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Archive for the ‘Chefs’ Category

Clara_Thankful

 

This is the day when we should all take the time to remember the blessings in our lives.  I know that many people begin their Thanksgiving dinners by asking everyone around the table to express their gratitude for the goodness in their lives – a wonderful way to acknowledge what we often forget.  I love Thanksgiving not only for the warmth and hearty meal that it brings but because it is not specific to any religion so it can be embraced by people of all faiths, races, and ethnic backgrounds.  This year with so much conflict in the world and so much divisiveness in the United States it is more important than ever that we take the time to convey our thanks for any evidence of goodness that we see in the world.  Gratitude uplifts our thoughts, encourages a new outlook, enables friendships to grow, and enriches our lives in ways we don’t expect.  It is about kindness – it is an unselfish act of grace that we should all be willing to share.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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Greensgreens-2

These days “greens” can mean any green leafy vegetable and the green market is filled with all kinds – some I grew up and some totally new to me. The other Sunday we picked up a beautiful bouquet of mixed greens that the farmer had put together which, once home, I placed in the living room as our floral arrangement of the day. I often do this for the dining room table as I prefer vegetables to flowers as the scent is more conducive to the aromas coming from the kitchen. I have no idea what was in the mix – some things I immediately recognized and others seem totally new. But, once cooked, they came together in a most delicious way.

You can, if you like, cook them with bacon, ham or smoked turkey bones, pancetta, onion, or garlic, but I usually just toss the chopped wet greens in a pan with some extra virgin olive oil, mashed garlic, and chili flakes. I don’t cook them for too long – just enough time to wilt and flavor, season with some sea salt, and you have the perfect side dish for almost any meat or fish.

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Flavored Vinegar_DSC_5804

 

If you have a bottle of fine quality vinegar that is just hanging around the kitchen, take a few minutes of a lazy afternoon and turn it into a flavored brew. I often do this when I have extra herbs, very ripe fruit, or am just in the mood to fancy up that bottle of white wine vinegar on the shelf. Fruit-flavored vinegars make delicious shrubs and switchels, both early American thirst quenchers that are rarely made today, but if you decide to do so, I think you will find them extremely refreshing on a hot summer day. More about those later.

To make flavored vinegar you will need the following for every 2 cups of white wine, champagne, or rice wine vinegar.

For berry-flavored:

2 cups crushed berries, ¼ cup sugar, 1 strip of orange peel, and a few whole berries to put into the finished bottle

For garlic- or shallot-flavored:

5 cloves garlic, crushed, or ½ cup chopped shallots, ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, a couple of garlic cloves or large pieces of shallot to put into the finished bottle

For herb-flavored:

½ cup chopped fresh tarragon, sage, thyme, basil, or chives or a combination of fresh herbs that you prefer along with a few sprigs of the fresh herbs to put into the finished bottle

 

Place the vinegar into a medium non-reactive saucepan. Add the fruit, sugar, and orange peel OR the garlic or shallots and red pepper flakes, OR the herbs. Place over medium heat and bring to just a simmer. Lower the heat and cook gently for about 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to come to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, strain the vinegar through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth into a clean nonreative saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Immediately pour the vinegar into a sterilized bottle, add the berries OR garlic/shallot OR herbs. Cover and set aside to cool before storing in a cool spot.

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tromboncino-squash

 

One of the benefits of having a local big city green market – and, by the way, it is here through all of the seasons – is that the farmers get inspired by the chefs who shop with them and then us everyday folks get to taste the fruits of their mutual labors. All that to say that every once in awhile a “new” vegetable gets “discovered” and we reap the reward. One such discovery this past Sunday was tromboncino zucchini at Berried Treasures. Franca Tantillo whose farm in Cooks Falls, New York provides the market with her famous Tristar strawberries among other tasty items was singing the praises of this “discovery” and handing out pieces to lure buyers into the fold. I, of course, heard the siren call and succumbed to a few of these rather sensual looking squashes. Then, as I wandered back home through the hot streets I had to stop at Tarallucci e Vino to show Rita, my most favorite Italian-born barrista, my find. And, what did Rita say – “Oh, my mom grew tons of those in her garden back home – we got tired of eating them.” Call about getting your enthusiasm deflated!

Well, I took them home anyway and, as Rita suggested, I thinly sliced a couple and made a light, lemon-scented salad. Then I took the remaining 2 and turned them into quick pickles adding 2 little yellow zucchini I had on hand. Quick pickles are easy to do – just heat up equal parts white vinegar and water and season as you wish – lots of sugar and you have sweet pickles, more salt and a couple of tablespoons of sugar and you have everyday pickles – add chiles, onions, garlic, spices and you decide what your end result will be. Great to keep on hand all year round. I recommend that you only make a small batch ‘cause if you keep them too long they get soggy, mushy, and not something that is a joy to eat.

 

©StephenKolyer_zucchini

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Garlic fresh_P6288157

Garlic Scapes_P6288150

‘Tis the season for all types of fresh vegetables, but one of our favorites is fresh garlic.  And, when it arrives, so do garlic scapes.  Both are less pungent than dried garlic (which my son, Chris, tells me I always use too much of in everything) and the bulb has a sweetness that is only detected in the dried when it is roasted.  This is an easy recipe that allows that flavor to shine.

 

4 to 5 cups chicken stock or low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth

⅓ cup unsalted butter

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

8 ounces diced pancetta

2 bulbs fresh garlic, peeled and finely minced

1 shallot, peeled and minced

8 ounces arborio rice

Zest of 1 orange

Salt and pepper

½ cup finely chopped garlic scapes

½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese plus more to taste
Place the chicken stock in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a bare simmer, lower the heat, and leave on the heat as you prepare the rice, taking care that it doesn’t boil and lose volume.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or just until the pancetta begins to crisp.  Add the garlic and shallot and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for another 4 minutes or until the aromatics have softened, but not taken on any color.

Add the rice and orange zest and cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute or until the rice is glistening.   Season with salt and pepper.

Begin adding the stock, a large ladleful at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the stock before adding more.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 30 minutes or until the “sauce” is creamy and the rice is almost cooked.  Add the scapes and cook, stirring, for about another 5 minutes or until the rice is al dente.

Stir in the cheese, taste, and, if necessary, season with salt and pepper.

Remove from the heat and ladle into shallow soup bowls, sprinkling with additional cheese, if desired.

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Oyster Mushroom_P6288128

I purchased this absolutely beautiful oyster mushroom at the green market just because, to me, it was a work of art.  Of course, it was a wonderful subject for Steve to photograph, also.  Once it had been admired and framed, I sautéed it in a little extra virgin olive oil and garlic and scooped it up on a piece of toast as Steve’s reward for being such a gifted photographer.

 

Oyster Mushroom_P6288094oyster-mushroom_p6288189Oyster©StephenKolyer

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Scallops

 

Summer Sunday mornings at the green market always inspire me.  This past Sunday I picked up some scallops along with a bag of pea shoots, foraged trumpet mushrooms, and a plastic clam shell of edible flowers – among other things, of course.  But, these were to be the makings of a light Sunday supper.  When time came to put it all together, I placed the pea shoots on a nice plate and spread some of the flowers around and on top of them.  I lightly dusted the scallops with Wondra flour and salt and pepper and gave them a quick sear in extra virgin olive oil.  I had some vinaigrette on hand that was made from moscato vinegar so once the scallops were seared I placed them on the pea shoots and drizzled some of the vinaigrette over the top.  (Totally forgot the mushrooms, but they will not go unused, I can assure you – at $25.00 a pound we will relish every bite.)  The scallop dish was light and very tasty and the flowers were the most delightful addition.  I’ve always loved nasturtiums and in this case their bite added just enough zest to an otherwise very sweet dish.

 

Fancy Scallops

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