Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Palmiers and Pork Chops

I've been away on vacation/visiting family so I haven't posted in awhile. When I returned from my trip, however, I had a burst of great cooking experiences. Due to copyright issues, I won't post the recipes that are not otherwise available online (in which case I've linked to them), but I do have some pictures to share.

First, I made Ina Garten's "Savory Palmiers" (or see Back to Basics, 43) for a social event. I approached this with some fear as every time I open a package of puff pastry I hear this in my head. This is since my last attempt to make baked brie, which came out more like an exploding puff pastry volcano of brie.

However, much to my surprise, they came out pretty darn well! My favorite part of the recipe was making the homemade pesto. All pesto is NOT alike, and Garten's recipe (or see Back to Basics, 44) is by far the best I've ever tasted! Can you really go too wrong with homemade pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and pine nuts? The only real change I made was using green garlic in the pesto as opposed to mature garlic.
I apologize that the only photo I have of the finished product I took with my phone...
Meanwhile, while on vacation in Philadelphia, I bought The City Tavern Cookbook: Recipes from the Birthplace of American Cuisine. Using the recipe for Baked Veal Chops (p. 153) and substituting pork, we had a scrumptious and relatively healthy meal with whole wheat couscous and salad.
Tonight's dinner: Lamb kofta, Mark Bittman's Radish Salsa, and fettucine with leftover pesto (from Ina Garten).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Variations on a Theme: Scapes & Asparagus, Part Deux

In my attempt to use up what I enthusiastically purchase from the Farmers' Market (not always recognizing that I am cooking for two--not a small army), I have started to devise multiple recipes that are "variations on a theme." Here the theme would be scapes and asparagus (asparagi?). For the second week in a row, I've come home with scapes and asparagus. Why?
  • Scapes have a very short season and they are good.
  • It is Spring and I can get local organic asparagus as opposed to asparagus that has been shipped from Peru (FAIL!)
  • scapes and asparagi have similar textures/consistencies so they cook well together

So, you may remember the Sautéed Asparagus and Garlic Scapes from my last blog post. This installment of Variations on a Theme brings you:

Chilled Asparagus & Scape Salad
  • one bunch fresh asparagus, with stalk ends trimmed
  • 1/8 - 1/4 lbs. garlic scapes, cut into one to two inch pieces
  • 3 tbls. olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • white pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup white cooking wine
  • 5 large fresh mint leaves, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
Cooking Tools: large skillet/frying pan with cover; colander; glass container with lid

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. While it is heating throw some salt and pepper into the oil itself. When the oil is hot, add the asparagus and scapes.
2. Sautée the asparagus and scapes until they begin to turn bright green, making sure to coat them with the oil. Once they begin to turn bright green, add the wine, lower the heat to simmer, and cover, cooking for 5 more minutes.
3. Once the asparagus and shallots are uniformly bright green and just tender to the bite, transfer them to a colander and run them under cold water in the sink to stop the cooking process. (Overcooked asparagus is one of the biggest culinary travesties ever to befall the planet).
4. In a glass container with a cover (or use a large bowl), toss the asparagus with the mint, shallots and a dressing of your choice---I recommend:
  • Überminimalist: lemon juice/lime juice and olive oil
  • Traditionalist: balsamic vinegar and olive oil
  • More fun and what I use: Orange Muscat Champagne vinegar and Olive oil (with additional salt and pepper)
5. Chill for an hour or more in the refrigerator and serve!

Note: If you want to skip steps 1-3 and blanch the asparagus instead, be my guest. It takes about the same amount of time to boil the water and prepare an ice bath, so I'd suggest the sautée method instead as it gives the asparagus far more flavor (and it picks up the garlickyness from the scapes). I've also never tried to blanch scapes, so you'll have to let me know how that goes. :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Farmers Market Challenge 1: Scapes, Parsley, Asparagus

One of the great joys of summer here in Somerville is the Farmers' Market in Union Square. Yesterday was the first market of the season and I made sure to get there as early as possible in order to have the best selection and avoid the afternoon rush. I'm a planner, so it is rare that I like to shop without an idea of what I'm cooking, but the Farmers' Market is a great motivator. I just picked up whatever looked good and figured I'd be creative when I got home. Yesterday's purchases included: fresh brioche, strawberries, garlic scapes, asparagus, fresh parsley, kale, and hot Italian lamb sausage from Stillman's Farm. Since the kale will keep for a bit (and I'll probably just make crisps anyway), I prioritized the scapes, asparagus, parsley and sausage. The results are the following three recipes! Enjoy!

Linguine with Hot Italian Lamb Sausage & Parsley
Serving: 2 generous portions
  • 3-4 links hot italian lamb sausage, sliced
  • 2 tbls. olive oil
  • 3 tbls. white whine
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (yes, you can use fresh---but I had no tomatoes on hand--I don't recommend using more than one can, however)
  • 1 cup fresh parsley leaves (whole)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 lb -1/2 lb. linguine
  • black truffle oil (optional)
1. Brown the sausage in the oil for five minutes over medium heat. Then add the wine, allowing the sausage to "poach" in the wine, oil and its own fat.
2. When sausage is browned and somewhat cooked, add the tomatoes and the parsley leaves. Season with garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste.
3. Meanwhile, start the boiling water for the pasta. Simmer the sausage mixture for as long as it takes the water to boil.
4. When water is boiling, turn sausage mixture down to the lowest setting (to keep it warm), and cook the linguine until al dente.
5. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add sausage mixture. Toss with some black truffle oil for additional flavor and serve!

Sautéed Asparagus and Garlic Scapes
  • 1 bunch of fresh asparagus
  • 1/4 lb. garlic scapes
  • 2 tbls. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • salt to taste
  • white truffle oil (for tossing)
1. Cut asparagus and scapes in short 1-2 in. pieces. Sautée in olive oil, pepper and salt over medium heat until they become bright green and the asparagus is tender to the bite, but not mushy.
2. Toss in white truffle oil and serve.

And, assuming you've got some leftover scapes and parsley, you may want to make a jar of this wonderful summery and unique pesto:
Parsley Lime Pesto with Garlic Scapes
  • 1 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/8 lb. scapes
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian flat leaf parsley leaves (whole)--do NOT use cilantro.
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (possibly more depending on your desired texture)
  • 2 tbls. pine nuts
  • salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a food processor--starting with the pine nuts, and adding each ingredient one at a time. Mix oil in gradually until you've achieved your desired consistency. This has a more subtle flavor than pesto with basil and garlic cloves, but works really well as a spread for hors d'oeuvres or even for a pasta salad in the summer.