Thursday, September 22, 2011

you can tell we're friends who like food when...

RR: Ketchup soon!
SR: Ciao Mein! 

What's in Season: Apples

Buying: Look for firm apples without bruising or soft spots. Preference on which variety to choose depends on personal taste for sweet, tart, or mild and what will be done with the apples - eaten raw, made into apple sauce, or cooked with which tart apples are best for retaining their shape and texture.  


Apples should be stored in a plastic bag, or uncovered, in the refrigerator or in a cool, dark place where they can retain their nutritional value for up to 3 months. Warm temperatures will make them lose their crispness. Like all refrigerated fruit, remove them from the refrigerator a couple hours before planning on eating them to restore their flavor. Bruised apples will release ethylene gas and cause other apples in the pack to exponentially ripen, so keep cut and bruised apples separate.  If freezing cut apples, toss with powdered vitamin  to reduce the browning and place on a baking sheet until hard, then store the frozen pieces in a tightly-sealed plastic bag. If not using the frozen apples within a few weeks, blanch them first.

Do not store apples with pears, onions, garlic or potatoes.

Medical: A medium apple is about 70 calories. It aids digestion and prevents fluid retention. High Vitamin C. Eating apple seeds is ok in small amounts, but in large amounts is dangerous as they contain a small amount of cyanide! The inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients in apples are good for decreasing asthma....where's my puffer?

Cooking: To prevent cut apples from browning when they are exposed to air, soak them in 2 tbsp lemon juice with 1/2 cup water. Browning just affects the appearance, not the taste. 

Apples pair excellently with sharp cheddar cheeses and peanut butter.

The best apples to cook with that hold their shape well include Cortland, Empire, Jonagold, Northern Spy, and Rome. McIntosh will become fragile. As they are an early variety, Paula Red and Jersey Red are best for eating fresh off the tree, uncooked.

Thoroughly wash apples before use. 

All About Apple Varieties
Braeburn – Originally from New Zealand, introduced in 1950′s. Spicy and tart with a juicy, crisp texture. Holds well in cooking as well as being a great eating apple.

Cortland – large sized apples with mostly red skin and red strips appearing on the lighter areas. They have a mild, tender flavor. Ideal for snacks, salads, and fruit platters because the flesh will remain white even after being cut. They are also good for baking with.

Empire – Native to New York, it is grown almost entirely on the East Coast.  It is a cross between McIntosh and Red Delicious. Medium sized. Distinctive strips. They are great eaten raw, especially right from the orchard. They are good for baking and for making applesauce. The flavor is sweet and the creamy flesh is semi-firm.

Fuji – originally from Japan, it was introduced to the US in the 1980’s and it is now the fourth most widely grown in the US. Large sized. Sweet and crisp. Varies from golden to blushed pink. Holds its shape and texture well when cooked and also stores well.

Gala – originally from New Zealand, it was introduced to the US in 11965 but didn’t become popular until the 1980’s.  It is now the third most widely grown in the US. Golden with pinky stripes. It is aromatic and tart. It holds its shape when cooked and great in applesauce. As one of the first harvested apples, it doesn’t keep very well, so don’t buy after early spring.

Golden Delicious – Medium to large sized. Golden yellow in appearance with a elongated shape and a five point bump at its base. The sweet flesh is yellowish-white and crisp. It is good for both eating and cooking.

Honey Crisp – Native to the US. Red skin with a golden background. Crisp and sweet. Good for eating fresh but also holds well during cooking.

Ida Red – Native to the US. Good for eating fresh. Great for pies and their texture holds well in baked apple desserts. Sweet and tart flavor.

Jerseymac – a month-early variety of McIntosh. Medium to large size. Uniform shape. The skin is red with green slashes. Good for eating, but not great for baking.

Jonagold – native to New York. It is tangy. It is a bit soft to eat out of the hand, but it is creamy when cooked.

Macoun - from New York. Bright red with purple blush. Firm and juicy with a sweet white flesh. Great for eating fresh in salads or with cheese.

McIntosh – From North America. Medium to large sized. White flesh is sometimes lined with red veins. Skin is greenish with bright red blush.  Slightly tart flavor. They bruise easily as they are tender, but can be stored for 2-3 months in cold storage. They are good to eat or baked in pies and sauces.

Milton – From the US. Medium sized. Yellow/green with red blush. Firm and Tart. Good for cooking apple sauce and baking pies.

Mutsu – also called Crispin. From Japan. Large and green, it looks almost like a Golden Delicious. Sweet and sharp. Good for eating fresh, holds its shape well for cooking, especially baked apples.

Paula Red – From the US. Bright red. Early season variety. Small to medium sized. Mild taste. Good for eating fresh. Flesh becomes soft when cooked so it’s better for applesauce.

Pink Lady – A trademark name, the variety is actually Cripps Pink. One of the first apples marketed as its brand name rather then variety. From Australia. As the name suggests, the skin is delicate pink. Sweet, honeyed and tart. Best for eating fresh.

Red Delicious – Used to make up almost half of the American apple harvest, but now is only a little more than a quarter. Medium to large sized. Bright red, sometimes with stripes, and have distinctive bottom bumps. Crisp and sweet. Best eaten raw straight from your hand, and is not recommended for cooking.

Questionable Health Priorities at Farmers Markets.

"Are these fruits and vegetables organic?"
"No, we are not certified organic."
"Ok I'll pass on those then. Can I get a dozen sugared cider donuts?"

"Can I get a cider donut please?'
"Sure. Would you like plain, cinnamon-sugar, or sugar coated?"
< parent to child > "Do you want sugar or cinnamon-sugar?"

Monday, September 19, 2011

"And there comes a time in your life when you realize that if you don’t take the opportunity to be happy, you may never get another chance again." -Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Friday, September 16, 2011

What's in Season: Tomatoes

Buying: Pick tomatoes that are heavy for their size. They shouldn't have any dents or bruises, but sun spots or splits can be cut away - splits, common in heirloom tomatoes, are due to irrigation issues - either a dry spell followed by heaving rain or inconsistent irrigation. Don't pay too much attention to color if the tomato is still a bit green as the tomato is currently ripening in front of you and will be good to eat in a few days. Over ripe tomatoes will have slack skin and will taste just as mealy as an under ripe tomato. To determine if a tomato is ripe, trust your nose and take a deep inhale. The aroma should be fragrant and the skin should yield slightly when gently pressed. A tomato that looks as though it's about to burst just yells Eat Me Now!

Storage: Tomatoes should never be put in the refrigerator. Cold temperatures cause them to lose their flavor and turn mealy. Leave them in a sun-free spot on your counter. Store tomatoes laying on the stem as the skin is tougher on the top rather than the bottom. Tomatoes, like peaches, are climacteric fruits which means they continue to ripen after being picked. If you have a cut, unused tomato, cover it in plastic wrap and still leave it at room temperature. 

Medical: High amounts of beta carotene and Vitamin C, some Vitamin B. There is reason to believe they reduce cancer risks and appendicitis. They are also believed to cure dyspepsia, liver, and kidney complaints as well as relieve constipation. Do not eat the leaves or stems as they are poisonous. Avoid if you have arthritis.

Fact: Did you know that chemists have identified more than 400 compounds that build the taste of a ripe tomato?

CookingTo remove the skins, score a small X on the bottom of the tomato with a sharp knife and blanch in a pot of boiling water for a few seconds until the skins fold back. Immediately place the tomatoes into a bowl of ice water and gently remove the skins.

To remove the seeds, quarter the tomato and use your thumb to scoop out the seeds over the sink.
Always cook tomatoes in stainless steel as they easily absorb flavors and using aluminum or iron will cause them to taste metallic.
Tomatoes can be sliced, diced, quartered; roasted, grilled, broiled, stewed, made into sauces and frozen; they pair exceptionally well with basil, cheese, broccoli, capers. Tomatoes are rich in an antioxident known as caratenoid which is known to reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovasular disease. Fats make the carotenoid more bioavailable so extra virgin olive oil and avocados are powerful food combinations with tomatoes!

I dare you to resist popping those sungold tomatoes into your mouth and just melting with summertime bliss.


Tomato Party! <- click for the recipe. crowd pleaser. 

I made ratatouille with black quinoa and loved it so much I made it again and used that to stuff it into some ripe tomatoes I had leftover from the Farmers Market. Follow the directions for the quinoa salad, then cut out the top of the tomato and scoop out the inside flesh (I saved the insides and added it to a melon soup) then stuff the tomatoes with the quinoa salad, drizzle with some olive oil and bake at 350 until the tomatoes are tender, about 25 minutes. 
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I made corn salsa the other night to bring to a picnic to watch a live band play in Prescott park. It’s extremely versatile, given what’s in your box and depending on your personal preference. I used two ears of corn – shucked the kernels into a large bowl, roughly cut up 3 tomatoes with their juices (halved sungold tomatoes would add a lot of vibrant color and sweetness), cut up one white onion into small dices, one green chile (plus extra dried chile flakes – I like HOT salsa!), I had a couple tomatillos which added a bit of sweetness. Feel free to add whatever you have, whatever you like, add some peaches! Add shrimp and grilled watermelon! Chop up some fresh basil and/or cilantro and season with salt and pepper. With the leftovers the next day without any more chips, I added some freshly washed lettuce and made it into a salad with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Easy Tomato Sauce and Pizza Dough

* From Jamie Oliver

3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup olive oil
12 ripe Roma tomatoes, chopped
Salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped basil

Sauté the garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the tomatoes, salt, and pepper and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften. Add all but a couple of tablespoons of the basil. Put the mi
xture in a blender and blend until smooth.

7 cups strong white bread flour or Tipo “00″ flour or
5 cups strong white bread flour or Tipo “00″ flour, plus 2 cups finely ground semolina flour
1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
2 x ¼-ounce packets of active dried yeast
1 tablespoon raw sugar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2½ cups lukewarm water

Sift the flour/s and salt onto a clean work surface and make a well in the middle. In a large cup, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.
Place the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl and flour the top of it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.
Move dough to a flour-dusted surface and knead it to push the air out with your hands. Divide the dough up into as many little balls as you want to make pizzas – this amount of dough is enough to make about six to eight medium pizzas. Timing-wise, it’s a good idea to roll the pizzas out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them.
Spread the tomato sauce onto the rolled out dough and add any topping you like! mozzarella, basil and proscuitto; pears, pecorino and walnuts; squash and gorgonzola; fingerling potatoes and rosemary….

Oven-Dried Tomato Tart with Goat Cheese and Olives
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 medium tomatoes or large romas, cored, halved crosswise, seeded
2 small garlic cloves, thinly slivered
2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme, divided
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed
1 cup coarsely grated whole-milk mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup soft fresh goat cheese (about 4 ounces)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil; brush foil with 1 tablespoon oil. Place tomato halves, cut side up, on baking sheet. Sprinkle garlic and 1 tablespoon thyme over tomatoes; drizzle remaining 1/4 cup oil over. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake until tomatoes begin to shrink and are slightly dried but still soft, about 2 hours. Cool tomatoes on sheet. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Store in single layer in covered container in refrigerator.)
Roll out pastry on lightly floured surface to 13-inch square. Transfer pastry to 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom, pressing pastry firmly onto bottom and sides of pan. Trim overhang to 3/4 inch. Fold overhang in and press, pushing crust 1/4 inch above pan. Pierce crust all over with fork; chill 30 minutes.
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line pastry with foil; fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until crust is set, about 20 minutes. Remove foil and beans; bake until crust edges are golden, piercing with fork if crust bubbles, about 12 minutes longer. Cool crust 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F.
Meanwhile, using fork, mash mozzarella cheese, goat cheese, and remaining 1 tablespoon thyme together in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add eggs and cream and stir until mixture is well blended. Spread cheese filling evenly in crust. Arrange tomato halves in filling, cut side up. Place olives between tomatoes. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese evenly over top. Bake until filling is puffed and set, about 35 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Push up pan bottom, releasing sides. Serve tart warm.

Fruit Tips.

Fruits are generally harvested and sold under-ripe so that the firmness protects from damages. Even at a farm, the farmer knows that you probably won't be eating all the fruit right away and don't want you to have mush the next day.

Plant-ripening fruits, like citrus fruits, most berries, grapes, cherries, melons, pineapple, and plums don't develop more flavor after being harvested. Apricots, avocados, bananas, kiwis, mangoes, pears, peaches, nectarines, persimmons, and tomatoes ripen and soften and have their flavors peak after a couple of days. Apples will soften and sweeten also, but most people prefer them crisp.

The ripening enzyme in fruit is a gas called ethylene, so trapping the gas will expedite the ripening process. Place fruits in a brown paper bag. Adding an already ripe piece of fruit will double the amount of ethylene.

Many fruits found in the supermarket are picked under-ripe, stored in a distribution center and sprayed with ethylene gas when the supermarket demands them to be ripe and ready.

To get fruits with the best flavor and quality, figure out what's in season. Otherwise, the produce is being shipped hundreds and thousands of miles away - great for the environment - or even if it's locally grown, if it's out of season it's grown in a greenhouse emitting lots of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to keep the ideal temperatures - also great for the environment.

The best way to store fruit, like raspberries for example, is to take them out of the basket and lay them in a single layer on a flat plate lined with paper towel to absorb moisture. This way the fruit is not piled on top of each other, causing dents and trapping moisture - both which encourage spoiling.

Refrigerate fruit only after they have ripened. The cold will slow the loss of moisture, but if refrigerated too soon, the cold will cause the fruit to become mealy.

For refrigerated fruit, take them out a couple hours before using them to rejuvenate the flavor that was suspended in the cold.

Always keep tomatoes at room temperature. Wrap cut tomatoes in plastic wrap.

To blanch or not to blanch before freezing? Blanch if you are not going to use the fruit within a few weeks. The blanching stops the ripening enzymes that create off-flavors and consume the fruit's nutrients. If you use the fruit within a few weeks, wash and cut and rob with powdered vitamin C which will diminish browning. Put them on a baking sheet, stick in the freezer and when they are hard and frozen, transfer to a plastic freezer bag or container.

Fruits that brown when exposed to air include apples, bananas, peaches, and pears.

Charred Sweet Corn & Fregula

I fell in love with Fregula pasta after making the "tomato party" salad. I was in New York last weekend, after a bachelorette weekend and a bridal shower in Long Island, I stayed over night in my parent's apartment instead of driving home to take advantage of visiting the city. I went to mum's favorite shop, Kalustyan's, and bought some interesting grains and spices and goodies - including some more fregula. But this time, instead of making the tomato party salad again - like I have all summer - I found a recipe in Mario Batalli's Babbo Cookbook for Charred Sweet Corn and Fregula. I had sweet corn. I had fregula. Perfect.

And I must say, the juicy sweet corn kernels combined with the chewy little pasta dots are just a perfect combo - they are the same size and just melt in your mouth. I add more spices than his recipe called for - some basil and dill and hot red peppers flakes - and then with the leftovers, I sauteed some garlic in avocado oil with broccoli and then added the leftovers to warm up....and boy, oh boy.  delicious.

I hate the word "mouth-feel" when describing food, but there is something about the juicy charred sweet corn and the chewy fregula that is just so comforting and the flavors make you want fall to come and warm up inside while eating it.

Charred Sweet Corn & Fregula
*From Mario Batalli

1 1/2 cups fregula pasta (not a grain, but an ancient pasta from Italy made from semolina. It is courser than couscous)
2 ears corn, shucked
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 stock
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Regiano
Dried basil, dill, red chili flakes
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil with 1 tbsp salt. Cook the fregula until somewhat tender, but not cooked through, about 10-12 minutes. Drain and run under cold water and let dry. Brush the ears of corn with oil, season with salt and pepper and grill (or broil) until the sides are nicely charred and the kernels are about to burst. Remove with tongs and when cool enough to handle, remove the kernels with a sharp knife directly into a large saute pan. Add the fregula and stock to the pan and cook over high heat until the stock boils and is absorbed into the pasta, about 5 minutes. Add the cheese, herbs, and season, tossing for about another minute.
The juicy, sweet corn kernels and the chewy fregula pasta are about the same size, making it a winning, fall-warming dish.

What's in Season: Peaches & Nectarines

Peaches. There is nothing that tastes like summer than biting into a recently picked, perfectly ripe peach that when you bite into it, juice just oozes down your chin and drips down your arm. Pure pleasure.

I am allergic to peaches - they are related to the almond family - so I generally stay away from them. Plus I always thought they weren't that great, a little tasteless and not sweet enough. I thought that I was less allergic when they were a bit hard and under-ripe. However, my interest peaked as everyone at the farmers market started asking about the arrival of the peaches and how they were their favorite part of summer. So when they finally came in season, I couldn't resist to biting into one. Minus the incredibly itchy fuzz which makes me maniacally scratch, they definitely are delicious when juicy and ripe with the juice running down your chin and all over your arms as you try to wipe it off.

Buying: Peaches are either clingstone or free-stone. Clingstone are ones where the flesh is pretty securely attached to the flesh and are usually sent to the canning industry whereas free-stone peaches have pits that hang about the flesh pretty freely. There are a lot of different varieties of peaches and nectarines but realistically, they can be interchangeable. Pay attention to the smell of the fruit as well as the background color. Red, although appealing, doesn't not equate with ripeness or maturity, but with with variety of the fruit.  You can tell the type of peach by looking at the ribbed shoulder on the top of the peach - the little strip will be yellow-orange for a yellow fleshed peach and a lighter yellow for a white flesh skin. Look for pieces of fruit that have an orange or golden, not green, hue to their background. Like tomatoes, always trust your nose and smell your fruit - should be peachy keen!

Storing: If you want to keep peaches for longer, keep them in the refrigerator after they have begun to ripen (do not put under-ripe fruit in the fridge as it will dry out the flesh and turn mealy). If you're looking to eat them sooner, leave them out at room temperature. If you want to eat it even sooner, place it in a brown paper bag with a banana (or any fruit that exudes ethylene) and it will expedite the ripening process. They are very fragile and delicate, any damage or bruising will cause them to start decomposing which is why farmers markets may have boxes of "canning" peaches and nectarines. The juices will cause the other fruits to start to rot prematurely as well so they are separated. These are often ready to eat, fallen, bruised, split-pit, even ugly fruits that are perfect for canning, obviously, or making jams, pies, and tarts. Peaches and nectarines, like tomatoes, are climacteric, which means they will continue to ripen after they are picked. So, if you buy a peach or nectarine from the farmers market that is pretty hard, it is because the farmer knows that you might not eat it right away, so leave it on the counter and it will be excellent to eat in a couple days. I'm not quite sure what to answer when people ask me if the fruit will ripen and become softer....what do you think? It will stay hard or just get harder? Of course it will ripen. However, if you go pick your own peaches and nectarines, follow your nose to find the fruit picked off the tree that is just bursting with liquid sugary syrup that will drip down your arm as you take that first bite......

Split Pits
"she obviously has a lot of respect for you. none of our friends know what a split pit is, let alone be able to talk about it for hours."

What's the difference between a peach and a nectarine? Not too much. 
Fact: peaches and nectarines are so closely related that sometimes a peach seed will germinate a nectarine tree and a nectarine seed with grow a peach tree! There is just one differentiating gene. Because peaches have hair on their surface - which causes all sorts of uncomfortable itching for me - they are considered to be "pubescent" whereas nectarines have no fuzz, just a smooth surface. Although preferred by some, nectarines are firmer than peaches so they don't have that melt-in-your-mouth effect and therefore don't really fall apart messily all over your hand, half in your mouth like a ripe peach often does.

Medical: Lots of Vitamin A & C and potassium. They are virtually fat-free (less than 1 gram), very low in calories (about 40) and the skin is a good source of fiber!

....hours of itching at work....

Cooking: When cooking peaches, peel the skin as they will easily peel away throughout the cooking process, however, nectarines do not need to be peeled. To easily peel a peach, put an X with a sharp knife at the bottom of the peach and pop in boiling water to blanch for a couple seconds and then quickly put into a bowl of ice water. The ice water will stop the peach from continuing to cook and the skin will easily peel away. If the fruit is incredibly ripe, blanching is probably not necessary.

If you are using cut fruit, sprinkle some sugar over it to stop it from browning as the exposure to air will cause enzymatic browning.


Peach Bellini
The Bellini is a popular drink in Italy made famous from Harry's Bar in Venice, owned by Giuseppi Cipriani. I always wanted to meet a Giuseppi while I was living in Italy. Anyways, a Bellini is a long drink cocktail served without ice. It is two parts (100mL) prosecco, one part (50mL) white peach puree. The peach puree can be made by blanching a peach to remove the skins, then blending it with a dash of prosecco (a lot of recipes will call for water and lemon juice, but why not prosecco?!). The puree is then added to the glass and topped off with prosecco. A virgin version can be made also by using club soda instead (with the water and lemon juice in the blender).

Tomato Peach and Basil Salad
4 Tomatoes (or to match the amount of peaches, depending on the size)
4 Peaches (2 yellow, 2 white)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1-2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, optional
2 cloves chopped garlic
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup quality extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard

Roughly cut the tomatoes and peaches into bite size pieces. Tear basil into the salad. Whisk together the remaining ingredients to make the vinaigrette. Gently toss and fold into the salad.

Grilled Peach Salad
2 1/2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Salt and Pepper
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1 lemon
1 oz Parmesean, freshly grated

2 large peaches, halved, pits removed
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2 frisee or endive leaves, washed and dried
small bunch of fresh mint leaves

Put the goat cheese in a pestle and mortar with sea salt and pepper - easy on the salt because the cheese will already be salty. Add the olive oil and lemon juice and mix. Add the parmesean and mix again, but not for too long. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"There are three possible parts to a date, of which at least two must be offered: entertainment, food, and affection. It is customary to begin a series of dates with a great deal of entertainment, a moderate amount of food, and the merest suggestion of affection. As the amount of affection increases, the entertainment can be reduced proportionately. When the affection IS the entertainment, we no longer call it dating. Under no circumstances can the food be omitted."
Judith Martin

Monday, September 5, 2011

What's in Season: Cabbage

Buying: Look for cabbages that have tight heads - even if the outer leaves are a bit floppy, they can be discarded. Leaves should not be discolored, damaged or dried out. If buying from a store, avoid those that look like they have been overly tidied up. 

Storing: Cabbage should be kept cold to retain it’s Vitamin C amount. Savoy cabbage will keep for about a week in a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator. A cut, unused part of the cabbage should be wrapped tightly in plastic and placed in the fridge. It should be used quickly as cut cabage will continue to lose its beneficial vitamins.

Fact: The world record for the largest cabbage is ranked at 124 lbs from Wales.

Medical: Cabbage retains the most nutrition when eaten raw. It is said to reduce colonic cancer risk, perk up the immune system, and eradicate bacteria. Cabbage juice is apparently good for preventing and curing ulcers.

Cooking: Remove any tough, fiberous outer leaves. Quarter the cabbage, remove the core, and then cut into the desired size slice, either shredded in a food processor or cut with a stainless steel knife (certain phytonutrients react with carbon, so stainless steel will prevent the leaves from turning black). Only cut and wash cabbage right before using it. After cutting the cabbage, it is possible to soak the leaves in cold water to not only keep it crisp, but to draw out some of those sulfurous chemicals that put many people off cabbage.

Cabbage can be steamed or blanched for 6-8 minutes. After washing, shredding and blanching for 1 minute, cabbage can be frozen in plastic bags. Cabbage can be stir-fried, baked, braised, the thick, waxy leaves of cabbage are great for acting as carb-free sandwich wraps, salad cupping, or for stuffing. Add thin cuts of cabbage to soups to sweeten and thicken the broth.

Cabbage-Not-Iceberg Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing, Oven-Roasted Tomatoes and Torn Croutons

I was looking through my Ad Hoc at Home cookbook and saw a recipe for the classic Iceberg Lettuce Salad. The quartered lettuce in the picture reminded me of quartered cabbage and decided to make it using cabbage instead. A lot of people from the CSA program choose to swap out their cabbage - either out of distaste, fed up with making coleslaw or just don't know what to do with it so I thought everyone loves Iceberg Salad, there's some reason why it's always on menu's so why not include cabbage as an interesting twist. And what a HIT!

Ok, it looks like a lot of work. And it was. Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home look like easy recipes, but for every ingredient, it's another recipe on another page. I've tried to lay it out below in an easy order.  I love the reward and the therapy of an all-day cook-fest. The remaining aioli can be used for sandwich spreads (I was a little too thrilled with myself at the success of homemade aioli), the garlic confit and oil can be used in other recipes. The blue cheese dressing can be used in salads or for dipping veggies throughout the week.  It might not be the healthiest, but it's a good way to incorporate cabbage into an interesting twist - cabbage is very low in calories - and I left out the bacon. 

Garlic Confit and Oil
2 bulbs garlic, peeled - about one cup
about 2 cups canola oil

cut off the root ends of the garlic cloves. Put in a small sauce pan and add enough oil to cover them by about 1 inch - none should be poking through. POKE. Put the saucepan over med-low heat and cook gently - little bubbles should come up but they shouldn't break the surface - remove from the heat if this happens/adjust heat. Cook for about 40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so until the cloves are completely tender when pierced with a knife tip. Remove from the heat and allow garlic to cool in the oil. Can be refrigerated in a covered container for 1 week. 

Oven Roasted Tomatoes
8 cherry tomatoes, halved (I used a mix of purple cherry and yellow blush tomatoes)
extra virgin olive oil or garlic oil from above
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. Put the tomato halves on a baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining ingredients. Roast for about 15-20 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and look like they are about to burst. Remove and let come to room temperature. 

4 large egg yolks
2 cups Garlic Oil (above)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoon kosher salt

To easily remove the yolks from the whites, crack in half and slowly dip the yolks into a bowl. You can gently put the yolk into your hand and the whites will run through your fingers. Put the egg yolks in a food processor and process to combine. With the motor running, VERY slowly add the oil through the whole in the center, blending until it is emulsified and thick. Add the lemon juice and salt. Stop the motor as soon as the last drop of oil is added - overworking it will cause it to break. Can be refrigerated covered for up to 1 week. 
*Substitute regular canola oil to make plain mayonnaise*
Blue Cheese Dressing
1 cup Aioli (above)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup creme fraiche 
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon parsley
1 teaspoon dill
1 1/2 cups crumbled blue cheese (suggested: Pt. Reyes)
(recipe also calls for 1 teaspoon of both minced chives and mint which I did not have so I added dill which worked great)

Put the aioli in a large bowl then whisk in the buttermilk and remaining ingredients. Additional buttermilk can be used to make it less thick, if desired. Can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 1 week. 
*Buttermilk can be made by putting 1 tablespoon lemon juice into a 1-cup measuring cup and filling the rest with milk, stir, then let sit for 2 minutes. 
Grilled Cabbage Wedges 
1 cabbage, quartered
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F (should be set, from the tomatoes) or light up the grill - which we did. Rub the cut sides of the cabbage with the oil. Put the cabbage quarters on to a large sheet of tin foil, cut side down and drizzle with a little oil and season. Wrap and cover with the foil tightly to seal it.  Bake or grill for about 20 minutes, until the cabbage is tender. Open the foil to let cool. 

Torn Croutons
Tear day-old sourdough bread into bite-size pieces. Pour enough Garlic Oil into the bottom of a large pan to cover the bottom. Heat until hot and then add the bread in a single layer. Reduce the heat. Stir the bread in the oil so that it is coated. If you hear sizzling, the heat is too high and the croutons will become too dry - the key is to slow cook them for about 20 minutes so that the croutons absorb the garlicky oil and become crsip and golden brown on all sides. Set aside. 
Arrange the cabbage onto 4 plates or onto a serving dish. Tuck the tomatoes in and around the lettuce (4 haves per person). Sprinkle with the croutons. Spoon some of the dressing over the salad and serve the remaining dressing on the side. 


Heart Beet

Do you carrot at all for me?
My heart beets for you,
With your turnip nose
And your radish face.
You are a peach.
If we cantaloupe,
Lettuce marry.
Weed make a swell pear. 

-  A Rocket in My Pocket: Rhymes and Chants of Young Americans

What's in Season: Melon

Buying: A melon in general should be heavy for it’s size and without bruises. The undertones of the melon should be more yellow than green. Cantaloupe are considered to be netted melons as their surface skin is covered in a web of netted veins. The veins should be pronounced and golden, not green. The inside cavity also contains seeds that are enclosed in a netted web. Knocking on the melon is one way of seeing if it is ripe enough to eat – the cavity inside should sound hollow whereas a honeydew’s seeds will rattle inside when ripe. Like most fruit, trust your nose and smell the fruit, the aroma should be incredibly fragrant. Watermelons are part of the melon family that have smooth skins. They should have a deep, rich skin color and a waxy surface. “Sugar spots” are a good indicator of a good smooth-skinned melon; they are brown flecks that supermarkets usually wash off as imperfections. Crenshaw melons, long and oval in shape, are the most aromatic when ripe and should have a bright yellow skin covering a golden pink flesh. Honeydew should have a smooth, pale yellow-green surface. The blossom end should be rather soft with a slight fragrant aroma. French melons are small and have a grayish yellow-green skin. With its flowery aroma, it is easy to tell when it is ripe as it look as though it is about to burst open.

Storage: An whole, unripe melon should be left at room temperature. Cut melon should not be left out at room temperature for more than 2 or at most 4 hours and for a chilled melon, refrigerate it only overnight. After being picked, a melon will continue to soften, but it will not get any sweeter. Do not put melon in the fridge with strong smelling foods as they will easily absorb those other flavors.

Medical: Watermelon and cantaloupe have a low calorie count (one cup of cantaloupe = 56 calories, watermelon 48 calories). With its orange flesh, cantaloupe is very high in beta-carotene, which is good for your eye sight, so it is very high in Vitamin A, which is good for lung health. It also contains a high amount of Vitamin C which not only acts as an antioxidant, but it protects the immune system by encouraging white blood cells to fight against infections, kill bacteria and viruses, and rejuvenates inactive Vitamin E within the body. Cantaloupe is also high in potassium and dietary fiber. The B Vitamins cantaloupe contains help process carbohydrates and along with the amount of fiber, regulates the flow of sugar into the bloodstream. Watermelon is filled with lycophene which is very strongly preventive of cancer.

Fact: Melons are related to squash, pumpkins, and plants that grow off vines on the ground. What we call cantaloupe in America is actually a muskmelon. The true variety of cantaloupe is found mostly in France. Cantaloupe  were first cultivated in 1700 A.D. in Italy in a town called Cantalup, where its name derives from.

Melon has so much more to offer than just in a fruit salad. I made a refreshing chilled melon soup the other day with half a crenshaw and half a french melon I had pureed with half a cucumber, lime juice, basil, a jalapeno, and water to smooth out the consistency. Juicy melon is great wrapped in salty serrano ham or prosciutto. Melon Salsa. Great for parties: cut a hole in a watermelon and carve out some of the flesh. Stick in a funnel and slowly pour in vodka, it will take time to absorb so do ahead...or cut the melon up, stick it in a bowl and pour the vodka over. 

Melon Salad
About 5 lbs assorted melons, room temperature, cut into any free-form desired shape, slice, cube or ball.
1 head frisee, washed and dried
12 small French breakfast radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 oz feta cheese, drained, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
small mint leaves (optional)

Pour the oil and vinegar in a bowl and swirl to make a vinaigrette.  Toss the frisee and radishes in a medium bowl and drizzle about half of the vinaigrette around the sides of the bowl. Toss to coat and season to taste. Arrange some of the melon on a serving platter, drizzle with some vinaigrette and repeat with more melon and vinaigrette, layering as you build the salad. Loosely place the lettuce on top of the melon then scatter with feta cheese and olives. Garnish with mint leaves.

* Adapted from Thomas Kellar’s Ad Hoc at Home. The sweet melon goes fabulously with the salty cheese and olives and the slight bitterness of the frisee.  I made this salad with only a Crenshaw melon and it was delicious, although a variety of melons would add more color, an array of texture and a medley of flavor. He also included toasted pine nuts and 1 English cucumber which I did not have. I used some pickled radishes I had made rather than small wedges like his recipe called for (boil 2 parts vinegar to 1 part sugar, 1 part water and let cool, add radishes – or any veg – into a canning jar and pour the room-temp pickling liquid over them, let stand for 30 minutes, cover, refrigerate up to 1 month)

Watermelon, cut into cubes, goes fantastically with some feta cheese, red onion, pine nuts, and fresh basil. Drizzle with some good extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.The juicy sweetness of melon pairs incredibly well with salty foods – like feta – so wrapped slices of melon with prosciutto is delicious and easy. Try it grilled!

Camping Canceled, S'mores Definitely Still On.

Labor Day Monday. I was supposed to go camping last night, but everyone was supposed to leave before I got off work, I didn't have a tent, it was supposed to rain, and mum is leaving for Ireland tomorrow for 3 weeks. So, I decided not to go, but in the end, no one did - and it happened to be a beautiful, warm night and a sunny Monday today. Oh well. Hanging out on the deck with the roomies and neighbors eating scrumptious stuffed clams and huge chunky lobster rolls and seducing spiders with cheese and crackers was just as fun. I still made s'mores for dessert with jumbo marshmallows. 
graham crackers. chocolate. jumbo marshmallow. graham cracker. 20 seconds in the microwave. bam. 

Ooey gooey goodness all over the place. 

 it's just like camping. outside on the deck, spiders and all.