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Archive for August, 2008

So, my camera sucks.

Until I learn how to take lovely pictures of food, I will have to resort to posting my mediocre pictures. I apologize in advance, but I am practicing and hopefully things will get better.

Now, on to my couscous.

We’ve gotten tomatoes, zucchini, and basil in every CSA box so far this summer, and here’s a recipe I invented to use some of them up. It actually makes zucchini taste interesting. The measurements aren’t exact, and really, if you don’t have an ingredient, you can probably skip it (except, obviously, the couscous). Just use what you’ve got.

Ingredients

Zucchini – two small, or one large, diced
Tomatoes – any kind…1 big one, two small, a handful of cherry tomotoes, whatever
Couscous – I love the pearl kind (also called Israeli)… I used two cups
Broth and/or water – however much the package calls for, minus a little bit, like 1/4 cup since the vegetables give off a lot
Olive oil – 1 -2 tablespoons
Red pepper flakes – a tiny pinch or so
Pine nuts
Basil, other herbs, or a spoonful of pesto
Garlic – as much or as little as you like
Salt and pepper
Parmigian cheese

Directions

– Heat olive oil in a heavy pan. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes and the chopped garlic. Saute for a minute or two.

– Add the pine nuts and stir until they are lightly toasted.

– Add the diced zucchini and some salt and pepper. Saute for a few minutes until the zucchini starts to soften. Don’t cook it too long or it will be soggy when the dish is finally done.

– Add the water or broth, and bring to a boil.

– When the water starts boiling, stir in the fresh chopped tomatoes and the herbs, then add the couscous.

– Cover the pot and cook according to the package’s directions.

– When it’s all cooked, stir in some parmigian cheese, and some extra basil, if you’d like.

And there you have it.

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I adore arugula. It is crunchy and peppery, good for you, and way more interesting than lettuce. So, any time I see it on a menu, I instantly gravitate towards it.

This salad was inspired by what was probably the tastiest salad I’ve ever eaten, at a wonderful little restaurant in Sonoma, the girl & the fig. The exact salad had arugula, figs, goat cheese, candied pecans, and pancetta, but I simplified it somewhat for an easy dinner side dish, and added some radichio because it was in my fridge. It had the added bonus of giving it some pretty color, so I think it’s worth tossing in if you can find it.

Ingredients
Arugula
Radicchio
Figs
Goat cheese
Dressing
Olive oil
Cider Vinegar
Honey
Salt & Pepper
I didn’t really measure anything out, so just eyeball it.

The arugula I used was mostly small leaves, so I didn’t chop it. I just tossed it straight into a large bowl. I then chopped up a bit of radicchio and 4 or 5 large fresh figs, and added those.

I made a dressing with approximately two tablespoons of olive oil, a splash of cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and a bit of honey. Wisked that up, and poured it over the salad, and tossed it. Finally, I added a couple tablespoons of crumbled goat cheese. Whenever I use cheese in salad, I always add the salad dressing before the cheese – with the leaves all oiled up, the cheese doesn’t clump together as much when you start to toss it, and it’s much more likely to stay its white-ish color and not get stained by the dressing.

And voila – easy, gourmet salad.


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Yes, you read that right.

A couple years ago, I became intrigued by the wonders of herbs in desserts when I made Martha Stewart’s Pine Nut Cookies with Rosemary. They are pretty amazing, and always a hit at parties. So, I like trying to find ways to use herbs in desserts. According to Food and Wine, this is also all the rage among pastry chefs these days, so clearly I am on the cutting edge of desserts.
So, here are two recipes that worked for me.

Lemon-Herb Sorbet
Two weeks ago, we received lemon verbena in our farm share. I had never even seen this herb, let alone cooked with it, so I had to do a bit of internet research to figure out what to do with it. I found a few lemon verbena desserts online, and this sorbet was born. The inspiration for this dish came from two different recipes, but it is mostly an arugulove original.


Ingredients
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of sugar
a few strips of lemon zest
3 or 4 sprigs of lemon verbena
1 or 2 sprigs of rosemary
1-2 tablespoons of some kind of alcohol
* This is to keep the sorbet from freezing into a solid block of ice. The more you add, the longer it will take to freeze, and the softer it will be. I’d put 1 tablespoon if you want to eat it in the next day or two, more if you’ll hold on to it longer. I used dry white wine, but vodka, limoncello, grappa, or whatever you’ve got on hand that will taste good will work.

Directions
Bring water, lemon juice, and sugar to a boil, and cook until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the alcohol, lemon zest, and herbs. Cover and let it cool completely.

Once it has cooled, strain the herbs and zest out.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker for 20-25 minutes. Pour into a container and freeze for at least 6 hours.


The resulting sorbet will be more mild and interesting than traditional lemon sorbet. It is not distinctively herbal, but the herbs definitely elevate it into something a little more sophisticated. If you were really ambitious, you could make a batch of those Pine Nut Rosemary cookies to serve with the sorbet for a very elegant dessert.


I recently saw this in Food and Wine and thought it would be a good contribution to a dinner party. Thankfully, my gut instinct was a good one, as the dessert was a success. It’s a mildly flavored, fruity cake, with very interesting flavors. It really doesn’t taste like anything I’ve ever had before. But it looks and sounds very restaurant-ish, so I definitely recommend this if you want to impress.
Before I moved to the west coast, I didn’t realize that one could buy fresh figs, but apparently they are in season out here…who knew?

Ingredients
CAKE
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons pastry flour
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons bread flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
5 large egg whites

FIGS
1 pound fresh figs, quartered or sliced
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped thyme, plus 12 thyme sprigs for garnish
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup crème fraîche

Directions

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper and coat lightly with nonstick vegetable oil spray. (I didn’t use parchment paper, and it came out fine.)
In a medium bowl, stir the pastry flour with the bread flour and baking powder. In a large bowl, mix the egg yolks with the olive oil, water, thyme, salt and vanilla and 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of the sugar. With a handheld electric mixer, beat the egg yolk mixture at medium speed until very frothy, about 3 minutes. I guess you could probably use a stand mixer, but since you need so many bowls, the electric mixer worked out well.


Add the flour mixture and mix at low speed until the flour is fully incorporated.


In a clean bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy.

Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until the egg whites are thick and glossy, about 4 minutes. Scoop a cup of the beaten egg whites into the batter and stir until combined.

Fold the remaining egg whites into the batter until no streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 minutes, until the cake is golden and starts to pull away from the side. Set the pan on a rack and let the cake cool completely, about 1 hour.


To make the figs, cut them in quarters or halves and put them in a medium size bowl.

Toss them with the sugar, olive oil, chopped thyme, black pepper and salt. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, until the figs begin to soften and release their juices.

I had fig issues. I had envisioned something more syrupy, and after they sat for an hour, they were still pretty dry, you could still see the grains of sugar, and there was not a lot of liquid in the bowl.

See what I mean?

So I added a couple tablespoons of water, stirred, and let it sit for another half an hour. It still wasn’t right, so I added two more tablespoons of water, another teaspoon of sugar, and another pinch of salt and pepper. Much better. By the time we ate the dessert about four hours later, it had just the right amount of liquid. So experiement here to get the right consistency.

To serve, cut the cake into 12 rectangles and transfer to plates. Spoon the figs and their juices over the cake slices, top each slice with a dollop of crème fraîche and a thyme sprig.

I admit, I omitted the thyme spring, but I still think the finished product looks pretty good. Well, better looking than this photo. I have camera issues. This is the only finished product picture I have, so you will just have to trust me that looked good in real life.


And it tasted divine.

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On Friday, our farm share box contained a ton of beautiful heirloom tomatoes. Some of them were really ripe, so I wanted to use them quickly. Food and Wine had a good looking recipe in their July issue, which focused on local produce, so it seemed like a fitting way to use them up.

The recipe comes from Brian McBride of the Blue Duck Tavern in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to try it while I was living there, but I may have to try to put it on my agenda for my next visit back.

Pickled Farm Stand Tomatoes with Jalapenos

Ingredients
1 cup rice vinegar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

* this seemed like a lot of liquid, so I reduced them each to 3/4 cup

1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
6 tomatoes (1 1/2 pounds), each cut into 6 wedges

* I used the six tomatoes shown, plus a handful of the cherry tomatoes cut in half
4 scallions, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, thinly sliced into rings and seeded

Directions
In a medium saucepan, bring the vinegar, brown sugar and salt to a boil, stirring. Remove from the heat.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil. Add the garlic, grated ginger, mustard seeds, black pepper, turmeric, ground cumin and cayenne pepper and cook over low heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

At this point, your kitchen will smell amazing.

Carefully pour the hot oil into the vinegar mixture. Tumeric can stain, so you want to be careful when you pour to avoid splatters staining your clothes.



In a large heatproof bowl, combine the tomatoes, scallions and jalapeños. I didn’t follow directions and diced my jalapeno instead of slicing it.

Stir in the hot pickling liquid and let stand at room temperature for 4 hours or refrigerate for 8 hours, then serve.

The magazine suggests serving it with fish or steak, but I ate it with a simple lunch of bread, cheese, and olives. Absolutely wonderful!

And, even with my reducing the liquid, it created a lot. I wound up chopping additional tomatoes and throwing it into the mix after eating some.

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