Interim Salad with Apples, Red Onion and Goat Cheese: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Cold Storage Fruits and Vegetables

Interim Salad with Apples, Red Onion and Goat Cheese: It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Cold Storage Fruits and Vegetables

Have you ever upgraded to a nicer version of something and then missed the old one a little bit? The new video games are impressive but I do occasionally miss the days when  Mario and Luigi were two-dimensional. My father recently got a Smartphone and remarked that it had ‘an awful lot of buttons compared to the old one.’

Most of the farmers markets in the US are about to be flooded with what most people consider the best vegetables of the year. It will start with pea shoots and some greens and then move into peas, asparagus, and artichokes. The corn and tomatoes will come in for the finale and stay for some time before local eaters go back to cold storage fruits and vegetables.

I’ve certainly eaten my fill of parsnips and potatoes this year and I was ready to splurge on some of the beautiful greenhouse greens at the market to tide me over until the spring veggies come out. In a way, I wanted to speed up the arrival of spring. I found amazing microgreens and fresh goat cheese from Lynnhaven, my favorite goat cheese producer in NY. But on the way out of the market, I started to notice the bins of onions and apples. They weren’t as pretty as the greens I had in hand but I couldn’t get myself to leave without some cold storage action.

Together, they make a ‘sort of spring’ salad that is fresh and light but with a little nod to the delicious fruits and vegetables of fall and winter. The apples and onion also add a more serious crunch that really holds up to the richness of the goat cheese.

I am very excited for the spring foods to come out but in the meantime, I plan to enjoy the comforting local foods of the past few months. I may even try to unlock the lost levels in the 4-4 fire world in Super Mario Brothers. Does anybody remember how to do that?

 

Interim Salad with Apples, Red Onion and Goat Cheese

Farmers Market Bill $12/4 Servings= $3/Serving

Mince small clove of garlic and place in mixing bowl

Add 2 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard

Whisk in a 3 tablespoons of good olive oil

Add a pinch each of salt and black pepper

Peel and slice a large red onion

Core and slice 2 tart apples (granny smith work well)

Place onion and apple in bowl with dressing and add 6 oz. of baby greens

Toss to coat well and plate

Check salad for seasoning again and adjust if necessary

Break apart 3 oz. of local, fresh goat cheese and spoon on top of salad

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

Sautéed Calamari w/ Grape Tomatoes and Summer Herbs

Sautéed Calamari w/ Grape Tomatoes and Summer Herbs

Farmers Market Bill $12/4 servings= $3/serving

Most things that come with a side of marinara are yummy. Mozzarella sticks, mini-calzones, and calamari. In fact, I think after a particularly late night once, I might have ordered an appetizer sampler with all of the above. That’s what happens when you watch all the Police Academy movies back to back. Eventually, it’s 2AM and you start craving something with a side of marinara.

But if it’s earlier in the day perhaps you have good ingredients around, there might be an even tastier option.

The squid from Long Island was described to me by a fellow farmers market shopper as ‘The most underrated thing at any farmers market.’  It’s cheap, extremely easy to prepare, delicious, sustainable, and available much of the year. This time of year, there are plenty of tomatoes as well. And some of you I know are still trying to get rid of herbs from your garden and this is a good way to do it.

I do this with only the tiniest bit of breading and a very hot pan. It certainly has the bite of good calamari, but it’s missing the heaviness of the fried version and the raw tomatoes make the whole thing an ideal warm-weather main course. In fact, I think that after making the dish, you’ll agree that sides of marinara are for late nights and bad movies, but not usually for fresh and seasonal cooking.

Sautéed Calamari w/ Grape Tomatoes and Summer Herbs

Farmers Market Bill $12/4 servings= $3/serving

Heat 2 tablepoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat

Blot dry 1.5 pounds of squid and slice into small rings

Season a half cup of bread crumbs with salt and pepper

Add a teaspoon of white flour

Dredge squid very lightly in breadcrumb flour mixture and place in pan

(If your pan is crowded, do this in smaller batches or the squid may not brown)

Sauté for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally

Slice a pint of grape or cherry tomatoes in half

Chop a large handful of basil, tarragon, parsley, or whatever else is fresh

Toss squid with tomatoes and herbs

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon and drizzle with olive oil

Add salt and pepper to taste

For those who do not keep Kosher: Steamers in Ham Broth

Steamers in Ham Broth

Well hello Kosher readers! While I love the insightful comments you’ve been sending in about my Jewish dishes, I’m not sure this recipe is for you and perhaps you should come back next week for a recipe you might like better.

Pork and shellfish can range from good (bacon wrapped scallops at an office party) to great (Portuguese Clam Stew with Tomato and linguiça) to exquisite (Spanish Paella with Clams and Chorizo). But whatever the specifics of the dish, there is something exciting about the brininess of shellfish with some rich pork mixed in.

I don’t keep Kosher although my grandmother taught Kosher cooking at one point and many of my friends keep Kosher now. Growing up, we never ate Christmas or Easter hams even though I always knew they were tasty. Now I have no problem serving pork in my home, provided it comes from a local, small operation with extraordinarily high animal welfare standards. I think Tamarack Hollow fits the bill and they make a ham that is simply life changing for most of my guests who have tried it. But for some reason, I don’t serve ham all that often and when I do, I rarely save the bones. But the bones themselves are so full of flavor and nutrients that it would be wrong for a true Home Cook Locavore to pitch something that could so easily be used to make another meal. But what really inspired this dish, were the glistening steamer clams from Pura Vida out of Long Island. These clams rivaled those from Northern New England and begged to steamed and eaten. So 2 dozen steamers were on their way home and a ham bone sat in a bowl in the fridge along with some old carrots and an onion or two. While not the usual method of bringing shellfish and pork together, why not make a ham broth and then steam the clams in it making an even brinier and more delicious broth to serve with the clams? A squeeze of lime and a sprig of cilantro brightens up the dish and gives it an almost palate cleansing quality after each bite.

I noticed some great looking Kosher short ribs at the market this week and I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes. For now though, it’s time for pork, shellfish, and some very nice weather.

Steamers w/ Ham Broth (Farmers Market Bill $16/2 Large Servings = $8/serving)

For the ham broth:

Place a bone from a large ham in a stock pot

Add 2 carrots, 2 onions and whatever other veggies you have around along with 2 bay leaves

Cover bone and vegetables with water

Simmer for 2-3 hours, skimming every hour or so

Strain and taste stock adding pepper and possibly some salt (the ham bone adds some salt already and the steamers will be briny as well so go easy!)

 

For Steamers

Add 2 cups of ham stock to large skillet and bring to boil over high heat

Scrub 2 dozen local steamers and place in pan with ham stock

Cover and steam for 5 minutes or so or until all steamers have opened

Spoon a dozen clams into each of 2 serving bowls and pour remaining broth over steamers

Drizzle the juice of half a lime into bowls and garnish with a couple sprigs of farmers market cilantro

Enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pasta with Escarole and Dark Meat Chicken–It’s ok to be bitter

A little bitterness is ok. It’s not so good in relationships, after elections, or in the workplace, but it’s fine in a good Manhattan or tossed with pasta and some leftover chicken. In fact, pastured dark meat chicken is so meaty that a good bitter green really balances the dish. There might be another version of this dish to be made with white meat chicken and a more neutral green like spinach but for me, it’s better go for the fuller flavors. Escarole is available now at many farmers markets but if you have trouble finding it, you could easily substitute mustard greens, ramps, or even arugula. Talk to your farmer. It’s a fun way to do your shopping.

It’s important to stretch farmers market proteins. They are far more delicious than almost any meat to be found shrink-wrapped at the supermarket, but they are also more expensive. There are many reasons for this, most of them related to the higher land and labor costs of smaller scale, responsible farming. but as a home cook, it’s not hard to bring the cost per meal down by doing some creative things with the leftovers and possibly changing your cooking and eating style a few nights a week. (Here is an earlier post about making farmers market chicken more affordable).

Lately, I’ve been enjoying the ‘leftover meals’ even more than the more protein-heavy ones. It might be the season, or it might be the fun of making such tasty meals in such a short amount of time and for so little money. I’m not sure. It didn’t even bother me that I wasn’t invited to the roast chicken dinner that my neighbors threw last Thursday. Actually, that might just be sour grapes. Or bitter ones. It doesn’t matter. This dish is yummy.

Pasta with Escarole and Dark Meat Chicken

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

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil

Pull the meat off 2 chicken thighs or legs

Chop 2 cloves of garlic or 3 stalks of fresh spring garlic

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

Add garlic and chicken and saute gently for 5 minutes

Add 2 cups of chopped escarole

Add a cup of stock or white wine and lower heat slightly

Cook pasta according to package directions but drain a minute or 2 early

Toss drained pasta into chicken and garlic mixture and re-season with salt, peppper, and some red pepper flakes

Serve in pasta bowls with a quick grating of Pecorino or Parmesan if desired

Mangrove Snapper Tostadas

Fast food Mexican food can be tasty but sometimes I don’t want to think about the 45% ‘real’ filling or wonder when the meat hose was last cleaned out. But tostadas can be fresh, light, and made with local ingredients. If you have good seafood available locally, fish tacos or tostadas can be a fast and delicious weeknight meal.

I first tasted really great fish tacos in Los Angeles where people go so far as to wait in line for half and hour for a hand-pressed tortilla  with perfectly fried fish and cabbage slaw on top. Those tacos are truly things of beauty.

For the home version, I thought it might be better to saute the fish in a pan with some breadcrumbs instead of deep-frying. It makes the dish lighter and the cleanup easier. I found a small fillet of mangrove snapper that had been caught that morning and I had some leftover tomatoes, onions, and poblano peppers from the farmers market as well as half a Florida avocado. I also keep tortillas in the freezer for nights like this.

This works with almost any light fish. I’ve done something similar with tilapia and flounder and the results are just as wonderful. Similarly, feel free to chop up whatever vegetables you have around and throw them in the salsa. It will all be good.

And when you sit down to enjoy your meal, possibly with a margarita or beer in hand, you can rejoice in the fact that you put a light and local Mexican meal on the table without ever using a meat hose.

Mangrove Snapper Tostadas (Farmers Market Bill $12/3 servings= $4/serving)

Salsa:

Dice up a medium onion, 2 poblano peppers, and two medium tomatoes

Season with salt and a squeeze of lime juice

Fish

Beat one egg into a bowl

In another bowl, add about a cup of panko bread crumbs

Add a pinch each of salt, pepper and chili powder to both the bread crumbs and the egg

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat

Dredge an 8-10 oz piece of snapper in the egg and then coat with breadcrumbs

Saute fish for 4-5 minutes per side or until cooked through (It’s fine if the fish falls apart or if you need to cut into it to check doneness)

Warm up 3 tortillas in microwave or oven

Break fish apart and top each tortilla with a couple pieces of fish and a hefty spoonful of salsa

I added avocado and bit of sour cream at the end and of course hot sauce would work well too

Pasta with Roasted Peppers and Local Pecans

Thanks to all who have submitted roasted red pepper ideas! It seems many of you like to eat them in pasta. Me too. One of my favorite recipes involves tossing the peppers with some pasta and toasted pine nuts. There are local pecans here in Florida so I thought I’d give those a try. So let’s get started: Step one. Toss peppers with pasta and toasted pecans. Step two. There isn’t a step two because that’s it. Once you’ve roasted the peppers at the beginning of the week, this can be a very fast weeknight meal. If you can get local pasta, even better. I’m doing mine with a local pasta called Peperonata Pasta.  If you can’t find local pasta, no worries. Enjoy the local peppers and thank your farmer next time you see him or her.

Spaghetti with Roasted Peppers and Pecans (serves 2)

Set salted water on stove to boil

In a small frying pan, toast  1/2 cup pecans nuts over medium heat until fragrant (watch carefully as they burn quickly!)

Add 2 tablespoons of  Olive oil and a clove or two of minced garlic

Add a ½ cup of roasted red peppers and sauté over medium heat until pasta is ready

Drain pasta and toss with peppers and pecans

I like this dish with some chopped fresh parsley or basil but you could just as as easily use tarragon, oregano, or whatever you have around

If you want to add chili flakes, sprinkle them on at the end