Thursday, July 31, 2014

The heirlooms are here!


This should be a festival day.  I have a garden with lots of vegetables -- eggplant, cucumbers, herbs, zucchini, butternut, snap peas, carrots, and peppers.  And I have a few hybrid tomatoes that were nice enough to give give fruit starting in late June.  But these are all supporting characters to the star of the show, the heirloom tomatoes.  There's nothing like ambling up the backyard stairs, plucking one of these off, and doing something simple, like hearty bread spread with thick Greek yogurt from Sophia's Greek Pantry in Belmont (labna if you can't get yogurt this thick--I'm pretty sure it's the same foodstuff), some fresh oregano, and thick slices of heirloom tomato. These are purple Cherokee, an all time favorite.  The Brandywine's are close behind.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Yes please, I'll have me some of that: A simple one pot pasta with tomatoes and basil

Here's a shout out to Food52.  They're an cooking-oriented website that covers a lot of territory, has a great attitude, and consistently puts out good content that I want to read (and recipes I want to cook).  I get their e-mail newsletter several times a week, and there's always something I want to try.  Check it out if you haven't.  It seems that they're pretty successful, and I hope that the appearances are true, because they deserve to be.  So, they don't really need a shout out from me, but today was special.

I was reading Food52 at lunch time, like I often do, and saw this "genius recipe" for one pan tomato pasta, clicked over, saw the lovely picture, and started reading.  The idea is simple, true genius, and I wished I'd thought of it myself. Turns out, it was Martha Stewart who thought of it.  Apparently, this was all the rage a while ago on the Internet, but I missed it.  It's dead easy and delicious.  And I just had to make it tonight. 

Here's why.....the garden tomatoes are starting to come in. And the basil is doing well.  I had onions and garlic in the pantry and a some whole wheat pasta spaghetti.  It was a no-brainer.

The recipe is indeed as easy as looks.  You just dump all the ingredients in a straight sided skillet (called a sauteuese).   There's enough water to just cover the pasta.  You boil it for 10 minutes (they say 9, but my spaghetti was whole wheat, and it said 10), and you've got a meal.  Top with a little Parmesan cheese and your set.  Yum. Go look at their recipe.  It works!  Prep time...5 or 10 minutes, tops.

A few notes.  When I looked at the quantity of salt (2 teaspoons for a dish that makes four servings), I was sure it would be too salty.  But it wasn't.  And I chiffonaded the basil leaves and tossed them in right at the end of the cook time so they just wilted into the dish rather than cooked.  It's better for fresh basil not to be cooked.  And you just use raw onions--no sauteing first--the 10 minutes of cooking in the starchy water was enough to sweeten up those onions so they were mighty tasty.

And click over to their link to other one pot pasta meal "spinoffs".  There's bound to be something tasty there!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Two Lost Years

I posted on July 4, 2012.  And then again on July 2, 2014.  Two years with no posts.  I had good intentions, but then two years slipped away.  I didn't stop cooking and I didn't stop taking pictures. 

There were some good dishes in there, some more memorable than others.  There's zero chance that I'll write about these pictures, but I might be inspired to try some of them again..

I hate to throw the pictures away, so I made a little assemblage of the neglected posts.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What the heck is that stuff?

I just finished breakfast yesterday morning out the backyard.  It's a peaceful spot, before the heat of the day.  Sip my tea and linger with the paper.  I looked up at the garden plot and noticed an enormous stand of green leaves where the cucumbers and eggplant are supposed to be.  "What the heck is that stuff?"   
A few sad radishes with a spectacular head of leaves. 
Plus and early tomato, the first of the snap peas,
and some mustard greens

Radishes.  I'd planted some radishes.  They were supposed to be long white radishes.  But the problem with radishes is that they grow underground, so how are you supposed to know when they're ready?  In the past, when I'd grown globular red radishes, they pushed their shoulders out of the ground when they were ready, so you knew. These hadn't done that.

We had a good rain last week, and it's been sunny and hot all weekend.  What had been a five foot row of struggling radishes turned into a forest of radish greens.  But were any actual radishes underneath?  One had pretty yellow flowers, so I figured those were long gone.

I pulled them all up and found six that looked like they could qualify as real radishes, but they were only a few inches long rather than the five inches promised on the seed packet.  And many more were just little scraggly radish wannabees. 

But while the radishes were disappointing, the radish greens had promise  Now, "what the heck do I do with this stuff"?   I was pretty sure I could eat them. 

The Internet to the rescue, especially Chow.com, where I discovered that the leaves are a bit prickly, but once they're cooked the prickliness goes away, they're tasty, and they're not as bitter or peppery as you might imagine.  Comparisons were made to turnip greens.  And I like those.


I gave them a good wash in the sink to remove any dirt, pulled off the really thick stalks, put them still wet in a large sauteuse pan, covered, and steamed for a few minutes until they wilted.  Just like spinach.

And they tasted just like spinach.  No bite at all. Silky smooth, no prickles.  And the stems weren't tough at all.

Radish greens, leftover smoked pork, onions and garlic, with a touch
of passion fruit vinegar to brighten.
It was way too much for one meal.  So I took about a third of it to add to some of the leftover smoked pork from the weekend, a sliced onion, and a little garlic.  A meal for a hot day!  A little passion fruit vinegar brightened it up just  a bit.

The rest went into a ziplock bag, into the freezer for another day.

The garden's really coming in.  The Swiss chard has finally taken hold. The Portuguese kale and the collards are heading for their third pruning, and the single zucchini plant is going to produce plenty for the two of us.  More to follow.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Late June Market Meal

IMG_9112
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

IMG_8340

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. 
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