I’ll be back with a new post soon, as we’re getting ready to take on our second round of 12 Months | 12 Dishes, but I wanted to drop in briefly to wish you all a Happy 2013, and share this photo of our New Year’s Day brunch, which the folks at Flickr have so kindly featured in Explore! Not a bad way to kick things off, eh?
The month of May has not been great for planned dinners in our little household. Between work commitments, appointments, preparing for our move across town, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-us trip to Detroit for my Grandma’s 90th birthday, my attempts at shopping for and sticking to a meal plan have mostly been a big fat flop.
I’ve also had difficulty improvising, of late. I’ve been tired and finicky, and cooking down the pantry and freezer pre-move has been less than inspiring – it doesn’t help that it still feels like March outside. I’m in a bit of a rut, but restless, eager for simpler, lighter fare (and the weather to match, please).
Mike had to turn around and head down to NYC right on the heels of our Detroit trip, but he returned with some goodies from the Union Square Greenmarket that perked me right up, among them a beautiful bunch of asparagus that made its way into our dinner last night. We’ve missed the first couple weeks of the local stuff, so this was very welcome, and I wanted to treat it fairly simply.
I gave it a good rinse, snapped off the ends, and roasted the spears until they were just tender, serving them on a bed of creamy, cheesy polenta. I topped each plate off with a pastured local egg, fried in olive oil until the edges were crisp, and sprinkled with coarse grey salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. This may not have been the light spring dish I’ve been dreaming of, but it was perfect for the damp, chilly night, and it was just the kind of simple meal that always satisfies me.
Here, have some smoked trout deviled eggs.
This dinner for one brought to you by the serendipitous discovery of leftover cooked pasta, a conveniently open jar of Poblano Farm pasta sauce, the end of a log of olive butter, and a whisper of freshly grated Pecorino Romano. And then (as a wise woman once said), “we crack an egg on top.”
Fried pasta with egg is one of my favorite things to eat when I’m dining alone, and it was just what I needed to help me feel a little less blue. I promise to try a little harder once I’ve got the fridge and pantry re-stocked this weekend.
So this was the beautiful one, the one that worked out the way I had hoped they all would, the one that wasn’t sludgy, didn’t fall apart as I tried to flip it, the one that was tender and tasty. And the dozen or so crepes that came before it, and all but two that came after, each met different, disastrous ends in their own way.
You see, even though I promised myself that I was going to play things safe for a while, I’ve been itching to work with this local rye flour for ages. I finally brought some home on Saturday, hoping to make crepes with it, light but hearty crepes to wrap around a filling of seasonal vegetables and a fried egg. Kind of like I did here, but a wintertime version.
So I started with a base ratio for crepe-making, and I tested and tweaked, and I’m not yet there but this one crepe was so good I am determined to make it work. (The winter ratatouille was a complete success, and details will come to you soon, I promise.)
So you know that old worn out sweater that you just can’t seem to part with though it’s pilled and a little frayed at the edges, because it’s soft and warm and always makes you feel cozy? That’s what this dish is to me.
Lentils and shallot, glazed with olive oil, then cooked gently in a mix of water and dry red wine. A pile of chard cooked in my usual way, stems shaved thin and sauteed with garlic, chile flakes, the soft leaves wilted in and the whole thing hit with a shot of Sherry vinegar at the end. And the egg, fried in olive oil until the edges crisp, laid gently on top of the pile of chard and lentils, a sprinkle of Piment d’Espelette salt scattered over before serving. It’s a little brown, not the sort of thing you’d necessarily feed to company, but it’s the sort of simple, tasty supper I’ve come to really love.
We found ourselves with an abundance of Allen Farms pea greens this week, a lovely hostess gift from our friend Jen Huntley-Corbin given at Sunday’s brunchtacular. These greens are wonderful in pesto or raw in salads, but I decided to try something different with them last night. Looking at what else we had on hand in the fridge and pantry, and thinking back to a recent dish I wanted to have another go at, I decided to incorporate the greens into a fresh pasta dough. I hoped they would provide not just a vibrant green color, but some of their delicate pea flavor as well – and of course, a dough like this would be a perfect wrapper for fresh ricotta and a beautiful farm egg yolk.
I began by setting a pot of salted water to a boil (which I’d later use to cook the pasta), then blanching the pea greens – just a minute or two was all they needed. The greens went into an ice bath, and then I squeezed them dry and put them in the food processor to chop.
Since my previous attempt at a green pasta dough didn’t work as well as I had hoped, the dough more flecked than uniformly green, I went for a different approach this time, adding a cup of flour to the food processor along with the chopped, blanched pea greens and a pinch of kosher salt, and processing the mixture until it was well-blended and a bit pebbly.
I turned it into a bowl and added my eggs, starting with one whole egg plus one yolk, mixing first with a fork and then my hands, and adding more flour until it all came together. I kneaded the dough, wrapped it in plastic, let it rest, and proceeded to roll it out as usual. I froze half of this batch of dough for future use, which left me with two long sheets of pasta, divided into six portions.
I added a bit of my filling to each – a mixture of Narragansett Creamery ricotta, finely chopped mint from the garden, some salt, fresh lemon zest, and a little grated Pecorino Romano – then nestled an egg yolk in the center of each mound before folding the edge of the dough over to seal.
Instead of cutting or trimming the edges, I decided to fold the pasta to seal it up around the filling, tucking and rolling the edge all around, and placing my sealed bundles onto a lightly floured tray until I was ready to cook them. When all six bundles were assembled, I cooked them two at a time in my boiling pasta water, lowering them in with a slotted spoon and letting them cook for just a few minutes each. I added the cooked bundles to our warmed plates, spooning over a sauce of butter, the juice of a lemon, and just enough of the starchy pasta water to smooth it out, sprinkling a few raw pea greens and some additional grated Pecorino over the top.
This is still a work-in-progress, mainly because the texture of the dough isn’t quite where I want it to be yet, but the taste was on the money, fresh and bright, with the pea greens contributing their delicate aroma and color as well as well as their flavor, just as I hoped they would.
This is a plate of creamy Anson Mills grits with Smith’s Farmstead cheddar, Simmons Farm spinach and Hopkins Farm asparagus sauteed with olive oil and shallot, topped with a sunny-side up Zephyr Farm egg – the combination of a cooked bean or grain plus veggies and egg has become my favorite formula for a quick meal, any time of day.
So far, I’m having one of those weeks where things just aren’t going the way they should. I’ve had all sorts of minor mishaps, boo-boos and bouts of forgetfulness over the last couple of days, the biggest of which was my plan to make a risotto for Monday night’s dinner.
Except I forgot that we’re out of rice.
Of any kind.
And I didn’t have anything else that would work well in its place for the preparation I had in mind.
So this was another fall-back-and-punt kind of meal: sauteed Simmons Farm kale, black-eyed peas (which I had previously cooked, portioned out, and frozen) reheated in a bit of leftover chile broth, a thin slice of toasted, garlic-rubbed Olga’s sourdough, and a pastured egg from Aquidneck Farms, cooked sunny-side up in olive oil, with Basque salt and freshly grated Pecorino Romano sprinkled over it all at the end. This dinner was not at all what I had originally planned, but sometimes these simple, impromptu meals are just what I need – the combination of beans or grains, greens and a farm egg is something I’ve come to love and rely on in a pinch.