Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lobster, Corn, and Watermelon Cocktails - All Local, All Buttered (Except the Cocktail)

Depending on your definition of local, you can get local corn now. Ours came from Pennsylvania, which is pushing it, but better than the alternative of Florida. As you all should know by now, we are not locavores (though appreciate that school of thought), but instead aim to eat food "as locally grown as possible" so when faced with a truly summer-esque day, one where lobster and corn were all but required, we made the choice to consider PA local. Forgive us our geographic foibles and enjoy our recipes!

One place we would be hard pressed to do without is New Deal Fish Market, as we have mentioned many times before. Their fish is amazing, putting Whole Foods to shame. They also get a lot locally, and know where it's from so you can choose what local means to you, and they have a willingness, if not a mission, to educate.

I went in yesterday to pick up the lobster and had a conversation with Karl about the most humane way to kill one. Regardless of one's beliefs on how much crustaceans feel pain, we owe it to our food to give it the best death possible. Keja and I both have memories of our grandfathers cooking lobsters and seeing them moving in the boiling water, and in one case, actually crawling out of the pot. So, to avoid that, Karl recommended using a sharp knife and, with a very quick motion, jabbing it into the back of their head. We were going to grill them (another Karl recommendation), so (and here is where the education part of New Deal comes in), he cleared off the counter and showed me how to butcher lobsters. 

We served our meal with one of Keja's amazingly fresh and local lettuce-thinning salads and made another red wine sauce, this time without raspberries, and served it over ice cream. A lovely summer meal.

Timing wise, if your grill is large enough, cook the corn and lobster at the same time. If not, cook the corn, remove and cook the lobster, and then return the corn to the grill for 5 minutes before eating.

This whole meal stuffed three adults and three kids.

Grilled Lobster with Herb Butter

3 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 lb. lobsters, split lengthwise within an hour or two prior to cooking (they should be kept in the fridge if splitting is not done immediately prior to cooking). Remove claws and see below for instructions to cook those.

Herb butter

Melt 1 stick salted butter in a saucepan

Stir in:
3 TBSP fresh herbs (we used thyme, oregano, parsley, and chive flowers)
1 TBSP minced garlic
1/8 teas. cayenne pepper

Remove from heat.

Smack each claw with a heavy stone or a hammer, to break a crack or two into them. Drizzle with a little herb butter and close up in aluminum foil.

Over a medium hot grill, grill claws for a total of 12 to 20 minutes, depending on claw size and heat of fire. Grill lobster halves, shell side down, on grill until flesh is opaque whitish pink and firm, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. When first putting them on, drizzle with herb butter. Reserve the rest of the butter for dipping lobster into at the table.

Grilled Corn on the Cob with Tequila Lime Butter

8 ears corn on the cob, with husk on
6 TBSP butter, very soft
1/2 teas. Keja's Famous Rub (see below)
1 teas. lime juice
1 teas. tequila

Soak corn in water for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix butter and remaining ingredients together.  Butter can be refrigerated once it is mixed together.

Grill corn, remove husk, and serve with butter.

Keja's Famous Rub

4 TBSP paprika
1 TBSP brown sugar 
1 teas. salt 
1 teas. ground allspice 
1 teas. ground coriander
1 teas. ground cayenne 

We have begun making our own cordials, liquers, aperitifs, digestives, etc. We got a great book called Luscious Liquers by A.J. Rathbun. It was recommended by another local gem, The Boston Shaker, In Davis Square, Somerville. If you live in Somerville or the surrounding area, like to drink cocktails, and don't know about this place, go visit!

Anyway, we have tried some of A.J.'s great recipes and, feeling confident, went off on our own. We made a sage mint liquer. It would be excellent chilled, over ice, or as a digestive, or, as we used it, to modify a Martha Stewart Everyday Food Watermelon Margarita recipe from her June 2010 issue. 

Sage Mint Grappa inspired by A.J. Rathbun's recipes (takes 3 weeks to make)

1/2 cup sage leaves
1/2 cup mint leaves
1 TBSP lemon juice
3 cups grappa
*1/2 cup simple syrup 

*In our experience, there are as many different simple syrup recipes as there are cocktails. Pick your favorite and go with it.

Muddle leaves with lemon in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Add grappa and stir. Cover and let sit in a cool, dark place for 1 week, swirling occasionally.

Add simple syrup and stir. Let sit another 2 weeks, swirling occasionally.

Here A.J. suggests straining it and decanting into a nice jar with a cork. 

Watermelon Cocktail, based on Martha Stewart's Watermelon Margarita recipe

Make a simple syrup by boiling 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, and 3 strips orange zest. Boil for 3 minutes and then let cool.

Cube one quarter of a large watermelon and then purée in a blender with the simple syrup until smooth.

Add 1/8 cup lime juice, 1/8 cup orange juice and 1/2 cup of the Mint Sage Grappa. Blend until mixed.

Serve over ice (with salted rims optional).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Spring Lamb "Burgers"

For as far back as I can remember, one of my favorite dishes has been "lamb bandit style," a scrumptious stew that my mom makes from one of her well-worn cookbooks (I'm guessing it's Greek Cooking for the Gods but I could be wrong).  Last week, she tried a new variation of it using ground lamb instead of cubed.    That sounded excellent, but since I have a child who turns up his nose at stews but loves burgers, Renee and I made a few more variations that turn out scrumptious patties that can be burgers to kids and the perfect pita centerpiece for adults.  Add to this that it makes great use of the abundant mint that we both have in our gardens (and lawns, and driveways...), and there's really no reason to eat anything else for the rest of the spring.

Bandit Style Lamb "Burgers"

1 pound ground lamb
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
3 T lemon juice
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup plum wine, sherry, or marsala
1 T fresh chopped mint
6 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Mix together all of the ingredients with your hands and form into small patties.  Place in a large baking dish and bake, uncovered, at 375 for 15 minutes, then at 425 for 15 minutes.  In the first 15 minutes, they'll let out a large amount of liquid which they'll soak back up in the last 15 minutes.  If they're still liquidy at the end, let them sit on the counter for 10 more minutes and they'll keep soaking up liquid.

Serve on homemade pita.  We used a very slightly modified version of the second edition Joy of Cooking recipe:

Mix together:
3 cups white flour
1 1/2 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. active dry yeast

Then mix in:
2 T melted butter
1 1/4 cup room temperature water

Knead for 10 minutes.  Place in a well oiled bowl and let rise until doubled, 1-1 1/2 hours.  Punch down, divide into 8 balls and let rest on the counter about 20 minutes.  Heat oven to 450.  Turn a cookie sheet upside down and place two rolls on the two ends.  Roll each out to about an 8" diameter.  Bake 5-7 minutes.  These did not puff up perfectly so that you could open them like pitas, but they were the perfect size for folding in half around the lamb and add-ins, and they were delicious.

Set Lamb and bread on the table with:

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1 cup ribboned lettuce

1 cup whole fresh mint leaves

Yogurt Sauce

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 T garlic, minced
zest of 1 lemon
2 T fresh mint, minced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. lemon juice

One of the treats we encourage by concocting local liqueurs is Dave's experimental cocktails.  These are perfect for sipping while you cook.  Since we had out the plum wine for the lamb patties, he came up with this perfectly simple offering, which he has yet to name (stay tuned):

2 oz rum or vodka
1 oz plum wine

shake with ice

serve in a chilled cocktail glass with a twist

Monday, May 17, 2010

Black-Eyed Susan Cocktail

This is a guest post from Dave, cocktail creator extraodinaire.

Here's a cocktail that I made up for a Preakness party. A traditional Black-eyed Susan is a punch; I was going for something a little more sophisticated but keeping with the theme of these lovely yellow-and-black flowers.

2 oz. vodka
1/2 oz. lemon juice
1/2 oz. St. Germain
1 tbsp simple syrup

Place ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice; shake until frigid. Strain and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.
Cut out a twist of lemon peel over the glass. Wrap it around a toothpick and impale a blackberry with the toothpick.  Drop garnish into glass.

If this is too sweet for you, back off the sugar syrup to 1/2 tbsp.  For a fruitier variation, try Cointreau or Grand Mariner instead of St. Germain.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Morels, Raspberry Empañadas, and a Healthy Dose of Good Fortune

Can you ask for anything more than food that is nourishing, plentiful, and tasty? This comes up a lot with my children. This morning, they were fighting over who got to have the blackberry container closer to their own plate. They are eating sweet, juicy blackberries for breakfast in May, and fighting! Ah. They will learn. It makes our Tuesday Night Cooking Club so much more fun because there is no fighting, only appreciation for the good fortune we've been granted to be able to make whatever our taste buds desire, while nourishing our bodies until we are full. And our children will learn to appreciate this, too. It's our job to make sure they do because many, many people are not so fortunate.

As a consolation prize for not getting into the morel challenge last month, we received dried morels and are having a great time using them. Last night we decided to stuff them. They turned out delicious, and the majority of our dinner was locally grown and harvested. The oysters were from Wellfleet, the raspberries last year's beauties we picked in Winchester, all of the herbs from Keja's garden, and, to top it off, my brilliant friend overplanted her lettuce with the intention of thinning it for salad, so the greens were 30 minutes old and from 20 feet away when we ate them. They were awesome!

Note, the creme fraîche for the empañadas needs 36 hours to develop so plan accordingly.

Oyster-Stuffed Morels with Grits

serves 4 adults. Ideally, the grits and mushrooms are being cooked at the same time!


Preheat over to 250. 

1 cup heavy cream, half and half, or milk
1 cup mushroom broth (saved from reconstituting morels)
2 cups water
1 cup grits (white or yellow)
1/4 teas. salt

In a medium ovenproof pot (with ovenproof lid), bring liquids to a boil over medium high heat. Whisk in grits and salt. Remove from heat, cover pan, and place in oven. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from oven, stir, and keep covered until needed.

Stuffed Morels

18 reconstituted dried morels (reserve liquid for grit recipe)
12 raw oysters, in shell
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/4 teas. pepper
3 sage leaves, chopped fine
2 springs oregano, chopped fine
1/2 cup parsley, chopped fine
1 small bunch chives (with flower buds, if available), chopped coarsely
2 TBSP panko
18 asparagus tips (between 1 and 2 inches long)

Reconstituting morels: Place mushrooms in a non-reactive bowl. Pour boiling water over them until they are covered (use at least 1 1/2 cups to get the 1 cup of broth needed for the recipe below). Let them sit for 20 minutes. Lift mushrooms out of the water and place on a towel to remove the majority of the water. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place a steamer over a pan, with 1 inch water under it. Cover with a top and put over high heat until water is boiling. Add oysters, cover pan, and steam until they are opened. Check every few minutes and remove them as they open.

Note on shellfish: all the oysters should be closed when you get them. If they are open slightly, they may still be good. Tap the shell gently on the counter and wait a minute. They should close up. If they do not, do not use them. When they are cooked, they should all be open. If any do not open well after the others have, discard these.

Saute bacon in a frying pan until browned and cooked through, ~ 10 minutes. Add shallots.

Remove oyster meat, discarding shells, and chop into 1/4 inch pieces. Add to pan with bacon. 

Remove from heat and add in herbs and panko. Add salt to taste; we used 1/4 teas.

Carefully stuff each morel with the stuffing. If you need to slit the side, do so, careful to only make the opening as big as necessary. Any leftover stuffing can be served on the side.

Put one asparagus tip in the opening of each mushroom. Place on a cookie sheet (we put ours on top of crisscrossed asparagus spears).

Bake for 15 minutes. Serve over grits.

This method makes the morels crispy, which was quite tasty. We want to try steaming them, and will do so soon and post the results.

We roasted the asparagus left over from the mushroom recipe and served it on the side.

Keja's Dressing for Deliciously Fresh Baby Greens

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teas. salt
1/2 teas. pepper
1 clove garlic, whole
1 teas. mustard

Put all ingredients in a jar with a lid. Cover and shake well. Leave in the fridge for up to three weeks, discarding garlic when dressing is gone.

Raspberry Empañadas with Creme Fraîche and Wine Sauce

This made 6 empañadas, but there were not any leftovers.

This was awesome. Seriously, one of the best desserts I have ever had, ever. I'm not even embarrassed to say that. Try it and see what you think.

Creme Fraîche

Put equal amounts sour cream and heavy cream into a jar with a lid. Stir well, cover, and leave out at room temperature for 10 - 12 hours. Put in the refrigerator and leave for 24 hours (less is okay if you're desperate to use it). You may need to stir it again before using.

Wine Sauce

This is perfect for using up old wine. Old to Keja is a week. Old to me is two months. Decide where you fall and act accordingly. We mixed a few different red wines, finishing up random bottles.

In a heavy sauce pan, add 2 cups red wine and 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat until simmering, and let simmer for an hour or so, until the liquid has reduced by 3/4 and sauce is thick and viscous. Take it off the heat. We then added the leftover raspberries from the empañadas, which put it over the top in the deliciousness category. 

Preheat oven to 350.

Empañada dough

1 cup flour
1 frozen stick salted butter
1/4 cup ice water

Cut butter into slices and put it and the flour into a food processor. Pulse until roughly blended but there are still small chunks of butter.

Add water. Pulse briefly. 

Dump onto a lightly floured tea towel. Using your hands, bunch into a tight ball and then flatten with the palm of your hand into a round disc. Let is sit 30 minutes. 

Empañada filling

1 1/2 cups frozen raspberries
2 TBSP sugar
6 sage leaves

Toss raspberries with sugar.

After 30 minutes, roll out dough into 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.

Cut into 6 equal sections. Fill each one with 1/4 cup of the filling (we had about 2 TBSP extra, which we put into the wine sauce at the end). Top each with a sage leaf, and fold over and crimp closed.

Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until starting to brown.

Serve empañadas topped with creme fraîche and wine sauce.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Midsummer tastes, local in early Spring

but this is not because of global warming, it's the result of our latest trend: blending the remains of what we froze last summer with this spring's early bloomers.  Put all of that on the grill, and it's a (nearly) all-local midsummer in May.  And, with typical Spring exuberance, we're pushing into distant memory our unfortunate first experience with local CSA meat and opening our arms to more dripping hunks of whatever fresh cuts come our soon as we get off the waiting list at Chestnut Farms (  This time, we checked in with our neighbor Kim who has a long-term membership at Chestnut Farms and not only did we get her good opinion, she shared a pound of ground chuck that was good and nicely packed.  Once we get in, we'll be sure to share our reviews.  For this meal, we got the meat from butchers at Whole Foods.  And I have to say I'm conflicted about the choice to leave them for the meat CSA.  On the one hand, Whole Foods is not a local business, in fact it's a major nationwide chain, and when we buy from Whole Foods we support the middle-maning that distances us from the real source of our food.  I think that knowing the cows you eat allows for the most responsible kind of carnivory, and knowing the farmer who raised them allows for the best kind of community and the surest understanding of what exactly went into the cow before it goes into you.  Only a meat CSA provides that.  On the other hand, Whole Foods sells local meat.  And that means that it represents the investment of a national chain in local farming.  I want to support that.  I want the Whole Food execs wherever they may be to look at their sales numbers each week and see that the local meat moved twice as fast as the non-local meat, so that's where they should do more buying.  I want Market Basket and Shaws to do market research and realize that Whole Food's labeling of local meat and produce is a strategy that they should adopt.  There's one other thing that Whole Foods offers: the butcher him or her self.  This is someone who not only is a key player in my food chain, it's a person with knowledge and goods: I want to be able to talk to the butcher about how to best cook this or that cut, to request that he butterfly the chicken breasts for me, or to get a few extra bags of gizzards for stock.  Well, as long as I eat enough meat, I can get it from both the CSA and Whole Foods!  This recipe serves 3-4 adults plus 3-4 kids.

Stir together:
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 sprigs oregano (overwinters well in New England in pots or the ground), leaves chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1 clove garlic, sliced

Pour the marinade over 2 1-lb steaks in a plastic bag, seal, and let sit for at least an hour (if it's an hour, leave it out; if longer, refrigerate).  Grill over medium-high heat 3 minutes per side for medium-rare.  Tent with foil for 5 minutes, then serve.

There are many sources of Atlantic Salmon (the Atlantic is a big ocean) and much controversy about certain salmon farming methods as well as concern about the survival of the species in the wild, but Atlantic Salmon is indeed native to the Atlantic, and fish conservation efforts often successfully pair the work of environmentalists and fishermen.  In New England, there are projects underway to regrow Atlantic Salmon populations in the Penebscot River in Maine, and the Connecticut River.  If you get your fish from New Deal, you can get good information about the exact source of your salmon.  You can also get great information about salmon parts - when Renee went in yesterday she learned that salmon collars have some of the best meat on the fish, but are sold quite cheaply because they also have a lot of bone and skin.  But the bone at that part of the fish is not the little pricky things you have to be so careful with, it's more like the bone in a bone-in steak.  So we marinated and grilled them, to perfection.  They are a bit messy to eat, but the need to wash hands is more than made up for by the fun of pulling flesh from bone and eating with fingers.

1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
2 T tamari
2 T rice vinegar

Marinate 1/2 pound salmon collars in the mix for 30 minutes.  Grill over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, turning frequently.  Serve immediately, as an appetizer.


1 cup roughly chopped parsley (amazingly, this too overwinters in the ground!)
1 small bunch roughly chopped chives (mine are starting to bud, you can just chop the buds right in with the rest)
3 large tomatoes, chopped into small cubes

Toss, about 30 minutes before serving, with lemon vinaigrette made of:
juice of 1/2 lemon
equal volume olive oil
1/2 tsp. mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. honey
1/2 tsp. ground pepper

Whole Foods still has a nice selection of local root vegetables that someone has stored very well!  We used 1 large red beet, 1 large golden beet, 1 white turnip, and 2 potatoes in our oven fries recipe.


2 vanilla beans
3 cups 1/2 and 1/2
3/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks, stirred smooth
1 cup peaches, fresh or frozen (we're down to our last bag from last Fall!), cut into rough chunks (1/4-1/2")

Split vanilla beans in half lengthwise.  Use a spoon to scrape seeds out.  Put beans and seeds into a large, heavy saucepan.  And 1/2 and 1/2 and heat over medium-low until warm.  Add sugar, stir until it is dissolved and the mixture is hot but NOT boiling.  Drizzle in the egg, whisking constantly.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until thick, stirring constantly and NOT allowing to boil.  You will know it's thick enough when you can dip and wooden spoon into the mixture, then pull it out and run your finger across it and see the line that your finger makes stay).  Remove from heat and add peaches.  Removed vanilla pods (you can rinse them and reserve them for another use).  Put in a cold water bath until cool.  Then chill and finally freeze according to machine instructions.