Pepper Roulette– Blistered Shishito Peppers with Salt

Shishito Peppers #2

Pepper Roulette– Blistered Shishito Peppers with Salt

The farmers say that 1 out of every 12 of these peppers is very hot and that you should be careful. I’ve certainly eaten a fair number of hot ones over my shishito pepper eating years and I’ve never found them to be excruciatingly spicy or anything like that. The rare hot one is somewhere between the medium salsa at a New Hampshire Mexican restaurant and a jalapeno. But it can be a rush to put a plate of these on the table and then watch to see who gets the hot one. It’s like a very low stakes game of roulette where if you lose, you simply have to have a sip of water and then you can play again. Speaking of low stakes, this is one of the easiest and fool-proof dishes that I’ve ever made and they are always delicious as long as you find good peppers at your farmers market and have a decent cast iron skillet. That’s not to put down the great Spanish tapas bars in NYC like Txikito that do this dish beautifully. It’s just that it’s accessible for most home-cooks as well. So get ready for pepper roulette and remember, always bet on shishito.

Blistered Shishito Peppers with Salt

Preheat broiler

Drizzle 1-2 tablespoons of good olive oil over 1 Pint of Shishito Peppers

Add a pinch of Kosher salt and toss to coat

Put peppers in a cast iron skillet and broil for 5-7 minutes or until they start to blister

Taste again and add more salt if desired

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New Haven Style Clam Pizza (from Behind Enemy Lines)

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New Yorkers are proud of their pizza. There are good slices to be had on corners in the Village, amazing pies to be found throughout most of Brooklyn and upscale pizzas served in trendy restaurants with hipster waiters promising that their crusts are ‘bold and festive.’

But 90 miles away in New Haven, there is an even more intense, albeit smaller pizza pride movement. Indeed the clam pies at New Haven’s legendary Pepe’s are truly remarkable. The pizza is not cheese-heavy and the flavor hints of the very best Pasta alle Vongole you’ve ever tasted. Garlicy, buttery and briny at the same time but with a chewy crust. I’m afraid to sing the praises of New Haven’s pizza while only 3 blocks away from one of New York’s most intense pizza joints which has had a line out the door for the last 25 years but sometimes, I prefer New Haven style pies. And I like them even more when they’re made at home with local ingredients.

I had been playing around with Mario Batali’s pizza crust recipe using local honey to add the tiniest bit of sweetness to the dough. And don’t get me started on local clams. They are one of most affordable ways to make a top-tier local meal at home. And because a good clam pie has only a little cheese, it’s an ideal way to showcase firmer, sharper, local cheeses.

So get that pizza stone in the oven and get ready for what could be…hang on…someone’s coming. I mean “New York has the best pizza in the world! I love it. I don’t like anything else.”

New Haven Style Clam Pizza (from Behind Enemy Lines)

Farmers Market Bill $7/2 servings = $3.50/serving

Make enough pizza dough using your favorite recipe to make 2 large or 4 small pizzas

Roll out pizza into an 8-9 inch round

Preheat pizza stone to 500 (or 550 if possible) for half an hour

Coarsely chop 3 cloves of garlic

Steam a dozen small clams in a half-cup of water and reserve cooking liquid

Remove clams from shell and set aside

Add 1 and 1/2  tablespoons of butter to clam cooking liquid and stir in chopped garlic

Grate a half-cup of firm, local pecorino or other sharp cheese

Dust pizza peel with a small handful of cornmeal

Place crust on pizza peel

Sprinkle cheese on top along with a pinch of salt

Spoon clams on top of cheese and drizzle butter/garlic mixture over the top

Place pizza on stone

Bake pizza for 6 minutes or until brown on top

Serve with a local IPA or red ale

Good Tomatoes in Great Gratin

Good Tomatoes in Great Gratin

I found a Vanilla Ice CD on Ebay for $.01. I can’t think of anything else that costs so little, but apparently that’s all a recording of a past-his-prime pop star can command these days. The tomatoes hanging around the farmers market this time of year in the Northeast, if there are any at all, are not as pretty as they used to be. They are like old pop stars now past their primes, and upstaged by the fresh heirloom kale and beets now making their way up the charts. But I sometimes take pity on the little guys. And while I probably wouldn’t serve them plain (as I might in the summer), they have great potential that can be easily realized in the right dish.

A Tomato Gratin is a great way to welcome the cooler weather. Last year, I wrote about different ways to use leftover breadcrumbs in The Breadcrumb Diaries and one of my favorite uses to this day, is to use them to top gratins of different kinds.

This gratin is very simple to make and very easy to shop for. If you don’t see tomatoes at your market, try asking your farmer. She might have some in the truck waiting for a good home. If she does, grab 5 or six of them, preheat your oven, and get ready to play that funky music.

Tomato Gratin

Preheat oven to 400

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a small skillet

Chop a large onion and sauté for 10  minutes or until very soft

Slice 5 or 6 large tomatoes and set aside (these can be red, yellow, or even green)

Grate 4 ounces of firm, sharp,  local cheese into a bowl and add ¾ cup of breadcrumbs

Drizzle olive oil into a 9 x 9 inch baking dish

Layer tomatoes along the bottom

Add a teaspoon of the sautéed onions

Sprinkle the first layer with a pinch of salt, a bit of pepper, and a tablespoon of the breadcrumb mixture

Drizzle with a bit more olive oil

Repeat until tomatoes reach the top of the pan

Use remaining breadcrumbs and cheese to top the tomatoes and finish with a final drizzle of olive oil

Bake gratin for 15 minutes

If top is not brown, increase heat to 450

Bake for another 10 minutes

Let cool for at least 20 minutes before serving

Roast Jackfish over Bad-Ass Green Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes are bad ass. Their red and yellow counterparts whine as soon as it gets a little chilly out. Some of the really lame ones even shrivel up and die. But green tomatoes are not so fragile and I even found one that had been sitting in my fridge for over a week and half that was perfectly fine. They do not need to be handled delicately and can often be found fried (and in the title of a good movie with Kathy Bates). I’m pretty sure that they laugh at the rest of the summer veggies that complain as soon as long sleeve season begins. Yes, green tomatoes can tolerate a lot. So can whole coldwater fish.

The folks at the farmers market had a fish called Jackfish which looked dense and that I thought could stand up to the green tomatoes. Having never cooked the fish before, I consulted one of my favorite seafood cookbooks Fish and Shellfish by James Peterson. Jim’s book is great because after each recipe, it lists some comparable fish that can be substituted if the exact fish in the recipe is not available. I’ve found that having books like this makes it far easier to eat in season because it reminds me that most recipes can be adjusted to better showcase what’s available seasonally and locally. Anyway, Jim’s book recommends 15 minutes of cooking time in a 400-450 degree oven per inch of thickness. My fish was about an inch thick. No complicated math involved.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll be excited for the first tomatoes next season. But for a couple more weeks, these resiliant little green guys will more than suffice.

Roast Jackfish over Bad-Ass Green Tomatoes

Total Market Bill $15/3 Servings = $5/serving

Preheat oven to 425

Give a pound of green tomatoes and 3 cloves of garlic a rough chop

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in an oven safe skillet over medium heat

Add tomatoes and garlic along with some salt and pepper and saute for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes become slightly soft

Add a cup of white cooking wine, beer, or stock along with a pinch of cayenne pepper and a pinch of curry powder

Sprinkle both sides of a 1.5-3 pound whole fish generously with salt and pepper

When oven has preheated, lay fish on top of tomatoes and roast for 15 minutes per inch of thickness

I check my fish with a meat thermometer and I’ve found that once it reaches 130 degrees or so, you’re good to go. No need to check the tomatoes. They are fine whether they are sitting in a refrigerator, in a 425 degree oven, or anywhere in between.

Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Cast Iron Frittata

When people describe things as ‘lingering,’ they are usually describing things they wish would go away. (“I can’t hang out tonight because I still have this lingering head cold, but maybe next week I can come over and watch CSI Miami.”) But the farmer’s market tomatoes seem to be lingering well into October this year and they are more than welcome to stay. The last few times I’ve been shopping, I’ve found myself with a fun mishmosh of groceries. There are new greens in season now, lots of herbs, and the beginning of the hearty squashes of fall and winter. It’s sometimes nice to have some recipes that allow you to use whatever you have around. I love soups for this but they can take a long time. I wanted a quicker meal that was inexpensive and fun to serve to a group. I also wanted another recipe that would make great use of end of the season tomatoes which could be a little softer as well as the delicious local cheeses that I’ve been seeing lately at the market.

I think of frittatas like quiches without the pain of the crust. I also don’t bother with a non stick pan as I’m not quite sure what might happen to my body if I ingest teflon regularly (although I’d like to grow a tail someday). But a well seasoned cast iron skillet is ideal for cooking egg dishes and the food lifts right off the surface. I also love the fact that the dish looks so rustic and guests seem to love almost anything served in an iron skillet. So get your cast iron pans out, see what your farmers market has to offer and let’s get cooking.

Tomato, Goat Cheese and Cast Iron Fritatta

Farmers Market Bill $12/6 servings = $2/serving

Crack 6 fresh eggs into a bowl and beat with whisk or fork

Slice 2 large tomatoes thinly

Crumble 3 oz. or so of goat cheese in a small bowl

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a 6-8 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat

Add eggs and a heafty pinch of salt and pepper

Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes then sprinkle half the goat cheese over the eggs

Cook for an additional minute and then layer tomato slices throughout

Cook until fritatta has set (around 3 more minutes)

Sprinkle the remaining goat cheese over the top

If frittata is too loose, finish in 400 degree oven for 5 minutes or so

Sprinkle the top with some fresh herbs if you have them. If not, it’s fine by itself. Well, better than fine. It’s really as delicious lunch. I enjoyed this one with my grandmother.

The Bread Crumb Diaries Part I ($1.25/Serving)

I was cleaning my kitchen today and I noticed my cutting board was covered with Bread Crumbs from a loaf of sourdough I had sliced up earlier. As I began to scrape the crumbs into the garbage, I had a realization: Breadcrumbs are useful and should be treated with respect. Hanzel and Gretel certainly wouldn’t have thought of throwing their breadcrumbs away, especially if they were working on a blog about sustainable eating. So with a small bag of breadcrumbs now in the fridge, I’d like to see how many dishes can benefit from a handful or two of breadcrumbs.

Italian vegetable dishes often use breadcrumbs to give them a bit more texture. The American version may be mushrooms stuffed with a huge amount of breading but there is a more moderate (and tastier) way to do it. Start by melting a couple teaspoons of butter from in a skillet and then add a handful of crumbs. Turn the heat to medium/high or so and watch for the breadcrumbs to become toasty. When they start to color a little bit, remove them from the pan and saute whatever greens you have around. I have winter kale tonight (delicious) but you could use almost any leafy veggie. To be honest, I’m more excited to add breadcrumbs to spring and summer veggie dishes but we’ll come back to that in a couple months. For now, enjoy your kale and try not to throw too many yummy things away as I almost did.

Sauteed Kale with Toasted Breadcrumbs

Heat 2 teaspoons of butter or olive oil in a skillet and add a small handful of breadcrumbs

Add extra fat if mixture looks too dry

When crumbs start to color, remove from pan.

Add a drizzle of olive oil and 2 cups of chopped kale. Sautee for 3 minutes or so.

Salt and pepper to taste, add a splash of white wine and cover for 2 minutes or so.

Add toasted crumbs and toss with the kale.

Taste again. This might be a good place to add splash of vinegar, some extra wine, or a few shavings of local, firm, cheese.

Eat well.