Monday, June 28, 2010

Lobsters and Chippy Things

The first part of this post is not for vegetarians or the faint of heart.

I killed my first animal for food last week. By killed, I mean I actually stuck the knife through the lobster's head to kill it before steaming it. I have fished before, but my grandfather kindly took pity on 10-year old me and took care of everything after I pulled the fish in. I have witnessed lobsters being killed. But this was different.

We were cooking a lobster feast for my in-laws while we vacationed on the Jersey Shore. Carl, from New Deal had showed me how to humanely kill them and so Dave and I got out the cutting board, the sharpest knife we could find, and steeled ourselves. It was emotionally difficult, pulling the lobster out of the bag, looking into its eyes, and knowing that it had seconds left to live. And, despite what you may be told, as you kill them, and for a few minutes afterwards, they thrash and twitch.

I don't know if it was the culmination of a great beach day, eating dinner with family; the delicious New Jersey lobsters; finally preparing lobster in the kitchen my grandfather did, which is one of my favorite summer memories of childhood; or because we actually killed the food we ate which gave us an overwhelming sense of responsibility and our place in the world, but it was the best lobster dinner I have ever had, hands down.

We steamed them for 15 minutes and served with the herb butter from our lobster grilling feast.

On a lighter note, my two-year old daughter, Vivien, made her first recipe, good girl. For days she has been at me to "make a chippy thing" which she explains by holding up a yellow, plastic disc from a game and her tiny rolling pin. I finally had time to take her up on it yesterday. I asked her what we do and she explained that we need flour. The following is my recollection of what we made (there was not time to write anything down!). With very little guidance from me, we took her ideas and made what the rest of us would call a pie.

Vivien's Little Chippy Thing

2 cups flour
1 pinch salt
6 TBSP butter, cut into small pieces
4 TBSP Crisco
4 TBSP ice cold water

In a medium mixing bowl, add flour and salt. Cut in butter and Crisco. Sprinkle in water and mix with hands until it just forms a lump. Split into two and roll each out into 8-inch round crusts. Put one in the bottom of an 8-inch pie plate.

Liberally cover the bottom crust with 1/2 to 3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chips.

Pour over the chips:
2 cups blueberries
1 cup strawberries
2 cups peaches

If using frozen fruit, put fruit in a pan over medium heat until just defrosted. Strain juice out (save for drinking or ice cream or a sauce, etc.) and add fruit into pie pan.

Cover with top crust and crimp closed.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour, or until starting to brown. Remove and let cool. Enjoy.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hot Day Cool Food

I know summer has set in when I wake up with even the sheet in a twisted pile at the end of the bed and almost don't want hot coffee because the night's cool air has barely penetrated the kitchen.  It's time for salad salad and more salad.  Even the kids turn away hot pastas for the stuff.  But that means we need lots of variety.  This one calls for a little stovetop cooking, resulting in gently wilted greens that are still plenty of cool base for this rich, warm dinner salad.  And just in case digestion is a little warming, there's ice cream at the end!

This is a super easy meal for 4, but cooks and guests (double, triple, etc. the ingredients) will be even happier with Dave's latest cocktail creation to start things off:

2 oz vanilla vodka
1/2 oz B&B
1/2 oz Cointreau
Stir with ice; serve in a chilled cocktail glass with a lemon twist

There are a lot of short steps.  Done in the right order, they make for quick cooking.

Mix in a small bowl. then rub onto 1 lb steak tips:
1 T brown sugar
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garam marsala
1/2 tsp. salt
Set aside

Peel and cut into sticks:
1 parsnip
4 carrotts
1 bunch beets
Saute the parsnip and carrots in one pan and the beets in another, each with about 1 T olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper, until soft, about 10-15 minutes.

Cut 4 garlic scapes into 1/2" pieces.  Saute in about 1 T olive oil--with a sprinkle of salt--on low until crisp and browning, about 15 minutes. 

Wash and rip 1 head lettuce
cut in half 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
shell fresh peas to get 1/2 cup
wash 1 cup lentil or any other kind of sprouts

Saute the steak tips in olive oil over medium heat until medium rare, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove from heat and tent for a few minutes.  Then slice into thin pieces.

Prepare a vinaigrette

Compose the salad in serving plates, with warm veggies and meat on top.  Drizzle with vinaigrette.

Heat 2 cups half and half and 1 T vanilla to almost boiling
Add 1/2 cup sugar and stir until well disolved
drizzle in 3 egg yolks, whisking constantly
Whisk over a medium heat until the mixture begins to thicken
Remove from heat and stir in 1 1/2 cups cherries, pitted, halved, and gently mashed

Cool to room temperature (in a bath of ice water if you're in a hurry).

Stir in:
1/2 cup melted chocolate chips
4 chopped marshmallows

Pour into ice cream maker and process as per instructions

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

In Which We Meet Turnip Dave and Eat Kebabs

The farmers' market has begun! We got lovely beef kebabs, cherry tomatoes, and asparagus. And, please forgive the repetition, we had just a few more things frozen from last year (shrimp and mango) and - gasp! - 6 more roots that needed to be used up. As we were completely out of root ideas, we put Dave on the job. He's a cocktail master and leftover genius, but we weren't sure how he would do with old parsnips and turnips. We shouldn't have worried. The resulting hash was delicious and, to prove it, the kids asked for seconds.

Turnip Dave's Root Hash

makes enough for a small side for 4 adults or 2 generous sides

3 turnips, grated
3 parsnips, grated
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/8 cup chopped fresh oregano
1 teas. sugar
pinch salt
2 TBSP safflower or canola oil

Put all ingredients except oil in a mixing bowl and mix well. 

Heat oil in a frying pan over medium low heat. Add mix from bowl and press down with a spatula. Turn every 5 minutes until it is all thoroughly browned, ~ 45 minutes.


makes enough for 4 adults with a few side dishes

1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled but with tails on

Shrimp marinade
1/2 cup lime juice
1/4 cup tequila
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teas. salt
1/2 teas. pepper
1 chipotle pepper, finely chopped
2 teas. adobo sauce from chipotles

mix marinade well and place in a covered dish or ziploc bag. Add shrimp, stir well, and let sit, stirring every once in a while.

1 lb. beef steak kebab (1 inch cubes)

Steak marinade
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
3 TBSP rice vinegar
1 TBSP sesame seeds
1 teas. sugar
1 teas. grated ginger
1/2 teas. wasabi paste
1/8 teas. crushed red pepper

mix marinade well and place in a covered dish or ziploc bag. Add steak, stir well, and let sit, stirring every once in a while.

1 quart cherry tomatoes

2 mangoes cut into 1/2" chunks or 1 pint strawberries, green removed

Marinate the steak and shrimp 1 hour up to overnight prior to grilling. Alternate shrimp, steak, cherry tomatoes, and mango or other fruit on skewers. Grill 5 to 10 minutes, depending on grill heat, until meat is medium rare.

Hollandaise sauce for steamed or grilled asparagus

makes enough for 2 bunches asparagus

This is salty, and re considered reducing the salt, but served over steamed asparagus, it was perfect. If cooking the asparagus in any way that calls for salt, reduce the salt in the hollandaise by half.

1 stick butter cut into 1/2" pieces 
2 TBSP water
1 TBSP vinegar
1 teas. salt
1 teas. pepper
4 egg yolks
1/2 lime, juiced
2 TBSP water

Heat water in the bottom of a double boiler. 

In the top of the double boiler pan set directly onto the stovetop bring water, vinegar, salt, and pepper to a boil and then place it onto the double boiler bottom. 

Add in the egg yolks, whisking until they are slightly fluffy.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter chunks. Then whisk in lime juice and remaining 2 TBSP water.

Serve immediately or keep warm over a warm water bath.

Cherry Sorbet 

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup puréed and strained cherries in syrup
4 teas. lemon juice

Combine sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until sugar dissolves. Cool.

Add cherries and lemon juice. Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze for 25 - 30 minutes. Remove from ice cream maker, place in a freezer-proof container with a lid and freeze for at least 2 hours more.

We served these in Gourmet Cookbook's popovers (which we called homemade cones!). The popovers have no sugar and were a great contrast to the sweet sorbet. The kids loved it, too.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

We Won!

Marx Foods awarded us the best dried mushroom recipe award for our oyster-stuffed morels with grits!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Open Markets, Lush Gardens, and Still a Few Things In the Bottom of the Freezer

....and I'm ripe for a new experiment, so here it is: for the rest of the summer, I'm going to do my food shopping at the Farmer's Markets and Sherman Market.  I started to say all, but I know already there are exceptions.  I'll need coffee and citrus and four and sugar and a wider array of dairy than Sherman carries.  But that's a pretty short list.  I'm totally putting on the table all of the other stuff that's already in my pantry.  In fact, half of the experiment is designed to get those jars of "what is this again?" into a meal somewhere and that will probably happen when I'm so desperate for something starchy that I actually read back through packages of amaranth and cracked bulghur and remember why I bought it in the first place.

If this meal is any indication, it'll be one of the best-tasting summers ever! 

Farmers Markets around the Great Boston area opened last weekend, this, and next.  We went to Central Square on Monday and got veal chops.  Now, veal has been villified because of the awful ways that it's produced in factory farms, but real veal is a perfectly humane byproduct of good cattle farming.  Especially in dairy operations, but also in any cattle setup, the bull population should be kept down.  They don't produce milk and they often do produce social  problems, and more when their numbers are up.  So young bulls need to be slaughtered.  Yes, their meat is particularly tender, but in the case of real veal this is because they're young, not because they're mistreated.  Obviously, if you aren't into killing animals for food, veal isn't a great choice, but if you're a carnivore real veal is a delight: lean but buttery tender and beefy without a hint of game.

The Farmer's Market had beets, turnips, and parnsips, but believe it or not, we still have root veggies from last year!  The last of Vermont's Deep Root selection that we scooped up from Whole Foods a few weeks ago is just barely beginning to show signs of softness at the bottom of my veggie drawer, and still tastes delicious.

Mass Farmers Markets sent out an email last week saying that strawberries would be at the markets this week, but they were a little overeager, it turns out.  The farmers at Central Square said next week for the strawberries, but we still have frozen raspberries!  With the freezing, we really have managed to have local fruit all year round. 


Very lightly, rub a few teaspoons of red wine sauce with berries over 4 veal chops.  Salt and pepper.  Broil 2-3 minutes per side (for thin chops)

Serve with red wine sauce with berries, and chimmy finade (recipe below).  For best results, put the two sauces in the centr of the chop right next to each other, and let them mix as you eat.

This is our cross between a chimichurri and chiffonade ("chimmy finade"):

Finely chop:
leaves from 3 stalks mint
1/4 bunch cilantro
4 medium garlic cloves

Mix with:
3 tsp. lemon juice
2 T olive oil
1 tsp. salt


Peel and chop into 1-12/2" cubes:
2 large beets
1 small golden beet
1 large rutabaga
Lay out on a cookie pan and cover with tin foil.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until tender.  Dump into a bowl and, using a ricer, mash well (the beets are a little hard to mash and will always keep a few small chunks, but with a little elbow grease they can really get quite mashed up) with:
2 T butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup sour cream


When I went down to pick lettuce for today's salad, I discovered it had started to bolt.  As lettuce turns its energy to making flowers (aka bolting), the leaves tend to get bitter.  But I tasted a few as I picked, and while they were strong, they weren't unpleasant yet.  Renee invented the perfect cooling dressing to pair with the sharp greens:

1/2 cup yogurt
2 T lemon juice
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper


Place into a saucepan:

2/3 cup finely sliced rhubarb
3/4 tsp. thinly sliced orange zest
juice of 1/2 orange (1/3 cup)
1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup frozen raspberries
1/8 cup water

Bring to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.  Pass through a fine mesh seive.  Cool in an ice water bath (put the bowl with the strained syrup into another, larger, bowl filled with ice water).  Pour about 3/4" of the syrup into the bottom of a champagne flute.  Fill the rest of the way with champagne.  This recipe makes enough for 6.  Works woderfully as a nonalcoholic drink with ginger ale or sparkling water.