They call me “Tater Soup”

Potage Parmentier

I found myself at home mid-week trying to sleep off a sinus infection, but got bored with all of that lying about after a while. (This development is disturbing to me, since I used to be quite happy lazing the day away, watching trashy TV and napping. When did I turn into my dad, needing a project to keep me happy and productive?!) So I did what I always do; I escaped to the kitchen. Still groggy and hungover-ish from Nyquil, I wasn’t up for a full-blown meal, but a simple soup was something I could handle and Potage Parmentier fit the bill perfectly. It’s the easiest thing in the world to make and any additions to the potato and leek base amount to a “why not?” soup.

Should I add celery root? Why not?
How about some apple? Why not?
Maybe a whole head of roasted garlic? Hell, yeah! I mean…why not?

potato & leek soup with celery root, apple & roasted garlic

The soup left me with a small batch of potato and apple peels, which I hated to see go to waste, so I munched on the apple peels while the soup simmered, and turned the potato peels into a nutrient-filled version of fries…simply stir fried in a little bit of olive oil until golden brown, then tossed with salt & pepper.

Waste not, want not.

They’re really amazing drizzled with truffle oil, or better yet, melted truffle butter. But this time I just ate them plain, with a glass of iced tea. Perfection.

Potato peel fries, close-up

The boys were very supportive of my earlier decision to nap extensively, but couldn’t agree to end the day in a productive manner.

Rufus & Otis, doing what they do best.

From the Market – Week Whatever

I’ve lost count of the missing weeks by now, but couldn’t let the last vestiges of summer slip by without posting about the latest seasonal finds from our market in Ringwood.

I don’t know about you, but we’ve nearly eaten our weight in corn this summer. Grilled, smoked, raw, creamed, sautéed … it’s all been delicious and now that summer’s winding down, I’m truly savoring fresh corn while it’s still around. But a couple of dishes really stood out from the crowd and I want to make sure I tell you about them, and include links so I can re-create them next year.

This weekend I adapted Michael Ruhlman’s recipe for baked buttered corn (seen above), gilding the lily with burro di parma and wisps of freshly grated locatelli before baking, then finishing with a dab of truffle butter before serving. It sounds excessive, but the extra ingredients were used in moderation for just a touch of earthiness so really, corn was still the star. This dish is a great way to use late-season corn that maybe isn’t quite the revelation it was even a few weeks ago.

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For a couple of weeks in August, I was obsessed with cooking variations of Shrimp with Sweet Curry and Coconut Creamed Corn. We had it 3 times in the span of two weeks and I could still go for more, which will probably happen next weekend, now that I think about it. The only reason for adapting the recipe at all was because I didn’t have the specific spice blends called for, but after working around that problem, I’ve discovered that there isn’t a way to mess this up. The first time around, I left the curry out of the corn mixture and coated the shrimp with it instead (using Singapore curry from World Spice Merchants). The curry blend was light and paired perfectly with the shrimp; it accentuated the shrimp’s natural sweetness and, with a dash of cayenne pepper, added a touch of heat which cut through the richness of the coconut corn.

Nina found herself up to her ears in callaloo this summer, after deciding to grow it on a whim. Since I’m a sucker for any new (to me) ingredient, I made a beeline for the strange-looking vines when they appeared at her booth and managed to work it into a couple of other iterations of the shrimp and coconut corn recipe. If you’ve never had callaloo, it’s similar to water spinach or chard, but cooks down to something that seems much less virtuous, with a thick, silky, rich mouthfeel. I used madras curry in the corn base this time and simmered the shrimp along with it, so the dish was more of a stew than it was the first go-around. (No picture of what was an otherwise delicious dish because the callaloo turned the whole mixture a thoroughly unappealing-looking shade of bile green. And because I cobbled together a few recipes without writing down any of the steps/measurements, there’s no real recipe for you. But I’ll try to re-create it this weekend and let you know how it turns out.)

continued after the jump

Continue reading “From the Market – Week Whatever”

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.

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.

The beet and the coconut

It’s not unusual to plan a meal around one ingredient, I think. You find a beautiful cut of grass-fed beef or see a flat of ruby red strawberries and the wheels start spinning as you think about the best way to highlight their natural beauty. This sort of thinking influenced a couple of our meals this week.

Usually when I buy beets, both root and green are destined for a salad inspired by an episode of Lidia’s Family Table — roasted beets, boiled greens, and sliced green apple are tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, topped with hard goat cheese, and seasoned only with salt & pepper. It’s simple and delicious, especially when the produce is at its freshest and most vibrant.

But wanting something different last weekend and thinking (incorrectly) I was prepared to deal with a certain amount of frustration, I decided on a beet tart adapted from this one. The process involved me buying my first tart pan from a store that fascinates and repels me in equal measure — New York Cake & Baking Distribution, conveniently located across the street from my office. I’m attracted to its bare bones design and singularity of purpose; this isn’t a place you go for a comfortable shopping experience with easily navigable aisles or readily located merchandise. No, you go here for baking supplies (pretty much anything at all) at a good price. Period. I’m repelled only because I’m woefully ignorant about baking and expect to be given the bum’s rush when I walk in. Insecure much?

And, you know, there’s a reason for my insecurity — I’ve never once made a pie crust that hasn’t frustrated me to the point of tears. Part of the problem is a lack of counter space, but mostly it’s simple inexperience. Is the dough too dry? Is it too wet? I DON’T KNOW! I think the problem you see above was a too-dry crust, but couldn’t say. My quick fix was to jam bits of dough into the areas where it broke apart, figuring the filling would hide my mistakes from sight, if not taste.

But what a filling it was! While the beets were roasting, I threw in a whole head of garlic, too, which I later sautéed with a chopped onion and copious amounts of thyme. Just meditate on that for a minute.

And then I topped that layer with an egg, crème fraiche, and goat cheese cheese mixture before the roasted beets and even more cheese found their way to the tippy top of the tart.

It was a lot of work, I won’t lie, and I don’t really know if I’ll be preparing the crust again since I’m such a numskull with the pastry-making, but that filling definitely will be featured again in future meals, the layers alone or in some combination. For you see, it was DELICIOUS.

OK, it looks a little pizza-like, but warm from the oven with the sweet caramelized onions, garlic and beets sandwiching that creamy filling, mmmm…

We polished off about half of the tart on the spot, calling it dinner, and put the other half away for quick lunches later in the week.

The other (and probably the more surprising) ingredient I planned a meal around was … coconut juice. I picked it up on a whim at the grocery one day and couldn’t quite figure out what to do with it, so it languished in the pantry for a few weeks. Then I thought — hey, Thai! So I broke out my new rice cooker and set about making coconut rice with brown basmati and a mixture of coconut milk and strained coconut juice. I was on a roll!

To top the rice, I defrosted about a cup of sofrito from my stash, thinking the cilantro and culantro would be right at home with the coconut, and made a thick stew with the addition of lime-marinated shrimp, shrimp stock, hot pepper paste, and the rest of the coconut milk/juice. I topped it all with thinly sliced green onions and toasted sweetened coconut to balance the tartness from the lime and have to say I was pretty pleased with the outcome:

But I think it could’ve used more heat and possibly a little funky fish sauce to bring the whole thing together. I’ll try that variation next time and report back to you.

And it doesn’t have anything to do with this post, really, but because ’tis the season, I have to show you what I did with my garlic scapes last weekend instead of grilling them.

I made a chickpea dip inspired by Mark Bittman’s white bean dip with lemon zest. I could eat this everyday. I just whirled together some canned chickpeas (drained of squack), the zest of one lemon, the juice of the same, quite a few chopped garlic scapes and harissa. While the machine was running, I drizzled in some good-quality olive oil until the mixture turned creamy; I topped it with more lemon juice, olive oil, and another sprinkling of harissa before we dove in. Yum.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “The beet and the coconut”

Penance

But it isn’t really penance if you enjoy it, right?

The simplest of dinners was in order after the weekend’s feast: Steamed asparagus with browned butter-spring garlic-lemon sauce, one egg over easy, and a sprinkling of sea salt, parm/reg and black pepper.

Porky pasta

Last night’s meal came courtesy of odds & ends from our kitchen and my deep and abiding love of tomatoes. With the abundance of lycopene in my system at any given time, it’s a real shame I don’t have a prostate, for if I did, it would surely be the most beauteous specimen in all the land. Neither showy nor unapproachable, but a humble and gracious gland, welcoming pilgrims from distant lands spurred to their journey by the appearance of the long-foretold wonder.

Or it would at least win many blue ribbons at county fairs.

But no, I’m just a girl, so my husband has to reap the benefits of my obsession, though our driveway isn’t exactly flooded with pilgrims or civic-minded ribbon-awarders, now that I think about it.

The odds & ends worked their way into a meal by virtue of me having no clue what to cook for dinner and remembering a couple strips of bacon, a few slices of sopressata and some onion hanging out in the fridge, the remnants of whole canned tomatoes I stuck in the freezer a few weeks ago, and a little bowtie pasta that looked pretty lonely in the pantry. Some garlic cloves demanded admittance to the party (as they always seem to do, the pushy little buggers) and hot pepper paste arrived masked as tomato paste and barged in before I realized what happened.

No, really — why is the packaging so similar between tubes of tomato and hot pepper paste? I didn’t realize anything was wrong until I’d put about a tablespoon of it into the pan and noticed it wasn’t the right color, consistency, or smell, so I looked at the tube to make sure it hadn’t expired and realized my mistake. Well, my screw-up turned out to be a stroke of luck. The paste added a real zing to the sauce I wouldn’t have gotten from pepper flakes alone, so now I have another ingredient in my arsenal I wouldn’t have if I’d been paying attention.

This wasn’t the typically meat-free meal I like to make on weeknights, but if I eat vegequarian 90% of the time, I don’t mind treating myself every now and then; it’s the only way to stay sane. And let’s face it, pork is the penultimate treat.

The ultimate? Tomatoes, of course.

Mmmmmoules

Moules frites is a classic for good reason:

mussels + wine + butter + cream + parsley + shallots + garlic + fries = delicious

No picture of the frites, sorry. The mussels were the star of the show.