Sunday, August 24, 2014

Freezing Corn for winter, and Good Tips for while you're at it!

This whole process took no more than a couple of hours, and was a perfect task to take care of with the cooler weather we've been experiencing.  For only two dozen ears of corn you'll end up with more than 6lbs of plump kernels in your freezer, making for super delicious summer-fresh chowder, or perhaps a scrumptious shepherd's pie, this winter.  That alone, I think, is worth two hours.

TIP: First, start with impeccably fresh corn--which you'll only find at farmers' markets or a well established farmstand.  Be wary of those roadside set-ups where corn is sold out of boxes from the back of a truck.  They're not always what they claim to be, with goods bought from out-of-state distributors and sold as "local" produce.

Barker's Farm corn.  So sweet and tender!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cottage Pie aka Shepard's Pie Without Lamb

Adapted from Kevin Dundon's Roasted Garlic Cottage Pie

Yes, it's July.  But, the temps have been dropping into the 60's at night here in the northeast USA.  And, every primary ingredient--save for celery, which may or may not be classified as primary--needed for this dish is locally abundant.  So I ask you, why not make a "winter" dish in summer?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Solstice Pizza Party cures boredom! So does playing with your food...which, btw, almost always results in some fabulous concoction worth writing about. These are the concoctions I served up for a small party Saturday night (sadly, we gorged before snapping pictures of a few of them). Thank god for leftovers. Yep.

when leftovers look this good, you know it was a great party!  leftovers, dontcha know, are windows of opportunity, 'specially the WTFJTII kind. 

Farmers’ Market Griller w/ Garlic Scape Ricotta* (above and below)

Garlic scape pesto folded with lemon zested same-day ricotta, topped with grilled pencil-thin asparagus, saltwort and zucchini, drizzled with buttery extra virgin olive oil and seasoned with Hawaiian black sea salt.
  • Local: Barker’s Farm; Brookford Farm; New Hampshire Mushroom Co.; Wake Robin Farm; Wolf Meadow Farm
  • Regional: Oyster Creek Mushroom Co.
  • Long Distance: Chilean olive oil; lemon; Hawaiian sea salt
*not quite the original product; we made a couple changes before reheating: first we added leftover roasted oyster mushrooms from the 'Potato Leek & Mushroom' pie below. then we added a bit of the raw milk cheddar intended for the 'Apple & Caramelized Onion' pie, and then what the heck, why not add summa them maple-glazed apple slices, and then well we might as well keep on goin' and add summa that Candy Cap mushroom oil.  Super winner.  Where's there a pizza contest when I need one!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

An Oldie But Goodie: spinach & ricotta stuffed chicken breasts w/ chestnut mushroom marsala

My mother lives in Tamworth, NH and sources her butchered chicken from a farmer there. She inevitably buys too many; guess who's on the receiving end!

This 6+lb bird was heading for the oven as a roaster but a last minute decision to utilize some robust chestnut mushrooms that we picked up at a recent farmers' market led to it being broken down for its breast meat, to be stuffed with deliciousness and eaten rollatini style and bathed in a luxurious Marsala sauce.

My most local farmers' market (a mere mile up the road) provides great access to fresh mushrooms--both cultivated and wild. Chestnut mushrooms, which take 85 days to fruit compared to others that take only 17-19 days, are not only abundant from our source, but a beautiful deep chestnut brown in color, tasty, and super easy to turn into an extravaganza.

With a pound of them from Tuesday's market, it didn't take much convincing, then, to turn to a favorite in this household: stuffed chicken breasts with a silky mushroom Marsala sauce. It was a bonus that I had a brand new bottle of Marsala, and a double bonus that I happened to pick up a container of fresh ricotta from the market!  Might as well go for the hat trick here: I also had spinach from Thursday's market and bacon in the freezer from our recent meat CSA pick-up.  It's great when the stars align, isn't it?

Pre-harvest Chestnut mushrooms, as seen when growing under the watchful eyes at New Hampshire Mushroom Co.
Before starting on the chicken, get the first stage of the mushrooms going (recipe below).

The breasts from this corker of a chicken were quite large, so I cut them in half to create thick cutlets, then butterflied those pieces. With smaller chickens you might not want to push it.  Season both sides with sea salt and fresh ground pepper, clean up your hands, and then move on to the filling.

Spread 2 heaping Tbsp of ricotta evenly over the four splayed pieces to just within a 1/2" of the edges. A handful of torn spinach leaves was piled on top of each ricotta-smeared breast, followed by sprinkles of crispy bacon bits (cooked while I worked on breaking down the chicken).  A hint of nutmeg and a touch of salt completed the filling. When you're ready to roll, have your lengths of butcher string ready. Four 2'-long pieces for these "rollatini" will do it.  There are great sources online for watching the technique of rolling stuffed breasts.  Don't worry about perfect execution.  You should know, too, that fresh ricotta won't ooze out.  This particular filling is a very tidy filling--good for beginners.

Using the same pan that I cooked the bacon in (and the same, minimal fat created), only a touch of cooking oil was needed.  Once at temp, the rolled up chicken breasts were eased gently into place and cooked, rotated to evenly cook all sides, for about 12-15 minutes.  Thickness of butterflied poultry matters.

While the rollatinis are cooking, finish your mushroom sauce (recipe at bottom).

To serve, remove the twine and cut into 3/4" slices on the bias.  Spoon an ample amount of the mushrooms and Marsala sauce all over the top.  We added a homemade pilaf and some braised asparagus spears to our plates.

Release the hounds!

Mushroom Marsala Recipe:

1 pound Chestnut mushrooms, stems pulled apart (thick cluster ends removed)
4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil (or local sunflower oil, which is nuttier in flavor)
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 c Marsala wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp fresh herbs, such as thyme or savory, chopped

1. Heat half of the butter and the Tbsp of oil in a large saute over medium-high heat. Chestnuts are super easy to work with.  Just pull the stems apart, perhaps split the largest ones in half, and saute the whole load, stirring occasionally, over med heat for 7 or 8 minutes until they're softened and darkened.  Season with salt & pepper, then set aside to cool a bit.

2. Turn the cooked mushrooms out into a bowl.  Heat the remaining butter in the same pan until almost frothy. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk until a paste forms. Deglaze the pan with the Marsala, whisking the paste into a smooth consistency as you stir.  Whisk in the stock and bring to a low boil. Once thickened, add the mushrooms.  Add in chopped fresh herbs if you desire, or let it be.  Check for seasoning.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

True Wild Mushroom Ragu

Sounds better than Polyporus squamosus and Laetiporus sulphureus sauce, doesn't it?
A simple carb dinner was desired tonight, and with a couple pounds of fresh mushrooms in the fridge from yesterday's market exploits, a thick, chunky mushroom ragu of sorts was in order.  Enter, protein!  New Hampshire Mushroom Co., I love you.
"Chicken mushroom" (among other similar names, the Latin of which is Laetiporus sulphureus) is a favorite in this kitchen for its meaty, flavorful, pretty, great freezability (word of the day) properties.  They are very common, abundant in spring and fall, and have no poisonous lookalikes.  but do your research before trodding off!  
The underside of chicken mushroom is very porous: teeny-tiny microscopic pores that look sponge-like and soak up a lot of flavor, making them vegetarian dreams for hearty or otherwise inspired cooking!
This is the squamosus. That brown feathery texture you see is exactly why this mushroom has the nickname "pheasant back" (among other).

Pheasant back is a bracket fungus, and it's the removal of the stem that yielded that opening.  You're looking at two halves of one mushroom.
With deep tube-like pores, the underside of the pheasant back is extremely cool looking.  Some recipes call for scraping it off to reveal even deeper mushroom flavor; flavor, fyi, that is reminiscent of freshly cut watermelon or cucumber.  I left it on, and had no problem detecting that distinct summery, crisp watermelon aroma.
Both pheasant backs and chicken mushrooms have early tender stages and older tough stages.  The pheasant back, I was reminded, has a really tough stem, and thus the inside of the ring is tougher than the outside.  The outer 2" (+/-) of the cap is very tender and easily breaks.

None of this mattered to me for this dish.  The whole shebang went into a food processor, and then got sauteed in Coppal House farm's canola oil (cold pan, cold oil, easy heat!) with local spring leeks and shallot, some garlic, and a sprinkling of sea salt.  I was immediately reminded of linguine con le vongole!

I always think of puzzles with food shots like those above.

After cooking the mushrooms down for 7-8 minutes, I added a splash of red wine and two cans of whole plum tomatoes, and simmered the pot for 15 minutes (which is all any fresh marinara ever needs).  Before adding in fresh herbs (basil and oregano from the garden), I swirled in a decadent balsamic vinegar (read: "syrup") to lift the brightness of the sauce.  A healthy handful of freshly grated, truffled cheese from Wolf Meadow (primo sale al tartufo, a young med-soft cheese) finished the plating.  And, then we ate.  The end.

Simple, quick, easy, weeknight tasty cooking.  Yup, it's what's for dinner.  Just watch out for little beetles that suddenly appear on your cutting board!
No harm was given to this little guy.  It's thriving in a specimen jar in the fridge, complete with a piece of polyporus squamosus.  Until I know what it is and where it's normally found, that's where it shall stay.  (I'm awaiting a Bug ID any time now...) 
Update!  My source at suggests this is Oxyporus rufipennis, a "rove" beetle native to Canada.  No wonder it doesn't mind the cold.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

King Oyster Mushrooms, Scallopini Style

This is a very--and by very, I mean your 10-yr old could make it--easy recipe.  You will die and go to mushroom heaven after you try King Oysters this way.  Forget the steak, these babies are killer good.

A recipe card made for our local farmers' market:
I added just a light swirl of extra virgin olive oil on the finished product...more for photo aesthetics than anything else.  You should also know that we ate half of them before adding pesto.  Yes, they were that good.  Super-good, and we're never going back to store-bought portobellas.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Grilled Saltwort, Asparagus and Fiddlehead Pizza

Sauteed fiddleheads, grilled asparagus and grilled saltwort, with a little spinach-basil pesto.  Spring has sprung!

Salt what?

Saltwort!  It's a coastal plains/saltmarsh-loving plant (so, tolerant of salty soils and climes) known for its versatility in the kitchen (raw, grilled, sauteed, steamed...), as well as its medicinal benefit as a mineral-rich diuretic.
Wiggin Farm is selling this delicious plant (likely the komarovii known, thanks to fellow blogger 'Diary of a Tomato', as the soda species from the genus Salsola, family amaranthaceae); remember King Phillip Came Over Fearing Green Snakes?).
We tried it raw--yummy, crunchy, watery like a succulent--and grilled this first go-round.  Grilling it is fun and exciting, particularly if you're a fire bug.  I'm a fire bug.
Lather up the stems in olive oil.  I drizzled the oil over a plate of the saltwort and asparagus stems, then used the stems of the wort to pick up the last bit of oil--paintbrush style--before laying them down on the grill.  Flames will shoot out and spark up, so just be careful.  You can even use these as natural basting brushes for oiling up the grill plate before grilling!

A couple flips and maybe 2-1/2 to 3 minutes later and off they came (asparagus, too).  Scissors made quick work of removing the root end, with nary a leaf left behind.

Fiddleheads were sauteeing in the meantime, just in olive oil, fresh garlic, finished with lemon zest.  All three veg were arranged on the dough that got its headstart and finish on the grill. Grated gruyere and scamorza played along in their magnificant glue role, and a little spinach-basil pesto made for the final curtain.  Er, topping.
Three clumps of Shagbark spinach on their last legs met up with a big ol' clump of basil, several final cloves of winter garlic, toasted pine nuts, olive oil and salt for this ridiculously simple but ridiculously tasty pesto.  Nope, no cheese.
A good drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground pepper was all it took for this 30-minute meal to go down in less time.

So much for relishing the deliciousness that this spring meal had to offer....
Green food!  It's what's for dinner!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Kimchi, meet your Dumplings!

Jyang-Lee's 'Very Veggie' vegan dumplings are very tasty!
Year's ago when we lived in Hampton, neighbors of ours, the wife of whom was from Thailand and used to turn me onto to Thai cuisine secrets, were friendly with a woman who went into the prepared food business.  Angela was that friend's taken name, Jyang-Lee her native name.  Jyang-Lee makes delicious dumplings.  

The perfect potsticker: soft and chewy with a crusty, golden bottom.  You may salivate now.
Dumplings, or potstickers, as they are commonly referred, are sometimes filled with pork, but these little morsels contain vegan goodness: cabbage, tofu, mushroom, green onion and garlic, all sauteed in a little oil and seasoned with sea salt.  This stuffing gets expertly folded into a whole wheat wrapper (just like a wonton wrapper but round), pinched with fingertips at the top, and flash frozen up in Coopers Mill, ME (a bit north of Lewiston, but no matter, you can easily find these at health food stores and specialty markets).

In no mind to create a complicated sauce, but wanting something--naturally--flavorful, I grabbed three items: a jar of Son-Mat's kimchi, a bottle of their hot sauce, and a bottle of tamari.  I love Son-Mat's anjou hot sauce; it has the perfect tang and piquant flavor for my palate.  So, I dumped half the bottle into a bowl with the rest of the kimchi I had on hand, and added a healthy splash of tamari.  ...Whisked it up and we had 美味的食物 in no time!

A sprinkling of scallion and a sprig of cilantro might've been in order.... 
In the time it takes to cook dumplings, I had my sauce made and the kitchen sink cleaned up.  They are so easy: heat a non-stick pan over medium-high, add a glug og veg oil.  When shimmering, place the frozen dumplings in one by one on their bottoms.  Let fry and sizzle for several minutes, then add water per the package instructions.  Cover, let steam until the water has been absorbed.  Use a proper spatula to plate them. 

Most definitely need to get more kimchi!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Kimchi, Kimchi, Kimchi on a WTFJTI frittata

There's been so much talk about kimchi through the 'vine, lately, that I now find myself staring at an almost-empty jar.  If you've come across some of this stuff and thought anything but, "yum!", you need to have your head examined.  That was fresh.  I jest.  You need to seriously reconsider.  Don't think of it as something that you only eat straight out of a jar (leave that to the rest of us).  Think of it as a condiment with a punch of tangy flavor that works with just about anything.  You know, the way hot sauce does.  Or ketchup.

Yes, that's a lava flow of cheese....
For this stovetop frittata, I laid thin slices of tiny russet potatoes (Riverside Farm has the cutest little russets) down in a swirl of hot sunflower oil in my omelette pan.  Once they were flipped and golden around the edges, I sprinkled a bit of coarse salt and some leftover (Baer's) black turtle beans over them, followed by a massive mound of Meadow's Mirth spinach, and a couple slices of muenster (I have such a weakness for that orange rind...and all it is is beta carotene coloring).

After a minute or so for allowing the muenster a chance to relax, I added little knobs of Flying Goat Farm's 'scapegoat' goat cheese (has a garlic scape vein that I want three times more of).  This is the crème de la crème of goat cheese, my friends. So light and airy, smooth and's enough to convert the haterest of goat cheese haters. 
Flying Goat Farm goat cheese "Scapegoat'

Right before serving it all up, I added that layer of Son-Mat's kimchi that you see on top.  Man, this stuff is yummy.  Handmade (Kittery, ME restaurant), fermented cabbage and peppers.  Haha.... Yup, seriously.

And then dove in.  I call this my WTFJTI fritatta. (Hint: "..Just Throw it In."  Really tasty stuff, this whole shebang.  Make sure every BITE has a bit of kimchi on it.

Where to find it?  Your last chance until you go to a store here on the Seacoast is at the Exeter Farmers' Market tomorrow!  Get those bags ready!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

100% Maine-made Tempeh!

When we had a locavore party for the spring equinox, we featured broiled Lalibela Farm's tempeh kebabs for our vegetarian guests.  What a beautiful product!  Lalibela Farm grows their own legumes, strictly organically, and manages all their tempeh production on site.  I found ample quantities at the Portsmouth Health Food store.

Lalibela Farm's handmade, organic tempeh
Tempeh originated in Indonesian parts of the world.  It's known for many health benefits, namely calcium absorption by the human body (as much as cow's milk in menopausal women, according to one study).  Indeed, it is touted as having many other benefits by many sources.  Check out this interesting site where you can decide for yourself.  There's a fairly respectable list of names under 'who we are', and the press releases alone are extensive, although not exactly journalistic.

Black turtle bean tempeh

Friday, March 28, 2014

Leg of Lamb, Simply Roasted, Simply Delicious

Resting roasted bone-in leg of lamb from Riverslea Farm
Finger-licking, melt-in-your-mouth delicious, this ample 2lb bone-in leg of lamb was prepared very simply: rubbed in olive oil with twists of freshly ground black peppercorn and flaked sea salt, bedded and topped with sprigs of rosemary and cloves of garlic in their skins, and covered with foil and baked at 325 for just about 3-1/2 hours while I perused the farmers' market.

Imagine creamy roasted garlic smooshed over finger-pulled chunks of tender, moist meat swiped in salty & savory pan drippings.  That, my friends, was exactly how we served it, straight from the pan as an appetizer for a small bunch of friends last weekend.

Simple as that.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Homemade Tortillas! ...Forget the Store Bought Stuff!

Fresh tortillas, rolling pin style.
First: one thing's for sure, homemade tortilla recipes are all over the different in recipe as the people who make them. Second: you do not need a tortilla press. Third: you need anywhere from an hour and a half to a full afternoon to make them (I worked with one recipe and another's technique, opting for the full afternoon camp). Fourth: you might not be able to stop eating these straight from the pan, so plan on making a lot if you expect to have some for filling.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Grilled Lamb Kofta Kebabs with Pistachios and Asian Greens Wrap

Riverslea Farm lamb, kofta style, nestled in a bed of Herb Farmacy's microgreens (dressed in extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice) with pickled red onion, on homemade flour tortilla.  A drizzle of sheep's milk yogurt and extra virgin olive oil, and a few grains of Herb Farmacy's 'garlic sea salt' made for finishing touches. 
'Kofta' is a middle eastern term for, typically, "ground meat cooked on a skewer."  Lamb and mutton are the more common meats used, but some cultures also use beef or chicken.  With the quality of meats available locally to our NH Seacoast, any of the above could be used confidently, but being spring (so they say), lamb was in order.

So here's what the plan was for an equinox party for 25 friends (which ended up being a party of 11 adults and 6 children):

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Sunflower Sourdough with Apples and Cottage Cheese = Light, Satisfying Lunch

Sunflower sourdough topped with Brookford Farm's fromage frais (that I folded scallions into), slices from a Cider Works 'Empire' apple, and drizzled with Coppal House Farm's sunflower oil.  Little bit o' Maine sea salt (sold by Seacoast Eat Local at the markets) and freshly cracked pepper finished it off.  Chewy, crunchy, sweet, tangy and buttery.  Yup, yum.

New England Boiled Dinner is on the menu for tonight's meal, which needs a fairly early start time if dinner is wanted at a reasonable time.  While I was getting my goods together I decided I better have a little breakfast first.  That's when I discovered it was already noon.  Before I'm thought of as a lazy slug, no, I didn't just get up.  I'm still messed up with the time change. And, I'm a late eater.  Right?

I always have an assortment of breads in the freezer.  First of all, there are so many incredible bread bakers out there these days that I've become a bread hoarder.  (That's the case for dried beans, too.)  Secondly, as a believer in bread bags and the owner of multiple freezers, I might as well stock up when I come across a wowzie-doozie.

The slice above is from a loaf of sunflower sourdough baked by Canterbury Bread Shop that we pulled out for last night's dinner (huge bowls of mixed greens dressed in olive oil and lemon).   A tough crust, chewy crumb, and packed with good sour flavor, we have a tendency to lightly toast Canterbury's breads before nom-nomming.  The apple provided, naturally, a super sweet, crunchy component, and the hint of scallion and liberal sunflower oil added savory and buttery flavors.  Very satisfying.  Cut your bread on the bias and you'll get a nice big slice of "satisfying."  :)  Heck, cut two slices.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Chicken Chili for a Crowd (~16pp)

My last Tamworth chicken made this chili oh-so-worth it.  Next up: Riverslea Farm chickens!  Space is still available for our Tortilla Soup and Stock kitchen session.  Reserve today:

I dunno, is it really only about the chili?


But an awesome chili certainly helps pop those garnishes!

You can easily halve this recipe.

Here's the slow food version ('fast food' version follows):

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Greens, Greens, Greens!

Roasted baby red potatoes, red and golden beets, and chunks of poached Tamworth chicken made this plate of greens a substantial meal.  A little leftover apple gremolata and crumbles of Sandwich Creamery's 'caerphilly' cheese topped it off.  Beach Pea Bakery baguette slices on the side, crostini style.

Greens, greens, greens.  Man, am I suddenly wanting for a growing rack.

Our mission at the farmers' market yesterday was to find as many greens as we could.  We did.  And then some.  Different kinds of spinach; mizuna; kale; sweet Asian mixed greens, spicy Asian mixed greens; tatsoi; arugula; microgreens; baby bibb and green leaf lettuces; Swiss chard...phew, we got it all.  And, one large kohlrabi to top it off. (Peel it, then slice or shave the flesh into ribbons for your salad...or do like we did and eat planks straight off the knife.  Or not.)

Herb Farmacy's pouches of micro greens may look slight and small, but let me tell you, they are packed tight and full of fresh, deep flavor.  I love these tiny little shoots for their crunch and flavor, but also for the way a handful stays put in a sandwich.  No leaves slipping out the sides with this stuff.  See one of my favorite sandwiches here.

Included in Herb Farmacy's micro green mix this week: kale, broccoli, kohlrabi, arugula, a little mizuna, and cabbage.  Mizuna is milder version of arugula.  It has a very light herbaceous, peppery flavor.  As a whole, this mix had a succulent butteriness that makes you realize how deprived you've been since last summer. Get some soon.

As for tatsoi, my idea of salad has been changed forever.  We were eating fingerful after fingerful of this stuff.  Sooo good.

The same can be said for the spinach we picked up from Hollister Family Farm.  My exact words, er, sounds, upon my first bite:  "Mmmmpf!"

 You're crazy if you don't seek some of this stuff out.  In the words of Michael Pollan: "Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants."

I'm not quite keen about the 2nd part, but I'll accept it.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Apple Gremolata

For a nice refreshing change from jus or gravy on your next wine braised bone-in chuck, or other slow-cooked and savory protein, try apple gremolata.  Gremolata is just a name for a condiment typically made with minced parsley, lemon zest and minced or pressed garlic. Herbs can vary, and sometimes even anchovies are added.  Olive oil is not usually in the mix.

Apples are still plenty available at the farmers' markets in this area; Braeburns from NH Cider Works/Carter Hill Farm are a good tart option (although not as tart as their Crispins, which look like Granny Smiths).

Inspired by a fellow blogger who recently decided to dig out her covered beds in search of remaining root veg and leeks, I wondered if my parsley bunches had any stems left, flattened beneath all the snow.  They did, although not much.  And, granted, they were soft and wilted, but that made 'em all the more suitable to accompanying a couple of apples, peeled, cored and diced, with a bit of lemon zest, a healthy glug of olive oil, and coarse pepper and sea salt.  

I went with this for prosciutto-wrapped turkey burgers the other night, studded with sundried tomatoes, and a side of creamy sweet potatoes that we picked up from Riverside Farm and slow-roasted for about an hour at 350.  I added a hint of bourbon to the bowl in which they were mashed  A little chard sauteed in olive oil and garlic finished the plate.  Next time, I'll leave the sundried tomatoes out.  Or red-wine braised beef it will be.