Thursday, June 29, 2006
(All italicized text is a direct quote from Baby Kate's gastronomical premiere in 1988, available on home video. Please try to ignore 80s kitchen decor.)
"You get some bread and put some honey on it..."
"Then you get some peanut butter and put it on the other side. Then you smooth the peanut butter. I am just getting all the peanut butter off so I can get some more..."
"Then you put it on..."
"...and eat it! Mmmmm...I sure do know how to make 'em!"
I believe that in this video I go on the feed the sandwich to the cat.
Thanks to mom for digging out the old camcorder and capturing these stills! Also, my apologies for my recent absenteeism - next life goal: to get responsible living to coincide with responsible blogging. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to all of you who asked after me this week - thank you for making this slice of pie feel special!
More updates very soon. 'Til then,
- (Grownup?) Kate
Thursday, June 22, 2006
So when I opened our CSA bounty-bags this week and got to see collards in their natural, uncooked form for the first time, I realized that they might still have potential. The recipe I came up with is a simple sauté that utilizes those delicious, in-season garlic scapes and makes the collards tender while retaining a toothsome crunch.
Sautéed Collard Greens with Garlic
About 2 lbs. collards
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 chopped garlic scapes, or 1 tablespoon minced garlic cloves
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt to taste
Rinse collards well. Stack leaves, 3 at a time, and tightly roll lengthwise into a cigar shape. Slice crosswise into 1/2-inch strips; discard stems and center ribs as desired. Set chopped collards aside.
Combine butter and olive oil in a sauté pan and melt over medium heat. Add scapes or minced garlic and sauté briefly, about thirty seconds. Add collard greens; sauté, turning frequently, about 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add lemon juice and cook 1 more minute. Remove from heat, salt to taste and serve immediately.
What came in our CSA this week:
Mesclun salad (mixed greens)
...And one collard-happy slug who survived, unbeknownst to us, overnight in the refrigerator, before being discovered and returned to the great outdoors. Bet you never see that in a supermarket!
My cucumber plant is finally hermaphroditic!
I don't know whether you all remember my upset last week at the unfortunate monosexuality of my fire escape cucumber plant. What happened was that it occurred to me that all alone on a 4th story fire escape in New York, a vegetable might have trouble attracting enough pollinators to bear fruit. I thus began researching hand-pollination, and learned the logistics: basically, many varieties of cucumber plants produce both male and female blossoms (you can tell them apart easily because the female blossoms have tiny little cucumbers-to-be at the base), and insects and the wind help them pollinate one another. In the absence of pollinators, pollinating can be done by hand with a Q-tip or similar item. So I got my Q-tip at the ready and crawled out to investigate my plant...and found that it had all male flowers! Dismayed, I researched further and learned that sometimes plants behave this way in response to transplant truama or cramped root systems. Since my little cukes are in a pot on the fire escape, I figured that the size of the pot was surely the problem, and that I'd not have any cucumbers this year. So i tried my best to just enjoy the flowers in all their perky little beauty.
But then yesterday - at noon on the summer solstice, no less - I leaned out the window to water the spearmint and what should I spy but a lovely lady blossom!
On further inspection, I found three others. Cucumbers may be had this summer, after all.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
The answer, increasingly, is that you don't have to choose, due to the rising popularity of Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA (no, not the Confederate States of America). Shares in a CSA can usually be purchased and/or exchanged for volunteer time assisting with farm work or distribution. CSA farmers are local and typically provide a weekly delivery or pick-up of a share of vegetables, fruits, and perhaps other farmed items like milk, yogurt, eggs, cheese, etc. Farms that provide CSAs are small-scale, often organic, and frequently utilize environmentally sound methods of production - resulting in both a healthier consumer and a healthier planet.
This is my second year participating in the Washington Square CSA, provided by Norwich Meadows Farm in upstate New York. (At right: Zaid, our farmer.) The CSA runs from mid-July to November and provides 7-12 lbs. of organic, seasonal veggies weekly for around $10/week. For additional cost, shares of fruit, milk, eggs, yogurt, cheese, and even chicken can be purchased. In fact, seasoned veterans of Pie in the Sky may remember one of my first posts, which accounted for the varied uses of whole chickens that had accrued in the freezer over the course of the CSA (the chickens were fantastic, but we couldn't manage to eat one bi-weekly and I've got limited freezer space, so we won't be doing chicken this year).
Anyway, this year I'm splitting my share with J and new roomie W, and we've signed on for veggies, cheese, yogurt, and eggs. I've had the (amazing delicious perfect creamline) yogurt and the cheese before, but this is my first time with eggs, which are organic and free range and have fiery orange yolks - the result of healthy chicken diets full of vitamins. We got our first share on Wednesday (we walk a few blocks to pick it up) and have already made use of its bounty with omelettes, a fantastic salad, and this delicious Braised Bok Choy with Garlic Scapes.
Before I tell you more about this recipe: what is a garlic scape? A scape is the tender stem of certain varieties of garlic that curls up and bears a pretty little seed-like bud. They're garlicky-tasting, but more subtle and buttery than garlic, and are usually sautéed, put in pesto, or eaten raw in salads, but can also be steamed, pickled, etc. A seasonal delicacy, their harvest time is brief but well worth it!
As with any CSA item, taking a fresh, crisp head of bok choy (Chinese cabbage) - harvested only hours before - and cooking it to death would be ludicrous. This quick braise retains the crispness while infusing the leaves with buttery garlic flavor. The result: deliciously crunchy, flavorful bok choy, served in a fragrant broth.
Braised Bok Choy with Garlic Scapes
2 heads bok choy, sliced in half lengthwise and washed
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic scapes, diced
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Pinch of cracked red pepper
Salt to taste
Toasted sesame seeds (available in Chinese markets and many supermarkets)
Melt butter in large sauté pan over medium heat. Add scapes and stir-fry to soften, about 1 minute. Add stock and bring to a simmer. Arrange bok choy in pan and cover, simmering for about five minutes or until tender.
Transfer bok choy to serving dish and cover to keep warm. Bring remaining broth and scapes to a boil and reduce to 1/2 cup or less. Stir in sesame oil and pepper; salt to taste. Pour over bok choy and sprinkle with sesame seeds; serve hot.
To find a CSA near you, visit localharvest.org, which provides "a definitive and reliable nationwide directory of C.S.A.’s, farmers’ markets, family farms and other local food sources." (Michael Pollan)
Other useful and insightful links and resources:
(These were taken from this post in Michael Pollan's New York Times blog, which is not viewable to non-subscribers.)
Center for Informed Food Choices (informedeating.org) advocates a diet based on whole, unprocessed, local, organically grown plant foods; its Web site contains a useful F.A.Q. page about food politics and eating well, as well as an archive of relevant articles.
Eat Well (eatwellguide.com) is an online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy and eggs. Enter your ZIP Code to find healthful, humane and eco-friendly products from farms, stores and restaurants in your area.
Eat Wild (eatwild.com) lists local suppliers for grass-fed meat and dairy products.
Food Routes (foodroutes.org) is a national nonprofit dedicated to “reintroducing Americans to their food — the seeds it grows from, the farmers who produce it and the routes that carry it from the fields to our tables.”
Heritage Foods USA (heritagefoodsusa.com) sells mail-order ‘traceable’ products from small farms — maple syrup, pole-caught tuna, grass-fed Kobe beef — whose labels provide every detail about how they were produced.
Just Food (justfood.org) works to develop a just and sustainable food system in the New York City region through projects including City Farms (a New York community garden program) and community supported agriculture (which connects regional farmers with produce-hungry city dwellers).
Local Harvest (localharvest.org) offers a definitive and reliable nationwide directory of C.S.A.’s, farmers’ markets, family farms and other local food sources.
Locavores (locavores.com), based in San Francisco, encourages people to eat only foods produced within a 100-mile radius of home. Their Food Web page offers an abundance of additional resources, including books, articles and Web sites.
Organic Consumers Association (organicconsumers.org), a research and action center for the organic and fair-trade food movement, maintains a comprehensive Web archive of articles about genetically engineered foods, cloning, food safety, organics and globalization.
Seafood Watch (mbayaq.org/cr/seafoodwatch.asp) — a program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium designed to raise consumer awareness about the importance of buying seafood from sustainable sources — offers a downloadable, pocket-sized, region-by-region guide to eco-friendly seafood.
Slow Food USA (slowfoodusa.org) is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to ecologically sound land stewardship and food production and to living a “slower and more harmonious” life.
Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture (stonebarnscenter.org) is a hands-on educational center and restaurant that aims to demonstrate, teach and promote sustainable, community-based food production on a working farm 30 miles from Manhattan.
Sustainable Table (sustainabletable.org) offers an introduction to the sustainable food movement and the issues surrounding it, plus resources for further investigation (the links for ‘Introduction to Sustainability’ and ‘The Issues’ are good places to start).
The U.S.D.A. Agricultural Marketing Service (ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets) includes a state-by-state listing of farmers’ markets across the United States.
“This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader,” by Joan Dye Gussow
“Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating From America’s Farmers’ Markets,” by Deborah Madison
“Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods,” by Gary Paul Nabhan
Farmer John’s Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables, by Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
I used to make oven-baked tri-color herbed potatoes all the time, but I have a feeling that now, I'll be making these instead - they were such a success! Great flavor, tender inside with a crispy crust, and a pretty herb tottooed on top that reminds your of flowers you pressed in books as a kid.
Cameo Herbed Potatoes
1/2 cup plus two tabelspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
2 large russet potatoes
About 5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
About 5 whole leaves of flat-leaf parsely
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Pour 1/2 cup olive oil into a 9x13 glass baking dish. Add salt and papper and swirl to combine.
Rinse potatoes and pat dry. slice each potato into 1-inch thick rounds. Press a rosemary sprig or a parsley leaf on one side of each slice (the cut side of the ends) and place herb-side-down into the oil. Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons oil over potatoes and sprinkle with salt.
Bake until potatoes are soft and nicely browned, about 40-45 minutes. Shift potoes in pan every ten minutes to prevent sticking. When done, remove from the pan and turn herb-side up. Enjoy!
(Recipe adapted from Olive Oil: From Tree to Table by Peggy Knickerbocker.)
Monday, June 12, 2006
Sunday, June 11, 2006
When we opened the jar, the decadent, earthy smell of truffles immediately filled the room. We peered in awe at the tiny dark chips of the precious mushroom that flecked the glittering crystals of salt - surely those miniscule flecks weren't responsible for the holy fragrance purfuming the whole apartment? Gingerly, we tasted it...and that's when the walls started melting.
All I'm going to say about this product, procured at S.O.S. Chefs, is that you must have it. Ever had one of those dining experiences where your food was so good it (almost) made you cry - the perfect bite of tender lobster; the cool, creamy forkful of ideal key lime pie; the garden-fresh watermelon you plucked off the vine and cracked open by hurling it at a stone...well, those are mine. But I digress. Food that makes you cry. THIS IS ONE OF THEM. All the rumors about truffles - aphrodisia, transport to the gods, harbinger of wealth - they're true.
But seriously, this stuff is like CRACK. Yesterday I caught myself sticking my fingers in it and eating it by itself. I have to hide it in my "very dear and special seasonings" hatbox to keep it from miraculously disappearing.
I've taken to preparing simple foods just to be landscapes for its remarkable flavor - on the first night that the truffle salt came to be with us, we has fettucine in a cream sauce. It was out of this world. We ate in reverent silence.
If a real truffle isn't on your shopping list (local market price is a minimum if $55/oz here, so it definitely isn't on mine) truffle salt should be. If you want me to, I will help you get some. Just ask. The jar is $15. It will change your life.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Remember my little Easter Herbs, who hatched from pretty, naturally-dyed eggs with all the promise of a fragrant, verdant summer on the fire escape? Well, some of you have been requesting updates since the last one, which came at about the two-week mark for most of the little guys.
We've had a week and a half of chilly rains, which slowed everybody's growth but kept them happily well-watered. Today, our first sunny day (but it's still cool!), they're having a good yawn and stretch up toward the sun.
Featured at top are my little cucumbers. I transplanted them into a pot that at the time seemed infinitely spacious for the little shoots, but now I'm regretting not giving them even more room. They seem content enough to flower, but we're having a problem: I don't think it's pollinating. After blooms drop off, there's no evidence of little cucumbers. Thinking there may not be enough insect life to sustain a New York City fire escape garden, I did some research about hand-pollinating cucumbers, but a problem arose: my plant does not appear to have any "female" blooms. This could be for one of two reasons: a) it's a cucumber plant engineered to self-pollinate within one bloom, so all of the blooms would be identical (this is a frequent occurrence, and the seed packet didn't specify the kind of cucumber it was); or b) the pot is stunting the plant's growth and making it sad so that it only produces flowers of one sex! I hope this isn't the case, although it seems the likelier of the two, since I did try hand-pollinating. Perhaps I am simply meant to develop an aesthetic appreciation of cucumbers this year.
The basil, relentless little plant that it is, is coming along fine and not posing any objection to frequent harvests and delicious pesto.
The box I like to call the nursery, because all of the slow-growing herbs are in it, is doing alright, with its oregano, parsley, and chives. Because my lavender didn't come up, I tossed some cilantro seeds in there on a whim, and two days later, POP! they looked like this!
Everyone seems to be fairly happy, though perhaps wishing they had a proper garden with unplumbable depths of earth. If an when the cucumbers make any fruiting progress, we'll get back to you!
Sunday, June 04, 2006
Something strange happens around June first in Lower Manhattan: everybody moves.
New York is a transient place already; there's a lot of coming and going. Additionally, between CUNY, NYU, the New School, and Pace University, there are a lot of students living in this neighborhood - all of whom have leases that expire on June first. In fact, I imagine that many normal (ie., not-student) people have leases that end June first too, left over from their student days.
Advantages to the Great June First Exodus:
1. Getting rid of crappy miserable kid neighbors you hate because they pee off the roof onto your herb garden;
2. Sidewalk-scavenging for move-out household items such as a snazzy new pullout loveseat for your book nook, featured at right;
3. Getting new and potentially better neighbors;
4. Baking cookies to take to them.
I know - didn't people stop bringing their new neighbors cookies in like, 1959? Well, friends, the cookies are all part of a strategy to:
a) Get on good terms with new neighbors so they'll feel guilty about engaging in activites such as those of my neighbors directly upstairs, who play what I can only assume is a game of Race the Heavy Furniture Across the Floor and See Who Collides with the Wall Hardest;
b) Get a chance to bemoan the old tenants ("Oh man, everybody in the building hated them. They *list atrocities committed by previous tenant/imply guidlines for how not to behave in the building*...I'm so excited to have you here! You fellas seem very sweet and way more mature than that rabble");
c) Eat cookies;
d) Impress new/not-your-boyfriend audience with culinary ability;
e) Be nice! C'mon, people, why all the cynicism? What's the world coming to these days?
I took a plate of these flavor-packed cookies to pretty much everyone I could think of (because I need "about 66" delicious cookies in my apartment about as much as I need to be introvenously fed sticks of butter). They're easy-to-make drop cookies that have impressively sophisticated, complex flavor pairings.
Chocolate Cranberry Spice Cookies
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon groad cloves
Pinch of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanuilla extract
3/4 cup dried cranberries
7 oz. good quality white chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
(To toast walnuts, simply chop them and toss in a hot saute pan just until fragrant; set aside.)
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.
Beat butter and sugars at medium speed until light, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce speed to low and add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the cranberries, white chocolate, and walnuts. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least three hours (or up to three days), until firm.*
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.
Pinch off pieces of the dough and shape into 1-inch blls. Arrange them on prepared sheets, spacing them two inches apart. Bake the cookies, once sheet at a time, for 9-11 minutes, until just set but very soft. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
Makes about 66 cookies.
*Three hours may seem like a long time, but it's really important. If you don't chill the dough for long enough, it won't be firm enough to take the heat in the oven and your cookies will come out flat.
This recipe comes straight to you from The Good Cookie by Tish Boyle.
I upped the amp on the flavors in these cookies by using fresh-ground nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves (bless you, mini-Cuisinart food processor!). The tart cranberries are the best part - they stand out against the smooth, buttery white chocolate and the medley of spices.
Now go bake yourself some cookies. And save some for your neighbors.
This is what I hope to say in August, when my family goes beach-bound and I take my sister Kristin on in our second annual Mojito-Off. Last year, participants' (my family's) preferences were split down the middle, with my coconut-rum mojitos playing sugary-but-delicious kid sister to Krissy's clean and refreshing traditional grownup beverage.
Well, not this year, kiddo. This year, Kate's bringing down the beach house with a mojito that packs a punch.
Kate's Thai Mojitos
2 oz. Bacardi coconut rum (or better!)
1 oz. fresh-squeezed lime juice
5 spearmint leaves and 1 sprig, for garnish
4 medium basil leaves
1-2 inches ginger root, peeled and jullienned (chopped into matchsticks)
1 teaspoon sugar, plus extra for rim of glass
Rub rim of glass with ginger root and dip in granulated sugar. Muddle spearmint leaves, basil, 1 tsp. sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of the lime juice until sugar is mostly dissolved. Add ginger, rum, and rest of lime juice; add ice and fill with club soda. Garnish and serve.
SPF 30 or higher recommended - these beachy-keen mojitos are way intense! The spicy, tangy, sweet (but not too sweet!) flavor with a zesty basil-coconut twist will really fog your sunglasses. (Optional: for a drier finish, do a half-coconut, half-regular light rum combo.)
Friday, June 02, 2006
I'm only going to say it one more time (such a lie!): I LOVE LEMONS. And this tangy, creamy, zesty-sweet tart epitomizes them! Puckery lemon curd and a slightly lemony, just-a-tad-sweet whipped cream/crème fraîche blend are swirled together for the filling - see the marbleization in the picture? It looks like sweet little fluffy clouds in a sunrise and tastes like that, but better. And with lemons.
I chose a sweet, chewy-crunchy brown sugar butter crust with a little chopped crystalized ginger and just a pinch of cardamom; the ginger and cardamom were fragrant while baking but barely discernable to the palate, adding just the tiniest hint of complexity to the lemony bliss.
By the way, this lemon curd recipe is my standard, and it comes out perfectly every time. Lemon curd is great as a spread for scones, pie fillings, or by itself with a spoon while you hide behind the refrigerator door.
I served wedges of my Sunrise Lemon Cream Tart with a drizzle of leftover rhubarb compote - its puckery sweetness was well matched to the lemon, but the flavors were different enough to compliment each other nicely...and the sunrise colors were beautiful!
I'm telling you, this tart rivals even my adoration of Key Lime Pie. And that's saying a lot.
Sunrise Lemon Cream Tart with Rhubarb Compote
Lemon curd filling:
4 large egg yolks
3 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup sugar
Lemon crème fraîche:
3/4 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup crème fraîche
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon peel
Rhubarb compote (optional):
4 cups 1/2-inch pieces fresh rhubarb (from about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
For rhubarb compote:
Combine all ingredients in heavy large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until rhubarb is tender, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Transfer rhubarb mixture to bowl. Cover and chill until cold, about 2 hours.
For lemon curd:
Whisk yolks and eggs together in small bowl. Combine lemon juice, butter, and 1/2 cup sugar in top of double-boiler. Set pan over simmering water (medium-low heat); whisk until butter melts and sugar dissolves. Gradually whisk 1/3 of hot butter mixture into eggs, then whisk mixture back into bowl with remaining butter mixture set over simmering water. Whisk constantly until custard thickens enough to hold marks of whisk, about 5 minutes (do not boil). Pour lemon curd through strainer set over medium bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface of lemon curd; chill overnight. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)
For Cardamom-Ginger Brown Sugar Crust:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350. Grease the bottom and sides of your tart pan (I don't have one of those, as you can see). In a small bowl, stir together the flour and salt; set aside. In a separate bowl, beat butter and brown sugar together until combined, about 1 minute; at low speed, add the flour mixture and mix just until crumbly. Pat the dough evenly into the bottom and sides of pan; prick well with fork. Bake crust for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown around the edges. Cool completely on a wire rack.
For lemon crème fraîche:
Using electric mixer, beat whipping cream, crème fraîche, 3 tablespoons sugar, and lemon peel in large bowl until stiff peaks form.
Spoon half of lemon curd and half of lemon crème fraîche into another large bowl. Using small rubber spatula, gently fold curd and lemon crème fraîche together, creating marble effect and being careful not to overmix to retain marbling. Spoon marbled mixture in dollops into cooled crust. Using tip of knife or small rubber spatula, swirl and pull mixture upwards in peaks. Repeat with remaining curd and crème fraîche mixture. Refrigerate tart at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours. Remove pan sides. Place tart on platter. Serve with rhubarb compote.
Makes 8 servings; can be chilled up to one week.
(This recipe was adapted from Bon Appetit, courtesy of Epicurious.com; the crust recipe comes straight to you from Tish Boyle's most excellent cookie book The Good Cookie, recommended to me by the illustrious Ivonne over at Creampuffs in Venice. For more Tish Boyle cookies, look on Ivonne's blog here and here.)
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Love's grand, ain't it? So are boys who cook for you...
(Message from J: recipe available upon request!)