Monday, May 31, 2010

May Favorites

Homemade Tangy Frozen Yogurt. A recipe has filtered through the Internet like a game of telephone. It started with David Lebovitz, then Heidi at 101 Cookbooks posted the recipe, and commentators left all kinds of wonderful suggestions for variations. Boston Globe picked it up, playing with proportions and creating four tasty flavor combinations of its own. I've adopted the honey-lemon version as my go-to summer 2010 treat. Don't laugh: it makes the most refreshing breakfast served over berries from the market. If you love Pinkberry, Red Mango, Tangysweet, Mr. Yogato, and the like, this recipe is for you.

Potato & Vanilla Mousse with Caviar. Three weeks after tasting it, I'm still dreaming about this dish from Cafe Atlantico's latino dim sum brunch.* That, and the seared cigala with vanilla oil. Come to think of it, I'm obsessing over vanilla—this recipe from the Washington Post is next on my list.

Fried lemon slices at Palena. Really.

Farmer's Market pasta toss. Sautee 2–3 cups of veggies scored at the market in 1/4 cup of garlic-infused olive oil, liberally season with salt and crushed red pepper, toss with a pound of pasta, and top with chopped fresh herbs and citrus zest. I made a refreshing version this weekend with zucchini, ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms, celery leaves, and orange zest.

*I swear it has nothing to do with the smokin' hot Spanish waiter who served it.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Spring on a Plate

The firsts of springs are such a thrill, especially after last winter's icy, gloomier-than-usual reign. About six weeks ago, Whole Foods started selling the first halibut of the season. Fresh peas made an appearance in delicate, delicious raviolis and agnolottis on menus all over the city. Then the farmer's market opened, with its beautiful, thin stalks of asparagus, zippy greens, ripe strawberries, and peonies that bloomed for weeks. Last weekend I scored the first of the market's squash blossoms—our most rabid spring-produce obsession—and knew just what to do with them. This dish is great for company because it's a luxurious, self-contained meal that can be assembled and chilled for up to 4 hours before popping it into the oven.

Halibut Fillets in Parchment with Asparagus and Stuffed Squash Blossoms*

Adapted from Bon Appetit

16–20 squash blossoms, stamens and calyxes removed
2 tablespoons butter
1 leek (white part only), finely chopped
4 15x15-inch squares parchment paper
4 5-ounce halibut fillets, rinsed and pat dry
1 large bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 navel oranges, one juiced and one sliced
4 large sprigs tarragon

Preheat oven to 400°. Gently open squash blossom petals and inspect for bugs. Swish in a bowl of cold water, pat dry. Stuff each blossom with a spoonful of ricotta and set aside. Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add leeks and sautee until tender, about 7 minutes. Set aside. Place parchment squares on work surface. Butter half of each parchment square; top buttered half of each with 1 fish fillet. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper; top each fillet with a spoonful of sauteed leeks, a sprig of tarragon, and a slice of orange. Arrange asparagus and 4–5 squash blossoms around each fish fillet; pour 2 tablespoons orange juice over each. Fold parchment over fish and asparagus, folding and crimping edges tightly to seal and enclose filling completely. Place on 2 rimmed baking sheets, spacing apart.

Bake fish packets 17 minutes. Slide packets onto plates and serve.

*In the fall, we use pomegranate seeds in lieu of squash blossoms for a seasonal variation.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

14th and U, I love you!

After reading about Wendy's mouth-watering dinner created straight out of her fresh produce box, I was more than psyched to make my first pilgrimage of the year to our wonderful little farmer's market at 14th and U last Saturday. I picked up all kinds of goodies, including a few ingredients for last night's meal: hot! hot! hot! mustard greens, sweet Italian sausages from Truck Patch, and my favorite goat cheese, Monocacy Ash from Cherry Glen Farm. Combined with a few other elements, they came together to make one of our most beloved dishes—Red Beet Risotto with Mustard Greens and Goat Cheese—with roasted sausages* on the side. Not only is the risotto bursting with complementary flavors—sweet and earthy ones from the beets, tang from the goat cheese and balsamic vinegar, fiery spice from the mustard greens—it's also a rock-n-roll magenta color. We happily gobbled up the leftovers tonight, but that means no more for tomorrow!

Red Beet Risotto with Mustard Greens and Goat Cheese
Bon Appetit, February 2007

1/4 cup butter
2 beets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 1/2 cups chopped white onion
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups low-salt chicken or veggie broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups chopped mustard greens
5 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add beets and onion. Cover; cook until onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Mix in rice and cook for a minute. Add broth** and vinegar. Increase heat; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered until rice and beets are just tender and risotto is creamy, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper, and mix in greens and goat cheese.

*Like, really really roasted, within an inch of their lives. Thanks a lot, Jamie Oliver. 25 minutes? Next time I'll try 15. (I still love you.)

**Add 1/2 cup of broth at a time until the rice has absorbed the liquid if you want to feel like you're completely ruling the risotto. I've made it both ways and find the end result nearly identical, I hate to say it.

Photo via La Tartine Gourmande. (Sorry, I can't bring myself to stop eating and start photographing my dinner. It just seems weird.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fresh Food After Weeks of Fast Food

We spent weeks eating fast food while we were moving across the country and getting settled into our new house. Finally we were able to start cooking real food. Every Friday afternoon Door to Door Organics delivers a produce box and we discover the surprises inside.

This meal was Leek and Potato Soup, salad with fresh fruit and blueberry honey balsamic dressing, and a glass of Pimm's with fresh chopped fruit. After weeks of eating fake food this tasted truly divine! Even with the 25 minutes of simmering the soup was really quick to make. The only thing that could have made it better would have been regular potatoes, but the produce box had purple potatoes so the Leek and Potato Soup turned an unappetizing shade of gray. Fortunately, it tasted better than it looked!

Blueberry Honey Balsamic Dressing
(all amounts are approximate)
3 parts extra virgin olive oil
2 parts balsamic vinegar
1 part blueberry honey
1 part lemon juice
Leek and Potato Soup
From Jack Bishop's Vegetables Every Day - the best veggie cookbook for engineers - I love the way it's organized
4 medium leeks
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1. Trim and discard the dark green tops and tough outer leaves from the leeks. Remove the roots along with a thin slice of the nearby white part. Halve the leeks lengthwise and then cut them crosswise into this strips. Wash the sliced leeks in a large bowl with several changes of clan water or until no grit falls to the bottom of the bowl.

2. Heat the oil in a large casserole or Dutch oven. Add the leeks and saute over medium heat until tender and golden, about 10 minutes (do not let the leeks brown).

3. Add potatoes, stock bay leaf, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.

4. Use the back of a wooden spoon to crush some of the potatoes against the side of the pot to thicken the texture of the soup [I skipped this because I think smooshed potatoes are one of the worst textures and I really didn't need it to turn even more gray]. Leave some of the potato chunks intact. Remove the bay leaf ans stir in the parsley. Adjust the seasonings and serve immediately.