Wading back in

We got back to Providence on Sunday evening, but since I had made a point to use up most of our fresh food before our trip, and since we weren’t around for Saturday’s farmers’ market, we had to make a quick trip to Whole Foods for provisions. I’ve gotten so used to buying the majority of our food at the farmers’ market that I was a little frazzled when we got to the store, but the seafood counter saved the day. I grabbed some sardines for Sunday night’s dinner, and a beautiful whole trout for Monday.

Dinner:  May 10, 2009

We had hoped to grill the sardines on Sunday night but it was a bit too chilly out, so after Mike cleaned them, I dipped them in a little bit of seasoned flour and fried them. I made a quick stew of fennel and tomatoes, one of my favorite partners for fish of any kind, and our Sunday supper was complete.

fiddleheads and chanterelles

Monday’s trout dinner was equally simple: our butterflied trout went into a grill basket rubbed with salt and a bit of olive oil, and Mike took care of cooking it while I worked on sides.

Dinner:  May 11, 2009

I had spotted some Massachusetts fiddleheads at the store, which I snapped up along with a few gorgeous chanterelles. I sauteed them in butter with thinly sliced spring onion until the mushrooms were a bit caramelized and the fiddleheads were tender, then I spooned them onto our plates with the grilled trout and some boiled, smashed new potatoes. I finished the fish with a spritz of fresh lemon juice and some thin slices of the bright green onion tips, and simple as that, dinner was served.

Worth waiting for

In the days leading up to our departure from NYC, Mike and I were keeping a very close eye on Lucy’s Greenmarket Report to monitor the anticipated arrival of asparagus at Union Square. We were hoping we could get our hands on some before the move, and one recent day we mentioned our asparagus watch on Twitter. One friend was a little confused as to why we were making such a fuss – after all, asparagus is in supermarkets year-round, isn’t it? She’s right, of course, but as Mike replied to her with a smile, “we’re snobby locavores.”

Now, I don’t know about the “snobby” part (and I’d hope we’re not actually snobs), but the whole exchange really made me realize how much our way of eating has changed over the last couple of years. Buying supermarket asparagus doesn’t even occur to me anymore, even in the dead of winter when I’m desperate for it. It just tastes better in the springtime, when it’s in season and grown close to home, and I’m happy to wait for it and then indulge until I can’t bear looking at another fat green stalk.

Dinner:  April 28, 2008

Though we moved away before our favorite New York area farmers brought their asparagus to market, we scored a big bag of Rhode Island asparagus at the market at AS220 on Saturday. I pulled out the thickest ones for grilling Saturday evening, figuring I’d save the rest for a meatless Monday dinner. By Monday evening, the warm, sunny weather we enjoyed all weekend had turned to wind and rain, so something rich and creamy was in order.

I chopped up my remaining asparagus spears and some fresh chanterelles (sorry, not local), and sauteed them in a bit of butter. I seasoned them with fresh thyme and gently stirred them into a pot of my basic risotto, adding about half a cup of creme fraiche and some finely grated Pecorino Romano off the heat to finish the dish.

The mushrooms were a lovely foil for the crisp-tender asparagus, and the risotto was a wonderful carrier for both. As the weather warms up and asparagus season continues, I look forward to lighter and simpler preparations, but this was a fine way to renew my acquaintance with an old friend.

(Interesting reading on local asparagus here.)

Double Duty

Dinner:  November 26, 2007

It occurred to me as I started to put this post together that the very first time I prepared this dish was for the first Thanksgiving Mike and I ever spent together. I was still living in Boston at the time, and we had planned to spend the long holiday weekend together in New York as well as to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for ourselves and a couple of friends. One of those friends was a vegetarian, so I wanted to prepare something that would serve as both a veggie side for us and a substantial main course for her, and thus my roasted vegetable and gruyere tart was born.

jumble

This is almost embarrassingly simple to put together – just cut up a variety of autumn vegetables (I used a mixture of tiny Brussels sprouts, parsnips, multicolored carrots, butternut squash, and crimini and chanterelle mushrooms) into roughly the same size, toss them with salt and a bit of olive oil, and roast them in a 375 degree oven until tender, about 40 minutes. Sprinkle a generous amount of fresh thyme and chopped fresh sage over the veggies and gently toss. Roll out your crust and place into a lightly oiled pie plate, leaving a bit of overlap around the edges (I generally use good quality prepared pie crust or, as I did last night, all butter puff pastry. Feel free to use homemade crust if that’s your thing). Spread about half a cup of grated gruyere cheese on the crust, add your veggies, sprinkle a bit more cheese on top and fold over the loose edges of the crust. Place back into the oven (at 400 degrees) for about 20 minutes, until the crust is golden, then slice into wedges and serve. As a side dish or main course, it’s simple enough for a weeknight dinner, but nice enough for company – a real double-duty gem.

Layering Season

Dinner:  November 12, 2007

We took a break from our duck cycle last night for a meatless Monday dinner of mushroom lasagna. Last night was damp and chilly, and while this wasn’t exactly a quick and easy weeknight dinner, it was a perfect night for a rich, baked and layered pasta dish. This was a bit of an experiment; my standard lasagna is a more traditional Bolognese version and I wasn’t really working from a recipe here, so while it needs a bit of tweaking I was mostly pleased with the result. I started by soaking some dried porcinis and slicing about a pound of fresh mushrooms (a mixture of criminis, chanterelles and shiitakes). I sautéed some chopped shallot in a mixture of butter and olive oil until soft, and then added the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. When the mushrooms had browned and cooked down a bit, I added a tablespoon of tomato paste to the pan to caramelize, then stirred it through and added the liquid I had strained and reserved from soaking the dried porcini. I added a generous amount of fresh thyme and let the mixture cook until almost all of the liquid was gone, then transferred the mushrooms to a bowl and set them aside.

'shrooms

I made a béchamel in the same pan I had used to cook the mushrooms, enriching it with about a cup each of finely grated Fontina and Parmagiano Reggiano cheeses. When the cheeses were melted and the sauce was smooth, I began layering: a bit of olive oil rubbed in the bottom and sides of my baking dish, a bit of béchamel, and a layer of partially cooked egg pasta sheets, then béchamel, mushrooms, sliced fresh mozzarella and another layer of pasta. I repeated the layers, finishing with the remaining béchamel, mozzarella, and a grating of parm on top, then placed the lasagna into a preheated 400 degree oven for about half an hour, until browned and bubbly. I let the lasagna rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

I wasn’t entirely pleased with the texture of the pasta sheets I used, and I think the dish could have used a bit more béchamel than I made, but overall, the flavors were there and this was a tasty and satisfying meal – it’s definitely a recipe worth working on.

That’s the way the pastry crumbles

Dinner:  October 29, 2007

I love making savory tarts in the spring and fall months, when mushrooms and leafy greens are at their best. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t make my own pastry because of lack of a food processor and the tiny amount of workspace we’ve got in our current kitchen, but I generally have good luck with a few favorite store-bought brands. Well, my luck gave out last night – actually, it’s probably less the fault of the pie shells and more the fact that I didn’t let them thaw enough. I opened the package, pulled the first crust out of its little aluminum tin to roll it out a bit on my floured board, and it immediately shattered. It was so brittle there was no hope of saving it, and since I was already getting a late start on dinner after a very slow commute home, I said to heck with it and decided to place my filling into the second, intact shell. Not quite what I had in mind, but it would have to do.

That filling was a couple of sliced shallots, a quarter pound of chanterelles, and about four big handfuls of chopped Swiss chard, seasoned with salt and sautéed in a bit of olive oil, all of it bound with 3 beaten eggs, 1/4 cup of crème fraiche, a cup of finely grated Gruyere cheese, salt, black pepper and a half teaspoon of Colman’s mustard powder. I spread the sautéed vegetable mixture in the bottom of the pie shell, poured the egg mixture on top, and added an additional 1/2 cup of grated Gruyere to the top of the tart before placing it into a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes.

I have to say that even though the tart didn’t look exactly as I had hoped it would (i.e., not something that could have just as easily come out of a box), it was darned tasty. I have really grown to love the addition of a little bit of dry mustard to creamy or custardy dishes because the bite it provides really seems to make the flavors in the dish pop, and in this instance it highlighted the earthy mushrooms and chard beautifully. All in all, this was a good meal that came together quickly, and was easy to put together after a long, hectic workday – I guess I can’t really ask for more than that.

Revisiting an Old Favorite

Dinner:  July 18, 2007

We were very excited to hear that local chanterelles hit the Greenmarket last Wednesday, but they were snapped up before Mike could get some. He got an earlier start yesterday morning and scored two containers, along with some gorgeous center-cut pork chops, and those two ingredients immediately brought to mind an old favorite preparation – pork chops with a mushroom bourbon cream sauce, inspired by Elise’s dish on Simply Recipes.

chanterelles

Mike not only brought home the ingredients (and an excellent bottle of wine – more on that later), but he decided to prepare dinner as well. As he did the first time he cooked this recipe, he made a few modifications, skipping the step of breading the chops and instead searing them in a cast iron skillet, then constructing the chanterelle sauce right in the pan. He again used vermouth instead of white wine in the sauce, and he also used a bit of water in place of the chicken stock since we didn’t have any thawed.

This was an even lighter take on the original recipe, and the flavors in the dish were just delicious. It’s a meal I’m happy to have Mike cook for me any time.

Vigneti La Selvanella

Wine Pairing: Why I love my husband, reason #52,784 – not only did he prepare an amazing dinner for us, but he picked up this gorgeous (and a bit splurgey) Vigneti La Selvanella Chianti Classico to go with it. It was rich and earthy, medium-bodied with a velvety mouthfeel, and it paired beautifully with the pork and mushroom sauce.