May 2012


I’m so incredibly thankful right now that I’m road tripping to my friend’s house in Green Bay on Saturday (to run a f**king marathon in 80-f**king degree weather, PLUS 10-20 mph winds! … Deep breath. Composure. I’m good.), and bringing dinner with me.  Because, people, if it weren’t so, I’d be leaving leafy greens at the neighbors’ doorsteps without a note.  Instead of being the anonymous zucchini dumper, I would be the anonymous leafy green leaver. Oh, ugh, that was bad.

Bad alliteration aside, if you haven’t figured it out, I’ve got a cornucopia of green veggies on my hands.

Though they are so very beautiful. And I’m thankful for that, too.

The lettuces will go in an entree salad this evening, tomorrow, on Saturday, and throughout next week until they’re gone.

Young onions will go into the spaghetti sauce I’m making for dinner on Saturday. The rest of them?  No clue… yet.

Radishes will also find their way into salad and on my breakfast plate with a sprinkle of fleur de sel. The greens will be sauteed and combined with my Growing Power scrambled eggs.

Cabbage… maybe cabbage rolls, and/or a mexican slaw with tacos. I’m in need of some inspiration here.  I’m not a Kimchi fan, so don’t even suggest it.

Isn’t this baby pac choi gorgeous?!?

I don’t cook much Asian cuisine, and every other time I’ve  tried to cook pac choi (aka bok choy), I didn’t get it quite right (stem too crunchy, leaves too slimy).  I’ll be scouring the recipe sites and cookbooks for some serious guidance this time around. It’s just too beautiful to mess up.  If you have pac choi expertise or just some fav recipes up your sleeve, please share.

I’ll share what I do with this bounty over the next couple of weeks.  Until then, take 2 minutes to get cozy with Kermit.

I’ve nearly finished dumping everything perishable in my refrigerator and freezer, which stopped working last night.  Yes, my heart hurts from throwing out homemade yogurt, pork jowl, beef tenderloin, homemade chicken broth, and all manner of other items that I was planning to use over the next few weeks.

Luckily, I had pie to comfort me.

The crust was made just like a basic butter pastry crust, but I subbed plain yogurt for water, at Rose Levy Berenbaum’s suggestion.  I can see why she recommended it–the tangy flavor of the crust does complement the tartness of the lime filling, but 1) it was a devil to work with, cracking all over creation, and 2) I missed the stage-center flavor of butter, which in this crust is masked slightly by the yogurt.

In all fairness, I used another type of flour, so that could have contributed to the difficulty I had keeping the dough in one piece.  On a whim, I decided to use self-rising White Lily flour that I found at a local grocery store in the area (Sendik’s, for those of you who live in Milwaukee).  It’s a bleached white flour with leavener added.  I understand it’s very popular in the South. Since I usually add 1/8 teaspoon baking powder to my crusts, I thought, why not? But it feels very soft. Almost cake flour soft, so it might not work out for me.

The filling was dreamy. It was actually supposed to be a lemon pucker pie from Berenbaum’s Pie and Pastry Bible, but since I had an overabundance of limes from our Casa de Collett Margarita Party (the best margaritas in the Midwest!),  limes it was going to be!

I started by making a lime curd*.  Then I made a stiff meringue*.  Then I folded the curd into the meringue (I keep wanting to spell merengue! Let’s dance!).  Voilá!  Filling done.  I dumped it into my fully pre-baked pie crust, and into the oven it went for about 20 minutes until the top was golden.  It was actually half golden, and half light brown, because my oven is terribly uneven and I forgot to turn it 10 minutes in.  But it was still pretty… until I cut into it.  That meringue-curd filling stuck to the knife no matter what I did!

But I still ate it.  So did my colleagues.  Pucker up, buttercup.

* Note:  these are not the recipes I used, but they’re close and will serve you well if you want to try them. 

For Sunday dinner, I tried a mint pesto with the wild mint that came in my CSA share.  It had mint, parsley, parmigiana reggiano, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil.  What better to pair it with than lots of grilled treats, including a lamb skewers, asparagus, red onion, and the obligatory accoutrements:  minted yogurt sauce and smoky hummus (made with smoked paprika).  I also made a brown rice pilaf with a touch of the wild mint, peas, and lemon zest.  Topped with ricotta salata, it made a great side dish.

The whole thing sounds like quite a feast to behold, right? Well, turns out the wild mint is just too bitter to be a star in a thing like pesto.  This ain’t your typical mojito mint. And my limited culinary training is failing me in terms of how to adequately tame its bitterness. Adding sugar doesn’t seem right, but I might try it.

Because I’m such a nutcase about not wasting food, I’m going to at least attempt to use the rest of it.  I’m thinking of rubbing it on some chicken parts (with skin and bone) and grilling it.  Perhaps cooking will mellow the flavor?  If anyone is reading this, your suggestions are most welcome.

On Monday, I finally stuck to the meatless theme I’ve been trying to incorporate for months, but because of the abundance of pesky leftovers from Sunday dinner or the need to use other items in my refrigerator that will otherwise take a turn for the worse, my efforts to date have failed.

This time, victory was mine! I made arugula pesto with the gorgeous arugula that came in my CSA box. Basically, it was just like a basil pesto, but I subbed walnuts for the pine nuts.  Seasoned liberally with salt and pepper, it was fresh tasting and rich at the same time.  I also managed to incorporate into the meal more of the green garlic from the share and the asparagus I bought at the grocery store (totally an impulse buy).   Randy is the household grillmaster, so he grilled the asparagus and green garlic, which I then chopped and added to the pasta.

I topped the whole bit with ricotta salata (yes, I’m trying to use it up, but it’s also terrific cheese with just the right amount of bite and salt).

Served with a green leaf lettuce salad (from my CSA share), and homemade sourdough bread (made with my own starter), and a bit of brie (damn those “tiny treats” from Whole Foods!), it was a dinner to remember… and repeat!

I brought home my first batch of beautiful veggies from High Cross Farm yesterday!

Since it’s probably hard to identify everything in the photo, here’s the list:

  • RHUBARB, and a whole 3 lbs!  Yum-OH!
  • Green garlic
  • Arugula
  • Wild (!) mint that they foraged from the woods.  (How cool is that?)
  • Oregano
  • Baby Kale
  • Baby Chard
  • Lettuce
  • Garlic mustard, which is an invasive plant in this area, and honestly, I’m not overwhelmingly excited about cooking with it, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

I was in a bit of hurry after I got home last night, since I had plans to go to this.  (It was great fun!) I decided to make life easy.

I washed the lettuces and arugula, and made myself a big spanish-inspired salad.  I started off by making a quick sherry viniagrette that I can use all week long:

1/4 cup sherry vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, smashed
3/4  cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine everything in a jar, and shake the bejeezus out of it until it emulsifies. Easy.

Note:  The ratio for viniagrette is 3-1. Three parts oil to 1 part acid, which can be lemon/lime juice or vinegar.  You can play with this ratio to your own taste, but it’s great to have it in your back pocket when you don’t have time to prepare a fancy salad dressing with lots of ingredients. Plus it’s endlessly adaptable. Add fresh herbs, capers, honey, soy, even cheese.

Note 2:  When you combine garlic and oil, and leave it there for a long time, that’s a recipe for botulism. So don’t think you can keep the dressing indefinitely.  Use it or throw it out after a week, 10 days tops.  See? There are reasons behind these storage guidelines we see everywhere.   

I doctored up the salad with julienned piquillo peppers, slivered pieces of Pamplona style salami from Bolzano’s, Bel Gioso ricotta salata (I didn’t have manchego on hand, OK?), red onion and radishes.

I would have added chickpeas as well if they weren’t frozen solid in their cooking juice in my freezer.  And some sea-salted marcona almonds would have added some crunch and an extra hit of rich flavor, too, but like I said, I was in a hurry.  And it was a great salad without these additions.

I’m already dreaming about breakfast from my CSA:  soft scrambled eggs with sauteed greens and green garlic.

But I have to go for my run first.

Happy trails, and happy cooking!

After attending the Local Farmers’ Open House at the Urban Ecology Center, where Randy and I are members, I decided that a spring greens and produce share sounded like a fabulous idea. Just a few farms offer spring shares, and I decided to go with High Cross, a well-established farm in Campbellsport. (I will likely go with a different farm for the summer share.)

Image

Is this little baby not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? One of the ram lamb residents of High Cross Farm.

I got in the game a bit late, so instead of four boxes, I’m getting three, and I pick up my first one today!  Yippee!

I’m hoping for some rhubarb along with all the other lovely spring greens.  I have an unhealthy obsession with rhubarb, so you know, I might freak if it’s not in at least one of these boxes.  I actually ruled out a couple of CSA farms only because they don’t grow rhubarb.  So yeah, I’m pretty serious about the stuff.

Anyway, I’m anxious to share what I get in my box (it’s like opening a present!), and what I do with it.  Until then, have a happy hangover week.

According to Bon Appetit magazine, this week is Hangover Week, and these, my friends, are boozy popsicles. Salivate away.

We have just finished cleaning up the last dishes from our 5th annual Cinco de Mayo party.  We still have to put the furniture back in place, but I’m feeling good about having a clean kitchen again.  So good in fact, that I’m making me some homemade yogurt this morning.  Mmmm.

Despite the hefty amount of preparation that went into my Mexican feast, I still managed to squeak out my weekly pie.  In the spirit of Mexico’s sweet victory against Napoleon in the 1862 Battle of Puebla, I made a sweet treat:  empanadas with carmelized apple and almond filling.

Here are the little beauties.

No, there’s no booze in the empanadas. The picture is also paying homage to Randy’s best-in-Milwaukee margaritas.

Ok, they’re not that beautiful, but some of them were way worse! The thing about empanadas and other items requiring putzy assemblage is that the more you do it, the better you get at crimping those pretty little edges. This won’t be the last time you see empanadas on my blog!

I used a recipe from my go-to book for these parties, Fiesta at Rick’s. It’s a fun book, and you can really riff on the recipes and not screw them up. Bonus!

To make them, use your favorite pie dough recipe and maybe add a touch more water if you’re like me. (For regular pies, I keep the dough as dry as possible, but still able to be rolled. You really have to handle the dough a lot with empanadas, so adding a touch more water will ensure they don’t fall apart on you.)

Roll it out into a big sheet or round, about 1/8 inch thick, and cut 3.5-4 inch circles.

Saute apples in butter with brown sugar and a pinch of salt until they’re good and caramelized.

Use almond paste, diluted with water for a spreadable consistency.  (Or you can use any nut you like. Grind it up in a food processor, then add a bit of butter to make it spreadable.)

For each empanada, spread a scant teaspoon of almond paste and top with a couple of teaspoons of apples.  Crimp the edges in anyway you like.  Here’s a good 1-minute tutorial.

At this stage, you can either freeze them or bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Brush with an egg yolk/water mixture, then pop them back into the oven for a few minutes to brown slightly.

Delicioso.