman's pineapple salsa.  It's really amazing.  And no dishes to wash.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Not Guilty!

All summer long, I have suffered from Vegetable Guilt.  It happens like this: it's one of those rare days when the mercury falls short of 90 degrees.  The farmer's market is in town.  I show up, and tempted by all the spanking fresh produce, I load up my basket.  No sooner do I get it home when I learn the forecast calls for eight days in a row of "unseasonably warm" temperatures. 

What to do when each day seems more stupefyingly hot than the one before? When you are still wiping away sweat at 10 p.m.? When the kitchen reaches inferno-like temperatures by mid-afternoon, and the thought of turning on even a burner at dinntertime is as appealing as belly flopping into a pool of lava?  Order Chinese, of course, and try to ignore the faint cries coming from the direction of the vegetable bin.  The droopy carrots, wrinkled beans, limp lettuce, and softening shallots are clamoring for your attention and all you can do is eat an egg roll? 

Well, not this time.  For the past week, a small bunch of rainbow chard had been accusing me of neglect every time I opened the refrigerator door.  It was a balmy 82 degrees and overcast, and I could actually imagine turning on the oven.  I would make potato and swiss chard enchiladas, the most ambitious project I had tackled in weeks. 

The homemade enchilada sauce was startlingly delicious, and by far the best part of this dish.  It was really easy to make, too.  My Dad had foisted four pounds of ripe-to-bursting tomatoes from his garden on me (no Vegetable Guilt for him!).   I chose two of the largest from the windowsill, split them in half, and broiled them, along with some garlic, until slightly charred.  Then, into the blender they went with a large chipotle pepper.  A little salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and that was it.  This was a sweet and smoky concoction that would also make a great smooth salsa for chips. 

Tomato Chipotle Sauce

2 large tomatoes
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 large chipotle pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Core the tomatoes and cut them in half.  Put the tomatoes, cut side down, along with the garlic cloves, on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil.  Broil for about five minutes, or until lightly charred.  Put the tomato halves, garlic cloves, and chipotle pepper in a blender and puree until smooth.  Add salt to taste and a drizzle of olive oil. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

At Last

In the life of a teacher, the first day of summer is as glorious as it gets.  The yammering students, sniping administrators, the months and months cooped up in airless, windowless rooms still hover around the consciousness like a persistent bad dream.  But the days ahead, days and days and days (71 to be exact), are filled with promise.  Whole books will be read, projects completed, day trips taken, meals planned and made.  Anything is possible, especially after a couple of these watermelon margaritas! 

This recipe makes two drinks, but can easily be doubled or tripled.  Heck, quadruple it.  It's summer at last!

Watermelon Margaritas

2 oz. top shelf tequila
2 oz. triple sec, Cointreau or Gran Marnier
Juice of one lime
1 cup of ice cold watermelon chunks, no seeds
A hanful of ice cubes

Put everything in the blender and blend until smooth.  Strain into chilled martini glasses.  Garnish with watermelon slices.  Add a squeeze of lime juice to taste. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A New Green

I finally made it to my farmer's market this morning, with summer just two days away.  I had in mind a recipe by Mark Bittman from the June 16 edition of the Times for Pasta with Peas, Proscuitto and Lettuce.  Bittman's emphasis was on using small quantities of meat--in this case, crisped prociutto--as a garnish, as opposed to it being the star player in a dish.  Great idea, but what really struck me was the use of lettuce in a hot preparation.  Sure, I've wilted my share of spinach and arugula, even watercress, but lettuce?!  I grabbed a bowling ball sized head of Boston lettuce and some handfuls of fresh peas, determined to try it out. 

I took some liberties with the recipe.  Crisping prociutto is blasphemous in my book, as its soft, satiny texture is what makes it so darn good in the first place.  But crispy bacon--who could quibble with that?  I also added some shrimp, tasty, wild caught, but sort of superfluous, as the lettuce stole the show.  Were you worried it would turn out limp and watery?  I'll admit, I was.  Instead, it was sweet and fresh tasting, and even retained a bit of its crunch at the ribs.  The splash of citrusy sauvignon blanc I used to green the vegetables woke up all the flavors, and tasted good in the glass alongside, as well.  It was the pefect way to welcome summer.

Pasta with Lettuce, Bacon and Shrimp

6 slices of smoky bacon, cut into batons
1 pound pasta (the gemelli I used were perfect)
1 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
2 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
2 cups of peas, preferably fresh
1 head of Boston lettuce, cored, leaves cut into ribbons
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup freshly grated parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Meanwhile, cook the bacon batons until crisp.  Drain on paper towels and reserve.  Spill out most of the bacon fat.  Season shrimp with salt and pepper and saute in the fat until just cooked through.  Remove and reserve.  Melt butter in the same skillet and saute the shallot until softened, about 4 minutes.  Turn off the flame while you wait for the pasta to catch up.

When water boils, add pasta and cook until just tender. Drain pasta.  Turn the flame back on under the shallots, and add peas, lettuce and wine.  Cook until lettuce is wilted but still bright green, maybe 5 minutes.  Don't overcook!  Add pasta and shrimp back to pan and cook until just heated through.  Off the heat, toss with parmesan.  Taste for salt and pepper, garnish with bacon, and serve.

Serves 4

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Pesto's Cousin

As an apartment dweller, I am limited to growing things in containers--and not even very large containers either.  But that doesn't stop me from dreaming big dreams of pesto, like this one, which I clipped from the back page of Gourmet in August of last year, and just finally got around to making.  So what if I had to pit stop at North Shore Farms for a bunch of the not-so-homegrown stuff to supplement my meager supply?

With roasted almonds standing in for the pine nuts, a cloud of fresh ricotta cheese in place of most of the traditional parmesan, and a garnish of briny kalamata olives, I had a suspicion this would be great. 

I was right.  This was ordinary pesto's suave and sophisticated cousin.  The ricotta lent a velvety texture, and was a wonderful carrier for the basil and garlic flavors, mellowing and smoothing them out.  The olives provided a welcome salty sharpness with each bite.  It was a big bowl of comfort, summer weather style, perfect with a chilled glass of Savignon Blanc.  And the garnish is just-picked from my garden, thank you very much.