Monday, December 17, 2012

different kinds of healthy

The label healthy is overused and ill-defined.  It's so hard to define that its use in advertizing is not regulated, so anyone who wants to can slap "healthy" onto their packaging and get me to buy their preservative-and-sugar-laden "healthy alternative."  ("Healthy alternatives" seem to belong to the class of things, that also includes chips, chocolate, and just one more, that knowing better rarely keeps me from.)  Cooking and eating locally and seasonally, luckily, encourages buying things that don't come in labelled packages and usually makes healthy for my body and healthy for the planet overlap, although thorny questions like crop spraying, overfishing, and mercury do still crop up.  When the question of healthy comes up, some people start thinking about a whole series of things related to fat content and other things you can count.  If I had to make a list of my all-time favorite things to eat, butter and cream would be near the top, so if I have to think about limiting how much of them I eat, I get very very sad.  But if I think about combining butter and cream with a fantastic variety of other local and seasonal products, and if I follow my school-teacher-mom's mantra to eat a rainbow every day, I get different kinds of healthy mixed up in the best way, and I get to eat things like creamed spinach (with, for full rainbow effect on the plate, hash browns and chuck roast braised with carrotts and onions).

Creamed Spinach
serves 4

24 oz. spinach
3 T butter
3 T flour
2 1/4 cups cream, half and half, or milk
1/2 cup grated romano or parmesan cheese
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg

Steam the spinach for 5 minutes or boil it for one.  Remove spinach from pot and set to cool in a colander.  As soon as spinach is cool enough to grasp, chop into small peices, then squeeze in a ball between both hands to get out as much liquid as possible.  Do this into a cup and drink the yummy stuff, or use it in a broth! 

Melt the butter in a large pan.  Whisk in the flour.  Pour in the cream 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly.  Stir in grated cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and stir until cheese is melted.  Stir in spinach.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Happy Accident Soup for a School Night

This week we were unable to do our regularly scheduled blog dinner, and as it had been a few weeks since we had done one, we decided to do a quick meal together on Monday. We had each already planned a meal (soba noodle soup at one house and scallops at the other), but upon closer inspection discovered that they would blend perfectly into a much nicer meal than either of us had originally planned. It came together quickly, and we were able to time it perfectly with the kids finishing homework. All in all, a success!

Soba Noodle Soup with Scallops and Shrimp

2 TBSP mirin
2 TBSP toasted sesame oil
1 TSBP brown sugar
1 TBSP tamari
1 1/2 lb. sea scallops

In a mixing bowl add first four ingredients and mix well. Add scallops, stir to coat, and let sit.


1 package soba noodles
1 TBSP olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed

6 cups fish stock, heated
1 cup water

1 package tofu, cut into 1/2" cubes
4 sheets nori seaweed, torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. shrimp, cleaned but with shells on
2 scant shakes crushed red pepper
1 TBSP toasted sesame oil
1 TBSP mirin
1 TBSP tamari
1 TBSP lime juice
salt, if needed

Cook soba noodles according to instructions on package. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium-low heat. Add olive oil and garlic and sauté, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant, ~ 1 minute.

Add stock and water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over medium heat and sear scallops in a single layer (you may need to do 2 batches), until browned and just starting to crack open, ~ 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and repeat on other side.  Remove to a plate and set aside. (We used the leftover marinade for a hot salad dressing - yum!)

To the soup add tofu and nori. Cook ~ 10 minutes. Add noodles, shrimp, and all remaining ingredients, tasting before adding salt. Our stock was from shellfish and therefore plenty salty. If it is not from shellfish, salt will probably be necessary. Cook until shrimp are pink and broth is hot, ~ 5 minutes.

Serve soup in shallow bowls, topped with scallops. Serve with Sriracha hot sauce for a spicy treat.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cream of Leftovers Soup

This year, I didn't make a single original thing for Thanksgiving.  In fact, I didn't only use other peoples' recipes, I followed exactly Martha Stewart's layout for an entire Thanksgiving supper.  Ok, so I made a second stuffing and a second cranberry sauce, but that's the only thing I even added to the meal, and those were from other cooking magazines.  In part, this is because I get cooking magazines because I love to read them, but then I rarely make food out of them because, embarassement of riches, I often have so much wonderful food from the CSA in the fridge that I really can't make anything that's not based on what I have on hand, and that rarely just happens to match up with exactly what some recipe calls for.  In part, this is because I was particularly busy and uninspired this Thanksgiving.  Well, thank you Martha, the meal was a hit.  And now, a few days later, it has set me back on the creative path.

I love leftovers.  Not only because I think  most things taste great reheated the next day, but because I love to repurpose things.  So when I looked in the fridge at lunch today and saw one tupperware of mashed root veggies and another of creamed greens and onions, I was set!  I put them together in a saucepan along with about 2 cups of chicken stock and brought to a simmer.  Then I used an immersion blender to make it into a rough cream (where there are no big chunks left, but you can still see distinct flecks of green from the greens), and yum oh yum! (and for an extra yum, reheated cornbread in the oven to wipe the bowl).

So here's the "recipe"

leftover cooked greens
leftover cooked onions
leftover cooked root vegetables
chicken broth

warm, blend, enjoy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Misses Turned to Hits

Cream of Mushroom Risotto

The original goal of this recipe was to make a mushroom risotto to satisfy my son who loves mushroom flavor but hates mushroom texture. In rather typical seven-year-old fashion, when he heard what was for supper, he pronounced -- rather vitriolically -- that he no longer likes risotto of any sort, then when he was forced to eat a small amount was surprisingly quiet and a few minutes later casually picked up his plate and said he was going back to the kitchen to serve himself a little more. He may have totally unreasonable ideas about what he likes and what he doesn’t, but he has good taste!

Serves 4-6

3 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teas. salt, plus more to taste
3-4 cups stock
1 cup milk
4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
1 ½ bunches chard, stems removed, and chopped
Pepper to taste

Heat 1 T olive oil in a medium saucepan. Saute the onion until it becomes soft, about 5 minutes. Smash the garlic clove and add it. Saute another 3 minutes. Add the crimini mushrooms and ½ tsp. salt and saute another 10 minutes. Add 1 ½ cups stock and simmer 10 minutes. Blend, using an immersion blender or a regular blender. Add milk. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 T olive oil in a medium frying pan and saute the shiitake mushrooms until very soft, 10-15 minutes. Set aside.

Heat 1 T olive oil in a large pot. Toast the rice for 1-2 minutes, coating well with olive oil. Add the blended mushroom mix ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly. Then add the remaining stock 1 cup at a time. After each addition of stock, stir until the liquid is absorbed, then add the next cup and repeat. When the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender all the way through (taste to determine doneness), stir in the chard and shiitake mushrooms. Taste for salt and pepper and add as needed (amount depends on saltiness of stock and on personal preference). Stir for another 3-5 minutes, until the chard is completely cooked. Serve immediately.

Small Fish

I read recently in Martha Stewart Living that small fish are the best: high in all the fish oils, sustainable, and low in mercury and other bad stuff. So I vowed to eat more small fish. Once or twice I’ve gotten fresh sardines or anchovies from New Deal Fish Market and sautéed them up to delicious results. But when I got there this past Saturday, the smallest fish they had was whiting – about 5 inches long and two inches thick. Oh well. But I guess this whole meal is misses turned hits. The pan-fried whiting was delicious, and the fact that you can’t eat the bones like you can with smaller fish is more than made up for by the fact that you can pull them right out (and look at them - cool!), and that the flesh is not at all fishy like sardines or anchovies but light and flakey like butterfish or cod.

Serves 4-6 (adults will eat 2 fish each, kids 1)

1 long or 2-3 small stem each: mint, rosemary, sage, thyme

½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper

½ cup white flour
10 small whiting fish
1 T olive oil

Finely chop the herbs. In a pie pan, mix together the flour, herbs, salt and pepper. Roll the fish in the mixture to coat. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Lay the fish flat in the pan (if you have too many for one pan, use two pans or cook in two batches). Cook without touching for 5-7 minutes. Turn once and cook 5-7 minutes longer on the other side. You can tell that the fish is done when the flesh turns an opaque white. Serve immediately.

Monday, November 5, 2012

All Local All Colors

I have been meaning to make slaw with the quarter of a red cabbage that’s been hanging on in the bottom of my vegetable bin for the past month. Yes, a whole month and the only thing that happened to it is the outside got a little brownish. This stuff is begging to be fermented, but I can still use it fresh(ish), and when I got my first winter CSA share with kohlrabi, watermelon turnips, and carrots, I finally got out my grater and got going. This recipe makes enough to be a nice side for 4-6 but I ate half of it for lunch already (unlike other salads, it’ll keep up to a day in the fridge).

Rainbow Slaw

¼ red cabbage, sliced and chopped thin
1 watermellon turnip, peeled and grated
1 kohlrabi, peeled grated
1 carrott, grated
1 apple, peeled and grated
¼ cup dried cranberries

I am not a great fan of creamy dressings, and the one food I really do not like is mayonnaise, so I dressed it with this sweet apple cider vinaigrette—which keeps the flavor light and the colors crisp!

¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. mustard
½ tsp salt

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Local Egg Sandwich

Storms bring on the need for comfort food. While we had minimal damage here, family in NJ was getting walloped, so in between worrying, checking the news and email for updates, and doing puzzles with the kids, I made egg sandwiches. These can be made almost entirely from local ingredients. I used store mayonnaise, but could have made my own.

Egg Sandwiches

This recipe is for one sandwich. Adjust as necessary.

2 slices bread (Dan's is delicious with this; if I'm out, I use homemade)
ground pepper
1 egg
1 teas. tamari
1 teas. olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 leaves rainbow chard, big stems removed
2 thick slices tomato

1. Heat a frying pan thoroughly over medium low heat.
2. Lightly toast bread. Spread mayo on both slices. Add pepper.
3. When the pan is hot, rub butter over the bottom and crack egg into it. Cook egg for a minute or two, until edges are starting to brown and white is solidifying.
4. Pour tamari over egg and flip it. Immediately take off heat and put egg on 1 slice of bread.
5. Add olive oil to pan. Add garlic. Add chard and cook it, stirring constantly, until just wilting, ~ 1 minute. Take off heat and put on egg.
6. Put tomato on chard and close up sandwich.
7. Eat.
8. Enjoy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Soup, Tart, and Salad #4

In Fall, for a little while, a zing of fantastic new flavors that fit together to bring out the best of each more than makes up for the diminishing selection of fresh, local produce. The bittersweetness of these delights is that they have a relatively short season, though a few of the best, like winter squash, store quite a long time on counters and shelves and in basement corners, and then even longer prepared and frozen.

These three dishes pair wonderfully as a full meal, make great Thanksgiving (or any other Fall meal) apps and sides, or can be two separate main dishes plus salad).

Squash and Mushroom Soup
Serves 6-8 as a starter, 4-6 as a main dish

2 butternut squash
2 onions
10 oz. crimini or baby bell mushrooms
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garam marsala
3 T olive oil
1 T chicken or vegetable glaces (or 1 cube bouillon)
1 T truffle oil
½ lb. Hen of the Woods (mushrooms)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. truffle salt

Preheat oven to 350. Slice the butternut squash in half and remove the seeds. Place skin-side up on a baking pan with ¼ cup water. Roast until soft, about 45 minutes. Let cool. Peel off skin. Set aside. You can also freeze the squash at this point and store it for up to 3 months.

Slice the onions. Over high heat, with 1 T olive oil, brown lightly, then caramelize by reducing heat to low and cooking another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Slice mushrooms and add to onions. Bring heat back up to medium and saute until mushrooms are soft, 5-10 minutes.

Add stock, squash, 2 tsp. salt, glaces or bouillon, garam marsala, and pepper, bring to a low simmer and cook 30 min.

Meanwhile, cut Hen of the Woods into ½" thick slices, toss on a cookie sheet with 2 T olive oil, 2 gloves minced garlic, and 1/2 tsp. salt, and roast at 375 for 20-30 minutes, until soft. Remove from oven and sprinkle with truffle salt.

Scoop soup into bowls. Drizzle truffle oil into each bowl. Then float 1-2 pieces of Hen of the Woods on top. Serve immediately.

Roasted Vegetable Corn Bread Tart, two ways
Serves 6-8 as a main dish, many more as sides depending how you do it

1 acorn squash
2 oz. grated parmesan
1 cup roasted tomatoes, blended (or 1 cup tomato sauce)
2 red onions
2 green peppers
2 carrots
2 beets
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated
2 recipes corn bread tart crust

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the acorn squash in half, remove seeds, place flat side down on a baking pan with ¼ cup water and roast until soft, about 45 minutes. Scoop out the flesh. At this point, you can freeze the flesh for up to 3 months. Mix with 2 oz. grated parmesan, 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. pepper. Set aside.

Cut red onions into quarters. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds. Peel beets and slice into ¼” thick rounds. Peel carrots, cut in half and then slice each half lengthwise once down the middle and then once again, into ¼” thick strips. Drizzle with 1 T olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt and roast at 350 until soft, about 45 minutes. After removing from oven, peel skin off green peppers and cut into strips.

Meanwhile, pour the crust onto oiled cookie pans. If serving as a main dish, pour each full recipe onto one cookie pan and spread to almost fill the pan. If serving as a side dish, do the same or pour into palm-sized (or cookie-sized) rounds on oiled cookie pans. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. Spread half with acorn squash mixture and half with roasted tomato blend. Then sprinkle with grated cheese, and top with a mixture of the roasted vegetables. Return to oven and bake at 350 for another 10 minutes.

Brussels Sprouts and Cranberry Salad
Serves 6-8

1 large stem Brussels sprouts
2 T olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, (rinsed if fresh)
1 T butter
¼ cup maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350.

Pick sprouts off of the stem and wash thoroughly. Cut large sprouts in half, lengthwise.

Put Brussels sprouts on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir to coat. Roast, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter in a frying pan. Add cranberries and saute for 5 minutes, stirring. Add syrup and saute for another 5 minutes.

Toss Brussels sprouts and cranberries together. Add more salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Squash Salad

Baking winter squash and then scooping out the deliciously roasted insides avoids the difficult prospect of peeling thick skin around deep ridges. But butternut squash has a wonderfully smooth surface and a relatively thin skin, making it easy to peel and cube for wonderful roast squash chunks that are delicious tossed into pasta, dropped onto pizza, or strewn over a salad. As fall sets in, I’m caught between cherishing the last crisp cool summer veggies and savoring the rich warm winter ones. Salad with roasted veggies lets me stay perfectly undecided and totally satisfied.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

Serves 2 as a light main dish or 4 as a rich side

1 medium butternut squash
1 head lettuce
½ cup walnuts
1 apple
3-4 oz. blue cheese
1 T olive oil
1 tsp. salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Peel the butternut squash, cut it in half and remove seeds (save for roasting!), and cut into ½” cubes. Toss on a cookie tray with olive oil and salt and roast for 30-45 minutes, until very soft to the touch. For the last 10 minutes, spread the walnuts on a pan and roast them as well. Cut the apple into ¼-1/2” cubes. Toss all of the ingredients together with a white balsamic vinaigrette and serve immediately.

White Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/8 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. mustard
½ tsp. pepper
1 garlic clove, smashed

Put all the ingredients into a glass jar with a lid. Shake vigorously. Make double or quadruple and refrigerate for up to a week or two, using at need (you may need to bring it back to room temperature and shake again before re-using).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Apple Crisp for a Cold Night

The cooking bug struck last night. While the kids were off with Dave working on Halloween costumes, I picked up the CSA, walked home in the cold rain, and found myself with 90 minutes and a house to myself. I, admittedly, have been pretty bored with cooking of late and have the menu to prove it. I have been recycling the same eight meals, all the while wishing for inspiration. I've looked in cookbooks and magazines and tried to brainstorm, but everything seemed dull, or too hard, or just not tasty enough to try.

I don't know if it was the rain, or the thought of uninterrupted kitchen time, or the pea shoots, spinach, cilantro, and apples in my bag, but something snapped, and I couldn't wait to get cooking.

All recipes serve 4 people.

Mushroom Spinach Risotto

1 TBSP butter
1 lb white mushrooms, sliced
1 small sweet pepper, sliced
2 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
4 to 5 cups beef (or chicken or vegetable) stock, hot
1/4 cup white wine
2 TBSP tamari
black pepper to taste
1/4 lb spinach, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup parmesan or other hard cheese, grated

Melt butter in a large pot. Add mushrooms and pepper slices and sauté, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until mushrooms are thoroughly brown and leaking juices, ~ 20 minutes. Put in a bowl and set aside. Do not wash pan.

In the same pan, add olive oil. Add onion and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, stirring constantly for 30 seconds.

Add rice and stir until coated with oil and starting to brown, ~ 2 minutes.

Add stock, one 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly. (I cheat on this step, quickly preparing other things in between stirring, but the risotto really is creamier if you stir the entire time.) Add next 1/2 cup of stock when the first one has almost all disappeared. Continue until rice is just tender, very approximately 20 minutes. If you need more liquid, you can use a little water.

Add wine and stir. Add tamari and black pepper and stir.

Stir in mushroom/pepper mix.

Add spinach and stir until wilted. Add cilantro.

Take off of the heat and stir in cheese.

Boiled Turnips

3 large or 4 medium white turnips

Wash turnips and cut each into 4 quarters.

Place in a pan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a strong simmer and cook until tender, ~ 15 minutes.

Serve with a dollop of butter and salt and pepper.

Apple Crisp

4 large or 5 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
1 stick butter, divided in half
2 TBSP honey
1 TBSP lemon juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white flour
1/4 cup corn meal

Preheat oven to 375.

Put apples in a bread pan.

In a small sauce pan, melt 1/2 stick butter. Add honey. When it bubbles, add lemon juice and take off heat. Pour over apples.

In a small bowl, using your fingers, mix remaining 1/2 stick butter, sugar, flour, and corn meal, until all incorporated and crumbly. Spread over the apples evenly. Bake until the crumble top is brown and the apples below bubbling, ~ 30 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fancy Freezing for a Better Winter

Last summer and fall, I went crazy chopping, blanching and freezing everything I couldn't use from my garden and CSA.  I even bought extra stuff at the Farmers' Market to put aside.  So all winter long, I had big frozen blocks of greens and beans and fruits that I could dump into whatever I was making and experience fresh and local out of season.  It worked really well for soups and stews and pies.  But not for much else.  One round of blanching is about all the cooking green beans can take and still have any kind of crunchy delight.  And to mix the veggies into anything but a pot of boiling something requires the added step of defrosting, and the problem of figuring out how to cut off just the amount that you need.  So, this year, I'm working with a better plan: freeze entire dishes premade with the lovely local fresh stuff.  I now have in my freezer single, double, and quadruple servings of:

carne molida (ground beef sauteed with onions, all kinds of peppers, tomatoes, salt and pepper),

roasted peppers and tomatoes (from Nigel Slater's Tender)

greek pie filling (ground meat sauteed with chopped swiss chard, onions, garlic, feta cheese, and oregano),

roasted spaghetti squash with Moroccan spices (from Ruth Reichl's first Gourmet cookbook),

provencal green beans (onions, tomatoes, and garlic sauteed for a good long time with green beans thrown in for the last 3-5 minutes)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Soup, Salad, and Tart, Part 3

This week we continued our obsession with soup, salad, and tarts, all mixed up. We had a collard green and rainbow chard salad and roasted veggie tart for dinner, followed by melon soup for dessert. The tart was far and away the best part, and something we would definitely make again. The salad was inspired by a friend's gorgeous bag of greens she brought over, and is a variation on one from Bon Appetit. The melon soup was fun, and the kids liked it but it is very sweet so a little goes a long way.

Roasted Veggie Tart

2 small leeks, cut into thirds and sliced in half
1 red onion, sliced
2 1/2 green peppers, sliced
1 eggplant, sliced
3 large tomatoes, sliced
2 sweet peppers, sliced
olive oil, ~ 1/2 cup
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375.

Lay vegetables in a single layer, separated by type, on cookie sheets and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

Roast for 45 minutes. Remove onions and flip eggplant. Roast another 15 minutes and remove eggplant and sweet peppers. Roast everything else for another 15 minutes.


2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup melted butter
1/3 cup molasses or honey or a mix of both
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder

Mix everything together and spread out onto a cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Layer on roasted veggies and bake for another 10 minutes. Slice like pizza and serve.

Collard Greens and Rainbow Chard Salad

2 large bunches rainbow chard, stems removed and ripped into large pieces
2 large bunches collard greens, stems removed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
olive oil for drizzling
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375.

Toss chard with oil and salt and spread out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and roast until crispy but not burned, ~ 15 minutes but checking frequently. Set aside.

Put collards in a large serving bowl.

2 TBSP water
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp fish sauce
1 to 3 tsp hot pepper, minced
2 TBSP lime juice

In a small pan, heat water and sugar until sugar is dissolved.

Mix everything together, adding as much hot pepper as you like.

Toss dressing over collard greens. At the last minute before serving, toss in chard chips.

Melon Soup

1 cup red seedless grapes
1 small watermelon, cut into quarters and flesh removed from skin
1/2 tsp salt
2 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 cup mixed color seedless grapes
Balsamic vinegar for drizzling, ~ 1 TBSP

Blend 3/4 of the melon and 1 cup of grapes in a blender until smooth.

Add salt and lemon, blend. Pour into a bowl.

Cut the remaining melon 1/4 into small pieces or use a melon baller.

Float melon pieces and remaining grapes in liquid. Serve into bowls and drizzle with balsamic.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Soup, Salad, and Tart, Part 2

This week the weather was cooler, so we turned to heartier fare: warm, roasted vegetable salad, Swiss chard soup, and apple peach hand pies. The kids are getting into the idea of themed dinners and remembered that last week we did variations on the same courses. It's fun to watch them compare meals and become educated eaters.

Warm Roasted Vegetable Salad

1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 to 3/4" cubes
1large onion, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 beet, cut into 1/4" cubes
2 zucchini, 3/4" cubes
4 medium tomatoes, 3/4" cubes
6 minced garlic cloves
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
3/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 225.

Toss all ingredients together and spread out on a cookie sheet. Bake for 4 hours, stirring once halfway through, adding more oil if it looks dry. Taste at the end and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Cream of Swiss Chard Soup

1 large onion, chopped
1 TBSP olive oil
2 bunches Swiss chard, washed and thick stems removed
5 to 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
6 small potatoes, cubed into 1/4" pieces
1/2 lime, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion in oil until starting to brown, ~ 10 minutes.

In a large pot, add onion, Swiss chard, broth, and potatoes, and simmer for ~ 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.

Using an immersion or regular blender, blend until smooth. Add lime. Add salt and pepper if necessary.

Hand Pies

This recipe makes twelve 3-bite-sized pies, or enough for 6 people for dessert.

Preheat oven to 350.


2 cup flour
2 sticks salted butter, frozen
1/2 cup ice water

The dough can be made by hand or in a food processor. See either step 1A or 1B, then go to step 2.

1A. If using a processor, 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. 

1B. If doing by hand, cut butter into slices and put it and the flour into a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers, break butter into the flour until it is pea-sized. Then rub butter chunks into flour until it is evenly broken up and the entire mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Add water while stirring with your hands for a few brief strokes.

2. 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 it sit 30 minutes. 


2 cups apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 TBSP sugar
1/2 tsp. garam masala or cinnamon
2 peaches, peeled and sliced thin

In a sauce pan, add apples, sugar, and spice. Cook on low, approximately 20 minutes, until apples reduce to a thick sauce. Stir frequently and break up chunks with a spoon. 

Have peaches sliced and ready to go for the next step.

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

Cut into 12 squares. Fill each one with a dollop of the apple mixture and top with 2 peach slices. Fold over and crimp closed.

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

Serve with wine sauce (see link for variations on this recipe, as well) and creme fraiche or bourbon peach sauce.

Bourbon Peach Sauce

2 peaches, sliced thin
3/4 cup bourbon
2 TBSP sugar

In a small sauce pan, sauté all ingredients until peaches are broken down and lumpy, ~ 20 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Serve with hand pies.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Soup, Salad, and a Tart, Part 1

Sometimes, it gets a little difficult to keep coming up with new recipes. If we know exactly how long it will take to make quiche or pasta with any of three sauces or to whip up a batch of chicken soup, and we know exactly what our kids’ reactions will be to it, why branch out? When we began Cooking the Seasons, local and seasonal in New England was a challenge for us, but that’s starting to feel like easy old hat – partly because the offerings of local and seasonal products in Somerville have exploded in the past few years, and partly because we’ve gotten used to the flow of ingredients. Every once in a while, the CSA or the Farmers’ market offers something new that sparks (or forces) an experiment, but we’ve been with the same farmers at the market and CSA for several years now and we’re pretty much ready for whatever they have. So, when bounty doesn’t inspire newness, we decided restriction might. Don’t worry, though, we’re not really fans of restriction. Here’s our fall mission: meals made up of soup, salad, and a tart. The order can vary. Dinner salads. Dessert soups? It’s off to a pretty fantastic start with our Labor Day extravaganza: Gazpacho, Poke, and Rustic Tart.

Late Summer Gazpacho

Last week when we came up with the Gazpacho recipe, I still had a cucumber from the garden in my fridge, and we somehow expected more to come. When we realized we were wrong, we toyed with, oh horror, grocery story cukes from some other region, or country! Practicality rather than politics ended up making the decision (Labor Day lines at the supermarkets are daunting), and boy are we glad! The intensity of flavor of an all-tomato base, and the surprise of corn and edamame that we turned to when we realized we needed a little extra volume, are truly fantastic. This is a time-intensive recipe because of the dicing, but it's not difficult. If you are in a hurry, a food processor can assist, but it’s worth taking the time to chop by hand, in our humble opinion.

Serves 10-12

8 large tomatoes, diced small
2 peppers (any color, variety is nice), diced small
2 small red onions, diced small
3 ears of corn, kernels cut off
½ cup edamame, steamed, then shelled
1 teas. jalapeno, minced (or more to taste)
1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1 bunch parsley leaves, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, blended into a juice
2 limes, juiced
¼ cup olive oil
1 tsp salt

This works best if the vegetables, especially the tomatoes, have been chilled in advance.  Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Cover and chill at least 30 min and up to several hours.  Juices will accumulate at it sits.  Stir just before serving and serve cold, with croutons.


½ loaf bread (stale or fresh), cubed
2 tsp. thyme (fresh or dried)
2 T olive oil
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced

Spread cubed bread out on a baking sheet.  Bake at 300 for 30-45 minutes, until toasty crunchy all the way through.  Toss remaining ingredients onto cubes and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, stirring once, until fragrant. Cool before serving.


This recipe is inspired from leftovers. On one of our sushi-making evenings, we had more rolls than we could possibly eat and still had lovely filling ingredients all chopped with nowhere to go. So, we threw it all into a bowl, added a sesame oil dressing, and all agreed it was the best part of the meal. This time, we cut to the chase, skipped the rolls, and mixed it all together from the first.

We got the salmon from New Deal Fish Market. Cocktail Dave was sent to get three pounds of fish, at least some of which was salmon. When they brought out the whole fish and started filleting it, he forgot all other species and went with only salmon, much to this recipe's benefit.

Serves 10-12

3 lbs salmon, cut into ½” cubes
5 avocadoes, cut into ½” cubes
2 mangoes, cut into ½” cubes
1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped
2 red onions, chopped small
¼ cup sesame seeds

Mix all ingredients together and toss with sauce made of:

½ cup soy sauce
¾ cup mirin
¼ cup toasted sesame oil

Let sit in sauce for 10-15 minutes before serving

Peach-Raspberry Rustic Tarts

Serves 10-12


2 cups flour
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup ice water

This recipe makes two tarts. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter or two knives in a cross-cut pattern. Cut until butter is about the size of beans and peas. With the flat of your hand, quickly rub the mixture between your palms. Do not overmix; it’s ok if there are still some butter chunks. Add ½ cup ice water and quickly mix with fingertips. Flour a pasty cloth or dishtowel and put half of the dough into it. Usee the cloth to gather the dough into a tight ball, then flatten it with the palm of your hand. Flour the top of the dough and roll it to just under the size of a cookie pan. Use the cloth to flip the dough into the pan, then pull the cloth off. Fill with fruit (recipe below) to about 1-1 ½ inches from the edge. Then flip the edge over, creating a kind of skirt around the edge of the tart. Repeat with the other half of the dough to make the second tart. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes, or until the crust just begins to brown.

Peach-Raspberry Filling #1

2 cups sliced frozen or fresh peaches
4 T sugar
3 fresh peaches, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1 cup raspberries

In a saucepan, mix the 2 cups frozen or fresh peaches with the sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a ricer, mash to get a pulpy mush. To fill: lay peach slices on dough, sprinkle raspberries over peaches, then top with peach mush. Close off crust as described above.

Peach-Raspberry Filling #2

2 cups raspberries
5 T sugar
3 fresh peaches, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

In a saucepan, mix the raspberries with the sugar. Bring to a simmer, then cook on low for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

To fill: lay peaches on dough, then pour raspberry sauce over peaches. Close off crust as described above.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Swiss Chard Quiche

Swiss chard is my new favorite vegetable. It cooks up delicately soft like spinach so that it can be used chopped fine in all kinds of Italian and Greek dishes (lasagna, ravioli filling, spanakopita…), it’s mild and thin enough to blend wonderfully into salads, in its rainbow versions it’s beautiful, it grows super easily in my garden, and my son likes it! So now I’m using it in droves in all kinds of places where I would have put in spinach (spinach is more of a cold-temp veggie, so it tends to be in short supply in midsummer, while swiss chard thrives in the heat and is all over farmers markets and CSA shares in August). The latest success is quiche, which in addition to being delicious and healthy in general can be made from totally local ingredients and most important to me can be served hot or cold and travels very well (in tupperware) on picnics!

Swiss Chard Quiche
Serves 4


½ cup white flour (local flours now available at farmers’ markets and at Sherman Market)
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 stick cold butter
¼ cup ice-cold water

Mix flours together. Slice butter, then cut into flour using a pastry cutter or two knives in a criss-cross motion. Do not overmix. Once butter is pebble-sized, us flat hands and quickly rub it between your palms to finish mixing. Add ice water and quickly mix with fingertips. Flour a smooth dishtowel and dump dough onto the towel. Pull the towel together to make dough into a tight ball, then flatten into a disk using the palm of your hand. Open dishtowel and use a rolling pin to roll dough into a flat round that is ¼-1/2 inch wider than your pie or tart pan. Using the cloth, flip the dough into the pan, pull the cloth off the top, smooth the dough down, and fold over anything that hangs off the top to make a little raised ridge. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350.

3 eggs
1 cup milk
8-12 oz grated cheese – a mix is best; this time I included cheddar, gouda, and cream cheese but really any mix works well.
2 bunches swiss chard
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
Cut the stems off of the swiss chard. Steam the swiss chard, then let it cool. Squeeze out all the water you possibly can. Chop it as finely as possible. While the swiss chard is cooling, beat the eggs then stir in all of the other ingredients. When the chard is ready, add it. Pour the filling into the crust. Bake for 45-55 minutes.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ratatouille can be a wonderful mid-late summer fridge-clearing extravaganza--the traditional base of tomatoes, onions, zucchini, eggplant and peppers easily expands to include just about any other veggie you can think of.  But recently, I was served a ratatuoille that went for less and did it superbly.  Company (a fantastic group of French gourmands with whom we had such fun eating at the Marché des Producteurs that they invited us to lunch the next day) and location (under the arbor of an old French farmhouse overlooking fields of sunflowers) combined with skill to make Agnès's Eggplant Ratatioulle unrepeatable (she also served it surrounded by home-pickled green peppers):

But here's a recipe for a close second. In addition to the selection of ingredients, the key is to first cook the eggplant separately from the onions and tomatoes, and then to cook it all together.

Agnès's Eggplant Ratatioulle

Serves 4-6 (as a side or, spooned over brown rice, as light main dish)

3 medium onions
6 medium tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
3 eggplants
4 T olive oil
2 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 tsp. pepper

Slice the onions and sauté in a deep pan or saucepan 1T olive oil until translucent, 3-5 minutes.  Slice the garlic and add to the onions.  Cook 1 minute longer.  Roughly chop the tomatoes and add, along with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper, to the onions and garlic.  Simmer on low for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the eggplant (skin on) into 1-2" squares.  Bring the remaining 3 T olive oil just to sizzling in a new pan.  Toss in egplant; toss to coat, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Sauté with remaining 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp salt. until eggplant is very soft, about 15 minutes.

Pour eggplant into onion-tomato mixture and simmer, covered, over low heat for 20-40 minutes (you can see from the picture that Agnès's cooked much longer than mine - the trick is to cook it a nice long time without loosing liquid-if you have a pressure cooker, you're really set - go for 6 minutes at medium pressure, with slow release).  You can serve this right away, or for even better flavor set it aside for anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours (in fridge if it's going to be more than 3 hours), then reheat gently just before serving or serve at room temperature.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fresh Blueberry Pie, Oh My!

High on the list of life's luxuries is to make a pie with fresh fruit. Too often we get the "must save for winter" urge, perhaps woven into our genetic code, and only make pies in January with lovely, though frozen, berries we carefully prepared and stacked in the freezer in July. They are tasty and make the cold winter seem not quite so bleak, but pale in comparison to using fresh berries. But, this year, the blueberry crop is abundant; we've put up 6 gallon freezer bags full of the blue gems, and they are still coming in the CSA. We took a poll and our kids decided that pie trumped fresh blueberries (a sure sign they've been gorging), so pie it is!

This recipe is so simple it almost feels like cheating to claim it as our own, but we will, so there!

Blueberry Pie

Preheat oven to 400.


3 pints fresh blueberries, washed
1 TBSP lemon juice
1/4 cup honey

Put all above ingredients in a bowl and gently stir to just get honey evenly spread.


2 cups white flour OR use 1 cup white and 1 cup wheat
1/2 teas. salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
~ 1/2 cup ice cold water 

1. Put flour and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and use your fingers to gently rub the butter into the flour until it uniformly looks like coarse cornmeal. 

2. Sprinkle most of the water on top and gently mix with your hands until the dough comes together. If it doesn't come together easily, sprinkle on a bit more until it does. Humidity and air temperature definitely determine how much water you end up using. Form into two even clumps. 

3. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out one clump on a floured counter top until it's approximately 14 inches in diameter. 

4. Place rolled out dough in a pie pan. Add filling.

5. Roll out other clump to approximately 10 inches in diameter and place on top of pie. Crimp edges so top and bottom crust meet and join.

6. Put in the oven on a cookie sheet to catch drips.

7. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 and bake until crust is lightly browned, approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

8. Remove from oven and let cool. Eat.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cleaning the Fridge of Farmers' Market Delights

This time of year, between our CSA share and my inability to exercise any bit of self-control at the farmers' market, we end up with the counters and refrigerator full of gorgeous vegetables on the brink of becoming fodder for the compost pile. What to do? Well, I have a few suggestions. Like its cousin, Garbage Risotto, you can make a lovely garbage pasta that will clean out the fridge. And then, just for the shear fun of it, make creamed corn.

I am embarrassed to admit that I learned the joy of fresh pasta only recently. I grew up with regular dry pasta and experimented with grocery store fresh pasta as a young adult, but it wasn't until moving to Union Square and discovering the rare gem that is Capone's that I realized that pasta does not need to simply be the vehicle for sauce, but instead can represent itself just fine. I strongly urge you to visit Al and do a taste test of olive oil or vinegar, drool over his cheeses and olives, or bring home his incredibly talented daughter's handmade chocolates. Your life will change for the better.

Garbage Pasta

Serves 6

lots of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
a few scallions, chopped OR a shallot, chopped OR garlic scapes, chopped OR 1/2 onion, chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces
marinated artichoke hearts
1 cup eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup tomato sauce
broccoli or cauliflower pieces
summer squash or zucchini
Swiss chard or kale, chopped small
salt and pepper
cooked sausage or chicken

basil or cilantro
fresh mozzarella cheese or any other cheese

2 lbs. fresh pasta (I like half squid ink, half lemon)

1. Saute garlic and scallion (or onion or shallot, etc) - in enough olive oil to generously cover the bottom of a large frying pan - for a few minutes.

2. Add any other ingredients you want from the list above (or add in your own ideas) EXCEPT cheeses and fresh herbs. Cook until softened and smelling good, ~ 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta (fresh cooks in 2 minutes). Drain pasta. Put back into pasta pot and pour cooked toppings over. Add cheese and herbs. Stir well. Add more olive oil to loosen it if it's too hard to stir. Add more salt and pepper if necessary. Eat. I like to put nutritional yeast on top.

This next recipe is delicious as a side to almost anything.

Creamed Corn

Serves 6 as a side

2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teas. salt
1/2 teas. pepper
12 ears corn, kernels cut off
1/2 cup milk or cream, maybe more
1/4 lb. fresh mozzarella
1 bunch cilantro, cleaned and roughly chopped (smaller stems okay)

In a large frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add garlic, stirring until fragrant, ~ 2 minutes. 

Add salt and pepper.

Add corn. Cook, stirring once or twice, for ~ 10 minutes. 

Add milk and cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until corn is starting to brown and get sticky, ~ 20 to 25 minutes. If it starts to look dry, add a little more milk.

Tear mozzarella into bite-sized pieces and add. Add cilantro and stir well. Remove from heat. Taste to see if it needs more salt or pepper. Eat.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Pregnancy-Inspired Grilled Cheese

July is what eating locally and seasonally is all about. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by farmers' markets and stores with abundant vegetables, fruits, cheeses, breads, chocolates. I could go on, but there's a word limit so I will stop, but you need to go check it out. Union Square boasts two farmers' markets (Thursdays, 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) as well as the lovely Sherman Market, purveyor of all things local. Combine these with the bountiful CSAs available, and eating in season becomes easy and delicious. And that's just Union Square! Davis and Central (Cambridge) Squares have their own farmers' markets and stores with local goods. We are lucky people, over here in the 'Ville.

Today's meal was genuinely entirely local. While at the Swirl and Slice Thursday evening farmers' market this week, my very pregnant sister had a vision for grilled cheese with, wait for it, . . . mozzarella and goat cheese. And, as one who has been pregnant myself in the past, I recognized the tone of her voice and the look in her eye and didn't think twice and bought both (Fiore Di Nonno mozzarella and Crystal Brook Farm garlic and basil goat cheese). We had lovely tomatoes from Saturday's farmers' market (Kimball Fruit Farm), which had ripened in the window and, realizing we had forgotten basil, went out on a limb and used deep purple rainbow chard from Red Fire Farm's CSA, which was a delightfully hearty and tasty alternative. The pinnacle of our local yumminess was Dan's Brick Oven Bread (purchased at Sherman Market) which is the best whole wheat sourdough I've ever had. This grilled cheese was over-the-top good.

Grilled Cheese, serves 2 hungry people (multiply as needed)

4 slices Dan's Brick Oven Bread
1 medium tomato, cut into 6 slices
4 leaves rainbow or Swiss chard, washed and thick stems removed
1/4 lb. Fiore Di Nonno mozzarella, cut into 4 slices
2 TBSP Crystal Brook Farm garlic and basil goat cheese
2 TBSP butter, divided

1. Heat a large cast iron frying pan on low heat.

2. Lay two slices of bread on a cutting board. Place 3 tomato slices, 2 leaves of chard, and 2 slices of mozzarella on each. Spread 1 TBSP goat cheese on each of the remaining slices of bread and place, cheese down, on top of the mozzarella, completing the sandwich.

3. Put 1 TBSP butter in the bottom of the pan and spread around for an even coating. Place the sandwiches in the pan and let them grill for 4 to 5 minutes, checking to make sure they are not burning. When the bottom is nicely browned, flip the sandwiches over. Put the remaining TBSP butter in the pan and gently lift the sandwiches up to get the butter underneath. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes, checking to make sure they do not burn. When nicely browned, remove from the heat, cut the sandwiches in half, and eat!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Black Raspberries, Briefly

Before the birds discovered them, at the beginning of this week, I had great gobs of black raspberries covering the bushes that just keep finding new corners of the garden to occupy. As they started to ripen, I picked as many as I could each day. Then, I slacked off on Monday, and on Tuesday morning I woke to the delighted sounds of the birds who’d found them. Now I think they must hang out watching the berries ripen from the trees, or maybe they pick them at night, because even if I go out two or three times a day, every ripe berry gets picked before I can get near it. I’m sure some kind of netting would protect them, but they’re tucked into such random and hard to access spots already, I think the netting would just ensure that no one gets any. But before the birds swooped in, there were even more than my son could smoosh across his face, even more than either of us could eat in one sitting. And so I froze about 12 ounces of them. Now that I realize there won’t be any more, they’ve become a precious commodity. I don’t want to waste them all on one dish, but believe it or not I still have 8 oz of frozen blueberries left over from the flats of them that I got last summer, and those I’m dying to finally empty out. So blueberry-black raspeberry sorbet it is! And just because I’m on an herb kick, make that blueberry-black-raspberry-mint sorbet. Yum.

Blueberry-Black Raspberry-Mint Sorbet
serves 6-8

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
10 mint leaves
8 oz frozen blueberries
4 oz. frozen black raspberries
4 tsp. lemon juice

Bring the sugar, water, and mint leaves to a boil, then simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Strain into a small bowl and put into a larger bowl filled with ice and water. Let cool for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, puree the berries in a food processor. Stir everything together in a large bowl. Put into an ice cream maker and chill. Finish off in freezer.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Herb Gardening

I’ve been gardening in Somerville in an utterly irresponsible way for about fifteen years now. I rarely plan ahead, and if I do I make four or five different plans for the same spot on random scraps of paper that I don’t consult when I’m buying seeds and seedlings. I don’t mark out plots with string, and I usually don’t even manage to put in little sticks saying what’s gone in where. Sometimes, I replant an area I’ve already done. Or, because I always end up with too many seeds, I interplant things that really don’t go together. So my garlic are poking out between my strawberries, there are beans getting ready to tangle into everything, and I lost my sage to aggressive mint. But, I end up with a garden of survivors: if something can make it in my garden, it thrives on overcrowding, intermittent watering, and general disregard. So fifteen years in, I have a set of staples that I can truly depend on. Many things volunteer (grow from dropped seeds from last year’s plants or from the compost): beans, tomatoes, mystery squash. But the most reliable of course are the perennials, and in New England, the perennials are mostly herbs: mint, thyme, oregano, chives, tarragon, lavender. Here’s what it looks like.

I’m trying to keep a few spots open for the cilantro and parsley seeds I always toss out in the Spring, but it’s getting smaller and smaller…

Occasionally, I look in envy at my neighbors’ neat rows of well-groomed plants, but then I realize, every time I look he’s out there, bent over them. If I had that kind of time, I’d love to do the same, but what I love even more is that right now, in the midst of working and mothering and all of the other responsibilities I keep taking on, I can let chaos reign in the garden and still carry up basketfuls of delight whenever I happen to venture out there.

All of the herbal loveliness of course fits into most anything you make, but with so much of it, it’s also nice to see it not as an add-in but as the star. It certainly is in herby green rice.

Herby Green Rice

Serves 4

1 cup (dry) rice
2 cups water
4 T olive oil
2 T butter
½ to 1 cup mushrooms, fresh or rehydrated
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch thyme
1 bunch oregano
2 large garlic scapes

Heat 1 T of the oil. Pour in rice and stir a few times, to coat with oil and toast very lightly. Add water. Bring to a boil Cover and lower to a low simmer. Cook 30 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the mushrooms into small pieces. Saute in 1 T olive oil with salt and pepper for about 15 minutes. Mince all of the herbs and the scapes, and cut the butter into 4-6 pats. Toss the rice, mushrooms, herbs, butter, and remaining olive oil in a large bowl.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Turnip Greens - good and good for you

During the winter I am very good about making a menu for the week. It helps with shopping and cooking during our busy lives, saves money, reduces waste, and aligns my otherwise scattered brain. But then summer hits, with the loveliest of produce coming into the markets and CSA shares, and my menu planning hibernates. I find myself dumping vegetables into my bags with little thought to when exactly we'll eat them, but knowing that when we do, they will be the heart of our meal, around which we'll build dinner.

This past Saturday was the opening day of our summer farmers' market. We are incredibly fortunate to have an amazing all-winter farmers' market full of root veggies, cold frame greens, brussels sprouts, cheeses, breads, etc., but there really is nothing like a summer market. It was raining sideways but Dave and I bribed the kids with a movie afterwards, bundled up in ponchos and headed down to make the opening bell. It felt like a homecoming, welcoming back old friends we hadn't seen all winter, emptying our wallets as we stuffed our bags with the perkiest lettuces, magenta radishes, strawberries, rhubarb, and turnips.

We enjoy turnips around our house, so get them all summer long. They come with gorgeous greens, which, in the beginning of the season, we keep on and pretend we'll eat. Midway through the summer we admit we are tired of cleaning slimy remnants out of the fridge drawer and ask the farmers to cut the greens off when we buy them.

It being the first market, we kept the greens and made a promise that they would be eaten that day or discarded. So we ate them, and wow! are they good. They are chock full of calcium and other important vitamins, so this is a win-win meal.

Sautéed Turnip Greens

1 bunch turnip greens
3 TBSP olive oil, separated
1 shallot, minced (~ 1 TBSP)
salt and pepper to taste
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

1. Wash greens and set aside.

2. Heat a large sauté pan that has a cover over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add 2 TBSP olive oil and the shallot. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Add greens, turn a few times, adding 1 TBSP more olive oil on top. Cover the pan and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Take off heat, drizzle with balsamic and stir.

Serve as a side to a sandwich or with eggs or just as is.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Spring Herbed Chicken

Peas are sprouting, blueberries and black raspberries are setting fruit, and garlic are knee-high, but still the only harvestables from my backyard garden are two strawberries and lots of herbs.  So, herbs it is.  Superbly featured in, oh, Spring Chicken!
Serves 4-6

3 lbs chicken legs cut into thighs and drumsticks
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 large bunch rosemary, roughly chopped
1 large bunch thyme, roughly chopped
1 T coarse sea salt
zest of 1lemon
juice of 1 lemon
1 T mustard
1 T honey
1/4 cup olive oil

Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a large, strong plastic bag.  Put in chicken pieces and turn with hands to coat.  Refrigerate (I put it into a large bowl in case of leaks) for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours, turning occasionally.  Remove from fridge about 30 minutes before you are ready to cook, to take the chill off.  Preheat oven to 425.  Place chicken pieces in a single layer in a large baking pan.  Pour remaining sauce over.  Bake, uncovered, for one hour.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Drinks and Dessert

Back Bar, in Union Square, was serving tequila mint juleps in honor of Cinco de Mayo last weekend. They were so good, Dave decided to try his own. We’re not sure exactly what the Back Bar recipe is, but here’s Dave’s!

Mezcal Mint Juleps

In the bottom of a mint julep cup, place 10 mint leaves.

Add a splash of water and 1 T agave syrup. Muddle lightly. Fill cup halfway with crushed ice. Pour in 2 oz. mescal and stir well. Fill the rest of the way with crushed ice. Garnish with spanked mint (to release the oils while leaving the mint looking beautiful lay a spring in one flat hand. Clap the other hand on top of it once).

Drink that while you cook something delicious like soft shell crabs on a bed of arugula with roasted potatoes (see our last post), and end the meal with rhubarb-blueberry-chocolate hand tarts and everyone will end the day happy!

Rhubarb-Blueberry-Chocolate Hand Tarts with red wine sauce

2 cups frozen or fresh rhubarb (in 1” pieces)
¼ cup sugar

2 cups frozen blueberries

2 cups flour
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/3 cup ice-cold water

½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips

2 ¼ cups red wine
½ cup sugar

1. Make the rhubarb sauce. Put rhubarb and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. It will become a thick saucey mush.

2. Meanwhile, make a pie crust. Put flour in bowl. Slice COLD butter into ¼ inch slices and put in with flour. Using two knives, cut butter into flour, crossing the knives in a scissor-like fashion until the butter is in little baby-fingernail-sized pieces. Then, blend together with hands, gathering small amounts in hands and rubbing quickly between flattened palms, touching as little as possible, until roughly blended. Add in ice-water and toss quickly with tips of fingers. Lay out a clean dish towel. Dust with flour. Dump dough into center of dish towel. Gather edges and use towel to squeeze into a ball, then set on counter, still in towel, and flatten with palm of hand. Open towel flat, dust rolling pin with flour, and roll to about 1/8-¼” thickness. Cut into 8 pieces.

3. In the center of each piece, place a dollop of rhubarb sauce, ¼ cup blueberries, and on top about 10 dark chocolate chips. fold edges of crust in and up about ½-1”, leaving the center of the tart open. Place on a lightly oiled baking pan and bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, until crust is beginning to brown and center is bubbling. Cool to room temperature before eating.

4. Meanwhile, put wine and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let cook low for about 45 minutes. Let cool. The red wine sauce will thicken as it cools. Drizzle over tarts just before serving.