August 10, 2012
It’s the time of year where just about anything your heart desires is available fresh and local here in Ohio. Farmer’s market tables groan under the weight of melons, zucchini, tomatoes, peaches. Oh the loveliness.
Local Matters (whose mission is to transform the food system in central Ohio to be more secure, prosperous, just and delicious) hosts Local Foods Week every year. This year they have so many events from tastings to picnics to special local foods week tours. It’s kind of a party with produce all week. Which is awesome.
Cooking with local produce is my personal favorite thing to do this week.
But it’s summer, too, and if you ask me, that means cooking should be just barely above a simmer. If you’re in the house, lightly sauteed or not cooked at all are methods I can stand behind.
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June 27, 2012
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.
2 red bell peppers, blackened over a grill or stove, skin, stem and seeds removed, chopped
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June 4, 2012
This past weekend the most recent Top Chef winner Paul Qui was in town at Market District to do a demo and answer questions. Honestly, I don’t think there has been a nicer, more unassuming winner of that crazy show. He’s just such a humble, talented guy. His dishes were lovely light versions of chicken rice (his with lots and lots of a lemony ponzu) and a summer miso soup. Things, he says, are his comfort foods. I can completely see why.
His cooking got me thinking about dishes I had made in the past but could bring together for the perfect, almost no effort summer dinner. Granted, you’ll have Asian food a couple of days in a row, but I don’t think that ever hurt anyone. Plus, this is the time of year that you can gather just about everything locally, aside from the kombu, katsuobushi and a couple of pantry items.
But perhaps the thing that makes me happiest about this kind of dinner is that since everybody gets to choose what to include in their bowls, it’s lots of fun for Cherub. She amazed even me tonight by her choice of tofu, zucchini, carrots, green onion, bean sprouts and snap peas. But she passed on the fresh sweet corn. (What kid does that?) And she even had seconds.
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September 22, 2011
Every so often you run across a recipe that begs to be made just as is, such as Spanish maestro José Andrés’s recipe for gazpacho. Not a more perfect dish than this can be found to send summer off into its nine month hiatus. Celebrate all that we are losing before the clock strikes 5:05 a.m. tomorrow. Well, perhaps this post is a bit late for that, but rustle up some of these ingredients this weekend for a quick, albeit belated, goodbye.
I used some gorgeous, juicy yellow tomatoes from a Green B.E.A.N. Delivery box along with peppers and cucumbers from my back yard. All gone now.
Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.
Playlist included Quiet Town, by Josh Rouse.
September 3, 2011
The quick and dirty version of a Saturday dinner:
Because I made a veal stock today (with lovely bones from Bluescreek Farm Meats), it meant that there was quite a bit of tasty meat left on the bones after the stock was all said and done. It was dropped into the quick tomato sauce, that I seem to make quite a bit here in the summer. (It’s just now about time for the last of those tasty orbs. Get them fresh while you still can.) This was poured over some homemade tagliatelle.
Served alongside for sopping up all the extra tomato-y goodness was a bit of rosemary focaccia: (1 1/4 c all purpose flour, 1 large sprig fresh rosemary finely chopped, 3/4 t salt, 1 package dried yeast, 1/2 c water all dumped into a bread machine for kneading, then allowed to rise in a covered and very generously olive-oiled bowl for about an hour an a half; punched down on a baking tray and allowed to rise once again for about 30 minutes and then drizzled with more olive oil and torn rosemary, salt and grated parm; baked at 400F for about 25 minutes). A simpler, no knead version is here.
Playlist included Misery, by New Jersey’s Big Troubles. How is it that My Bloody Valentine is now retro? Are we that old? Le sigh.
August 23, 2011
These are my first pickles.
I thank sites like Hounds in the Kitchen and Food in Jars for giving me the nudge in the direction of preserving and pickling.
What is it about these methods that seem so daunting? Perhaps it is that you hear stories of the six thousand pints that your grandmother used to make at one sitting. (Who has time?) Perhaps it’s the old stories that it won’t keep as well as you hope. Fear mongers. Truly folks, don’t listen. You can put up just a few pints at a time, in two hours or less.
And the satisfaction of a pickle from a cucumber you grew or just picked up at a farmers’ market is like nothing else.
I made up my own pickling spice, because I think things can be a bit boring if you go the conventional route. I like a bit of extra spice. I also kicked in some fresh ginger in some and a massive quantity of garlic as well. They turned out crispy and salty and kind of awesome.
PK Szechuan Dill Pickling Spice
1 t caraway seeds
1 T corriander seeds
1 t cumin seeds
1 t celery seeds
10 juniper berries
8 green cardamom pods
1 T black peppercorns
1 T Szechuan peppercorns
2 T dill seed
Lightly crush all larger spices, especially the cardamom pods and juniper berries. Use in quantities as your pickle recipe advises.
Playlist included My Heart Skips a Beat by The Secret Sisters.
August 14, 2011
Several years ago, before Cherub was born, I bought my mother a fig tree. For years she had longed for a tree like the one that grew in the backyard of the little house in Austin where she raised her two little girls. She always loved feeding me peeled figs when I was tiny and just beginning to enjoy my first tastes of real food. This was something she hoped to recreate with soon-to-be-born grandbabies. She needed a tree in the ground early, she told me, so the harvest would be ready when I got around to having one.
Ahh, how she forgot what a harvest she would have from just one, abundant tree. Now in its prime, at peak season, she picks five and six pounds of figs a day from that little tree.
The babies, that so recently mashed just-picked and peeled figs between soft pink gums, now grab branches and haul themselves up to climb to the places Demeter can’t reach. And she has lots and lots of figs.
I still love them.
When she visited, she brought me a couple of bottles of fig syrup. Because to make a moderate amount of syrup you need lots and lots of fruit.
I am more than a little grown up now, and I enjoy figs in all sorts of ways. Most recently in the form of a fig margarita. This margarita would be equally enchanting with fruit syrups of any kind (raspberry, certainly strawberry, peach). Just give some thought to what spices on the rim might marry best with the fruit you choose. This cocktail is all about celebrating a bounty in unexpected way.
Aggie Lane Margarita, makes one
For the rim:
1/2 t brown sugar
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