Sunday, December 19, 2010

December FM: pinks, greens & golds!

We bought 5lbs of fresh shrimp, heads intact and caught that morning, for, if I remember right, $8 total.  Peeled, we ended up with a robust 2lbs of succulent meat.  (Our local grocer(s) sell the same peeled product, frozen, for $7.99 per lb, so we got one pound free).

However, I also made stock with the heads and shells, using a little leftover sugar pumpkin, leeks, onion, celery (all of which came from local farms), parsley (the very last from my garden) and a couple bay leaves.

Yield: just over a gallon (one more jar was left out of the picture) of crystal clear*, intoxicating shrimp stock to be used for a special bisque for our New Year's Eve party.  I'll serve it in small sippers, garnished with some of those delectable shrimp (which, yes, are now in the freezer, but that's no problem at all).
*The key to producing a consomme style stock is to avoid boiling it.  Skim off impurities after initially coming to a near boil, then just let it barely simmer.  I used all the heads and shells from the 5lbs of shrimp, and ~4 qts of cold water, and simmered for an hour.
 This market's take home list:

Animal Kingdom
fresh cod
fresh shrimp
fresh scallops (our first scallops since...last winter?)
various heritage and traditional breed pork products
fresh chicken, whole and legs
2 dozen eggs
quark (traditional, old style cottage cheese)
camembert cheese
2 kinds of goat cheese

Plant Kingdom
arugula (really beautifully done by Garen...)
beans (dried, 6 kinds: Bumblebee, Peregion, Black Coco, Jacob's Cattle, Soldier, and "heirloom soup")
buttercup squash
butternut squash
garlic scape pesto
potatoes (4 kinds)
sweet potato!!! (Farmer Dave's)
turnip (small, white "tokyo"--perfect for braising)

Phew!  That was a lot of luggin'!  Good thing the hubby joined me!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Puree of Sunchoke and Cauliflower Soup

Twenty-seven degrees out here in NH, and I've got a pot of sunchoke and cauliflower soup that I cooked up last night, and fougasse from Beach Pea.  Need I say more?  :)  The inspiration for this soup came from an old Food and Wine recipe that you can find online here.  A quick note about sunchokes: they don't need to be peeled but they do need to be rinsed, particularly between the knobs where dirt collects.

Cauliflower from Heron Pond Farm and sunchokes from Wake Robin Farm (thyme from my garden)

This could not be an easier soup to make from local and homemade ingredients.  Chop, drop and simmer...puree, season and serve!  I brighten my version with either apple cider vinegar or sherry vinegar.  Blue cheese, or any aged goat cheese, would be delectable as a garnish on this soup.

Sure does look like fish chowder!

Quick puree with my 2nd favorite kitchen tool...

...results in this finished bowl of goodness!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Colors of Early December

 With a package of New Roots Farm chorizo in the freezer, a large butternut squash from Charlie and Ann at Stone Wall Farm, and a bunch of leeks from Brookford Farm, it was time to indulge in one of our favorite winter meals: risotto!

Chorizo, Leek & Butternut Risotto

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fall Bounty in NH - Major Score At The Farmers' Market!

CELERY, grown by Abram Pearson from Nippo Brook Farm in Barrington, NH, was available at today's winter farmers' market in Rollinsford (be sure to look for it at the Dec. 18 market!).  It is delicious, robust, incredibly fragrant and intense on the palate...I cannot wait to brew up batches of chicken and vegetable stocks with this stuff.  Yes, we've had lovage, and maybe even smallage (all three are in the same family), but neither of those are great for eating.  I am so super-duper excited about this celery!!
Nippo Brook Farm pascal celery: these babies' petioles (stalks) are 2' long!  Each bunch weighs more than 2-1/2 lbs! (2lbs 10oz to be exact!).  Gorgeous, just gorgeous!  :~) 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Savory Baked Stuffed Apples

A family friend forwarded a Vegetarian Times recipe for apples stuffed with wild rice and quinoa. With three half pecks of various apples on the porch, and plenty of rice and quinoa hanging out in the pantry (blacks, reds, whites...), I figured I'd give it a run-through....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Play[ing] With Your Food

So many great food artists out there in Internet land: check out Joost Elffers' books and artists at Deviant is where a couple of the funny egg pix came from.  Funny stuff!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Zucchini Bread, Moose Style

Katie Moose, Nantucket native and cookbook author, offers a very simple, super moist and delicious zucchini bread recipe in her book, 'New England's Bounty'.  Let me reiterate: v-e-r-y simple, and super moist and delicious!  With nearly six pounds of zucchini to get through from Saturday's farmers' market, I'll be able to freeze loaves.

Her recipe, including my modifications...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Summer Stir-Fry

I picked up a small amount of "Wine cap mushrooms" at the Rye farmers' market last week. Interesting shroomz! Thought a simple stir fry would be in order... along with some yellow squash and japanese eggplant from my garden, and some zucchini, broccoli, red bell pepper, and onion from local farmers. A drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds made it just right. What a joy!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fruits of Summer, Solanum Style! Pt 2

Eggplant!  Beautiful, glossy, still-life works of art from my garden, turned into baked eggplant parmesan!  No grease, no frying, just delectable bites of crunchy, sauced, cheesy eggplant!

Eggplants, like tomatoes and potatoes, are a member of the Solanaceae family, genus Solanum.  This family is also known as the nightshade family, which includes some plants that are deadly!  But eggplant is certainly only deadly in one way: in eggplant parmesan!

For a 9x13 pan of double-decker eggplant parm, plan on at least 2-1/2 lbs of eggplant.  I used 4 lbs and went for three layers.  You'll also need the following:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fruits of Summer, Solanum Style! Pt 1

First, my apologies for a month-long hiatus without any warning.  Gardening duties and my social life required a little attention (not to mention my work with the NH Rivers Council)!  Here in the northeast there has been minimal rainfall--at least in terms of what vegetation requires (good, long soaking rains).  So in addition to pruning/thinning, weeding, rotating crops (um, in my case, small beds) and staying on top of harvesting, I've also had to deal with the "dreaded hose" (I hate having to tap into an aquifer!).  Regardless, our heirloom tomato plants have provided plenty of fruit (as have our eggplants, but more on those in the next post, promise - they're so easy to grow and super fun to experience!).  Here's a glimpse of the varieties of tomato we're growing this summer:

Clockwise from 9 o'clock: One slice of Brandywine (super unbelievable flavor!); two slices of Cherokee Purple (not just great flavor, but unique coloring as well); one slice of Black Prince (a small version of the Cherokee, really); and two slices of Green Zebras nestled in with some grape tomatoes.  Zebras are not heirlooms, but they've been grown for a very long time without any muddling, so they tend to get sold under the same category.

And what to make to capture the essence of these babies?  You could always settle for a plate of sliced juicy toms with fresh mozzarella cheese and torn basil leaves, finished with a generous swirl of luscious olive oil and a healthy sprinkling of coarse sea salt!  (I'm drooling already....)  But how about a bowl of gorgeous gazapacho?  It's truly summer's elixir, and I have just the recipe for you in four easy steps!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sustainable Seafood Choices

I've been dealing with brain chatter since posting the Encrusted Cod recipe, and for several reasons. But rather than go into a rant about the various potential issues surrounding Cod, I'm going to post additional information (I posted a couple of links under the Encrusted Cod recipe) on ways you can make smart choices when purchasing seafood.

Here are a few of my favorite sustainable seafood pocket guides, but first just one quick point worth mentioning- there's a lot of info packed onto these types of 'pocket guides', so keep in mind that complicated information has been somewhat simplified for the sake of the consumer.  Please take time to understand the issues! 

Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program provides ALL KINDS of pocket guides!  Choose one for your region!

Environmental Defense Fund's Oceans program has a Seafood Selector pocket guide that is easy to read at a glance.  Print  your own copy here.

I also appreciate Blue Ocean Institute's Seafood program. Their Seafood Guide (image file is HUGE, so I used their site logo only) can be downloaded for printing. You can opt for their online guide, or request free pocket guides by mail, or utilize their iPhone service called 'FishPhone' (text messaging for all other cell users).  Visit their website today!

Lastly, last fall I completed the online Green Chefs, Blue Ocean sustainable seafood training program (~2 hours). It's still available for free, but word is it won't be for much longer. I highly recommend it; I learned several new things about fish/shellfish farming, but more importantly learned how to effectively promote sustainable seafood.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fish Gone Mad... Madhouse, That Is!

My twice-a-year Potato Chip Encrusted Dayboat Cod
For 2lbs of fresh, local, sustainably harvested* white fish fillets (serves 4 hungry adults), finely crush three healthy handfuls of your favorite potato chip (at the moment ours happens to be Madhouse Munchies' Sea Salted from VT) and add to a handful of panko crumbs (aim for a 2-to-1 ratio by weight).  Add a Tbsp or two of melted butter--not too much, as the chips provide some fat--and whatever herbs you like with fish.  I used a blend of dried tarragon and dill, and minced fresh lemon-thyme.

Friday, June 25, 2010

True Baby Carrots!

Botanical Interests' Daucus carota var sativas!  :~)

Here are a few of the first of my 'Little Finger' carrots, started from seed back in late April.  My first ever homegrown carrots!  Their seeds are miniscule and like to be soaked in water for 12 hours before planting.  Sowing the seeds--which aren't much bigger than one of these dashes--is made easier by the fact that four or so are planted per inch in rows roughly a foot apart.  Thinning occured once their greens were a good inch high.  I pulled a few around day 50, but the ones above were pulled on day 60 (seed packet states 57 days).

From all that I've read on the subject, carrots like deep soil mixed with lots of compost and peat.  So I mixed LOTS of compost and peat deep into the soil (7-8" down), achieving (I think) a 50/50 mix-to-soil ratio overall.  I've read that the small forking as seen on a couple carrots in the picture above could be due to old roots or small stones in the soil.  That is, as the roots of the growing carrots extend down into the soil, they are easily inhibited by the smallest of obstacles.  But the forking could also be due to excess nitrogen (N), which I may have unintentionally contributed to (more about that in a bit).  Regardless, these "true" baby carrots, which average 3-1/2" long, are sweet and tender.  While they are purported to be perfect for pickling/canning, they'll never get that far between our snacking on them, eating them in salads, and treating our dog!  Read on for info on companion planting and nitrogen info!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Late May NH Strawberries!

NOTHING beats fresh, sweet local strawberries.  The sugar content in these babies almost matches that of candy!  Thank you, Barker's Farm, for growing these delicious little morsels....

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Friends and fiddleheads, local asparagus and lotsa laughs, peas and the perfect pizza - that's what I call a great thing to blog about!  A spring green special fit for a queen!  Okay, enough with the wordplay.  (Ever tried haiku?  None of this was, but I'm about to explore it as a form of meditative writing.)

First things first: grill your asparagus (toss the spears in olive oil, s&p, and cook carefully--maintain crunch), sauté your fiddleheads (olive oil over a hot pan with a hint of butter and fresh minced garlic--again, maintain crunch), and blanch your peas if  using fresh (I only had frozen on hand, and simply let them thaw at room temp).  Season each veggie independently with kosher salt and ground pepper.

BTW, if you've never had fresh cut asparagus, you must seek some out. Fresh cut asparagus has an entirely different flavor than that rubbery monocrop-style stuff from Peru or California. It's more intense in its compounds (and yes, in your pee!)--earthy, buttery and meaty, rich in numerous vitamins, and really snappy at the base of the stalk.

Grate your cheeses.  I used O.V.'s mozzarella, some freshly rasped parmesan, and a bit of locally produced cheddar.  Next,

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Potato Frittata and Birch Syrup

A visit to the Newmarket farmers' market yesterday brought all kinds of new surprises: impeccably fresh, early-April lettuces from Bee Thankful Farm (complete with plump aphids hiding in their creases--a good sign that pesticides are not used, and nothing a salad spinner can't handle!); bundles of garlic greens from Wild Miller Gardens (think giant blades of grass, but garlicky); baskets of fresh shiitake and oyster mushrooms and pots of baby herbs (parsley, dill, sage and others) from Healthy Home Harvest; wine jams (yum!) from Laurel Hill Jams & Jellies; and, last but not least, BIRCH syrup from David Moore and The Crooked Chimney!

Birch syrup made from the sap of Paper, Yellow and Sweet birches.  High in vitamin C, potassium, manganese and calcium, birch syrup is more complex in flavor than maple syrup and not as sweet.  I was told some people have made beer with it!  I made salad dressing.  Recipe can be found at end of post.
This syrup is awesome stuff.  It looks and pours just like blackstrap molasses, even tastes a bit like it, too, but also has a hint of aged balsamic vinegar hiding in its notes.  At $20 for an 8-ounce bottle (well worth it when you know how much more sap is needed for producing it!), it's sure to be used like a fine, aged balsamic vinegar, too.  So how did I experiment?  As an accent flavor to a Spanish frittata made with yesterday's shroomz and garlic greens, and a few other locally grown garden gems, and in a vinaigrette!

To make the frittata, have the following ready:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fresh Pressed Apple Juice!

The weekend before last I picked up two 1/2-pecks from Hackleboro Orchard while they were attending the Winter Farmers' Market (hosted by the one and only  Seacoast Eat Local, of course!) in Rollinsford, NH.  They have been storing the last of their fall crop in cold storage (32 degrees with a fine mist spray to keep them just from freezing).  I grabbed Cortlands and Northern Spy.  The Northern Spy has the most milk-white center, and is super sweet.  It's the variety I used for pressing my juice.  Yum!

So you see, look in the right places and you can find some of the most treasured foods at this time of year!  Fresh, local apple juice in April!  :~)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Littlenecks and Shrimp with Pasta

Came across some gorgeous local littlenecks this afternoon... just couldn't resist! (Nor could I resist a slab of triple cream brie, but that's another weakness I'll get into some other time.) The last of the Maine shrimp are still in local fish delis, so I grabbed a pound of those, too.  What to make?  Well, I intended on sauteeing them in wine and garlic and serving them with some crusty bread (a super fast and easy meal), but the bag of whole wheat pasta I spotted in my pantry sort of called out to me, so into pasta they went.  I wish I had used conventional linguini; I hate that damn healthy stuff.  But in the end, it was a tasty dish!

Scrub your clams well (I used 2lbs for this recipe), and I highly suggest you allow for some soaking/purging time in case they're sandy.  Unwind with a cold beer while you're waiting, or prep your aromatics (leeks, garlic, parsley...).  Either way, you'll not want to risk mouthfuls of sand and grit in a dish like this, so do the following:

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reds, Purples and Browns, Oh My!

 First comes red...

Grassfed T-Bones from Twister-Allie Farm in Sanbornton, NH, accompanied by Wilderotter Vineyard's 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Then comes purple...

Peruvian potatoes and shallots from Heron Pond Farm in South Hampton, NH, flavored with sage and thyme from my garden, tossed in extra virgin olive oil and roasted at 375 for ~35-40 minutes 

Then comes a luscious morel cream sauce...(click 'Read More')

Egg Salad Heaven!

Remember those eggs I posted a week or so ago?  Well, here's one lovely lunch they've provided!  Chopped up a little celery and white onion, added in dollops of farmhouse relish and mayo, a hint of country mustard, seasoned with salt & pepper and served over fresh greens and herbs and a slice of When Pig's Fly oat & honey bread.  Delish!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sunny Sunday Afternoon Shortcake!

Yu-u-ummm!  Fresh sweet scones with rare (and by "rare" I mean "just barely into their California season") ripe April organic strawberries and freshly whipped and sweetened Organic Valley cream made our Sunday afternoon of celebrating the life and times of the Easter Bunny very enjoyable.  (Say that five times fast!)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

These ain't no Easter Beagle eggs!

These lovelies came from my cousin's farm in Sandbornton, NH (drove up there yesterday to fetch my order of grass-fed beef that she recently had butchered).  Gorgeous, self-sustaining farm with Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds and other breeds of chicken scratching and dust-bathing all over the place.  The picture really doesn't do the greens justice, but those that look olive-y actually are.  Three shades of browns, 6 or 7 shades of greens, and whites as white as snow!  I wish you could have seen the size of the legs on some of her roosters.  Holy Mackerel, were they big birds!  Legs as thick as my big toe!  :~)  As for the eggs, well, I think a quiche or two will be in order this week!  More of that later.

Hope you're all getting to enjoy this incredible sunshine today!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Masala with Chickpeas and Potatoes

This tikka masala was served over long grain brown rice.  While masalas have their fair share of ingredients, they're really easy to make and super flavorful alternatives to, say, pasta and tomato sauce.  Certainly a whole lot healthier for you!


Tbsp veg oil
1 sm onion, finely diced
1/2 (or more) fresh red chili, seeded, minced
clove of garlic, minced
knob of ginger, minced
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek
1/2 tsp fround coriander
1 tsp curry powder or garam masala powder
1 sm bay leaf
pinch salt, pepper
pinch sugar (brown sugar works well here)
2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped (plus more for garnishing)
2-3 tbsp tomato paste, whisked into 1/2 cup water
1/2c heavy cream
3 or 4 tbsp plain yogurt
squeeze of lemon

1 can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
4 or 5 fingerling potatoes, sliced into nickels
anything else that you feel like using up (like shrimp, in my case!)

Saute onion in veg oil over med heat until softened.  Add the chili, garlic and ginger, and cook until aromas are wafting out of the pan.  Dump in the 5 spices and the bay leaf, stir until onion is evenly coated.  Cook for another 3-4 minutes over med-low heat (caremlized onion in a dish like this is always a good thing...).

Blend in the tomato water (puree, basically) and simmer for 2 or 3 minutes. Blend in the cream and simmer for another couple of minutes.  Add the 2 tbsp chopped cilantro, s & p to taste, checking at the same time for level of chili heat.  Use sugar as necessary for counterbalancing that heat.

Add potatoes and chickpeas and simmer for ~10-15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through.  If you've simmered too high, or just simply want more sauce, go ahead and add water as necessary.  It won't bother your outcome at all.

Remove the bay leaf and swirl in the yogurt, a tablespoon at a time, checking for flavor balance.  Might want to add a bit of that lemon juice here.  Serve over rice, and garnish with remaining cilantro.  I served ours with pan-grilled Naan bread dripping with melted butter!  YUM.

2 x 2 = 4 (Or, Two Friends, Two Pizzas, Four Wines!)

This is what happens when certain friends come over on a Tuesday night:

Toppings included fresh red bell peppers charcoaled over the cooktop flame, seeded and chopped; 6 or 7 kinds of olives, freshly cracked and chopped; freshly grated mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, and small gobs of chevre (derishuss!); sundried tomatoes; sweet, buttery roasted garlic cloves; anchovies, and parsley.

The olives and peppers were checkerboarded on one dough, while the garlic, anchovy and sundried tomatoes were layered with goat cheese on the other.  Both pizzas were grilled right on my cooktop griddle, drizzled with olive oil and salted with Hawaiian black lava salt.  YUM.

This is also what happens when certain friends come over on a Tuesday night:

The 2007 Karmere Barbera (far right) stole my heart.  Luscious, soft fruit-forward (plum) on the tongue, and completely chewy (caramel) in the mouth.  We quaffed it I'm afraid, due to the goat cheese having a whopping brie-like flavor and consistency.  The 2007 Karmere Primabera (2nd from right) was also chewy and round, but more spicy (cinnamon, I think) than the Barbera.  Dillian's 2008 Vino Nostro (3rd from right) was simply dee-lish-uss.  Delicious!  This wine is a blend of zin, syrah and barbera grapes.  Plum on the nose, and more plum, and strawberry, on the tongue.  The 2006 Scott Harvey Syrah was nicely peppery and ripe with blueberry, and actually started off our night.  What a great night!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Cauliflower Gratin and Immersion Blenders

When I came across this gorgeous, milky white, organic cauli the other day, I just knew I had to turn it into something to die for.  I mean, really, how often does cauliflower take center stage?  I remembered seeing a gratin recipe in Thomas Keller's book, Bouchon, not too long ago, so cauliflower gratin ("gratin de chou-fleur!") it was!

The best part of the recipe (IMHO) is the fact that nearly every speck of the cauli is used--even those teeny, tiny crumbs left on the cutting board after a knife has been taken to it.  Another best part is that this is a super easy meal to prepare if you've got the right tools: a food processor, 1 pot, an immersion blender, and individual gratin dishes.  (For those last two, a conventional blender and one 8"  shallow casserole dish will work, too ;~)

Read on to see the recipe for this creamy, sophisticated yet simple dish.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dried Bean Score!

Our local winter farmers' market, nearing its end, included a highly rare item this past weekend: locally grown and dried "new crop" beans!

Lookee my treasure:

These beautiful seeds were grown by farmer Charley Baer of Baer's Best Beans, a chemist by day who recently purchased Lover's Brook Farm in Berwick/So Berwick, ME.  Lover's Brook is a working farm under conservation easement.  Situated on nearly 90 acres, Lover's Brook Farm and Charley Baer promise to be a really good thing in terms of fresh, dried beans for our region.  Charley is no stranger to bean crops, either.  He's been growing beans (one of the last farmers to grow heirloom varieties in this region!) for more than 25 years.  Sooooooo I am all over these babies for some upcoming chili and burrito concoctions, not to mention various rice-combo experiments.  Heck, I'm even contemplating creating some cool summer salad recipes at this point!  Need I mention that a bag or two or three was purchased with a mother and friend in mind?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Revered chef, Jamie Oliver

I think Jamie Oliver's cookbook, Naked Chef, was my first "real" cookbook.  I also love his newest book, Jamie at Home.  This is one guy who gets what growing, farming, hunting, cooking and eating is all about (IMHO).  I love his MO.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

The cabbages around here are looking huge and firm and healthy these days, so what better way to use the leaves than rolled up with a hearty filling! I've had a package of New Roots Farm's heritage breed pork sausage in the freezer since...January, I think...not to mention a pound of Wee Bit Farm's grass-fed ground beef, and it also just so happens that the wild rice and shiitake mushrooms I cooked up the night before never made it to their dish, so, cabbage rolls or bust!

For a meatless version, which is simply a delicious dish in and of itself, go with lots of fresh, crunchy, colorful veggies such as finely chopped celery; grated carrot; corn kernels; peas; blanched, diced green beans (or even canned beans, such as black, pinto or kidney); chopped bell peppers (any color!); summer squash or zucchini (particularly yummy when in season!); chopped water chestnuts (not exactly local); or even non-crunchies such as chopped spinach, swiss chard and bok choy.

Experimenting with rice is fun, too.  You can easily substitute short-grain brown and long-grain white rices for the wild.  You can also use a combination of all types!  Whatever moves you!

For a listing of other essential ingredients, keep reading...

Friday, March 12, 2010

BIG wines in Amador, CA

Twelve of us--six New Englanders and six Arizonans--spent four days visiting small, family-owned vineyards in Amador County, CA, last week. Many of the wineries employ sustainable operations, including solar power, wind power and biodynamic farming. As important, they produce fantastic wines for very reasonable prices! Lots of new, big, chewy reds and luscious whites were tried ('quaffed' is more like it), and I've listed a few below. All I can say is, LOOK FOR 'EM!

This yummy, salty and savory plate contains many goodies that I turned our friends onto while out there: fresh asparagus and fennel that I tossed in local olive oil and s&p and grilled for serving; three varieties of olives that were super buttery and perfectly brined; organic salami; various crackers and breadsticks from local CA bakers; and, last but not least, chunks of delectable, creamy and firm goat cheese called 'Roussette' made by a local cheesemaker who dined with us (along with her winemaker husband!).

Olives included Green Cerignola Olives (in front, the largest of the three shown), Nicoise Coquillos (in back, the small deep purple ones) , and to-die-for Castelvetranos--a meaty, buttery, bright green olive (nope, no food coloring - just a perfect brining solution) that is sure to convince any olive-hater otherwise! All from Italy, I must confess.

Where did I find all these ingredients while driving from San Francisco up over to our final destination in Amador County? Why, at the famed, independently-owned Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op of course! :) While perusing Google's map of the area (for determining a good route for us New Englanders), I came across their website. Talk about a perfect location off the highway--it took us all of 5 minutes out of our way, and was well worth the effort. We loaded up on the groceries for the "big feast" (14 people), which, if you recall, was detailed in my previous blog titled 'My Favorite Coffee Mug'! And guess what? The were only a couple of deviations from my original menu, one of which was the squid.  It ended up fried calamari the night before the feast. I obtained glisteningly fresh, sustainably-fished Pacific squid at the co-op, cleaned them, and lightly coated them in a mix of flour, corn meal, garlic powder, chili powder and s&p before frying in a bit of olive oil (alas, these were the available pantry items for me to choose from). We squeezed fresh lemon over them and loved every bite!

As for the wines, they were delish. Lots of Barberas and Zinfandels and Petite Syrahs well worth looking for. Here are a few names and harvests to seek out:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Succulent Fresh Maine Shrimp!

Right now in the Maine and New Hampshire Seacoast region we are enjoying these scrumptious little shrimpies, brought to us straight from the local fishermen and women who catch them. You can find them for sale at local fishmongers' counters, on the curb in various seaside towns, at the farmers' markets still taking place, and even through CSFs ("Community Supported Fisheries" - a complement to CSAs, or Community Supported Agriculture).

These loves don't need but 30 seconds to cook, honest and truly, so choose your recipe(s) wisely. I add them, and a bit of chopped parsley, at the very last moment to a pan of sizzling-hot scampied butter (finely chopped garlic, a little white wine and lemon juice already sauteed into the butter), toss them for one or two flicks of the pan, and then pour then over a bowl of hot, tender fettucini ribbons.

A bit more chopped parsley to finish, and maybe a wedge of lemon, and you've got a delicious, hot dinner in the amount of time it takes to boil pasta! Don't overcook! If they feel mushy in your mouth, you've overcooked them. They should have a texture that pops when you bite down on 'em.

Why choose Maine shrimp over the commonly seen tiger shrimp in our supermarkets? There are lots of reasons, and an article in the Concord Monitor states them succinctly.
For general info on what CSAs and CSFs are all about, check out Local Harvest's site here. For info on CSFs and CSAs in the ME / NH areas, Seacoast Eat Local has a listing here. Elsewhere, ask your local fishmonger or farmers' market organization!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Steakbomb Subs, Grass-fed Style!

It may not seem it, but we're not big meat eaters in this house.  But when we go for it, we go for the best we can buy: locally raised grass-fed & finished beef. I bought two Delmonico steaks last night (aka boneless top sirloin) thinking a particular house-sitting guest was coming over, but he never made it. So, what to do with two steaks?  "What about cheese steaks?" I asked my hub. Talk about dumbing down expensive cuts! But, oh, was it so worth it!

Thing is, grass-fed beef can be awfully tough if seared in a pan the traditional way. Grass-fed meat likes 'slow an' easy' methods, so turning our steaks into thin slices that would take all of 4 or 5 minutes to cook was actually ideal. Gimme the knife!

A couple medium onions from the FM and one red bell pepper (alas, Mexican soils and water for our food once again...) made their way into my pan once the olive oil was shimmering. Turned the heat down to low, and added some love (s, p & other seasonings)...

Secret ingredient: a good splash of red wine (cab sauv) vinegar. Why? It adds huge flavor and eventually contributes to tenderizing the meat!

Fresh mushrooms for our region come up from PA, and these babies were prime for the pan--firm, white buttons all nice and sliced up...and happy to meet their destiny.

Saute the beef strips until cooked through.  (Grass-fed beef, btw, is high in omega 3's & 6's!

Now, most Philly cheesesteak/steakbomb recipes on the Net express sincere devotion to one ingredient that will never be found in my refrigerator: Cheese Whiz. Cheese Whiz?? Aaack. While I had some really nice local goat cheese in the fridge that had buttery tartness to offer, it wasn't enough. So while we were out picking up wine (I'm telling you, we are IN TRAINING for Amador...), we stopped and grabbed a somewhat-local (that is, if you live in Wisconsin) wedge of a Danish-style Fontina cheese. Fontina is a semisoft cheese with excellent meltability, and it's flavor is creamy and mild. It also shreds well. It was superb for this dish...

Note to self: 12" sub rolls are huge. Next time use smaller hoagies. Or invite friends over.