Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Such a week!

Some little tragedies…

…The biggest and most devastating one being the fire at Love Apple Farm out on 9H earlier this week.  I was very sorry to learn that the farm stand was destroyed and that they are now closed (early) for the winter.  No farmer can afford to lose 2 weeks of sales!  Hopefully they will be able to recover and rebuild, and we will seem them again next summer.

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That makes my personal tragedy this week seem so petty.

I came home on Thursday night to find a dead mouse in my kitchen.  Yes, this was my personal tragedy –  this former farm girl does NOT do well with mice. As in, I was near hysteria. Cockroaches – fine, spiders – fine. I am not fine with mice.  And it was late at night and there was no one I could disturb at that hour to remove the thing. Luckily the next morning the cavalry came, and I worked all day to “re-claim” my kitchen space.  While several people in Hudson now know one of my serious issues and think I’m a lunatic, I survived.

Having my favorite breakfast helped too.

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The next little tragedy of the week?  No pierogies!

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We were talking just this morning about the pierogi sale we had stumbled upon, quite happily, last winter and so today I wandered – and lo and behold I found this sign.  However, only those smart enough to pre-order were getting food since at that point they were pretty much sold out.  The next sale will be at Easter; mark your calendars!

This little bump in the road (as far as my weekend eating is concerned) was balanced out by my fabulous finds at the latest Trash & Treasure sale at St. Mary’s, which continues on today and tomorrow.  I often find a little this or that at the sales, and usually (if my wallet is lucky) it’s only a game being sold for 50 cents.  Today, however, I acquired a new Pyrex pie dish for $1 and this lovely new cookbook for only $2!

Image 2Everyone can use this kind of positive affirmation.

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On to the real purpose of the moment: cooking and eating, of course!

This morning was the final outdoor market of the season for the Hudson Farmers’ Market.  The sun was gorgeous but that wind was cutting, no?  I shopped for the upcoming week which will include an entire meal consisting of latkes (Thanksgivukkah!), a huge Thanksgiving meal with friends as well as lots of baking and comfort food.  I think I bought a little of everything.  I was in denial of the changing of the season for so long, and now I’m embracing it with lots of potatoes, squash, kale, apples, etc.

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This weekend is dedicated to making pie crusts and testing new recipes for nibbles and all sorts of scandalous treats.  Last night, as part of my “re-claiming”, I tried a new recipe for Whiskey Pecan Caramel Corn – it’s a keeper.  A couple of notes in case you decided that you also need this treat and you haven’t made lots of caramel corn in the past.  1. The caramel really needs to get to 300 degrees, which is hard-crack stage.  You have to be brave and know that while the caramel at the edges is quickly becoming very dark brown and you’re thinking you will have burnt nothingness, if you take it off the heat as soon as it reaches 300 degrees you’ll be fine.  2. Rather than use 2 baking pans, I prefer to use a huge roasting pan (so big that it never fit in my NYC oven…).  My pan has 2-3 inch sides which makes it much easier to turn the caramel corn as you bake it.  And finally, 3.  When you take it out of the oven, keep stirring!  Stir the caramel corn every couple of minutes as it cools as you can break it into smaller clumps more easily this way.  You could always let it cool as a big clump and then break it up, but you would have naked non-caramel-covered popcorn bits, and who wants that?

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Thinking ahead…

farm and flea

Next weekend there is no farmers’ market – they are taking a (well-deserved!) one-weekend break  and opening up again indoors at the church on Union and North 4th December 7th.  But we have a new gathering this one weekend only: Basilica Farm & Flea.  It promises to be big and fun. You will need to walk off all those latkes and turkey sandwiches, and why not do it while supporting more of our local area producers?  I’m hoping to find delectable food things, and maybe even a Christmas present for Mom.

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And then that brings us to Winter Walk 2013 on Saturday December 7th from 5pm – 8pm .  Winter Walk is always lovely and festive, and crowded, and usually the coldest day of the year.  Bundle up, and make sure you don’t miss the eggnog challenge.

Good grief, that means it’s winter.

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Happy cooking and eating as we celebrate the festival of lights and the feast of abundance. Enjoy!

how quickly things change

We had a beautiful full harvest moon on Wednesday.  Which means harvest (duh) and that means it’s fall.  I love this time of year!

I’m still busy eating salads with the amazing produce we have available at our market.  One day our salad was sliced heirloom tomatoes, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper and topped with a lovely burrata (from Vermont, and purchased at Samascott’s Garden Market).  Milky cheese and tomatoes – perfect on a hot sunny day.

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Have you tried the smoked trout available at the Hudson Farmers’ Market?
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I love it!  I’ve used it to make Smoked Trout dip which is rich and creamy and very more-ish.  Local Valatie gardener/man of taste Kevin Lee Jacobs from A Garden for the House suggests a similar sounding Smoked Trout on Toast.  Both of these dishes are great for a chilly evening.  But one of my favorite uses so far has been in a smoked trout salad.  It is simple, allowing all the ingredients to just taste delicious, using a recipe like this.

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As I do at this time every year, I am avoiding winter squashes and roasting roots and potatoes.  And I have yet to buy apples.  We have soooooo much time for that, and it’s right around the corner.  So eat your plums and nectarines and tomatoes before we bid adieu for another season.

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Are you going to Olanafest?  It’s happening tonight, September 21st from 5 – 7pm: a celebration of food, art and farming.  I think we are getting the schmancy kind of fancy up here, don’t you?

eat the farm

If you really want to taste farm to table, more than what is available at so many of the restaurants in Hudson,  you should look into Eat the Farm #2 next month.  It’s at the farm.  Chef Hugh Horner of Restaurant Helsinki cooks a meal entirely from the offerings of Holmquest Farms on Spook Rock Road.  The first one sold out in July; the October 10th happening will likely be the last for the season.  You can’t get more local than that.

But just when I think that there will be no more food events for the season in our area, along comes Basilica Hudson.

farm and fleaBasilica Farm & Flea is happening over Thanksgiving weekend, and they promise FOOD, vintage, art, design, culture.  I think this will be worth a look-see.

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Autumnal Equinox is tomorrow.  So, enough with the distractions – go back to your cooking and your gardening.  There is so much to do this time of year, and so much to eat!  Put away some ratatouille, and tomato sauce and maybe a fruit jam or two.  You’ll thank yourself later.

trying to unitask

I’m currently making my way through Michael Pollan’s latest book, Cooked, as he explores the 4 basic elements (fire, water, air, earth) that humans utilize when cooking in order to nourish themselves.  I find myself particularly inspired by something he says toward the end of the water section:

“…the opportunity to work with my hands – with all my senses, in fact – is always a welcome change of pace, whether in the kitchen or in the garden.  There’s something about such work that seems to alter the experience of time, helps me to reoccupy the present tense.  I don’t want you to get the idea it’s made a Buddhist of me, but in the kitchen, maybe a little bit.  When stirring the pot, just stir the pot…. Unitasking.”

How very Ram Dass.

But it spoke to me because my head was still spinning from yesterday’s conference call where I was trying to talk about the importance of social media to engage (my work) community, only to be told several times that this or that was against policy, and that I couldn’t use images or connect with certain people and there’s this policy, etc.  When I finally suggested that it would be more helpful to tell me what I could do, I got my own words spun back at me, but nothing more.  Essentially, I was speaking to people who do not exist in our current social society.

Which made this Dilbert cartoon that a colleague had given me several years ago resonate even more – even though my name isn’t Beth, and the person who kept telling me everything was against policy is named Beth…

I digress.

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2a8955900cca11e3855722000aa800e1_7I decided to practice being present by baking, which is always good for my soul.  I wanted to try a recipe for chocolate zucchini bread – as I’ve been intrigued by the combination since I found Clotilde and her blog, Chocolate & Zucchini.  Just try to look at her site and not get sucked in for hours dreaming of future meals…  But this recipe did not come from Clotilde but instead from (gasp) Better Homes & Gardens.  Yet another sign that I’m becoming old.

b029e4ce0ccc11e3a39822000a9e0344_7And so I measured and chopped and shredded and mixed.   Everything went according to plan (meaning, according to the recipe) and out of the oven came 3 gorgeous little loaves.  And then I went to melt the chocolate to drizzle on top of the loaves.  I was obviously no longer present, as I put chocolate in a pan, over high heat, and left the room.

I worked all afternoon to get the smell of burnt chocolate out of the house.

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Inspired by the idea of going to Hudson Food Studio tonight, but then too lazy to go, I decided it had to be summer rolls for dinner.

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they did not actually look this green in real life

I’ve decided the whole purpose of summer rolls is really just to serve as a conveyance for peanut sauce.  Yum. There are a million recipes out there (I seem to have half of them on one of my Pinterest boards) but I used this recipe as a loose (very loose) guideline.  I used tamari in my peanut sauce because that’s what I had, but I would suggest using a low sodium soy sauce instead.  I thought I wouldn’t be able to find rice paper in our little town, but Olde Hudson has that as well as a number of other Asian cooking necessities.  And you can find all the vegetables you need at the Hudson Farmers’ Market.  Or, you could just go to Hudson Food Studio and have a tasty meal prepared by someone else.

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I’m not sure that I’m feeling any more centered.  I may have to try more baking tomorrow.

catching up…

My brain has melted.

Or drowned – hasn’t it been a crazy hot/rainy summer?

That’s my only attempt at an excuse for not writing for so long.  Well, the brain has been fried by the heat of summer, and huge upcoming life changes and watching the veeeeeeeery slow progress as my house moves from a peely-paint house to a lovely crisp clean abode.  It’s such an improvement that my electrician says that it will raise the assessments for the  entire neighborhood.  Sorry neighbors!

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I intended to have a garden…  However, my harvest this year was garlic scapes.  And I cut those too late, leading to my second harvest, the tiniest heads of garlic I’ve ever seen.  I’ve got them curing in the basement, but I have a feeling I will be buying garlic from the farmers’ market…

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I’ve visited a couple of restaurants in the attempt to escape our very un-air-conditioned house.

I love going to Bonfiglio & Bread for mushroom toast or the poached egg bowl (how do you describe it?) for breakfast, and even on days where the breakfast chef isn’t there, the kouign-ammans are de-lish.  I’ll be there when they open up again on Saturday the 17th.  I hope they’re poaching eggs that day.  Relish Hudson is also a great option for breakfast – really nice egg sandwich variations.  And I love sitting in the window on a quiet morning, gazing at our cute Amtrak station.

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The Hudson Food Studio is our newest option for dinner and really helps round out the cuisine available in town.  Sam Pratt wrote a nice review of the place here.

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Many days I have no desire to prepare food (what?) and if it’s super hot, it’s ice cream for dinner.  Lick has saved me from a melt-down more than once.  One of my new favorite desserts does take some cooking (baking the crust and making the blueberry sauce on the stove top – best done earlier in the day), but this blueberry ice-cream pie will make anyone happy.  I found the recipe while searching for gluten-free recipes when a dear friend was coming to visit, and I halved the sugar called for in the recipe to make it more friendly for those who watch their sugar intake.  It’s just delicious.  And who doesn’t need ice-cream pie?

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For the most part I’ve been enjoying the bounty of our season and very often don’t do more than wash, peel (if necessary), cut up and eat.  This weekend, however, I found myself with a load of blueberries along with a half of a cantaloupe, and then I bought a couple of pounds of doughnut peaches and plums.  Too much goodness!  I solved this (partially) by attempting a recipe for blueberry refrigerator jam - success!  If you’re not into canning, and I’m not, this is a jam for you.  So is David Lebovitz’s No Recipe Cherry Jam which I’ve made numerous times.  And I haven’t tried this recipe yet but it looks just as easy:  Triple berry quick jam.

Dinner the past two nights has been corn on the cob, just barely boiled, plus some of the above-mentioned fruit.  Don’t you love corn season?  Maybe I’ll have the desire to cook something a little more elaborate next weekend – but I’m not complaining if I have to eat more corn.

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Coming up!

Copake Falls Day on Saturday August 17th – I’m very excited about this as Margaret from A Way to Garden opens up her garden for Garden Conservancy Open Day and I love to wander around and imagine it’s my yard.  Maybe next year.   The Fabulous Beekman Boys will be there for a lecture/breakfast/book signing. Copake Falls, just this side of the border with Massachusetts.

Dutchess County Fair -  August 20th – August 25th – rides! fried foods!  Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck

Columbia County Fair – August 28 – September 2 – a classic county fair.  Columbia County Fairgrounds in Chatham

Taste of Hudson on Saturday September 7th, 11am – 2pm – don’t be silly and think you’ll get any food at 2pm.  Think early, people!  Warren Street below 3rd Street.

Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest on Saturday September 7th and Sunday September 8th – one of the biggest area extravaganzas.  Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck

foraging for a festival

Ramps are about to become an endangered species:

rampfest2013_logoThe 3rd Annual Ramp Fest is happening Saturday, May 4, 2013 from 12 – 4pm.  Chefs from Hudson, the Hudson Valley and NYC will participate by making all sorts of lovely tastes featuring ramps.  Don’t be crazy and show up at 3pm – you will not eat.  I am devastated that I will be out-of-town that day.  Since at the previous two fests I seemed to try everything at least twice, that means that there is more food for you.

sigh.

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I will have to do my own foraging.  I once thought I had found *a* ramp under a tree in our yard – but I am quite sure that whatever I found was not edible.  We can usually find ramps at the Hudson Farmers’ Market, but they’re not out yet (it’s too cold).  However, I consistently find dandelion greens in my ever-so-organic lawn (meaning, I don’t do anything more than mow it).  Last year I tossed dandelion greens with a simple vinaigrette and it made a great crostini.

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This year I think I may try a dandelion soup with chives from a recipe I found on Chefs Consortium – it looks lovely and sophisticated.  Once I uncover my garden from its lasagna garden layering and let the sun shine through, I will surely have purslane and that often makes a nice little side salad.

The anticipation that accompanies Spring is sometimes overwhelming, no?

wandering, escaping…

I’ve been a refugee upstate the past couple of days, as earlier in the week I was stuck in the darkness for a couple of days in NYC…  What a lovely time to be upstate!

Saturday was a day for foodie fieldtrips, and what a fun time.  I started, of course, at the Hudson Farmers Market.  I picked up some staples for the week, trying to not get carried away and buying more than I will realistically cook.  It’s an ongoing battle.

Early afternoon I joined a neighbor to visit Omi International Arts Center in Ghent for a book signing and marmalade tasting by Elizabeth Field for her first book, Marmalade: Sweet and Savory Spreads for a Sophisticated Taste.  As a baker, the unpredictability of marmalade, jellies and jams makes my hair stand up on end, but the recipes are compelling and I’m always willing to try some new recipes.  And who better to inspire me than a woman who did her Master’s dissertation on marmalade???  Ms. Field also has an article in the New York Times today on – you guessed it – marmalade.

Since it was such a lovely day and I didn’t feel like working on the garden anymore, my OH and I jumped in the car and drove down to Ancram for the opening of Hillrock Estate Distillery.  Located in the beautiful hills in the Ancram area, this beautiful distillery was built in the past couple of years to take advantage of the terroir – they grown their own barley and rye.  They hope to have their official organic designation next year, and pride themselves on being the only field to bottle bourbon.  Our informative tour was led by Tim Welly, who is in charge of the bourbon production under the guidance of master distiller David Pickerell (formerly of Makers Mark).  While I’m sure it’s incredibly challenging, it sounds like a cool job!  The tour of this gorgeous facility ended with a tasting, and since I like just about any bourbon that’s in front of me, it was tasty.  However, at $80-85 a bottle, I’ll have to save my pennies to have a bottle of my own…  They estimated that they may have had a thousand visitors yesterday, their first day, so it’s a great start for our latest local producer.

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The weather has turned chilly so I’ve been baking and cooking warm comforting autumn-y foods.  I might recommend these delicious recipes:

Autumn Lasagne with Butternut Squash, Sage and Kale from Handpicked Nation

Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese from The Kitchn (this dish was going into the oven as the lights went out)

Couscous with Chickpeas, Fennel & Citrus from The Kitchn (I fed this to the friends who had offered the escape from NYC)

Parmesan-Rosemary Crackers from A Little Saffron – every bite is cheesy deliciousness.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies from Eating Well – every once in awhile I have a flareup of “healthy” eating…

Pumpkin Spice Cookies from The Kitchen – cake-y goodness

Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Guinness cake from The Kitchn – Make. This. Cake.

Happy Eating!

you cannot escape the garlic

…nor should you.

While it is good for chasing the vampires away, garlic is also great for flavor to most savory recipes.    I finally discovered that it also incredibly easy to grow!  Now is a very good time to plant your garlic so it can overwinter in the ground.  I try to plant at least a dozen cloves of my garlic from a previous year, pointy side up, at the end of the garden that would otherwise get a couple of marigolds.  I should really plant more.  If you have any questions about planting or harvesting garlic, consult A Way to Garden.  Margaret, through her website, has given me much confidence on what to do in my garden, and this is where I learned the quite simple task of planting my own (hard neck) garlic.  The added bonus is that you harvest garlic scapes earlier in the spring as well as the heads of garlic in the summer.

Once you’ve finished planting next year’s garlic, head over to the 1st Annual Garlic Day at the Hudson Farmers’ Market, happening this Saturday, October 13 (9am – 1pm).  This is great for those of us who were too lazy to drive over to the festival in Saugerties earlier this year…

So what do you do with your garlic?  I’m still trying to take advantage of the bounty of our farmers’ market before we’re limited to winter squashes and potatoes (and I am NOT complaining about having to eat mashed potatoes and butternut squash soup).  (An aside – Autumn is just flying by this year – wasn’t it just Labor Day???)  So what is my favorite dish this time of year?  Ratatouille!  It’s a very forgiving dish, so if you can’t find zucchini or don’t like peppers, just add more of the other vegetables.  It’s lovely served on couscous, or with good crusty bread.  My favorite recipe is here.

Or perhaps you just need a simple, comforting bowl of garlic soup.  This recipe has always captured my imagination.

Need more garlic ideas?  Our local Chef’s Consortium did a post on garlic recipes from Chef Ric Orlando.  Mercedes at Hudson Farm Box recently sent a recipe for garlicky broccoli rabe and pasta with her weekly email.  Try all the garlic recipes in Gourmet and let me know once you’ve gotten through them…  Good grief, you’d better stock up on garlic.

And if you don’t feel like cooking, take a head of garlic, cut off the top and drizzle with olive oil.  Wrap in foil and roast in the oven until soft and lovely.  Smear on crusty bread.  Drink wine.

Doesn’t that sound better than wearing a garlic necklace?

of the moment: cherries

Strawberry season just flew right by me – as I suppose it does every year.  Even though I had great plans for strawberry icebox cake and strawberries with sabayon and strawberry ice cream, I didn’t do anything fancy with the strawberries that I ate: just cut in half, sprinkled with a small spoon of sugar and a spoon of balsamic and ladled over vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt.  Cherries came right after and I was doing the same thing:

And then, I remembered clafouti.  I remembered clafouti and it came out of my mouth as a little song (think the Swiss yodel of Ricola).  So while I am loath to turn on the oven during a heatwave, I had a craving to quell.

Cherry Clafoutifrom The Gourmet Cookbook

  • 1 1/4 pounds cherries (sour cherries if you have them)
  • 1/2 c plus 1 T granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 c milk (recipe calls for whole, I usually use 1 or 2%)
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 3 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 T kirsch
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1/8 t almond extract

Put a rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish (I usually forget to do this and it comes out alright).

Toss cherries with 1 T sugar and spread evenly in baking dish.

Combine eggs, milk, flour, salt, butter, kirsch, extracts and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a blender and blend until smooth (or, whisk vigorously).  Pour batter over cherries.

Bake clafouti until puffed and golden, 35 to 45  minutes.

Cool slightly on a rack (clafouti will sink as it cools) and serve warm, or room temperature.

*I usually halve the sugar and find that this eggy cake still tastes de-lish.

*I make this the traditional (and easier) French way and don’t pit the cherries.  Just warn everyone at the table!

Finished result will look something like this:

While many feel it’s best at room temperature, I cannot wait that long.  Remember that those cherries will still be 300 degrees or so even when you think the cake is cool enough.  Trust me.

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I’m also making cherry jam this season.  I’m not into canning – just not that brave – so I make refrigerator jam.  It always lasts longer than the recipe says and that’s long enough for me.   In the past I’ve followed David Lebovitz’s No Recipe Cherry Jam, but this year I was inspired by Mark Bittman’s column in the NY Times Magazine on stone fruit.

Mark Bittman’s The Family Stone / In a Saucepan / Jam

  • 1 1/2 c sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 orange
  • 1 1/2 pounds halved fruit (must remove pits or pay a lot of dental bills)

Put all ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil.  When sugar dissolves, reduce heat and cook until liquid is thick and clear; stir frequently until it darkens, 15-20 minutes.  Cool completely and serve (baguette, butter & jam anyone?).

It’s as easy as that – which is why I consider that man on a higher plane.

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Up next: blueberries.  Yum.

vegetables of the moment, green and red

I am gorging myself at the moment on spinach and rhubarb.  The Eger Bros. farmstand at the corner of 9 and 23 and 31 always starts off the season with self-service spinach.  It’s the honor system so bring singles and of course, honesty.

I haven’t felt the need to get particularly creative with the bags of spinach I’ve been buying each week.  Nothing makes me happier than to saute a huge pile of spinach with a load of garlic and heap on top of creamy cheesy polenta (Wild Hive polenta, ideally).  I’ve also made enchiladas with lots of cooked down spinach (if you try the enchiladas with raw spinach they will get very watery.  Trust me.).  I needed something different today and since I started my long weekend early (yea!), I had the time to cook lunch.

We had spinach and eggs and some random cheeses.  Frittata!   I dug around until I found this recipe for Spinach Frittata (for 1) by Martha Stewart.  Unlike many of her baking recipes, it does not require an assistant.  And, I love that the recipe is for one – it’s so difficult to find those and it’s easy enough to double if there are two of you.  This recipe is easy and quick and it was delicious.  A keeper.

*Remember to always clean your spinach in at least two changes of water (float the spinach in a huge bowl of water for 10-15 minutes, lift the spinach out and rest it in a colander, dump the water (and dirt), rinse the bowl and repeat).

The other vegetable I’ve been a bit obsessed with lately is rhubarb.  Why?  Because it makes some awesome desserts.

Every year I make a couple of jars of rhubarb compote.  A large spoonful or so is great on vanilla ice cream or plain greek yogurt.  A couple of weekends ago I was feeling rather British so I made a Rhubarb Fool.  Whip up some cream into stiff peaks and add rhubarb compote to taste.  It’s a fabulous excuse to eat a bowl of whipped cream (but call it a light, seasonal dessert).

Rhubarb Compote (I think this is from City Cook, several years ago…)

6 cups rhubarb cut into ½-inch slices
1 ½ cup sugar (I usually use less)
Optional: 1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest

  1. In a non-reactive, large saucepan off the heat, combine the rhubarb pieces with the sugar and toss or stir to combine. While still off the heat, let the pan sit for about 15 minutes until the rhubarb begins to throw off liquid. Stir occasionally to help the rhubarb become wet.
  2. When the pan has developed some sugary rhubarb juice, place the pan on a medium-low heat and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit becomes soft and falls apart, forming a jam-like consistency. This will take about 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat and transfer the compote to a bowl. Let cool.

The compote can be used either warm or cold. It can be made in advance and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days (note: I keep mine longer and it hasn’t killed me yet).

Tip: For a more complex flavor you can add a tablespoon or two of ruby port or two teaspoons of an orange-flavored liquor such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau. Use less liqueur than port because the flavors are more concentrated.

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I also tried Rhubarb Sorbet this year – but the verdict is still out.  The suggestion in the recipe is to add corn syrup to give a creamier texture, but it was a really odd texture.  Try it with less or leave out the corn syrup altogether.

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Finally, while I’m not the hugest coffee cake fan, I will eat this one any day of the week. The Rhubarb ‘Big Crumb’ Coffee Cake is just that good.  Rhubarb + crumb = yum.

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Spinach we’ll have for awhile but the Hudson Farmers’ market newsletter tells us that we won’t have rhubarb much longer.  I may follow their suggestion and freeze some for later!

I love pesto, in so many ways

According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking under “Sauces thickened with plant particles”,

“Pesto takes its name from the same root that gives us pestle, and the basil leaves and garlic were traditionally ground with a pestle and mortar.  Because this takes some time and effort, modern cooks usually prepare pesto in a blender or food processor.  The choice of appliance and how it’s used influence both consistency and flavor.  The crushing and shearing action of the pestle, the shearing action of the blender, and the slicing action of the processor all produce different proportions of intact and broken cells.  The more thor0ughly the cells are broken, the more their contents are exposed to each other and to the air, and the more their flavor evolves.  A course pesto will have a flavor most like the flavor of fresh leaves.”

Well then.  I’ll have to find the time some day to test this out…  In the meantime, pesto isn’t just about basil anymore, and it’s hard for me to choose favorites.  Here are some pesto possibilities:

Basil pesto is traditional, of course, but we’re not in basil season yet and who knows where the basil from the grocery store comes from.  Wait until we have plentiful basil at the farmers’ market, unless you’re growing it yourself.

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Leek pesto, a la Mark Bittman.  This is the newest addition to my repertoire.  It’s leek season and in searching for a new recipe I found this in one of my several Bittman cookbooks.  I love this man’s sensibilities with ingredients.  Try leek pesto over pasta – it’s a lovely creamy sauce, with no cream!

Pasta with Rich Leek “Pesto” - from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Cookbook

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 or 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • About 1 1/2 pounds leeks (2 or 3 large), trimmed, well rinsed, and chopped
  • salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (don’t skip these – they bring a nice green color)
  • black pepper
  • 8 ounces any pasta (preferably whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  When it’s hot, add the garlic and leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, 20 – 30 minutes

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.  Transfer the leeks to a blender or food processor with the egg, parsley, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Process, stopping to scrape down the sides of the container if necessary.  Return the puree to the skillet, off heat.

Cook the pasta in the boiling water until it’s tender but not mushy, then drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid.  Turn the heat under the leek mixture to medium, add about 1/4 – 1/2 cup of the reserved cooking liquid to thin the pesto, and toss in the pasta along with the cheese.  Add more liquid as desired and toss.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, then serve.

***

(last year's scapes)

Garlic scape season is coming up quickly and there is no better way to use up those gorgeous scapes than with a garlic scape pesto.  Make a lot (A LOT), quite inexpensively, and freeze for use in the months to come (great in the winter!).  It’s one of our favorite toppings for grilled pizza.

Garlic Scape Pesto (originally from the Washington Post)

  • 1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ¼-1/2 cup grated parmigiano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • black pepper to taste

Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add parmigiano to taste; add salt and pepper. Makes about 6 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

To freeze, I omit the cheese (until it comes back out of the freezer), and scoop into several small ziplock bags, squeeze out the air, and freeze flat on a baking sheet.  Once frozen, I stack up the frozen bags in a corner of the freezer – green goodness for later!

***

There’s Green Olive Pesto.  Kinda like green olive tapenade. Remember when it was sold at the flower stand at the Hudson farmers’ market a couple of years ago?  I thought it was yummy, and made a version of it several times using this recipe.

***

Ramp pesto?  It’s ramp season – but I can hardly bring myself to pulverize precious ramps into Ramp Pesto.  I could be very wrong about this.  At the moment I’m storing up my ramp eating for next weekend.

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Or, there’s kale pesto – rather life changing.

I am not a fan of kale.  Not sauteed, not baked into kale chips (faux chips), not surrounded by creamy mashed potatoes.  And then I met Oliva.  You’ll notice that the Lacinato Kale Pesto container above is empty.  I bought a couple at the Hudson farmers’ market last weekend (my version of livin’ large) and my OH was appalled to find that I gave one container to a favored co-worker.  Who ate two-thirds of it in one sitting, on crackers but mostly straight from the fork.  I’m sure this is good on pasta, but it hasn’t made it that far yet.

***

These are my favorites – and they all seem to be green.  What are yours?

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