Sunday, February 27, 2011

Winters Farmer Market: Fish with Avocado Relish and Carrot Puree; Rosemary Almond Orzo Pilaf

I will start with a confession.

I don't like avocados. Yes, I am from California, and I do NOT like avocados.

Ok, mash 'em up with lots of spices, lime juice, etc. and call it guacamole and we are all good.

So...why I would make something with avocado for the first time now that it is winter in Massachusetts is beyond me, but this recipe from the March 2011 issue of Real Simple jumped out at me:
Pollock with avocado relish and carrot puree (click link for recipe)

I used these amazing carrots I bought at the Somerville Winters Farmers Market from Winter Moon Farm for the purée. Something about a mixture of kalamata olives and avocado appealed to me--I can handle avocado when it is in smaller chunks--it is the slices that trouble me. I didn't have pollock, but substituted haddock from Jordan Bros Seafood (also purchased at the Somerville Winters Farmers Market).

This recipe was healthy, delicious, and colorful--and would be great for summer. I used the leftover carrot puree as a spread on some baguette (Hi-Rise) with fresh mozzarella from Fiore di Nonno (and a glass of Pinot Grigio) for lunch the following day. Yes, I think I'm definitely ready for summer...
Last night, I made smoked porkchops from Stillman's, which is the sole reason I get to the Farmer's market so early (that and the crowds). They don't have them very often, but when they do, I feel like I've won the lottery. So I picked these up a couple of weeks ago, and then found that the applesauce from Cook's Farm practically jumped into my bag, clearly attracted to those chops. Because the chops have so much flavor from the smoking, I take a very minimalist approach when cooking them--a little bit of olive oil, white pepper, maple syrup and white wine. I don't add any salt (not necessary). I served it with this

Rosemary-Almond Orzo Pilaf
(more or less really this recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 finely chopped onions
  • 1 and 1/2 cups orzo
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 and 1/2 cups water
  • white pepper
  • salt
  • large handful rosemary almonds (from Qs Nuts), coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh grated parmesan cheese
In a medium saucepan (that has a cover), sauté onions in olive oil until softened. Add the orzo, stirring frequently, until it is golden. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Add salt, pepper, almonds, and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cover pan, simmering for about 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Serve and sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

I actually like a little liquid left so that it is a creamy pilaf, so I stop cooking it just before the water is totally absorbed. I loved how this came out. The husband felt it needed more salt, so next time I'll probably substitute chicken broth for water.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Winter Farmer's Market: Pork Chops with Caramelized Apples, Celery and Spiced Walnuts

I have wanted to use a recipe from Barbara Lynch's Stir cookbook, almost as much as I've wanted to go to her restaurant, No. 9 Park. Most of the recipes aren't weeknight-type meals, but this one looked like something I could handle. I bought some great pork chops from Stillman's at the Turkey Farm at the Somerville Winter Farmers Market, along with some apples as well. I'm actually not a big fan of apples with pork chops, usually, but the caramelization did the trick here!

Mmm....caramelized apples...
Due to copyright, I won't give the amounts, but the ingredients are as follows:

Pork Chops with Caramelized Apples, Celery, and Spiced Walnuts
  • grapeseed or canola oil (I used grapeseed)
  • pork chops, about 1 1/2 in thick
  • salt and pepper
  • Honeycrisp or Granny Smith apple (I used the latter)
  • sugar (for caramelizing)
  • unsalted butter (for caramelizing)
  • chopped fresh thyme
  • celery stalks, sliced very thinly on the diagonal
  • whole parsley leaves (1/4 cup...quite a lot--you have to like parsley)
  • fresh lemon juice
  • spiced walnuts
  • Fleur de sel ( I left this out)
Basically, season the chops with the salt and pepper, browning them in a skillet, well-browned on one side (you can let the second side go for a little less time). Then you finish cooking them by putting the skillet in a 350 degree oven. Let them rest before serving. While the pork is finishing, you can caramelize the apples--the trick is to let each side of the apple sit in the sugar/grapeseed oil for long enough. Then you add the butter and swirl it around. Then at the end, toss in the thyme and salt.

You serve the apples on the side, but on top of the pork chop you put a lovely little parsley-celery salad, "barely moistened" with some olive oil and lemon juice, and tossed with the spiced walnuts (see below).

The spiced walnuts are easy and delicious, and you can make an extra batch to toss in with your ordinary salad (I had them in a cole slaw). Walnuts + grapeseed oil + sugar + Cayenne (I substituted Penzey's Cajun Seasoning) + kosher salt (bake on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven from 5-10 minutes and let them cool).

This was a relatively easy meal, with lovely and simple flavors and an elegant presentation. This is a keeper.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Winter Farmer's Market: Marinated Flounder fillets in Ravigote Sauce

I own many cookbooks. I enjoy looking through them and I'm a sucker for good food photography. However, after buying flounder at last week's Somerville Winter Farmer's Market, I discovered that I have a dearth of flounder recipes. It is only since moving to New England that I've been cooking fish regularly, so I'm still sort of shy when it comes to substituting one fish for another in a recipe (ok, except for whitefishes). So, I turned to The Joy of Cooking which remains one of the most inspiring cookbooks of all time and does so without the use of photographs (for me, this is saying a lot).

First challenge was that the flounder is to be marinated in tarragon vinegar. No such vinegar was to be found at the store, so, I try to be resourceful:
With that out of the way (I let the tarragon sit in white wine vinegar for a couple of hours until the vinegar smelled like tarragon (+ vinegar)), I could get going on the sauce.

Ravigote Sauce is an adaptation of Velouté sauce. Usually when I see the words "double boiler" I run in the other direction. And, if that wasn't enough...the JoC calls for "mushroom shavings" in the Velouté. I must have been feeling very ambitious because peel the mushrooms (baby bellas) I did.

Ravigote Sauce (Joy of Cooking, 345)
  • 2 shallots, chopped very fine
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
  • 1 cup Velouté sauce (see below)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chervil (omitted)
  • 2 tablespoon chopped capers (subbed caperberries)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped tarragon
Cook shallots and vinegar rapidly about 3 minutes in a sauce pan, stirring constantly. Add the Velouté sauce to the shallots and simmer about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Cool to lukewarm and add all the herbs.

Velouté Sauce (Joy of Cooking, 344)
In a double boiler,
melt 2 tablespoons butter. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour. When blended, add gradually 2 cups stock (I used fish stock) and stir over low heat until combined and thickened. Add 1/4 cup mushroom peelings.
Simmer in double boiler for 1 hour (I used less time) stirring occasionally. Strain through a sieve and add a pinch of nutmeg and season to taste. Stir occasionally during the cooling process to prevent a crust from forming.

And then finally, there is the fish--the amazing flounder I bought from Jordan Bros. at the Farmers Market:

Marinated Flounder Fillets (Joy of Cooking, 406--paraphrased)
Marinate the fillets in the tarragon vinegar for 10 minutes
Drain and then coat with a mixture of cornmeal, flour (1:1 ratio), salt and pepper. Sauté in melted butter until golden brown (roughly 4 min. each side). Serve with sauce above.

This was quite good! A lot of work (the sauce, not the fish), but a good excuse to use up a lot of the fresh herbs I had lying around. I served it with gnocchi tossed with white truffle oil and parmesan, and a green salad (not pictured).