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summer lovin’

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Dinner, last night. In an attempt to get as many vegetables into us as possible, I threw together a tart, crunchy, juicy salad of shaved purple carrots, chioggia beets, cucumbers and radishes, with wedges of first-of-the-season heirloom tomato, tender baby lettuce, and lots of snipped scallions in a lemon and coriander vinaigrette. I added lots of shredded zucchini to my kofta-style meatballs, and served them on top of freekeh and lentils and crispy sweet onions, all of it drizzled with a goat yogurt tzatziki sauce. Bright flavors and colors for our dimly-lit late night meal, and a crappy camera phone photo for the record.

Shoulder Season Soup

Dinner: September 28, 2010

I’m in commuter hell this week – I’ve had a succession of early or late buses in the morning, consistently late trains, and unplanned cab rides home from the train station which, in addition to being annoyingly expensive and sometimes terrifying, have put me in a big ole cranky mood in the evening, and craving exactly what we’ve been trying to get away from – comfort food.

I sat on the train in my work clothes drenched to the bone after a rain-soaked spin through the Boston Public Market on Tuesday, with tomatoes and fennel and green beans and squash globes and all sorts of other goodies in my totes, and decided a big veg-laden soup was in order. After I got home, I peeled off my damp clothes and changed into something warm and dry, and then I got to chopping: slender leeks, carrots, fresh celery, beautifully ripe plum tomatoes, sweet red peppers, globe zucchini, fresh thyme branches and green beans all went into my pot at various stages, sprinkled with salt and bathed in dribbles of olive oil and a judicious amount of red wine as they cooked down. I added a little bit of orzo to the mix, and when it was tender, added a good amount of freshly grated parm to the soup off the heat. I blitzed up a fresh parsley and fennel frond pistou in the mini chopper to spoon on top, and served up our soup with a few thick slices of Olga’s Pane Francese and some gooey, runny cheese from Farmstead.

As antidotes go, this was just about perfect.

No-sweat Cooking, Day 22

wrappers of failure

31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. And to those of you who made your way over here via rachaelraymag.com, welcome!

I had such high hopes for this recipe for Spicy Summer Rolls, but my complete inability to work with the rice paper wrappers made for a rather spectacular failure. They’re an ingredient I haven’t worked with before, and there were no instructions on the package with respect to softening them, so I asked the Internet, settling on a source I trust in these matters, the MediterrAsian.com site.

Dinner: August 19, 2010

The 15 seconds that site recommends ended up being far too long for my particular wrappers, as the first of them disintegrated after a far briefer dip in the water. So I kept working, soaking the papers for a shorter and shorter amount of time, and generally being frustrated at the resulting rolls I came up with. It was late and our stomachs were rumbling, so I eventually gave up, deciding instead to toss the carrots, cress, and pork with softened rice noodles, some slivered hot and sweet peppers, fresh cilantro, and a dressing of Sriracha, fresh lime juice, and a bit of toasted sesame oil. It was a good and satisfying Plan B, though I’m bound and determined to get the original dish right.

Get the Recipe: Spicy Summer Rolls

No-sweat Cooking, Day 5

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

31 dishes, 31 days – I’m cooking my way through Melissa Clark‘s “No-Sweat Cooking” from the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray. And to those of you who made your way over here via rachaelraymag.com, welcome!

I love remixing leftovers, so when planning out my first week of No-Sweat Recipes, I decided to schedule this Vietnamese Chicken Salad to take advantage of the leftover roast chicken from Tuesday night’s Chicken Tonnato.

local + exotic

This is exactly the kind of recipe I love – fairly free-form, easily adaptable to individual taste, and far, far more than the sum of its parts. This salad was a real celebration of the bounty of our farmers’ markets, as everything but the lime juice and fish sauce came from either the Hope Street market at Lippitt Park, or from the Boston Public Market in Dewey Square.

my own "coleslaw mix"

I opted to skip the coleslaw mix and shred some locally grown cabbage and carrots I had on hand instead, and I added scallions and slivers of fresh chile pepper to the mix as well. This was easily the most delicious thing we’ve eaten during this project so far, the sassy dressing playing off the crunchy vegetables and bits of moist chicken. I served our salad on a bed of soft butter lettuce leaves which I ended up using to scoop up bites of the salad, and I tossed the leftovers with softened cellophane noodles for a future lunch. Mike said he’d happily eat this once a week for as long as the ingredients are in season, and I’m right there with him. Great stuff, and it couldn’t be easier to put together.

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

Get the recipe: Vietnamese Chicken Salad

Buffalo Stance

Dinner: July 13, 2010

(To those of you who have found your way over here via thekitchn, welcome!)

The mercury has dropped a bit in the last week, but I’m still stuck on big, bright, crunchy salads for dinner. I’ve accumulated a ton of gorgeous vegetables between our regular Saturday farmers’ market in Providence and the two I spin through in Boston during the week, and I really can’t think of a better way to put them to use.

Buffalo-style chicken salad

I’ve made a variation of this salad for years, with planks of chicken either breaded and fried or simply grilled or roasted, tossed with my version of “wing sauce” and served with lots of crunchy vegetables and my homemade buttermilk blue cheese dressing (the sauce and dressing recipes can be found here). Last night’s version had its chicken fried crisp, served on a bed of butter lettuce from Kimball’s Fruit Farm, shredded red cabbage, sliced radishes and shredded carrot (also from Kimball’s), chunks of juicy, ripe Woodstock Farm tomato, and cutting celery from our garden (via City Farm). It’s the perfect thing for when I’m craving the flavor of that classic bar snack but want a slightly lighter take on it.

Cool and Composed

Crespone

Temps reached record highs in Little Rhody yesterday, and as I sat in my air-conditioned office in Boston, I knew there was no freaking way our planned Wednesday night dinner was going to happen in our not-yet-air conditioned carriage house kitchen.

quick-pickled cauliflower and carrots

I wasn’t inclined to cook at all, in fact, and began a mental inventory of fridge and pantry to try to figure out my game plan. I love a big salad for dinner on a sweltering night, and it wasn’t long before I had a few good candidates in mind.

fennel

We’ve always got the ingredients for what we call an “indoor picnic” on hand – good cheeses and cured meats, tinned fish, olives and other brined and pickled things, but our fresh vegetable options were somewhat scarce, and a special trip to the store was out of the question. I did have a big bulb of fennel in the crisper, and decided to use it as my base and go from there.

Dinner:  May 26, 2010

In the end I went with something that was a little bit like an antipasto salad, with shades of giardiniera and panzanella thrown in for good measure, a crisp-crunchy-tart-tender-tangy melange of shaved fennel and red onion, lightly pickled cauliflower and carrots, roasted red peppers, capers, chunks of Crespone salami and Parmagiano Reggiano, and garlicky homemade croutons, all in a zippy red wine vinaigrette.

This salad was surprisingly hearty, but the crunchy texture and the brightness of the flavors kept it from feeling heavy. Best of all, I got it on the table without breaking a sweat.

Some Assembly Required

Dinner:  July 8, 2009

Some may say that they’re so over, but Mike and I have been in love with banh mi since our first taste of them back in NYC. I’ve wanted to make banh mi-inspired sandwiches at home for ages, and finally did so last night. I had an idea a while back to use duck rillettes in place of the Vietnamese cold cuts I generally favor, so I had Mike whip some up from his latest batch of confit. With the rillettes made, putting together the rest of the was a breeze: I halved a baguette, sliced each half open, and slathered the insides with a Sriracha-spiked mayo. I placed them on a baking sheet and they went into a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes.

While the baguettes warmed, I whisked together a little salt and vinegar, then added some radish coins, thin slices of carrot, and slivers of green chile pepper, tossing them until they were all well coated. I sliced up a cucumber and some pickled red onions as well, and set aside several sprigs of fresh cilantro to top our sandwiches. When the baguettes were just cool enough to handle, I assembled everything, spreading a layer of rillettes inside of the bread, then topping them with the cut and pickled veggies and cilantro. This was a meal that really did come together in minutes, and it was delicious. I’m eyeing the last of Mike’s pate de campagne for a future variation of this sandwich.