A Farmers Market Salad

farmers market salad

You’d never know it from this blog, but at 9 (!!) months pregnant, I’m still cooking dinner just about every night. Photos, too, are still being taken on a fairly regular basis, though they don’t often make it to my Flickr stream until days after the fact. As for the blogging… well, after commuting and work and more commuting and dinner-making and possibly ice cream, I’m lucky if I can keep my eyes open to read a chapter or two before passing out for the night. And I’m generally okay with that.

But I really had to tell you about this salad.

Farmers market season is in full swing here in New England, and between Providence and Boston, we could hit a market just about every day if we wanted. Though Mike and I are no longer just a short walk away, we still frequent the big Saturday market at Lippitt Park, and when we’re there, our friend Lynn (hi Lynn!) makes sure we don’t leave without a big bunch of kale.

Now, I like kale, I really do, but I had darn near run out of new or interesting ways to prepare it until I found a folded up page in the middle of a stack of old papers to be shredded. It was a printed list of specials from one of our favorite old NYC haunts, and as my eyes scanned the list of ingredients for this salad, I knew that even though I had never actually eaten it at any of our many visits to Diner, I’d have to try to replicate it at home.

sweet corn, shucked

I started with the dressing – a splash of red wine vinegar, a pinch of coarse sea salt, the juice of half a lemon, and a palmful of chopped fresh cilantro leaves, whisked together with just enough of our best olive oil to bring it all together. I added slivers of red onion next, allowing them to steep for a bit to lose their sharpness, then I added the kale – half a bunch or so, torn into manageable bites, tossing it with the dressing until the leaves were well-coated. Next came some fresh sweet corn (an ear’s worth of kernels), a couple of ripe white peaches, sliced, and finally, a shower of salty, crumbled Narragansett Creamery feta. Let it sit for a minute or five, until the kale softens up a bit. Then eat.

We ate this alongside Mike’s delicious brick chicken, but the salad was the star – an unexpected combination of flavors that worked just beautifully together. We each had two bowls of it, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be making this right through the end of summer.

Deep in the Woods

hen of the woods

I swung through the Boston Public Market on my way to the train station yesterday evening with every intention of picking up a steak or some chops for dinner, but I stopped in my tracks when I saw the biggest clump of mushrooms I have ever seen in my life. Hen of the Woods, the cluster as big around as a watermelon, gorgeous in their otherworldly way. I had to have them.

torn hen of the woods

I grabbed a sizeable chunk and a couple of ears of corn, bought a knob of chevre from another vendor and continued on home, a plan formulating in my head. I’d roast the mushrooms, tearing them and tossing them with a bit of olive oil and salt, letting the flavor concentrate and the edges crisp, and I’d serve them on top of a risotto, rich with goat cheese and studded with shallots and tarragon and sweet kernels of butter-fried corn.

Dinner:  October 1, 2009

It was a very good plan, and a very good meal. We didn’t even miss the meat.

Paired Up

Femme Fatale

I got an offer I just couldn’t refuse last week, and of course it comes on the heels of me being all righteous about how I rarely accept free stuff for the blog. But it’s no secret that we’ve long been fans of Oriel wines, and they’ve been difficult to find since we moved here, so when the fine folks at Oriel asked if I’d like to receive some of the 2006 vintage of their Femme Fatale Rosé, I had to take them up on it.

Femmes Fatales

I was surprised and delighted when I arrived home on Wednesday to not one but two bottles, and as I hoped it would, the first bottle paired beautifully with the eggplant dish I’m testing to submit to a food52 contest.

Dinner:  September 3, 2009

I had a lot of fun planning a meal to pair with the second bottle for Thursday night, and ended up going with the sort of simple, unfussy fare that makes for a perfect patio dinner this time of year – a salad of fresh sweet corn from Confreda Farm, tossed with chopped tomatoes, slivers of fresh hot green chiles and a sassy lime dressing, all crowned with slices of seared fresh tuna. Mike and I both loved how the wine played with the sweet corn and the spicy chiles, and it was a perfect match for the rich, silky tuna.

From the Mixoloseum: a Food and Cocktail Pairing

blue cornmeal+sweet corn cakes with tomato+fennel relish

To those of you who made your way over here from Mike’s post at the Mixoloseum blog, welcome! He promised I’d have a recipe for you, and here it is. One thing I’ll make note of is that while this recipe made a dozen smallish corn cakes, the right size for a light starter with our Seelbach cocktails before dinner, you could definitely scale the size of your cakes up or down, making one-bite minis for a party hors d’oeuvre, or larger cakes to serve for lunch or a light dinner. Use the freshest sweet corn you can, and if you can’t find blue cornmeal, regular yellow or white cornmeal should work just fine.

Blue Corn Cakes with Tomato and Fennel Relish

For the corn cakes:
1 cup stone-ground blue cornmeal (we like Kenyon’s)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ tbsp baking powder
1 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt
1 cup water
1 cup fresh corn kernels, stripped from the cob
¼ cup diced red onion or shallot
oil, butter, or other fat for frying (I used rendered fatback for the flavor and the higher smoking point, but feel free to use whatever you like)

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (cornmeal through salt). Using a fork, gently stir in the water a little at a time, adding more if it’s too thick (it should have body, but be pourable like a pancake batter). Add the corn kernels and onion and stir to incorporate. Heat a couple of tablespoons of the fat in an iron skillet, griddle, or other frying pan, and ladle out 3 to 4 ¼ cup portions of batter. Cook on one side until the cake releases easily from the pan, adding more fat if necessary, then flip. Continue cooking until the second side is browned, then remove the cakes to a tray lined with paper towels. Repeat until you have used all of the batter. You can keep these warm in a low oven until you’re ready to serve them, or serve them at room temp.

Tomato and Fennel Relish

kosher or sea salt
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup diced fennel bulb
½ pint small grape, pear or cherry tomatoes, diced
fennel fronds for garnish

Whisk the sea salt and lemon juice together in a small bowl until the salt is dissolved, then whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Add the fennel bulb and tomatoes, toss gently, and let sit briefly before spooning onto the finished corn cakes. Garnish each dressed cake with a few feathery fennel fronds before serving.

Everyday Food


Mike and I took advantage of what we thought was going to be a rainy afternoon to catch a matinee showing of Food, Inc. yesterday. I was prepared for an intense reaction, but what I wasn’t expecting was how angry I would feel by the end of the film. There are so many thoughts still swirling in my head, and I haven’t even begun to process them all.


I thought of my niece, six months old last week and already displaying a hearty appetite. She is just starting to experience food, new flavors and textures, and she is doing it with gusto. I cried along with Barbara Kowalcyk as she spoke of her son Kevin, lost to E. coli at the age of 2, and I share her anger at an industry that has shrugged off her loss. Nobody should have to fear that the food their child eats might kill them.


I thought of my grandmother, the woman who inspires me to this day, and who is directly responsible for my love of cooking. My grandfather died young, and she raised a family of seven largely on her own, serving simple but real food – she calls it “everyday food” – the dishes we all still clamor for today. It pains me that so many families can’t afford to do the same because of how broken our food system has become.

fresh coriander

I thought about the local farms we have visited, the rolling green pastures, the clean air and how happy it made me to watch the animals roaming free. I felt grateful that the chicken we would be eating for dinner was well cared for during its lifetime, and that Mike and I are still in a position to spend a little more on the ethically raised food we know we can trust.


All food should be safe, clean food. People shouldn’t have to choose processed, fat- and sugar-laden junk over a fresh pear at the supermarket because that’s all they can afford to eat. Farmers shouldn’t be bullied by corporations, animals shouldn’t be abused and workers shouldn’t be exploited then tossed aside like so much garbage.

The food system is broken. But I truly believe we have the power to fix it.

Inform yourself. Sign petitions. Shop at your farmers’ market. Support the people, businesses and organizations in your community that are doing things right. Send a message to the government and “Big Ag” that things need to change, that access to affordable, nutritious, real food is our right, and that we won’t accept anything less.

Please see this movie. It is not just a movie for (I hate this word but I’m going to use it) “foodies”, but for ANYONE who buys food and eats it in this country.

Inform yourself.

And then cook up some “everyday food.”

This is a version of a dish my grandma refers to as “calabaza”. Calabaza is a variety of squash, and if you can find it you can certainly use it in this dish, but we always used zucchini – and who doesn’t need another way to use up zucchini this time of year.

Dinner:  July 26, 2009

1 chicken, skin-on, cut into pieces (or use your favorite parts)
kosher or sea salt
olive or canola oil
2-3 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 red onion, peeled and diced
1 fresh chile pepper, seeds and stem removed, minced
3 medium zucchini or other summer squash, cut into evenly sized chunks
2-3 large ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into evenly sized chunks
dried oregano, Mexican if possible
fresh coriander (optional)
3 ears of corn, kernels removed from cobs

Season the chicken pieces with salt and brown them in hot oil in a large, wide skillet, in batches if necessary. Remove the browned pieces and set aside. Add onion, garlic and chile, season with salt, and cook briefly until the onion begins to soften and the mixture is fragrant, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the zucchini and tomatoes and stir to combine with the onion mixture. Add the oregano and coriander (if using), return the chicken pieces to the pan, cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Add the corn and cook uncovered for just a few minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with rice or warmed tortillas.

Not The Bomb

Bomster scallops

I’m still struggling to find a favorite preparation for Bomster scallops – nearly every preparation I’ve tried since we moved up here has been less than satisfactory, and a real disservice to these super-fresh beauties. What I did last night hit closest to the mark, though it still needs some tweaking. The chowder-like base was a hit and the texture of the scallops was perfect, but I would have liked the scallops themselves to have a bit more oomph in the flavor department.

This is one of those rare occasions when I actually measured and took notes while I prepped and cooked. Here’s what I did – maybe one of you has a suggestion about how to tweak this?

Dinner:  March 18, 2009

Caramelized Bomster scallops with corn and potato chowder

1/2 lb. Scallops
2 T butter
1 fat leek, white + pale to medium green parts only, finely chopped
2 strips bacon, cut into julienne
1 medium stalk celery, finely chopped, leaves reserved
1 medium waxy potato, peeled and diced
salt + marjoram + pepper
½ cup dry white wine
1 T AP flour
1 cup whole milk
1 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen (ours were stripped and frozen last summer)

Place the bacon in a small, dry saute pan. Cook over medium heat until crisp, set the bits on a paper towel to drain and set aside. Remove most of the fat from the pan, but leave a film in the pan to sear the scallops.

Melt butter in a wide saucepan. Add the leeks and celery, season with salt, and cook until softened. Add the potato, a pinch more salt, freshly ground pepper, and marjoram, and stir until the vegetables are coated with the butter and seasonings. Sprinkle the flour over and stir until vegetables are coated; allow to cook for a few minutes until you no longer have a raw flour smell. Add the white wine and stir well, cooking until reduced and thickened. Add the milk and stir through. Cover and cook until the potatoes are tender and the liquid is thick and creamy. Add the corn a few minutes before serving, just to warm it through.

When the chowder is almost finished, sear the scallops in batches in the reserved bacon fat, a couple of minutes per side, until they get lightly caramelized and they are just cooked through.

To plate, ladle the chowder mixture into wide, shallow bowls, top with a few cooked scallops, and garnish with crispy bacon and finely chopped celery leaves.

A quickie

Dinner:  October 22, 2008

I learned to love brussels sprouts at an early age, but they’re another one of those cold-weather veggies I tend to prepare the same way over and over. I wanted to give them a starring role in a main dish, but I also wanted to avoid anything heavy or overly rich. I decided to pair them with mushrooms for meatiness, and a little of our stripped-off-the-cob-and-frozen “Butter & Sugar” corn for sweetness. Nutty farro provided a vehicle for the roasted and toasted veggies, which were all dressed in a light bath of sage brown butter. This was fast, simple, and really easy to put together – here’s what I did:

I halved my cleaned brussels sprouts and quartered the mushrooms, placing each of them on foil-lined baking sheets, giving them a light toss with kosher salt and a drizzle of olive oil, and then I roasted them in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes. About halfway through, I shook them around on their pans and tossed them with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. While the veggies cooked, I had a pan of farro going on the stove – one cup farro, two cups water, and a healthy pinch of kosher salt. I melted a couple of ounces of butter in another pan, adding a handful of whole fresh sage leaves, which I removed to drain on a paper towel when they were crisp.


When the butter was nutty smelling and browned, I added the corn, letting it cook just briefly. When the farro was tender, I drained it and gave it a very brief rinse in hot water. The farro went into a large bowl, the roasted mushrooms and brussels went in as well, and the corn and brown butter went on top. I gave it a gentle toss to coat and combine everything, tossed in all but a few of the fried sage leaves, tossed again and plated, finishing with shards of Parmagiano Reggiano and the remaining sage leaves for garnish.

A little brown, but surprisingly good.