From the Market: Week 8

Or, corn week

And we’re back with another weekend of cooking, fresh from the Ringwood Farmers’ Market. Despite temperatures that reached the triple digits a couple of weeks ago, it didn’t really feel like summer to me until this weekend, when I first spied corn at several booths at the market. And because corn heralds the arrival of tomatoes (thus my favorite food weeks of the year), I’m a happy, happy girl.

So with a full bag of corn and some adorable baby eggplants, I set my sights on grilling this weekend. The only question was what slant to give the meal, and after some consideration (Mexican — lime & cotija? Italian — balsamic vinaigrette? Cajun — loads of paprika, oregano & pepper?), I decided to go for Middle Eastern with a harissa rub/dressing since the cumin, coriander and paprika would play so well with the flavors of the grill.

There are lots of ways to grill corn and I’ve tried most of them. Rolling the shucked ears in foil with a little butter and spice is where I started years ago, but that only takes advantage of the grill’s heat and doesn’t capture its essence. Grilling already-shucked ears bare on the grate is a little more satisfying, but the kernels tend to dry out and turn rubbery, no matter how attentive you are. So I’ve turned into an unshucked griller. I remove some of the outer husks, peel back the rest and keep them attached at the base, then strip the silk from the cob. At that point, it’s really simple to season the corn however you like, re-cover the ear with the husks and tie them at the top with one of the detached husks. Some people like to soak the cobs, but I prefer not to so the outer husks burn and char, and infuse the kernels with the smokiness of the grill.

For this weekend’s meal, I brushed the kernels with olive oil, then sprinkled them with dry harissa. I like to keep the dry rub around because I’m never quite sure how long the paste will keep with fresh garlic in it. Using powdered garlic and leaving out the water solves that problem, and it’s easy enough to turn it into a paste later. The corn roasted over a hot fire for about 20 minutes while I turned the ears frequently. The outer husks charred to black and began to crumble away after a time, but we were left with smoky, tender corn cooked through perfectly. Just before we dug in, I drizzled it with some harissa sauce (more on which later):

SUMMER'S HERE!

Although I’d be perfectly happy making an entire meal of grilled corn, Gil probably wouldn’t be, so I threw together a quick salad as well. While the corn was grilling, I placed the baby eggplants in the in-between spaces and let them cook until they were charred and had just enough form to escape going all Bruce Davison in X-Men. Once off the grill, I sliced them in half lengthwise, slathered them in harissa sauce mixed with lemon juice and honey and let them marinate till they’d cooled down and were shot through with spicy-sweet-tart flavor. They were perfect over a simple salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette, and damn if this isn’t going to be a go-to recipe for me this summer. The flavors just marry so well.

a fine side dish

Last weekend, I was fooling around with some basil and decided to use it in a green apple sorbet, but never got around to posting it here because the recipe isn’t quite where I want it to be yet. It’s awfully refreshing on a hot summer day, but is just a little too reminiscent of frozen applesauce for my liking. Once I find the appropriate level of tartness I’ll share, but for now, here’s a picture to serve as a placeholder.

refreshing!

Hope you all had a great weekend and managed to stay somewhat cool.

recipes after the jump

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From the Market: Week 5

gluten-free

Right off the bat, I’ll admit that yes, I cheated a little here. Asparagus hasn’t been seen at the Ringwood Farmers’ Market for the past two weeks, but 1) I had a craving and 2) didn’t it make for a pretty — if slightly pornographic — shot?

Because I operate under the assumption that pretty much everything is better when topped with a fried or poached egg (especially the super-fresh ones we get from Nina), I went with a variation on a shaved asparagus salad from the pages of Food & Wine for Sunday’s lunch:

The ricotta salata I substituted for the Parmesan was creamy and subtle, but I think I’ll try the recipe as written next time for even more of a punch.

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Because I eat yogurt with fruit every weekday for breakfast, I like to change things up a little on weekends, so we had gluten-free pancakes before hitting the market Saturday morning. I’m still playing around with flour combinations for breads and pie crust, but this pancake recipe was perfect as written. (By the way, I have no plans to turn this into a blog about dietary restrictions, but if you’re looking into a gluten-free diet, I highly recommend the Gluten-Free Girl blog. It’s an amazing resource.)

But back to the pancakes. I cooked them in only about 1/2 teaspoon of butter each, but they were so rich-tasting and slightly sweet on their own that they only needed a dollop of the raspberry jam I picked up recently from B&B Jams to put them over the top.

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I didn’t really load up on fresh vegetables this weekend because I went overboard last week and still had quite a bit hanging around in my vegetable drawers. I’ve been on a leftover kick all week long, but only yesterday did I finally get around to using up the last bit of the smoked beef tongue (courtesy of Snoep Winkel Farm) I made last weekend. Of course, on that first day, we had it in tacos as we always do, but during the week it made appearances sliced on crackers with Dijon mustard or just nibbled out of hand straight from the cutting board.

But my plan for Saturday’s lunch included my latest favorite way to use leftover bits of meat and vegetables: Vietnamese bun, a refreshing salad served with cold rice noodles, and the perfect thing on a hot summer day.

This was made entirely with odds and ends from the refrigerator: Tatsoi, cabbage, carrots, red bell peppers, radishes, green onions, basil and cilantro, all tossed with a sweet-sour-salty-spicy dressing, funky with fish sauce and garlic. And hit with a lot of Sriracha, naturally. I’ve found that if you get the sauce right (I used the one from this Vietnamese Chicken Salad), the rest of the salad just falls into place.

It’s been a migraine-y day for me, so I have nothing more to offer at the moment, but I’m hoping to get around to an apricot & goat’s milk frozen yogurt sometime this week. Hope you have a great one!

recipes after the jump

Continue reading “From the Market: Week 5”

Homework, and cauliflower

The past two days were less about vacationing (as intended) than about taking a break from my routine and working from home. Still, it was pleasant enough to sleep in a little and not deal with a hellish commute.

Ugh, I sound like such a Pollyanna.

On Day 2 of my “vacation,” I decided a little cooking was in order and gave the Feisty Green Beans from 101 Cookbooks a whirl — with substitutions, of course. Since the main ingredient is out of season, I swapped in a head of cauliflower. Tofu was nixed because I just don’t keep it in the house if I’m not planning to make a specific recipe (usually from Simple Chinese Cooking).

Made according to the recipe otherwise, this dish was spicy enough for me to take notice, which was a very pleasant surprise. But the flavors reminded me enough of my chickpea and spinach curry to realize I’d probably prefer the more aggressive tang of the greek yogurt in that dish to the creme fraiche in this one. (Can’t say I’m anything less than thrilled to have a container of creme fraiche in the fridge now for snacking or dessert purposes, though. We’ll just see what the weekend brings on that front.)

Another orangey post

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Double-decker lasagna

Because the farmers’ market gods do not see fit to bestow seasonable, local produce upon us between Halloween and Thanksgiving, I stocked up on storage items last weekend — onions, potatoes and all manner of squash, plus another frozen tongue. It’ll be a long winter. But look, I’ve just gotta say: We need some new squash recipes around these parts. Roasted squash — excellent in a pinch. Good old squash soup — fine. It’s reliable, it’s easy, delicious and mostly unobjectionable, but I’m still kinda sick of it from last year, truth be told, so it might be a while before it graces my table and blog again.

In the interest of not boring myself or you (too late, they cry!) to death, I went all out and made a lasagna — something I never do. All those layers just kill me, but I was won over by this one. It was adapted from Giada’s recipe and was so good, I’ve got plans to make a few more updates and serve it as our Thanksgiving main course. This lasagna’s charms are subtle, but once it has you, it won’t let you go.

recipe after the jump

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B is for borscht

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Also for beets…

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One spring weekend, I had a craving for Veselka‘s Christmas borscht and started a furious search for an online recipe. The only mentions I found praised it to the heavens, but had no recipes attached. I did, however, find an approximate recreation of their everyday borscht, which I finally got around to making this afternoon. So, so, so good. This is going into heavy rotation this winter.

recipe after the jump

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An autumn breakfast

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I’m tired of fighting it.

We had snow yesterday (snow, people!), so I’m diving into fall cooking starting with a simple breakfast — acorn squash roasted with cultured butter, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and a liberal sprinkling of salt. I’ll be restocking my squash supplies over the weekend so this kind of thing is always an option.

Update: I’ve added a recipe of sorts after the jump.

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The 40-year-old virgin

Sometimes the stars align and my pictures turn out as planned. This is one of those times, though they do look a little brussels sprouty from afar. Aka tomatillos.
As (almost) always, click on the images to view larger in flickr. Unless they’re shots of, I dunno, appliances (foreshadowing!), then you’re SOL.

For the past few months, I’ve been keeping a list of things I’ve finally gotten around to trying this year. For what purpose, I couldn’t say because planning an end-of-the-year wrap-up post in May would show remarkable foresight on my part, but the list has been steadily growing nonetheless. On the exotic end of the spectrum, sea cucumber found its way on the list in 2009 (in phenomenal dim sum at Lai Wah Heen in Toronto), but it got much more mundane with red currants (in the “never cooked with” column… also in the “not gonna cook with again” column, if I’m being honest) and gooseberries (also a “never cooked with,” but much more to my liking than the red currants).

Despite my love of trying whatever new thing occurs to me and having a spice cabinet that long ago overflowed to the hall closet, I have lacunae that are downright embarrassing. Which brings us to the tomatillo. Of course, I’ve eaten tomatillos in restaurants many times, but I’ve never gotten around to inviting them into my kitchen before this weekend. When I saw a basket of them at the market being passed over in favor of corn and tomatoes, I decided to remedy the situation without a recipe in mind, and thus bought way too many.

No, seriously. I could not be happier with these two pictures. Aka tomatillo close-up.

I grilled them along with some jalapeno peppers and blended both with cumin, loads of lime juice, salt & pepper…and some sofrito I had in my freezer. If you’re thinking that sofrito sounds odd in a salsa, I can’t argue, you’re right (at least from my online recipe searches). But I was out of fresh cilantro and thought, “Hey! I always have sofrito in the freezer, thanks to Daisy. And sofrito has cilantro in it. Also onion and garlic. What could go wrong?” And that’s usually where things go pear-shaped — one of my favorite sayings from the old Brit roomies, so forgive the pretense — around here, but not this time. It was a little bit sweeter than a regular tomatillo salsa because of the sweet peppers and tomatoes that hitched a ride with cilantro and the gang, but still great with chips and even better on migas the next morning. And because I made so much, we still have half of the batch in the freezer for the next time I get a craving.

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Accio, my new favorite beverage! Aka, St-Germain and whatever.

In the “Where have you been all my life?” column, you’ll find St-Germain elderflower liqueur. Though I’ve been curious about it for a while, picking up a bottle never was a big priority because I’m more of a wine drinker these days, but I finally got around to it after Gil‘s boss recommended a martini starring a gin on Gil’s short list supplemented with St-Germain. Now, everyone has words that make them cringe and “ambrosial” is right up there for me along with “tender” (emotional sense only), but I can’t think of a better word to describe this. It’s even stunning paired with nothing more than seltzer and a few cubes of ice. If only I’d known about it earlier in the summer…

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090906_fridge

I’m not sure where this would fall on the list exactly — somewhere between acting my age and putting down roots? — but we got a new refrigerator this weekend! Our old one had been in this house since my first year of college and was getting downright menopausal with its temperature swings, so we took advantage of the Labor Day sales to bring home this beauty. It’s got tons more room, no more side-by-side nonsense, and a functioning water dispenser and ice maker. I’m in heaven. We haven’t named it yet, though — any suggestions?

’08 Advent Calendar, Day 20

OK, maybe just a little more sugar wouldn’t hurt me.

Looking for a lighter cinnamon roll than the heavy butter- and icing-bombs you find most places, I decided to adapt my king cake recipe this morning, with stellar results. A light, bready brioche wrapped around a buttery cinnamon filling and topped with honey-cream cheese frosting … oh, I didn’t meant to imply they’re light, just lighter.

For the 2007 Advent Calendar, click here.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “’08 Advent Calendar, Day 20”

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”

Peas

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.