Tag Archives: local

In season.

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Growing up, spareribs and artichokes was a special family meal (this explains a lot, I know). You knew it was a what was in store when extra napkins appeared on the table with no silverware for an evening of finger food. Our teeth scraped the flesh off each artichoke leaf in an effort to reach the center, when Dad would ceremoniously scrape the choke from the base, cut it into an even number of pieces, and toss it into the remaining butter and cider vinegar in the dipping bowl. The meal ended with wonderful piles of bones, sucked clean, and spent artichoke leave. It was a feast.

This meal was so special, such an event in our home, that I always wanted it served on my birthday, which is in August. Each year, Mom would remind me that artichokes were only available in spring, and I would be stuck with some less exotic treat like fresh corn on the cob, or the first of Mom’s dill beans (how I suffered).

Growing up, produce was seasonal. Asparagus in spring, strawberries for a few short weeks in June, corn appeared in early August.

In my teens that started to change. These treats were available year round. Suddenly you could serve asparagus on New Year’s Day and eat “fresh” tomatoes in February. By the time I started cooking seriously, in my early twenties, there were only a few vegetables left, like fiddleheads, to truly mark the arrival of each season.

At 30, I moved to Washington, DC and began shopping at Eastern Market, and after a few months realized that my cooking had found a new rhythm. Asparagus appeared in spring with magical, uneven spears, tinged heavily with purple. Six weeks later we enjoyed the last few spears of the season, significantly less tender and sweet, in soup or baked in phyllo with sharp Gruyère. Strawberries came and went quickly. Sour cherries were only available for a week or two – much to the delight of my husband, who lamented pitting them by the pint for pies and sauces. Summer continued with tomatoes and zucchini, the first squash and apples in fall, and late season brassicas: cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

While perpetual abundance is perfect when you desperately need an asparagus fix in the dead of winter, it disrupts the circadian rhythm of our dining table. I have discovered a new joy in waiting for spring’s first scant produce – two to three weeks of spring onions, arugula and radishes. We celebrate the last bowl of asparagus soup on a warm night in May. I marvel each fall when Bob’s vegetable peeler makes short work of the thick skin on a butternut squash.

Happy spring! Celebrate the food on your plate. I’ll see you at the Market.

Homemade is better. Part II

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Chicken stock is cheap and easy.

Okay. Go ahead. Get the jokes out of your system. I like my coffee black too*. Ready to move on?

Stock is the perfect weekend project. Hit the market in the morning for your ingredients – or pick them up on your way home Friday night. Saturday or Sunday you are going to be home for a few hours: working in the garden, cleaning house, or sitting on the couch watching an America’s Next Top Model marathon while recovering from Friday night happy hour, right? So, dump your ingredients in a pot, set it to a low simmer, and kick your feet up on the couch. Tell everyone not to bother you. You’re cooking.

*I’ll buy you a cup of coffee if you got the joke.

Homemade white chicken stock

“White” here refers to the fact that your ingredients go right into the pot without browning them first.

Ingredients:

  • 6 lbs chicken parts (see notes)
  • 1 large carrot (2″ diameter and 8″ long)
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 large onion (about the size of a baseball)
  • 1 leek, white parts only (optional)
  • 8-10 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6-8 parsley stems
  • 4-6 sprigs thyme
Directions:
  • Cut the chicken into 3 inch pieces. Better yet, have your butcher do it. Place them in an 8 quart stock pot and add water to cover the chicken by 2 inches.
  • Meanwhile, roughly chop the vegetables. This is not the time for fine knife skills.
  • Bring the pot to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat and hold at a slow simmer – just a few bubbles per second.
  • Cook the chicken for 15-20 minutes. Skim off the grey/brown foam that gathers on the surface, and discard.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to simmer for three hours.
  • At the end of three hours, remove and discard the solids.
  • Strain your stock through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth or a coffee filter.
  • Remove the fat from the stock. the easiest way to do this is to cool the stock to room temperature and cool it in the fridge overnight. The fat will congeal on the surface and is easily removed. If you need the stock right away, let the stock rest for 15-20 minutes. It will float to the surface of your stock. You can remove the liquid fat with a spoon.
  • If the stock is too thin, or bland, reduce your stock down to 8 cups over a gentle boil.
Notes:
  • Most grocery stores have their chicken delivered pre-butchered. Buy cheap meat with plenty of bones, like thighs and wings. You could also chop up an entire chicken. If your market or specialty grocery breaks down whole chickens into parts, ask them for chicken backs and have them cut them into 3″ pieces for you. You will pay about $.98 a pound.
  • Letting the chicken cook for 20 minutes first makes it easier to skim off the foam. Otherwise you are fighting with the veggies floating on the top of your pot.
  • Don’t let the stock boil until the end, after you have removed the solids and the fat. Otherwise your stock will get cloudy
  • You can test the level of flavor by putting a little in a small dish and adding a pinch of salt. Taste it. If it tastes to watery, reduce the stock further.

These are not pictures of arugula walnut pesto.

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The pictures shown here are of a wonderful sage, brown butter sauce served over penne with sharp asiago and rich, earthy walnuts. However, I don’t have any pictures to go with this delicious pesto recipe so they’ll have to do. Thank you for your understanding…

Marvin Ogburn from Long Meadow Farm emailed me one Friday morning. “I have A LOT of arugula this week. What can you do with it?” We headed to the kitchen that night and worked on an arugula pesto. Out of several variations we learned that blanching the leaves first removes too much of the arugula flavor, chopping the walnuts before lightly toasting them eliminates the raws taste without burning the outsides, and salt carefully – the cheese already adds a lot. We tested the recipe over pasta, but it was wonderful the next morning, at Eastern Market, over boiled and sliced fingerling potatoes.

*Did you have a copy of Free Stuff for Kids when you were young? It was a list of free things you could send away for. Often they required so many boxtops or SASE’s that no one but a bored child would ever actually send away for them. I remember at least one or two required some small change, usually a couple quarters, to pay for printing of the edifying pamphlet describing banana spiders or the geography of Arkansas that you would receive in return. The instructions always admonished that the coins needed to be securely taped to your request letter. I assumed that not doing so would shame my elders.

While this comment seems totally random, I am going somewhere with it. I really think you should try this recipe in a mortar and pestle. It’s a little more work, but the texture and control over the final product is well worth it. As an incentive, if you give it a try, send me an email at jonathan.bardzik@gmail.com. I will send you a letter of congratulations and two quarters. I’ll make sure they are securely taped.

Arugula and Walnut Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 cups freshly grated parmesan cheese*
  • 2 cups arugula (not packed)
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil – the good stuff

* Grate the parmesan on the middle side of a box grater. This gives you a nice bite of cheese and doesn’t get too gummy when pounded.

Directions:

This can be made either by hand in a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor.

By hand:

  • Add garlic and a pinch of salt to the mortar. Pound garlic into a paste.
  • Toast walnuts over low heat in a small fry pan. Watch carefully, nuts burn quickly. they are ready when golden and lightly fragrant.
  • Add walnuts to garlic paste and pound until it looks like thick, chunky peanut butter.
  • Add the parmesan cheese and pound until incorporated.
  • Add the arugula a handful at a time and pound away. Add more when you have room in your mortar.
  • Add cracked pepper to taste. Start with 5-6 grinds and go from there.
  • Add olive oil to thin and bind. Start with a table spoon. You shouldn’t need more than two.

Note: If your paste gets too thick during pounding, you can add a little olive oil to thin it out.

In a food processor:

  • Add garlic, walnuts and cheese to a food processor. Pulse until chopped together. About 4-6 times.
  • Add arugula and process until coarsely blended. Keep it rustic as opposed to pureed.
  • Remove pesto to a bowl. Stir in pepper, salt and olive oil.

Beets aren’t poisonous.

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My Dad doesn’t like beets. Or mushrooms. Every time I serve them to our family he jokes, “They are poisonous and we really shouldn’t eat them.” Now my beet-hating husband backs my Dad up in these arguments. Thank God for my mom.

Admittedly, this recipe has not made Dad a convert, but it does continuously get rave reviews and a visitor to @Eastern Market yesterday morning walked up to my cooking demonstration with a bag full of beets and said, “those are the best beets I’ve ever had and I’m making them at home tonight.”

All due credit goes to chef Deborah Madison for this amazing combination. It sounds bizarre, but it’s awesome! Finely dicing your beets into a 1/4″ dice really speeds up the cooking. You can have this done in 20 minutes without any oven roasting involved. Score one for the beets.

Beets with Crème Fraîche and Mustard
Ingredients:
  • 2 large beets, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch cubes*
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs chopped thyme
  • 2 tbs crème fraîche
  • 1 tbs dijon or grainy mustard
  • Sherry vinegar
* There’s a trade off here: more knife work means less cooking time. If the idea of cutting beets into 1/4″ cubes sounds to you like one of the lower planes of hell, please feel free to cut them into larger cubes and increase your cooking time.
Directions:
  • Melt butter in a 10″ sauté pan over medium heat. Add beets and thyme.
  • Stirring every few minutes, cook beets until softened, about 20 minutes. I like mine pretty firm, but cook yours the way you like them – it’s your kitchen!
  • When cooked, remove from heat and stir through crème fraîche and mustard.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and a splash of sherry vinegar. The vinegar brightens the rich, fatty flavor of the butter and the earthiness of the beets.