Thursday, May 27, 2010

Salad Time

After just one blisteringly hot day I am already afeared of the summer. I spend a good portion of the day in the basement where it's perfectly cool. This is when dinner turns to easier stuff, which I'm always glad for. I love salads that keep in the fridge for a night when doing anything is ten times harder due to the heat. And I especially love things that use up what we have, like a jar of carrot daikon pickle, which I drained and tossed with a head of shredded purple cabbage. Along with some olive oil, salt and pepper it turned into a delightful summer slaw that took a few minutes to prepare.

Last week we ventured out to the Rhinebeck Farmer's Market, and Steve was smitten with some wild turkey and partridge eggs. He's forever looking for the perfect egg for the perfect egg sandwich. Even though he thinks he found it in the duck egg, he's still open to other eggs. He'd decided that the partridge egg makes a good english muffin egg sandwich, because of it's size. The yolk to white ratio is high, too, which is a plus. But then we had a real excess of eggs so I made some fancy curried egg salad. I sort of went along with this recipe from 101 Cookbooks. I must say I was a little iffy on the apple, but did it anyway. Well, personally, I should have stuck to my gut and left them out. I'm just not on the egg/apple train. Vidalia onions in a chunky dice was just right though.

The soba noodles I tossed with some apricot chutney dressing I made with soy sauce, sesame oil, dijon, and of course, apricot chutney from the pantry. And the rest of the arugula that's bolting, wilted and chopped and folded right in. Now, all I have to make is some rhubarb-strawberry pops, and we are set for summer!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rhubarb Jam

If you have been reading the last few posts, you know that I have a little bit of a rhubarb problem. About twenty pounds of a rhubarb problem, actually. Lucky for me, this month's Tigress' Can Jam the chosen item is rhubarb, along with asparagus (which I ended up eating already!), picked by Sarah over at Toronto Tasting Notes. My biggest haul at once was just over 12 pounds from a local organic farm in Accord, NY. I admit, it was a little daunting once I starting working with it. Four pounds were chopped and immediately put in the freezer. Four more pounds were simmered, strained, with juice and the pulp frozen separately for later uses. Another four were used for this jam.

I haven't opened Mes Confitures since my winter obsession with it, and it was fun to dive back in, especially since there are so many rhubarb combinations. This recipe hooked me because of its execution. Over the summer a friend gave me a jar of incredible rhubarb ginger jam from Ethel's Kitchen in Martha's Vineyard. It was incredible; big chunks of rhubarb held their shape in a soft sea of stewed rhubarb. Whenever I have made rhubarb jam, it breaks down completely, and I've found that this technique is the way around that.

Now, if you are familiar with Christine Ferber's Mes Confitures you will know that it's often cryptic. And a lot of the recipes are incredibly sweet. This recipe is no different. What's cryptic is that there is no pectin in it: zero. Rhubarb doesn't have any natural pectin, there's no added pectin, and no apples or other high pectin fruit. I knew going in that I wouldn't get a jell at all, but in the future I think I will add pectin (for those who are interested, I would add Pomona's: 2 t of each calcium water and pectin). I'm not sure if this is a morning on your toast kind of confiture. It's really more of a confection than a spread. I would drizzle this on top of ice cream or a dessert. It's really a syrup with fruit suspended in it.

I used this incredibly thin, delicate, red rhubarb that I received from the generous Meghan Murphy, a journalist, who also runs the Hudson Valley Food Network (If you are local, this is a great site to join if you want to keep abreast of the farm to table scene. It's also a great resource if you are visiting the area!) I had posted on the site that I was looking for rhubarb, and she kindly found me some. The small diced chunks are a perfect texture; the maceration shrivels them and I find them, may I say it? Toothsome.

Rhubarb Jam adapted from Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber

2 3/4 pounds rhubarb (the recipe asks for 2 1/4 pounds net, but this is the amount I used)
3 cups sugar (recipe calls for 3 3/4 cups)
2 T lemon juice (recipe calls for 2 T)

Make a small dice with the rhubarb. Macerate with sugar and lemon over night in a ceramic bowl covered with parchment paper.

Strain the syrupy juice and bring it to a boil in a heavy pan. Bring it to 221 degrees on a candy thermometer. Add diced rhubarb. Return to a boil, mixing gently. Skim. (I didn't skim, and it did leave me with some foamy bubbles in the jam.) Continue cooking on high for five minutes, stirring. Put jam in hot jars and seal. Process for ten minutes, turn off the heat and let sit for five more minutes.

Note: Ferber does not water process so this processing time was my guess. I think it's fine, due to the high acid content in rhubarb, plus the lemon, but do be advised this is not a tested recipe for water bath canning.

So, now I have a few more pounds of rhubarb left, and the strawberries just started ripening. I'm blown away by how many I am getting. I picked a quart this morning, and that's with my son eating quite a bit. I'm sure there's going to be a good strawberry rhubarb jam recipe I can use from the Can Jam this month!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tofu, Noodles, Arugula, Leeks in Duck Broth

Before it gets a little too rhubarb-y in here, I figured I'd prove that I eat a little bit more than just fruits and jellies. It's been raining hard, and I thought today deserved some soup. Last week was my birthday, so there was a lot of unrestrained eating and drinking of rich things. One of which was a duck. I pulled the breasts for the freezer, and roasted the rest of it to braise in the rendered fat. Oh, was that leg meat good on some rice, alongside the aromatic vegetables that were cooked in the fat as well. (Does that render the vegetable a vegetable any more?)

The carcass was then turned into a flavorful stock, as it had been coated heavily with 5-spice powder when roasted. The stock, nestled in the back of the fridge for such an occasion, was the base for tonight's meal. Just simmered with leeks, garlic and ginger, then lo mein noodles tossed in to cook, heat off and handfuls of fresh from the garden arugula to wilt. I fried up some tofu in soy and honey to sit on top. So satisfying, particularly after getting soaked while you are up on a ladder removing gunk from the clogged gutters.

Tomorrow, we return to the rhubarb channel. All rhubarb, all the time.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Strawberries and Rhubarb

There's good things happening over here. Like twelve pounds of rhubarb. And this morning, the first three ruby-red strawberries of the season. All three just perfect specimens of strawberry-ness, in all ways: color, shape, smell, taste. My little boy agreed--he was almost indignant when I said that they were finished. His favorite word hurtled out of his mouth: "more!" There will be more, we just have to wait, I told him. But that's no good to a toddler. And I don't blame him a bit.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Roast Rhubarb Tart

Lately, I've been seeing posts about all things rhubarb, and I couldn't be happier about it. Rhubarb is one of my favorite things. It's sweet-tart flavor never fails to imbue me with happiness. I think it would be remiss to say that it's quick season and scarcity add to its mystique. When I was a kid, my mother used to make pots of rhubarb, simply stewed with sugar, and I would happily eat bowls of it. So, when I saw this very simple custard-y tart, I thought, good god, of course! Crème fraîche in the fridge (which, honestly, has to stop being a staple due to its ability to jump into almost any dish and make them much more caloric) and lots of extra fresh eggs put this tart into must-make territory. The recipe is from the Times Online via Mountainear, a lovely blog that I don't read often enough, but when I do, there's always something to love. This tart is very custardy, and on the not-sweet-at-all side! There's only a few tablespoons of sugar, so add some if you have a sweet tooth, or leave it be if you don't. There's no doubt I have a sweet tooth, but I loved how the lack of sugar left the rhubarb to be it's tart self, and the creamy custard to showcase the nuttiness of the crème fraîche.

While you're feeling rhubarb-y you could visit Cakewalk's post on this delicious Rhubarb Kuchen or a great post that includes, but is not limited to, a gorgeous pitcher of rhubarb juice.

Or, Sustainable Eats' recipe for Grandma's Rhubarb Custard Pie, because rhubarb really does pair well with custard. I have a similar recipe that I took the time to photo copy and write on the stained paper, "Great!!"

Or Chez Danisse's post on Star Anise Rhubarb. And then, with rhubarb snack of choice in tow, stay to read all the beautiful things she writes.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Asparagus Timbale

Back when I was just a baby--we're talking newly a teen--I worked at my friend's mother's restaurant, a gorgeous, classy, French restaurant, and that's where I fell in love with working in restaurants. That sounds like a weird thing to say, but it was outrageously adult and mysterious for a fourteen-year-old who was already bored with her surroundings. And to this day, when I walk into a restaurant from the kitchen entrance, I'm sort of transformed by the smell and look of it. It's totally different from eating at a restaurant, which I'm also fond of, but in an entirely different way. I've met a good deal of my closest friends working at restaurants. You are thrown in an intimate and pressured setting to perform art. It's theater! It's dance! It's not always pretty, but there can be some great times.

The restaurant was filled with interesting people, like Dawn, one of the cooks, who one day asked us to run to Soundtracks and pick up the new Loverboy album for her. I mean, she was cooking fine French food and went out late and rocked to Loverboy! Mind-boggling! Or Jerry, who taught me what a gimlet was. Of course, there were also new foods that blew my mind like Couer a la Creme and Asparagus Timbale. After purchasing some big and sturdy local asparagus, I decided to revisit the timbale.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a glass pan--I used a 6 cup Pyrex dish.

2 1/2 cups of asparagus (cooked), onion (1 small), parsley (handful) chopped well in processor
4 T cream
2 ounces chevre
3 eggs
1/4 grated Parmesan
salt and pepper

Mix all well. Pour into pan. Put pan in a water bath. The bath should be level with the timbale. Bake about 40 minutes or so, until set nicely. You should cover the timbale with a greased piece of parchment paper. This recipe also works well with leftover pureed soups. Bread crumbs can be added to give more shape.

The timbale was so easy and perfect for asparagus that might not be so tender. I should have had a gimlet to complete the memory, but had a glass of wine instead. During the day, exasperated with the Lily of Valley taking over the front beds, I pulled a bunch, and stuck them in a bowl. They've been perfuming the living room ever since. A nuisance turned into something that's been making me happy all week!

We had the timbale with another perfect garden salad, and grilled turkey that I marinated with kimchi brine---a wonderful tip gleaned from Peter's cookblog at Qui Si Mangia Bene, who always has great things going on, whether it's his original artistic cooking, or sharp witty writing, or beautiful baking. I say gleaned because you can't just visit and run away with a tip. You've got to work for it a little, but it's always worth it.

Working in a restaurant, working for the weekend, working for a tip. There are some good things about work, you know?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Roasted Ramp Stuffed Trout with Asparagus Salad

I keep this blog as a food journal so I remember what I did, but there are some things that just happen and probably won't again. I subscribe to the haphazard "what do I have on hand" way of cooking. This whole trout stuffed with a few ramps, olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon was roasted for twenty minutes in a 375 degree oven. The salad was fresh, local asparagus shaved thin, tossed with fava beans, garden radishes and chives, olive oil, pepper and ume vinegar. Topped with some local chevre and more olive oil. Goodness!