Thursday, July 29, 2010
What a colorful week! We got a very heavy load of: a small watermelon, five baby yellow zucchini, a big bunch of carrots, two cucumbers, two tomatoes (the first tomatoes!) a baby eggplant, a bunch of basil, a bunch of arugula and FOUR ears of corn.
Positively thrilled by the tomatoes (tomatoes! tomatoes! they're here!), I wanted to keep it simple so I could really savor them. So I chopped 'em up and slapped 'em on some toast. I pushed a couple of cloves of garlic through a press - you could mince, too. Then I added a splash of a mild balsamic vinegar to mellow out the raw garlic. Next up, three chopped tomatoes and three tablespoons of basil chiffonade (rolled up like a cigar and sliced into strips), then seasoned it with salt and pepper and doused it with a tablespoon or so of olive oil.
A little stir and a 10 minute rest later, here's the finished product piled on some crunchy toasted baguette slices. Oh, and that green toast-topper in the background is two cucumbers, peeled, seeded and grated, mixed with salt, pepper, two tablespoons of chopped fresh dill and a dollop of yogurt. Yeah, we like snacks for dinner. What's your favorite thing to put on toast?
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Confession time: I am not the hugest fan of corn on the cob. I mean, I like it. I eat it. It often shows up around hot dogs, so there's that. But. I wore braces on my top and bottom teeth for over five years. Five very formative years, ages 12 to 17. And though I regularly eschewed the rules of food unfit for a metal mouth, corn was just (forgive me) too much of a pain to clean out of the braces, so I wasn't ever excited to see it.
Sadly, I was not the kind of kid who wanted to take over any part of dinner prep. (Sorry, Mom. Incidentally, thanks for showing me how to sew on a button; I totally fixed a pair of pants last week!) So while the rest of the family mutilated the butter in the dish trying to butter their cob, I usually reached instead for a second hot dog. Actually, I still reach for a second hot dog... ANYWAY had I explored the options any, perhaps I would have found something like this recipe, which has you cut the kernels off the cob and saute them in butter. I bet 13 year old me would have liked this.
Also, curiosity begs me poll the readers: do you eat your corn on the cob in rows, typewriter style, or in circles?
Summer Corn Saute with Tons of Herbs
adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2010
serves 4 as a side
The original recipe is a bit bigger, I've scaled it down here. You can use pretty much whatever fresh herbs you have around, just make sure you include dill and tarragon (if you can't find tarragon, use a bit more dill). Ideally you would use 1 part dill, 1 part tarragon, 4 parts a mix of other stuff. Go easy on the hardier herbs like thyme and oregano, they can be overpowering. In addition to dill and tarragon I used basil, cilantro, and chives, plus a small sprig each of thyme and oregano. As long as you end up with 3/4 to 1 cup of fresh chopped herbs, you're good to go.
2 Tablespoons butter
1 shallot, chopped small
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
5 ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels cut from the cob
1/2 - 3/4 cup assorted chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, etc - see head note)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallot and cumin, saute until the shallot has taken on a golden color, 4-5 minutes. Add the corn and season with a teaspoon of kosher salt and 10-12 grinds of black pepper. Stir frequently for 5 minutes, or until corn is tender. Shut off the heat and mix in all the herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Check out the bounty this week, friends! Corn, green beans (the first green beans, yay!), dill, beets (the first beets, wahoo!), kale, and zucchini. I grabbed a yellow zucchini in the mix because I had something in mind for them and I thought the variety would be nice.
Apparently that something was taking lonely pictures of the yellow zucchini being shunned by his green brethren. Well, not actually, the something I was thinking of was the shaved zucchini salad from the August issue of Bon Appetit. I haven't had my fill of these abundant squashes yet, and I am always intrigued by a raw preparation of something we tend to eat cooked.
I had used a vegetable peeler to get thin slices of zucchini before, but forgotten how they tend to bow in the middle; you'll end up with the end you're holding, a very thin bridge, and then a big lump on the blossom end. If you rotate the zucchini as you peel this isn't as much of a problem, but the slices aren't as pretty and symetrical. For this particular recipe I'd recommend smaller zucchini, not the monster baseball bat variety. Smaller ones are more tender, and the size of the slices will be more suited to a salad. If you see a yellow zucchini (not a summer squash), pick one up just to prettify things.
Shaved Zucchini Salad with Parmesan and Pine Nuts
adapted, just barely, from Bon Appetit
serves 4 as a side
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5-6 turns of the pepper grinder
a pinch of dried red pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
4 medium zucchini, mix of green and yellow (about a pound)
small handful of pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup of basil, sliced
wedge of parmesan cheese
First, make the dressing: whisk the salt and both peppers with the lemon juice, then whisk in the oil. Set aside. Shave the zucchini using a vegetable peeler to get very thin, long slices, and pile them in a bowl. Add the pine nuts and basil, and toss with the dressing. Turn out onto a serving platter (or if you're me, you just tossed it carefully with your hands ON the serving platter so as not to dirty up any unnecessary dishes). Using the vegetable peeler again, shave strips of parmesan cheese onto the salad. Top with more basil as garnish, if you like, or another grind or two of black pepper.
Monday, July 19, 2010
I have a thing about vegetables. I love to eat them, sure, but I also love to shop for them and grow them and just gaze lovingly at them, dreaming of how delicious they'll be. This can be a bit of a liability for me when summer farmers' markets appear. Our Stone Soup Farm CSA share is just the right size for us, I think - we get a half share since we're only two people, but also because of my love affair with veggies means that sometimes I cannot resist the siren song of an enormous bunch of ruby stemmed swiss chard. I mean, just LOOK at it! I took this picture after it had sat in the fridge for a few days, and it's still so perky!
But it truly was enormous. Like, twice the size of a bunch I'd get from Stone Soup or the grocery store. We eat a lot of greens (Adam is having his own affair with kale, but I let it slide since he looks the other way on my relationship with tomatoes) and we like them a lot of ways: in soup, under potatoes, with pasta and shellfish, as salty crunchy snacks. I wanted to do something different with this chard, and we had a lot of other vegetables in the house. A brief search on epicurious led me to this gratin from an old fall issue of Gourmet.
I will probably return to this recipe in October and prepare it as written with lots of chard and spinach and nutmeg, and I'm certain it will be hearty and warming and wonderful. I had a fridge full of produce, though, so I tweaked and substituted and made-do and started calling it a big green gratin while it bubbled away in the oven. Summer Vegetable Gratin is more accurate, though, so let's go with that.
Given how many things I threw in there, smart money says this would work for nearly any combination of greens and veg that needs using. Summer squash or green beans would be great, maybe eggplant, definitely sliced tomatoes. If you can find a huge bunch or two of chard, the earthiness of it plays really well with the gruyere, and I love that the stems are edible, but spinach could stand in if that's easier for you to find. I'd save kale for another recipe, though, it takes a lot longer to cook.
Summer Vegetable Gratin
serves 4 as a main or 6 as a side
This made a really lovely dinner for the two of us, but there are a couple of changes I would make: when you put the chard in the colander to drain, press on it a bit to get as much liquid out as possible. Also, if you have cream or half and half, I'd use that instead of milk as it's thicker and cooks a little better in dishes like this. I had whole milk, so that's what I used.
1 huge bunch or two normal sized bunches of swiss chard, stems separated and sliced into 1/4 inch pices, leaves cut in 1-2 inch wide strips.
1 medium onion, diced (I used red, it was very pretty)
1 large zucchini, quartered the long way and cut in 1/2 inch chunks
1 bell pepper, any color, seeded and sliced
1 cup of shelled peas (or however many you get from about 1/2 a pound of shelling peas)
5 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup whole milk or cream
3-4 ounces Gruyere cheese or any swiss type cheese, grated
1 cup fresh bread crumbs or panko
salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Melt two tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and chard stems, season with salt and pepper, and sautee until onions are translucent. Add chard leaves in batches, stirring until it wilts and cooks down, then adding another handful, until all the chard is cooked. Remove from pan and allow to drain in a colander in the sink. (You might want to press on it to remove as much liquid as you can, I forgot to do this, though, and it was still good.)
Return the pan to the heat (you can wipe it out if you like but it's not necessary. Add another tablespoon of butter, then add the zucchini, peas, and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper, and saute until the zucchini is just cooked. Turn off the heat.
In a small saucepan, melt a tablespoon of butter, then add the flour, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps. Cook the roux just until golden, 1-2 minutes. Add the whole milk and bring to a gentle simmer.
Return the chard mixture to the pan with the zucchini, then add the milk and toss to coat all the vegetables in the sauce. Spread in a 9x13" pan, then top with the cheese and breadcrumbs. Cut the remaining tablespoon of butter into bits and dot the surface of the gratin with the butter bits.
Bake in the 400 degree oven for 20 minutes,
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I must admit I'm a little amused by how green our CSA shares still are, but there's a glimmer of color there if you squint. Do you see it? No? Well, that's because it's still wrapped. We got two ears of sweet corn in this week's share, and I say that counts as yellow. Also, let's talk about that gorgeous lettuce, all wrapped around itself like a big green rose. Lovely!
We grilled the corn along side some astonishingly good grass fed veal, and I whizzed the basil and some other herbs from our garden into a a pesto to plop atop the chops. (Hee!) I thinned the pesto with some lemon juice and a bit more olive oil and used it to dress a salad of the lettuce and one of the cucumbers. That lettuce though, I swear, it was so darn pretty I almost had a hard time tearing it up to wash and eat.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
I've mentioned previously how owning a grill has already drastically improved our summer dining experience; it's great to have an option for dinner that doesn't require turning on the oven in our already stifling kitchen. However, one thing I haven't discussed here is the learning curve. Not everything we grill turns out perfect, in fact, we scorched a spatchcocked chicken pretty bad a couple of weeks ago (we ate it anyway, picking off the burnt skin bits, and it was still juicy and good).
Then there was this halibut. I knew we would need a grill basket if we wanted to grill seafood or other delicate things. What I forgot was that the grill basket would get hot and the fish would stick to it. I marinated the fish in lemon thyme and olive oil, but I didn't oil the basket. When we tried to turn the fish out onto a platter it came off in big chunks, bits of skin clinging to the hot metal and generally looking quite sloppy.
It still tasted good, and the grilled scallions were a nice smoky counterpoint to the fish. We ate it with some grilled zucchini and grilled lemon wedges (thanks for the tip, Mr. Bittman) and a piece of toasty bread piled high with Foxboro Cheese Company's fromage blanc.
So tell me, oh ye grillmasters, other than oiling the basket better, what can I do to improve my grilled fish? Should I use a firmer fleshed fish? Or a whole fish? Or do I just need to practice more? I await your guidance.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Here's the haul this week, kiddos: cabbage, garlic, peas, lettuce, two cukes and a zucchini, cilantro, and a couple of "take as many as you like" turnips. You know what? I haven't actually eaten much of it yet. I went out with a friend last night for dinner, and tonight... well, tonight I ate zucchini.
Just zucchini. These two. I cooked them the way my mom used to when I was a kid. If memory serves, this was a side dish, but Adam's out of town and I don't stand on ceremony when it's 87 degrees in the house. I stood at the counter and ate the whole thing off the pan.
First, slice the zucchini. I used a mandoline because I have one, but thin even slices with a knife will do just fine. I love the way they look all laid out in rows!
Dot with bits of butter. This is about a teaspoon, total.
Then grate a teeny bit of fresh parmesan over the top.
Then broil for 2-5 minutes. Watch it carefully so it doesn't burn. (Though the toasty browned cheesy spots are my favorite bites!)
Sprinkle with salt right out of the oven. This is awesome with grilled chicken or fish, or even a few red hot dogs if that's what you're into in the summer.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
The Share was a bit lighter this week, and I was bummed not to see any more kohlrabi - my mom requested last week's slaw for the Independence Day festivities up in Maine.
We got lettuce, zucchini, two turnips, parsley, a half pound of shelling peas, and some Tuscan kale. I'm going to attempt that raw kale salad again tonight, maybe with some grilled fish. Last night I roasted some beets from another farm*, chopped up the turnip, sauteed the peas, washed the lettuce, and made us a giant salad. It was not the best salad I've ever eaten, but that's the thing about the CSA: you eat what you get, and sometimes it's not exactly what you want to eat in that moment.
I've set my sights on that zucchini for tonight as well, an old favorite method my mom used to employ when faced with the glut of garden zucchini. Speaking of, we harvested our first eight-ball zucchini from The Monster this week! Sauteed with some cherry tomatoes and tossed in pasta with copious amounts of garden herbs, they were quite satisfying. What do you do when you have vegetables in the house that you're not particularly craving?
*Yes, even though we get a lot of vegetables every week, I still shop at farmer's markets to supplement the haul. The email from Stone Soup said we might be getting beets, so I started to get all excited about beets, and when we didn't end up getting any, I bought some from another farmer. I regret nothing.