Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Corn #1. Butter or no? Binds salt.

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

CornFresh corn from Munson Farms is here in a big way, and I brought a few ears straight home for an early lunch. Some say that fresh corn needs nothing, no cooking, no salt, and no butter. I disagree, and prefer to boil corn in heavily salted water for 5-7 minutes then add a light coat of butter and a generous sprinkling of kosher salt.

The salt is the key, and the butter holds just the right amount in place. With great corn, and Munson’s certainly is, it’s sheer perfection.


Munson Farms

Fava beans. Not so hard. Without chianti.

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Despite an unfair reputation, fava beans are not so hard to prepare. Yes, this may be the only vegetable that must be peeled twice, but preparation goes very quickly with proper technique. First split the large fleshy pods by twisting or by judicious use of a thumbnail, and carefully remove each bean within. Blanch resulting beans in highly salted water for two minutes, then shock with cold water and drain. Now each bean must be peeled, but it’s quick work with just your fingers.

Favas are available only briefly in our climate, so jump on them while you can! These babies came from Pachamama Organic Farm.

Fava Beans with Pecorino

This quick salad is a riff on a simple dish I often make when fresh peas are available.

  1. 2 cups prepared fava beans (as above)
  2. 1/2 cup pecorino romano in a 1/4″ dice
  3. 2 Tb fresh lemon juice
  4. 1/4 tsp lemon zest
  5. 5 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  6. black pepper, to taste

Prepare a vinaigrette by whisking olive oil into the lemon juice and zest. Add black pepper to taste – I like quite a bit. Lemon makes for a lighter vinaigrette, but certainly adjust proportions to your taste. I find the pecorino to be salty enough alone, so I don’t add additional salt.

Toss favas and cheese, toss with vinaigrette and serve.

With apologies to Dr. Lector, serve with a crisp gruner veltliner, not a “big amarone” or even a “nice chianti.”


Pachamama Organic Farm

Local somewhere. Pimientos de Padrón. From Virginia.

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Pimientos de Padrón are succulent thumb-sized green peppers that are traditionally grown around the small town of Padrón in Galicia. A classic tapa, served there and in Madrid, is made by simply sautéeing a couple of handfuls of peppers, stems on, in olive oil, then adding sea salt to taste. The result is a smoky, salty delight, eaten by grabbing the stem of the pepper and biting off the body of the pepper. Most are mild but a few have a surprising amount of heat: “Spanish Roulette,” according to the New York Times.

La Tienda, based in Virginia, noted that Galicia and Virginia share an Atlantic coast. They have persuaded a local farmer to produce the peppers from imported seeds, and the results are available every year about this time. Thinking back to last summer in Madrid, I could not resist ordering a couple of pounds. Since overnight shipping is a given, I also took the opportunity to tack on the only-just-available Jamón Ibérico Bellota Paleta in a 4 ounce hand-sliced package. That is the subject of another posting, but I can tell you that the peppers alone were worth the shipping cost.


La Tienda

Bison simple. Meat and potatoes. High Wire.

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

Grilled bison round steak with new potatoesGrilled bison round steak and perfect new potatoes fresh from the ground: simplicity itself. It’s meat and potatoes without the guilt: all the advantages of bison over beef, and even the pickiest eater will enjoy this neo-traditional treat.


High Wire Ranch

Monroe Farm

First basil. Pesto, of course. Ligurian style.

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Fresh basil (Red Wagon Organic Farm) has arrived in a big way, and of course that means pesto. I’ve made it the same way since the late ’70s, always using some variation of Marcella’s then-daring “Blender Pesto” from The Classic Italian Cookbook. This two volume opus, now out of print, was the Italian Mastering the Art of French Cooking that taught Americans that there was more to Italian cusine than red sauce and pizza. Happily, both volumes have been combined, updated, and extended as Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Comprehensive and wonderful, this is certainly the one must-have Italian cookbook written in English.

In Liguria the pasta is usually cooked with a potato, which is diced and served with the dish, often with green beans. I used the first potatoes of the season from Monroe Farm, but omitted the beans this time in order to keep it simple.

Pesto Ligurian Style

  1. 2 cups basil leaves, packed
  2. 3/8 – 1/2 cup olive oil
  3. 2 Tb pine nuts
  4. 2 cloves garlic
  5. 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  6. 2 Tb pecorino Romano, grated
  7. salt, 2 Tb butter
  8. a handful of small potatoes
  9. pasta, about one pound

Chop garlic fine, add garlic, basil, pine nuts, and olive oil to a blender or food processor. Process until blended but not too smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Marcella adds salt and a full 1/2 cup oil; I omit the salt and use a bit less oil. The pecorino adds a nice sharp note, but don’t hesitate to substitute an equal amount of parmesan if you don’t have a well-stocked refrigerator.

Fettuccine is classic (called trenette in Liguria), but spagetti works well also. Chop potatoes roughly into bite-size pieces. Cook pasta and potatoes in salted water until pasta is al dente. Drain, add butter and pesto and toss to coat, then add most of the cheese, reserving a little for the table. Toss once more, and serve immediately.


Red Wagon Organic Farm

Monroe Farm

Fresh eggs. Oeufs de Meurette. Burgundian classic.

Friday, July 4th, 2008

Ouefs de MeuretteSometimes the plethora of available greens don’t inspire, but really fresh eggs from Wisdom’s always do. Classic Burgundian dishes include Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon, and always escargots, but Oeufs de Meurette is a sleeper dish that is perfect for warm early summer evenings.

Oeufs de Meurette (Serves 4)

For the sauce:

  1. 1 bottle (750 ml) red wine, preferably red Burgundy
  2. 1 cup good brown veal, beef, or chicken stock
  3. 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  4. 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  5. 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  6. thyme sprigs, parsley, a bay leaf, and a few black peppercorns

For the garnishes:

  1. 8 slices of bread from a large baguette, about 3/8″ thick
  2. 1 garlic clove, cut in half
  3. 8 button mushrooms
  4. 4 oz bacon, diced
  5. 16 pearl onions
  6. olive oil, butter

Remaining ingredients:

  1. 8 fresh eggs, poached
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. 2 tablespoons flour
  4. salt and pepper, to taste

First, prepare the sauce. Chop vegetables, combine with wine, stock, and herb mixture. I use a seriously reduced brown stock here – if you are using canned stock, good luck, but you will want to reduce it first. Simmer sauce briskly until reduced by half or even more. The wine is traditionally red Burgundy, but Beaujolais or something unoaked and fruity will do in a pinch. Beware any highly-oaked New World wine, even domestic Pinot Noir – the concentrated oak flavors would be overwhelming or worse.

Next, prepare the garnishes. Make croûtes by frying the bread slices in olive oil; drain on paper towels, then rub both sides of each with the cut garlic. Reserve. Sauté mushrooms in butter, reserve. Sauté bacon, remove and reserve, then add pearl onions to the rendered fat and cook until nicely browned.

Final preparation. Prepare a beurre manié by mixing softened butter with flour. Strain the sauce into a clean saucepan. Over low heat, add beurre manié and stir until slightly thickened and glossy. Poach 4 eggs to your taste. This can be done ahead, reserving nearly-cooked eggs in cold water and reheating in hot water for a minute or so. Place two croûtes on each serving plate, top each with a poached egg, then portion bacon, mushrooms, and onions evenly. Spoon sauce over each plate and serve immediately.

Serve outdoors if possible, and think of early summer in Beaune. Époisses cheese is the perfect dessert.


Wisdom’s Natural Poultry

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.


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.


¡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.


Monroe Farm

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.


High Wire Ranch