Friday, August 30, 2013

Eggplant Parmasagna, Gluten-Free Lasagna, or CSA Fridge Cleanout, the Taste Remains the Same

Call it what you will. The Asian eggplant was taking over the veggie drawer and lower shelf of the refrigerator. We debated eggplant parm (too much work), steamed eggplant with spicy sauce (we've had it every other day for the past month), or letting it sit another day (too risky, since it seems to be multiplying overnight). So Dave took the initiative to grill it up. Then we made it into what some might call casserole, but what we affectionately prefer to call Eggplant Parmasagna (no parmesan was actually harmed in this recipe).

6 - 8 Asian eggplants, sliced lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
8 oz tomato sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 lb mozzarella, sliced into 16 pieces
1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves ripped into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper
optional: 4 roasted tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces

Salt eggplant, place in a colander, and let drain for one hour.

Grill on a 350 to 400 degree grill until browned, ~ 5 - 7 minutes per side.

Preheat oven to 350.

In a shallow baking dish, put enough tomato sauce to just lightly cover the bottom. Put on half the eggplant. Sprinkle with half the bread crumbs. Add almost half the tomato sauce. Top with half the mozzarella. Add half the kale. Add roasted tomatoes, if using. Layer on remaining eggplant, then bread crumbs, and kale and almost all of the remaining tomato sauce. Top with remaining mozzarella and the rest of the tomato sauce, spreading sauce over the cheese. Sprinkle salt and pepper liberally on top.

Bake 45 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes. Slice as you would lasagna and serve.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Crab Cakes Extraordinaire!

Following Keja's translocal theme, we report to you from the Jersey Shore. Our kids went crabbing on the docks overlooking Barnegat Bay with an old friend of mine (and mother of their friends), who is a patient, informative, and successful crabber. They came away with some beauties, which Cocktail Dave then made into amazing crab cakes. Probably the best I've ever had, though they were amply spiced with a cold beer on a shady porch overlooking a lovely body of water, so I may be biased.

Dave, take it away!

My grandmother is descended from a long line of Marylanders, whose surname I was given as a middle name.  All her life she has griped about her favorite food, crab cakes.  If someone else makes them, they use too much filling and not enough crab.  If she makes them herself, the darn things are always falling apart in the pan.

This is not her recipe.

My kids went crabbing in Barnegat Bay and brought home 3 beauties.  It ain't the Chesapeake, but thanks to the efforts of groups like Save Barnegat Bay you can still eat the crustaceans pulled from it.

Now, last time I visited my Maryland cousins (about 8 years ago), they treated us to a crab feast.  I was hungry and couldn't pick the crabs fast enough to feel full.  I am told that this is a common problem among crab-eating peoples.  This time I planned to do it differently.

I found a rocking chair -- three cheers for the inventor of the rocking chair! -- and sat out on the porch to pick these 3 crabs.  I was not hungry.  I had nowhere to be.  I had a nice view and people to chat with.  I took my time and learned a thing or two about picking crabs.  First, that curved, pointed tool is not just for getting the little tubes of meat from the legs.  It can be used for the meat from the body as well, which helps you get it out in big lumps instead of little stringy bits.  By the time I got to my third crab I felt I was getting the hang of this.

Then I took the meat and threw it into a mixing bowl.  I added 1/3 cup stale crushed tortilla chips, an egg, some lemon/olive oil-based salad dressing I had in the fridge, and half a red onion, finely diced.  Once this was mixed together, I found that the darn things kept falling apart when I tried to make patties.  I threw the mixture back in the bowl and scraped some breadcrumbs out of a stale heel.  With this added, the darn things still wouldn't stick together, but remembering the words of my grandmother, I refused to dilute the crabmeat further.

I made patties in one hand by squeezing all the extra liquid out and spreading them on a plate.  I dusted the tops with flour then with great care flipped them over, dusting the other side.

I put a good amount of safflower oil in a medium-hot pan and let it heat.  Then I slid the patties into the oil with a spatula and my fingers.  After that -- important step!  -- I left the room.  I poured myself a beer first, but then I skedaddled.  I knew that if I remained in the room I would poke and prod the cakes and flip them too early.  I hoped that if I left them alone they would get crusty on the bottom and might not fall apart in the pan when flipped.

After drinking about 1/3 of a beer, assuming that the cakes would be brown and crispy on the bottom, I came back in and flipped.  The darn things did not fall apart.  The other side didn't take as long, and after draining them on paper towels, they were solid enough to be eaten by fingers.

These crab cakes were not overly seasoned, which I liked.  They might have been better with a nice aioli, but they were good plain with a lemon wedge.  I wish my grandmother would have been with me to share them, but next time I see her I'll read her this recipe and hopefully she'll appreciate that I did my best to follow her Maryland principles of crab-cake making.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Translocal Caramelized Fennel and Onions

Fennel roots were at the Union Square farmers' market when I left at the beginning of July, and are still at the French farmers' markets I've been visiting the past few weeks.  Remai
ns of colonialism?  Proof of co-evolution?  Fodder for my new idea of the "translocal"? (Which so far has this behind it: what's local in one place might carry across oceans to be local in another too.)

Anyway, at the same time as fresh fennel root is available, the very last of last year's onions look meager next to the bright white and green spring onions.  Still, the old onions are cheap and yummy, and if you're caramelizing they work a little better than the spring ones (which are perfect for salads, roasting, grilling...).

Caramelized Fennel and Onions
serves 4

1 T olive oil
3 medium fennel roots
3 medium onions
1 cup white or rosé wine
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup crème fraiche or sour cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Slice the fennel roots and the onions.  Sauté in the olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until they soften, about 5 minutes, then lower heat (to low), add salt and pepper, and cook for another 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Raise heat to medium-high, add wine, and cook, stirring frequently until the liquid has almost disappeared (about 5 min).  Add the broth and crème fraiche or sour cream and cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has almost disappeared  (about 5 min).  Serve immediately.

Excellent with a roasted pork loin!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fatted Duck Breast

New carrots are in!  Carrots last well into the winter and get sweeter with age, but the new ones are here now, and with a little honey and other tricks can be quite fantastic.  And these ones are really the most perfect side for duck that I can imagine.  But duck, local and seasonal?

Well, I am in France, so let me just go on a little about French farmers' markets.  Well, actually, almost everything I was going to say that's great about French farmers' markets has already hit the Boston area: there's a market every day of the week except Mondays, there's bread and meat and cheese and milk and yogurt and wine as well as veggies.  This is totally true in the Boston area as well, only I don't keep a list of the farmers' markets by day on the fridge, and I only head to the farmers' market first on Saturdays when it's in Union Square right around the corner from my house.  So it's as much the mindset of an old French lady or an American on holiday in France (the main clientele at French farmers' markets) as the presence of markets that I really need.  A mindset that lets you not only get to the market every day but take the time to walk up and down the whole market before you purchase anything, to greet the marketers and ask their advice on what's good, amidst questions about relatives and comments about the weather.

There is, however, one thing that French farmers' markets themselves offer that is unique: fresh meat.  None of this flash-frozen stuff that the USDA apparently requires at farmers' markets in the U.S.  Cool and perfectly hung beef, pork of every kind not only fresh but also cured, in patés and--my favorite--rillettes, and all manner of house-made sausages (including another favorite, blood sausage, and one of the few meat products I might not try at home again, andouillettes--basically tripe sausage), and of course rabbit and a fantastic array of poultry including goose and duck.  Aside from goose and duck rillettes and patés, magret de canard is by far my favorite.  While the regular translation of magret de canard is "duck breast," "fatted duck breast" is not only more prosaic but also more accurate.  And if you know my love of all things fatty and rich, you'll understand.  I would, however, like to note at this point that I recently had a cholesterol check that got me a note from my doctor saying not only are my cholesterol levels good, but I have the highest level of good cholesterol he's ever seen--and this with a family history of high cholesterol of the bad kind!  A sure sign that butter, cream, and duck fat along with with rather enormous volumes of olive oil, avocado, and salmon collars contribute to good cholesterol.

So, for better cholesterol, better eyesight, and a delightful combination of flavors, textures, and colors:

Magret de canard with shallot-wine sauce
Serves 4

2 magrets ("fatted duck breasts")
1 cup sliced shallots (from 6 small shallots)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 cloves
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground pepper
2 T raspberry jam
1 cup red wine
1 1/2 T mustard

If there's any fluid on the duck breast, wipe it off.  Bring to room temperature.  Meanwhile, put the shallots, garlic, cloves, salt and pepper in a bowl.   Make 4-5 cuts into the fatty side of the duck just to touch the meat under the fat.  Heat the pan.  Put the duck in fat-side down for 3-4 minutes on low heat.  Once the fat begins to render and brown, turn and brown, about 5 minutes more.  Add the shallot mixture, raise heat to medium and cook until soft, about 3 minutes.  Remove the duck (it is not yet cooked through).  Add the raspberry jam, mix, then add the wine.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Return the duck to the pan, cover, and cook 2-5 minutes longer (depending on desired doneness).  Slice against the grain, cover with sauce, and serve.

Glazed Carrots with Ginger and Hot Pepper
Serves 4
this is my, rather reworked, version of Martha Stewart's Glazed Carrots and Ginger

2 bunches new carrots
2 T butter
2 T honey
2" fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1"-long matchsticks
1 tsp hot pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper

Cut the carrots into pieces 2" long and 1/2" thick (new carrots are small, but you'll probably need to cut most in half across and then again lengthwise on the top half, maybe even in four lengthwise).  Blanch the carrots by bringing a large pot of water to a boil and dropping carrots in for exactly 3 minutes, then removing and draining immediately.  Meanwhile, melt the butter and honey in a large pan.  As soon as the carrots are drained, add them to the pan along with the other ingredients.  Sauté over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Sandy

The Sandy cocktail was inspired by our summer visit to the New Jersey shore.  I was looking for the toughness of bourbon -- "Jersey Strong" -- plus the summery mix of Cointreau and lemon.  Lime is a common pairing with Cointreau, but the idea of lime plus bourbon skeeved me out a little (to quote a Jersey Girl of my acquaintance).  Thus, lemon.  After mixing these three ingredients, I felt that the sweetness of the bourbon and Cointreau didn't quite stand up to the sourness of the lemon.  I thought about adding agave syrup, but I had been making a lot of margaritas lately and gotten used to salting glass rims.  I tried sugaring the rim of this drink rather than adding sweetener and, voila.  A refreshing cocktail with a sour character that is admirably set off by the sugar rim.  Drinking it on the veranda was a slight problem for two reasons: one, a fly discovered the sugar and tried to make it his own, and two, this drink went down way too easily.  Try it but remember to drink in moderation, because this drink won't remind you.

2 oz. Maker's Mark bourbon
1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice (approx. one half of a lemon)
1/2 oz. Cointreau

Mix the ingredients with 3 cubes of ice and stir vigorously until the mixture is quite cold.  Pour white sugar in a saucer.  Roll the rim of a cocktail glass or wine glass in the extra lemon juice, then roll glass rim around sugar saucer until rim is coated.  Then pour the mixture, ice and all, in the glass, careful not to disturb the rim.  Drink in responsible quantities.  Say goodbye to agita.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pickled Stems

The reduce, reuse, recycle mantra combines in my life with A WWII mentality that has survived two generations (we thought about many names that played on Liberty Gardens for this blog) to make me very, very reluctant to throw anything out. In spite of many assertions as a teenager sifting through my parents’ old plastic bags drawer at that I would never ever, I wash plastic bags and reuse them. I even hesitate to toss stuff into the compost, keeping bags of carrot peels and celery buts in the freezer for stock. It’s a little obsessive. But in a creative way. So, I’ve been really struggling with all of the wasted stalks that my kale salads make. Now, add to that the thicker stems of swiss chard, beet and turnip greens that pile up when I make platters of sautéed greens with all of the spring growth that I’ve been picking up at the farmers’ market. I found a few recipes for chard stems au gratin in old school Italian and French cookbooks, but while it’s true that pretty much anything tastes good when it’s doused with enough cream sauce and melted cheese, I can only take so much au gratin, and the stems keep coming. But then I saw a container of pickled asparagus that looked a little like my stems and I decided to try. For the first batch, I made up a sweet pickle that was okay but not my favorite. For the second batch, I modified a sour pickle recipe from Linda Ziedrich’s The Joy of Pickling. The crunchy stems saturated with hot pepper, lemon, and ginger explode like firecrackers on the tongue.

Pickled Stems
Makes one small batch – double, triple, etc. at will!
Stems from 1 bunch of greens, leaves pulled off (no need to be super precise)
½ cup rice vinegar
½ cup water
3 medium garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
¾ tsp. salt
1 T sugar
Zest of ½ lemon
4 thin slices fresh ginger
1 dried hot “Chinese” pepper, opened
½ tsp. whole black peppercorns

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Toss in stems and boil for exactly one minute. Scoop out of hot water with a slotted spoon and put immediately into a bowl of ice water. Remove stems from ice water and cut into two-inch pieces. Put into a container with a lid. Mix remaining ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and pour immediately over the stems. Close lid and let sit for about 20 minutes, then refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to two weeks. Serve as an appetizer or chop finely and serve as a relish.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Alien Invasion

Garlic Scapes always look a little like visitors from a strange place and time, but when they’re making the wild arching double-curls that say they’re ready to be picked against a backdrop of pea flowers and other early bloomers, I really wonder what’s gotten into my garden. More likely global warming than an alien invasion. And I can’t help but notice the irony of offering a recipe, in a blog about local and seasonal cooking as a way in part to lower the carbon footprint of our food, that depends on a combination brought to us by global warming. This dish would work well with garlic cloves too, but as long as baby bok choy and garlic scapes are appearing side by sides in our gardens and farmers’ markets and csa bags, I hope I'm not too much of a Polyanna if I say, we might as well enjoy them.

Baby Bok Choy with Garlic Scapes
Serves 4

2 T toasted or black sesame oil
6-8 garlic scapes
4 heads of baby bok choy
½ tsp. salt

Finely chop the garlic scapes. Wash and very cut the larger baby bok choy leaves in two or three. Heat the oil until very hot and beginning to smoke in a large pan or wok. Toss in chopped scapes and cook, stirring until the just begin to brown, about 2 minutes. Toss in bok choy and salt and cook, stirring, until the leaves begin to wilt, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Kale, again? Again!

Sometime last Fall, I got on the Kale boat. I was already a fan of sautéed kale, and had figured out a few tricks like ripping the leaves off the stems with hands to get rid of the tough stems quickly and easily, and heating the pan super hot with olive oil before dropping in the kale, for a much better flavor. Then, I discovered massaged kale salad. I wrote about it. I made it. A lot. Kale was available all winter long at the winter farmers’ markets. I perfected a massaged kale salad formula: kale, something sweet (roasted sweet potatoes, dried cranberries…), something soft (avocado, feta cheese…), and something crunchy (toasted nuts or seeds). But after a while, Kale was the only green I was stocking regularly, besides lettuce and spinach. I am generally someone who likes variety. And then I hit a low: a massaged kale salad with an unfortunate combination of granny smith apples, feta, avocado, and toasted almonds. Blah. Blah is even worse than unbelievably disgusting. At least, a nice amount of time later, I can laugh at unbelievably disgusting. So when I saw more piles of kale at the first Spring farmers’ market last weekend, I was not so thrilled. And the one bunch of kale I bought anyway was the last farmers’ market fare left in the bottom of the fridge at the end of the week. But then, I did it: a new and fantastically delicious combo featuring massaged kale. The only thing in the recipe that is local and seasonal is the kale, but part of the point of this blog is to feature local and seasonal in combination with other things to make our lives easy and our palates happy. Yum. Yum is way better than blah or unbelievably disgusting.

Massaged Kale Salad with Watermelon and Feta
1 bunch kale
1 tsp. salt
2 cups chopped watermelon
½ cup crumbled feta
1/8 cup sherry vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Rip the kale leaves from the hard middle stems. Wash and dry in a salad spinner. Shake 1 tsp. salt over the kale. Massage the kale, in a kind of kneading motion, getting the salt all over it and mashing the leaves together. Let sit for 10-20 minutes. Toss with watermelon, feta, and vinaigrette.
Sherry vinaigrette
(Makes enough for about 4 salads)
½ cup olive oil
½ cup sherry vinegar
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground pepper
½ tsp. mustard
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

Put all the ingredients together in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake hard. You can serve this immediately, but it’s better after it has sat for about a day. Store in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving (the olive oil hardens in the cold). Shake hard before each serving.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Rejoicing in the Farmers' Market

Yesterday was the first day of our local farmers' market. I'll confess, I had been looking forward to it since the last day of last year's farmers' market. It was so nice to see familiar faces manning the stands, hear people welcoming one another back, and be in a crowd of people equally as excited as I. I also officially marked the special point of just using the last of the frozen fruit from last year in a pie the week before and buying more produce to prep and freeze for the next winter (rhubarb).

I picked up bunches of vegetables that I had not put on my list, including beets, turnips, and baby kohlrabi. Their greens alone were about to overwhelm my compost container. So we washed them up and sautéed them and ate them with our grilled cheese made from farmers' market mozzarella and bread. The bounties of summer never get old.

The other thing that never gets old is my surprise at how much greens reduce when cooked. We started with a large mixing bowl overflowing with greens which gave us four healthy servings once cooked.

Sautéed Greens

Olive oil
1 clove spring garlic, coarsely chopped
Three larges bunches of greens (we used beet, turnip, and kohlrabi), washed and large stems removed
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar

Heat a large frying pan (that has a lid) over medium low heat. Once hot, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom.

Add garlic and sauté, stirring frequently, 60 seconds.

Add greens, stir to coat with oil, adding more oil if necessary. Add 1/4 cup water and cover the pan.

Let greens steam until fully wilted, ~ 5 minutes. Stir a few times.

Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with a thick, sweet balsamic vinegar. Stir and serve.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Reduce Reuse Reserve: Spring Chicken Salad

I love leftovers.  And in I think the most significant break with lessons in cooking and eating from my mother, I love to reheat them in the microwave.  Just package it up at the end of a meal, refrigerate for a day or five, nuke it for a few minutes, and reserve.  Easy and delicious.  And maybe filling my house and my head with deadly micro-waves, but if you worry about that as much as my mother does, you can of course just use the oven or stovetop.  And don't forget the total reworking of leftovers that requires re-cooking the conventional way, or the cold reserve, where salad is the vehicle and leftovers are the goodies. 

Leftover Antinuclear Spring Chicken Salad
Serves 2
1 cup shredded spring chicken leftovers
1 cup roasted sweet potato leftovers, cubed
3 T raw pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
1 tsp olive oil
¼ tsp crushed pepper blend or chile powder
1 large bunch lettuce
Balsamic vinaigrette

This is my ideal lunch salad: super healthy protein from the chicken, a little sweet and carb from the sweet potato, and a little crunch and fire from the pepitas.

Toss the lettuce, chicken, and roasted sweet potatoes in a salad bowl with balsamic vinaigrette.

Toss the pepitas, olive oil, and crushed pepper blend (I make this by grinding 1 each of whatever hot dried peppers I have around with a mortar and pestle; I make about ¼ cup at a time and save it in a glass jar) or chile powder in a pan (cast iron is best) and cook over medium heat, shaking gently, for about 3 minutes or until the pepitas start to brown. Sprinkle over the top of the salad and enjoy!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Roasted Spring Chicken with Spring Herbs and Spring Onions

Many gardens now have enough fresh herbs for a full, if small, bouquet garni, that lovely little herb bouquet that French recipes tell you to toss into soups or to stuff into roasts.  What’s more perfect to put it into – on a lovely, but crisp, spring day – but a Spring chicken.  Spring onions and the very last of last fall's garlic make a lovely roasting bed.  

2-3 short sprigs rosemary

2-3 short sprigs thyme
5-6 stems parsley
1 small bunch chives
1 5-lb spring chicken
5-6 cloves garlic
1 T olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 lemon or lime
3 spring onions

kitchen twine

Preheat oven to 375.  Tie the herbs together with a piece of kitchen twine to make a bouquet garni. 

Wash the chicken and pat it dry.  Slice two big garlic cloves in half and rub all over the chicken.  Pour 1/2 T olive oil into the bottom of a roasting pan.  Rub the other 1/2 T onto the chicken.  Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides.  Put the garlic cloves you rubbed on the chicken, the lemon or lime, and the bouquet garni into the cavity of the chicken.  Slice the spring onions in half and lay across the bottom of the roasting pan.  Place remaining garlic cloves between the spring onions.  Set the chicken on top of the onions and garlic.  Tie the legs together with a piece of kitchen twine.

Roast about 1 1/2 hours.  Remove from oven and let sit 10-15 minutes before carving and serving (we recommend with oven fries and roasted asparagus).

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Fried Dandelion Flowers

Renee asked in a comment: "Have you ever tried fried dandelions? A childhood springtime staple! My sister and I would run out a rescue them when our Dad got the lawn mower going and would have piles of them."
I never had.  It's my new favorite after-school snack.  The walk home from school becomes a foraging adventure, and this is the kind of recipe so simple and fun that even 7-year-old-boys who are usually limit their kitchen help to licking bowls and offering suggestions can get in on the action.
Pick dandelions with long stems. The bigger the flower, the easier to cook.

Dip them in a well-beaten egg, then into 1/2 cup flour seasoned with 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Heat a frying pan with about 1/2" safflower oil. Put the dandelions flower down into the pan.

Cook until the batter browns. Put on a paper towel to drain. Eat.  The kids bit of the flowers and left the stems.  I ate the stems too, and really enjoyed the barely bitter and very green bite to balance out the fried deliciousness. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013


Today I had my first great adventure in foraging...for dandelion my driveway.  It started as a grand plan.  I read about some woman in New York City who's gotten permission from all sorts of public parks to forage for invasive weeds, and who started a program at her daughter's school taking city kids to city parks to find green stuff that needs to be pulled up to serve kids who need to eat more greens.  It's like the epitome of how diminishing the radius of the food cycle is best for everyone.  So I made fantasy plans to contact the Massachussets Native Plant society (if there is such a thing) and find out about invasive species, and then to research which ones are edible, and then to get permission from the MDC, and then to stuff my running clothes with plastic bags and do interval training with squats to dig and lunges to pick.  And then I did some weeding, came inside, saw a recipe for dandelion greens, and ran back out and dumped my yard waste bag all over the driveway so I could rescue the precious leaves.  Then I washed them like ten times, and started to saute.  About halfway through, I tasted some.  Bitter.  Really bitter.  Like lettuce, dandelion greens get bitter when the plant flowers.  And I had quite indiscriminately pulled up budding and flowering plants from the driveway and garden paths.  So I quickly gabbed a zucchini, grated it, and dropped it into the pan.  The sweet of the zucchini both mellowed out and made into a delightful bite the bitter of the dandelion.  Tomorrow, I might go all the way to the bottom of the neighbor's driveway!

Bitter Dandelion Greens with Sweet Zucchini
serves 2

about 4 cups dandelion greens
1 zucchini
1 clove garlic
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Wash the dandelion greens well and chop roughly into thirds.  Grate the zucchini.  Heat the olive oil in the pan.  Smash the garlic clove with the flat side of a knife, pull of the skin, and toss into the olive oil.  Toss in the dandelion greens and salt and pepper and saute over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add in the grated zucchini and saute for 2-3 minutes longer.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

First Harvest Mint Makes Strawberry-Mint Pandowdy

The fits of spring over the past few weeks have finally turned into a steady beautiful warmish sunny season, and the first harvest is in—I’ve got tufts of chives, a few parsley that overwintered, and lots and lots of 2-4” mint sprigs.

Mint just grows thicker when you cut it back, so early picking is good for fresh taste and full season bounty. And at this point in the season, I’m always discovering the few things left at the bottom of my freezer that I overdid a little last year. To my great delight, several bags of frozen strawberries were hiding under yet another batch of green beans. So strawberry-mint delight it is. Strawberries, especially if they’ve been frozen, tend to be so juicy that they make soggy, runny pies, but cover them with a thick slightly sweet biscuit crust and you get what I think is officially called pandowdy, which soaks up some of the juice into the bottom of the biscuit as you bake, and delightfully sops up any soupiness that’s left to run around on your plate. Mint and strawberry are as wonderful in dessert as they are in drink – this would be the perfect end to a meal that started with strawberry-mint daiquiris or mint juleps garnished with frozen strawberries (although Dave's Moonshine Manhattans were pretty fantastic as well).

Strawberry-Mint Pandowdy
4 cups frozen chopped strawberries
¼ cup fresh mint leaves
1 T lemon juice
½ cup sugar
1 T corn starch

2 cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 T baking powder
5 T cold butter
1 cup milk

Mix together filling ingredients in a large bowl.

Pour into a round or square baking dish (the kind you’d make a casserole in)

In a separate bowl, mix the topping.  Start by mixing together flour, sugar, and baking powder. Cut cold butter into the mixture using a pastry cutter or two knives in a cross-cut pattern, until the butter is in pea-size pieces, roughly. Pour in milk all at once and stir.

Drop topping in ¼ cup-size blobs over filling to roughly cover, but do not spread out at all and do leave a few holes and dont' worry if a few pieces sink in. 

Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes.

Serve immediately or let cool for up to 3 hours and serve warm or at room temperature. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Coconut Flan with Two Sauces

I've been planning for about four years now to really learn how to make Thai food.  The farthest I've actually gotten in executing this plan is buying lots of cocount milk.  It's not seasonal or local in any way.  But combine it with local eggs and milk from Sherman Market and strawberries that I froze last spring, it makes it into the "mostly local" category. 

Coconut Flan
This recipe is based on the Flan recipe from the first Gourmet cookbook, with all sorts of changes.

3/4 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 13-oz cans coconut milk
1 cup milk
5 eggs
5 egg yolks
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat oven to 325. 

Get out a loaf pan.  Combine 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup eater in a saucepan and cook over moderate heat until sugar is dissolved.  Bring to aboal and boil, stirring occasionally, until syrup begins to turn golden, 5-10 minutes.  Continue to boil, swirling pan, until caramel is deep golden-brown, about 2 minutes more, then immediately pour into loaf pan and tils to coat bottom and 1/2 inch up sides.  Let caramel harden.

Bring cocount milk and cream to a bare simmer in a saucepan over moderate heat.

Meanwhile, bring a full teapot to a boil.

Meanwhile, whisk togeth eggs, yolks, salt, and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a large bowl.  Add hot coconut milk mixutre in a slow stream, whisking constantly, then stir in vanilla extract.  Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into loaf pan and cover pan with a double layer of foil. 

Put loaf pan in a larger baking pan and pour enough boiling water into baking pan to reach halfway up sides of loaf pan.  Bake 1 1/2 hours.  Remove loaf pan from water, remove foil, and cool completely on a rack.  You can serve it once it's cool, but it's much easier to work with if you can then loosely wrap in plastic foil and refrigerate at least 3 hours. 

Run a thin knife around sides of loaf pan, invert a platter over pan, and invert flan onto platter.  Serve with tureens of sauce to be ladeled over individual slices.

Strawberry Sauce
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 heaping tablespoon vanilla bean paste
1/4 cup sugar

1. Place berries in a small pan and slowly defrost over low heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so. When completely defrosted, mash with a potato masher until mostly smooth but still a little lumpy.

Raise heat to medium and continue heating until starting to simmer.

Add vanilla paste and sugar. You may need more sugar, depending on personal taste. Reduce to medium low and cook another ten minutes to meld flavors, stirring frequently.

Alternatively, fresh berries can be used. If so, cut berries in half and add a little water to pan to start. Stir and mash as you heat. Then continue with step 2.

Mango Sauce
1 cup fresh or frozen 1/2" mango chunks
1 tsp. almond extract
1 T butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sushi and Sashimi Sauces

Recently, I heard that traditionalist sushi connaisseurs use only the lightest dip in plain soy sauce, and regard as deep adulteration even mixing wasabi into the soy sauce.  Needless to say, we are not writing for traditonalists.  Indeed, our discovery that you can make sushi pretty quickly and easily at home with just about whatever you have on hand is just about as opposite of traditional ideas about sushi as I think you can get.  But, link to our instructions here and do it yourself really quite easily.  The first few times, your rolls might be lopsided or fall apart a little, but when they taste so good and were so much fun to make, it doesn't matter.  And then, as long as we're throwing tradition to the wind, this easy and delicious array of dipping sauces is a great change of pace and meets our requirement that every new dinner be saucey!

Sweet Sashimi Sauce
this one is absolutely divine with scallops (sashimi scallops don't need to be cut at all--just get fresh sushi-grade scallops from your local fishmonger--we use New Deal Fish Market--and set them on a plate), great with any sashimi, and very good with rolls

1 T rice vinegar (mirin)
2 tsp. safflower oil
1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. soy sauce (tamari)
1 star anise

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer and stir until sugar is disolved.  Pour into a small dipping bowl and serve warm or at room temperature.  If the oil separates, whisk briskly before serving

Srirachi Sushi Sauce
3 tsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tsp. rice vinegar (mirin)
3 tsp. soy sauce (tamari)
1 tsp. sriracha

Whisk all ingredients together and serve.

Truffle Sauce for Sushi and Sashimi
1 tsp. white truffle oil
2 tsp. rice vinegar (mirin)
2 tsp. soy sauce (tamari)
1 tsp. sriracha
1/4 tsp. truffle salt
1/4 tsp. mustard powder
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Sunday, March 3, 2013

It's Seasonal, I Swear!

While making dessert with leftover Phyllo dough from dinner (and peaches lovingly frozen from this summer), we ended up with peach juice. Not ones to waste food, we called in Cocktail Dave. He came up with a delicious concoction that reminds us of summer all the while staving off the last of the winter blues. He used a single barrel Cruzan rum and the peach juice from our favorite peaches from our favorite peach farmers. So, partly local, seasonal in that it takes advantage of our summer work and our chest freezer, and all delicious.

Tommy (Nicewicz) Croix

2 oz. dark rum
1 oz. peach juice
1/4 oz. cointreau
2 shakes lactart
1 strip grapefruit rind

Put rum, juice, cointreau, and lactart in a shaker with ice. Shake for 20 to 30 seconds until really cold. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the grapefruit rind.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Home Lunch

In my house, there are two types of lunch, school lunch and home lunch.  My son does not eat home lunch unless he's at home.  And that only after several failed attempts on my part to make school lunch at home.  I, on the other hand, almost always eat home lunch, and often the best versions of it when I'm at work. 

Done right, most to all of the extra prep time for home lunch happens over the weekend or the night before, leaving school and workday mornings free for gettingupshoweringbreakfastdressingbrushingandskwakingoutthedoor.  That same prep means, on days when I'm having home lunch at home, that instead of bread and cheese as the fastest and easiest bite to eat there's some just as delicious and much more nutritous option (rhymes help with gettingoutthedoor, and there's some inevitable spillover).

Kale Wheatberry Squash Lunch Salad
Makes two hearty lunch servings

1 cup wheatberries
1 butternut squash
1 T pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar)
1 head kale
2 1/2 tsp. sea salt, divided
1 T olive oil
2 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup mixed raw nuts and dried fruit
1/8 cup balsamic vinaigrette

Soak wheatberries in water for about 8 hours.  Drain and boil in 4 cups water for 45-60 minutes.  Drain and set aside (keeps like this, covered in the fridge, for up to a week).

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350.  Peel the butternut squash and cut into 1/2" cubes.  Lay on a baking sheet and drizzle with pomegranate molasses, 1 T olive oil, 1 tsp. sea salt, and 1 tsp. ground black pepper.  Toss to cooat.  Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes, until tender all the way thorugh and beginning to brown.  Remove from oven and cool  (keeps like this, covered in the fridge, for up to a week).  You'll only use half of the squash in the rest of the recipe.  Snack on the other half, or save it to toss with pasta, or on pizza, or in some other salad.

Meanwhile, remove the ribs from the center of the kale leaves and chop roughly.  Put chopped kale into a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 1/2 tsp. salt.  Massage salt into kale, almost as if you were kneading the kale, for 1-2 minutes.  Set aside (keeps like this, covered in the fridge, for 2-3 days).

Toss the cooked wheatberries, roasted squash, and massaged kale together with 2 oz goat cheese, crumbled, mixed nuts and fruit, and vinaigrette.  Keeps, refrigerated for 2-3 days.  (You could draw this whole thing out over a very long time).

Monday, February 11, 2013


Some of you may remember that in the Fall we took on making meals of soup, salad, and tart as a fun way to push ourselves to try new things.  Now we've got a new one: sauce.  Often the main difference between a weeknight home meal and something I'd order at a nice restaurant, or droll over the chefs making on some cooking show,  is sauce.  We can't do the whole one sauce to drizzle on the side of the plate, another for the meat, and yet another for the veggies on any regular basis, but we can certainly make up a sauce or two to add panache to any weeknight meal.  And just the way many families make salad dressing but serve the kids before tossing it onto the salad, we can keep the sauce as a special adult treat.  We both feel strongly about not making separate meals for kids and adults, but simply leaving the sauce off kid plates is a great way to dress down (to kid-sized palates) the very same meal we are happily dousing and dabbing.  So this is our first try, and from the reaction of all at the table, 1-40, it counts as a total success.

Pommery Cocktail
serves 2
5 jigs gin
1/3 jig syrup from cocktail cherries
1/3 jig pomegranate molasses
2 cherries

Place a cherry in the bottoms of martini glasses.  Pour other ingredients into a shaker filled with ice.  Shake well.  Pour through strainer top into martini glasses.

Shrimp Stir Fry
Serves 4-6
2 T toasted sesame oil
1 T minced garlic
1 T chopped ginger
1 dried red Chinese pepper
6 large raw shrimp per person
2 medium heads broccoli, broken into florets
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks

Warm the sesame oil to medium-hot.  Toss in the garlic, ginger, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.  Toss in shrimp and cook until pink all the way through (5-10 min.).  Toss in broccoli and carrots and cook another 5 minutes.  Serve with rice and dipping sauce (below).

Asian Dipping Sauce
Serves 4
1 T black sesame oil (or toasted sesame oil)
1 T pomegranate molasses (or agave syrup or sugar)
1 T mirin
1 T black rice vinegar (or more mirin)
2 1/2 T soy sauce
2 T chopped ginger
1 tsp. minced garlic

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil then simmer, low, for about 10 minutes.
Serve in individual dipping bowls and dip the shrimp and any appetizers into it, or simply pour over the shrimp stir fry.

Strawberry (Sprinkle) Cake
2 1/4 c. white flour
1 3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 T baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 cup strawberry puree (I put 1 1/2 cups of frozen strawberries in the cuisinart to get this)
2 tsp. strawberry extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix together dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, mix together wet ingredients.  Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients.  Butter a pan, springform if possible, and "flour" it with powdered sugar (toss about 1 T powdered sugar over the butter and then shake it around, this helps the cake not to stick to the pan). Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
This cake is dense and moist.  The sprinkles are just for fun and can be omitted.  If you want the cake to look strawberry-red, you'll have to add red food coloring.  You might make a strawberry frosting for this cake, or you might offer kids a dollop of ice cream on top and for the adults spoon over it a fantastic sweet-tart strawberry-cherry sauce!

Strawberry-Cherry Sauce
Serves 4
2 cups whole strawberries
1 cup cherry juice
1/2 cup powdered sugar or 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Pour all ingredients into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then turn flame down low and simmer, low, 20-30 minutes, until the strawberries are broken down and the sauce is thickened to almost gooey.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Just Like School Lunch?

My son loves school lunch, in all its highly processed, deep fried glory.  Last month, he came home raving about cheese sauce, and after a few false starts I came up with a cheesy bechamel that passed muster (melt 2 T butter, whisk in 2 T flour, then slowly whisk in 1 cup milk, cook low whisking constantly for a few minutes, until thickened, turn off heat and stir in 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 1/2 cup grated jack cheese, and pour over things like baked potatoes, steamed broccoli...).  But this week, it's chicken nuggets, and my first try failed the kid test to miserably that all current and future requests for home versions of school lunch favorites have been cancelled.  Apparently, school lunch chicken nuggets are completely covered on their yellow crust on the outside and perfectly white on the inside.  So I ended up with a whole lot of leftover lightly breaded, gently sauteed and quite tasty, to an adult palate, chicken pieces, which turned into a truly delicious lunch salad.  Pineapple in New England is almost always underripe, and using it kind of goes against the whole spirit of this blog, but in the winter I sometimes get these yearnings for something more tropical.  If I were to make this in a warmer clime, it would really be perfect (for the adults)!

Not Chicken Nugget Salad
serves 4

1 cup herb and parmesan bread crumbs (recipe follows)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs (breast would be whiter but dryer)
3 T olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 cups lettuce
2 cups chopped pineapple
1 avocado, cubed
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette

Cut chicken into 2-3" pieces.  Toss chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and 2 T olive oil.  Spread the bread crumbs on a plate.  Roll the chicken peieces in the bread crumbs.  Heat 1 T olive oil in a large pan.  Lay the chicken pieces in the oil and cook 10 minutes per side.  Remove from heat and cut into cubes.  Toss the lettuce and avocado with the vinaigrette.  Top with the chicken and the pineapple. 

Parmesan Bread Crumbs
Makes 4 cups

4 cups cubed bread (I cube up the ends of loaves that are starting to get dry and save them in the freezer till I have enough)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp. fresh or dried rosemary
2 tsp. chopped fresh or dried basil
1 T chopped fresh or dried parsley

Toss everything together in a bowl.  Put half of it into a food processor, using the grater attachment.  Repeat with with other half.  Then put in the regular sharp blade and pulse until fine.    Keeps frozen for up to 3 months.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

What is Winter Soup?

Recently someone asked us about a winter soup recipe, something along the lines of beef barley.  There's nothing like the smell of a warm hearty beef anything simmering on the stove to warm the house, and I think some kind of beef soup or stew should make a weekly appearance all winter long.  But around this time of winter, two things happen to make me lean toward something else for a winter soup recipe.  First, I'm getting a little tired of the hearty beef yummies I was so excited about two months ago, and second, cold-loving Atlantic shellfish are in high season.  So when I heard winter soup, my first thought was: chowder!  This is a version of a very light but wonderfully filling chowder that we first came up with a few years ago.  The idea of chowder still seems so daunting to me that I rarely make it, but every time I do, I wonder why I was thought that, because at least in this version it's not only easy but fast!  We used a variety of shellfish, including the great treat of oysters; for a less expensive version, skip the oysters and/or the clams and use more mussels instead, or replace one or all of the shellfish with a robust white fish, like halibut.

Seafood Chowder with Croutons
serves 6

12 cherrystone clams
12 oysters
1 lb. mussels
2 slices thick bacon, cut into 1/2" squares
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth or water
1 carrot, cut into 1/2" squares
3 small-medium potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes
4 links sausage (we used 2 pre-cooked frankfurters from Sherman Market (not like any hotdog you've ever had!) and 2 organic beer brauts, also from Sherman, boiled in water for 30 minutes then fried/grilled)
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 cup whole milk
salt, if necessary

With a stiff brush, clean shellfish under cool water. If any are open, gently tap them on the counter. If they do not close up in a minute or so, discard them. Any that are broken should be discarded, as well.

In a large soup pot, saute the bacon until it renders, stirring frequently (about 5 minutes). Remove and set aside, leaving the fat. 

Saute the onion in the bacon fat until it is translucent (about 5 minutes). 

Add the chicken broth, carrots, and potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. 

Add the bacon and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender (15-20 minutes).  

When the veggies are tender, add the clams and oysters. Cover and cook until all have opened, (~ 8-10 minutes but checking frequently). As they open, remove them to a cutting board. Discard any that remain closed. Take out meat and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return it to the pot.

Cut the sausage into 1/2" thinck rounds and toss into the soup. 

Add in the mussels and cover and cook until they open, ~ 4 to 5 minutes but checking frequently. When they are open, turn off heat and leave mussels in the pot, shell and all.  

Add milk and pepper. Taste to see if salt is needed; it probably won't be, as the shellfish release saltwater when they open.  

Serve immediately with croutons (see below). Any mussels that did not open should be discarded.


4 cups bread cubes (any variety of bread, cut into 1/2" pieces)
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 T olive oil
2 tsp. minced parsley
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Toss everything together in a bowl, evenly coating the bread cubes. Spread out on a cookie sheet and bake at 350, stirring frequently, until starting to brown (~ 15 to 20 minutes).

Sunday, January 6, 2013

In Praise of Fatty Ground Beef

To our great delight, we have finally found a source for fantastic locally raised and butchered beef.  Renée found a farmer in Vermont who would sell us a whole young steer, cut to order.  Even split between four families, that's a lot of beef, but we all have chest freezers and it's fantastically worth it. The flavor is rich and complex with a hint of grass, the texture is dense and wiry but still tender.  It's not aged, but it is well drained (none of the blood bath we got from our first CSA beef).  But when I tried to make meatballs with the ground beef, they broke apart as I sauteed them, and then disintegrated into the sauce as I cooked them.  I thought maybe I had messed up my own recipe, or used the wrong kind of bread crumbs, or something else.  Then Renée said she'd had almost the same problem.  And then it dawned on us: meatballs need fat to hold together, and there is really no fat at all in this beef.  To make meatballs with really lean beef, you need to add fat.  Luckily, meatballs, like meatloaf, really develop their flavor when they're made from a blend of ground meats, and even our locally raised "free range" pork is nice and fatty (other ground meats also add flavor, but not enough fat).  And then just because it's fun to try to add fat, we put in bacon fat and salt pork too.  Now that makes some delightfully fatty and flavorful meatballs, but the bacon fat and salt pork are not necessary. 

Swedish Meatballs

We were asked recently to make Swedish Meatballs for Community Cooks, a group that provides home-cooked meals to local shelters and group homes.  Neither of us had ever eaten them before, but after a little research we realized that there are basically just two things that distinguish Swedish Meatballs: you add nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice to the meat mixture and you cook them in a sour-cream-based white sauce rather than a red sauce.  The spices sounded great, but the white sauce sounded disgusting.  So we decided to make the Swedish spiced meatballs for Community Cooks and ourselves, but to cook ours in red sauce.  But we did have to taste what we were going to serve to others, and to our great surprise, the white sauce is quite good and complements the swedish spiced meatballs quite well.  I'm not going to replace my regular sauce with the white sauce often, but it makes a nice change of pace and I'm definitely going to be adding the Swedish spices to my meatballs in whatever sauce on a regular basis.

Swedish Spiced Meatballs
Serves 4-6

1 onion
1 garlic clove
1 lb ground pork
1 lb lean ground beef
2 eggs
3/4 c bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. bacon fat
2 tsp. salt pork
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. grated or ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
2 T olive oil

Chop the onion and saute it until just beginning to brown, 5-10 minutes.  Mince the garlic, add it to the onions, and saute another 2-3 minutes.  In a large bowl, mix onion and garlic with all the other ingredients.  Mix well.  Heat two large pans with 1 T olive oil in each.  Form the meatball mixture into walnut-sized balls and drop into pans.  Flip or shake to brown well on all sides, then saute on low until just cooked through, about 20 minutes.  When meatballs are done, put into a large baking pan, cover with sauce, cover with tin foil, and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. 

Swedish Meatball Sauce

2 T butter
2 T flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 c sour cream
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. gated or ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice

In a large pan, melt the butter, then whisk in the flour.  Add the chicken broth 1/4 cup at a time, whisking constantly.  Add the other ingredients and simmer on low, whisking constantly, for 3-5 minutes.  The sauce should be thick but pourable, like a nice thick gravy.

Swedish meatballs are traditionally served with egg noodles.