February 14, 2013
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
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August 17, 2012
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
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July 16, 2012
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
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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 10, 2012
I had some sad news earlier this week. We just won’t have a cherry season around here this year. I think Michigan is all but given up hope of anything there, too. And all the farms that might have had cherries this year have no you-picks, which make for some of the most beautiful shots of teeny little bare feet in trees climbing to help harvest.
Last year was monumental and to be remembered with deep affection. Cherry shrub, pickled cherries, boozy cherry pie, cherry salsa, cherry shiso vinegar, cherry pound cake. Oh my the pounds of cherries.
Excuse me. I’ve wandered off remembering the bliss.
So I was of two minds about this sad state of affairs because I had been give exactly one large bowl of sour cherries from a friend in a new house with (what an amazing bonus!!) a mature cherry tree in her front yard.
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May 26, 2012
I’d been following the FB posts of Dorothy Lane Market and tracking when the Copper River salmon was coming in. It was the king that was in the store Friday. Its brief season is only May and June. But it is so very, very worth making every effort to find and indulge in it the fleeting moments you can catch it.
This year, I did something I almost can’t believe I did with the costly pound I purchased.
I made gravlax.
Making true gravlax requires no smoking. It is, in essence, the purest Scandinavian method of preserving fish.
Only the best salmon, lovely coarse sea salt, pounded peppercorns, sugar, a handful of backyard dill. Wrapped tightly in clingfilm and flipped twice a day for two days.
The dry salt-sugar coat results in the fish giving up all its water content and producing a oceany brine that the fish luxuriates in for the duration of its cure.
Once removed from its bath, it is finely shaved and mounded on potatoes, or garden baby greens for the most precious of all culinary experiences.
But the most important aspect of all of this? You can do it. You don’t need any special equipment or know how. Make it and enjoy it. While it lasts.
Copper River Gravlax, made using the instructions from Rick Stein in Complete Seafood. If you don’t have this book, I don’t know what else to tell you except that you have to get it. You have to.
One pound Copper River King Salmon
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May 25, 2012
There’s only so much jam you can make. Sometimes, you just need to start eating those 16 or 17 pounds of strawberries you picked. And maybe you need to enlist the kids, too. Enter the world’s simplest way to do that: popsicles.
I, of course, can’t just let strawberries be strawberries. Besides, Cherub loves too much to graze through the herbs in the garden, and she’s going to be eating the bulk of these paletas anyway.
For this first batch, I made a quick mix of strawberries and sugar, boiled it for five minutes and then just ever so slightly pulsed them in a blender for a half a second. Then I added in a finely chopped bit of fresh lemon balm (but what’s your favorite? mint? lavender? coriander?), poured into molds and froze.
Voila! The world’s most refreshing snack. And a great breakfast if you’re feeling generous. And it’s especially hot.
Paletas de Fresa y Melisa (Strawberry and Lemon Balm Popsicles), inspired by the post at The Parsley Thief.
1 qt strawberries, tops removed and quartered
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