Thursday, June 30, 2011

Eggplant and Oregano Pizza

Eggplant and oregano pizza

So, speaking of pizza... I always make more than one, because once I've got the oven all heated up it seems silly not to. I wanted to use eggplant, and I had a huge bunch of oregano in the fridge from last week's CSA. I cubed the eggplant and sauteed it in a little olive oil, then tossed it with about a tablespoon of oregano. Spread the crust with some more olive oil and a bit of mozzarella, and ta-da! Eggplant pizza. Yum.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sorrel Pesto


This year I planted sorrel in the garden. I tried to start it from seed, but my seedlings were so tiny when I set them out I was sure they weren't going to make it, so I bought a couple of heartier specimens at an early spring farmer's market. The woman I bought them from warned me that it's perennial, which made me a tiny bit nervous because I had never tasted it before, though I was intrigued by the descriptions I had read about it being aggressively tart and tangy. Wikipedia describes it as similar to kiwifruit or like sour strawberries, but I think it's more like tart lemony spinach.

Sorrel Pesto and Potato Pizza

I finally harvested a big bunch of leaves over the weekend and I thought about making soup or maybe saucing some salmon with it, but I had defrosted some pizza dough from a new recipe I had tried (it was really tough to work with, so I won't recommend it here) and I've been thinking about potato pizza so I figured there's potato in sorrel soup, I bet that would make a mighty fine pizza. Indeed it did, my friends. Indeed it did.

Sorrel Pesto
makes about a cup

I didn't have any pine nuts and I didn't feel like using walnuts, so this is really more of a sorrel puree. If you have nuts, feel free to toast a couple tablespoons and include them in your pesto.

1 large bunch sorrel, center ribs removed, roughly chopped (you should have almost 3 cups)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until you get a consistency you like. Adjust seasoning.

For the pizza: 
your favorite pizza dough, enough to make a ten inch pie
1/3 - 1/2 cup sorrel pesto
one red skinned potato, washed and sliced very thin on a mandoline (hold in cold water while you prep the rest of the ingredients)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ounce goat cheese

Preheat the oven as high as it can go with a pizza stone if you have one. Stretch the dough, top it with the pesto, then the potatoes and goat cheese. Use your finger to spread a little olive oil on each potato slice (you will probably have extra potato slices). Bake the pizza until the crust is crisp and the potatoes are getting a little brown around the edges, 10-15 minutes depending on your oven.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Grilled Vegetable Sandwich

Grilling veg for sandwiches

There's a little restaurant in Inman Square Cambridge called All Star Sandwich Bar. Yeah, you guys who've been there, I can see you nodding your heads. This place is ridiculously good and correspondingly popular.

grilling veg for sandwiches
Usually when we walk by on a Saturday around lunch time it's packed with a line out the door, but for whatever reason, two weeks ago at noon there were plenty of tables and since we just happened to be hungry, we stopped.

Building a sandwich
I ordered the tuna melt, not because I love a good tuna melt (though I do, in fact, love a good tuna melt) but because Adam ordered first and he totally ordered the sandwich I wanted! It's ok, though, because we went halvsies and split both sandwiches. Excellent perk of being married: I'm pretty sure he's legally obligated to share his food with me.

Stacked up high
The sandwich in question is the Grilled Vegetable Cubano. Traditionally, a Cubano is a sandwich with roast pork, ham, pickles and swiss cheese, pressed and grilled. It is a totally delicious sandwich, but this all veggie version is lighter and quicker to put together, since, you know, you don't have to roast any pork.

Brick it.

I used some soft crusted baguette-shaped bread I found at Whole Foods, standard baguettes would be too crunchy, so look for something more like a sub roll. What I should also have done is flip the sandwiches and grilled both sides, but I pre-heated the bricks so I assumed I was sort of grilling them both at the same time. Next time, I'll know better!

Grilled veggie sandwiches

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches
inspired by the All Star Sandwich Bar

I made two sandwiches from one 12-14 inch loaf of bread, but we had a ton of veggies left over, certainly enough for another sandwich or two. If you're going to make more sandwiches, you might want to double the mayo. Incidentally, homemade mayo would be outstanding here should you have the time or inclination.

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1-2 teaspoons lime juice
pinch of salt
one medium eggplant
one medium zucchini
one yellow summer squash
one whole red bell pepper
1/2 a red onion
two portabello mushroom caps, or 8 large cremini mushroom
vegetable oil
salt and pepper
4 slices swiss cheese
some sort of dill pickle - I used green beans, but you could slice cucumber pickles to an appropriate sandwich thickness
enough bread for two sandwiches (see note above)

First, mix up the mayo: stir in the cilantro and lime juice and season with salt. You might have to adjust the seasoning with more lime juice or more salt, just make it taste good. Cover it and put it in the fridge until you're ready to assemble the sandwiches. 

Start a chimney full of charcoal for a charcoal grill, or preheat your gas grill. You're aiming for medium to medium-high heat. 

Slice the eggplant on a strong bias into thick slices, between 1/3 and 1/2 an inch thick. If you have time, layer the eggplant with some salt in a colander and weight it down for about half an hour to squeeze out some liquid and leech out some of the bitterness. If you have a fresh young eggplant this may not be necessary. Slice the zucchini and summer squash the long way into the same thickness, maybe a touch thinner. Cut the onion into thick wedges; keep the root end somewhat intact so the wedges don't fall apart. Take the stems out of the mushroom caps. Brush all the vegetables except the pepper with a light layer of vegetable oil on both sides and season with salt and pepper. 

On the pre-heated grill, roast the pepper until all the skin is charred. Place in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to steam for 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, grill the onions, mushrooms, zucchini and summer squash. Rinse the salt off the eggplant (if you salted it), squeeze it dry with paper towels, and brush with oil and season. Grill the eggplant. With all the vegetables, you should cook them until they are soft with some grill marks. 

Peel the red pepper and cut it into large pieces. Discard seeds and stem.

Leave the grill on while you assemble your sandwiches. In fact, put your bricks on the grill while you assemble the sandwiches. Slice the bread in half, spread each side with a teaspoon and a half of mayo, or to taste. Starting from the bottom, layer in this order: swiss cheese, red pepper, onion, mushroom, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, pickles, top of bread. 

Wrap each sandwich loosely in foil, then place it on the grill and weigh each one down with a foil wrapped brick. Careful, they're hot! Cover the grill and cook for five minutes or so, then (do as I say, not as I do!) carefully flip the sandwiches over and weigh again with bricks. Cover the grill for another couple of minutes or until the cheese is melted and the sandwich is completely awesome.  Remove from the grill, unwrap the foil, and slice the sandwiches. Serve with potato chips and a pickle, deli style. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Link Love: Canning Season!


I told you guys I made my first batch of jam this week... well, now I've got preserving on the brain. Last year I started in earnest May and ended up with quite a haul, and I feel like I've started so late this year! I know I need to do more red salsa this year since we finished that up before the tomato season came back around, and I definitely need to do dilly beans again because my friends can eat an entire jar of those in about five minutes.

I've been searching around for canning recipes to inspire me, and here are a few of them:

Tomato Jam from Food In Jars. I'm not really a ketchup person, but I love the idea of this on a burger.

I made jalapeno jelly last year, but these Pickled Hot Peppers from Well Preserved are definitely part of my can plan this year.

I'll probably pickle my walking onions using this recipe from Doris and Jilly.

As for things that get preserved but not canned, I'm definitely going to make more sauerkraut, but I really want to try making kimchi this summer. Anybody have a good recipe?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini

I don't know if I can even express in words how awesome it is to have vegetables back. Seriously. I forgot how much fun it is to pull together dinner with whatever's around at the farmer's market, and things are finally ramping up. The markets are aaalmost in full on summer mode - I'm just waiting for that first good tomato sandwich!

On Monday I bought a couple of zucchini (plus some rhubarb and strawberries for an awesome batch of jam) at the Central Square Farmer's Market and then I scrounged around for what we had left in the fridge from my week of finals prep and came up with this: stuffed zucchini that manages to pull a ton of flavor from not a ton of ingredients. The secret is to season the zucchini once you've hollowed them out, that way you don't get stuck with delicious filling in a bland and boring vehicle. Season your boats, folks! Oh, and this is vegan, but you could use butter instead of oil if you wanted a little more richness.

Stuffed Zucchini
serves 2 as a light main, 4 as a side dish

2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
one leek, thinly sliced
5-6 mushrooms (I used cremini), halved and sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh marjoram
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh of the zucchini and chop the flesh; you're going for something like little zucchini canoes. Lightly grease a baking dish with oil and put the zucchini boats in it, cavity side up, and season with salt and pepper. Put them in the oven to begin softening while you prepare the filling.

Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet and cook the leek over medium low heat until soft, about ten minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until lightly browned and then add the chopped zucchini flesh and the marjoram. Cook another 5-7 minutes, stirring, until the mixture dries out some.

Remove the zucchini boats from the oven and spoon the filling evenly into them - careful, it's hot! Season the breadcrumbs with salt and pepper and top the zucchini with breadcrumbs. Return the dish to the oven for 20-30 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are browned and the zucchini boats feel soft when poked with a toothpick or paring knife.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wheat Berries

Wheat Berries

I made wheat berries for the first time today. I bought some on a whim on our last trip to Christina's, and I used them for a stir-fry of sorts for dinner tonight with carrots, CSA garlic scapes and arugula, and some mushrooms I found lurking in the crisper drawer. It was not my best work, so I ask you: what's your favorite recipe using wheat berries? Clearly I need a little guidance.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Walking Onions

Walking onions nicely sprouted

A former colleague at my old desk job gave me a handful of these little alliums a couple of years ago. I stuck them in a pot in the fall and in the spring they popped up cheerily, the first thing out of the ground. Where regular onions have flowers, walking onions have bulblets, little mini onions.  When the stalk bends over under the weight of the bulblets, it hits the ground and the bulblets start to grow, hence the "walking". I've got grand plans for pickling a few of these this year.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Gravlax and what to do with it

I know you've all been dying to know, so:  I pulled a card for fruit tarts with almond pastry cream, fruit coulis and a flavored creme anglaise for my final practicum. It didn't go quite as well as I had hoped (my crusts were on the tough side). It seems to have turned out ok, though, because I got a call on Friday from the academic supervisor to tell me I'm the Valedictorian for my class. Eek! Now I have to write a speech. Double Eeek!

Gravlax with traditional accompaniments

Anyway, graduation isn't until Saturday so by way of procrastinating writing a speech, I wanted to write here instead! Plus I wanted to tell you about my creative practicum! I called it "alternative charcuterie" because traditionally charcuterie means salamis and sausages and various porky products and I didn't use any pork. I made duck rillettes, mushroom pate and classic gravlax, plus mustard, cultured butter, dill pickled green beans, two kinds of crackers and a baguette.

gravlax on a bagel with avocado and red onions

Gravlax is a Scandinavian dish of raw salmon, cured in sugar, salt and dill. It's also unbelievably easy. Go get a pound and a half of salmon in two pieces, remove the skin and pin bones. In a separate bowl, mix together 1/2 a cup each of sugar and kosher salt and a teaspoon of white pepper. Spread a bunch of dill over one piece of the salmon, sprinkle the sugar/salt/pepper mixture over that, and if you have it, sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of gin over that. Top with the other piece of salmon, wrap the whole thing in plastic and put it in a dish in the fridge. Flip it every 12 hours or so, but otherwise just let it do its thing for two or three days. Ta-da! When you're ready to serve, scrape off the dill and slice it as thin as you can.

Pasta with gravlax, red onion, capers, dill

Now that you have a pound and a half of cured salmon, what do you do with it? Traditionally, you eat it on rye or pumpernickel bread with red onions and capers and maybe cream cheese. I made rye crackers to go with it for my practicum, and it was lovely. Here's the thing, though: I only used a few ounces of salmon and then I was left with more than a pound. We ate it with the remaining crackers the next day, and then for breakfast on bagels with avocado. Finally on Saturday night I used the end of it for this pasta dish.

Spaghetti with Gravlax and Dill
Serves 2, easily doubled

Use some restraint when seasoning the sauce here, the salmon is pretty salty and you don't want to overwhelm the dish. And a note on timing: start to finish this whole thing took me about 20 minutes, ten for the water to boil and ten for the spaghetti to cook. The sauce comes together while the pasta was cooking. So easy. Also you could probably use smoked salmon, but there would be, of course, a smokey element and gravlax is so easy you really ought to try making it!

1/2 lb spaghetti (I used whole wheat)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 cup red onion, diced small
1/3 cup chopped dill
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp capers
4 ounces gravlax, diced small
pepper and maybe salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook the spaghetti to al dente.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the oil and saute the onion over medium heat until translucent. Don't let it brown, turn the heat down if you have to. Once the onion is soft, add the dill and stir, then add the cream and let it reduce until it's thickened a bit. Season with pepper. If the pasta isn't done yet, turn the heat off and let it hang out. It should be a little too thick, water from the pasta will loosen it back up.

About a minute before the pasta is done, turn the heat back on under the sauce, add the gravlax and capers. When the pasta is al dente, use tongs to transfer it directly from the water to the sauce, water clinging to the noodles will thin the sauce back out. Season with more pepper or possibly salt, if necessary, and serve.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It's Almost Over

Garde Manger: Chicken Gallantine

Hello, friends. I know I'm not supposed to apologize for how long it's been since I've posted and all that, but I really am sorry. I've missed you guys! Here's the thing: culinary school is almost over. I took the written final on Saturday morning. Tomorrow is the final practicum, where I'll pick a card, any card, and then just... make what's on it. And Wednesday is the creative practicum, for which I am currently doing a ton of paperwork and cooking. Graduation is the 25th and that's all she wrote. I'm sad; cooking camp is over! Anyway, I'll be back soon, I hope, with recipes that aren't just me practicing for my test tomorrow.

Above: chicken gallantine from classical french class.