Archive for June, 2008

Blasut’s chicken. Profusion of herbs. Marcella rules.

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Blasut's ChickenReturning once more to the really excellent Marcella Says, I cooked a very memorable pasta dish using ground chicken thighs. For chicken, I immediately think of Wisdom’s – this is chicken as chicken used to taste before megapoultry. I first made the dish from the cookbook, but later found the recipe online at the Washington Post. Amazing and unexpected results, so good that I made it twice: once grinding the chicken thighs myself, and then simplifying a bit by using Wisdom’s convenient ready-ground chicken.

“Blasut” is the moniker of the restauranteur in Friuli that invented this recipe. Sounds quaint, but the dish is not traditional at all. As Marcella points out, both the number and quantity of herbs is unusual in Italian cooking, but the effect is wonderful. The recipe calls for lemon peel, mint, rosemary, and sage, and the resulting flavors are multi-level and nuanced. Don’t even think of using dried herbs. Blasut serves the dish with a grilled pasta called mlinci (apparently quite different from the Croatian mlinci); I made do with a high-quality imported penne. I have not tried it, but this dish could be equally wonderful with ground turkey.

Sources

Wisdom’s Natural Poultry (both thighs and ground chicken are available)

Garlic scapes. NYTimes breaks story. No e-scape.

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Garlic scapesI had never seen a garlic scape before this Farmer’s Market, and had no idea whatsoever how to cook with them until this timely NYTimes article. Inspired by what can only be called a homage to alternative garlic, I grabbed a big handful of scapes from the ¡Cultiva! Youth Project and set to work cooking.

Scapes are especially interesting because they are a byproduct of garlic production, a part of the garlic plant that is traditionally cut off to promote the growth of the bulb and discarded. Some clever farmers discovered that they were not only edible, but delicious enough to some that there is a ready market for them at upscale produce venues.

Garlic Scapes in the Manner of Green Beans
First I made the White Bean and Garlic Scapes Dip described in the article, a sort of cannellini-based hummus. The result was delicious, with a subtle alterna-garlic kick. This dish was well-received, though some in our party felt that fewer scapes in the mix would make a less daunting exercise in garlic. Enboldened, and following Melissa Clark’s lead, I threw together the following dish:

Garlic Scapes in the Manner of Green Beans

  1. large handful of garlic scapes, chopped diagonally into 2″ lengths
  2. 2 Tb butter
  3. 1 Tb lemon juice
  4. black pepper to taste

Blanch scapes in salted water for 7 minutes. Drain and dry scapes. Melt butter in sauté pan, toss scapes until done to your liking. Add lemon juice and black pepper to taste.

Very interesting. The flavor is subtle, with obvious garlic notes, and texture somewhat similar to that of green beans, but “gummier.”

All excitement at New York Greenmarkets aside, perhaps these are an acquired taste.

Sources

¡Cultiva! Youth Project

First strawberries. Shortcake, southern-style. Summer begins.

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

Southern-style strawberry shortcakeMonroe Organic Farm brought the first strawberries of the season. Sweet, yet delicately so, their perfect texture is a stark contrast from the year-round styrofoam balls that usually pass as strawberries. The first temptation is always to simply devour them all, but cooler heads prevailed. Our house is lucky enough to have a baker in residence (“The Baker”), and she whipped up a batch of old school southern-style buttermilk biscuits – the only true basis for strawberry “shortcake.” The biscuit recipe comes from my Georgia grandmother, and has been handed down in my family for at least four generations.

Buttermilk Biscuits

  1. 2 1/2 cups flour
  2. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  3. 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  4. 1/2 tsp salt
  5. 1/3 shortening (classically Crisco)
  6. 1 cup buttermilk

Sift together dry ingredients. These next steps take a light touch: Cut in shortening until there are “no pieces bigger than a pea.” Stir in buttermilk evenly. Turn on to a well-floured pastry cloth and knead ten times (I kid you not). Roll out to 1/2 – 3/4″ thickness, the use can or cutter to create 2 – 3″ rounds. Set oven to 450 degrees. Bake about 15 minutes on baking sheet until golden brown.  If you are a wizard these will rise almost impossibly, and mortals must settle for a mildly risen yet succulent biscuit.

The strawberries themselves are simply sliced and a tiny bit of sugar added, then left to “macerate” (as a food writer might say), releasing delectible juices.

Split still warm biscuits, spoon over strawberries, and top with fresh whipped cream. Perfection.

Sources

Monroe Farm

Still greens. And more greens. Turning tide.

Monday, June 16th, 2008

One of the rewards of following a farmer’s market is to begin to understand when produce truly comes in season in your area. I was surprised to learn that spring and even early summer is still all about greens in Colorado, with only a few other vegetables making an appearance before mid-June. Now this is slowly starting to change, and things are about to get a lot more interesting.

A cookout. Colorado Buff burgers. With cheese.

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Colorado Buff BurgerAfter a rainy May a cookout seems like just the thing. Especially when the fare includes “Colorado Buff Burgers” made of delicous and nutritious ground bison (buffalo) from High Wire Ranch. High Wire has been raising bison and elk naturally and sustainably since 1981 in Hotchkiss, Colorado. The advantages of bison over beef are well known: less fat and calories and, to many, a better taste. This particular bison is grass and hay fed, contains no hormones or antibiotics, and is USDA inspected and monitored for CWD.

No burger is really complete without cheese, so we top these beauties with MouCo ColoRouge, a distinctive soft-ripened cheese with a pale-orange natrual rind. Red onions complete the illusion, briefly sauteéd and finished with a little sherry vinegar.

Behind MouCo is a family of cheesemakers with a great deal of exprience making soft-ripened cheese in Europe. It shows. Like La Quercia, they are making traditionally European products here that compete very well with the best in the world.

Sources

High Wire Ranch

MouCo

New magazine. Edible Front Range. Smashed radishes.

Monday, June 9th, 2008

I recently received a copy of Edible Front Range, the latest locally focused magazine in the Edible Communities line-up. This is great writing about our local Colorado food scene, and we are lucky to have it.  In a great article about spring vegetables, Lynn Eppel offers a simple but compelling recipe for Smashed Radishes. With almost perfect timing, Abbondanza Organic Seeds & Produce brought gorgeous Pink Beauty radishes to the market. I made this recipe, with minor variations, and served it to great effect with burgers on the grill.

Sources

Edible Front Range

Abbondanza Organic Seeds & Produce

Broccoli rabe. Blanch then sauté . Peel stalks?

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

Broccoli Rabe/RapiniBroccoli Rabe, in Italian Rapini, is another unlikely relation to the turnip. The name suggests common broccoli but this is not the case, either taxonomically or in terms of taste. I’ve always chopped unpeeled rapini coarsely, blanched for two or three minutes in salted water, sautéed, then turned down the heat and covered the pan, effectively braising. Marcella has a very different approach: she peels the thicker stalks, chops coarsely and blanches for fifteen minutes in heavily salted water, then sautés briefly at high heat. She also adds chickpeas, or ceci, the sweetness of which balances the bitterness of the rapini beautifully, and a little red pepper to liven things up.

I cooked the dish with local rapini Marcella-style, and also with my old method. There is no comparison: the longer blanch and brief sauté creates a tender yet crisp result, much less mushy, and with brighter flavors.

Sources

Red Wagon Organic Farm