From the Market: This & That Edition

I realized there were a lot of half-finished posts in my folder that didn’t quite meet the mark individually, but worked together as a summertime pot luck, so that’s what you get today. Hope you don’t mind leftovers!

To blame my recent lack of cooking and posting on the lazy, hazy days of summer wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but wouldn’t be the whole story, either. Now that I don’t have those killer workdays anymore, I find myself wanting to take it a little easier. We wake up at 6:30am now instead of 5, which is a lovely thing. After walking the dogs, I have a strenuous-for-me yoga workout, then start my day after Gil goes to work. Our house is the cleanest it’s ever been — not as easy as it sounds with perpetual shedding machines underfoot — plus I’ve gotten my portfolio and billing system in order. (There are a few projects on the horizon, but no contracts in hand yet, so I’m taking advantage of this down time while it lasts.) You’d think I’d want to spend at least part of my day making a big production in the kitchen, but that just hasn’t been the case. While we’re swimming in beautiful, local produce, going overboard isn’t necessary at all.

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Grilling’s another story since it doesn’t heat up the house and takes so little time to accomplish great things. For the bastardized bi bim bap above, I salted and grilled a nice grass-fed steak for about three minutes per side then brushed it with a mixture of equal parts miso, Dijon mustard and melted butter* and cooked it for an additional minute on each side. After the steak rested for a few minutes, I sliced it up and served it over rice with some vegetables I had in the fridge — carrots, asparagus, and shredded spinach and arugula — and thinned out a little of my homemade gochujang with water to make a simple dressing. An over-easy egg would not be a bad idea on top, but this was more than enough food for me.

* Since I first read about the miso-mustard-butter blend on the always-excellent Cookblog, I’ve been obsessed. We went through a stretch of eating it a few times a week as I experimented. I can report that it’s gorgeous with salt-roasted root vegetables and welcomes maple syrup with open arms.

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A few days later, our friend Mark paid a visit. I love having him over, not just because of the great conversation and incredible stories (check out the Virtual Memories podcast he recorded with my husband), but also because he really knows how to make a cook feel appreciated. Planning a menu is a lot of fun when you know someone will get a kick out of it. The main course was smoked chicken, so I started us off with a simple appetizer to eat while the chicken was cooking low and slow. It took advantage of the massive amount of beautiful English peas we had in the market at the time.

I wanted the flavor of the peas to shine through, so after shelling and blanching them, I kept the rest of the preparation minimal.

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Peas, sweet onion, avocado, a little fresh garlic and lemon juice.

I whirred it to taste in a food processor with some salt and fresh thyme, and had a silky dip perfect for crudités or spreading on toast or crackers.

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The idea here was to make a spaghetti-like dish using julienned zucchini and yellow squash in place of the pasta, because I don’t like to be weighed down by all those carbs when it’s blazing outside. For the sauce, I smoked some roma tomatoes in my Cameron’s Stovetop Smoker, then blended them with a little olive oil, some lemon, garlic, onion, thyme and goat’s milk ricotta. Salted & peppered to taste and topped off with a sprinkling of Parmesan. This dish was awfully good with a crisp rosé…

Local produce from Bialas Farms. Grass-fed steak from Snoep Winkel Farm. Ricotta from Edgwick Farm.

From the Market: Week 4

Veggies, veggies, and more veggies from the Ringwood Farmers’ Market … and I actually didn’t include everything in the picture above. Of everything I picked up, I was most excited to get my hands on some golden beets from Bialas Farms, as it’s been almost a year since I last had them.

Instead of torturing the beets in an over-the-top recipe (as I’ve been known to do), I treated them simply, roasting in a medium oven until cooked through, tossing with freshly shelled peas, and lovely lettuce and dill from Nina’s Red Barn Farm, then lightly dressing it all with a sherry-shallot vinaigrette. When food is this abundant and delicious, it makes sense to savor the flavors as nature intended.

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Another dish I’ve been looking forward to since this time last year was this light and tasty chilled soup, which gets its fresh color from an unlikely source — pea pods:

What a great way to recycle. Because if you’re going to go to all the trouble of shelling a bunch of peas, why throw away the pods until you’ve wrung every last bit of usefulness from them? I got the idea/recipe from the innovative Clotilde of Chocolate & Zucchini, making only one change to the recipe by deleting the nutmeg because I simply don’t care for it. The peas were shelled in two batches with the pods from last week spending some time in the freezer until I could make up the difference with this week’s haul. This soup is the very essence of a warm spring day and the most refreshing lunch you can imagine. Do give it a try the next time you’re up to your elbows in peas; you won’t regret it.

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This weekend, Gil and I made a quick and early excursion to the farmers’ market (Rufus overheats easily), but still managed to return home with bags bursting from the beautiful fruits and vegetables and pickles and pies and herbs on display. I was unable to resist much, so I’ll be doing a lot of cooking (for one) this week before the greens wilt and strawberries turn to mush.

The very first things I put to use from our haul were sugar snap peas and asparagus. I sautéed them lightly in butter and olive oil with garlic and reconstituted morels, then steamed them till tender with a little of the morel liquid. I topped the vegetables with chives and thyme from my herb garden and was very happy, indeed, until I had the bright idea to serve it with red snapper fresh from the freezer. And quelle surprise! the fish wasn’t so great, but it’s finally convinced me of the need to find a good fish market in the area. If anyone out there knows of a good one in Passaic or Bergen county, let me know.

Because I have real trouble letting anything go to waste, it was a happy day when I saw a recipe for chilled pea pod soup at Chocolate & Zucchini. I plan to make this until the market runs out of snap peas; it was light, delicious, and refreshing, especially topped with a spoonful of crème fraiche and more chives from my herb garden. Yum.

Happy 2008

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I don’t mind messing with tradition on New Year’s Eve by staying in and avoiding crowds, but you’ll never catch me shirking my duty on New Year’s Day — for if I don’t have black-eyed peas and some form of greens to ring in the new year, disaster will surely fall upon the Roth household. And so we filled ourselves to the gills with creamy black-eyed peas for luck and spicy collard greens to attract money into our lives. Maybe it doesn’t work, but boy, are they tasty. And since they seemed to be crying out for some kind of plain protein, I added a poached chicken breast topped with a mustard sauce I made by mixing together Dijon, maple syrup, whiskey, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce and cayenne pepper.

As always, I used the black-eyed peas recipe from The Prudhomme Family Cookbook, and this time followed it to the letter by making my own pork stock. I think it added a depth of flavor to the dish that plain chicken broth just can’t, but if you don’t want to go to the trouble of making it yourself, it isn’t necessary. How, pray tell, did I make this stock? Well, I preheated my oven to 350 degrees and roasted one quartered onion, three lightly crushed garlic cloves, some pork short ribs, and a few split pig’s feet until they were golden brown. The smell was heavenly, even if the sight was decidedly less so:

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Once the meat and veggies were roasted to perfection, I put the feet and ribs into a stock pot, added four cups of chicken stock, and additional water to cover the meat by an inch or so. After they simmered for about an hour, I added the roasted onion and garlic along with one stalk of celery and continued to simmer it for another hour. I set the ribs aside for later use (still trying to decide what to do with them, in fact), strained the broth, and refrigerated it overnight to more easily dispose of the fat. Because these beans have puh-lenty enough fat in them as it is if you use the full half pound of bacon suggested in the recipe.

They start out so healthy and with such potential, though:

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But then you add the bacon, and — oh, yeah! — ANOTHER form of pork. This would be tasso — an intensely spiced, smoked bit of pork used for seasoning:

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Did you observe any New Year’s Day culinary traditions, dear reader? Here’s wishing you all the luck, good fortune, and prosperity your life can hold. Cheers to a great 2008!

recipes after the jump

Continue reading “Happy 2008”