Thursday, July 29, 2010

Using it all

I am definitely resourceful. Well, perhaps with a singular focus for I am not a coupon clipper or all that motivated to find the best deals on a purchase. However, when it comes to the foods I nothing is thrown away before I consider its secondary or tertiary possibilities. Strawberry hulls and cherry pits get put in white wine vinegar to create a sweet, fruity component for future dressings. Herb stems will get bound up and then dangle in a soup pot to release their fragrance. Vanilla beans never get discarded rather they go in a jar of sugar to capture their seemingly spent perfume.

Corn gives me the greatest number of opportunities – creating high-fructose syrup not being on the list though. The kernels of course find their way directly into my mouth just simply tossed with diced tomato and torn lemon basil and I am a happy camper. Those cobs for some might seem only good for carving into a pipe, but for me I see a stock, tea or even an infusion for tequila cocktail. The husks can be dried (as long as you don’t live in as a humid city as I) or frozen for a Christmas tamale wrapping party, or used immediately as a protective, redolent with a sweetness jacket for grilled fish. This latter application also staves off that frustration that often occurs when you grill fish – it seems inevitable that it sticks to the grill surface. I am still trying to figure out what I can do the corn’s silkswhich seems like they only part that goes directly in the compost pile.

Seared Brook Trout – yields 6 servings
6 cleaned Brook trout
approx. 36 corn husks
3 - baby fennel
1-lemon thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

In the cavity snuggle half a fennel and about 3 slices of lemon. Season the trout with salt and pepper.

Lay three husks down on the counter, just overlapping. Place a trout on top, and then cover with three more husks. Using cotton twine, secure the trout in three places along its length to secure the husks.

Pre-heat the oven to 400-degrees.

Heat a grill or cast iron cast too very hot over a high flame. Sear the trout, cooking about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the trout to a baking tray and finishing cooking the trout in the oven for 10 minutes. Or, finish on the grill moving the fish over an in-direct heat source and cook for an additional 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and cut away the twine. Serve warm.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saving Sorbet

Summer – sweltering
Slipping into the surf
Seeking an iceberg

Cantaloupe -Verbena Sorbet – yields approx. 3-1/2 quarts

1/2-cup verbena – roughly chopped
1-cup water
1-1/2 cups sugar
4-cups melon puree (from about 2-1/2 pound melon)

In a 2-1/2 cup saucepan bring the water, sugar and verbena to a boil, and reduce to simmer. Cook the verbena mixture for five minutes. Shut off, and allow the mixture to cool completely.

Strain the verbena into the melon puree, and mix. Pour into an ice cream maker, and proceed according to manufacture’s directions.

Store the sorbet in the freezer.

Monday, July 19, 2010

With a skip in my step

I am completely and hopelessly in love. Alas, I am not reporting about a budding romance between myself and another no, I am referring to my long-lasting relationship with summer. Early piercing light, temperatures that soar without the let down of a dip and the song of the morning cicadas all keep me love-drugged. Yes, okay, the humidity of the northeast is a bit of an annoyance, but is any relationship prefect?

I think I am an absolute sufferer of seasonal disorder for come winter I anticipate my spirit to deflate and my sleep pattern to shift. Until the earth changes its tilt I am up, running and perky. My markets seem to be mirroring my state – they are decorated brilliantly with reds, yellows, oranges and greens of my color wheel; shiny gems of summer’s bountiful cornucopia swollen by summer’s light, heat and rain. Everything seems to offer a great snap when bitten into – snap peas, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and corn all greet my mouth with a coquettish crackle hello. Then following up their allure by releasing sweet seduction that further heightens the pleasure of a summer’s day.

I think that first anxious ray of the day is being spent directly to my bedroom window to make sure I am aroused – ready to start the day and visit the gallery of nature’s progeny, my farmer’s market.

Chopped Salad - yields 6 to 8

1/4 pound pancetta ( a pepper Italian bacon)
1 tablespon canola oil
1 ear of corn - husk and silk hairs removed
1 large red pepper - seeds and membrane removed
1/4-pound yellow wax beans - cut into 1/4 pieces
1 small red onion - diced
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup torn sorrel leaves
1/4 cup Kalamata olives - pitted
1 bunch spinach (approx 4 packed cups) - washed thoroughly and dried
2 cups cauliflower florets

Slice the pancetta into 1/2” long strips. Heat a sauté pan to hot and add the oil along with the pancetta. Cook the pancetta to crispy and then remove to an absorbent surface and reserve.

Cut the kernels of the corn from the ear. The corn is raw, so it should be as farm fresh as possible. Diced the red pepper, yellow wax beans and red onion into 1/2” squares. Roughly chopped the olives and spinach.

Blanch the cauliflower in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes. They should still have a nice crunch. Refresh under cold water in order to stop the cooking process. Drain.

Toss all the ingredients together along with a approximately 1 cup of Italian dressing (recipe follows).

Italian Dressing - yields approx. 1-1/4 cups
1/4 cup White Wine Vinegar
2 tablespoon basil - leaves chopped
2 teaspoons thyme - leaves only, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano - leaves only, chopped
1 garlic clove - crushed to a paste
1/4-cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together, except the oil. In a slow stream whisk in the oil until all is incorporated.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Intensifying Flavor

Word of the summer season is tincture – a concentrated flavored liquid traditionally captured in an alcohol or in combination of water base. We all use at least one pretty regularly and it is right there in your cupboard, vanilla extract.

It seems very season I get a bee in my bonnet, and cannot seem to get away from an idea. The last couple of years it was desiccation…and I have a shelf of seasoned salts and sugars infused with the likes of loveage, rose, coriander and lemon verbena. But this year I am feeling a bit more liquid. It is all due to the incredible growing season we are having here in the northeast, and the most fragrant lavender I have ever seen here – with my eyes closed and nose open I am in Provence walking through a fields redolent with this regal plant.

No, I am in downtown Manhattan shopping amongst un-naturally tall buildings with prices that reflect the soaring altitude of the architecture. Hauling my perfumed canvas bag filled with the gift of a hot, sunny season I have started stuffing jars. So far, I have a sorrel, lavender, lemon verbena and black mint. I am using vodka and a mix of pure grain alcohol and water. Sitting quietly on a bottom shelf in my kitchen this growing collection will have to wait a few months for being decanted, filtered before they find themselves being employed. There are a few cocktails that going to be shaken; a quince cake in the waiting and a Moroccan-style stew that is definitely getting the treatment.

Sorrel Tincture
3-1/2 ounces sorrel stems – minced
1/2-cup vodka

Snuggle the sorrel stems into a clean pint jar. Pour over the vodka, and secure with a lid. Let the mixture sit in a cool, dark place for 4 months. Then strain through a fine sieve.

Store the tincture in a glass jar.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The heat is on

Sizzling summer
Seeking shade -- sipping on relief
Only the tomato swells

Shiso Iced Tea – yields approx. 1-1/2 quarts
3-ounces shiso (leaves and stems)
5 stems of mint
1/2-cup sugar
2-tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/3-cup fresh lemon juice
In a 4-quart saucepan bring 6-cups of water to a full boil with the shiso, mint and sugar. Remove from the heat, and allow the mixture to cool completely. Add the lemon and lime juices.

Pour through strainer, and chill the tea. Serve poured over a glass filled with ice.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


I do get on a jag at times. I don’t mean my obsession with eating certain foods like asparagus, cherries, peaches, plums ad tomatoes to name but really, just a few -- this is straight out food snobbery. No, I mean a fixation with a technique or recipe that tends to follow for a while. Last year it was my fascination with a 1-2-3-4 cake formula that has become my go-to cake batter – when a recipe is not at hand.

It seems, for reasons unknown I got into my mind and mouth that I wanted to play with chickpea flour. I immediately veered toward Indian-style fritters that have munched on many times over the years. Though I never made one. So, starting with the garlic scapes of earlier this month I started playing, and have found a recipe that works. And, I cannot believe I am actually willing to deep-fat fry. Okay, I have the luxury of doing it at work so no concerns what to do with the cooking oil. I am so spoiled – especially, since I live 5 blocks from the kitchen. Though these little nibbles do not have to be fried in more than a couple of inches of hot oil.

It seems that I am completely hooked into the farmer’s market universe for this week one vendor in my market had freshly picked chickpeas still trapped in their cocoon. Beyond bringing them home I amazed that chickpeas are so reasonably priced. I averaged a single pea per pod with the occasionally twin. And, shelling them made me want to go back to the easy and comfort of shelling more common peas. The chickpea was a tad tougher perhaps then when they are fully ripened, and nature will cause its casing to pop open hoping it rolls across the earth to surprise me again next year.

Chickpea Fritters – yields approx 16
1-tablespoon toasted whole coriander seed
1-tablespoom toasted whole cumin seed
2-1/2 cup chickpea flour
1-teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2-teaspoons salt
1/4-teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-cup fresh peas, chickpeas or corn
1-medium onion – finely diced
3-whole eggs
2-1/2 cups water
Canola oil for frying

Roughly ground the coriander and cumin seeds. I tend to use the edge of a small saucepan, and roll it over the seeds. Or, you can use a rolling pin to achieve the same result.

Mix together, using a whisk, the ground coriander, cumin, chickpea flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and black pepper.

In a small bowl mix together the peas, onion, eggs and water.

Add the pea mixture to the chickpea flour mixture to thoroughly combine.

In a 10-inch skillet with at least 4-inch high walls add enough canola oil with come 2-inches high in the pan.

Heat the oil to about 360-degrees.

Carefully spoon in about one-tablespoon’s worth at a time of the batter – making sure not too overcrowd the skillet. Fry the batter until a dark golden brown. You will most likely have to turn them once in the oil. Transfer from the oil to a cloth line tray. Serve warm to room temperature with sliced fresh lime.