Punched-Up Broccoli

Gluten-Free Side Dish

Roasted vegetables. < yawn > Sure, why not? They’re easy to make and tasty enough, but damned by faint praise. When was the last time they thrilled you? On a menu, they’re usually the healthful choice rather than the one you expect to knock your socks off, and at home, the basic olive oil/salt/pepper/garlic toss isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. So it’s always nice to add a little pizzazz to them.

This Food & Wine recipe for roasted broccoli sounded promising on the pizzazz front. It’s roasted very simply, then tossed with a garlicky compound butter and broiled for a few minutes to brown the top. Because I didn’t have four pounds of broccoli, I worked with what was in my refrigerator, adding some carrots sliced on the diagonal to bulk up the dish, and messing around with the compound butter a bit. I ended up with a bagna cauda-inspired butter by blending in a little anchovy paste and some meyer lemon zest (though regular lemons will work once meyers are out of season).

All in all, it’s a delicious way to punch up some roasted vegetables without much added work. For a more substantial side, I’d probably top it with breadcrumbs tossed with the butter before setting the dish under the broiler.

Another great way to add some dimension to your roasted vegetables, especially of the root variety, is to toss them with an equal parts miso-butter-Dijon mixture. Absolutely delicious, with a completely different flavor profile from the above.

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.

gluten-free

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.

gluten-free

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 3

Caramelized Scallops with Strawberry Salsa

I haven’t come close to using everything I picked up at the market this weekend, but here’s a good sampling of what we’ve had.

Strawberries. Oh, yes. Divine, luscious, sweet, knock-your-socks-off strawberries, the memory of which will drive me away from the display at the grocery store that tries to tempt me, so redly and smugly. “Hey Amy, it’s still summer. Doesn’t a large, mealy strawberry sound delicious right about now?” Erm, no. Even more so (possibly) than tomatoes, they’re just so much better from the local growers.

They deserved a more special treatment than sliced over homemade yogurt (though they popped up there, too), so I worked up a strawberry salsa to top caramelized scallops. I tempered the fruity salsa with red wine vinegar so it would balance the naturally sweet scallops.

And we both loved it — if only I’d made more than just the appetizer portion you see here! But I set some aside for a very different, but still delicious appetizer, inspired by this post at Chocolate & Zucchini. Instead of using smoked sea salt, I smoked the remaining scallops with alder chips in my Camerons Stovetop Smoker, but otherwise stuck to the general recipe, then topped them off with fleur de sel.

It wasn’t difficult, but was a bit more trouble than the original would be. I think I’d happily feature the radishes with smoked salt for a party, just for ease of assembly.

My refrigerator is also seriously stuffed with all sorts of greens which I haven’t delved into (much) yet, but weeknight dinners are looking up!

recipe after the jump

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From the Market — The Kickoff

Grilled potatoes, radish green pesto, shaved asparagus

We went straight from winter to summer around here, and not a moment too soon. I’m stuck in an office today instead of out enjoying perfect grilling/hanging out/whatever weather, but at least it gives me time to reflect on last weekend’s fixin’s.

We’re going to have some green on this blog and lots of it now that our local farmers’ market is back for the season! It was a bittersweet opening, as some of you know — our market is now dog-free. Poor Gil looked like a lost soul just wandering around without the boys, while I did what I always do and loaded up on good stuff to carry home. We’ll probably venture out to other markets that are dog-friendly in upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for a full report.

grilled potatoes, radish-green pesto, shaved asparagus

I felt like an appetizer to get the ball rolling, and ended up with one that would be just as good for barbecues as for a light dinner during grilling season — grilled potato rounds with radish-green pesto and shaved asparagus. It’s vegetarian, nutrient-dense and good hot or cold (though I give the nod to hot-off-the-grill because crispy grilled potatoes just can’t be beat).

grilled potatoes, radish-green pesto, shaved asparagus

It’s easily adapted to use what you have in the house. The radish-green pesto came about because I hate throwing anything away, and a pesto is just about the easiest way to use extra greens. If you don’t have radish greens or just don’t like them, use any kind of pesto you prefer. I had some garlic confit in the fridge, so I tossed the asparagus with garlic oil and lemon juice, but go ahead and use olive oil if that’s what you have.

Springtime pie

For lunch, I rejiggered my triple-garlic pizza, adding quick-pickled wild garlic & spring onions and shaved asparagus and radish-green pesto leftovers. Really good stuff.

These quick-pickled wild garlic & spring onions were inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s pickled onions.

after baking

A thin layer of mozzarella and grated parmesan and garlic confit (natch) tied the whole pizza together. We made short work of it, I’m afraid, but I still have the makings for one more pie, which should be just the thing to kick off this next weekend.

recipe after the jump

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All ’choked up

Baby artichokes inspire a fervor almost unrivaled by other springtime produce. Sure, ramps have their devotees and noses are wrinkling in bathrooms across the nation right now over love of asparagus, but cooks go pretty nuts for baby artichokes, too. If you’re not so impassioned, it might be hard to imagine what causes such devotion, apart from the general cuteness of miniaturization. Me? I like ’em for the purest reason of all: laziness. They’re about a squazillion times easier to deal with than their full-grown brethren.

To wit: prep time for 10 baby artichokes, including rubbing the cut sides with lemon juice, was somewhere in the neighborhood of five minutes. Try trimming that many full-grown artichokes in the same amount of time. OK, maybe you’re a champion artichoke-trimmer for all I know, but I’d still be in the kitchen, weeping and cursing my bright idea for a meal.

Unfortunately, the weekend weather didn’t cooperate enough to allow me to grill these, so I used the broiler instead. I’d like to get that smokey flavor next time, but as a quick substitute, I was more than happy with these. Once they came out of the oven cooked through and a little charred, I drizzled them with bagna cauda and lemon juice and promptly died of pleasure.

I’m one of those people who LOVES salty, pungent foods, so bagna cauda’s one-two wallop of anchovies and garlic is right up my alley. But then there’s just something about it with artichokes, the way it accents the vegetal flavor.

I devoured as much as I could and grudgingly made an offering of the toughest outer leaves for the artichoke god. It’s the least I could do for such bounty.

recipe after the jump

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You say, “Chayote,” I say, “Mirliton”

Mirliton’s kind of sneaky. Your odds of finding it by that name outside of Louisiana are about as good as a collection agency making a successful phone call: “You’re looking for Mirliton? Yeah, sorry, he just stepped out. … Who, me? I’m, uuuhhh, Chayote. Oh, and Mango Squash is around, too, if you’d like to talk to her.” If you can’t tell, it goes by any number of aliases, so finding them in your neck of the woods shouldn’t be especially difficult.

Like a summer squash, it’s not exactly assertive on the flavor front, but does a great job absorbing seasonings from its dish-mates. My grandma used to make a wonderful mirliton bread (similar to zucchini bread) and a mirliton casserole with fresh shrimp and crabmeat that would be pretty familiar to most people of the Cajun persuasion. I may have to recreate that casserole soon, but first I had to attempt the pickles my cousin Darrin made last Christmas. Slightly sweet, spicy and just crispy enough to provide some resistance… well, I just had an envie, cher.

Luckily, chayotes were abundant at my grocery, so I picked up what felt like 10 pounds to my pipe cleaner arms for the recipe I’d chosen from Chef John Folse’s site. I knew these pickles would really cure any homesickness I was feeling thanks to the Zatarain’s bath and copious amounts of garlic that were featured.

Before getting started, I recalled my previous encounters with mirliton and pulled out the most important items for dealing with it in its raw state:

Seriously, these things are paradoxically slippery and sticky once you cut into them, so you’ll dearly regret it if you don’t invest in a cheap pair of gloves. They’re not especially hard to slice or to peel, but I’m a big proponent of sharp knives and it made for a better picture.


They really resemble mutant, juicy apples, at least in cross-section.

I didn’t bother canning them proper-like because I was sure that: 1) Refrigeration, plus the vinegar in the brine would keep them from spoiling, and 2) They wouldn’t be around for very long, anyway.

And I’m very happy to report that success was achieved. No picture of the finished product because they’re pickles, ya know? But they really set off a spicy Bloody Mary, and anyone I’ve shared them with has raved. Could be mere politeness, but I prefer to think Chef Folse hit another one out of the park.


You know, they also resemble shriveled centenarian mouths.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “You say, “Chayote,” I say, “Mirliton””

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

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Sweet potato chips

These sweet potato chips came about simply because I wanted to enter the photo contest at Leite’s Culinaria. The rules were simple: Contestants could choose any recipe on the site to cook as written, then photograph the dish in any manner of their choosing. No crazy digital shenanigans beyond tweaking white balance and exposure were allowed.

As it turned out, I had a couple of problems with this:

  1. For about a month, I literally could not decide on a recipe to cook. Everything sounded delicious, but no one recipe jumped out at me visually.
  2. When I finally decided on this recipe (mainly because I had all of the ingredients in the house and the day was drawing to a close), cooked it and took my pictures, the images didn’t seem contest-appropriate.

So… I didn’t enter. /facepalm

But these chips were absolutely delicious, and you deserve to know about them. Sea Salt and Rosemary Sweet Potato Chips. Try them now. Don’t let my neuroses stop you!