We were supposed to entertain a few families at the lake last weekend, but after an emergency call to 911 to report smoke billowing from the house, we prudently canceled. Turns out that it was a faulty boiler, no cause for alarm, but with our house full of steam and smelling like antifreeze, we made plans to host another weekend. Leaving us with a truckload of food, and nobody but ourselves to eat it. Which isn’t such a bad thing, but my husband has cried uncle on the amount of food that I’ve been serving lately and has been an eyelash-width from starting a juice cleanse.
On Saturday morning, I headed out first thing to the Ringwood Farmer’s Market to pick up my weekly Bialas CSA box. After last week’s episode, I was relieved to find out that they’d run out of ghost peppers, although my box was supplied with a healthy dose of jalapeno peppers. I’ve learned my lesson though – these will stay far out of the kids’ curious hands and have been buried in the farthest reaches of my cooler. Likely to never be seen again. If you don’t see a jalapeno recipe for the next few weeks, please remind me to dig them out before they develop more white fur than Santa Claus.
Here’s what we received in this week’s box:
1. Bok choy
3. Fresh leeks
4. Green beans
5. Fairy tale eggplant
9. Turnips with greens
10. New potatoes
12. Indigo rose tomatoes*
13. Swiss chard
*purchased from Bialas Farms separately
Once back from the market, we started our Saturday with one of my now famously rich meals – breakfast tacos, which I made with some leftover sliced strip steak, cilantro, tomatoes, and a lime crema. My timing was way off, with Rodney nowhere to be found when the tacos were done. Thinking maybe I’d disrespected his plea for lighter meals, I searched the house, but apparently he’d already left to take the kids to the park. Leaving me to eat two of these things by myself and ruining my appetite for the rest of the day but one does not let breakfast tacos get cold, wither and die.
To make the breakfast tacos:
Whether you’re grilling from scratch, or using leftovers, all you need are a few slices of sautéed strip steak per taco. First start by heating a large cast iron pan over medium heat and adding three flour tortillas (I use fajita size). When one side is starting to brown, flip, and add a dollop of sour cream that’s been mixed with some lime juice & zest. Add the steak to the top of the cream, add a few chopped tomatoes, a fried egg, and some cilantro sprigs over the top. If you like things spicier, add some hot sauce.
Given that I had a mound of food to cook through, I knew that I had to get cracking early and cook as much as I could in order to freeze some meals. With the mound of turnip greens, and the leafy green chard, I figured that a braised dish could use both at once, along with the ham hock that had been taking up space in my freezer.
I found a tasty Southern-inspired recipe on Epicurious, and made it pretty much to the letter, swapping kohlrabi for the carrots and adding the bunch of Swiss chard to fill out the greens.
As you can imagine, my kids, not having grown up with Southern influences aside from cornbread, didn’t want to even be in the same room as the braised turnips.
They were much more interested in this activity: a make-your-own pizza bar using some locally-purchased flatbreads. What I didn’t tell them is that pizza-making lets me use up just about every leftover in the fridge, so kids, thank you.
The best part of the pizza bar? Grilling the pizzas…(yes, one has a bite out of it already)
Please excuse the blurry shot – I was surrounded by smoke and had three little helpers standing by. This was a Ninja-quick mission to get in and get out, hopefully with crispy pizzas and body parts intact.
Lauren made Rodney’s pizza, which resulted in a tower of tomatoes. “Why so much tomato?” he asked me, not knowing that he was in fact eating a masterpiece. To which I gave him a sideways neck jolt towards the little chef. Silenced.
My own pizza was base on a pizza that I grew up eating in Toronto at a restaurant called Il Fornello. In the 80s it was the place to go for Canada’s best imitation of Wolfgang Puck’s California Pizza Kitchen. I ordered pizza #11 from the menu every time – pesto, chicken, goat cheese, and eggplant. I tried to replicate the dish exactly, except that I didn’t have eggplant. But it was still delicious.
Which brings me to eggplant.
Realizing that my pizza (and who knows what other dishes) had suffered because I no longer had eggplant in my house, I had to make a mad dash to another farmer’s market on Sunday to restock my supply.
And of course, I’m like a kid in a candy store when it comes to farmer’s markets, so did I pick up 2 or 3 eggplants? No, I had to pick up twenty nine of them.
And I’ve been making baba ganoush ever since.
Kidding. Sort of.
If you’re squinting at the picture and looking for the baba ganoush, that’s it! Right in the center!
“But it’s gray?”
“Yes! That’s the point!”
Not only do I have a farmer’s market addiction, but I tend to also spend my evenings poking around on Amazon for exotic food products. Enter black tahini, made from black sesame seeds. I couldn’t resist it, and have been waiting to use it on something special. I thought that the black, smoky char on the eggplant could be heightened visually with the black tahini, so there you go: charred eggplant baba ganoush, perfect for a mezze platter with spiced pitas, fried chickpeas, and those pickled beets that I’ve been eating with everything.
To make the spiced pitas:
In a small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon of the cumin, coriander, and paprika along with a large pinch of salt. Quarter 3-4 pitas, and brush olive oil on both sides of the pitals. Sprinkle with the spice mix on both sides, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, flipping them halfway through.
To make the charred baba ganoush:
Split one large eggplant (e.g. Italian, white) lengthwise and rub each side with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and broil for 10 minutes until the top is nicely charred and blackened in spots. Turn down the oven to 350 degrees and roast for another 20-30 minutes depending on size. When the eggplant is cooked, remove and let cool. While the eggplant is cooling, finely mince a large clove of garlic, and add it to a food processor. Add the pulp of the eggplant, a few tablespoons of Greek yogurt, the juice of half a lemon, and 2-3 tablespoons of black tahini paste. Blend until pureed, and taste for seasoning, adding more salt if needed. Serve in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and some black and white sesame seeds.
To make the fried chickpeas:
Although this doesn’t use a deep fryer, I like to mimic the taste and texture of deep-fried chickpeas by using a fair amount of oil. The oil crisps the chickpeas, and most of it is left in the pan, so don’t be afraid to use it. Heat 1/2” deep oil in a large sautee pan until shimmering. Add a 14 oz can of chickpeas drained and rinsed chickpeas, season with salt, and fry, tossing continuously so that they don’t stick to the bottom. When the chickpeas are golden brown, remove them with a slotted spoon to the serving plate and sprinkle with a tablespoon of smoked paprika.
The disappointing part of my story is that this dish only used 1/15th of my purchased eggplants. So I still had quite a few more to work through.
One night I made a deconstructed skillet eggplant parm, layering sautéed fairy tale eggplant with tomatoes, basil, and fresh mozzarella in a pan, and sprinkling the whole thing with garlicky fresh breadcrumbs. This is the kind of dish that you hope to eat alone, armed with nothing but the skillet, a knife and fork, and a thick stack of napkins.
To make the skillet eggplant parm:
In a small sautee pan, sautee 1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs in olive oil until golden. When cooked, season with a pinch of salt and set aside. Split 6-7 fairy tale eggplant lengthwise and sautee them in a large sautee pan over medium-high heat, tossing frequently, until golden. When the eggplant has cooked through, turn the heat to low, and add a scattering of torn buffalo mozzarella (about ½ a cup), ½ cup of halved cherry tomatoes, a handful of torn basil, and scatter the seasoned breadcrumbs over the top. Let the pan sit for 2-3 minutes, so that the mozzarella has had a chance to melt, and serve.
But the crown jewel of my eggplant efforts was this: a Baharat-spiced eggplant, inspired by the eggplant master himself, Yotam Ottolenghi. I made it late one morning after flipping through his stunning book “Jerusalem”. If I were to only own one cookbook, this might be it. Every page is a winner, a rarity in cookbooks. His recipes are exotic yet attainable, healthy and packed with flavor. Given the ingredients that I had on hand, this eggplant dish is a hybrid from a few of the eggplant recipes in “Jerusalem”. I couldn’t resist using a pop of red on top as a nod to the eggplant on the cover of his other book “Plenty”. If you’re not an eggplant lover, this will convert; the kind of dish where you’re left digging at spiced fried onion pieces from the parchment paper, wondering if you have the time or the energy to make another batch.
To make the Baharat-spiced eggplant:
To make the eggplant, split a large eggplant in half lengthwise. Score the inside of the eggplant in a cross-hatch, brush it with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then bake it in a 425° oven for 45 minutes until soft.
Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan and fry one whole thinly-sliced onion for 10 minutes until golden and charred in some places.
Add a half minced jalapeno and a few tablespoons of Baharat to the onions and fry for another two minutes. Separately, in a small bowl, mix together one minced garlic clove, the minced peel of one lemon, the juice of one lemon, and the remaining half jalapeno, minced.
One the eggplant is done pull it out of the oven and add the lemon jalapeno dressing over the top. Pile on the onions and, finally, dress with a few tablespoons of Greek yogurt that is been thinned with a tablespoon or two of milk. Top the eggplant with some halved cherry tomatoes and a few sprigs of cilantro.
Are you sick of eggplant yet?
Good, me too, let’s move on to stone fruit. Stone fruit isn’t part of my share, but when I’m at the market I can’t resist buying a few boxes of plump Shiro plums, sweet sugar plums, donut peaches, nectarines and the like.
If we were able to replicate the mating instincts of the fruit fly, in say, the honeybee, this whole business of losing our honeybee colonies would be a blip on our radar. How one fruit fly turns into several hundred in the space of 12 hours is beyond me. Are they recruiting their friends? Procreation cannot account of this pattern alone.
What I do know is that when our kitchen’s fruit fly population reaches a point at which I spend each morning jumping around my fruit, clapping as though I’m participating in a tribal dance massacre, it’s time to use the fruit in a recipe.
With this much fruit, I need something with fruit substance, something that would call for at least a few pounds of the stuff. The answer is usually pie.
Of the deep dish variety. Baked in a cast iron skillet with an oatmeal crumble on top. Summer at its best.
(I’m kicking myself because I didn’t keep track of the exact recipe. Let it suffice to say that I took your standard butter crust, blind baked it in a deep cast iron skillet, filled it with any go-to stone fruit filling – fruit + sugar + a little lemon juice (no cornstarch for me) – and baked it all with an oatmeal crumb topping)
But as you can see from that last picture, we had quite a bit of fruit left over. Meaning more procreating fruit flies, more relatives, more friends, more partying. The next morning was like groundhog day with the dancing, the clapping, the stomping and wailing.
Enter brute force tactics Take 2.
Let me preface this by saying that we’re a pancake and waffle kind of family. Crèpes have always seemed a little too…..French. Or labor intensive. All of those thin layers, all of that flipping. Did I have the time? Did I have the willpower? Realizing that I could make the batter the night before got me over the hurdle. And I figured that if the kids didn’t like them, my breakfasts would be frozen and ready-to-go for the next month.
What I didn’t realize is that the high acid content in fruit will corrode a cast iron skillet. I think. While I haven’t had the time to Google whether my hypothesis is correct, or whether my cast iron pan was made by the same manufacturer as our boiler, strange things happened when I took the fruit out. We won’t talk about it, and the cast iron pan is in detention until the situation is resolved. I’d prefer not to eat food with large black flakes in it unless it’s some fancy Amazon-direct gourmet food item that I’ve ordered on impulse two days before. So if you make this roasted fruit, please use a glass baking dish, and if you know the reason why my pan looks funky and want to save me some research time, please provide your expertise in the comments.
But those crepes. They were worth making my skillet the sacrificial lamb. I don’t use Chinese five spice powder enough…
To make the crepes, use Alton Brown’s recipe.
To make the Chinese five spice powder-roasted stone fruit:
Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut a 1-2 lbs of stone fruit into quarters, and sprinkle them with a few tablespoons of sugar per pound, and 1 tablespoon of Chinese five spice powder per pound. Toss the fruit until well combined with the sugar and spice, and roast in the oven for 20 minutes until fragrant and soft. Use the fruit to stuff the crepes, top ice cream, or even as the foundation for a quick stone fruit crisp.
One of my recent discoveries at the farmer’s market is the Italian vendor who sells all kinds of fresh ravioli, from lobster, to artichoke and fontina. Although I haven’t yet bought his pasta, I’ve become hooked on his fresh mozzarella.
The first time I bought it, I was a little skeptical, seeing that he was basically scooping the cheese out of a warm tray of water and handing it over to his customers. I don’t know what I was expecting, a little refrigeration perhaps? Putting my livelihood into the hands of the Department of Health and Sanitation, or whomever oversees these vendors, I ordered a pound of the stuff. He scooped it up, pulled and wrapped until he’d formed a tight little ball. When he handed me the container, it was still warm; and again still warm when I got home and decided to make a tomato mozzarella salad.
There was something almost primal about eating that salad with the warm mozzarella. Unfortunately the picture shouldn’t be shared because the lighting was awful and would do this bowl of perfection no justice. One bite of the cheese and it as though you were eating fresh kill. And now I’ve offended the vegetarians. I apologize, but there’s no other way to describe it.
There also wasn’t the slightest tang or sour note, which often accompanies commercial brands of mozzarella. It was creamy, fresh….. I’ve been eating it on everything although it’s never been as good as when I first brought it home, before it was refrigerated. I’ve since learned of a family who leaves their mozzarella out on the counter for two days before refrigerating in order to maintain its undulating texture for as long as possible. Not something I’d do, but I suppose that I’m a little more risk-averse when it comes to digestive system trauma.
I’ve been eating quite a few simple meals of mozzarella paired with local tomatoes, and my purple-hued Bialas Farms garlic; it makes one fabulous bruschetta.
Which, sometimes, when it’s breakfast, gets a soft-boiled egg on top.
To make the breakfast bruschetta:
Toast a thick slice of rosemary focaccia until golden. Rub with a garlic clove, and then layer with sliced heirloom tomatoes, torn fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese, and a mix of green and purple basil. Drizzle some olive oil over the top, along with a squeeze of lemon. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper and some smoked salt. (Optional, to make it a true breakfast, add a soft-boiled egg over the top).
I don’t know about you, but there have been days this summer when the weather has been unseasonably cold. In the 60s, with gray skies and rain. I actually look forward to these days; days when I can tackle some floor puzzles with the kids, and stew around in the kitchen guiltlessly. No sunshiny park visits to miss, no dockside swim sessions to skimp. And of course, staying inside means that I can wear my holiday flannel pajamas all day long. And eat braisy/roasty things. Like these potatoes. I had leeks, I had potatoes, I didn’t want soup. Nobody eats braised potatoes, and why? They’re delicious, especially when you top them with creamy mascarpone and fresh dill.
To make the braised potatoes:
Sautee one large clove of garlic in olive oil; Add a cleaned, thinly sliced leek, and sautée for 6-8 mins until soft. Add a finely-diced Yukon gold potato, 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt. Cook the potatoes, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are soft.
Serve in a bowl with a few grinds of fresh black pepper, a dollop of mascarpone, and some freshly chopped dill.
For some odd reason, despite the cold weather, I was compelled to make ice cream. I love to make ice cream, more to feed it to others than to eat pints of it myself. Although I love the stuff, I’m easily satiated with a small bowl. But with colder weather creeping in, and some herb plants that were showing signs of fatigue, I felt compelled to salvage what I could to make a few last dishes.
My lemon verbena plant has been one of my favorite herbs; I’ve made countless bottles of infused-simple syrup to use in cocktails and fizzy water drinks all summer long. I wanted to make an ice cream, but was looking for something tart as opposed to rich. With a container of vanilla crème fraiche in the fridge from our friends at Vermont Creamery, I decided to make a half batch. (Note, if you’ve ever wondered whether your ice cream maker will still work properly with half a batch of ice cream, it does! I’ve just learned this trick and might switch to half batches from now on as the ice cream quality in the freezer goes downhill quickly). This ice cream served as a wonderful accompaniment to the Ochs Orchard local blueberries that I’d picked up at the market.
To make the lemon verbena crème fraîche ice cream:
Use this recipe from the Hungry Hounds, swapping in lemon verbena for lemon balm. I also omitted the vanilla.
Other completely-unnecessary-but-wonderfully-delicious things I made this week were some spicy gimlets using the extra-spicy ghost pepper and rosemary-infused vodka that I shared with you last week. Upon tasting his first sip, my husband choked and announced that I’d made a cocktail to feed your enemies. We needed some help from the melting ice to cool things down in our glasses. But I liked the heat, it’s surprising to drink something that spicy.
To make the Mason Jar gimlets:
I like to make a batch of cocktails at once so that refills are easy. Depending on how many cocktails you’d like to make, mix in a measuring cup the following per cocktail (multiplying as needed): 1 1/2 ounce spicy rosemary vodka, 1 ounce freshly-squeezed lime juice, and 1 ounce simple syrup. Add enough ice to the mason jar to fill it halfway. Add as much of the cocktail the jar can handle, top with the lid, and give it a good shake. Pour the cocktail into glasses that have been filled with ice. To each cocktail, add a sliver of lime as a garnish.
And last but not least, our cancelled entertainment plans left me with a several-pound pork shoulder, which I’d planned to make into pulled pork. Still craving some pulled pork, I made them anyway, and snuck in two sliders with my sweet & spicy pickles before freezing the rest.
To make the pulled pork:
Use your favorite pulled pork recipe, but the one I use here was a slow, oven-roasted version like the one on Serious Eats.
But the kicker here was the separate Carolina mop sauce that I made instead of seasoning with vinegar alone. When the pork was cooked, I doused it in the sauce, making it really tart and flavorful. http://ka-ranch.com/store/Carolina%20Pulled%20Pork
To assemble the sliders, split a few potato rolls, add the pork, cover with a few tablespoons of mop sauce, and add a few slices of sweet & spicy pickles on top.
That’s a wrap for this week; hopefully next week you’ll find me with a new cast iron skillet and a few more recipes up my sleeve. Have a great week everyone!