Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sourdough Bread

With spurts of more and less intensity, I've been baking sourdough bread at home for about six years now.  Last week, I made this.

I've never written it up here because I use a cookbook--Nancy Silverton's La Brea Bread Book.  But my mom pointed out recently that "use" has become fairly loose for me.  I open the book, or rather, I sort of tilt it around and it flops wide to exactly where I want, the binding splayed and half broken there, the pages splotted with grease marks and uneven from wet hands dribbling over them so many times.  I need that recipe there as a reference point - the basic idea of how much starter, water, and flour somehow is so nicely lodged in those pages that I've found no need to also store it in my head.  In fact, one of the things I love about sourdough bread is how little in my head any of it is.  The feel of wet enough or dry enough under my palms, the look of flour peaks tumbling into water pools, the sense of life bubbling and bulging under plastic wrap on the countertop direct me to stop and start, add and knead, just that much just then; of course, it's just that much more or less than what Nancy Silverton suggests.  All of my creativity in breadmaking is in relation to her anchor.  But with her anchor solidly embedded in scientific explanations and fancy material, I can follow a whim, get delayed by poor planning or unexpected anythings, and use nothing but the most basic kitchen tools.  I don't have a fancy mixer or a baking stone, and certainly nothing like a bread maker.   The single greatest think I've figured out about sourdough bread is that I can shove the dough into the fridge at any stage at all for up to 2 days, and then just pull it out and pick up wherever I was, and I can do this three or four times with the same loaf.  It's that forgiving.  I've made bread where I forgot to add half of the water, where I added twice the salt, and where I left out the sugar alltogether, and it's still always not just edible but downright good.  So this is my call for any and everyone to get a copy of the La Brea book, and start playing around. 

Silverton explains how to make your own sourdough starter from scratch.  You can do that.  Or if you live in Somerville or nearby, ask and I can give you some of mine.  That starter can last in the back of the fridge untouched for months.  Like, six of them.  At least.  But if you want bread, you do have to take it out. 

So I start with a half cup of starter, because otherwise it takes up a lot of flour, and it really works well with that much.  A day before I want to make bread, any time before noon basically, I put the half cup of starter and equal parts white flour, ideally bread flour but not necessarily and warm water into a big bowl, stir a little, and cover with saran wrap.  Let it sit 4-6 hours, more or less.  Add now 1 cup water and 1 cup flour, stir in, and let sit another 4-6 hours, very approximately.  Then add 2 cups water and 2 cups flour, stir and cover, and let sit overnight, 8-12 hours. 

If you wake up and you don't really have time or energy to do anything else, make a bread that asks for a sponge, which is a little starter, a little flour, a little water, a little salt, a little sweeter and often a little dairy, that you stir together and set aside, usually on the counter for about 5 hours and then in the fridge for longer.  No kneading yet.  For this I use as my base Silverton's Sourdough Walnut Bread. 

If you wake up and you're ready to go, go for a bread that gets kneaded right away, with the starter, some water, some flour, and some sweetener.  For this I use as my base Silverton's Basic Country White. 

For either bread, and you can really at this point use any sourdough bread recipe you like, the thing about the adding all the flour and water and kneading it is this: I start with about a cup less flour than is recommended, and I use whatever random combination of flours I feel like, I don't quite measure anything but the flour and water, and I start it.  Kneading if it's too wet is a little messy, but in a sticky fun way, and it's really easy to add in more flour, just keep sprinkling a quarter cup at a time onto the counter and kneading into it.  This kneading part is a great workout.  It's a five minute intense burst, all biceps and triceps.  Then, it sits.  If you have time, there's this cool part where you leave it on the counter 20 minutes, knead it five minutes more, then move on.   That's a great time to add in any nuts or seeds that you want to add in.  You can skip that step if you don't have time. 

Then you let it rise on the counter or in the fridge for a while.  Basically, it's good to let it get a little counter time for starters 1-5 hours, and then throw it in the fridge for a minimum of whatever time is listed and a maximum of whatever fits your schedule. 

The basic next step is to cut the dough in half, roll it gently into watever shape you'll cook it in, and "proof" it.  You can just make a shape and put it on a tray, or you can make a shape and put it into a bowl that it'll kindof mold to - if you want pretty patterns on the top, use a bowl with pretty patterns.  You can use wicker or rattan or something and flour it well and the dough won't stick.  Then cover it and leave it on the counter 3-4 hours or in the fridge as long as you need.  If you've put it in the fridge, pull it out and leave it on the coutner 3-4 hours before you bake it. 

Then if it's in a bowl put it on a tray, heat the over to 500, then lower to 450 and bake for 45 minutes.  For great crust, Silverton gives this formula: use a spray bottle and spray water into the over once when you put the loaves in and 3 more times in the first five minutes.  Then leave it closed 20 minutes.  At 20 minutes, I have to take it out, spin the loaves and switch the shelves of the two loaves because my oven is so uneven.  Then bake another 20 minutes and voila. 

Ok, this was a long post and bread making does all in all take a long time, but with such ability to pause and shorten or quicken it, it can fit into any schedule!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hearty Rice Pilaf

I was making Lamb Bandit Style from Greek Cooking for the Gods - one of my childhood favorites whose realtime flavor actually matches my memory.  I had "bone-in stew meat" as one of the cuts from my half lamb about 6 medallion shaped rounds probably weighing 2 lbs.  I cut each one into about 3 big bite-size chunks, leaving in the bone because my son is obsessed with any meat "on the bone" thanks to Tom and Jerry.  If there's a television show that I can credit with inspiring good eating habits, it's Tom and Jerry.  The manners they inspire may be questionable, but after he's been watching a few episodes of Tom and Jerry, my son starts asking for sandwiches with lettuce and tomatoes and sprouts and anything else I can pile on, and meat on the bone!  So the meat was set, but then I wanted some kind of rice and one person coming over I thought maybe was a vegetarian so I wanted the rice to be able to serve as a meal.  Plus I'm always looking for ways to get more veggies onto my plate.  Rice pilaf is the solution.  It goes perfectly with the lamb, and also works very nicely on its own.

Hearty Rice Pilaf
serves 4
2 shallotts, minced
1 bunch baby spinached, chopped very thin (or 1 bunch frozen chopped spinach)
1 package-size bunch of mushrooms (crimini or baby bell or anything else on the mild side), sliced
1.5 cups brown rice
3 cups chicken broth or water
salt and pepper
olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan.  Saute shallotts until soft and  beginning to brown.  Add mushrooms, salt, pepper, and about 1 sprig's worth of fresh or dried oregano and thyme and saute until the mushrooms are nice and soft (about 10 minutes).  Stir in spinach until completely wilted.  Stir in rice until well blended.  Add broth or water.  Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to low and cook without lifting lid any more than necessary until water is absorbed, about 40 minutes. 

Monday, December 12, 2011


The past month or two, I've been in a cooking slump.  Instead of excitedly reading food magazines, making menus, browsing grocery story aisles in anticipation of kitchen fun, I nixed most new ideas as too time consuming or too likely to meet with groans from my son.  The low point: when I realized that we were looping the same seven meals, and Monday had become not just pasta night but spaghetti with red sauce.  The ribs last week (see previous post) gave me a hint of the old fun, and salivation.  So then Renée and I challenged each other: make a menu for the week and Sunday night let's come up with something totally new and seasonal and fun and delicious.  Success: here it is!!!!!!

First, cocktails by Dave.

New England Whiskey Sour
2 oz bourbon
1/2 oz lemon juice
1/2 oz maple syrup
1/8 oz cranberry juice concentrate

Shake, pour, garnish with a cranberry or two. 

Then, salmon burgers with aoili and roasted brussels sprouts with cranberries and maple syrup.

The salmon is from Alaska, but Renée's cousin who lives on the Cape caught it there herself - somehow that makes it feel local.  Cranberries and brussels sprouts and maple syrup, local and seasonal.  And guess what else: the parsley!  Thanks to global warming or whatever is causing this nice warm December, I still have rows of little bushy fresh parsley plants in the back yard. 

Salmon Burgers
serves 4

1 lb. salmon
1 large bunch parsley, finely chopped (makes about 1 cup chopped parsley)
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 egg
1 medium clove garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
1/3 cup bread crumbs
2 tsp. soy sauce
1/8 tsp. ground pepper

Lay the salmon on a baking sheet and bake, uncovered, at 375 for about 30 minutes or until cooked through.  When the salmon is cooked, break it up with a fork, making sure to remove skin and bones, and put it in a bowl with all of the other ingredients.  Mix well with hands, until it will all adhere into a nice tight patty. 

At first, it looks like this might not happen, but if you really almost knead it with your hands, it all comes together.  Form into patties and cook in a pan over medium heat until nicely browned on both sides, 5-7 minutes per side.  Serve with aoili to drizzle over.

2 egg yolks
1 tsp mustard
1/8 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
approx. 1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic, minced

Whisk together the egg yolks, mustard, pepper and salt.  Very slowly, drizzle in olive oil, whisking quickly and constantly.  This is easiest to do with two people.  Continue adding olive oil and whisking until the mixture turns from a bright yellow to a light yellow, and about triples in volume.  Add in garlic and serve immediately.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries and Maple Syrup
1 lb brussels sprouts, halved
1/2 cup whole cranberries
2 tsp. maple syrup
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper

Spread the brussels sprouts and cranberries on a baking pan.  Drizzle with syrup, olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Toss. 

Roast at 375 for 30-40 minutes, until brussels sprouts just begin to brown, tossing once halfway through.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lamb ribs

I can usually count on one of my French or Mexican cookbooks to have recipes for kinds and cuts of meats that even some of the more adventurous American standards like the Joy of Cooking or Gourmet eschew.  I found a whole bunch of goat recipes in Cocinero Mexicano, a 19th century Mexican cookbook that was reprinted a few years ago, and I felt totally connected to traditions of the Americas and ancient wisdom as I read up on how the meat of a goat that's nursed only from its mother is more tender while that of a goat that's nursed from the whole herd is more flavorful.  I love imagining a world where I'd know, and anyonw who bought a cookbook would know, who the goat I'm eating nursed from--not in a macabre or self-flagellating way, but in a totally connected to the cycle of life kind of way.  Not one of my adventurous or well-grounded books, however, even suggest a recipe for lamb ribs.  But lambs have ribs.  And since I bought a half a lamb last month, I have a half rack of lamb ribs.  I looked at beef rib recipes and didn't have time or energy to braise first and then broil.  I looked at pork rib recipes and thought they looked pretty easy.  Apparently, lucky for me, lam ribs cook like pork ribs!  These were delicious.  Tender and deeply flavorful with a lovely little crunch on the outside.  A great hit with my son partly because he likes the flavor of "meat" (ie, red) and mostly because he loves to eat anything "on the bone" Tom and Jerry style. 

Lamb Ribs
serves 2-3

1/2 rack of lamb ribs (about 1.5 lbs)
1 large clove garlic, minced
2-3 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 sprig rosemary, minced
1 tsp. coarsly ground pepper
1 T olive oil

Blend together all of the ingredients and rub all over the ribs.  Let sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.  Heat oven to 350.  Place ribs on a roasting pan boney side up and roast 45 minutes.  Turn meaty side up and roast another 30-45 minutes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Potato Leek Soup

A friend called earlier today to ask me for this recipe.  It's so easy, I could tell her over the phone without even waiting for her to grab a pencil.  Simple.  Delicious.  Even my 6-year-old likes it.  Uses the potatoes that are in season and the broth that I always end up with in overflow after Thanksgiving.  Oh.  Belongs on the blog.

Potato Leek Soup
Serves 4 as a meal

3-4 large leeks
6-8 medium-large potatoes (any kind works; a mix of types leads to the most complex flavor)
4-6 cups chicken or tukey broth
1/4-1/2 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
olive oil

Wash and slice the leeks, up through the tender green (about 3/4 up the whole leek usually).  Heat 1-2 T olive oil and saute leeks in olive oil for about 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and slice into 1/4" slices.  Toss potatoes in with leeks and saute for 30 seconds.  Add broth, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then simmer low for about 30 minutes.  If you have an immersion blender, use it to beld the soup smooth.  Otherwise, blend the soup in a blender in 2-3 batches.  If you're using a blender, be sure to leave a little opening for air and to hold down the top with a dish rag as hot stuff in blenders can explode and burn.  Return to pot, stir in cheese, and serve immediately.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde

As fall roasting comes along, I tend to turn toward the sweetness of apples and pumpkins, cider braises and maple syrup or red wine sauces to stave off the encroaching chill.  But New England Fall crops are also perfect for another option: firey tart salsa verde. 

I often feel a little unorthodox when I turn my Somerville local and seasonal ingredients into Mexican classics.  If the Massachusset and the Puritans didn't make it, if no one could image it in Fannie Farmer's kitchen, is it really local and seasonal?  I guess what I'm getting at is a whole series of questions: Are we thinking of local and seasonal as what CAN be grown in New England at this time of year, or what HAS been grown in New England at this time of year?  At what point does something start to qualify as a "native" ingredient?  What kind of historical research am I asking myself to undertake?  Are the benefits of a "local diet" based not only on ingredients that are tasty and healthy because they are local and fresh, but also on the nutritional balance of established food traditions (think: the Meditrranean Diet)?  What about the variety and rebalancing offered by the (im)migration of crops and peoples?  Didn't pasta come to Italy from China, potatoes to Ireland from South America?  Will we one day talk about that New England classic, Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde?

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa Verde
3 jalapenos (if you still have them fresh whole, great.  They were in season about a month ago, though, so I have bags of them choppend and frozen, which preserves them wonderfully)
10 tomatillos
2 green tomatoes
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
2 yellow or green peppers
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Cut the yellow or green peppers in half and remove the seeds.  Line a baking sheet or two with tin foil.  Lay the jalapenos (if you have them whole), tomatillos (whole, with papery outside removed), green tomatoes (whole), and yellow or green peppers on the baking sheet and roast at 350 for 45-60 minutes, until beginning to brown.  Remove from oven and as soon as they are cool enough to handle, roughly chop.  Meanwhile, chop the onion and garlic and saute until beginning to turn golden.  Add all of the other ingredients and simmer low, stirring occasionally, for 45-60 minutes.  Roughly blend using an immersion blender or food processor.  Store in the refrigerator for up to one month.

This can also be canned, but to do so you'll have to add a bunch of lemon or lime juice or citric acid--I'm still working on the perfect version so stay tuned!

My favorite ways to use this salsa are as a dip for chips, as a layer in burritos or enchiladas or nachos, or in carne molida.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Apples Galore

According to one of the cereal boxes that I was reading out loud at breakfast this morning, there are 7,500 apple varieties.  I've been eating a lot of them lately.  They come from the CSA every week.  I went apple picking.  My son's school went apple picking.  I thought I was overwhelmed with apples, and tired of them.  I made an apple pie to bring to Renee's just to get rid of apples.  And then, three days ago, I ran out of apples.  I got my last CSA delivery of the year tonight, thankfully with 8 beautiful apples.  These ones I'm going to cherish, and will only eat raw.  But I might sacrifice one for sauteed chicken and apples.  In the midst of my apple pile-up, I had fantasized about apple stuffing and roast chicken with apples, and I had about 30 minutes to get dinner done.  Sometimes, fast and easy is better all around. 

Sauteed Chicken and Apples
Serves 2

2 chicken pieces with skin (I prefer drumstick)
1 large onion
1 large apple
olive oil
salt and pepper

Chop the onion and saute briefly in a large skillet with olive oil, 1-2 minutes
Peel and slice the apple and add to pan
Salt and pepper
Push apple and onion to the side, turn up heat, and brown chicken on both sides
Lower heat to medium-low, spread apple and onion around pan and saute, stirring occasionally to keep onion from burning, until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. 

Excellent with oven fries, mashed potatoes, roasted root veggies, or squash.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Goat Stew

This recipe goes out to Amy Leah, who requested a recipe to use the goat meat she got from the local market. We could only come up with 1 lb. of goat meat, but made a recipe that fed 6 adults anyway. It was nicely root vegetable heavy, but if you are able to procure more than 1 lb. (we'd actually recommend 2 lbs.), just add in the extra meat and follow the recipe as is.

1 TBSP olive oil
1 lb. goat meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 large onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 medium potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 beets, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 medium turnips, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 carrots, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, very coarsely chopped
1/2 teas. oregano
1/2 teas. pepper
2 teas. rosemary, chopped fine
1/2 teas. cumin
1 to 1 1/2 teas. salt
1 dash ground cloves
3 cups stock (we used a lamb/beef combo but chicken or vegetable would be good, too)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a Dutch oven or other deep-sided, heavy pot with a cover that can go on the stove top and oven, brown meat in oil, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Using a slotted spoon (to keep oil in pan), remove to a bowl.

Saute onions for 3 to 4 minutes. Add garlic, saute another 3 to 4 minutes.

Add rest of ingredients.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours, covered. Increase oven temp to 350 degrees, remove cover, stir, and bake another hour.

Can be served as is or over noodles or with bread. Check to see if more salt is needed.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Yummy Smoothie

Taking advantage of both a freezer full of gorgeous frozen fruit and a stunningly warm October day, Cal and Dave made smoothies. As their name implies, they were yummy!

The Yummy Smoothies

serves 4

In a blender add:

2 large handfuls frozen raspberries
2 large handfuls frozen strawberries
1 large handful frozen peaches
3 large spoonfuls yogurt
1 cup milk
4 ice cubes

Blend until very smooth. This takes a while. Stop every so often to stir the mixture.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall is for Roasting (Squash, Apples, Onions, and Chicken)

Sometimes, I'm just blown away by the brilliance of the universe.  Just as the evenings get cool and I start craving carbs, here at the CSA and in the Farmers' Markets are piles of squash that just need a nice half hour in a warm oven.  Could thousands of plants really have deloped over thousands of years to so perfectly answer drafty old New England houses and how much I love to gather with friends in a toasty kitchen?  Well, I guess evolution isn't something with which one has a personal relationship, but often it's at the turning of the seasons that I am most struck by the alignment between what we, in any given place, want and need to eat and what is just ripe and ready in that very place right around us. 

Apple-stuffed Roast Chicken with Roasted Squash, Potatoes, Apples, and Onion
Serves 4-6

Apple-stuffed Roast Chicken with Squash
2 cups bread cubes (fresh or stale)
1/4 cup butter
1 medium apple, peeled and cubed
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
1/4 tsp. curry powder
5 cloves garlic, halved
a 3-4 lb. chicken
1 large winter squash (acorn, butternut, or any other variety works perfectly), peeled, seeded and cubed

Toss all of the stuffing ingredients together. 

Set the chicken into a roasting pan and rub with salt and pepper.  Put stuffing into the cavity of the chicken, without overstuffing. 

Spread any extra aound the outside, mixed in with the squash.  Roast, uncovered, at 425 for about 90 minutes. 

Roasted Squash, Potatoes, Apples, and Onion
1 large red onion
4 small or 2 large potatoes
2 large Macoun Cortland apples
2 small or 1 medium winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc)
2 T olive oil
sea salt and pepper

Peel, seed and cube all of the ingredients, making sure the pieces are roughly all the same size.  Toss in a large bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Spread on a baking sheet and roast at 425 for 30 minutes.
If you eat poultry, toss these with the squash and leftover stuffing from the chicken pan just before serving.  Otherwise, put into a serving bowl and toss.   The apples will have softened significantly (that's why we recommend these types, other apples hold their shape better when baking), and as you toss them they'll give a tangy sweet coating to the whole delicious pile.  This is so hearty it can work as a vegetarian main dish. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kale Chips

Thanks to Kiersten, who submitted a query about including more leafy greens, especially kale, in her diet. Our immediate thought was . . . kale chips!

These are easy, quick, and delicious. We have found that kids usually like them, too.

Start with one bunch of clean, dry kale. Any variety works, though we prefer curly leafed varieties.

Preheat oven to 375.

Remove the stems and tear remaining leaves into ~ 2 inch pieces.

Place on a cookie sheet and gently rub olive oil evenly onto leaves, coating them completely but lightly. We find it easiest to drizzle a small amount of oil over the leaves and then gently toss with our hands, adding more oil if needed.

Spread kale out in one layer. You may need to get out a second cookie sheet.

Grind some black pepper over the leaves and then add a very small amount of salt (~ 1/8 teas. per cookie sheet). You may need to add more when the kale is done, but the kale reduces enough during cooking that adding what seems like the right amount of salt first will make for very salty chips.

Bake for 10 minutes or so, then remove and stir up kale, again spreading it out in a single layer. Bake another 10 minutes. Stir. Repeat until the chips are crispy, ~ 20 to 30 minutes.

These can be kept in an air-tight container for a few days, but they probably won't last longer than one dinner. Experiment with adding other spices (garlic powder, paprika, etc.).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

not-so-hidden squash pasta carbonara

Thank you to everyone who has sent in requests!  I've started with: "My family of four consists of a vegetarian, a celiac, a picky child, and a child who will eat most things as long as they are not spicy at all. Have you got a recipe for that? If not, anything with pumpkin or squash would be good."  I usually like to approach food by thinking expansively about what I love and what is delicious about an ingredient or a dish or an idea, but lately that's gotten me into a rut.  I've become familiar enough with our local, seasonal offerings that there are two or three ways to prepare everything that I bring home from the CSA or the farmers' market or my back yard  that I know I love and find delicious, and then I can't think beyond those.  Any creativity I might retain is further mutilated by the thousand little concerns about lack of time and fear of the showdown with my culinarily unadventurous and picky son.  No wonder then that I'm suddently attracted to the restrictive model.  Though in fact this recipe requires modification at every step to be gluten-free and vegetarian, and my picky son didn't like it at all (he doesn't like squash; I thought hiding it in pasta would work.  It didn't.  When he looked at the food on the plate, he was delighted.  The first bite, he gobbled.  On the second bite, he looked concerned.  By the third bite, we had a showdown.  If I'm lucky, he learned something about how to politely decline food, and I learned that it's not so much the look or the idea of squash he doesn't like, but the taste.)

Like most great Italian dishes, this one is inspired by a recipe of Marcela Hazan's ("Carbonara Sauce"), but makes such significant changes that it's a different suace entirely.

Squash Pasta Carbonara
serves 4-6

1 lb. bacon
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated romano cheese
1 cup roasted squash
black pepper
1 box pasta

Start with roasting the squash.   This can be done up to three days in advance.  Cut a winter variety squash in half and remove seeds.  Set, cut-side-down, on a pan lined with tin foil.  Bake at 350 for about an hour.  Scrape insides out of the "shell" and set aside. 
     Heat pasta water.  Cut bacon into 1/4" pieces and saute until just crispy.  Smash garlic cloves with flat side of knife and remove skin and cook in with bacon.  (obviously, if you're vegetarian, skip the bacon part but do saute the garlic in olive oil and then warm the cream in the pan).  Meanwhile, mix the eggs (lightly beaten), grated cheese, roasted squash, pepper and salt.  Add cream to bacon and stir; reduce to very low heat.
     Cook pasta according to directions (I like spaghetti or penne for this sauce; and of course if you're gluten-free use a gluten-free pasta).  Drain but not too well, so there's still a little hot water in with the pasta.  Pour immediately into squash mixture and then add bacon. 
     Serve immediately, with extra grated cheese on the side.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Reader Participation Requested!

Hello Friends.

Keja and I have been posting new recipes to this blog for three years now - sometimes frequently, and, if you still follow us of late, sometimes not very often. The reason for our blogosphere silence of late is two-fold: we have been working this summer to prepare our recipes for their original intent - a cookbook; the other reason is that we have run out of ideas.

So, we now throw the ball to you, gentle readers. Do you have cravings, beloved dishes grandma made that you don't have a recipe for, questions on how best to use the 18 squash you just got from the CSA? Well, we can help! Send us your recipe request as a comment to this post and we will do our best to rise to the challenge and provide you with a delicious recipe.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Stuffed Peppers in Preparation for a Hurricane

We are waiting for Hurricane Irene and had a busy afternoon putting everything away outdoors that could potentially become a projectile object. We also have a bounty of tomatoes, peppers, and basil from our own yard and the CSA. How to feed a hungry bunch? Stuffed peppers!

Stuffed Peppers

feeds 4

4 bell peppers, any color, cut in half lengthwise and deseeded
8 oz mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1.5 cups tomatoes, cut into chunks
1/4 to 1 cup basil, depending on your love of it, thinly sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1 teas. salt
1 teas. pepper

Preheat oven to 375.

Place peppers in a baking dish or cookie sheet, cut side up.

Mix remaining ingredients in a bowl. Divide among peppers.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until cheese is melted and starting to bubble.

Eat and wait for hurricane.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Note to Self on Tomatoes and Mint-Garlic Semi-Boneless Leg of Lamb

I have four gorgeous tomato plants in my raised bed. They are seven feet high, have thick, dark green stems, no sign of wilt or browning on leaves. True specimens. Except that they have five tomatoes between them. These are the same seeds I've successfully used the past two years, the same growing conditions. If anything, Dave and I were priding ourselves on the massive amounts of compost we added this spring. And thus explains our problem: we have too much nitrogen and not enough phosphorus. Who knew? Not us. Which made me realize that I have no idea about how to fertilize the garden, or the flowering plants, or my houseplants, for that matter. So, I got on the trusty internet and bought crazy amounts of organic fertilizers that the kind people at North Country Organics in Vermont recommended (as did my gardener brother-in-law). Plus, I bought worm castings for my indoor plants. It's good that my kids interrupted me or who knows what else I would have purchased.

Now that I've harvested my garlic and I have mint overtaking the side bed, and I'm feeling iron deficient, I am going to make a minty-garlicky, semi-boneless leg of lamb.

Mint-Garlic Semi-Boneless Leg of Lamb

Preheat oven to 400.

In a small bowl, mix together the following:

2 TBSP garlic, minced or crushed
1 packed cup mint, chopped medium
1 teas. salt
1 teas. pepper
2 TBSP olive oil

Rub all over a 2.5 to 3 lb. semi-boneless leg of lamb.

Put in a roasting pan and bake until thermometer reads appropriate temp for your eating pleasure (I prefer 126 degrees for medium-rare), approximately 1 hour.

The CSA recently had lovely golf ball-sized yellow potatoes.

Roasted Young Yellow Potatoes

Clean and eye and cut in half as many potatoes as you can eat and then add in a few more (you'll eat these, too). Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 400, turning every 20 minutes or so, until browned and tender, ~ 1 hour.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pesto, Tomato, and Goat Cheese Sandwiches

Big bags of slightly bruised basil are arriving weekly from the CSA, the basil in my garden is trying to go to flower, and every neighbor I stop to chat with offers me some...fresh basil!  I love basil, but it does not save well, unless of course it's made into pesto!  One of the things I've discovered lately about pesto is that it is endlessly variable. 

There's a basic pesto base: dark leafy green, garlic, olive oil, nuts, and grated hard salty cheese.  Spinach is a great substitute for basil, and walnuts or almonds can esaily replace pine nuts, and romano, ricotta salata, or even queso seco can be used in place of parmesan.  for extra richness, add butter.  Use about 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/2 cup cheese per 2 cups of greens, but that's really give or take 1/4 cup, a small or large handfull of nuts is nice, and the garlic can be anywhere from 1-4 cloves... Put it all in a cuisinart for a few minutes, and voila.  If you're going to freeze it, which you can very easily, you can leave out the cheese and butter till you take it back out and thaw, or not. 

Pesto pizza is a particularly delicious way to get 6 and under crowd to eat greens, but for a quicker and perhaps more elegant option, pesto sandwiches are great.  I've been making a sourdough walnut bread from Nancy Silverton's LeBrea Bread Book that brings out the nutty quality of the pesto, especially if you've made the pesto with walnuts.  As you can guess from all of the different ways they're put together, tomatoes and pesto are a great match. A few dabs of goat cheese turn into into the traditional Italian red, green, and white, and make it more of a meal.  Eat it cold, or pass it under the broiler for 5 minutes!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Watermellon Salad with Cilantro and Feta

My watermellon vines are actually flowering this year!  I don't hold out much hope for actual fruit, but this is the first year I've gotten beyond the inch-high stage. I can take no credit, the ones I planted are still only inch-high; the flowering vine is a volunteer from the compost pile.  It's probably a distant relative to the beautiful yellow watermellon I got in my CSA share from Red Fire Farm last week.  And now I have another reason to love the seeds that come in those watermellons (the earlier reasons: fruit has seeds, and many childhood games involving spitting watermellon seeds, sticking watermellon seeds to foreheads...).  For the salad, you'll want to take out the seeds, but then throw them into the compost bin, or straight into a yard somewhere!

Watermellon is fantastic in any and everything, but the pairing with cilantro really makes this dish - I serve it as a light lunch or dinner, with sourdough walnut bread that I make from Nancy Silverton's LeBrea bread book

Watermellon Salad with Cilantro and Feta
serves 2-4 (depending on whether it's a main dish or a side)

1 head mild lettuce, washed and roughly torn
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (I leave most of the stems on when I do this)
1/4 watermellon, seeded and chopped into 1/2" cubes
4-6 oz. crumbled feta cheese

dress with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hot Buttered Whiskey

Local and seasonal food in New England tends to be high on vegretables and fruits in the summer. Local grains are harder to find, although Sherman Market carries a nice selection of flours from Maine.  Local meats and cheeses tend to be lean and organic.  But eating local and seasonal is not a diet that aims directly for anything like wieight loss, and if you've been following our blog you've realized that Renee and I both love rich foods.  It is my strong belief that if you eat a well-balanced diet full of the fantastic local varriety of veggies, fruits, meats, grains, and dairy products that we do have, you will generally be a happy and a healthy person.  It is also my belief and practice that eating deliciously rich whole local foods in moderation and delight is integral to a healthy lifestyle.  This is a roundabout way of promoting my latest alcoholic invention: hot buttered whiskey.  One of my winter favorites is hot buttered rum: a cup of rum, warmed almost to boiling, served with a pat of butter melting on top.  The slight sweetness of the rum blends with the butter just perfectly.  This weekend I discovered that my wonderful and devotedly localovore aunt Jo loves butter as much as Renee and I, but not rum.  She suggested that if there we just hot buttered whiskey....  Well, it just so happens that Ryan & Wood, a Glaucester distillery, has just started selling its first batches of rye whiskey.  It's still a little young, most suitable to mixed drinks, cooking, and.... hot buttered whiskey.  This is really a wonderful drink.

Heat 6 oz rye whiskey almost to boiling.  Pout into a small mug.  Drop 1 pat butter on top.  Let the butter melt, then enjoy its smooth top to the wonderfully sharp and wide warm whiskey. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Humid Citrus Cocktail

It's hot. Sticky hot. Try this cooling cocktail to soothe sweaty moods. It is easily made into a non-alcoholic drink (see below).

Humid Citrus Cocktail

makes 3 single-sized drinks (perhaps not a typical amount but as I'm too hot to do math, you'll have to deal)

In a shaker filled halfway with ice mix:

2 oz lemon juice
2 oz. grapefruit juice
1/2 oz simple syrup (more can be added for those who prefer sweeter drinks)

Stir or cover and shake.

Pour into 3 single-sized cocktail glasses (a.k.a. martini glasses).

Add vodka until liquid is 1/2" from the top. Top with seltzer. Add a blackberry. Drink. Repeat.

For the non-alcoholic version, fill to top with seltzer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Head and All

Strangely, it's whole fish that makes me most squeamish.  Maybe it's because it's so very whole and as-if-it-could-jump-back-into-the water looking.  But slaughtering the chickens last year only made me like chicken more, and thinking about their recent aliveness makes me feel better about eating them.  Maybe it's because I still really conceive of fish as a wild animal rather than something raised for eating.  But I have no problemwith wild game.  Maybe it's the eyes.  Whole fish is the only thing I cook or eat that has eyes on it.   Well, if you're still thinking about eating fish, let alone whole fish, then first of all you're on the right blog.  One of the keys to being a responsible eater in my mind is to think a lot about the whole life and death of the food we eat, not in order to obsessively freak out about it but to fully indulge in the kind of curiosity that leads to understanding and responsibility both about what we eat and about what we value.  So I take the slight discomfort of staring into the eyes of my meal as I prepare it as an opportunity to be thankful for the life of the fish, and really moreso as a moment to accept that I value the fantastic moist tenderness of whole grilled fish so much that it's worth the eyes.  The whole fish,  bones and head and all, never dries out or shrivels up, and it's never bland.

Whole Grilled Fish
Serves 4

Use a sturdy whole fish--this was done with Striped Bass but any kind of Bass works beautifully.  Ask the fishmonger to gut, clean, and scale it for you, but to leave on the head.

Marinate fish for one hour, turning halfway through, in:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper

Meanwhile, prepare charcoal grill.  You'll want a nice bed of hot coals.  Just before putting fish on grill, stuff with fresh herbs.  Fennell tops, the stems and feathery leaves that come on top of fennel bulbs, are a fantastic match for fish.  A combination of organo, mint, thyme, and lavendar is also wonderful.  To stuff, just gather the herbs, on stems, and push them into the cavity of the fish.  You don't need to tie it closed.  Just before you put the fish on the grill, toss a handfull of the same herbs onto the charcoal.  Put the fish onto the grill and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes per side.

Grilled Zucchini
Serves 4
This is so simple it's almost embarassing to write it up as a recipe.  But so good. 
Slice 4 medium zucchini lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices
sprinkle generously with sea salt and pepper and let sit for 20-30 minutes
Lay on medium-high grill and grill about 10 minutes per side, flipping once. If you make them with the fish, just lay them alongside the fish on the grill. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Yogurt Dressing

I have hoarded garlic scapes for the past few weeks. They last quite a while in the fridge and have been showing up daily in our dinners. My newest use for them is salad dressing.

Yogurt Dressing

Heat a small frying pan (I use my 6 inch cast iron) over low heat.
Add 1 teas. olive oil and 3 garlic scapes which have been cut into inch-long pieces (with my overabundance of scapes, I discard the flower since it is a bit tougher than the rest of the stalk, though definitely edible). Saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, until softened and starting to brown.

Meanwhile, mix the following:

1 cup yogurt (fat content of your choice)
1/2 teas. salt
1/2 teas. black pepper
2 TBSP chopped cilantro

Add in the scapes and stir. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cucumber-Brie Sandwiches

The fact that, in my tomato frenzy, I forgot to plant cucumber this Spring is being more than made up for by the abundance of cucumbers from the CSA. I don’t love pickles, so fresh cucumbers now feature prominently in just about everything I eat. But that does not mean all salad all the time – remember tea sandwiches? Yes, cuke pairs beautifully with bread, and also with brie. Cucumber-brie s a fantastically simple sandwich, and one that travels quite well on picnics or in lunchboxes.

Cucumber-brie sandwich

Slice one cucumber in half lengthwise, then into thin strips also lengthwise. In the summer, I usually keep the brie in the refrigerator, which in this case allows you to slice rather than to spread the brie. Lay brie on a slice of bread, layer cucumber on top, followed by one more layer of brie. Top with a second slice of bread. The brie keeps everything together, the cucumber adds moistness only when you bite it, and the flavors are, well, you should try. This also works with camembert.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fatty and Slow

Sometimes, when I’m standing in front of the meat counter at Whole Foods looking at close to $20 per pound for local pork, I wonder about things I don’t believe in and wouldn’t do: factory-farmed meat, vegetarianism, corporate America… But behind the ridiculously overpriced loins and chops, you can sometimes find a beautiful bone-in shoulder. $4.99/lb. this week. It needs time to cook, but that’s it. Pork shoulder might be emblematic of so many of the cuts that are out of favor in a high-strung cooking culture that wants everything faster and thinner. The thick layer of fat that covers its top keeps the meat moist but doesn’t make it into the meal (though if you understand the joy of pork fat, you’ll save it for another), and the 3-5 hours of cooking time involve less than 30 minutes of actual work. Pork shoulder doesn’t fit into a high-speed high-pressure kitchen because it’s so effortless. When everyone ohs and ahs over the meal, and you say “it was nothing,” you’re just telling it like it is.

Braised Pork Shoulder with Caramelized Onions
Serves 4-6

1 3-4 lb pork shoulder
2 garlic cloves, cut into slivers
4 large onions, cut into ¼-inch strips
Salt and pepper
½ cup pineapple juice
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 325 or turn crock pot into medium. Cut xs in the fat along the top of the pork. Poke tiny slits all over the meat and slip the garlic slivers into them. Salt and pepper the pork. In an oven-proof pot (or any pot, if you’re using the crock pot), brown the pork shoulder in the olive oil, 4 min. per side. Remove to a plate. Sauté the onions for about 5 min. Add salt and sauté another 10 minutes. Pour in the pineapple juice and cider vinegar. Stir. Transfer to crock pot if that’s what you’re using. Lay the pork over the top. Bake 2 ½-3 hours in oven or 6-8 hours in crock pot. To serve, cut off fat and slice meat thinly. Use a slotted spoon to take out onions and serve on the side. On the side, the broth makes a fantastic "jus," but a tart-sweet-savory rhubarb pineapple sauce is really the most perfect thing to dollop on top of the meat.

Rhubarb Pineapple Sauce

1 T olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
1 cup chopped rhubarb
1 cup chopped pineapple
1 t brown sugar
1/8 cup whiskey
Saute the shallots until soft, about 5 minutes. Add all of the other ingredients. Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rhubarb has turned to mush, about 30 minutes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

So Much Depends on a Green Head of Lettuce

Though the farmers' market is two weeks old, and the CSA one, I have yet to partake. We were on a family vacation in Colorado, which, for all its beauty, is either way behind in the growing season, way behind in their appreciation of local farmers, or simply unable to grow so much that I consider to be Spring staples. A month or two ago I was sorely missing fresh greens, holding out for June, only to realize we had scheduled our trip for the start of asparagus and lettuce season. Sigh.

What to do? Come home and gorge. Fresh lettuce needs little else than lemon and oil to make an amazing salad. Throw in some herbs from the hanging planter. Get crazy and saute in olive oil the (yes!) garlic scapes that have curled and need to be cut to keep the plant focused on the bulbs below.

Steam asparagus and eat it plain or broil it with olive oil and salt and pepper. Pick rhubarb and make into pies or compote.

Strawberries are early this year. We are going picking this week, so stay tuned for new recipes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Strawberry Cranberry Pie

Cranberries are out and strawberries aren't in yet, but in my freezer... I'm torn on this freezer thing.  It's the only way to survive doing local and seasonal in New England.  If it wren't for my freezer, I would have been eating tasteless tired fruits and veggies from thousands of miles away all winter and spring.  But what if I wanted to be really hard core, and really just eat what was in season here and now?  Ok, there's no way I'm ever going to do that kind of hard core, even if I could (insert image of me in the Middlesex Fells with snowshoes and shovel foraging for roots in January).  But what if I wanted to be soft core, and really focus my diet around the foods that are available here and now, supplementing as need be first with what I can store up and then with what I can get at the store? Well, that's basically what I'm trying to do.  But then I hit this dilemma: the rhubarb finally are ready to pick, and I could make rhubarb pie, but I also have leftover frozen cranberries and strawberries that should get used up before I start freezing this season's goodies, and the combination sounds tantalizingly like strawberry rhubarb.  What to do?  Well, maybe just eat a lot of pie this week!

The cranberry strawberry combination is fantastic, like the tangy-sweet of strawberry rhubarb with a little more depth and warmth.  But make sure to cook the cranberries for a good long time before putting them in the pie.  On my first try, I didn't do that and got something like cranberry-strawberry soup in soggy crust. 

2 cups frozen cranberries
½ cup sugar
¾ cup brown sugar
4 cups frozen strawberries (small or chopped)

2 cups flour
2 sticks cold butter
½ cup ice water

In a medium-small pot, bring cranberries and sugar to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid from the cranberries has released and then reduced to about 1/3 cup. This should take 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile, make the crust.  Stir in with strawberries. Pour into pie crust.

Cover with latticed top crust, and bake at 375 for about 40 minutes. Let cool at least 30 minutes prior to serving, to allow the juices to thicken.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bone Marrow and Gardening

Dave and I had the good fortune to be sent to Craigie on Main for his birthday last month. We had a delightful meal which included bone marrow. I'd had it once or twice before, and I have to say, it's one of the best things I've eaten. It's not for the faint of heart, nor people averse to fat. You really check into your basic animal instincts when eating it. I decided to make it myself, so got some frozen beef bones at Whole Foods. They usually sell them to people for their dogs, so the price is right. The butcher split them in half, lengthwise, for me.

I roasted them in a cast iron frying pan at 425 for 30 minutes. I put a few slices of whole grain bread in the oven at the same time, to dry out. When the marrow was bubbly, I pulled the pan from the oven, put it on the table, and gave everyone a spoon. We sprinkled sea salt on top, and smeared the marrow on the bread. Any that had melted on the bottom of the pan was sopped up with extra bread. I think this is the quintessential soul food.

This year, I am drastically altering my plans for the garden.  For the past few years, I've tried to fit in a little of everything, which resulted in a lot of nothing. So, I am going for the "more bang for your buck" approach. What is expensive at the farmers' market, something you always want more of, easy to grow at home, and prolific? Why, tomatoes! So, instead of one eggplant, two peppers, 5 beans, one cucumber, and a squash or two, none of which produce more than one or two fruits, I am doing only tomatoes. And garlic. And lettuce. And melon. But that's it! And, in the raised bed, I'm only doing tomatoes and garlic. Everything else is in pots and bags. The farmers' market and CSA farmers are so much better at everything else I want to eat, so why compete with that? Instead, I will be rolling in tomatoes and garlic and happy. Stay tuned.

Herb planter
The other new addition to the back yard is an herb planter. I was inspired by a gorgeous green wall by Recover Green Roofs in Somerville. I was really tempted to try it myself but felt a bit overwhelmed at the materials and expense, and then lightning struck, and I realized all I had to do was get a $25 linen shoe rack.

My sister, daughter, and I spent a few lovely hours buying herb seedlings and seeds, and then planting them in the planter. It hangs off the side of the porch, thus saving tons of space, and providing some shade. We added parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, lavender, dill and cilantro seeds, nasturtiums, chamomile.
Dill sprouts

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Spring" Pork Loin Roast

We were going to grill this, but it’s spring in New England: in spite of sun that actually got warm this afternoon, by 4pm clouds had rolled in and it was cold. By 5, it was raining. Of course, many of our friends grill right through the winter, but we’re wimps and a pork loin is so delicious roasted that for this there’s really no need to endure any chill beyond what you catch running out to the garden for the herbs.  (There ARE things growing in the garden, about four of them: thyme, oregano, chives and mint.)

Heat 2-3 T olive oil in an oven-proof pan.  Brown a 2-3 lb pork loin roast along with 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced, and 2 large sprigs each of thyme and oregano.  Place in oven heated to 425 and roast 45-60 minutes.

Serve with its juices and an Early Spring Chimichurri.

Very finely chop 1 bunch chives and 1 bunch mint. Using a strong spoon, crush/mix (as if you were muddling) with 2 tsp. lemon juice, 1 T olive oil, 1 tsp. coarse sea salt, and ½ tsp. freshly ground pepper.

Large cut oven fries make a perfect side and cook just the same amount of time as the meat.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

seeing the bottom of the freezer (thanks to white bean kale soup)

With relatively minimal effort, I froze enough fruits and vegetables last Summer and Fall to carry over to Spring!  In fact, I did such a good job that I was afraid about a month ago that I'd end up having to use last year's stuff even as this year's came in.  But Spring here is fitful, we're in the lull between the end of the winter farmers' market and the start of the spring ones, and about all I'm harvesting from the garden yet are herbs and rhubarb.  So I'm reaching the bottom of the freezer.  Way down there were the delight of a few lost bags of strawberries and one of cranberries (my first attempt at strawberry cranberry pie proved the flavor combo is fantastic but I've got a little work to do perfecting things like liquid production and baking time...), and, oh, more kale.  Ok, the part I didn't do so well in the freezing department last year was planning for things like variety over the winter and early spring.  But as I complained to this person and that about so much kale, I kept getting reminded of how nicely it pairs with white beans in soup.  And there's an added bonus: white bean kale soup has the light bright look of Spring with the hearty warmth we still actually need in New England in early May. 

White Bean Kale Soup
Serves 6

1 package white beans
2 bunches frozen kale
1 medium onion
2-4 carrotts
2-3 stalks celery
1 clove garlic
3-4 cups chicken broth
2 sprigs each, fresh thyme and oregano
1 lb sausage (not pre-cooked)

Boil beans in 4-6 cups salted water until soft, about 2 hours
Roughly chop onion and saute in olive oil, in a large soup pot, until translucent, about 5 minutes
Smash garlic with the flat side of a knife, slip skin off, and add.  Saute 2-3 minutes longer.
Roughly chop celery and carrotts and add.  Saute five minutes longer.
Cut sausage into 1/2-1" chunks (hint: sausage is easier to cut like this if it's frozen; if you cut it frozen, do it when you start the beans and then let it thaw) and add to pot.  Saute, stirring frequently, until the sausage is browned, about five mnutes longer.  Pull the leaves off the sprigs of herbs and add.
Pour beans and their liquid and chicken broth into pot.  Salt and pepper to taste.
Bring to a boil, then simmer 30-60 minutes. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Mac n Cheese Confessional

Every once in a while, Renée and I cook without measuring or weighing or writing things down.  And we love it.  We glance at each other as we toss in a handfull of that, stick our fingers in and add another shake or two, and giggle.  Are we going to try to guess after the fact just how much my two pinches plus her three make in teaspoons?  Can we count by how many times the kids asked is it ready yet how long we baked that for?  Or is this just going to be the total freedom of no reporting, a kind of secret meal?  And if it turns out to taste really totally amazing, we get to either lament our lacadasicality or appreciate the ephemeral quality of culinary perfection.  But really, what we do on our own, off the computers and in the kitchen, is to re-approximate accidental wonders, and find again exactly what was so perfect not because we get the amounts and times exact, but because we capture again the combination of good sense, good luck, and good taste that make all freestyle cooking work.  It can only be passed on as suggestions.

Suggestions for Mac n Cheese

Renée bought the spaghetti squash to make spaghetti squash and meatballs, but then found it unappealing.  She passed it on to me.  I thought it would be great, but my son did not.  It sat on my counter for a few more weeks.  We were going to make mac n cheese.   If it works in spaghetti and meatballs, why not in mac n cheese?  Cut, seeded, and roasted for about an hour, it blended in easily and added a wonderful rich nutty quality.  Here's what it was blended into:
boiled pasta and a roux (melted butter, flour, and milk) with every kind of leftover grated cheese we had (gouda, cheddar, pepper jack, blue, brie, meunster, and a few others whose labels were missing) mixed in till it was the consistency of fondue, plus a few dashes of Tapatío (Mexican hot pepper sauce).  Then we layered the pasta mixture in a pan with two more layers of grated cheese: pasta mix, grated smoked gouda, pasta mix, grated aged cheddar.  And we baked it for about a half hour.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Raspberry Rhubarb Pie

A first real spring weekend with sun enough to wear t-shirts, go into the yard, and root around! The garlic has sprouted in surprisingly neat little rows, the chives are long enough to cut, the herbs are coming back to life, and the weeds are really quite happy. OK, the rhubarb is just a cluster of little red nubs, but when I look at it the back of my tongue gets warm and the tip curls up just like when I put them fresh cooked in my mouth. And we really have a few bags of raspberries left from last fall’s freezing frenzy. Raspberry and rhubarb have that same perfect blend of tart and sweet that do strawberry and rhubarb, then add the slightly deeper red look and taste of raspberries, and, mmmmmm. We meant to save the raspberry juice and make raspberry whipped cream for the top, but we forgot. It’s in the back of the fridge for raspberry rhubarb royale later in the week!

Raspberry rhubarb pie

3 c. frozen raspberries. 15-20 min till well melted. Strain and save juice,
Mix with:
1 cup sugar
4 big stalks rhubarb chopped into 1/4 inch pieces.
Pour into a pie crust (recipe follows).

Cover with full or lattice top.

Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

This is by far the flakiest, most tender crust ever.  It's basically the Joy of Cooking recipe, with the special technique that (serendipity?) both our moms used:

For a top and bottom crust:
2 cups flour
2 sticks cold butter
1/3 cup ice water

Put the flour in a large bowl.  Slice the butter as thinly as you can and drop it into the flour.  Using two butter knives, slice crosswise so the flat sides of the knives rub against each other, until the butter is cut into about 1/8" pieces.  Then very quickly, pull up small amounts of the mixture between flat palms that you rub against each other.  DO this 5-10 times.  The butter should NOT be all perfectly mixed in.  Pour the ice water into the middle of the bowl and again very quickly use the tips of your fingers to just barely mix it all the way through.  Flour a thin dish rag.  Put half of the dough into the center.  Pull the edged of the rag up to form a tight ball of dough.  Flatten it slightly with the palm of your hand.  Open the rag, lightly fout the top of the dough, and roll to just a little larger than the size of your pan.  Lift the dough using the rag and flop it over the pan.  Pull the rag off.  Repeat for top crust, or after rolled cut into strips and weave a lattice, starting with one strip in each direction and slowly building out both directions at once.  Let the strips hang over the edge.  Once the lattice is totally built, roll the edges of the bottom crust over the edges of the strips. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Filo Yum Yum

The berries that we still have left in the freezer from last summer and fall are so delicious all on their own, we could just stir them together and bake them and be happy.  But they taste fantastic AND look beautiful when wrapped in filo.  Most of the time, with food, pretty adds to delicious and delicous adds to pretty and it just keeps going up.  But every once in a while, when you get down into a drippy dribbly mess that covers your fingers and your face, gets stuck behind your ears and in all sorts of other crevices, you reach true bliss.  The kind where you're so happy you're just rolling on the kitchen floor in it.  Now the filo yum-yum secret: with this dish you get it all. 

Filo Yum Yum
Serves 4

6-7 sheets filo dough
2 T melted butter
1 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup frozen whole strawberries
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T honey

Preheat oven to 350.  Layer the filo dough out on a cookie tray, dabbing the melted butter on each sheet with a pastry brush before adding on the next.  Mound the fruit in the middle.  Drizzle with the lemon juice and honey.  Pull the dough toward the top, as if you were wrapping a fruit basket.  Bake for 30-45 minutes.  When you take the pan out of the oven, you will find a beautiful "basket" sitting in a pool of juice.  Let cool about 20 minutes.  Cut the "basket" and serve.  Eat your pretty piece of delicacy.  Then lay out the pan and dig in. 

Filo Fun (aka kale cover)

Did I mention that I  froze a lot of kale last summer and fall?  I have had a very healthy dose of leafy greens this winter.  But spring is thinking about coming, or at least it was last week, and that deep dark green just isn't as appealing as it once was.  I want bouncy bright spring somethings on my plate.  A little filo and ground lamb give just that to the kale.  My mother and I made a more traditionally Greek version of this around Christmas.  It's equally delicious, but didn't use up any kale.  Also, the layering and the mozarella in this one give it more of a spring garden look. 

Filo, Lamb, and Kale Lasagna Casserole
serves 4-6

1 lb ground lamb
1 large onion
3-4 cups blanched kale (thawed if it was frozen)
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cups grated mozarella
8 sheets filo dough
2 T melted butter
2 T olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 large cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
"Greek seasoning" (thyme, marjoram, oregano, lemon)

Preheat oven to 350.  Saute the onions in olive oil for 5 minutes, then add ground lamb, salt, pepper, garlic, and Greek seasoning. Cook, stirring frequently, until lamb is thoroughly browned, 10-15 minutes.  Layer filo dough into a deep casserole  pan, letting it come up and over the sides.  Lay down one sheet, brush with butter, lay down the next sheet, repeat until you have four sheets.  Layer one third of the meat mixture, one third of the tomatoes, one third of the kale, then one third of the mozarella.  Lay down another sheet of filo, butter and fold in half so that it does not lean up over the edges.  Repeat with another sheet of filo.  Now repeat the innards layer.  Repeat the two sheets of filo.  Repeat the last innards layer.  Fold in the filo sheets that had come up and over the edges.  They won't quite meet in the middle.  Dab with the last of the butter.  Bake for 30-45 mintutes. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pork Roast with Peach Glaze

Leaves are unfurling everywhere, bits of bright green are poking their way through the last few remnants of the snow bank that took over my front garden, and my compost pile is almost thawed enough to turn into the soil--Spring is around the corner!  Now is the time to clear out the bottom of the freezer and the back of the cupboard, sloughing through those last bags of frozen kale (I'll be leaving that out of the garden this year) and wallowing in the delight of just having to finish off all of those fruits and berries.  A few weeks ago, Renee and I made the last of the frozen peaches into jam.  The fact that it came out  more like peach butter than like peach jam makes it no less scrumptious on bread and butter, and also made me think of a glaze. I love savory and sweet together, and the perfection of our "jam" ensures there is nothing cloying or candy-like about this.

Pork Roast with Peach Glaze
serves 4

1 medium pork loin roast (about 1.5 lbs)
6 cloves garlic
1/4 cup peach jam
salt and pepper
1 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 350.  Cut the garlic cloves into quarters.  Pierce the loin all over with the tip of a sharp knife, making incisions the size of your garlic pieces.  Stuff each incision with a garlic piece.  Rub the loin with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in an oven-ready pan and sear the loin on all sides.  Gently pour the peach jam over the loin and spread using the back of a spoon or a cooking brush to cover the top and sides.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the meat measures 160 degrees in the center.  Remove from heat, tent with tin foil, and let sit 5-10 minutes.  Slice and serve with roasted butternut squash and sauteed kale. 

Roasted Butternut Squash
serves 4

1 large butternut squash
2-3 T olive oil
sea salt
1 sprig rosemary

Peel one large butternut squash.  Cut it in half and scoop out seeds and guts.  Cut into 1/2-1" cubes.  Spread out on a baking pan.  Drizzle liberally with olive oil.  Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.  Sprinkle lightly with pepper.  Pull the leaves off one sprig rosemary and sprinkly over the top.  Toss the squash so it's all well covered.  Spread it out into a single layer.  If you can't make a single layer, use a second pan.  Roast at 350 for 30-45 minutes.  About halfway through, pull the pans out and use a spatula to turn the squash.

Sauteed kale
Serves 4

1 bag frozen blanched chopped kale or 1 large bunch fresh kale, chopped
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil.  Meanwhile, hit the garlic once, hard, with the flat end of knife.  Slip off the skin.  Add the garlic and kale to the hot oil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Saute, stirring often, until kale is wilted, about 10 minutes.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Winter Apples: Let Me Count the Ways

Crispy, creamy, in five or six different storage varieties, apples are one of the best things about Somerville's winter farmers' market.  I have had fantastic fresh local fruit all winter.  No more need to buy those tasteless exotic imports.  No more excuse to try anything but apples.  They are piling up on the counter, in the fruit bin, in my backpack, in the tupperware I take back out of my son's lunchbox at the end of the day.  I think we are starting to understand how Frances felt with all of that bread and jam. 

But a few extra minutes of slicing and a little creativity can shift those apples from a centerpiece that has lost its luster to a hint, a tease, a suggestion...

Winter Apple Salad
serves 4

Last winter, I wondered about just giving up on salad till Spring.  This winter, along with apples the winter farmers' market has greenhouse lettuce, fresh and local every week. 

1 package winter lettuce mix (the cold-loving lettuces are dark and rich, perfect for this salad)
1 apple
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts (the only non-local ingredient!)

Toast the walnuts by spreading in the bottom of a pan, ideally cast iron, over a medium heat and tossing frequently for 10-15 minutes.  Core and slice the apple (do not peel), then cut the slices crosswise into short and wide matchsticks.  Sprinkle the apple, cranberries, and walnuts over the lettuce.

Dress with a white balsamic-walnut oil vinaigrette:

1/8 cup white balsamic vinegar (local apple cider vinegar is a good option if you don't have this)
1/8 cup walnut oil (you can use olive oil too)
1/4 tsp. stone ground mustard (Sherman's Market in Union Square has some from Maine)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, whole but gently smashed to remove skin and release flavor
1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Combine the dressing ingredients  in a glass jar with a good lid and shake well to combine.  Use desired amount and store remainder in fridge for up to 2 weeks. 

Apple-Stuffed Roasted Chicken au Jus
serves 4

1 4-5 lb. chicken
1/2 apple
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic
3 sprigs grappa-soaked tarragon (or other herb)

Fresh tarragon soaked in grappa for about 3 weeks makes a just barely flavored and wildly, brilliantly colored digestif.  After 3 weeks, you should take the tarragon out of the grappa.  It will then save almost fresh for several months in the alcohol fumes, and can be used in any chicken or fish dish where you'd think to use tarragon for all of the fresh herb flavor plus a secret extra something.

Preheat oven to 500.  Wash chicken.  Rub well all over with salt and pepper.  Place apple half, garlic cloves, and tarragon in cavity.  Set in a roasting pan surrounded by about 1 lb small potatoes (I used the last of the little ones I got from Red Fire Farms in the Fall - about the size of fingerlings or new potatoes but actually just the runts from their last harvest- I had to pull off a few sprouts, but they were still perfect!) and 4-8 shallots.  Roast 60 minutes.  Remove chicken from oven, remove everything from pan and cover with tin foil.  Set roasting pan over flame on stovetop.  Add 1/2-1cup chicken broth.  Scrape drippings off bottom of pan, bring to a boil, and let simmer 10-15 minutes.  Serve in a gravey turreen, like you would the "jus" from good steak.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Local Bean Soup

The other day, Dave and Viv ventured into Union Square to do some local shopping. They returned victorious, having cleaned out Reliable Market of their frozen dumplings, miso, tofu, and dok rice cakes. They also stopped by Sherman Market and bought some beans. Dave and I snickered to ourselves at the price - $4.15 for a pound of beans, but agreed it was good to support local agriculture. And local they are. These heirloom beans are from Baer's Best in South Hamilton, MA. They are handpicked and beautiful - multi-colored, speckled, red, brown, white, black.

Dave rinsed and soaked them overnight,  and then put them into the crock pot in the morning with 8 cups of previously made chicken stock. This cooked on high all day, until around 3:30 when I added 1 1/2 cups of chopped onion, a 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, 1/2 cup tomato sauce lingering in the fridge, 2 TBSP of lemon juice, a few shakes of paprika, salt, and pepper. Then, on a whim, I poached the elbow macaroni from the kids' one remaining box of whole wheat mac 'n' cheese (please don't tell them). This cooked until 6:30, when we ate. It was so good, we all had seconds, including Viv who, on a good day, will eat three bites of dinner.

Please go buy these beans and make this soup. You can use their directions on the back or use our minimal adjustments. It's well worth the $4.15.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Homemade Bread

I have fond memories of helping my mother make bread, and then getting to eat the heel, fresh out of the oven, with too much butter. When I was fifteen or sixteen, I started making bread on my own, and remember feeling great pride that I could actually make something edible. As an adult, I am very comfortable with baking and I look back on my teenaged self and have two thoughts: one, how naive I was to think making bread was hard, and two, maybe it was good I felt it was an accomplishment or I wouldn't have continued.

Now I go through phases where making bread feels like a wonderful treat, warming the house on a cold day, and then I'll feel that buying bread from our local bakery is the treat - how easy! How many choices! Luckily, I am able to time these phases to the seasons so I don't bake bread in the summer.

I am a little glib in my statement that bread is easy. Some bread is. I certainly have had my share of brick-like flops. Sourdough alludes me. I have yet to get a really dark, rich raisin bread like a bakery can. However, I have found a recipe that works for me, day in and day out. My first two cookbooks were The Joy of Cooking from my grandmother and The Baba-A-Louis Bread Book from my father. I practiced with the bread book for years, making consistently good bread. I followed their basic formula of 2 lbs flour to 3 cups water and 1 teas. yeast, adding extras as desired. That formula morphed into my own basic loaf that I make two or three times a week. I vary the extras, sometimes bake it in a bread pan, sometimes I form it into a boule. It's always slightly different. Once you get the basic formula down, you, too can explore.

The joy of this bread, for me at least, is that it can go all day. I put it together in the morning and sometime in the evening put it into loaves to rise. By the time I go to bed, I've cooked it. The long, slow rise eliminates the need for a second kneading, so that this bread almost makes itself. It's similar to laundry: the whole process can feel overwhelming until you realize all you need to do first is sort the clothes and put a load into the washer. You then have some time to do something else before the drying step happens, and then more time before you fold and put away. Broken down into steps, it's quite doable in an otherwise full schedule. I make the dough in a mixer, though it definitely can be kneaded by hand.

Basic Bread
makes 2 loaves

1 lb. white flour (or bread flour which makes for a smaller crumb)
1 lb. whole wheat or white wheat flour
2 cups dry oats
1/4 cup cornmeal or wheat germ
1/4 cup flax seeds
1 teas. instant yeast
1 teas. sea salt
2 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP molasses (maple syrup can be substituted though it makes the bread dry out quicker)
3 cups warm water

In the bowl of a mixer, add all ingredients. With a dough hook, mix until dough forms a wet, evenly mixed mass, ~ a minute or two. It will seem very wet but the oatmeal will soak up a lot of the moisture as it rises.

Remove bowl from mixer, place a damp towel over bowl, and put in a warm place. I use a radiator. Hours later (anywhere from two to ten), punch down and divide into two even lumps. Knead each lump on a floured surface for a few minutes, form into a loaf, and either put onto an oiled cookie sheet for a boule or into two oiled bread pans for loaves.

Let rise in a warm place for an hour or so, until dough has almost doubled in size. Preheat oven to 350 and bake bread for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 or 10 minutes then remove bread from pans or cookie sheet and let cool on a rack. Unless you want to dig into the bread immediately, which I highly recommend.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Winter Potato Salad

I have an image of my parents bringing home to eat random strangers they ran into who were in need of a home-cooked meal.  It probably actually happened only a few times--there was a monk with a travelling planetarium who might have even stayed with us for a while, and maybe a man who was biking accross the country--and I'm guessing the encounters and the indviduals weren't so random.  But whatever the real details, it left me with memories of unfamiliar and hungry faces opening into gentle smiles, then hearty laughs over thick, rich broth and home-made bread.  It made me wish that, at Passover dinner at Diana's house, someone would walk in off the street to sit at the place reserved for wanderers. 

This idea of sharing food got me into a few soup kitchens when I was younger, but the huge vats filled with a revolving lineup of soups and pastas, the inevitable culinary mishaps incurred when the eager and untrained try to cook inexpensive high volume meals, and the end understanding that this food was better than no food, lost the connection.  I didn't stay.

Then a few weeks ago I discovered Community Cooks.  Renee and I can join other home cooks in sharing with local folks in need what we are happy to have at our own tables.

For our first offering, we made a winter version of a potato salad we came up with (and posted) in the Spring.  :Local potatos, apple cider vinegar, and onions are available at the winter farmers' market!  We multiplied the recipe by ten.  In that volume, the onions didn't hold their shape well, and didn't quite caramelize, but they still added a deep sweetness to the dish.

Winter Potato Salad
serves 4

1 lb russett potatoes
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T olive oil
1 bunch dill, chopped
2 slices bacon, sautee or baked lying flat on a cookie tray at 300 (no need to flip) 20-25 minutes.
Greens from 2 onions plus 4 green onions, whites and greens, chopped and sauteed in 2 tsp. bacon grease
1 onion, chopped and sauteed until caramelized in 1 T bacon greaste
salt and pepper to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Cut potatoes into 1" chunks and put into a pot of water.  Water should just cover potatoes.  Bring to a boil and cook until just tender.  Drain and put into a mixing bowl with vinegar and olive oil.  Add dill, bacon, onion greens, and salt and pepper and stir well.