Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Salad of Eggplant Two Ways

I'm going to to provide you with an outline for creating this salad as opposed to an actual recipe. This salad is made up of roasted and raw eggplant seasoned to your taste.

Try an Italian version with basil, tomatoes, and diced mozzarella. Or go Thai-style with lime, fish sauce, cilantro, mint and chilies. How about Indian, with lemon, cilantro, chilies, and toasted mustard and cumin seeds? There are so many ways to try this. Just remember that there will be a slight bitterness from the raw eggplant that you'll need to counteract with the flavors you use (acid and/or sugar).

This salad was inspired by an appetizer we had at B&G Oysters in Boston's South End. It was a salad of roasted and raw(!) eggplant topped with a lemony vinaigrette, oh and a huge seared scallop. I was shocked by how good the raw eggplant was in the salad and decided to try it at home.

Proportion-wise, you'll want about 75% of the eggplant to be roasted slices. The remainder is very thinly sliced raw eggplant. Use very small, firm, fresh eggplants - especially for the raw slices. Toss the eggplant with seasonings and dressing to taste. If your dressing is sufficiently acidic the raw eggplant won't discolor much at all.

Give this dish a try while you can still get fresh local eggplant.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Week of ...

Sorry guys, I have been very distracted. Can you guess why? :-)

This weekend was spent cleaning up for the housesitter, getting enough cat food into the house to feed the fellas and putting the garden to rights (Ha! Maybe I'll be able to get out there tomorrow ...).

I am trying to use up what's in the fridge, so I can't really give you a menu per se. I think I'll have a week of mostly the last of our garden vegetables with pasta, bread or rice. I'll probably toss in an egg or some cheese for protein.

Tonight's dinner was fried green tomatoes, corn on the cob, cherry tomatoes, ham slices and cornbread.

I will try to post for you while I am away, but I am not making any guarantees. I'll be carrying laptop, camera and assorted cables and hope to post now and then, but I am not certain I'll able to do much in the way of detailed posting. I will be setting up some posts to go up while we're gone, but expect to not hear much from me for a little bit.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Week of September 21

Meet my lovely friends Butter and Sugar, Silver Queen and Gourmet Yellow. We are so fortunate to have a local farmer who grows several varieties of corn. In a comparative tasting, we decided that they all were delicious in different ways.

Silver Queen was the snappiest of the three. The kernels almost bit back as we ate them. The corn flavor was the most subtle.

Butter and Sugar has a classic corny taste. The kernels were a little softer than Silver Queen. Butter and Sugar was the sweetest of the three we tried.

Gourmet Yellow is the classic corn on the cob. It has bright yellow kernels and really good flavor. This is the best variety for grilling as the kernel's skin was a tiny bit tougher and would hold up to direct heat well.

Anyhoo, lotsa corn eatin' going on. Fall is here, so make sure you get your fill before it's all gone and we have to go back to frozen kernels. (Boooo.)

Menu for the Week
First Course: Chicken ravioli with sherry vinegared brown butter
Second Courses:
Sauteed green beans and turnips
Beet and watermelon salad with feta and fennel
Roasted cherry tomatoes with parmesan
Whole wheat french bread
Dorie Greenspan's Buttermilk cocoa cake with malted chocolate buttercream

Teriyaki marinated grilled pork belly
Sauteed greens and cabbage
Grilled corn on the cob
Jasmine rice

Smoked bluefish salad plate

Butternut and radicchio lasagna
Shaved turnip salad
Green salad

Potato leek soup
Ham and cheese turnovers

Jerked chicken
Swiss chard salad

Friday, September 19, 2008

Drink of the Week: Corpse Reviver, No. 1

Let's start out with the basic definition and use of corpse reviver cocktails. These were drunk as pick-me-ups or eye-openers the morning after a night of drinking. Think of them as late 19th-early 2oth century Bloody Marys or Mimosas.

There are a few recipes that survive, mainly thanks to Henry Craddock' The Savoy Cocktail Book, first published in 1930. As Mr. Craddock states in his book, "[the Corpse Reviver is] to be taken before 11 a.m., or whenever steam and energy are needed."

The most popular corpse reviver variation is Corpse Reviver No. 2, which is a gin and cointreau-based drink. Thanks to Eric at the Underhill Lounge*, I learned about variation No. 1 and it looked rather nice, albeit hardly what I'd call a morning pick-me-up.

Corpse Reviver No. 1
Combine in an iced mixing glass:
  • 2 ounces brandy
  • 1 ounce Calvados
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • dash of Angostura bitters (not in the original recipe but recommended by Eric)
Stir until well chilled. Strain into cocktail glass.

* Eric is mixing every drink in The Savoy Cocktail Book, from Abbey to Zed. If you're looking for cocktail inspiration, visit the Lounge. At the time of this writing, he was up to the Dunhill Cocktail.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Thai-Spiced Meatballs with Chili Sauce

I read about these meatballs a few weeks ago and thought they sounded interesting and delicious. I made them as a part of a pseudo-Thai dinner we had on Sunday night and I am looking forward to serving them again. I'm not going to post the recipe because you can get it over here at Serious Eats.

First off, the sauce is great. It's not too spicy and I think it would be great as a dipping sauce for spring rolls (both fried and fresh). I did not have any scallions on hand so I used very thinly sliced shallots instead.

I also used shallots in the meatballs and they turned out well. (I think these would be really great with ground pork instead). I did not have any Thai basil either, so I wrapped the meatballs in a basil leaf with a little cilantro tucked inside; a very nice substitution indeed.

One other recipe note: we grilled these on a grill rack. The recipe called for skewering the meatballs and putting them right onto the grill, but since they are sorta log-shaped, they spun around the skewer and I felt we'd risk losing them to flames without a grill rack.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Clam and Sausage Stew

This picture does not do this dish justice. (I really have to work on my food styling. Does anyone have any tips on how to get your food looking gorgeous when you are starving and just want to eat it? Anyhoo ...)

This dish was inspired by a traditional Portuguese dish of pork and clams. In that dish, the pork is usually shoulder meat that has been braised tender before the clams are added. I thought sausage would be a fast, easy, non-braised substitution.

One mandatory side for this brothy dish is crusty bread. We used a big loaf of ciabatta from Anna Rosa's bakery in Newburyport to soak up the juices. Delicious!

A word about clams: Most people are familiar with hardshell clams. Hardshells are graded by size: countnecks, littlenecks, topnencks, cherrystones, quahogs (from smallest to largest). In this dish, I prefer the smaller clams called countnecks (although littlenecks and topnecks can be used). Cherrystones are usually eaten raw or stuffed and baked. Quahogs are used for chowder. You may also see softshell clams in your market. Softshells are usually served steamed with clam broth and butter. You could use steamers in this dish if you wish, but they would not be my choice. If you've never eaten steamers, this is not the dish with which to make your introduction to them.

Clam and Sausage Stew
Serves 2 (generously) - 4 (as a starter)
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, sliced into 1/2" thick rounds
  • olive oil for sauteing
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes, with juice and seeds (if fresh tomatoes are not available, use canned, diced tomatoes)
  • 2-3 pounds hardshell clams, shells scrubbed
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons minced fennel fronds, dill, cilantro or parsley
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute the sausage until cooked through. You may need to add some olive oil to lubricate the pan and keep the sausage moving around. Remove the sausage and set it aside while you make the rest of the dish.

Drain off the sausage fat if there's a lot of it. Add a little olive oil to the pan and saute the onion and garlic until softened. Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until they break down to a saucy consistency.

Add the sausage back to the pan. Add the clams and butter to the pan and cover the pan. The clams will start to open in about 3 minutes or so. Keep and eye on the pan and when all the clams are open, add the minced herb. If a clam does not open, remove it and throw it out.

Taste the sauce for salt and add some if necessary. The liquid that clams give off tends to be fairly salty so you may not need any additional salt.

Dish the stew up into bowls and serve with a crunchy green salad and some crusty bread.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Week of September 14

Those beautiful bivalves are not shown actual size. They are "countnecks" which is a name for the smallest size of hardshell clam. More to come on the clam front - I'll be posting a great recipe tomorrow.

This week's meals are the fruit of some serious digging through my Google Reader's starred folder. I am always tagging recipes and ideas to try and quite a few new ideas made it into the queue this week. I'll let y'all know how they turn out.

Menu for the Week
Thai beef rolls with sweet chili sauce (from Serious Eats)
Grilled eggplant
Tomato salad with cilantro and roasted peanuts
Jasmine rice
Peach hand pies (inspired by, but not following Smitten Kitchen's recipe)

Turkey burger sliders
Cole slaw

Zucchini-ricotta cheesecake (courtesy of 101 Cookbooks)
Green salad

Out on the town

Broccoli rabe ravioli (from our trip to Venda ravioli in Providence) with tomato sauce
Green salad

Grilled hot dogs
Cole slaw
Truffle fries (thanks Jaden's Steamy Kitchen and Cookthink!)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Drink of the Week: Basil Smash

With the summer drawing to a close (it was in the low 40s yesterday morning), I am trying cram in a few more herbed cocktails while I can still pluck fresh herbs from the garden.

This is a basil-y take on a mint julep, and since I just found a bottle of Jim Beam rye, I thought I'd try rye instead of the traditional bourbon. There's also a drink, another julep variation, we've both had (and loved) at the Eastern Standard called the Whiskey Smash. The Smash calls for lemon slices to be added in with the mint.

So here's my variation on the Mint Julep and Whiskey Smash. Both drinks are traditionally served over crushed ice. I didn't feel like pulling out the ice crusher (yes, I own one), so I took the "up" road instead.

Basil Smash

In a mixing glass, muddle together:
  • 2 1/4" slices of lemon
  • large sprig of basil
  • 1/4 ounce of simple syrup (or 2 teaspoons sugar)
Add ice, and
  • 2 ounces rye
Shake until very cold. Strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a basil leaf and lemon twist.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Review: The Riverview

The Riverview
20 Estes St, Ipswich, MA (978) 356-0500 (no web site)
Cash only

The Riverview is an Ipswich landmark and a hidden gem. Locals know it, but outside the Ipswich area, it's pretty unknown.

The Riverview is good at pizza. Really good at it, which is a good thing because that's all they make. Their pizza is a thin crust style, which depending on where you grew up might be called "New England" or "Greek-style". Their sauce is flavorful and not too sweet and the kitchen is liberal with the toppings.

The menu is pretty easy to figure out, and, as you might be able to see, the Riverview is very reasonable. One pizza with an assortment of toppings will run you about $7.00. For most folks, a single pizza is enough for one. It does reheat well though, so feel free to order enough to take home.

Beware, when your pizza comes to your table, you will be starving (there can be a bit of a wait when the place is hopping - all weekend really). Watch out; the sauce will be molten, so don't scarf that first slice down if you value your tongue and tastebuds. Pull a slice onto your "plate" - really a sheet of waxed paper - and let it cool off a little first.

If you're in the area, do stop in for a bite. The Riverview's got a full bar so you have a drink while you wait for dinner. They do a lot of takeout also, so feel free to call ahead if you'd rather eat at home.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesday's Tomato Haul

This is a collection small and cherry tomatoes I picked today. The little round yellow ones are Sun Golds, the yellow oval ones are Yellow Pear and the red ones are Juliet.

I cannot endorse Juliet enough. She is a mini-plum tomato. Incredibly prolific, early ripening and its actually tastes good, even raw.

I ended up slicing the Yellow Pear and Juliets in half, tossing them with oil and salt and roasting them for an hour to make an oven-roasted version of a sundried tomato (and forgot to take any pictures of the process, sigh).

The Sun Golds get eaten raw or put into martinis.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Monday Night Corn on the Cob

Thank goodness for gardens. Dinner tonight was a nice plate of tomatoes and corn, with some cheese and salami on the side.

Farmer Bob had two kinds of corn today: Silver Queen and Butter and Sugar. I got three of each so we could hold a comparative tasting during dinner.

That was the plan anyway. We pretty much just scarfed it all down. From what I remember, the Silver Queen had a more pleasing "snap" to the kernels, but the Butter and Sugar tasted "cornier".

Either way, both varieties were delicious and made for a lovely centerpiece to our dinner. Go get some local corn before it's all gone for the season!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Week of September 7

Ok then. I have no idea what we're eating this week, because I was at this glorious place all weekend with great friends. Lucky me. :-)

I think it may be a "clean the fridge out" kind of week. Fortunately, with the garden and the local farm stand, I should be able to make some very delicious things.

Tonight we both were craving vegetables (many beverages and lots of fried food were consumed over the weekend). So I gave us a vegetable-centric meal of:
  • sliced tomatoes with lemon oil and fleur de sel
  • leftover roast pork au poivre
  • eggplant and cauliflower salad (with red bell peppers and capers)
  • boiled shell (cranberry) beans with rosemary
Dave had a cheater's peanut butter cup for dinner: a spoonful of peanut butter topped with chocolate chips.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Drink of the Week: Jack Rose

I can't believe I have not made the Jack Rose a Drink of the Week yet. We drink our first Jack Roses at The Eastern Standard. It's since become a standard go-to cocktail for us. It's sweet, tart and not too strong, so it makes a nice pre-meal nip.

The Jack Rose is a good gateway drink into the world of classic cocktails. In fact, I am going to be serving it to a group of ladies this evening and I think it was make them very happy. Think of it as an old school Appletini, without artificial coloring or flavors.

Jack Rose
Combine in an iced cocktail shaker:
  • 1 1/2 ounces applejack
  • 1/2 ounce grenadine
  • 1/2 ounce lemon juice
Shake until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me


'Nuff said?

Weeknight Pasta with Vegetables

Nothing special last night, just a quick dish of pasta with vegetables. (Crappy food styling again - I swear there's basil in this dish. I was hungry.)

A few tips for when you're in a hurry for dinner and pasta's on the menu:
  • Use small pasta shapes. It's sorta logical: smaller, thinner pastas will cook faster. Think angel hair instead of spaghetti, orzo instead of penne.
  • Set the water to boil as soon as you think about dinner. Water always takes ages to boil. Get it going.
  • Cut your veggies into small pieces. See pasta size logic above. Small, even-sized pieces are best.
  • Give your dish a baked pasta feeling without the oven: toast some breadcrumbs to sprinkle over the top of the dish.
Fast Weeknight Dinner Pasta
Serves two
  • 8 ounces pasta
  • 2 cups chopped eggplant, zucchini or summer squash
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 cups chopped tomato
  • handful of basil or parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • grated Parmesan
Set your pasta water on the stove to boil and cook the pasta. While the pasta is boiling, saute the eggplant, squash, what-have-you, with the onion and garlic until browned and cooked through. Toss in the chopped tomatoes and set aside.

Toast the breadcrumbs in a hot skillet with a little oil until golden brown. Set aside.

When the pasta is done, drain it, reserving one cup of water. Over heat, toss the pasta with the vegetables, adding pasta water as need to make a slightly saucy dish. Toss in the basil or parsley, grated cheese and salt and pepper.

Before serving, sprinkle with toasted breadcrumbs.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Product Alert: Grapeseed Oil

A lot of people use canola oil as their standard oil. For me, canola oil is a bad choice. I find that it's pretty hard to clean up - it tends to form a slick on my pots that's hard to get off. Also, and much more damning, is that it can smell and taste fishy. I have had a few dishes turn out pretty badly as a result of this off taste.

I have read about grapeseed oil for years, but have never been able to find it. Grapeseed oil is pressed from, you guessed it, grapeseeds.

Recently, I noticed that Costco and my supermarket are carrying it. It's pricier than canola or vegetable oil at $5.00 a liter, but there are a number of reasons you should consider adding it to your pantry:
  • It's pretty much flavorless so it is a great addition to baked goods or dressings where the oil's flavor should be in the background.
  • It has a very high smoke point so you can use it for deep frying or sauteing with no worries.
  • Grapeseed oil is a great emulsifier and may not separate as easily when making mayonnaise or dressings.
  • Because of its neutral flavor, it's easily used as a carrier for flavors in making infused oils.
I've added this oil to my pantry as a standard item. This means I keep five types of oil in my cabinet: virgin olive oil (for sauteing), extra virgin olive oils (several, for salad dressings and drizzling on dishes), tree nuts oils (like almond, hazelnut or walnut - for dressings and drizzling - these get kept in the fridge), peanut oil (for stir fries - although grapeseed could take this one's place), and grapeseed oil (for all the reasons listed above).
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