At a recent greenmarket I bought a few onions that were a little sleeker and paler than the big fat deeply red onions I would normally buy. Turns out they are called La Rossa di Tropea or cipolla di Tropea or in plain English “onion from Tropea”. Photos of this onion that I have seen in Italian publications show it to be a very bright maroon-red, but the ones I purchased were almost a pinkish-brown. Apparently it is an onion that was brought to southern Italy by the Greeks and its cultivation perfected by the Arabs who settled there. Mine were simply raised by one of the passionate young farmers that inhabit the greenmarket in our neighborhood on Sundays.
At first I was going to keep them for eating raw, but then I had quite a few ordinary red onions on hand so I decided to combine them to make one of my favorite condiments, onion marmalade. In Italy I believe the marmalade is made with red onion, roasted bell peppers, garlic, and a little chile. My version is simpler – just red onions. It keeps well and is terrific with roasts, steaks, and chops.
The recipe is easy – takes time to cook — but very little effort. You can either make it on the stove top or in the oven; all you need is very low heat.
Cut as many red onions as you like into thin strips. Toss them with enough olive oil to make them glisten. Place in a nonstick pan large enough to hold them in a relatively thin layer. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of light brown sugar (more if you like sweetness), and drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top. Place over low heat and cook for a couple of hours, frequently tossing and turning with tongs. You want the onions to almost melt and all of the liquid to evaporate. Store, refrigerated, in a nonreactive container for up to 3 weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.
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.
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.
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
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.
What wild berries the bears didn’t get to first have been lovingly picked all summer long by my dearest friend, Lynn, and her doggy pal, Lena Mae. Lynn always tries to save some for me to pick when I finally get upstate New York for a visit. Then we combine all of the berries and make a winter’s supply of jam.
I don’t much follow the USDA regulations that say all jams have to be preserved in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Nor do I use pectin. I like the pure berry taste that really stands out when you boil the berries with some sugar and lemon juice until they are thick. It does take a bit of sugar to get the mix to gel, but the lemon offsets the sweetness and highlights the berry flavor. I do make sure that my jars are sterilized and hot when I am filling them and that my caps and lids are new. I fill the boiling hot jam into the jars, cap tightly, turn upside down and let cool. When cool, I turn right side up and store in a cool spot for winter’s toast. This is the way my grandmother did it, my mother did it, and we never had a problem. So it is what I do. However, in my last preserving book, The Best Little Book of Preserves and Pickles, I tell you to follow the USDA rules – I may do it my way in my kitchen, but I know better than to mess with the government in print!
I have posted about my love of green tomatoes in the past, but you can never sing their praises too often. They are one of those vegetables that no one has figured out how to bring to the market in the middle of January. Only in the mid to late summer can you find beautiful green tomatoes right off the vine carrying that pungent fragrance. My husband Steve had a fascinating aunt, Rubie, who when she was very much alive and a gardening fool, would send me a big box of green tomatoes individually wrapped in newspaper that she instructed me to “fry up and few and set the rest on the window sill to ripen.” You know what, that’s exactly what I did and I had sunny, bright red tomatoes for weeks throughout the early fall.
The green ones that I fried got this treatment. To serve six people, you will need about 5 large green tomatoes.
5 large green tomatoes, washed, cored, and cut, crosswise, into ½-inch thick slices
2 large eggs
½ cup buttermilk
2 cups Wondra flour
1 cup cornmeal
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil of choice – I use canola
Place the tomato slices on double layers of paper towel to drain slightly.
Whisk the eggs and buttermilk together in a large, shallow bowl.
Place 1 cup of the Wondra flour in a large shallow bowl.
Combine the remaining cup of flour, cornmeal, and salt and pepper in another large, shallow bowl.
Heat a thin layer of oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, working with one at a time, dip the tomato slices into the plain flour, then into the milk mixture and finally into the flour-cornmeal mixture, pressing down to coat evenly. Shake off excess and place in the hot pan.
Fry each slice for about 3 minutes. Turn and fry for another 3 minutes or until crisp and golden on both sides. Using a slotted spatula, lift the slices from the pan and place on paper towel to drain.
Serve hot with a spritz of fresh lemon or any tart relish or condiment. Or, if you like, make a cream gravy in the pan and drizzle over the tomatoes.
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.
Posted in Chefs, Food, Recipes, Stephen Kolyer, Uncategorized | Tagged Berried Treasures, Cooks Falls, dinner ideas, Franca Tantillo, healthy veggies, Tarallucci e Vino, Tristar Strawberries, tromboncino zucchini, zucchini recipes | Leave a Comment »
Our lovely French friend, Flavie, spent the weekend on a farm in the Catskills and upon her return came bearing a basketful of beautiful vegetables she had picked just for us. It was quite a diverse lot – tiny potatoes (purple and white), purple cauliflower, purple and green asparagus (which amazed me as it is long past New York asparagus season), amaranth, radicchio, Swiss chard, carrots, 2 wee stalks of broccoli, onions (red and white), garlic – all organically grown and fresh as fresh could be.
My first use was to sauté a few of the fingerling potatoes, the cauliflower, and the amaranth seasoned with some of the onion, chopped, and a clove or two of garlic. I had a few scallops purchased that morning at the greenmarket that I had intended to turn into a ceviche, but thought why not sear them and top off the sauté. That is exactly what I did and, once sautéed, I added a bit of butter and lemon juice to the pan and drizzled it over all. Then, because it was all so brown and purple, I shredded a couple of cauliflower leaves for garnish and Eh! Voila! – to quote Flavie – we had a most delicious dinner.