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Archive for May, 2009

An omelette for two

Eating from the garden is so gratifying, even when it’s just one or two ingredients.  We happen to have a sorrel plant that just keeps getting bigger, and bigger, and…

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And we just can’t seem to make a dent in it, no matter what we do.  A friend from work suggested a potato and sorrel gratin….mmm sounds delish.

But for the time being, we harvested a measly two mongo leaves for omelets.  Sorrel has a tartness to it, similar to those little yellow flowers that I used to chew on in grade school…and as a matter of fact, those weed flowers are called Oxalis because of the oxalic acid they contain, and it is that same oxalic acid that is found in sorrel.  When cooked, however, sorrel looses it’s sharpness, but keeps that gentle lemony flavor.  For that reason, it’s wonderful with eggs, cheese, and a whole host of rich foods.

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When making omelettes, I like to have all the ingredients ready in bowls since the process goes pretty quickly.

How to Make and Omelette

Scott placed an 8-inch teflon pan over medium-low heat, and allowed it to heat through (be sure you don’t over heat your teflon pan).  Then he added a knob of butter and used a plastic spatula to swirl it around, coating the surface.  As the butter’s sizzle began to quiet, he poured in the eggs (we used three per omelette)  which had been gently whisked with a fork.  As soon as the eggs hit the pan, he stirred by swirling the pan and moving the spatula simultaneously.  He let it sit for about 30 seconds, and then he gently scooted the spatula in there, moving the curds and tipping the pan to let the uncooked egg find it’s way to the heat.  Let it sit for another 30 seconds and then slipped the spatula in around the edges, making sure that the bottom was fully cooked and that the eggs would release from the pan.  Sitting for another 30 seconds, he topped one half of the omelette with our chopped sorrel and grated cheese (“what kind?” you ask…I have no idea…it was a languishing nub leftover from something).  Then he used the spatula to ease the un-topped edge up and over, allowing space for one more fold to occur.

Ta da!  Yummy, fresh, fast, local, and filling.  We ate ours with baby lettuces and buttered toast.  And I was happy.

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Miracle of May

It just never gets old.  And I love it.  Love it, love it, love it.  Little buds are positively exciting.

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And as for the evening light…nothing could be better.  Life is beautiful in the evening light.  Oh, the glow.

P4220035This is true happiness, I can tell you with certainty!

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Peachy Keen

Scott made fried chicken for dinner the other night (and may I just say that his fried chicken rocks!), complete with greens and spoonbread.  So I figured that a peach cobbler might just round out the meal perfectly.  (I think we may need to find ourselves a roommate who can help us with all these leftovers…)  My brother-in-law Reilly had recently given me the recipe for a cobbler-like dish, and I was itching to try it with the first-of-the-season peaches that I had sitting in my fruit bowl.

And I can’t stop eating it.  I’ve downed an awful lot of it for the past few days after work, standing up, eating right out of the pan.  It’s another one of those super-simple recipes… melt, mix, dump, bake… that reminds me of something my grandmother would have thrown together while vacuuming, telling the boys to “take it outside”, and mending a scuffed knee. There’s something about these simple, “old fashioned” desserts that just seem so homey.

P5200062The thing I love about this is that it’s a bit lighter than a traditional cobbler. Rather than biscuit dough dappled on top of the fruit, this recipe has a cake-like batter poured on top.  And the part of the cake that touches the fruit underneath takes on a really yummy, almost chewy quality.

P5200078And I swear, it just gets oooeyer, and gooeyer, chewier, and yummier (one of these words is not like the others…) the next day.

Peachy Keen Cobber-Cake

  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon bourbon
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups cut unpeeled peaches

Preheat the oven to 350.

Cut the peaches into chunks and place them in a small bowl.  Pour 1/4 cup of the white sugar and a small pinch of salt over them and stir to barely combine.  Allow them to sit and macerate while you prepare the rest of the cake.

Place the cold butter in an 8×8 pyrex baking dish (or something comparable) and put the baking dish in the oven as it preheats.  The butter will be melted by the time you’re ready for it.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, flour, baking powder and salt.  Mix.  Pour the milk all-at-once into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Remove the hot baking dish from the oven when the butter is completely melted.  Pour the fruit into the bottom of the dish and use a spatula to even it out and push the fruit to the edges.  Pour the batter over the fruit and even it out slightly with the spatula.

Pop the baking dish in the oven and bake for about 1 hour. It should be a nice deep golden brown.

Allow to cool slightly before serving.

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I like to refer to this as “the roasted carrot salad” even though carrots are not, by any means, the main ingredient.  But they are my favorite ingredient, and I’m totally smitten with them.  The deal is this…I love the idea of carrots, but I’ve never really been a big carrot eater.  Raw carrots, sure.  Pickled carrots, heck ya.  But cooked carrots, plain, in just butter.  Ehh, not so much.  Then I happened upon this fun little method and I fell in love.  Shall I say it again?  Love, I tell you.  It all started with Mister Jamie (Oliver, that is).  I know, I know, that’s two Jamie inspired dinners back to back, but what can I say?  (I may have fallen in love with him too…)  Eh hem.  Back to the carrots.

Versatile Dinner Salad

So I took those bee-u-tiful carrots that I pulled from the garden, peeled them, and cut them into halves and quarters, lengthwise.  Threw them in a shallow sauce pan, and barely covered them with salted water.  Brought the water to a simmer, and cooked them at a gentle simmer until they were just done, with a little tooth left.  Meanwhile, I had prepared a high acid vinaigrette using equal parts vinegar (sherry and red wine) and extra-virgin olive oil.  Into the vinaigrette, I threw a small pinch of crushed cumin, a small pinch of crushed caraway, a bit of chili flake, and a few leaves of chopped mint.  (Of course when I say “pinch”, I’m referring to my own little hands, so you crazy big-handed folk may want to scale back a bit!)

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There’s that vinaigrette just longing for those hot, simmered carrots to bathe in it.  Let the hot carrots hang out in the vinaigrette for about 10 minutes so they really soak up the flavor.  Then I pulled the carrots out of the vinaigrette, threw them into a pan, and put them under the broiler until they were slightly charred and roasty-looking.

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When they were done, I just pulled ’em out of the oven and let them cool while I put the rest of the salad together.

P5180028I used “little gem” lettuces, which is an heirloom cross of romaine and butter lettuce, but don’t think of this “salad” as being mostly lettuce.  All the other stuff played principle roles.  I threw in a little sliced spring onion that I macerated in some of that carrot vinaigrette while the carrots were roasting in the oven.  Avocado is a must in this salad if you ask me, and then I tossed in some rice.  Oh,…and those lovely beets.  I flaked in some tuna, right out of the can, and tossed it all with a little more olive oil.  You may find that you need more vinaigrette, depending upon how much you made in the first place…taste it and decide.  And you’ll likely need a pinch of salt too.

P5180035You know when you dig in to dinner sometimes, and you can’t even stop to talk about how good it is because you just keep stuffing it in?  Yup, that’s what happened.

So the reason that this salad is so great, is that it’s built using categories.  The lettuce/ greens, the starch, the protein…

I use whatever lettuce I can find at the farmer’s market.  Arugula, frisee, chicories…

We often use left-over shredded chicken as our protein, but tuna or even hard-cooked eggs, sliced into wedges are great too.

And for the starch, you can really go crazy.

  • Beans
  • Rice (red, white black, brown, wild)…so many possibilities
  • lentils (a true favorite)
  • staled bread croutons, tossed in oil and toasted in the oven ’til golden
  • left-over potatoes, cut into chunks and tossed in
  • farro, quinoa or other grains

And as I said before, we always use avocado.  Seriously.  It’s a must.

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Sit down, Emily

I literally have to speak those words out loud to myself for them to work.  And still, they usually don’t.  A girl with too many hobbies, I am.  Oh, woe is me!  But I finally did sit down, on a Saturday for a full five minutes, when I remembered that I’d intended to cook those gorgeous beets that I pulled from the garden a few days ago.  I plan to use them in a great hot-weather dish along side the carrots tomorrow night…

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Cooking Beets

Typically I roast beets in a tightly-covered pan with just a splash of water in the oven, but since my beets range in size, I decided to do it on the stove top, where I can easily lift the lid and pull out the small ones as they finish.  And since I am doing it stove-top, I added a little more water than I otherwise would.  This is what I did:

  • wash ’em
  • trim the tops, leaving about an inch of stem intact
  • throw ’em in a pot that fits them snugly
  • add about an inch of water, and a generous sprinkling of salt
  • Slap a lid on
  • simmer until a paring knife will poke in without resistance
  • allow them to cool slightly so that you can handle them
  • peel the skin off, using a paper towel for assistance
  • trim the tops and tails so that they don’t look like little red rats…hee, hee
  • sprinkle with a little more salt and red wine vinegar
  • slice or wedge and eat!

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Smashed Fava Beans

P5140022I get the impression that fava beans are irksome to some people.  I can’t tell you how many times I hear people at the farmer’s market say, “Wow, you’re getting a lot of favas.  But they take so long to shuck!”  I just look at them and shrug.  I really love favas.  They taste like the smell of freshly mowed lawns and newly dug soil.

But I view the act of shucking favas as something other than work.  It’s a job made for relaxation and conversation.  The job acts as a reminder that sometimes you’ve got to just slow down and do one thing at a time.  (And trust me, I’m not usually that girl).  I love to take two bowls out into the yard, sit down in a shady spot, and shuck them in the garden.  Shucking beans and listening to the birds chirp.  You can’t help but feel relaxed.

But I often wait for Scott to get home from work before I pull them out of the fridge to start shucking.  It allows us to talk about the day as our fingers work away.  And the job is always completed long before the conversation is!

I came upon this recipe last year, about 2 weeks after favas had gone out of season, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  It couldn’t be simpler, and it’s based on a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home (by the way, does anyone else lust for that awesome farmhouse and garden?) But be sure to use nice tender beans.  Don’t wait until the end of the season when you’ll find only mature, starchy favas.  It just won’t be the same.

Smashed Fava Beans on Toast

Now, you know that I didn’t measure as I went, because that’s just now how I cook.  But here’s what I used:

  • raw fava beans
  • raw, sweet English peas
  • a few mint leaves
  • aged Pecorino
  • salt

I probably used about 3 parts shucked fava beans and 1 part shucked English peas.  First, I threw the mint leaves into my big mortar* and started bashing it up with a small sprinkling of salt, until it was mostly pureed.  Then I started adding the beans and peas, in small doses. (This is important so that they break down and don’t bounce right out of the mortar!) And I just kept adding them until everybody was in, and mostly mashed.  I left it a little chunky and the resulting texture was great.  Then I stirred in a glug of extra-virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and some grated Pecorino.  How much?  It’s all about your preferred taste.  Too much pecorino will drown out the fresh bean taste, so I kept that fairly light.

*I’m sure you could use a small cuisinart or blender for similar results, but you’d have to keep pushing it down toward the blades with a spatula since there isn’t any liquid in the recipe.

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Then I dolloped it onto toasts that had been rubbed with garlic and olive oil, dusted it with a little more pecorino, and topped it with a poached egg.

P5140031P5140032Now that’s livin’!

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Well, I just don’t know where the heck I found this recipe last year.  But I really do love it.  Twice now, I’ve made it with solely strawberries, but once I substituted some peaches along with the strawberries, and that was a truly divine thing!

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There’s something old-fashioned about it.  The recipe is simple…one of this, one of that, one of this…mix, dump, sprinkle, bake.  But what to call it?  I just don’t know.  It’s definitely most like a cake, and not much like a pie at all.  It’s fairly dense with a nice chewy tooth around the edges, and the buttermilk adds a really delicious tang.

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I think it might be nice to toss the fruit in a teaspoon of sugar next time, and let it sit for a few minutes so that it begins to get juicy before pouring the fruit over the batter.  And I imagine you could also add pinches of yummy spices like cardamon, or even a bit of grated orange zest…

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As for me, I served it with a bit of super-fab cardomon ice cream, artfully “thwapped” on the plate by one of my zany siblings.

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And if there happened to be leftovers, I would have had a second helping but…I guess I’ll have to make another one.

Strawberry Something

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon raspberry liqueur (you could substitute a different liqueur or vanilla extract)
  • 4 Tablespoons salted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup berries, cut into chunks
  • 2-3 Tablespoons course sugar

Preheat oven to 325.  Lightly oil a pie dish.  Sift dry ingredients in a bowl.  Stir in buttermilk and licquer, then melted butter.  Pour batter into the prepared pie dish and top with the berries.  Sprinkle with the course sugar.  Bake for 45-55  minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

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