Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Late June Market Meal

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IMG_9137 The Medford Farmers Market has been going strong for a few weeks now this season, and getting better every week. They have a new location right in Medford Square. The vibe is good and so is the music. And lots to choose from. I couldn't make it myself this week, but Susan came through with a nice assortment of goodies to make a Friday night meal (and she stayed away from the sweets this time!)

I like to do serial dinners, and Susan's market basket was perfect.  The snap peas from Brigham Farm were sitting in the refrigerator already in that white bowl you see in the picture.  Nothing else needed but to put out a little bowl for the green strings.  Sweet and tender.  A perfect snack to have sitting on the table outdoors in the backyard for everyone to enjoy while I got the rest of the meal going.

The sweet corn from Spring Brook Farm were a pleasant surprise for so early in the season.  I couldn't believe they came from New England.  Rubbed with a light coating of olive oil and cooked over medium heat on a closed grill for about seven or eight minutes, and they were perfect.  A little butter and a squeeze of lime gave it a little zing.

Susan had bought these two veal steaks from Misty Brook Farm based on the RAVE reviews from one of the other market customers.  I don't know what cuts of meat these were, but I put them in the fridge overnight Thursday to thaw.  Given the rave reviews, I figured I wouldn't do too much to it.  The rule of steak is that if it's REALLY GOOD steak, a little salt and pepper is all you want.  I popped these babies on the grill for about 3 or 4 minutes per side, being afraid of overcooking them.  The small boneless piece came out perfect.  The larger bone-in piece was a little underdone (according to Susan, who loves underdone).  Either way though, these had to have been among the best pieces of meat I've ever eaten.  They each had a complex flavor enhanced by the salt and pepper.  And tender!

Finally, sliced strawberries also from Spring Brook Farm with blueberries from Clearview Farm with a little Grand Marnier.  (OK....I didn't get the Grand Marnier from the market!)  The strawberries were deep red throughout, tender, sweet and juicy.  The blueberries plump and sweet.  The Grand Marnier gave oozed the juices out from the strawberries a bit and gave both fruits a little more depth and a kick.

Susan can shop for me at the market anytime!




Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Roasted Kabocha Squash Slices with Puzzling Seasoning that Will Blow You Away

IMG_8536 The nice thing about kabocha squash is that half a squash is usually enough for a family dinner, so there's another half sitting in the fridge for more just a few days later.  Of course, Susan always complains that I don't make enough of them. 

After much experimentation, I now have the formula down to perfection:
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
  2. Wash the outside, but do not peel.
  3. Cut in half and remove seeds, and turn cut side down. 
  4. Slice crescents, about 1/8" thick.  Don't worry too much about the dimension.  Try a variety.  See if you like them better crisp or soft.  The thin ones will crisp up nicely to potato chip consistency while the thick ones will stay moist and pliant.  People do not agree on which are best.  So, make everyone happy.
  5. Line baking sheet with heavy duty aluminum foil.  Brush with about a tablespoon or two of olive oil.
  6. Lay the crescents on the oil. Lay them in tight, but don't overlap.  Brush with some more olive oil.  Be generous.  There should be some puddles on the baking sheet, but the slices don't need to swim in it.
  7. With approximate quantities, to your own taste, mix in a small bowl a teaspoon of freshly ground fennel seed, half teaspoon of ground coriander, half teaspoon of garlic powder, teaspoon of oregano, half teaspoon of salt, about 20 grinds of black pepper.  Sprinkle over the top of the crescents.
  8. Put in the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes.
  9. When the buzzer goes off, go see how they're doing.  They're probably not done yet, but you want to get a sense of where they are.  
  10. They're done when most of them have edges that start to crisp up.  If you use a spatula and peek underneath, they'll be a nice dark brown.  Some may even go into burned territory--that's ok.  Last time I did them they took about 25 minutes.
  11. So go back and check them every five minutes or so.  Pull them off before they burn.
  12. Layer on a deep blue plate.  I love the way they look with the orange and the blue.  Reminds me of the NY Mets when I was growing up!
If you get distracted and burn them, do not throw them away!  They're excellent burnt.  Not as good as taking them off at just the right moment, but still better than most things you'll put in your mouth.

The last of my kabocha squash posts was over here at Asian Fling, where I gave proper credit for the recipe that came from Jaimie Oliver by way of Chowhound.  But I'm hard pressed to think abou this as Asian anymore, other than the best supply of kabocha squash seems to come from the HMart. They always have them.  With the garlic and fennel, it seems more Italian.  Probably just inspired American.  When I first saw the blend of spices, I did not have high hopes. I tried something different once, with some cumin. And just came running back to this.  Let me know if you do further experimenting.

I'm always hesitant to say something is the "best" of anything.  But, as of now, I'd say this is the best thing I make.  Sweet, salty, a little unctuous with the oil, crisp, deep complex flavor.  Perfect finger food.  A crowd pleaser.  Make a second tray, because the first will go fast.  And in the summer, do them on the grill (still use the baking sheet).

So there.  My love note to Kabocha squash.

(Note.  Most Kabocha squash has  a deep green skin, like an acorn squash.  This one had an orange skin.  Tasted the same, just a different look)




Sunday, July 10, 2011

Market Meal

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Last Thursday was a great day for the Medford Farmers Market. Lots of vendors,lots of people,some energetic young folks pedaling their way through the summer, bicycle themed exhibits, and the band powered by onlookers pedaling.

Dinner was a market meal -- 100% from the market (except for the basil I clipped from the garden):

From Spring Brook Farm:  Carrots, zuchini, corn.
From Clearview Farm: Spring onion, brocolli, fresh garlic (from the week before)
From my garden:  a few handfuls of basil, leaves whole
From When Pigs Fly:  Sundried tomato bread

All but the corn (and bread...though adding the bread to the vegetable mixture might be a good idea!) cut into pieces that promised to cook at the same rate after a light coating of oil on the grill, in the grill wok. For the spring onion, I cut from the stem (picture a really hefty scallion) and sliced thinly.  For the fresh garlic, I also cut from the stem, but shaved it all very thin -- about a tablespoon or two -- it was intense.  About 10 minutes in the grill wok over low heat was enough, tossing and turning.

On the other half of the grill I did the corn, shucked, coated lightly with oil, and turned a couple of times to prevent over-charring.

A little salt and pepper to season, and we were ready to go with a simple meal, all from the market.  Simple, naturally, sweet, and filling -- perfect for a summer day.  And I avoided using the stove yet again. 

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's probably bad form to cross post between my two blogs, but this one deserves to be on both sites.  Follow my newest exploration with kabocha squash.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Posting again! Squash soup

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Have you been posting to your blog lately? No.Why not? Dunno. What have you been doing instead? Dunno.

Funny how one can get out of the habit. But a 3+ month hiatus deserved some attention. Perhaps a little daydreaming.

Daydreaming is where a lot of my cooking ideas come from. What's in the fridge? What's in the freezer? What have I had lately? What have I read about? What have I been wanting to play with for awhile? Then, slowly the ideas start to form.

Squash. I saw the cubed squash in the freezer the other day. What the heck was I going to do with that? I love roasted squash, but I was afraid that defrosted squash would lose it's structural integrity, and just turn to mush. Turn to mush, eh? How 'bout if I just go with that idea? If it's going to turn to mush anyway, just mush it some more. And I get to use my immersion blender -- bonus!

Cilantro. There was cilantro in the crisper, leftover from over a week ago. But hanging in there pretty well in an open plastic bag with a paper towel. (Note to self -- that's a good way to keep cilantro.) But it's not going to keep forever, so what can I make that uses a LOT of it? I could see putting a good fistful of cilantro into a squash soup.

Peas. A sad bag of peas in the freezer, constantly passed over. Wouldn't those green peas look nice floating in a sea of orange?

Onions. Of course. And garlic. I almost went with part of the bag of leeks in the freezer, but didn't feel like dealing with defrosting those too and figuring out how to use them. Onions and garlic, sauteed in olive oil.

Flavoring. I originally thought of a cumin-coriander theme, but then when I actually got down to the cooking, saw some Ras el Hannout in a tower of spices Shira brought for us from Sofra. "North African spice blend. Use on chicken, meat and bean or vegetable stew." Squash soup seemed like it was in the genre. And there was a knuckle of ginger shriveling up in the fridge, needing to be used or tossed. Perhaps I can salvage a bit.

And tamarind. I sent Margie a recipe today for eggplant stew with tamarind. I have a jar of tamarind paste in the fridge that I rarely if ever use. Tamarind will be a project one of these days. Tamarind is in the fridge because of the interpreter of food desires. Whenever I'd ask him what's in this dish, it was a pretty good bet he'd say "tamarind" at some point. The sour notes of tamarind would work well with the North African Spice and the ginger.

And a pinch of cayenne, just to make things interesting.

Brightening. Lemon. Always good to brighten things up a bit. And Beverly had just told me the correct way to use my new lemon squeezer.

This all seemed like enough to go on. Probably not enough for a meal on its own, but with some crackers and cheese and salami, it would do well for an after-workout meal, with enough left over as a first course. So...

3 cups cubed winter squash
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp Ras el Hannout
4 cups boiling water
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp lemon juice
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 cup cilantro leaves, reserving some for garnish
2 tsp olive oil
1 pinch cayenne (or to taste)
1 tsp salt

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until soft.  Add the ras el hannout and toast in the oil, onion, garlic.  Add squash, and saute for 10-15 minutes, until barely tender.  Add the water.  Add the cilantro leaves.  When the squash is tender, use an immersion blender to puree (or, put into a blender, in batches, not filling up more than 1/3 of the way to avoid hot stuff splattering all over you).

Add the peas.  Then start tasting to see what you've got.  Add salt.  Taste.  Add the tamarind.  Taste.  Add lemon juice.  Taste.  Add cayenne.  Taste.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve with cilantro leaves on top for garnish.

While tasting along the way, I was concerned that this was going to be a flop.  Adding salt helped, but it was pretty flat.  The tamarind was a wild card -- I was afraid to use too much.  And I probably added a little too much lemon -- I just got carried away with the lemon squeezer.  Go a little easier next time.  But the bitter notes of the extra cilantro floating on top did a lot to counteract the sour of the lemon, and the sweet pop of the peas helped balance things out as well. So all in all, I think I got the flavor balance about right. 

Things to vary -- lots of ideas.  Go the cumin-coriander route.  More ginger.  Lots more.  That was my original idea, but the poor shriveled ginger knuckle I was working with gave me as much as it could, and no more.  More cayenne if you like things hot.  Add a dollop of yogurt.  Add some cream.  Or coconut milk.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kabocha Squash Spread with Homemade Crackers

I recently discovered the wonders of kabocha squash, so the next time I was at the market I picked one up. (Since it was at the HMART, I guess I can cross post to Asian Fling).   Last time the texture when roasted was like a sweet potato, so I had the idea to mash it into something spreadable.  After which I had the idea to make something to spread it on, like homemade crackers. 


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This time, the squash was not as dry when roasted. It had the usual wettish feeling of any other squash (but still tasted just as good). Undeterred, I continued with my plan and made a simple spread anyway. This involved mashing the squash with a potato masher and mixing in some flavorings. I've tried it three ways now:

  • Olive oil and pimenton (smoked paprika), for a Spanish theme
  • Sesame oil and sesame seeds, for an Asian theme
  • Plain.
All three were great.  The plain may have even been the best.  The squash has so much flavor, it doesn't need much help.  And you can leave the skins on, since their edible -- it gives the dish a little texture.  I found them good served at room temperature.

As for the crackers, there are many recipes out there, but I found this one from allrecipes.com to be easy and full of whole wheat.  And, it turns out, tasty.  I won't repeat the recipe here....go look at theirs.  But consider this advice.  The first time I made it, I didn't roll it thin enough.  It was fine at the edges, but it was thicker at the center.  They tasted good, but the texture was off.  I compromised by calling them "flat bread".

The second time, I was careful to roll them very thin.  The instructions say to roll them to 1/8".  What's 1/8"?  Can you even attempt to measure it with a ruler?  No.  Just roll it as thin as you think it should be, and make it thinner.  I found I had to do the full recipe in several batches to get them to fit on a baking sheet.  The second time I also added toasted flax seeds.  About a quarter cup of them, half ground and half left whole.  They gave the cracker a complex toasty taste that was a real winner.  I also found that they took more like 30-35 minutes to bake, rather than the 20 in the recipe.

You could easily do the squash with storebought crackers or the crackers with something else entirely.  Both are dishes I will turn to again.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kimchi series at Improbable Pantry - Asian Fling

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I have a series of articles on Kimchi over at Improbable Pantry - Asian Fling. check them out:

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