Monday, June 30, 2008

Week of June 30


These are Chioggia beets. Aren't they pretty? Chioggia don't taste as earthy as regular beets and they won't turn your fingers RED. If you get some nice fresh ones, you can do what we did and slice them very thin, shingle them across a plate and drizzle them with great oil and vinegar. Finish with a sprinkle of salt and voila: lightly pickled beet salad.

Menu for the Week
Spring rolls (not hard to do and a great way to use up little bits of leftover ingredients)
Beet salad (see above)
Sauteed beet and radish greens
Brown rice

Whole wheat pasta with zucchini, chives, chive oil and fresh homemade ricotta
Green salad

Miso-glazed halibut
Glass noodle salad
Japanese-style sesame chard (traditionally this is a spinach dish, but I have bushels of Swiss Chard in the garden)

Bean pile over millet (post to come on this appetizing-sounding, yet weeknight-lifesaving dish)

Pizza (grilled if it's hot hot hot out)
Green salad

4th of July Festivities

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Drink of the Week: Aviation

The Aviation is the ne plus ultra of classic cocktails. Made popular during America's age of aviation, the 1930s. It's made of gin, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur. A bracing, refreshing drink, but one that isn't made often enough since most bars don't stock maraschino.

The original recipe include creme de violette as well, but we've tried it both ways and prefer the "modern" version.

Fire up your bottles and come fly with me ...

Shake in an iced cocktail shaker:
  • 2 ounces gin
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice*
  • 1/2 maraschino
Strain and serve up, garnished with a cherry.

* Depending on the tartness of your lemons, you may want to add some simple syrup to the shaker.

If you want to try the traditional recipe, add a spoonful of creme de violette to the shaker.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Farm Fresh Eggs in Your Kitchen

I have been using locally produced, straight-from-the-hen eggs for a while now. I am very fortunate to live near several folks who keep flocks of chickens. My primary egg source has a pretty large flock of layers this year, so I have been enthusiastically reaping the benefits.

A lot of people are trying to find and use local eggs these days, and I strongly encourage you to do so. They are usually similar in price to the "cage free" eggs you can find at you supermarket and the quality is significantly better. In my area, I pay between $2 and $3 for a dozen eggs, which is a significant value considering the "cage-free" eggs I get at the supermarket cost at least $3.99.

Egg-based Dishes
Poached, scrambled or omeletted, truly fresh eggs will behave better than the eggs you're used to. They sit up higher in the pan, the whites are tighter and won't spread through your poaching water. And souffles ... oh ... your souffles will rise higher and will be so much more delicious and golden.

Hardboiled eggs can be a little frustrating (albeit more delicious). HB eggs are easier to peel when they are "older": a pocket of air forms between the shell and the membrane holding the egg itself. The older the egg, the larger this pocket and the easier it can be to peel the egg. That said, a farm-fresh egg held in your fridge for a week before boiling will still be weeks fresher than what you get at the supermarket.

Baking Issues
The major challenge that these eggs have posed for me has been in baking. When you buy eggs at the supermarket, you buy a carton of "large" or "extra large" or "jumbo". Well chickens don't lay only one size egg. So, your farm-fresh carton may contain eggs of many sizes.

These eggs are from the same carton. No problem for scrambled eggs or an omelette, but a significant issue if I want to bake a cake.

If you intend to bake with your eggs, you need one or two pieces of special equipment. Don't worry - you probably have one of these items, and really should own the other.

You need a scale. Don't own one? You should, you really should. Trust me. A relatively inexpensive one is here.

You also need a measuring cup that shows ounces and/or tablespoons. I like this one.

Most baking recipes call for eggs that are graded "large." A large egg weighs 2 ounces in the shell. So you can weigh the eggs from your carton and use the ones that weigh 2 ounces for baking. Easy, sure. But if your eggs are like mine, you seldom have enough 2-ouncers in the carton and therefore you need to measure eggs by volume.

A large egg out of the shell is about 3 tablespoons: 2 tablespoons of white and 1 of yolk. A tablespoon is 1/2 an ounce by volume, therefore 1 large egg = 3 tablespoons = 1.5 ounces. As eggs get larger, the volume of yolk and whites goes up proportionally (in general).

I will say that frequently the yolks in my fresh eggs are much larger than those in a supermarket egg. Some if you need egg whites or yolks for a recipe, make sure you what you need by volume: 1 yolk = 1 tablespoon = .5 ounce and 1 white = 2 tablespoons = 1 ounce.

So when you are ready to bake with your eggs of many sizes, take out your trusty measuring cup and crack your eggs into it.

In this instance, I needed four eggs for my recipe. (Four eggs = 4*3 tablespoons = 12 tablespoons = 6 ounces.) As you can see, three eggs fit the bill. In this case, I used the little bit of extra egg in the recipe, if you need to be super exact, just beat the eggs and pour off the extra.

Happy cooking!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Week of June 22

Local asparagus: delicious and artsy.

Ah Summer. Mother Nature appears to want to cooperate this week. We'll have temps in the low 80s and a few thunderstorms to keep the greens growing. Perfect. Since it'll be balmy with a chance of a few humid days and nights, I want keep meals interesting and light.

As an aside, I'll mention that I almost always plan my menus with the week's forecast in mind. Sounds a bit anal-retentive, I know. But, think about it: do you want a BLT on a cold, rainy day or beef stew on a 90-degree one? I also want to look ahead and see if there any good grill-worthy days (although since we can grill under our porch roof, rain is seldom a problem).

On Sunday, I:
  • Made Sunday dinner
  • Made the patties for Monday's dinner
  • Made the chili and cornbread for Tuesday's dinner
Week Menu
Fried chicken (I used Elise's recipe)
Nepalese potato salad, aloo achar - made with Yukon golds and lots of lemon juice
Steamed asparagus
Chocolate pudding (a la Mark Bittman)

Lemongrass patties (also Mr. Bittman's)
Thai-style grilled eggplant salad
Jasmine rice
Lettuce leaf wrappers

Vegetarian chili

Pita bread
Tomato and cucumber salad
Feta and olives

BIG salad: Hard boiled eggs, beans, leftover vegetables, parmesan, etc. etc.

Out on the town

Drink of the Week: St. Germain 75

Happy [official] start of Summer to all. I hope your Solstice celebrations were festive and delicious.

We kick off our evening of revelry with a modern take on a traditional cocktail, the French 75. The St. Germain 75 is a wonderful use of St. Germain liqueur. St Germain is a new elderflower liqueur that has just been introduced to the United States (and everywhere else too). Distilled from/with elderflowers, it tastes like a distillation of pear, lychee, kiwi and melon. But, it's not too sweet or cloying and the bottle (see right) is a fabulous addition to your liquor cabinet. (Elderflowers, for you gardeners out there are the flowers of Sambucus nigra, a shrub you probably have in your backyard right now.)

The St. Germain 75, like its older sister the French 75, is a light summer refresher: the St Germain brings a perfumy floral note to the drink and the cava keep it bubbly and fresh-tasting. It does pack a gentle
wallop because of the gin (or vodka if you wish) and may sneak up on you on little cat feet.

St. Germain 75
Stir together over ice:
  • 2 ounces gin (or vodka)
  • 2 ounces St. Germain
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce simple syrup
Strain into glass (either up or over ice - your choice), top with 2-3 ounces of sparkling wine*.

*I find the Freixenet mini bottles of Spanish cava are good for this kind of drink. If you're only making one or two, you don't have to open an entire bottle of bubbly.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Mimosa: Not Just for Brunch

(With apologies for the rerun picture.) When you hear the word "mimosa" what do you think? If you're like most people, a champagne and orange juice cocktail comes to mind.

Well, there's another kind of mimosa, and I recommend you add it to your repetoire. Mimosa is a traditional French garnish: technically it's just grated hardboiled egg yolks. But, most recipes I see nowadays call for the whole egg to be grated or finely chopped and served over a steamed or boiled vegetable with a vinaigrette.

Asparagus mimosa is a nice way to serve asparagus that's easy, delicious and a little different. In this picture, the steamed asparagus has been tossed with a sherry-mustard vinaigrette and then sprinkled with the egg along with chives and chive blossoms.

I grate my egg on the fine holes of a box grater. You can also chop it finely, or push it through a mesh strainer, what ever's easiest for you. One egg provides enough garnish for 2 pounds of asparagus.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Week of June 15

As is typical of New England weather, we have gone from a string of sunny 90-degree days, to a week of temps forecasted to be in the high 60s - whoo hoo.

So, I tried to build a week of meals that stay "summery" but that will still comfort on cloudy and rainy days.

Menu for the Week
Roast chicken with tarragon and savory
Potato cake with lemon and mushrooms
Asparagus mimosa (recipe to come - picture over there)
Strawberry-rhubarb mini pies (I used Elise's recipe for my filling.)

Greek-style baked shrimp with feta and cherry tomatoes

Chicken and bean enchiladas
Cilantro-lime cole slaw
Avocado salsa

Fried egg on a quinoa pancake
Sweet potato fries
Big ol' green salad

Marc Bittman's Chickpeas and chorizo over pasta


Drink of the Week: Strawberry Julep

Welcome to MxMo XXVIII! This month's theme is bourbon and I'm happy to (re)introduce you to the Strawberry Julep.

Strawberry Julep
In a mixing glass, muddle together 2-3 strawberries with 2 sprigs of mint. Add 3 ounces of your favorite bourbon . Strain over crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and a strawberry.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I found strawberries at our local farmstand for the first time this season.

What to do? What to do?

Well, I baked a pound cake earlier today, thinking that I'd make a rhubarb compote (rhubarb from the same stand) to serve with it. We had strawberry shortcake instead. I used the America's Test Kitchen recipe for pound cake (you can find the recipe here - scroll down to find it and I apologize for the nasty picture you have to get past in order to get to it).

Prior to dinner, I whipped up a quick cocktail by muddling a few berries with basil and simple syrup. Shook them with some gin, and presto!

Strawberry season has begun. :-)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Week of June 8

The heat is here. Whoa baby. We are seeing temps in the nineties today and won't see daytime temps in the 70s until Thursday. I know of you in the South and West have already started your summers, but is the first real wallop of the season for us.

For me, this means my cooking is focused on the grill, and on quick and easy (and cool) meals. These little nibbles are deviled eggs seasoned with chervil (a feathery leafy herb that tastes like a cross between parsley and anise). Hard boiled eggs are easy - boil up a few and hold them in the fridge for meals. I am lucky enough to get eggs from a local man who has a folk of chickens in his back yard. They make for fantastic eating and look gorgeous: such golden yolks!

Stay comfortable!

Menu for the Week
Chicken Souvlaki (leftovers from Saturday dinner)

Vegetarian chili
Cornbread (from the freezer)

Korean-spiced grilled steak tips
Napa cabbage slaw
Mung bean noodle salad with kim chee

Grilled pizza with herbs and goat cheese

Grilled spiced chicken breasts
Sweet potato salad
Grilled local asparagus

To be figured out later :-)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Drink of the Week: Attention

... or, as I call it: Swamp Water. Seriously, it was that cloudy and green and freaky looking: the picture does not lie. And yes, I drank it anyway.

Like most web-enabled drinkologists, we use cocktailDB every now and then. It's a fun site: you enter ingredients that you have on hand, and it spits out many drink choices.

Somehow, this is what we ended up with tonight. The Attention tastes just like black jelly beans. If you like black jelly beans and want to drink them this is a great drink for you - otherwise, not so much.

Stir together in an iced mixing glass:
  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1/2 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce pastis
  • 1/2 ounce Creme de Violette
When chilled, pour into a cocktail glass.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Neglected Vegetable: Kohlrabi

Poor kohlrabi. I almost never see it for sale, and when I do find it, I am invariably asked by a fellow shopper: "what the heck is that?"

Technically, a kohlrabi "bulb" is the swollen stem of the kohlrabi plant. It tastes like a cross between broccoli stems and turnips. If you are very fortunate, you can find kohlrabi with the leaves still attached: they are great sauteed with garlic and oil.

Prep is relatively easy: just peel the tough skin off with a vegetable peeler. The older the vegetable, the thicker the skin - try to buy smaller ones if you can.

Kohlrabi is very poorly represented in my cookbook collection. I looked and looked and found recipes in Jack Bishop's Vegetables Every Day and the Silver Palate ladies' The New Basics. Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything (ahem) let me down (he copped out by mentioning kohlrabi, but then sent me to the turnip section).

I ended up by following Bishop's recommendation and cut these into chunks and then roasted them in the oven (at about 400) until brown and tender. They were a savory side dish for a cool evening's meal.

A Silver Palate suggestion which I want to try suggested shredding it and making kohlrabi pancakes. That was a tempting idea, but too much work for tonight.

How do you cook your kohlrabi?

Monday, June 2, 2008


Whoa ... took a whole month off there. I swear that I meant to post (many times), but time just got away from me.

Many new posts are in the works, including:
  • New ice cream and sorbet flavors I am trying.
  • Some great summer sippers.
  • Many new make-ahead dishes.
  • Pretty cupcakes.
  • The story of my vegetable garden.
Gripping stuff, yes?

More to come very, very soon.
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