Sunday, June 29, 2008

Recipe 2.3 -- Sauteed Chard

This is seriously the most stupid obvious easy recipe ever. Man, I can't believe I ever said I didn't know how to cook -- so many of the recipes I'm experimenting with keep turning out to be super easy and nothing I couldn't handle.

BTW, CSA Week 2 update: Ranbir made a frittata this morning that incorporated the rest of the green onions, so yay, we can also cross that off our list. Now we only have the bok choi, radishes, turnips, and the rest of the lettuce to finish off. And I think I finally have a plan for the radishes; I picked up a quart of Ronnybrook yogurt at the greenmarket, with which I'm going to make a radish raita to go with the Indian turnip thing Ranbir is going to make.

OK, on to the chard recipe.


Chard. Duh. I put in the big hunk we got from the CSA, and it cooked down to nothing. I was really happy I'd incorporated it into a big meal with scallops, potatoes, and salad because otherwise we'd have gone seriously hungry.

Olive oil. Duh again. I will restate that we have a big cruet of olive oil next to the stove. It's pretty much my go-to cooking oil, more because I'm lazy than anything else.

Garlic. I picked up some "young garlic" at the greenmarket yesterday. The outer skins are less papery, which makes it a little harder to work with. It's also a little milder than full-grown garlic, so I used a whole head, which had 6-8 big cloves (young garlic is a lot smaller than mature garlic, too).

Salt, Pepper, and Crushed Red Pepper Flakes. I think of those flakes as more of a thing to put on pizza, rather than something to cook with, but apparently I'm wrong about that.

The Rest Of The Recipe

Wash the chard and remove the big white stems. Chop loosely. Peel and chop the garlic.

Coat the bottom of a pan in oil and put over medium heat. Add garlic, pepper, and red pepper flakes. When the oil is warm, add the chard and salt liberally. Stir it up a little and cover the pan. Check on it after 5-10 minutes and it should be nicely wilted. Stir again and give it another minute or so just to make sure it's definitely done. When it starts to look like cooked greens are supposed to look, it's really done and ready to eat. Make sure to get lots of garlic and liquid in there when you plate it.

Recipe 2.2 -- Scallops Meuniere Avec Noix

In English, that would be scallops in brown butter sauce with walnuts

I kinda invented this recipe. I was picking up a few things at the greenmarket yesterday and decided it was time to dip into some local seafood. It's expensive, but to be honest it's cheaper than going out to dinner, and it's not like we eat like this every night. After deciding on about half a pound of scallops (about 20 in all), I happened by the booth where people from the Greenmarkets organization have free samples, try out recipes, and usually have sheets of more recipes. They happened to have a recipe sheet for something called "skate wings grenobloise", which is basically skate wings meuniere with vinegar and capers. I didn't have any capers, but I was inspired... I also wanted to send a bit of a shout-out to Galatoire's and one of my favorite dishes there, trout meuniere amandine.

Not to mention the opportunity not only to practice cooking something that is not a one-pot vegetarian stew, and also to test out one of those Classic French Sauces that are basically greek to me.

I have to say that, despite my general cluelessness, this recipe came out AWESOME. Even the sauce. This might be one of the best things I have ever cooked. Almost even better than the garlic scape pesto.


20 east coast scallops. So I just found out that mid-atlantic scallops are overfished and unsustainable. This makes me sad, because scallops rock. I've decided to believe that these particular scallops were sustainably harvested, even though I know that's bullshit. I've got to chat up the people at the fish booth and find out more about this next time. I used scallops because I like them and they're relatively cheap, but obviously you could make a similar dish with just about any seafood. NOTE: these scallops were pretty small, probably half the size of the ones you get in fancy restaurants. 10 per person is fine as a main course.

1/2 cup of flour, though this ended up being at least twice as much as I needed

Olive oil

Half a stick of butter

The juice of 2 lemons -- this also ended up being way more than I needed. But then one might not have been enough.

A couple or three green onions, chopped of course

A smallish handful of chopped walnuts

Salt and Pepper

I was supposed to put parsley in, but I forgot. You, however, have the power to remember.

The Rest Of The Recipe:

Rinse the scallops and cut off the ligaments (dead easy). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. I always assumed this would be really hard, because it seems involved when someone does it on a cooking show, but it was hella simple. And fun.

Coat the bottom of a frying pan with olive oil and sautee the scallops. This takes no time at all; they cook up really easily and barely even have to be flipped. If I had to make it scientific I'd say 2 minutes or so per side, if that.

When the scallops are done, remove to a side plate so that you can start the sauce. I put a good amount of lemon juice on the scallops here.

Dump out any remaining olive oil and put the pan back over the heat. Add the half stick of butter and let it go until it starts to froth up. Add your green onions and parsley (because you totally remembered it) and let it go for another little while, but obviously don't let it burn or anything. Add some walnuts if you like -- I used them because I happened to have some left over from the pesto, but obviously chopped pecans would rock, or you could do more of a Galatoire's homage and use the original sliced almonds. Also some more lemon juice, yeah, put some of that in there, too. Turn off the heat and pour your sauce over the scallops. Plate up and enjoy!

Recipe 2.1 -- Orangette's Rustic Hasselback Potatoes

This didn't turn out nearly as well as I hoped it would, though it was still totally edible. Simple roast potatoes would have been easier and at least as tasty. But it was a good effort, and one thing I need to work on to combat the cucinaphobia is giving my technique a workout.


Medium-to-biggish potatoes. I used red ones, bigger than those little baby ones but probably not as big as necessary. I made 4, for 2 people. I got them at the greenmarket, which means yay, eating local rocks!

Olive oil, copious amounts of

Something yummy to stick into the crevices. I used garlic, green onion, and bay leaves. The garlic and green onion were really difficult to get in there, though, so halfway through I gave up and just did bay leaves. You could obviously use just about any herb or aromatic you can get in there.

The Rest Of The Recipe

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Wash and de-grunge-ify your potatoes, but don't peel them. Place a potato inside a wooden spoon and cut slits into the potato short-ways from one end of the potato to the other. As if to make the potato fan out. The wooden spoon should prevent your knife from going too far and just slicing the potatoes, but be careful because this didn't work that well for me.

Slide your herbs and/or aromatics into the slits. If you use bay leaves, put one whole leaf into a center slit. This was the really hard part for me, possibly because my potatoes were just too small.

Place potatoes on a cookie sheet and slather liberally with olive oil. Try to get some of the oil down into the crevices.

Put in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, just like making baked potatoes.

Courtesy of Orangette

CSA Pickup Numero Dos - June 26, 2008

This week we got pretty much the same vegetables, with a little variation. More garlic scapes (yeah!), 2 heads of lettuce (red leaf and green leaf, I think? Can't be bothered to go over to the fridge and look), more radishes, more bok choy, turnips without their tops, chard, green onions, and a parsley plant.

The radishes are really piling up, and I have to figure out something to do with them besides sending furious hints in Ranbir's general direction. Ranbir likes radishes. I don't, or at least I don't love them enough to do any real research on what we should do with them. Especially since I know Ranbir will just eat them raw if I send enough hints in his general direction.

So far the only thing I have cooked with our CSA vegetables is some lovely sauteed chard. Though we have also dipped into the lettuces for Yet Another Fricken Salad (when will it end?) -- this time I remembered to get other vegetables to put on the salad, though, so at least it wasn't just piles of lettuce.

Since I was lucky enough to get up Saturday morning and realize we needed to go grocery shopping, and then realize that most of the stuff on our list could be found at the greenmarket, I was able to supplement our CSA stash with a wider selection of local and organic food. Which ultimately resulted in my first attempt at a Locavore Meal. Wherein I cooked:

Recipe 2.1 - Rustic Hasselbeck Potatoes (via Orangette)

Recipe 2.2 - Scallops Meuniere Avec Noix (I actually kind of made this recipe up!)

Recipe 2.3 - The Aforementioned Sauteed Chard (via googling "chard" and finding this)

I'm also planning on doing more of the garlic scape pesto, this time possibly with some parsley added in. I've tossed the turnips into Ranbir's court this time. I have no idea how to finish off the green onions, aside from as an ingredient in other dishes. So I'm working on that.

Recipes to come!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Recipe 1.2 -- Garlic Scape And Walnut Pesto

Garlic scapes are a lovely little seasonal veggie bonus - the very first shoots the garlic bulb sends up as it grows. They're trimmed off early in the process to pave the way for another garlic growth spurt and are a staple of CSA's and farmers' markets everywhere (man, that sentence is an apostrophe disaster, apologies, grammar nerds). Here in the Northeast, we get them at the end of June. I don't think they're generally available at your neighborhood supermarket, because they're really just a byproduct of the garlic farming process.

I first encountered scapes at our very first CSA pickup and had never heard of them before. Which of course required prompt googling. Whereupon I found a lovely explanation and recipe via the Washington Post's food blog. It turns out there are plenty of things you can do with a garlic scape, but most of them require more than the paltry 4 that came from the CSA this week. For instance, people just love them sauteed in a little lemon a la asparagus or broccoli rabe (something else I would love to get from the CSA but so far no sign of it - why do we get all the weird vegetables, and none of the ones I happen to be salivating over?). But the idea of two people sitting down to a meal of two scapes apiece was depressing, and I wanted to flex my culinary muscles.

So I settled on a pesto. I'm addicted to pesto, but so far in my life I've mainly known it to come out of a jar. Which is sad, when you think about it. I've also pretty much only had the basil and pine nut variety. So this recipe intrigued me. As a first week gimme bonus, it turns out that pesto is dead easy to make and takes all of 5 minutes.


4 garlic scapes (feel free to double or triple this if you get your hands on a ton of scapes, but 4 was plenty for a meal for 2 or 3, maybe even 4 servings as a side or piatti primi sort of thing)

About 3/8 of a cup of chopped walnuts. Eyeballed of course; if I were accomplished enough to measure out three eighths of a cup I could hardly call myself cucinaphobic. If I make this again, though, I might add more walnuts.

Enough olive oil to get the job done

Heaps and heaps of parmigiano reggiano, shredded

Salt? I might have also added salt.

The Rest Of The Recipe:

Trim off the very top flower-bud end of the scapes, and chop them into quarter-inch segments, kind of like you're chopping green onions. Except way harder, because the scapes are all twisty. You're probably going to want to do it one at a time. Which made the fact that I only got 4 kind of nice -- this was by far the longest and most involved part of the recipe.

Throw the scapes and walnuts into your cuisinart (you have one of those, right?) and pulse until everything is sort of a dry paste. Start adding oil. Because I was halving the original recipe, I really eyeballed it and have no idea how much I ended up using. I just drizzled and pulsed, drizzled and pulsed, till it started resembling the pesto we all know and love. It will turn a lovely chartreuse color, and look like springtime personified. When you're happy with the amount of oil, you can plop the mixture into a bowl and start adding cheese. I also eyeballed this because I am a cheese freak and knew I probably wouldn't be satisfied with the amount in the recipe. Also I really can't be bothered to measure out exact portions of grated cheese. Mix the cheese in well with a wooden spoon.

From here you can serve it over pasta right away, though it will keep in a jar or tupperware or something in the fridge for a while, with a little extra oil drizzled over the top so it doesn't dry out. You can apparently freeze it at the pre-cheese stage -- I'm thinking about doing that next time, since scapes are so rare and seasonal. 4 scapes makes maybe 4 or 5 ounces of pesto, depending on walnut and cheese quantities.

The taste is impossible to describe. I guess I'd say that garlic scapes are to garlic as scallions/green onions are to onion. Sort of mild and green and fresh tasting, and not strong at all. I served it with penne, even more cheese, a little chopped parsley, and fresh pepper. It. Was. Outrageously. Good.

Recipe 1.1 - Gumbo z'Herbes

(AKA Gumbo Des Herbes, for you Correct French Grammar Nazis out there.)


A Big Mess Of Greens - Traditionally, you're supposed to find seven different varieties, for good luck, but I could only come up with 6: turnip and radish tops, kale, bok choy, parsley, and basil (shut up, herbs do too count!). However I also threw some bay leaves in, but those are dried and don't go in with the cooked greens, so I'm not sure they count as part of the 7 greens. You can use any greens your little heart desires -- usually I just go with a mix of spinach and whatever's available locally. Sometimes I just use frozen spinach, which works fine. Frozen greens are fine, because you're going to cook the crap out of them, anyway, and flavor them with a ton of other stuff. If you use fresh greens, you should cook them down first by covering with cold salted water and simmering away for half an hour or so. RESERVE THE GREENS WATER.

(I cooked 4 finely chopped turnips with the greens this last time, because they came with the CSA and I didn't know what else to do with them. Will report later on whether this was a good idea or not. You could also probably add okra, if you're so in love with it.)

1/2 cup of flour

1/2 cup of oil - I use olive oil because I'm lazy and we keep it in a little decanter next to the stove, anyway. The "authentic" way is probably rendered duck fat, so not exactly vegan-friendly. Regular old cooking oil is fine, too.

1 medium onion, diced to your preferred texture -- As previously mentioned, I'm pretty bad at chopping things so for a long time my onions were very roughly diced, to no ill effect (though I guess if you're not careful you could end up with some hybrid of gumbo and French onion soup).

1 bell pepper, also diced. I'm a huge fan of red, orange, and yellow peppers, but green is traditional.

4 or 5 garlic cloves, totally smasholated. You can slice, dice, just put em in seriously smashed up (muddled?), whatever. But diced is probably best.

The Greens Water, or if you forgot to reserve it, a thing of vegetable stock (or a couple cans, if your stock comes in cans rather than those weird oversized juice boxes). It's always a good thing to keep extra stock on hand in order to get the consistency right vis a vis the greens. I have a hard time guesstimating how much liquid should go with how much greens, and how much my big mess of greens will cook down. This is where being cucinaphobic is a huge downfall. You could use chicken stock if you are a serious carnivore who can't handle the idea of eating a vegan meal for once in your life.

Various spices, about which I will explain later in the recipe proper.

The Recipe Proper:

First You Make A Roux.* For the non-cajuns out there, I will explain. For a big pot of whatever cajun recipe (gumbo f'rinstance), you'll want about half a cup of flour and half a cup of oil. Add them to a warm pot over LOW heat. I use a 5-quart Le Crueset stock pot, because I am an Official Culinary Equipment Snob (thanks mom!). Anything BIG will do - this is not some kind of dainty two-serving soup appetizer, it's more of a one-pot meal. Keeping the heat low, stir the flour and oil mixture copiously as it starts to brown. Do Not Burn It. If you smell a distinct burning smell, lower the heat even more. Keep stirring and cooking as the roux gets browner and browner. If you get nervous you can stop when you get a nice beige putty color. Intermediate roux-makers should aim for a peanut butter color. I'm trying to achieve the perfect nut brown, but I tend to get impatient and move on somewhere in between peanut butter and milk chocolate.

When you're happy with the state of your roux, add the onion, garlic, and bell pepper and let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the onions turn transparent and the peppers get soft.

Now this is where that big BIG pot comes in handy, because now it's time to add the greens, any other vegetables you had your heart set on, and all that greens water you hopefully remembered to hang on to. You can also go ahead and add cayenne pepper, black pepper, maybe some white pepper, salt, bay leaves, and tabasco sauce, to taste, by which I mean come on now, let's remember this is cajun cooking and not some poncey Julia Child thing. TO TASTE, my friends. To Taste. I also like to add a little garam masala, or maybe some cumin, and once I even put in a spoonful of miso paste, which ROCKED. Have fun with it.

Let all this simmer on the stove with the lid on while you make a pot of rice. This is where my total cucinaphobia starts to show itself again, because I Don't Know How To Make Rice Without Fucking It Up. There, see. I told you I didn't know how to cook.

Serve the gumbo over rice. Add filé to taste, if you have it on hand. It's hard to come by outside Louisiana, so leaving it out is acceptable. Do Not under any circumstances add filé if you have already included okra. That's right naff, innit? (sorry, the Cockney Geezer in me sneaked out for a second there...)

Gumbo z'Herbes. Yeah. The only thing I already knew how to cook.

*Every cajun recipe starts with this sentence. Except for cajun recipes that don't incorporate a roux, like for instance red beans and rice.

The Week That Was - CSA pickup numero uno (a recap)

OK, so this was last week, but just for documentation and recipes' sake, I'll give you a rundown based on some notes I made last week when I was jealous of / inspired by my friend Kate's blog. Her blog is way more about nutrition than mine will be, because she is not cucinaphobic at all. She's also participating in her neighborhood's CSA, and I've had a good time comparing notes between what her farmer is growing and what our farmer is growing. They're already getting zucchini, which makes me mega jealous.

Anyhoo, back on topic. CSA Week The First. June 19, 2008.

We got: turnips and radishes with the tops still on, a mess of salad mix, a head of boston lettuce, 4 (count 'em!) garlic scapes, bok choy, kale, and a wee basil seedling.

I made:

Recipe 1.1 -- my not-actually-that-famous-but-maybe-someday gumbo z'herbes. Gumbo is one of the few real grownup recipes I'm pretty confident about making, and luckily it's just the thing to make when you're confronted by piles and piles of greens. I froze all of it in two big tupperwares for future use, which is my favorite thing to do when I make gumbo. I call them "gumbosicles". OK, who am I kidding, I don't really call them anything, because pretty much nobody knows they exist except me and Ranbir. But they are the best thing to have kickin' it in the freezer, because they last months and you can pull them out when you're tired of pasta and SURPRISE, a big pot of gumbo in the time it takes to boil rice.

Recipe 1.2 -- GARLIC SCAPE AND WALNUT PESTO. I scream because holy crap, was this good. It's the first real blow to my cucinaphobia, and one of the major inspirations for this blog (in addition to my serious jealousy of Kate and Winning Friends With Salad). It took like 5 minutes to make, too.

And also a few salads (which were only so-so because I kept forgetting to go out and buy more vegetables to put in them besides just the lettuces, but oh well, they were still pretty good), and with the trimmings of all the greens and various odds, ends, leftovers, and spices I whipped up my first attempt at homemade vegetable stock, about which more later when I actually get to use some in a recipe and can report back about my success or failure.

Confession: we had to throw out about a third of the salad mix because after 2 salads we still had some left over and it was already on its last legs. I knew it wouldn't make it to another salad.

On Salad And Green Vegetables In General: I don't love salad that much. It's one of the things I already know how to make, which is pretty good, but honestly I can't really eat it all that often. I get tired of salads very, very quickly. So on the one hand, kicking the CSA off with lettuces was good because at least I know what to do with that, but on the other hand, it was easily like 5 salads worth of lettuce, all in all, and I just can't eat salad 5 days a week, sorry. Especially considering how fast lettuce goes bad. This is still a major concern, because we got even more lettuce this week -- if anybody wants half a pound or so of awesome fresh local/organic lettuce, please email me, stat! Come take some of this lettuce off my hands!

A Cucinophobic Manifesto; or, I Refuse To Hate To Cook Anymore

Hi everyone, I'm Sara, and I'm a cucinaphobic.

By which I mean, I have a tremendous fear and loathing of my kitchen. Or, more accurately, the main activity besides washing dishes and pouring glasses of juice that goes on in my kitchen -- cooking.

This is a serious shame, because I am a second generation foodie. Which is probably where it all started. My parents absolutely love to cook. My dad geeks out with homemade paté and yorkshire puddings. My mother's kitchen is her territory, and she guards it like Fort Knox. They gave me a developed palate and a curiosity about what and how the rest of the world eats, but they somehow neglected to ever teach me my way around a knife or a stove. Probably because I didn't want to learn.

Then I went away to boarding school, where I encountered 3 institutional cafeteria meals a day. I somehow survived on instant grits, Captain Crunch, ramen noodles, Twizzlers, and Diet Coke.

Next came college, and the super junk food diet kept on keepin' on. Though I did manage to develop a taste for artisanal cheese, beers, and wines, to the detriment of my checking account.

Now I find myself 27 and barely able to boil pasta or chop vegetables. I don't mind cooking, per se, I'm just not comfortable in the kitchen. And that's why I call myself cucinaphobic. Of course, being cajun and a foodie, I can make a mean dark roux and bake from scratch. But you want me to whip up a quick stirfry? Ewww!

Remedy? The Clinton Hill CSA -- a local and organic produce collective which guarantees a truckload of fresh veggies every week between June and November. Every week I'm going to get piles and piles of fresh vegetables, whatever our upstate farmer has on offer, no choice in the matter. I can't just 'fresh green salad with goat cheese' my way out of this one.

So far it seems to be working. I spent all day last Sunday in the kitchen, whipping up pots of gumbo (one of the only non-scrambled-egg recipes I know) and experimenting with pesto and homemade stock. And I didn't even cry! Well, except while chopping onions.

For the next 20 weeks, I plan to report back with every recipe I'm forced to try due to the vats of fresh seasonal veggies hauled in by my roommate and occasional assistant, the non-cucinaphobic Ranbir. And lots of confessions about how I have no idea how to chop anything or what the eff to do with radishes, a vegetable I have never even liked, anyway.