Sunday, August 29, 2010

The joys of fresh, local and well prepared.

My travel schedule of late has kept me from the blog, and cooking in general for a few weeks. I have had some great meals out at Berthas Mussels and Burkes seafood in Baltimore. I made eggplant rollantini while on vacation with eggplant from our CSA. Lots of fresh grilled veggies, summer squash, eggplant, onions.

Today we grilled some tasty grass fed sirloin steaks, some amazing sweet corn and grilled vegetables. As I was eating it, it dawned on me how much each of them tasted like the thing they are. The steak tasted like steak, nothing more than salt, pepper, olive oil and fire. The corn was boiled for just a few minutes to heat it through and that's it, it still had a nice snap to it. It tasted like corn should.
It just reinforces the message that permeates the food world at the moment. Eat as seasonally and locally as you can. If you eat animals, eat those that have been raised in a good environment and fed diets that they like and keeps them healthy. If you eat things you can't get locally (ocean seafood in Syracuse NY) do your homework, find out how the fish was raised or caught. All these little things can make a difference in the world around you, and make your food taste better. I've never been out to save the world, but if it helps the world to not eat mushy tasteless tomatoes in december then I can make that sacrifice. Ok off my soap box now. Not that I was on one. Most of this was written from a hammock after a tasty, local, sustainable meal like I have been blathering about.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cabbage with Pancetta

This is a quick and simple side that I have done a few different ways. This variant was served alongside Ratatouille this weekend. The cabbage we get from our CSA is really delicious but Kerrie is not a huge cabbage fan so sometimes I struggle to use it up.  I could eat most of this myself.

This time around I used

1 small head cabbage
1/4 - 1/2 cup of chopped pancetta (as will all things pancetta you could use regular bacon but it's not quite the same)
1/2 Tbsp coriander seeds

slice the cabbage into 1/4 inch thick slices and set aside. Crush the coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle (yes seriously, ancient tools still rock)
Heat up a small frying pan and add the crushed coriander seeds, dry toast for a minute or two until you can smell them, then add your chopped pancetta. Cook until the pancetta is beginning to brown and has released some of its fat then add your cabbage. Toss and cook until the cabbage is softened but not completely cooked through.

This was the first time I used coriander for this dish, I typically use cumin seeds or caraway seeds, coriander brings a nice citrusy note that I really enjoyed but all three are excellent choices.


This time of year ratatouille is the perfect dish.  All of the ingredients are in season and and the peak of their tastiness. Their are many many variations of ratatouille.

I kind of made it up as I went along. I read through the recipe in  How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food on Saturday morning and then tossed it together at my parents house out in Sodus.

I used:
2 small Eggplant  (Calliope eggplant from the CSA)
1 large Zucchini
1 large Yellow Squash
2 large Tomatoes (some incredibly tasty heirloom varieties)
8 cloves Garlic
6 Cippolini onions (2 regular onions)

Slice the Eggplant, Zucchini and Yellow Squash on a mandolin or v-slicer if you have one. A knife will work just fine you just want to get the slices as even as possible. Cut each slice in half so you have a big pile of half moon shaped veggies. Chop the onions and garlic and set aside. 

Pre heat your oven to 375 and completely oil a casserole dish. Starting with tomatoes make layers of tomato, onion and garlic, squash, zucchini and eggplant. Sprinkle salt, pepper and herbs every other vegetable or so. Once your casserole is full to the top drizzle with a bit more olive oil and bake at 375 for an hour or more. You want the vegetables to be fully cooked and soft but still hold their shape. 
If you want more of a stew, don't take the step below.
At 40 minutes or so of cooking, pull the ratatouille and press down with a spatula, drain off some of the accumulated liquid and return to the oven to complete cooking.

It is more of a texture thing for me, I like my vegetables to be a little more dry and retain more of their independent flavors and textures. Stew just doesn't say summer to me so I like this is more of a side that is perfectly at home on a paper plate versus something that really needs a bowl.  I think I may experiment with all the veggies in this dish this week and slice and freeze them together for a nice winter ratatouille.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

An off week

Being on the road for a week really puts a crimp in my cooking. Sadly the food at the resort this week is nothing to write about. All in all I have to give the Big Sky Resort a solid meh. I never expect much from conference food and my expectations were met.  The two best parts of the food and beverage portion of the trip were the beer tasting at Lone Peak Brewery  (thanks Marilyn) and the BBQ at the off site dinner at the 320 Ranch.

Lone peak had some nice offerings, their ESB was really delicious and their Porter and Stout were also tasty. The star was the steep and deep winter ale. Oddly by itself it was not as great as it was when it was transformed into a Steep and Deeper, with the addition of some vanilla vodka. The vanilla vodka really enhanced the flavor and highlighted the bourbon cask aging. Their flight was served in a ski  as a rack which was a nice touch.

The 320 Ranch had some pretty tasty bbq, the ribs were fall apart tender, but a little on the mushy side rather than the nice bark you should get on ribs, but the flavor was there so it all worked out in the end. 

I'm back at home for most of this week and a ratatouille is on the horizon due to some squash, eggplant, and green peppers form the CSA.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Balsamic Onion Marmalade

 I found  this recipe at another recently discovered blog called  One Perfect Bite

I won't re post their work here but I will say I changed a few things.

I had to scale down the recipe as I only had 3 cups of onions. I used cippolini onions which I had a ton of from the last few weeks of CSA pickups and wanted to get them used up. I also replaced the white sugar with brown sugar. Since the cippolinis were too small to slice them all by hand I ran them through the food processor which worked out really nicely. Kerrie is not a huge fan of large stringy onions so pieces will make her happy.

Very tasty stuff, caramelized onions with this great vinegar tang. I can't wait to drop them on top of some pork or a lamb chop

Pesto and Ricotta pasta

This is a quick and easy dish that you can toss together in no time if you have pesto on hand.
 As with most things, home made pesto with local ingredients is certainly preferable to store bought but hey, baby steps right. I made  a batch of pesto the other night, I was out of pine nuts which I do usually use in pesto but it is just fine without it.

Pesto is an all taste recipe for me, the basic ingredients ar:
olive oil
Romano cheese
pine nuts

Put all of your basil into your food processor, add 4-6 cloves of peeled garlic ( more or less to taste) add a pinch of salt and grate in some Romano. Add about a Tablespoon of pine nuts if you have them. Put the lid on your food processor and then turn it on to low as you drizzle in olive oil through the spout. I tend to make mine pretty dry as I don't like having to account for all the oil in it when I use it for cooking. Blend it until it has all come together as paste but not so oily that you can see the oil sitting on top of the paste. Pesto is always better after a day or so in the fridge for the flavors to blend.

For the final dish you will need
1/2 lb Pasta (something with some grooves is best)
3-4 Tbsp Pesto
1 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper

sun dried tomatoes
Shaved Romano cheese
fresh basil leaves

Boil a big pot of salted water for cooking your pasta.
Once your pasta goes down into the water heat up a pan large enough to hold all the pasta when cooked. Heat a tablespoon of oil in the pan and add the pesto and ricotta, add salt and pepper to taste. When you pasta is done to a nice al dente add a few tbsp of the pasta water to your sauce to thin if necessary and then toss in your drained pasta.

Serve immediately with some basil chiffonade, thinly sliced sun dried tomato and shaved Romano.

CSA Week 7

I was slack last week and did not post what we got in our share. This week we got

Cherry tomatoes
green leaf lettuce
new potatoes
summer squash
cippolini onions

The tomatoes are just going to be eaten, I can't help myself, they are like candy.
 We have a backlog of cippolinis so I am going to try find a way to process a lot of them. Onion marmalade perhaps?

I made my first batch of pesto earlier in the week and I think this huge bunch of basil will make some more, it is really the only way I know to handle a big bunch of basil besides drying it. I have some cilantro in the house that needs to be used up so I may do a cilantro basil blend.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Phyllo Feta Torte

My friend Klo shared this recipe and I've been dying to make it, for, oh, a year. Finally got some good local feta and honey, and decided to brave phyllo dough for the first time. Klo has this to say about the recipe:

The Phyllo Feta Torte is one of my NYT finds. Apparently it's traditional fare at Greek Orthodox Easter celebrations. It's also the single easiest way to use phyllo dough that I have encountered (spanakopita is the hardest, baklava relatively easy). In fact, the whole recipe is a cinch to make, yet everyone gasps at its beauty when you unmold it. While it doesn't hit my cooking-for-myself trifecta of easy, healthy, and yummy, it more than meets my cooking-for-guests trifecta of easy, gorgeous, and yummy. This dish may well be the winningest I have.

When I made it the first time, I was delighted with how it tasted plain, but then I bravely tried the honey--yes, honey with feta and dill!--and ZOMG it was transcendent! A light to heavy drizzle of local honey really should be a requirement for this impressive and easy dish, and everyone who likes flaky pastry and a complex array of flavors should give this baby a go.

And I have to agree! This would be a great dish to pass for a potluck brunch, as it doesn't have to be served straight out of the oven, and it's quite impressive!

Here's her recipe, with my minor modifications noted:

Sonia’s Phyllo and Feta Torte with Dill and Nutmeg

Time: An hour and a half, plus cooling

1 pound Greek feta cheese, crumbled
3 cups cottage cheese*
3 large eggs**
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese (I used fresh Parmaggiano Reggiano)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1-pound box phyllo dough, thawed overnight in refrigerator if necessary
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted***
Greek honey, for serving (optional).

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, combine feta, cottage cheese, eggs, dill, 2 tablespoons Romano, the nutmeg and pepper and pulse just to combine (you can also use a large bowl and a fork). Mixture should be well combined, but still chunky, not smooth.

2. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons Romano into a Bundt pan. Drape a sheet of phyllo on top of Bundt pan, poke a hole into phyllo where center tube is and push phyllo into pan to line it. Do this with another phyllo sheet, but place it perpendicular to first sheet. Continue adding phyllo sheets in this crisscross manner until all sheets are used. Edges of phyllo should hang over edges of pan. NOTE: I layer the phyllo off-center, doing four sheets at 12, 3, 6, and 9 on the clock in a clockwise pattern--this gives enough edge to cover the filling.

3. Scrape cheese filling into pan, and fold edges of phyllo over filling. Using a sharp knife, poke many holes (at least 20) in dough that reach all the way to bottom of pan. Slowly pour melted butter over torte; some butter will seep through holes and some will remain on top of dough.

4. Place Bundt pan on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes, or until torte is puffy and golden brown. Allow torte to cool in pan for 1 to 2 hours before inverting onto a plate and slicing. Serve warm or at room temperature, with honey if desired.

I had some great local buckwheat honey that was tasty. Mark skipped the honey, of course, and was still perfectly happy with it.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings.

*I can't stand cottage cheese, so I used ricotta instead. Still very good!
**I found myself with only 2 eggs and that worked just fine.
***I couldn't use 3 sticks of butter, I just couldn't! I'm sorry, Klo! I'm sure 3 would have been better, and maybe some day I will, but 1 or so worked pretty well too.