Happy September everyone! Although we’re two weeks into the month, I feel like I’ve been playing catch-up given our late August travel and the start of the school year. Which technically should take some childcare off of my plate, but given school adjustment periods, has actually made things more challenging.
After missing last week’s box, it was nice to get back into the CSA game again, with a brand new delivery from our friends at Bialas Farms. Here’s a quick snapshot of what I picked up this week:
- Red Komatsuna
- Baby Eggplant
- Yukon Gold Potatoes
- Red Peppers
In addition to the Bialas box, I got my other box of gorgeous artisanal ingredients from Hatchery.
Lots to unwrap from the beautiful brown packaging this week including: Our Sundae Dates fudge sauce, Red Duck curry ketchup, Bulgogo Asian BBQ sauce, Acala Farms Fresh Cilantro Oil, Liber & Co. Pineapple Gum Syrup, and Gourmegg gourmet seasoning for the well-dressed egg.
A good week for cooking, so let’s talk about breakfast.
We came back from our week of travel feeling thick-in-the-middle from a Summer of gluttony + a jam-packed week of restaurant meals.
Although my Summer wardrobe of bathing suits and baggy shorts didn’t hint at any weight gain, my city clothes sure did. I was shocked when I went for my first post-Summer walk and discovered that my comfortable exercise shorts were now skintight and air-suctioned to every curve. It was like someone had played a cruel trick on me and stuffed my closet full of kids’ clothes. Rodney and I resolved to lighten things up in the eating department. As a result of our determination, our first meal back was this: steak ‘n egg breakfast burritos topped with sour cream.
Old habits die hard. Fortunately we ate them with a healthy dose of fresh tomatillo salsa which made things taste fresh and green. Baby steps… And ignore the beer; after drinking heavily for the past week, it only made sense to start the day with one…After a week of readjustment, I’m no longer drinking alcohol with breakfast (although lacking cream for my coffee yesterday, I might have added a shot of Bailey’s).
To make the tomatillo salsa:
To make the salsa, just blitz in a food processor the following: a a third to a half pound of fresh tomatillos (husked and cleaned); a clove of garlic, a poblano pepper, a shallot, a handful of fresh cilantro, and a big squeeze of lime. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
My next attempt at breakfast was a little more restrained. Sauteed leeks (sautéed in butter but not too much, maybe a Tablespoon total for one whole leek), toasted English muffin, ONE soft-poached egg, not my usual two. And a drizzle of the fresh cilantro oil from my Hatchery box.
Berries are still showing up in abundance at the market, so I buy them whenever I can.
And then, as seems to be the case these days, I use them to garnish something spectacularly indulgent.
That was a dutch baby pancake, the first that I’ve ever made, and certainly not the last. On the healthy-unhealthy index they rank about a 4; a far cry from raw muesli, but nowhere near cream cheese-stuffed French toast. If you’ve ever made Yorkshire pudding, you’ll be familiar with the process of heating a pan in the oven with a little butter until scorchingly hot. At which point you pour in a thin batter and watch it bake until puffed and golden. It was fun for the kids to watch (“hey guys, watch the giant pancake grow!), and they loved getting to dump a whole bunch of berries over the top once done. So thank you Joy The Baker for introducing me to this little slice of heaven…(Link above is to the recipe).
And a post wouldn’t be complete without at least one of my favorite aerial mealtime action shots. I love sitting together with everyone, perhaps because in our not-so-long-ago past we never did this kind of thing. There was a first early breakfast for the kids: Stonyfield yogurt squeezers and mini waffles; later, the adults ate adult food. These days we dig into our Sunday breakfast together: homemade sausage patties (pork, brown sugar, sage: fry), sunnyside eggs, green tomatoes, and lemon thyme-roasted potatoes. I try to make things adventurous for the kids without stretching their palates too much. If I go overboard with fancy food they won’t eat anything. So we find a happy middle ground, and it’s a beautiful way to celebrate the weekend together as a family.
I did end up cooking a whole head of garlic along with the potatoes. No foil, just the head separated into cloves and drizzled with a little olive oil. I ended up eating the whole thing myself since the kids were horrified by the concept of eating full garlic cloves. But those sausage patties? They were devoured within minutes.
Lunches this week were really simple – I must admit that even though I try to feed the kids the same food that I eat, they still prefer their meals to be on the plainer side. This is one of their favorites – broccoli and lightly fried chickpeas.
They argue incessantly about soft vs. crispy chickpeas (Sam likes soft, the girls (and me) like crispy) – which, fair warning, might one day drive me to the madhouse – but I can’t complain when they’re eating something reasonably healthy.
I’ve been going on a tomato binge, which isn’t much different from the last CSA post, but the problem has gotten worse.
When I was at my CSA pick-up, Kasha instructed to be generous with the tomatoes as she handed me a quart-sized container. I dutifully complied, piling as many tomatoes as could fit into the box, dusting off the old Tetris skills to maximize the haul.
And then made this….
…which was nothing more than quartered tomatoes of all different sizes and colors paired with sautéed fairy tale eggplant. I tore some of that fresh mozzarella that I’ve been raving about over the top and then (not pictured so that you can actually see the salad ingredients) drizzled the whole thing with a beet green pesto vinaigrette (I simply thawed a cube of my beet green pesto which I’d previously frozen in an ice cube tray, and then whisked in a tablespoon of red wine vinegar and a few tablespoons of olive oil).
I tried to feed it to the kids and got some takers for the tomatoes (the green tomatoes were their favorite) but the poor eggplant was rejected once again. The kids have been tough on them, and my suspicion is that it may be a branding issue. Eggplant isn’t the most appetizing name for a vegetable, particularly when your kids aren’t fond of eggs. Tacking on the words “fairy tale”, sadly, doesn’t seem to support the cause either.
It wouldn’t be a proper tomato binge if I didn’t mention this next salad. Take a look at this guy…
See those little beads on top? It’s not condensation, they’re not sweating bullets because I’m about to eat them. Those beads are in fact tiny pearls of white balsamic vinegar. I’ve told you before that one of my favorite activities is scouring Amazon for oddball ingredients, and here you have Exhibit B. (Exhibit A being the black Tahini paste that you might have run into in Week 9).
The beads were expensive, but you don’t need a lot of them to garnish a dish, and they look so pretty on the plate. Tiny flavorful jewels that give each bite an unexpected pop of flavor.
I liked them so much that I bought another jar with your standard red-hued balsamic pearls. Stay tuned for how I’ll use those; I’m thinking that cocktails should up next right?
Speaking of cocktails, I made two that were worth sharing this week. One was a raspberry lemonade-based drink which I poured (alcohol free) into a Mason Jar and toted around with me during the day. The rest stayed in the fridge and got a splash of vodka later that evening. This was a direct result of the kids’ obsession with my citrus squeezer – they took it on a lemon-squeezing rampage last week. Eventually bored with juicing lemons, they moved onto other things, namely upending a box of tiny Lego pieces and scattering them under the kitchen table. I suppose not the worst thing that could happen since I ended up with a full cup of freshly-squeezed lemon juice and no takers.
To handle the excess juice, I made a quick simple syrup, and poured it into a Mason Jar that had been filled with ice cubes. In went the lemon juice and some raspberries and I gave the whole thing a good shake. It was cool in no time and came in handy on a hot and muggy September day. If you need a little more help with making syrups at home, be sure to read this post.
The other drink that I wanted to share was inspired by Middle Eastern flavors. I used a mix of muddled figs, a touch of rosewater, and equal parts vodka and club soda + and a splash of lemon verbena syrup. It made for the prettiest hue, a dusty rose that was as delicious as it was beautiful.
Back to the tomatoes, because I have one more thing up my sleeve…This sandwich is something that I’ve fondly dubbed my Vermont BLT. Vermont Smoke & Cure bacon, Vermont Creamery herbed goat cheese, ripe green tomatoes and watercress. I haven’t been eating enough BLTs this Summer. Which is nonsense because in the dead of Winter when I picture what I’ll be eating when the weather gets warm, I imagine BLTs ALL SUMMER LONG. Yet I’ve eaten two, maybe three. This one makes up for all of the missed BLT opportunities in spades.
I think that you might need a better look…
And now from BLTs to more sandwichy things. I didn’t get to eat any burrata this summer since the local grocery stores didn’t carry it. I missed this stuff, though now that I’ve found fresh mozzarella, I could go either way.
Having worked through a large portion of my CSA, I was forced* (read: compelled out of curiosity) to visit my local farmer’s market here in New York City – the Union Square Greenmarket. I hadn’t been in months and it was fun to wander through the market, eagerly checking out the latest produce. I found two items that were completely new to me – elderberries and hyssop, which I used to build some burrata tartines. The hyssop has an anise flavor and really compliments the almost wine-like flavor of the elderberries.
Aside from BLTs, I realized that I likewise haven’t been eating nearly enough avocado toast. A few months ago avocado toast seemed explode in popularity and you couldn’t flip through your Instagram stream without seeing it twice in one session. The rage seems to have died down a little, making it seem special again. As special as mashed avocado on toast can be. But somehow, the simplicity of avocado toast is more than the sum of its parts. And I had fun tweaking this one, using some warm Qandi bread that I found at the Union Square farmer’s market, and layering it with some salty smoked salmon. Finished with a squeeze of lime and some freshly-ground black pepper, it was a satisfyingly-perfect-yet-not-gut-busting lunch. My favorite kind of meal.
So we’ve talked breakfast, we’ve checked in on lunch and we drank some cocktails together. How are you guys feeling at this point? Ready for dinner?
While I was away in Halifax some elves snuck a bag of California Walnuts into my fridge, complete with an adorable burlap bag.
Upon opening them – mind you, this was 6PM after enduring a traffic-riddled drive back from the lake – I immediately poured them into a mortar and started to hammer them with a pestle.
Was it traffic-induced rage? Perhaps. But it had more to do with accidentally leaving my food processor at the lake. I have to admit though – it was good to take things back to old-school methods. My Italian great grandmothers would approve.
I don’t cook often with artichokes, but when I do, I usually pair them with pasta. And with this mix of sage and walnuts, my pan looked like this after the first night. By night two, it was gone.
To make the artichoke lasagna:
The artichoke lasagna is basically a riff on my basic vegetable lasagna recipe. To get the basic recipe, read this post.
All you then do is:
- Pound a small handful of sage and a half cup of walnuts in a mortar and pestle; season with salt and pepper, and mix into your ricotta + egg mixture.
- Swap a basic béchamel sauce for the tomato sauce (the amount doesn’t have to be perfectly equal, but roughly proportionate). If you need a good béchamel, I use one just like this one from Mario Batali. (PS, this amount of sauce is perfect for the lasagna recipe)
- Swap a big bottle (8-12 ounces) of oil-packed artichokes in for the grilled vegetables. You’ll have far less artichokes- that’s fine- just tear them into chunks and layer them into three separate layers.
I’ve been buying peaches every time I hit the farmer’s market – everything from white peaches to the flat donut variety, and of course nectarines. My eyes have been a little bigger than my stomach, which results in the fruit fly issue mentioned in week 4. Having baked enough pies, I wanted to do something savory with the excess. Chutneys are great because the high amount of vinegar and sugar allows you keep it in the refrigerator for weeks. My chutney has been strewn on top of roasted chicken (pictured) and spooned onto crackers with brie. It’s so versatile that I’m planning another batch soon. To get the recipe, follow the one on Epicurious, and if you’d like, throw in some extra fruit – I added some dried cherries and spiced things up with a full poblano chile.
If you’ve been reading the blog, you’ll know that I love to use fried rice for leftovers. What I love about fried rice is that you can combine an odd assortment of flavors, and somehow it always comes together. This week, I had a bunch of red komatsuna greens that were starting to wilt; I also had a jalapeño, a truffled sausage, leftover peaches, and the red peppers from this week’s box. Combined with some cilantro and slivered almonds, it made for a salty/sweet/spicy combo that I’ll definitely make again – on purpose this time…Just sautee it all (I usually cook each ingredient separately because they need different cooking times; piling more and more food into the final serving bowl as I go); cook an egg into a thin omelet and slice crosswise, and toss with some day old rice that’s been sautéed with a little soy sauce. Although it takes a little time to pull it together, it’s super easy and doesn’t really require a recipe- just keep sautéing and throwing things together.
Last, let’s talk about dessert. When we have guests for dinner, I can be pretty lazy when it comes to the final course. I put all of my creative energy into making a great entrée; leaving dessert out of the picture. Sometimes I’ll grab a nice bar of chocolate (Mast brothers is a favorite), or I’ll salvage the situation with a pint of locally-made ice cream. My brother-in-law and sister-in-law were in town for the week, and for some reason, I was excited to bake. The apples are just now appearing at the market and the chill in the air suggested cinnamon and nutmeg. I found the most beautiful variety of baking apple at the Union Square Farmer’s market – Ginger Gold, which true to its name, boasts a beautiful golden color both inside and outside.
Digging around online for an apple recipe, I came across one from our friends at Food 52 – it was simple, and stated that although the cake didn’t look like anything special, the flavor would impress. Which is all that really matters when it comes to family right? No need to knock their socks off with a tiered and glazed masterpiece.
I thought that I’d kick up the optics a notch by baking it in a Bundt pan. The only problem was that, despite my best buttering abilities, the cake stuck to the sides of the pan. So just scooped it into bowls and topped with vanilla ice cream, which suited us just fine…
But I was able to carve out a pretty little piece for myself the next morning.
Which like most of my breakfasts, I ate at the kids play table with forks flying in all directions.
But aren’t those the best kind of meals anyway?
Hope you all had a great week. And make sure to get out there and explore some of the great Fall produce that’s just starting to hit the markets. It’s my favorite time of year to cook. Enjoy!