Posts tagged ‘Seasonal’

February 14, 2013

Fast Fashion | Five-Spice Duck

This meal is simple enough for a weeknight, but also sexy enough for a date night.

Just like a good pair of skinny black pants.

Duck turns out to cost about as much as a good piece of grass-fed beef.  But somehow it seems altogether fresh and new for a weeknight meal.  Toss in some bulk wild rice and some handfuls of baby spinach and you’ve got yourself something that despite it’s cheap and cheerful cost, almost poses as downright elegant.

Think of it as the H&M of meals.  Fast fashion at the dinner table.

The duck is spiced simply with salt and pepper and a generous amount of Chinese five spice.  Now before you go writing that off with “oh I can’t find that stuff,” know that in addition to you being able to easily grab a bit a your finer spice stores, you can also pick up a jar at your local grocery store because even McCormick’s makes it.  Pan sear the duck, then drain (and save for oh so delicious potatoes) the fat that’s rendered off, then in the same pan wilt down your spinach that you douse with a bit of apple cider vinegar and a generous pinch of sugar.  The wild rice, while it takes 45 minutes to cook, can easily be made ahead of time.  Or you can unwind with some Jesse Ware and a cocktail while that simmers.

I always opt for the second.

Timing is, as it turns out – in fashion and the kitchen – is everything.

Chinese Five-Spiced Duck. Wild Rice Salad. Warm Spinach.  For Two.

For the Wild Rice Salad

8 oz wild rice blend

August 17, 2012

Why Haven’t I Done This Before? | Watermelon Rind Pickles

I picked up a beautiful, heavy and sweet local watermelon at my neighborhood Giant Eagle Market District.  I still can’t believe that this is my normal, everyday, hey-we’re-out-of-milk grocery store – it’s humongous.  But I have to give them props: for being as huge as they are, they do try for a couple of months to really bring in a bunch of locally grown and raised produce.  I really like that.

So back home, I was cutting it up and then slicing up all the leftover rinds so that they would break down faster in the compost pile and it hit me.  People make pickles out of this stuff.   And thankfully it’s less for the compost pile to try to digest, which is a good thing this time of year, just ask my husband, who often gets stuck with the job of carting out all the scraps.  He’s a good man.

Is that a cucumber in the foreground? No! Just a well trimmed watermelon rind.

So a quick browse around and it’s a simpler method than I even thought.  For half of a medium watermelon the brine is

July 26, 2012

A Luxurious Dessert | Strawberries, Red Wine, Sriracha

My palate has wanderlust again.  I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Vietnamese food and the influences the French left behind.  I have a hankering for Pho.  I’m desperate for a good bánh mì.

So it should come as no surprise that when I was invited to put together a dessert recipe Yagööt and the launch of their new line of Yagööt@Home, I chose to go the Southeast Asian route and use some inspired ingredients: coconut frozen yogurt, Thai basil, a French red wine, ginger.  Sriracha.

Sometimes a recipe comes together so easily.  Ingredients fall into each other like long-lost friends, perfectly happy to hang out again.  And while everything except the sugar and strawberries (and the coconut Yagööt of course) in this dessert are savory, I can guarantee that it makes one of the sexiest desserts you’ve ever tasted.  And did I mention that it takes only ten minutes to make?

For the red wine in this recipe, I used a Beaujolais-Villages, because it’s widely available as well as relatively inexpensive.  An inexpensive pinot noir would work, too.  I use only a cup, so heck, you can kind of throw this together if you’ve got a bit of wine left over from dinner.   This time, I used fresh strawberries, but you can bet that I’ll be pulling out all those strawberries we picked and froze earlier this year when the weather gets colder.  The recipe calls for Thai basil, which is at every Asian grocery store worth its salt.  I think it’s pretty critical to the flavor profile of the dessert, but in a pinch you could substitute some standard basil.  Sriracha is another seemingly exotic ingredient, but widely available in most grocery stores.  Buy a bottle and you’ll find yourself putting this spicy hipster ketchup on everything from your morning eggs to Friday night pizza.  It’s delicious.

Feel like being daring?  Want to try this recipe?  How about some free Yagööt? 

July 16, 2012

Monday Grill | My Favorite Okra

I came back from Georgia filled with Southern inspiration and several bagfuls of southern produce.  The okra purchased at a farmer’s market just before we left was my favorite.  And when I came home I was determined to try and remake it in a way that I found I loved.  In Athens, we were lucky enough to have a superb dinner at Five and Ten.  It was there I had some of the best okra I’d ever eaten.  It was very simply perfectly seasoned then lightly charred in – most likely – a cast iron skillet.

Fast forward to a night that I have almost no energy to cook and even less to clean the kitchen after dinner.

Enter this super-summery dinner that’s cooked entirely outside and takes no more than about 10 minutes to prep in the kitchen.  Tonight’s easy meal was chicken thighs (bone in, skin on please) rubbed with this quick spice mixture and left to marinate, and a ton of peak-season summer produce and a ton of flavor.  But the star is the okra.

I know, you might have a thing with okra, right?  Or you only eat it fried?  Or in gumbo?  Or perhaps, you just avoid it altogether.  I challenge you to give this quick cooking method a try, it leaves all that incredible fresh okra taste with almost none of the things you might not like about okra (ahem, the slime).  The trick is a high heat and, to begin with, a completely dry pan.

Favorite Athens Okra and Vegetables, serves two

15 small to medium sized okra pods, trimmed of the stem and halved on a deep diagonal

July 12, 2012

The Teaches of Peaches | Herb Nectars

We just got back from vacation in Georgia. It’s such a great state with so many people committed to delicious food fresh off the farm.  My kind of place, really.  And to be honest, they make some mean fried chicken.

While I was there I couldn’t help but do some canning of some fresh Georgia peaches.  I basically followed this method for canning the teeny ten pounds I had into four quart jars.  In some of the jarred peaches I packed in some fresh basil,

June 27, 2012

Good on Everything | Ajvar

This is something I will be making repeatedly throughout the summer.

Roasted red bell peppers and eggplant, finely chopped, along with copious amounts of garlic and a bit of olive oil and salt.  I was quite astonished to find the depth of flavor in something that truly only had four ingredients.  Roasting is certainly what certainly makes it so good.  And the thing is, with a gas stove (or this summer the grill, which is in near constant use) roasting takes almost no time.  Five to seven minutes or so straight on the burner over the heat, turning every so often to completely blacken the outsides.  Put in a covered container to steam and cool for 10 minutes, the skins on the peppers slide off like a silk dress.

This is sexy stuff.

I want it on steaks, on fish.  On these balkan burgers.  On regular burgers.  In my eggs.

In this recipe, I included a bit of roasted eggplant (at which Balkan traditionalists would have been shocked and horrified) but I found it gave a gorgeous texture.

For some background: ajvar is typically made in Serbia in the fall, where in small towns its process requires just about everybody who lives there to pitch in and help.  The peppers are roasted, peeled and deseeded.  Everything is pureed and put up in jars for the winter.  Only here, I can’t wait that long: I ate spoons of it out of the dish while we were waiting for company to arrive.  They were lucky they got here when they did.  I would have eaten it all.

Lovely stuff.

Make some.

Ajvar

2 red bell peppers, blackened over a grill or stove, skin, stem and seeds removed, chopped

June 20, 2012

Words Fail Me | Garlic Scape Pesto and Prawn Pizza

I have a tendency to be effusive.

I also wish, at times like this, that I wasn’t all those other times.

Because sometimes, you end up with a garlic scape pesto and prawn pizza with an egg on top.

And you haven’t ever made pizza before because you just thought, “well, I am kind of terrible with breads and I’ll probably be terrible with pizza crusts, too.”  But then, lo! you have this amazing friend, who’s super-supportive and encouraging for you to go ahead! Try to make it! You can do it!

My friend Kate is this person.  In addition to being a talented and creative entrepreneur, she’s also an incredible cook.  I stood in her kitchen for a few moments mid-day today after she handed me gifts of a ball jar of cherry stones and a bouquet of garlic scapes from her very own enthusiastic garden and I remembered: she makes really great pizzas.  I remembered, too, that Kate never seems to fuss with her dough and when I asked her about it, I had all of those questions: “oh you’d have to rest it, right?  and you need to make it in the morning or something, too, huh?”

Quite simply she said, no.

She stood in the kitchen with the sun streaming in through the window and wrote on a scrap of paper the simplest recipe for pizza dough around.  And said, “hey, those scapes make awesome pesto.”

After her incredibly simple explanation of the dough and remembering the ease of pesto, I stood there gesturing wildly with my jar of cherry stones exclaiming, “Yes!  I will make pizza tonight!  I will do it.”

“Here, take some cheese,” she said.

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