No market for you!

I did very little cooking over the July 4th weekend, as we were invited to two parties and I brought booze to one of them. There was plenty of eating and even more relaxing, though, so it all worked out well for me despite the lack of quality time spent with my kitchen.

Our friends John & Liz invited us to a get-together at their place on the 3rd. Between parties up there I always manage to convince myself that it couldn’t possibly be as perfect as it seems in retrospect. “Surely the haze of good times has clouded my memory!” says I. Nope. This time, I brought back photographic proof of the sheer goodness:

more after the jump

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From the Market: Week 1

Kofta with Spinach & Arugula Salad

The Ringwood Farmers’ Market opened this weekend, and not one minute too soon! I’ve been craving their fresh produce since the weekly market closed last November; winter market (new this year) only took place once a month, and the pickings were slim. It was winter, after all.

But now we’re back to greens, berries, honey and meats from small local farms, so let’s dive in.

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What I missed most about the early markets was the amazing spinach and arugula from Bialas Farms, not to mention the rest of the veggies and fresh herbs that always make up the bulk of my shopping experience on weekends. Because I was impatient to try the first haul, I made brunch as soon as we got home — a quick pesto with the spinach and arugula, some walnuts and grated locatelli, all smoothed out with a Ligurian olive oil. The pasta was a gluten-free selection from Fontanarosa’s, which I only visited for the first time this weekend. I now plan to shop there all summer long.

[About the gluten-free thing: I cut out the major sources of gluten about a month ago after reading The GenoType Diet. I’m highly suspicious of any diet at all (and definitely didn’t try this to lose weight — so don’t worry, those of you who know me), but thought I’d give this one a try since a lot of what the author said about my type rang true, given my experience. Anyway, I can honestly say that the mild-to-moderate joint pain I’ve had for the past few years has completely disappeared since I cut the out the gluten. (Other things I won’t go into here have cleared up as well.) Maybe it’s all unrelated, and I hope it is, but we’ll see how I feel when I re-introduce regular pastas and whole-grain bread into my meals.]

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Even though we were invited to a BBQ Sunday afternoon, I had to get in a little grilling of my own this weekend, so I threw together a quick-ish lunch. The appetizers were inspired by this post at Smitten Kitchen and I was thrilled with the way they turned out:

That’s a lot of good stuff packed into a couple of bites, and it came together with almost no effort on my part. I just grilled 1/2-inch-thick slices of homemade bread till they were toasted, smeared them with loads of truffle butter, some room-temperature robiola (one of my favorites, but you could try whatever you like here), and topped them off with ribbons of asparagus, crunchy fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper.

To make the ribbons, just grasp the tip of the spear and use a vegetable peeler to shave down the length of the asparagus.

Our main course was a kofta salad. The spinach and arugula made another appearance here, tossed with tzaziki sauce for the salad base. I had a few extra asparagus ribbons from the appetizers, so I threw them on as a garnish. But the real draw was the kofta made with ground lamb from Snoep Winkel Farm. I used the recipe that’s become my standard, substituting walnuts for pistachios since those were, um, about 18 months out of date. Oops.

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And then we went to a BBQ where I consumed lots of steak and delicious veggie skewers, so I was pretty meated- and veggied-out by Sunday morning and took it easy with a little goat’s milk yogurt with fresh strawberries, blueberries and honey. (Sadly, the blueberries were store-bought since they aren’t quite in season here, but the The Orchards of Concklin‘s strawberries are as perfect as ever, and their peonies aren’t half-bad either. I’ll bring my camera next time we go so I can show you just how popular Rufus and Otis are with the proprietor. The honey is local, too — from Nina’s Red Barn Farm, where we buy our fresh eggs and where I’m evidently known as Rufus’s mom.)

gluten-free

Hope everyone had a safe and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend.

Season’s greetings from the Roths

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Hi all, and happy Hanukkah! We had slightly non-traditional latkes (fried in duck fat) for breakfast this morning as a late start to the festivities, but there’s been a distinct lack of cooking going on around here otherwise. I’ll try to do better by you, but can’t promise anything until next weekend.

Instead, you get cute holiday pictures of the dogs after the jump!

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Your Thanksgiving leftovers

This year’s Thanksgiving feast could only have been more low key if we’d gone the TV dinner route. My mother-in-law wasn’t able to visit, so I planned to simply roast a chicken and serve a few veggies for the two of us, but ended up doing even less than that when our neighbors invited us to share dinner with them. It’s a little embarrassing that I’ve lived here for four years as of this weekend (which reminds me, this blog just turned three!) and haven’t managed to get to know them yet. I blame Gil for not introducing me around when I moved.

Not wanting to go empty-handed, I pulled out the bag of almost-overripe persimmons I’d been storing for a couple of weeks and got to work on an upside-down cake that sounded like a perfect ending to a Thanksgiving meal — with two sticks of butter, it was possibly the most indulgent cake I’ve ever made.

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I did a quick google search when the idea for the cake hit me (my standard approach, since very few ideas are truly new), and found only a couple of recipes. Joanne Weir‘s parmesan flan has been one of the highlights of my summer for the past two years, so I opted for her version of the cake and came away very, very happy indeed.

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Her secret for keeping things light and airy in such a rich cake? Whipping the egg whites, then folding them into the rest of the batter. Even so, the cake was much more soufflé-like in the pan than I expected:

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Anyway, we had a wonderful time with the Edwards family and I feel like I finally have friends in the neighborhood, which is no small thing. They’re a creative family, into drawing, painting, photography, music, fashion…so you can imagine how much I enjoyed myself. Oh, AND I finally got a house tour with details of the major renovation they did last year! So we have lots of inspiration for our own house project, whenever we start.

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The next day, I roasted the Zuni chicken (with bittersweet pimenton added to the salt & pepper rub) originally intended for Thanksgiving and made a bread-based dressing with roasted acorn squash on the side. Nothing terribly exciting, but repurposed as breakfast this morning, I fell in love:

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I pan-fried some of the leftover dressing, served it atop a thin drizzle of gravy and topped it with a fried egg. “X + egg = heaven” is undefined for Gil, so I waited till he was running an errand to work it up. (How anyone can snub a runny egg yolk over just about anything is beyond me, but hey, in sickness & in [mental] health, etc…)

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For Saturday’s dinner, there wasn’t a hint of Thanksgiving left over in the leftovers, though I forced myself to use the contents of my fridge and pantry in a stab at eating down the house. We ended up with a North African-inspired couscous dish that took maybe 30 minutes to make, but had a great depth of flavor mainly because it relied so heavily on leftovers.

To start, I made a quick harissa paste and set it aside for the flavors to develop while I worked on the rest of the meal. I hit the freezer for a package of caramelized onions, which I browned in some olive oil, then added two thinly sliced cloves of garlic, and reinforced the warm spices from the harissa — ground cumin, caraway seeds and ground coriander — in the sizzling oil. When the spices were fragrant, I added a package of Israeli couscous, bite-sized pieces of dark chicken, chopped roasted acorn squash, leftover chicken stock and two tablespoons of harissa paste. Only 15 minutes later, we were sitting down to a meal I wouldn’t even mind making from scratch someday.

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I hope you add had a filling and fun-filled Thanksgiving. Now I need to figure out a way to work from home, because the last four days spent with all of my boys has been too good to miss again for 13 hours a day or more.

recipes and sweet doggy pictures after the jump

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Happy 2009

We sprang out of bed at the crack of mid-morning today, and after a strong cup of coffee, I got started on the traditional new year’s day meal of black-eyed peas and greens (turnip, this year).

Carefully sorting through the beans, I searched for rocks and discarded the misshapen beans, then chopped the other ingredients according to my all-time favorite recipe from The Prudhomme Family Cookbook.

The greens are more intuitive. I never make them the same way twice, but they always start with stemming, chopping and a vigorous washing before I even think of cooking them.

This time around, I chopped the 1/4 pound of tasso leftover from the beans and halved a small piece of salt pork, then covered the meat with water in a large pot. I brought it to a boil, then lowered the heat to simmer for about 30 minutes to create a flavorful cooking liquid for the greens. At that point, I added some chopped onions, cayenne pepper, a little bit of salt and the greens. They simmered for about 20 minutes, though you can certainly cook them longer; I just prefer greens when they have a little bit of bite to them.

I cooked the beans at a lower temperature than usual, so they were more of a soup than side dish, but still just as delicious as I remember from last year. The greens held their own when topped with cider vinegar, so I thought an extra helping couldn’t hurt, especially in these tough economic times. Call it an edible insurance policy.

Thank you for visiting last year, keeping up with my infrequent food and Rufus postings. I’ve loved hearing from everyone and wish y’all a happy and safe 2009, filled with friends and food and many, many naps.

recipe after the jump

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The final countdooooowwnnnn

(OK, there’s nothing final — I hope — about tonight’s countdown. We’ve just been watching more Arrested Development this week.)

We’ll be ringing in the new year with blini, sour cream & caviar and toasting with prosecco. A bit of a culture clash, I’ll admit, but our movie marathon this year will be the great American saga The Godfather (parts I & II only), so you could say we’re into the melting pot thing. Though the cultures did clash terribly for Kay & Michael … hmm, maybe this is less a celebration of melting pot-ness than one of capitalism. The caviar is from Trader Joe’s, after all.

Because buckwheat just doesn’t do it for me, I made these blini with a mix of all-purpose and whole wheat flours. Because I’m lazy, I searched for a recipe that didn’t involve yeast. Don’t worry if you’ve never made blini; if you can make pancakes, you can make these. It’s only slightly more tedious measuring out the batter in tablespoon increments, but they cook so much faster than a full-sized pancake, you won’t really notice the extra effort.

As for new year’s resolutions, I try to avoid making them, but think it would be a very good thing if I could manage to worry less and enjoy things a bit more. How about you? Any resolutions this year?

Have a safe and happy turning of the page. See you all in 2009!

recipe after the jump

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Sittin’ here in La-La…

And we’re back, after spending almost a full week with family in Louisiana; catching up with everyone was lots of fun and the purpose of the trip, of course, but the balmy weather was what really put smiles on our faces after our 15-degree week here in the northeast. “But what about the food?” you say. Glad you asked…

Our first meal of the trip came shortly after we landed in Kenner. Gil and I had been up since 3:30am (early flights — what can you do?), so we weren’t exactly in the mood for a big production. Good thing there’s Spahr’s, just across the bayou in Lafourche Parish.


Neither Spahr’s nor the bayou, but a shack on scenic Dufrene Ponds behind the restaurant. Kind of takes what little romance there was out of it, huh?

At Spahr’s, seafood’s always on the menu and it’s usually deep-fried, though when crabs or crawfish are in season, boiled is also an option. What I’m saying is, you don’t come here for heart-healthy food. Gil and I split a seafood platter and left very happy and on the verge of passing out. No pics of the food, because a big plate of fried seafood is really only interesting if you’re sitting before it about to dig in.

When we left, my nephew Mason looked for the alligator that sometimes hangs around the restaurant.

Sadly, it was not to be found. Mason was inconsolable, and offered his head to the Catfish God.

The food we eat when we visit my family has turned into a strange mix of traditional Cajun dishes supplemented with Sandra Lee-ish recipes. Yes, friends, we had Velveeta and all manner of processed foods in abundance. But there also were platters of boudin, gallons of gumbo, and more jambalaya than our gathering of 40 or so could handle. Still, the sheer amount of sodium and fat we ate last week really took its toll and we’re on . . . well, not a diet, but a whole foods sort of eating plan again.

On our last day with the folks we went to Smitty’s, another hole-in-the-wall seafood joint that’s known for its oysters. Doused with Tabasco (or Smitty’s surprisingly delicious cocktail sauce), the plump, juicy oysters could be a meal in themselves.

We spent the last night of our trip at the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter — a necessary indulgence, because we had a late dinner reservation at Restaurant August with my cousin Wade and his wife Robin and didn’t want to drive the hour back to my parents’ house. I ate at August shortly after it opened; it had a very limited menu then, so I was curious to see how things had changed. I knew it was well-regarded, and John Besh has become a bit of an It Boy in food circles, so I expected great things. And what can I say? It was a terrific meal — no real surprises on the menu, but everything was perfectly done. I had the foie gras three-ways appetizer (I’m helpless in the face of foie), followed by a turtle soup that wasn’t swimming in an ocean of sherry (yay, for the light hand!), and grilled sablefish. The only dish of Gil’s I tried was a smoked (I think) pumpkin soup, which filled me with an insane jealousy the likes of which I only experience when he wins the ordering war in restaurants.

We rolled out of there three hours later, stuffed to the gills, ready for bed, and happy to have only a short waddle back to the hotel.

The next morning, we weren’t hungry in the least, but when you’re staying in the Quarter, you suck it up and have the world’s most perfect breakfast, anyway.

Beignet and café au lait at Café du Monde, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure.

Once de Mayo

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter P. You may recognize it from such words as Parsley, Pecorino, and my favorite word of late, Procrastination.

Last weekend’s kitchen adventures were spent in the service of Cinco de Mayo with a chicken and hominy soup and a recipe for beans that took the better part of a day to make, but were worth every last stinkin’ second.

But by the time the fifth rolled around, I just couldn’t bring myself to post anything about it.

What’s that word again? Oh yeah, Procrastination.

Which brings us to today.


The aforementioned soup.

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