Category Archives: Small bites

This is how you learn.

Standard
Farm Camp at Arcadia

Farm Camp at Arcadia
Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi.

“They have farm camp?!” I asked my friend Pamela Hess. “That is the coolest thing ever!”

To my complete delight, she invited me to do a cooking class with the campers at Arcadia, a cool, non-profit farm – where Pamela is the Executive Director – dedicated to reconnecting us with our food and the people who produce it. These kids have spent a week feeding chickens, pulling weeds, harvesting fresh produce and learning how to cook. They already knew amazing recipes like zucchini pasta, fresh salsa, and veggie quesadillas. They even have mad knife skills.

IMG_4041

Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi

From the second I arrived they were all over me. “Who are you? How’d you become a chef? What are we cooking?” They uncorked bottles of vinegar and oil knowing instinctually to smell them. When they found something they loved, they immediately shared it with someone else. They asked how we were using each new ingredient and tool that I placed on the table.

We cooked together for just over an hour, far longer than my childhood attention span. We made pan con tomate, and tossed vinaigrettes over zucchini and corn, and arugula, fresh from Arcadia’s farm.

IMG_4052

Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi

During Q&A one of the campers asked me how I learned to cook. I talked about the years I spent exploring and practicing in the kitchen, but they didn’t really need an answer from me. When it comes to learning, they are already experts.

Pan con tomate

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 18 slices of baguette, 1/4″ thick, about 1/2 of a baguette
  • 1-2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • Maldon or other flaky sea salt
  • Olive oil – the good stuff!
Farm Camp at Arcadia

Farm Camp at Arcadia
Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi

Directions:

  • Warm your oven to 400 degrees and toasts the bread until crisp and golden on the edges, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Rub toasted bread a couple of times with the clove of garlic.
  • Cut each tomato in half and grate into pulp using a box grater. If the pulp is really watery, strain through a fine sieve to thicken.
  • Spread a teaspoon of pulp over each baguette slice. Sprinkle with salt, drizzle with a drop or three of oil, and serve.

Corn and Zucchini Salad

Serves 6-8

Cutting corn off the cobIngredients:

  • 1 large zucchini cut in a 1/2″ dice
  • 4 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1 tbs chopped basil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar – we used Blackberry Balsamic
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2/3 cups olive oil – the good stuff!

Directions:

  • Mix together zucchini, corn and basil in a large bowl.
  • Chop garlic, sprinkle with coarse salt – like sea salt or Kosher salt – and mash into a paste on your cutting board using the flat side of your knife or the tines of a fork.
  • Add the garlic to a small bowl with the vinegar and honey. Whisk together.
  • While whisking, pour the oil into the vinegar mixture, in a thin stream. Whisk until it forms a thick, creamy emulsion.
  • Dress the veggies lightly and serve.

Fresh Arugula Salad

Serves 6

IMG_4129

Photography by Gene Buonaccorsi

  • 1/2 pound baby arugula
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup vinegar – we used Pomegranate vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2/3 cups olive oil – the good stuff!

1.4 whisking vinaigretteDirections:

  • Place the arugula in a large salad bowl.
  • Chop garlic, sprinkle with coarse salt – like sea salt or Kosher salt – and mash into a paste on your cutting board using the flat side of your knife or the tines of a fork.
  • Add the garlic to a small bowl with the vinegar and honey. Whisk together.
  • While whisking, pour the oil into the vinegar mixture, in a thin stream. Whisk until it forms a thick, creamy emulsion.
  • Dress the salad lightly, tossing with tongs to coat. A perfectly dressed green salad should just glisten with dressing and there should be almost nothing left in the bottom of the bowl when you’re done serving.
Advertisements

Todd wants wings.

Standard
Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Two years ago, my husband, Jason, and I were sitting at home watching Food Network. On comes Giada De Laurentiis who announces she’s preparing a Game Day menu for her husband and his buddies. “Todd,” she exclaims, “is going to be thrilled when I substitute his usual game day foods with these healthy alternatives!”

Now, I love Giada, but Jason and I, without speaking a word, exchanged a look that said, Todd and his buddies are going to be pissed when Squid Stew and Swordfish Sandwiches replace chili and sliders.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Fast forward to last weekend and my live cooking demo at Eastern Market’s Sapore Oil and Vinegar. Reading my Super Bowl Snacks menu filled with roasted, spiced chick peas, orange and rosemary oil marinated olives, and spicy homemade hummus, Jason tells me, “You’ve turned into Giada.”

A compliment under any other circumstances, I knew he wasn’t talking about my figure and that he was right. There was only one solution: we needed wings. These two recipes were designed to showcase two special vinegars available at Sapore, and they are available online. They are sweet and spicy, sticky, rich, tender and moist.

We’ll even cook a few extra for Todd.

Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Honey Wings

This is based on Sapore’s wonderful, seasonal Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Vinegar. Order it online or use the substitutions I suggest below.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Cinnamon Pear Balsamic Vinegar*
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2” ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste with salt
  • 1 tsp rosemary, minced
  • 1.5# split chicken wings and drum sticks

*To substitute, add 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup pear nectar and 2 cinnamon sticks to a small saucepan and simmer until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup.

Directions:

  • Whisk together marinade ingredients. Place wings in a ziplock bag and toss with 1/2 cup of the marinade. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 450.
  • Place wings in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Don’t skip the foil. The sugary marinade will caramelize and make a mess on your unlined sheet pan. Cook for 30 minutes, turning once. If roasting two pans at once, switch positions in the oven at 15 minutes.
  • While wings cook, place remaining sauce in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium and let bubble away for 10 minutes until thickened.
  • When wings have cooked for 30 minutes, brush with sauce and return to oven for 5 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Serrano Chile Soy Honey Wings

This is based on Sapore’s versatile Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar. The vinegar is made from fermented honey and is wonderful with Asian, African and Asian recipes. Order it online or use the substitutions I suggest below.

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar*
  • 1/4 honey
  • 1/2 inch ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
  • 2 tbsp soy
  • 2 tsp Sriracha Thai-style hot sauce(optional)
  • 1.5# split chicken wings and drum sticks
  • 2 tbs toasted sesame seeds

*Try a good quality Sherry vinegar instead of the Serrano Chile Honey and substitute puréed chipotle in adobo for the Sriracha to get some smokey flavor.

Directions:

  • Mix together marinade ingredients. Place wings in a ziplock bag and toss with 1/2 cup of the marinade. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 450.
  • Place wings in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Don’t skip the foil. The sugary marinade will caramelize and make a mess on your unlined sheet pan. Cook for 30 minutes, turning once. If roasting two pans at once, switch positions in the oven at 15 minutes.
  • While wings cook, place remaining sauce in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium and let bubble away for 10 minutes until thickened.
  • When wings have cooked for 30 minutes, brush with sauce and return to oven for 5 minutes.
  • Remove wings from oven, brush again with sauce and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Denver Beer is a whole other story.

Standard
Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

“Good Lord! This recipe looks ugly.” You’ve said that before, and you’re about to say it again. This hors d’oeuvre has lots of ingredients, many steps and big, scary challenges like homemade mayonnaise. It’s time to channel Dr. Bob Nakosteen. Dr. Bob was my econ and stats professor during my MBA program. One day, he explained why we hate math.

“When we read a paragraph of prose,” said Dr. Bob, “it contains a certain amount of information. Our brains have gotten pretty comfortable with that ratio of text to info. Math, on the other hand,” he said, “contains a lot more info per character. In fact, a line of mathematical symbols could contain as much information as one or several paragraphs of prose. This is when your head explodes.”

The key is to take a deep breath, change the speed on the record, and break the problem down.

Recipes are the same. The purée mashes together peas and sautéed shallot, simmered in a little stock to add depth and liquid, and seasoned with mint. The vinegar balances the slightly cloying sweetness of peas.

Mayo is simply oil whisked into egg yolks, using mustard to hold it together and seasoned with salt, pepper, lemon juice and wasabi. We chill the seared steak in the freezer so it is firm enough to slice thinly. Then we put it all on toast.

That’s it. Two really short paragraphs that translate  all those steps and ingredients below. Sure, it’s four recipes in one (if you count toast), but you can do it. Plus, it looks and sounds really impressive, just like math, so you can tell your friends just how amazing you are. That, my friends, is worth a toast (with a Denver Beer – you’ll have to ask Dr. Bob about that too.).

*Shout out to the Isenberg School of Business at UMASS

Berbere beef crostini with wasabi mayonnaise and minted pea purée

Ingredients:

Minted pea purée

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 1# bag frozen peas
  • 1 cup homemade chicken stock
  • 1 tbs chopped fresh mint
  • 1-2 tbs Champagne Mimosa Vinegar*

Wasabi mayonnaise

  • 2 egg yolks**
  • 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cups grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1-2 tbs wasabi powder or wasabi paste

To assemble

  • 1# sirloin steaks, about 1-1.5″ thick
  • 1-2 tbs Berbere seasoning*
  • 1 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 baguette cut in 1/4″ slices

*Sapore’s Champagne Mimosa vinegar is slightly sweet and mildly acidic. I would substitute a splash of sherry vinegar. Berbere is a complex spice blend unique to Ethiopian and Eritrean food. It’s got a lot of ingredients, but you can make a simple start with equal parts cumin, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, cayenne and paprika. 

**The egg yolks in homemade mayonnaise are not cooked. There is some risk here, just like crossing the street or bungee jumping. Buy your eggs farm-fresh from someone you trust. If there are special health risks you are worried about, talk to your doctor or use store-bought mayo and mix in the wasabi powder.

Directions:

Make the pea puree:

  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced shallot and sauté until softened.
  • Add peas and cook 1-2 minutes.
  • Add stock and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Add mint. stir through and turn off heat.
  • Mash peas in a food mill or a mortar and pestle. You want a little texture to remain. Season to taste with vinegar, salt and pepper. The sweetness of the peas should be light, not cloying.

Make the wasabi mayonnaise

  • Whisk together egg yolks, mustard, lemon juice and a pinch of salt, until yolks are thick and sticky, about 30-60 seconds.
  • Whisk in oil, a couple drops at a time, until mayonnaise starts to form. Add remaining oil in a thin stream until incorporated. Mayonnaise can feel quite thick.
  • Whisk in wasabi. Let rest in fridge. Before serving, season to taste with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice, if needed.

Season and sear the beef

  • Heat a heavy bottomed pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
  • Cut sirloin into 2″ wide strips. Pat dry and season with salt, pepper and Berbere. The Berbere will need to be a thick rub, because the flavor will only come from the outside of the thinly sliced steak.
  • Add 1 tbs vegetable oil to the pan. Heat to almost smoking and add the beef, searing on all sides for 1-2 minutes, until browned.
  • Remove beef to a plate, tent and let cool to room temp. Place in freezer until firm, but not frozen. Using a sharp knife, cut beef into the thin slices, 1/4″ or less.

Make crostini

  • Place baguette slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake at 400 degrees until lightly browned. Remove and let cool. (That was easy!)

Assemble

  • Check the seasoning on the pea puree and the wasabi mayonnaise. Add salt, pepper, wasabi, vinegar etc… as needed.
  • Spoon the mayonnaise into a ziplock bag or piping bag. Cut a tiny point off the corner of the bag.
  • Top each crostini with a tbs of pea purée. Place a slice of beef over the peas. Pipe a thin stream of mayonnaise over the beef.
  • Eat them all because they are so delicious. Make another batch for your guests. Or just bust out the Brie and crackers.

Pumpkin quesa-different.

Standard

Photograph by Sam Armocido

Think of your favorite recipe. The one you’ve made for years. It’s flavors are burned on your tastebuds. You can recreate it from sense memory. Go into your kitchen and prepare it, writing down each step and each ingredient. Grab the cookbook off the shelf and let it fall open it to the familiar, splattered and stained page.

Surprise.

Even the recipes we know best change over time as our palates and our dinner partners, the markets we shop from and the popularity of ingredients evolves. Bland canned tomatoes give way to San Marzanos, or fresh stewed. Cayenne is replaced with smoky chipotle, ancho or complex Piment d’Espelette. Children demand simpler flavors, new boyfriends or wives shape your meals with their own experiences and preferences.

One year ago I served up sausage and pumpkin quesadillas. This year the heavy blend of cumin, chile powder and Spanish paprika overpowered the sweet hearty Hubbard squash. Chopped tomato brightened the rich flavors with sweetness and acidity. Savory andouille sausage was replaced with equally spicy but less earthy Mexican chorizo.

Change isn’t always good or bad. Sometimes it’s just different. Fortunately in the kitchen, it’s usually delicious.

Pumpkin Chorizo Quesadillas

*A pizza cutter is the best way to slice quesadillas. A knife pushes all the filling out.

Photograph by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 links Mexican (uncooked) Chorizo
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cups Hubbard or acorn squash purée*
  • 1 tsp Spanish paprika
  • 1 tsp Serrano Chile Honey vinegar**
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tomato, seeded and diced
  • 10-12 6” tortillas

*For squash puree, split and roast squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet, at 400 degrees. When flesh can be easily pierced with a roasting fork, like soft butter, it is done. Let cool, scrape pumpkin from skins and mash.

**I still can’t get enough of this vinegar from Sapore. You can substitute sherry vinegar and 1/2 tsp honey.

Directions:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12″ skillet at medium. Remove casings from chorizo and brown meat, crumbling a it cooks. Remove meat with a slotted spoon when fully cooked.
  • Add oil, if needed, to make up 2 tbs fat in the pan, and sauté onion.
  • When onion is soft, add squash purée and heat through. Season with paprika, Serrano Chile Honey vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix sausage into squash.
  • Assemble quesadillas on top of 1 tortilla, layering cheese, squash mixture, diced tomato and finally topping with more cheese and a second tortilla.
  • Cook quesadillas over medium heat, lightly browning both sides. Slice and serve.

What I haven’t cooked yet.

Standard

Two weeks ago, Dave and Valerie from Sunnyside Farm gave me a Cinderella pumpkin, saying, “We bet you haven’t cooked this yet.” They were right. I’ve cooked Blue Hubbards, warty Peanut pumpkins and dark-green, lumpy, Italian Marina de Chioggia. But I had never cooked a Cinderella pumpkin.

The first thing I wanted to know was how it tasted. Grey and oblong, Blue Hubbards are sweet and rich. If you want classic pumpkin, for pie or soup, Hubbard is the squash for you. Peanut pumpkins, also know by their French name, Galeux d’Eysines, is mild and sugary. The “peanuts” are the result of sugars building up under the skin. Chioggia, on the Adriatic coast of Italy, is known for its candy-striped beets and it’s namesake pumpkin. Sweet, rich, drier and dense, it is the pumpkin of choice for gnocchi.

The Cinderella pumpkin, red and flat, is a French heirloom also known as Rouge vif D’Etampes. It is likely the pumpkin the Pilgrims and Wampanoags served at the first Thanksgiving. It is mild and not particularly sugary. It cooks down into a beautiful bright orange purée. Tasting more like dinner than dessert, I began to think of Asian flavors and dumplings.

Light Tamari soy, sweet palm sugar and rich, toasted sesame oil delivered the asian flavor profile. Purchased gyoza skins were a valuable shortcut for wrapping the dumplings. Riffing on sweet chile sauce (thanks Renee!), we combines Merken Chile Oil, Tropical Spice Vinegar, Lancaster County honey for sweetness and red miso paste for depth. The satiny texture and rich color of the sauce paired beautifully with the cooked dumplings.

And now I’ve cooked a Cinderella pumpkin.

Cinderella Pumpkin Dumplings

Makes 15-18 full dumplings or 25-30 half dumplings.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Cinderella pumpkin purée*
  • 1 tbs palm sugar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Serrano Chili-Honey Vinegar**
  • 1 package round gyoza skins, thawed or 1 package of square wonton skins, cut round with a biscuit cutter.

For sauce:

  • 1 tbs Merken Chile Oil**
  • 1 tbs Tropical Spice Vinegar**
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp red miso paste

*To cook your pumpkin, scroll to the bottom of the directions.

**I’ve been shopping at Sapore again. Substitute Sherry vinegar for the Serrano-Chile Honey. Use a chile infused olive oil for the Merken and add white wine vinegar with a pinch of sugar in place of the Tropical Spice.

Directions:

  • Combine pumpkin purée with palm sugar, soy, sesame oil, ginger and Serrano Chile Honey Vinegar. Season to taste with a pinch of salt.
  • Wet the edges of two gyoza skins or wonton wrappers. Place a teaspoon of filling in the middle of one wrapper.
  • Cover with second wrapper with wet sides faceing. Press together pushing out air. Cut around the filling with a biscuit cutter leaving 1/4” of wrapper outside the filling. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  • OR place a scant teaspoon of filling in the middle of a gyoza skin, wet the edges and fold in half, pressing out the air and making sure the dough seals all the way around without filling squeezing through. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  • Boil dumplings for 3-4 minutes, about 1 minute after they float to the surface.
  • Whisk together sauce ingredients and serve over cooked dumplings.

Cooking your pumpkin:

Method #1: Roasting

  • Cut your pumpkin in quarters.
  • Scoop out the seeds.
  • Rub inside with olive or vegetable oil and roast at 400F until the flesh can be easily pierced, through to the skin, with a fork.
  • Remove from oven, let cool, and scrape pumpkin flesh from the skin.

Method #2: Stove top

  • Quarter your pumpkin and scoop out the seeds.
  • Peel the skin with a vegetable peeler or knife.
  • Cut into a 1/2″ dice.
  • Warm 2 tbs olive oil in a large pan or 6qt soup pot, Cook until pieces begin to brown on edges, add 1/4 water at a time until pumpkin cooks down into a smooth puree, mashing as it softens.

Plato tradicional.

Standard

I love quesadillas, that authentic Mexican treat that I first enjoyed overlooking Boothbay Harbor in Maine. It was the day before my 21st birthday and Sandy Larsen née Bugbee took me out to dinner. I believe that evening’s special involved crab and brie. Authenticity aside, it was delicious, and certainly freed me to think beyond chicken and cheese.

Just about anything tastes good grilled between two tortillas with hot melted cheese, including, it turns out, peaches. Sounds funny, right, but think about the joy of peach salsa over grilled chicken or with salty tortilla chips. Peaches are a natural with sharp Amish cheddar, mild Asian Barbecue sausage from Canales Quality Meats, warm cumin and bright red onion between hearty corn tortillas.

I cook the sausage and onions and assemble these ahead of time for entertaining. Stack them in the fridge, pull them out and fry them right up. A pizza cutter is your best friend for slicing these without pushing all the filling out. No salsa is needed, but this smoky peach salsa would gild the lily* beautifully.

*We don’t us phrases like “gild the lily” nearly often enough anymore. “Right as rabbits” is a bit neglected too.

Peach Quesadillas

Ingredients:

  • 3 Asian Barbecue sausages*
  • 1 red onion, diced and sautéed
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 8-10 6” corn tortillas
  • 2 – 3 cups grated Cheddar cheese
  • 3 peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • Olive oil

*No Asian Barbecue sausages on hand? Sauté any good pork sausage and add a tsp of Chinese 5 Spice powder and a tablespoon of soy while cooking.

Directions:

  • Squeeze the sausage from the casings and sauté over medium heat, breaking them up with a spoon until crumbled, browned and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve.
  • Add 1 tbs olive oil to pan and sauté onion until softened and edges begin to brown. Season with cumin, salt and pepper.
  • Layer one corn tortilla with cheese, cooked sausage, peach slices, onions and basil. Top with more cheese and a second tortilla.
  • Fry quesadillas in 1 tbs oil over medium heat, about 3 minutes per side, turning once when the tortilla begins to brown in spots.
  • With a pizza cutter, slice into wedges and serve.

So, this happened…

Standard

We grew up eating a lot of corn. A summer staple, we always ate it the way God made it – fresh from the cob. A quick roll in a stick of salted butter was the only addition. So, a little short on experience, I hatched a plan to serve corn fritters during this week’s Saturday morning Eastern Market demo. Fortunately God smiled on me just like he smiles on the corn.

Now, I make a mean zucchini pancake, so I had a few of the basics down, but I was certainly ready to accept some expert advice, which arrived in the form of Art Smith, Chef/Owner of DC’s Art and Soul and a return contestant on the current season on Top Chef Masters. It was test night, and once we had nailed down the recipes for a fresh plum soup and cold peanut-sauced soba noodles, I stepped out of the way.

If you have any doubts, Chef Art’s reputation as a top chef is well earned. It was a wonderful experience watching him bring the recipe together, instinctively finding the right texture and flavor. After a quick test batch he settled on a slightly thick batter, lots of corn and just a couple tablespoons of oil in the pan.

Thank you Art for a wonderful night! My kitchen definitely feels a bit hipper.

Corn Fritters

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tbs salt
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 4 ears corn, kernels removed
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • Olive oil for frying

Directions:

  • Mix together dry ingredients – salt, baking powder, flour and corn meal – in a large bowl.
  • Mix together wet ingredients – eggs, 1 cup buttermilk, butter and honey – in a second bowl.
  • Purée one cup of corn in a food processor and add to wet ingredients along with cheddar cheese.
  • Stir the remaining corn into the dry ingredients.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold in gently just until mixed. The less you work it the better. Add additional buttermilk to get a wet, thick batter.*
  • Heat 2 tbs olive oil in a 12” skillet and fry batter in 1/4 cup cakes.
  • When solid enough, flip cakes and serve with syrup, fresh berries or salsa.

*Baking may be an exact science, but recipes aren’t. The moisture level of your dry ingredients can change the amount of liquid you need to add. The size of your eggs and the moisture in the corn will affect how much buttermilk you need. Don’t be afraid to play around with the amounts listed above, one tablespoon at a time.