Old Friends and New Favorites

Scenes from a Saturday. #picstitch

This weekend, we made our first return visit to the big Saturday Greenmarket in Union Square since we moved back to New York. With Julian strapped into his carrier, we wove our way through the crowds, sidestepping little dogs and granny carts, selecting meats and produce for the week ahead. I wasn’t sure how our little guy would do surrounded by so many sights and sounds and people, but he seemed to really love the bustling market, smiling and babbling at anyone who met his eye.

wedge, minus bacon

We visited many of our old favorites, picking up Rocambole garlic and scapes from Keith’s Farm, shell peas and broccoli rabe from Migliorelli, baby back ribs and sweet Italian sausage from Flying Pigs, Cherry Lane tomatoes, Elk Trails bison, and ground mutton from 3-Corner Field Farm. But we were eager to try out some new-to-us vendors as well, and rounded out our market haul with a big, beautiful ribeye and a fresh whole chicken from Grazin’ Angus Acres.

Dinner: July 14, 2012

We treated both meats simply, searing the ribeye that night and serving it sliced alongside a crunchy wedge salad (minus the bacon, but with plenty of blue cheese studding a creamy homemade buttermilk dressing), and prepping the bird brick chicken-style.

Dinner: July 15, 2012

Mike put aside his usual method to try this version, seasoned with plenty of garlic scapes and lemon, and served with mashed potatoes and freshly shelled, buttered peas.

beef: it's what's for dinner

These two meals couldn’t have been simpler, more flavorful, or more satisfying, and while we are really looking forward to revisiting the familiar flavors of foods from our old favorite farms, we’re happy to have added a new one to the list.

Something Fishy

little gems

The weather seems to finally have turned, and I’ve really been craving lighter, brighter flavors. It’s perfect timing, really, because the farmers’ markets around Boston are finally open for the season, which means that we can now shop at a farmers’ market in Providence or Boston nearly every day of the week. It’s really the beginning of the very best time of the year to cook and eat around these parts.

they look like they're marching

The warmer weather also means that I love to escape from my windowless office whenever possible and take a lunchtime stroll up the North End to visit my favorite fishmongers. Liz and Keri always have beautiful fresh seafood, and it’s always a treat to visit their adorable shop, chat with them, and know that I’m bringing home something delicious to cook up.

Dinner: June 9, 2010

For the second week running, one of those delicious offerings from the sea was soft shell crabs, in season right now, and particularly sweet and tasty. Last week I soaked some in buttermilk, dredged them in flour, and served the crispy little guys on a “broken” basil and lemon puree; this time around I went with a different take. They got a super light coating of seasoned Wondra flour, then a brief saute in a hot pan slicked with a little bit of grapeseed oil, then I served them up with a sprinkle of slivered almonds and a dipping sauce composed of tamari, mirin, rice wine vinegar, shaved green garlic, and a little toasted sesame oil.

cucumber salad

On the side, I served up a salad of cucumber ribbons dressed with a light rice wine vinaigrette, slivers of nori from She Sells Seaweed, and black sesame seeds, very much inspired by a dish we had at last years Farm Fresh RI Local Food Fest.

Dinner: June 10, 2010

Last night’s seafood preparation was even simpler. I had two gorgeous pieces of mahi mahi, which I salted, dried well, then seared in a bit of grapeseed oil until the skin was crackly-crisp. When I flipped the fish so the skin side was up, I added a nub of anchovy butter, which soaked into the flesh of the fish, infusing it with more rich flavor, and I served the seared filets on top of a basil and garlic scape citronette, with simply halved and salted tiny heirloom tomatoes from Kimball’s Fruit Farm scattered around. Quick, simple, delicious.

Catching Up

I’ve been battling a pretty bad pain flare this week, the result of this oppressive heat as well as overdoing it a bit last weekend. I’ve spent most of my time off my feet, but I have summoned up the energy to put together quick dinners the last couple of nights.

Dinner:  July 11, 2007

Mike brought home some gorgeous bi-color sweet corn on Wednesday, which I cut off the cob and tossed with black beans, garlic scapes, zucchini, heirloom tomatoes and my chile-lime vinaigrette. I reserved a bit of that same vinaigrette to brush over fresh sea scallops before searing them in a hot pan and serving them on top of the corn salad.

Dinner:  July 12, 2007

On Thursday, I chunked up three big heirloom tomatoes, also from Wednesday’s greenmarket haul, and tossed them with minced Rocambole garlic, a generous amount of salt, some good olive oil and a big handful of green and opal basil from the garden, sliced into chiffonade. I let the tomato mixture marinate on the countertop for about an hour and then tossed it with hot cooked linguine and a mixture of grated Parmagiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano cheeses.

Mike’s cooking tonight and I plan to take it easy this weekend. Hope you all enjoy whatever you have planned.

Exchanging Inspiration

A while back our friends Melissa and Derrick posted a photo and write-up of one of their dinners, mentioning that my writing about our day-to-day dining inspired them to do so. As you can imagine, I was flattered and delighted by this, but I also took away some inspiration of my own. You see, I have always been seduced by the lovely squash blossoms that show up in gardens and markets this time of year, but I have also felt very intimidated about cooking with them myself. I mentioned this to our friends, and with their encouragement I decided that I’d give it a shot. Am I ever I glad I did.

If you search the internet for fried squash blossom recipes, many of them look a little bit… futzy. Egg washes, breadcrumbs, milk, flour, batters with beer or without… I was worried that the flavor of the little blossoms would be overwhelmed by something so heavy. Derrick’s method was far simpler, and I think, superior: flour, buttermilk, flour then fry. This I could get behind.

lined up like little soldiers

I had a vacation day scheduled yesterday, so I decided to get a jump on the prep work. I trimmed the squash blossoms, opened them up and pulled out the little stamens, then set the cleaned blossoms aside. For the filling, I combined 2 oz. of crumbled soft goat cheese, 4 oz. of sheep’s milk ricotta, a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh chervil. Our blossoms were a little on the small side, so getting the stuffing in without cracking them on one side was a little tricky, but I pressed forward, first using a spoon to stuff then and finally just using my fingers. I placed a little bit of the stuffing inside each blossom, then twisted the ends closed and press them together. They didn’t all stay closed, but I figured I could try to re-seal them before battering and cooking them. I placed the stuffed blossoms on a platter, covered it with plastic wrap and set them in the fridge until I was ready to cook them.

stuffed

The blossoms and filling firmed up nicely with those few hours of refrigeration, and when it was time to dip them in the flour and buttermilk, I was relieved to see that they held together well. I fried the blossoms in batches until they were golden, and then set them on a paper towel-lined platter to drain as they came out of the oil, sprinkling them with a little kosher salt while they were still hot.

While I heated the oil and worked on the frying, I had a second pan on the stove in which I put together a summer vegetable ragout. I chopped up six garlic scapes and sautéed them in a tablespoon of olive oil, and then added half a cup of white vermouth, a cup and a half of water, a teaspoon of kosher salt and a parmesan rind. After that simmered for 10-15 minutes, I removed the parmesan rind and added 1 1/2 cups of halved red and gold cherry tomatoes. I let them cook uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally, and when the last of the squash blossoms was out of the oil, I added a mixture of blanched vegetables (peas, cranberry beans, green beans, favas) and herbs (flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, thyme, dill) to the tomato and parmesan broth. I let this cook for just a minute or so more, turned off the heat and ladled the vegetables and broth into bowls. I topped them with the crunchy squash blossoms, and our meal was ready to go.

The squash blossoms were delicious – perfectly crisp on the outside, the filling soft and delicate, and they provided a really nice counterpoint to the light, brothy vegetables. Mike had taken a cue from Derrick’s post as well and brought home a lovely Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc to go with our meal. As we sipped our wine and ate, I thought how wonderful it is that food and drink have this great power to inspire, to bring people together across the miles. I felt a great sense of appreciation for the good food and drink in front of me but more importantly, I felt a great sense of appreciation for the good friends who inspired it.

Weekend Eats (and Drinks)

Weekend Eats (and Drinks)

Mike and I both fell victim to The Dread Summer Cold over the weekend, but we tried to make the best of it. Dinners were simple grilled meats with fresh veggie sides, and for the most part I didn’t take photos. I made an exception for last night’s delicious pork tenderloin, seasoned with paprika and fennel seeds (inspired by Terry’s recipe). We’ve used this seasoning twice now on grilled pork, and it is an absolute winner.

Recipe Redux: Orrecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

broccoli rabe

We picked up some of our favorite hot Italian sausage (from Flying Pigs) and a big bunch of broccoli rabe earlier in the week hoping to use them to top our first grilled pizzas of the season, but once again Mother Nature foiled our plans. With sporadic storms still coming through the area, we just didn’t want to risk ruining our meal, so we decided to go with Plan B: Orrecchiette with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe, a perennial favorite.

Rocambole garlic

I stuck to my basic recipe and method, which I’ve written up here before, but since Mike had brought home two big bunches of Rocambole garlic – with the scapes still attached! – from Keith’s Farm on Wednesday, I decided to use that in place of the garlic scapes I used last time. (I was really eager to play with this particular garlic anyway – I’m in the middle of It’s a Long Road to a Tomato and had just finished the chapter about how their garlic came to be. It’s a delightful story.)

Dinner:  June 28, 2007

The only other differences in last night’s version of this dish were the substitution of white vermouth for white wine, as well as the addition of a couple of pinches of red chile flakes and a cup or so of chopped fresh tomato I had left over from Wednesday’s lunch, both of which I added at the same time as the garlic. The tomato cooked all the way down into the sauce and left a nice hint of sweetness, and the chile flakes gave it a nice little kick.

Weekend eats (and drinks)

early summer tomatoes

This was quite the fun- (and food-) filled weekend for us. We kicked things off with some fun cocktails made with St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and later dined on smoky, crispy soft-shell crab “BLTs” – I sandwiched the crabs between thick-slices of pancetta, and we grilled them over high heat until they were crispy all over. I spread slices of Bread Alone’s wholegrain sourdough with a garlic scape mayo, laid slices of ripe tomato on top, added the pancetta-wrapped crabs and finished each sandwich with a handful of wild arugula to add a nice peppery bite.

Dinner:  June 22, 2007

We picked up some grass-fed flatiron steaks from Elk Trails while on our regular Saturday food safari, which Mike grilled up for dinner that night. I made a crunchy chopped salad with red butter lettuce, chopped heirloom tomatoes and blue cheese vinaigrette, and I topped our steaks with a pile of onion rings – thin slices of red onion which I had salted and marinated with a tablespoon or two of Sriracha, then tossed lightly with flour and fried briefly until crisp.

Dinner:  June 23, 2007

I also spent some time on Saturday assembling items for a picnic lunch – we had plans to head to Central Park on Sunday to catch a Summerfest show and would need to get there early, so I wanted our stuff to be ready to go. Mike brought home a loaf of crusty sourdough which I sliced lengthwise and hollowed out. Rather than layering the ingredients as is traditional, I mashed few anchovies into a basic sherry-Dijon vinaigrette and tossed my chopped olives, tomatoes, and capers with that. I mounded it into the hollowed-out bottom bread shell, layered roasted red peppers and arugula on top, added the top of the bread and wrapped it tightly in plastic wrap and foil.

Pan Bagnat

pasta salad

I also put together a pesto of garlic scapes, parsley and chervil to toss with rotini pasta and halved cherry tomatoes. When Sunday came, we grabbed our picnic blanket, packed up our sandwich and pasta salad as well as a lovely little wheel of Capriola cheese from Saxelby Cheesemongers, and set out for the park. The music was great, the food was tasty, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous – what a perfect way to wind down the first weekend of summer.