Gone Green

pea greens

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.

Dinner:  May 26, 2009

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.

Dinner for One

Dinner:  April 29, 2009

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.

Old Reliable

Dinner:  April 13, 2009

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.

(Oops.)

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.

Wild Things

dulse

One of the more interesting items available at our farmers’ market these days is seaweed harvested from Maine. Before I even knew what I’d do with it, I had decided to pick some up, and I did just that a couple of Saturdays ago. The variety I chose is called dulse, which is, apparently, the “gateway” variety – mild and easy to work with, with a flavor that complements a variety of other ingredients. I’m told that some people in New England eat it like potato chips, popping crispy bits directly into their mouths as a snack, and after Mike and I tried it, I can see why: there’s something really familiar and satisfying about the taste and texture of it.

Deciding how to use it was a bit difficult for me. We had been told it could be sautéed with leafy greens like kale or spinach, or used in a soup or stir-fry, but I was a bit concerned about over-cooking it, rendering its unique character lost in the dish, so in the end I decided I would barely cook it at all, instead snipping it with kitchen shears and folding it into a mix of hot cooked rice and vegetables.

Our rice bowls were built on a base of organic wild and Wehani rices, cooked in the leftover porcini soaking liquid from Monday’s dinner until they were just tender, and then tossed with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil to lightly coat the grains. I added a mix of barely sautéed vegetables next: some sliced shiitake caps, grated carrot, thin slices of spring onion, and a handful of watercress. I tossed a good cup or so of chopped dulse in off the heat, stirring it through before spooning the mixture into our bowls, then I topped each serving with a sunny-side up egg, a sprinkle of salt, and some snipped scallion tops.

Dinner: March 3, 2009

The combination was really delicious, with the earthy rices and mushrooms providing a nice canvas for the little bursts of onion, sweet carrot, and the slightly salty and almost bacon-y dulse to shine against. The egg, when chopped up and stirred through, gave it all a nice creaminess. This first foray into cooking with seaweed was a big success, and I’m really eager to try new ways of incorporating it into our meals.

Weekend Eats (and Drinks)

1.31.09 grocery haul, part 1

Okay, I promise this post will be significantly less mopey than the last one. You know why? This weekend was positively restorative. Really. The last week was a hard one, but I got through it. I had another roast chicken waiting when I got home on Friday evening (thanks, honey), and you just can’t go wrong with that. And then we went to the farmers’ market on Saturday, Jen greeted me with a big warm hug, and Matt Jennings gave us bites of grilled cheese. AND we brought all these goodies home. I’d say that’s all WIN.

1.31.09 grocery haul, part 2

As much as we’d like, we can’t live by farmers’ market alone, so after a stop at Whole Foods for a few other staples, we headed home with our bounty, which included my latest obsession, Maine shrimp.

I can’t get over how good these little guys (actually, gals) are, and they’re crazy cheap (I paid $3.00 for half a pound), which means I’m probably going to overload on them while they’re available. We had them in last weekend’s seafood stew, with some of Perry’s amazing littlenecks and cod from the cutest fish market ever, and enjoyed them again in this Saturday’s dinner, a super easy but totally sexy risotto.

I made a stock from the shrimp shells, simmering them with water, sea salt, and shallot and fennel trimmings, which I set aside to add to the risotto later. I used my usual risotto method, sautéing a couple of chopped shallots in a mix of butter and olive oil, and I added some thinly sliced fennel to the mix as well.

The rice went in next, and when it was translucent, I started adding the liquids: a splash of white vermouth, 1/3 cup or so of the juice from a can of San Marzano tomatoes, the juice of half a lemon, and that shrimp stock, a little at a time, finishing when the rice was al dente.

Dinner:  January 31, 2009

I turned off the heat and added the shrimp, gently stirring them through – all they needed was a minute or two to get perfectly done. I stirred a in a little creme fraiche for richness, and garnished our servings with feathery fennel fronds. This was some seriously good stuff – we finished it all.

Sunday brunch

Sunday morning. Our heat was back after a brief outage overnight, the cats let us sleep until 7, and we had pork to look forward to, in the form of this sausage, fennel and potato hash. With Wishing Stone absent from the farmers’ market, we’re tasting our way through the other eggs that are available, and these beauties from Harmony Hill were terrific.

superbowl snack

We didn’t watch the game, but I couldn’t resist putting together a midday snack of nachos, with leftover Freedom Bean Farm beans, chile-braised pork from the freezer, Poblano Farm salsa, and of course, plenty of cheese. There may have been some ice cold beer involved as well. And then there was dinner.

We brought home a 4 lb. top round roast from Simmons Farm on Saturday, which I seasoned really simply – salt, pepper and dried marjoram – and let cook for hours with some carrots and potatoes. I removed the meat to let it rest, pulled out the veggies and strained the bits and juices that remained. I whisked in a little more water, scraping up all of the fond from the bottom and sides of the pan, and adding a dab of tomato paste, then tipped in some pearl onions and green beans from the freezer. I also mixed up a little horseradish and mustard creme fraiche to go alongside.

Dinner:  February 1, 2009

I haven’t cooked a pot roast in years, and unfortunately I let this one get a little more done than I would have liked, but it’s a testament to the meat that it was still moist and juicy, and that the flavor was really, really good. As I had hoped, we have ample leftovers for sandwiches and to incorporate into another dinner later in the week.

Personal Day

I can tell that I’m missing my family when I keep pulling out comforting dishes with flavors that remind me of home. The approaching holidays make me miss them even more, as it has been far too long since we’ve been in a position to celebrate together. This year will be no different. Like many of you, we’re dialing back our spending, keeping things low-key for the holidays as well as in our day-to-day lives.

lunchtime

I took a personal day on Thursday, a day to recharge my batteries a bit, handle a few errands and to relax at home. We took the bus out to Pawtucket for part of the day, with a stop at LJ’s BBQ for lunch on the way back in, but before we headed out, I made us breakfast. It’s such a treat to have breakfast at home during the week, and since we had the last of a package of tortillas to use up, I made migas.

migas

They may not look like much, but they’re one of my favorite things in the world – little bits of tortilla, fried up with seasonings (I used a bit of leftover enchilada sauce I had made previously), and scrambled with eggs until the whole mess is soft and creamy and bound together. Give it a little hit of grated cheese, and you’ve got pure comfort on a plate.

browning

Dinner was my latest version of a pork and hominy stew, which I think might have been my favorite yet. We had a pork shoulder from Pat that Mike divided up to be used over a few meals, so we portioned out a bit for the stew, cutting it into chunks and letting the meat sit in a bit of a dry rub of chipotle powder, salt, cumin and Mexican Oregano from Rancho Gordo.

Also from Rancho Gordo, the hominy – this was my first time cooking with the dried kernels, and though the process is time-consuming, the resulting flavor and texture are totally worth it (and since we had soaked and cooked an entire pound of it, we have plenty of prepared hominy portioned out in bags in the freezer for future meals).

Dinner:  December 18, 2008

I browned the meat in a little rendered fatback (also from Pat) to boost its porky flavor, then added plenty of chopped onion, a couple of fat garlic cloves, a puree of roasted tomatillos and poblano peppers, and some of our homemade chicken stock. I added a little more salt, cumin and oregano, squeezed in some fresh lime juice for balance, then finally stirred in a couple of cups of the cooked hominy for the last half-hour of so of cooking.

clean plate club

I think you could say it was a success.

Oysterific

I’ll admit, I’m having a hard time concentrating on meals this week – with the exception of the one big one planned for Thursday. Our last few weekends of food safari have left me with a very well stocked fridge, freezer and pantry, and I have lots of beautiful raw materials to work with, but with my focus largely elsewhere, coming up with interesting ways to cook them has been a bit of a challenge.

Wishing Stone Farm has, in addition to some of the best eggs we’ve ever eaten, absolutely gorgeous produce, and we tend to load up on goodies from their stand at the Hope High market on Saturdays. They were among the last vendors there this past weekend, the last day of the season, and we loaded up in advance of the holiday and in preparation for the break before the Wintertime market begins.

Among the things that caught my eye were these beautiful oyster mushrooms, and though I had no idea what I’d do with them, I knew I wanted to feature them in our meatless Monday dinner this week. I had a big bag of rainbow chard from Wishing Stone as well, which I thought would make a good foil for the mushrooms, but I didn’t want to do another pasta or risotto. So I decided on another favorite fallback – creamy corn grits, rich with butter and plenty of grated cheese melted in (this time, the last of our Narragansett Creamery Blackstone).

Dinner:  November 24, 2008

The chard was sautéed in a bit of chile-spiked oil until wilted, and I decided to do something a little different with the mushrooms, tearing them into big pieces, tossing them gently with salt and a light drizzle of olive oil, and roasting them on a sheet pan until they were caramelized and a little crisp at the edges. I sprinkled a little fresh thyme on the mushrooms at the end, and added them to deep bowls on top of the grits and chard. And I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t crown the whole thing with one of those fabulous Wishing Stone eggs, this time cooked sunny-side up in a bit of olive oil.

The roasted mushrooms, as I had hoped, were the stars of the meal – they retained their delicate texture but developed a concentrated earthy flavor that was really delicious. Full as we were at the end of our meal, I think we would both have made room for more mushrooms, and I can’t wait to play with this preparation again for future dishes.