Sunday, October 26, 2008
Not that most of you don't already know this, but I've been writing a weekly column for the BCLS independent newsblog, EagleiOnline. My column, the Intentional Torte, features both recipes and "local color" on the culinary/foodie scene here in Boston. You have to have a BC email address to comment, but I believe you can view the site without it.
Would love to hear feedback on the columns (there have been about a half dozen so far) and any suggestions you might have for future recipes. I am not cross-posting in reverse because I don't want random strangers reading about my more embarrassing moments.
Oh, wait, I write about them on a blog, which is accessible to anyone and everyone with an internet connection.
Well, I never wanted to run for public office anyway. :0)
In the meantime, I am going to write a non-EiO entry soon. In the meantime, check things out on the other site!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
My CSA is (finally) started to wind down - I got only one bag of produce this week, which is great because my freezer is stuffed and I don't have any tupperware left to house the dozens of containers of soup, chili, etc, even if there were freezer space left.
In addition to my (smaller) CSA pickup, I was feeling antzy and wanted to go apple picking this past weekend but my plans fell throug. Instead, I went to Haymarket. Haymarket is a large outdoor market in downtown
However, it is cheap. CHEAP Cheap cheap. Ten bananas for $1. Four pounds of peaches (slightly bruised) for $2. A box (probably 40) slightly mushed Roma tomatoes for $8. It is not pretty but it is cheap and T-accessible and has a certain strange charm in that dirty, noisy, rude
While I was there, I bought 4 lbs of not-squished roma tomatoes and 4 lbs of slightly squished peaches, and 1 lb of white mushrooms and 5 heads of garlic and 2 pints of raspberries and 1 bunch of thick-ish asparagus with slightly mushed tops. I spent about $15 and could barely stagger home under the weight of my groceries.
When I got home, I took the tomatoes and 1 head of the garlic (roasted) and some home-dried herbs and made a vat of tomato sauce (which cooks down to a depressingly small amount, to be honest). And then I made another batch of corn chowder with the leftover corn from last week. I then threw half the mushrooms and some of the garlic and all of the asparagus into a yummy risotto and then, two days later, threw another head of the roasted garlic, the rest of the mushrooms, along with some other veggies, into a homemade tomato sauce that was awesome. That pasta sauce went with (shockingly) pasta, and Austin and Arianna came over and had that, along with a Greek salad for dinner. For dessert, I made something super-easy with the peaches, which had been ripening for a couple days in a brown bag on the counter. The peaches from Haymarket do not have the lovely texture of local peaches, but they are perfect to cook with. I used some puff pastry to make the recipe below – frozen puff pastry is super-easy, lives well in the freezer when you don’t need it, and cooks up very quickly in the oven while you’re doing other things.
6 6”x 6” squares of puff pastry
1 tbsn unsalted butter
2 medium peaches, pitted, skins removed, sliced into ½” chunks
1 tbsn cornstarch (or other starch)
1 tsp. lemon juice
3 tbsn sugar
~1/2 tsp. cinnamon
~1/4 tsp. ground cloves (to taste)
~1/2 c. water
1 egg + 1 tbsn water
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a non-stick pan with vegetable oil-based cooking spray. Take out puff pastry from freezer and thaw.
2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add cornstarch, lemon juice,2 tbsn. sugar, cinnamon, and water. Stir until mixed, butter is melted and mixture is starting to bubble. Add peaches and cook, stirring regularly, until peaches are soft and sauce is thickened and peach-tasting. Adjust spices as needed.
3. Prick thawed puff pastry squares all over with a fork (set fork aside for a second). In the middle of each square, place about a tablespoon of peach mixture (chunks and sauce). Gently fold the squares diagonally in half. With the fork, crimp down the diagonal edges. Repeat with all six squares. (If you have extra peaches, eat them with a spoon out of the saucepan - they are that good).
4. Mix the egg and 1 tbsn. water in a glass or pinch bowl. Brush each pastry with the egg wash and check edges again. Pop in oven and bake about 20 minutes or until browned on top and bubbly. Serve warm with ice cream or cold for breakfast.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
In all of this chaos, the only thing to do is make soup. I've become completely enamored of homemade soup, as I have previously posted, but I have to say that my soups have really gotten to the next level this summer. Mark Bittman wrote about the joys of preserving summer produce in soup form in one of his recent NYTimes posts, and the recipe below is adapted from his corn chowder recipe. I like that it is simple but not Johnny-One-Note on the corn. Without the half and half, this soup freezes incredibly well. Thaw before reheating - otherwise the veggies will get all starchy from the microwave.
Corn Chowder with Potatoes and Peas
1 tbsn butter
1 medium onion in 1/2" dice
4 cups water
4 cups vegetable stock (homemade or whatever)
4 ears corn, husked and cleaned of thread, kernels planked (retain cobs)
1/2 package (about 1 1/2 cups) baby peas
5 medium-size yukon gold potatoes in 1/4" dice
2 cups baby carrots in 1/2" pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke (optional, and only if you would otherwise want to add some kind of smoked meat to this recipe. You know who you are).
half and half, for serving (optional, or go for fat-free)
1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Saute onion until golden and translucent. Add water, stock, and corn cobs. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.
2. After 45 minutes of simmering, add the potatoes and carrots. Bring back up to a boil and boil briskly (carefully avoiding boiling over) for about 15 minutes. Reduce to a simmer, remove cobs and check potatoes and carrots - they should be done but not totally mushy. Add corn kernels and peas and stir for about 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and let cool 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree about half of the soup (don't burn yourself) in the pan, then stir to further blend. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Serve as is or with a dollop of half and half (I use fat free) to bring it all together. Great with a crusty piece of bread.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
This post is coming to you from the beautiful Eastern Shore of Maryland. It is late afternoon and I am taking a break from editing Beloved Professor's new con law article to bring you this late breaking news flash:
Life is good.
How is it good, might you ask? It is good in many ways. Last week was a little stressful for me. I was studying for (and, consequently, took) a standardized test that is a pre-requisite for sitting for the bar exam. More importantly, I was waiting around, trying not to be impatient, while Big Boston Firm took its time to evaluate my summer work and its own needs/wants/desires to determine whether it would like to give me a job. The additional good news is that they decided to make me a permanent offer. Yay! Very exciting news (particularly given the law school loans and the downturn in the economy). Think of how many cooking gadgets a first year associate salary could buy!! The mind boggles.
In any case, the shore has been a great respite from the stress, particularly because every type of delicious produce known to man is in peak season. The corn - OMG! - it is amazing! The peaches are the earthly embodiment of the Divine - the most delicious things in the world. The tomatoes are so fresh, they melt in your mouth. To that end, I used the veggies at hand as they were intended to be used - as close to fresh-picked as possible.
To that end, I made a frittata with the fresh produce and some fresh herbs from the farmers' market that I thought was pretty groovy. This is NOT a traditional frittata (which means "fried" in almost all Romance languages) because it is not cooked on the stove and finished in the oven, but is primarily cooked in the oven. This is because I am not capable of doing a frittata in an oven-safe AND range-safe pan. I spend hours scraping charred egg out of my lovely cast-iron, and I therefore refuse to do the whole stovetop-to-oven thing. You could add corn shaved from the cob to this recipe and it would also be good. Or green beans. Or spinach. Really, any veggies you have on hand that go well with salt (so, not beets or carrots) would work well here. It's a great meal for dinner when paired with a salad and some rolls, or for lunch or breakfast as-is.
More postings later - hope you all enjoy the produce.
That's A Lotta Frittata
1 large or 2 medium ripe tomatoes, sliced in 1/4" horizontal slices
2 large zucchini or yellow squash, also in 1/4" slices
1/2 medium onion in 1/4" dice
2/3 c. shredded low-fat sharp cheddar or other cheese with a bite
8 eggs or equivalent fake egg product (I like EggBeaters, but whatever works for you)
1/4 c. chopped fresh herbs (I like a mix of thyme, oregano and basil, but whatever you have handy would work)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. butter
1 tsp. EVOO or cooking spray
1 small frying pan
1 non-stick pie tin or tart pan
1. Preheat the oven to 375. Thoroughly grease the pie tin/tart pan with cooking spray or EVOO. In the frying pan over medium heat, cook the onions until beginning to turn golden brown (about 7 minutes). Add the butter and cook until a nice deep golden color has developed. Remove from heat and place in medium mixing bowl (set aside to cool).
2. Spray the skillet with cooking spray. Mix the grated cheese and chopped herbs together. Layer the veggies and cheese in the following order: zucchini, 1/2 cheese, tomatoes, 1/2 cheese.
3. When the onions are cool enough to handle (lukewarm), crack the eggs into the bowl (beware of shell fragments) and whisk the eggs, 1/4 c. water, a generous pinch of both salt and pepper, and the onions together. Pour into the baking tin. Make sure that the upper layer of cheese is submerged (you may press down on the veggies/cheese to achieve this).
4. Pop in the oven (to avoid burns, try doing so on the baking sheet) and bake for 35-45 minutes. If the top seems to be browning too quickly, cover with foil. Watch the frittata after the first 30 minutes. It is done when the center is set and the top is golden brown and slightly crispy. Serve warm or cold, depending on the occasion.
Monday, July 21, 2008
1 large zucchini, washed, stems removed, in 1/2" dice
1 ear corn, husked, kernels cut off with a sharp knife (try not to hurt yourself while doing this).
1 medium onion in 1/4", divided
1 can pinto beans
2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
salt and pepper to taste
3 whole wheat regular-size tortillas (or other tortillas of your choice)
1 1/2 cups low-fat shredded cheese (mexican-style blend, if you can find it, mild cheddar or pepper jack if you can't)
6 tsp EVOO, divided
1/2 cup each sour cream and salsa, for serving
1. In the skillet, place 2 tsp of EVOO and heat to medium-high. Add half the onion and cook until translucent and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Add can of beans (including juices). Cook, stirring occasionally, about 5-7 more minutes. Remove from heat. With a potato masher or fork, squish the beans until the mixture resembles a thick paste. If the beans are too chunky, add a couple tablespoons of water. Season with salt and pepper (easy on the salt). Transfer beans into a tupperware container. Rinse out the skillet.
2. Put the skillet back on the heat, add 2 more tsp. EVOO, and add the remaining half of the onion. Again, cook until translucent. Add zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until zucchini is falling apart and browning in places, about 10 minutes. Add corn and cook an additional 2 minutes. Put in a second tupperware container and wipe out skillet.
3. Assemble the quesadillas. In each tortilla, spread about 1/4 cup of the bean mixture on one half of the tortilla. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of cheese over the beans. Cover with about 1/3 cup of the zucchini-corn mixture. (You can fiddle with these proportions depending on your taste). Repeat with the remaining two tortillas. You will probably have some leftover zucchini mix and beans (dinner tomorrow night too). Fold each tortilla in half to create a half circle of deliciousness.
4. In skillet, pour a scant amount of EVOO (1/2 tsp?) and heat over medium-high. Swirl oil around in pan, then add the quesadillas. Cook on bottom until brown and crispy (keep an eye on it to avoid scorching) and then gently flip over to brown the other side. Repeat with remaining quesadillas. Serve with sour cream and salsa.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
I have to say, as much as I try for optimism, balance and harmony in my life, I am feeling a little blue. Well, at least frustrated.
I spent most of the long weekend in transit - to and from downtown on Thursday and Friday and to and from Maine on Saturday and Sunday. On the 4th itself, I managed (for the first time in a LONG time) to get totally soused, and spent the morning of the 5th sweating and trying not to throw up on the train to Maine. When I got there, my haphazard attempts at sunblock application has resulted in a look that I can only refer to as "spotty lobster." Curse my Anglo-Saxon heritage that resulted in this alabaster skin.
Second, I returned to find that someone has stolen my tomato plant. Who DOES THAT?!?!?!?! Seriously, not cool. Thankfully, I had two different tomato plants that were hidden and thus not stolen, but I still am feeling pretty crap about the tomatoes that were stolen. I hope, as an act of karma, that the tomatoes are secretly infested with aphids that will decimate the measly garden of the tomato thief.
Third, I have a lingering cough from the cold I got two weeks ago that just will not go away. Air conditioning (and the resultant dry air) seem to be making it worse, so I have turned off the a/c in the hopes that the more humid air will be better. So far, the cough is the same but my apartment is reaching a sauna-like temperature.
Finally, I am mildly wrapped around the axle about my single status. I spent the weekend with one of my best friends, a person who has seen me through tough times, and whom I love dearly. However, she has just started seeing this boy, and they text 20 times a day. Each. My other friend and I had to announce moratoria on texting while driving and texting while in mid-conversation. It's just rude, and I don't care how much you are smitten with someone, it is not acceptable in anyone over the age of 16. However, I'll admit that I was also annoyed by it because it was such an in-your-face reminder of my own lack of text messages.
In fact, I had sent a text off into the void this afternoon, hoping for an answer, and was met with...nothing. I'm hoping that the nothing is the result of busy-ness, or a lack of cell reception/charging, and not a sign that I'm not on the text-back list. Anyway, it's Sunday and I am tired and feeling crappy and I probably shouldn't be cooking like that, but I did cook, and it turned out great. I added extra spices and flavors to try and work out my frustration - not at the incommunicado person, but at myself, for not being able to just be happy by myself and without the reassurance of a returned text. I just wish I could be as secure in the whole dating thing as I am in every other aspect of my life. Like cooking. Anyway, here is my recipe for a dish I name the Calzones of Frustration.
Calzones of Frustration
(makes 4 large or 6 medium servings)
2 large bunches (about 10 cups, packed) swiss chard and/or spinach, washed, spun dry, trimmed and cut into large pieces
1/2 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsn EVOO
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 c. ricotta (cottage cheese would also work)
1/4 fresh or store-bought pesto (be careful with rennet in store-bought varieties)
1/4 c. grated kosher parmesan cheese
Dough (adapted from How to Cook Vegetarian by Mark Bittman):
3 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp (one packet) instant quick rise yeast
2 tsp kosher salt
1 c. warm water
3 tbsn EVOO
a pinch each of rosemary, garlic powder, and chili flakes
1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees (this will take a while). If you have one, put the pizza stone in to warm up.
2. Make the dough. Mix the dry ingredients other than the yeast together to blend. Pour yeast on top, followed by water. Mix until a dough begins to form. Add olive oil and knead for about 1 minute. Cover with a warm, damp kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to rise about an hour.
3. Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet over medium heat, cook the onions until soft and beginning to brown. Add tablespoon of olive oil and continue to cook until approaching golden brown. Add chard/spinach and salt and pepper. Cover and let cook down, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool.
4. While the greens cool, mix together the ricotta, pesto, parmesan and 1 egg.
5. When dough is risen and puffy, remove from mixing bowl and punch it down. divide it into four roughly-equal pieces. Knead each for a few turns, then flatten (either with your fingers or with a well-floured rolling pin) into disks about 8" in diameter. Layer greens and cheese in a half-moon on one side of the dough, leaving a 1" border of plain dough. Repeat with all four pieces.
6. Beat the remaining egg with a little water until scrambled. Brush the egg along the dough border and fold the remaining half-moon of dough over the filling, pressing to seal the seam and then folding the edge inward. Brush the top of each calzone with egg wash and cut a slit or two in the top to all steam to vent. Transfer to a pizza peel well-coated with corn meal.
7. Place on pizza stone in oven and bake 12-15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool 10 minutes before eating. Serve with tomato soup or marinara sauce.
Hoping tomorrow will be better. At least I had a good dinner. :0)
Friday, June 27, 2008
Several important events have occurred since I last posted. First, I planted my container garden and got it going. My herbs are doing wonderfully thanks to the charming Boston weather (I never have to water the plants - is this a great city or what?) but my tomatoes are suffering from a lack of adequate light. Thus, I am farming them out (so to speak) to my friend Matt, whose back patio gets better sun than my fire escape. I told him I'd kick in for a canning set-up so we can cook and can the tomatoes (which, if his 10 plants are any indication, will take up my entire cupboard and his) for the winter. In the meantime, I must further experiment with good marinara sauce recipes so that the onslaught of tomatoes will be fully prepared.
Second, I started working at Big Boston Firm. So far, so good - I love the people I'm working with, the work is interesting, and we (the chosen many of the BBF's summer associate program) are forever being taken to swanky venues for episodes of conspicuous consumption aimed at...something. Proving how much BBF loves us? Showing how big and powerful BBF is? Lulling us into an alcohol/Kool-Aid induced euphoric state such that we are able to ignore the full-time associates? They work hours that would make 19th-century child laborers blanch. On the other hand, they get paid a small fortune, which is more than we can say for the child laborers. I don't know if it's a forever job, but it's certainly a neat place to start.
With #2 comes...The Summer Associate Lunch. BBF is a great place to work, and there is clearly an element of work hard/play hard that is alive and well at the firm. This manifests itself as an almost-obsessive relationship with food. Every firm event has cheese and sushi and passed appetizers and wine and beer and liquor and and and...They seem to have taken Oscar Wilde's quip that nothing succeeds like excess to the logical extreme, culinary-wise. When they are not plying us with passed appetizers at evening events, we are being carted off to Legal Sea Foods and Cafe Fleuri for 3-course lunches. I have been doubling my trips to the gym and stopped eating dinner just to keep up.
All of this eating, though, has led me to an important discovery. While I like to eat and enjoy food, what I really like to do is cook and to share the eating experience with friends. I've been eating at all these fancy-schmancy restaurants and I take much less joy than I'd expect in eating the (magnificent and excessive) food. I'd be much happier going to Cosi and getting a cup of tomato basil soup and sitting in the quiet. Or, better yet, bringing a picnic lunch and popping a squat in Post Office Square with my friends.
All this by way of saying - I'm glad I'm home for the weekend so that I can cook a little. In the meantime, I'm going to dream of sandwiches.
Ultimate Simple Toasted Cheese Sandwiches
Note: This is hardly a recipe - it's more of a technique. The key to a good toasted cheese sandwich is high-quality ingredients, particularly great bread. Look for something crusty with a little give - smooshy enough to meld with the filling, but hearty enough not to disintegrate. In other words, no Wonder Bread or similar product. If you don't like this combination, other combinations that would work well are listed after the recipe.
4 1/2"-thick slices of fresh sourdough bread (if you are in the market for a good local bakery, I highly recommend Clear Flower on Thorndike Street in Brookline. More on this next post)
1 1/4-lb. block extra-sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 tsp. Dijon mustard (or other mustard, if you are so inclined)
1 large or 2 medium ripe tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil (either spray or bottled with a pastry brush)
1. If you have a panini press or similar counter-top sandwich press, preheat it for several minutes. If cooking on the stovetop, use a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat (and still pre-heat for a couple minutes). Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes and cheese into 1/4" slices, enough to cover the bread.
2. Lightly spread the interior of each slice of bread with the mustard and sprinkle with a bit of salt and fresh-ground pepper.
3. Spray or brush the exterior side of the two bottom pieces of bread with olive oil and lay on the griddle. Layer tomatoes, then cheese, and the top layer of bread, and again spray/brush with olive oil.
4. Cook for about 5 minutes (watching closely) or until bread exterior is crunchy and golden and cheese has melted. If cooking in a skillet, flip sandwich after ~4 minutes, pressing down on sandwich to achieve maximum smoosh (that's a technical term). Serve hot, before tomatoes make bread soggy. Goes great with tomato soup.
~White cheddar, apple and honey mustard or just plain honey.
~Manchego and sliced dried Calamyra figs (honey drizzle optional)
~Gruyere, spinach and thinly sliced sweet onion
~Mozzerella, roasted red pepper and maple-balsamic vinaigrette or any form of pesto.
~(if you're feeling really decadent) Peanut butter and fruit (apples/bananas/strawberries) with Nutella or honey.