Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Peculiar Panini - 7/29/2012

A rainy Sunday morning seemed like the ideal time to try a recipe I’d been salivating over all weekend. On Friday, I picked up some curly kale at the Charles Square Farmer’s Market with the intent of trying something slightly different - a kale panini. A quick Thursday afternoon cookbook browse with one of my co-workers had initially given me the idea, and I quickly found a similar recipe online. I first tore the tender leaves from the stalks and blanched the kale for about 3 minutes in salted, boiling water. After sufficient cooling time, I took the dark green mass in my hands and squeezed out all the excess water - it seems that kale preparation often requires intimate contact. A quick toss with olive oil, champagne wine vinegar, salt, and pepper, and kale preparation was finished.
After our long run, I came back and got to work assembling the sandwiches. I’d especially picked up some cotija cheese - feta or queso fresco were the recommended variants, so this seemed perfect - and fresh baked country sourdough from local Iggy’s Bread Company. I layered the soft slices with crumbled cotija, the previously prepared kale, roasted red peppers, and pickled onions, and of course added more cheese for good measure. The bread toasted excellently on the panini maker, browning only the way that fresh bread can. An intense mix of savory flavors defined the finished product - I relished the earthy kale undertones, salty cheese bite, vinegary red pepper and onion flavor, and crunchy sourdough crusts. A cozy, toothsome meal - perfect for a lazy Sunday.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Farmer's Market Meal - 7/24/2012

As an afternoon rain and thunderstorm raged outside my office window, I became unduly worried that my traditional Tuesday trip to the Harvard Farmer’s Market would be ruined. However, the sun was shining when I left work and I should have known that weather I consider erratic is actually routine to these East Coasters. A tougher breed, I must admit.
The produce at the Farmer’s Market was particularly exceptional, and I was most excited to see a stand offering vibrantly colored heirloom tomatoes. On my morning walk to work, I’d daydreamed about making a caprese salad for dinner, a menu choice that was contingent on the market’s produce offering. I was in luck. After selecting four tantalizingly plump and uniquely shaped green and red beauties, I picked up my customary arugula. Unplanned purchases included juicy peaches and nectarines and four ears of sweet corn. A necessary stop at the neighborhood grocery store for some fresh mozzarella from local Maplebrook Farm and a few cans of tuna fish, and I made my way home to begin my much anticipated dinner construction. As usual, it was stifling hot, and I must admit I certainly have my “go to dishes” that require no stove or oven use. I made the standard tuna fish salad with celery, red onion, kalamata olives, and capers, and put together our usual arugula, green grape, pickled red onion, and parmesan salad. The caprese, however, was “new” and my mouth watered as I sliced the juicy tomatoes and layered them with thick mozzarella slices. Sprinkles of chopped basil leaves from Peggy, salt, and pepper, and drizzles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar came next. Meanwhile, four minutes in boiling water rendered the tender ears of corn delightfully succulent, and dinner was ready. Every component was exceedingly toothsome, but the standouts were certainly the caprese salad and the corn. The former offered a most satisfying range of savory summer flavors, and the latter was perfectly cooked and divinely sweet. An air of hazy enjoyment punctuated the dinner, and the meal truly reminded me what I love most about summer.

Friday, July 20, 2012

What's in the Fridge? - 7/19/2012

After a longer post-work run and with minimal, scattered ingredients in the refrigerator, I sat down Thursday night and got to working constructing something out of nothing. I first cut the stalks of a hefty bundle of asparagus we’d obtained the previous weekend into inch long chunks, making sure to slice the ends diagonally. I was emulating my mother’s asparagus preparation, as I’ve noticed she takes great care cutting produce so that it is both toothsome and aesthetically pleasing. I “harvested” basil leaves from our trusty window dwelling plant Peggy, and snipped them coarsely to use in the asparagus saute. Minced garlic and chili pepper flakes were also added into the melee, and Andrew sauteed the fragrant ingredients in olive oil. The asparagus was a slightly tough and took a bit longer than expected, which resulted in well-browned garlic, but the final product was delicious nonetheless. Next we scrambled the last three farm eggs in the fridge with chopped tomato pieces, the leftover ends from the thin slices I put on our daily lunch sandwiches. Nutty Parano cheese and a couple scraps of jalapeno pepperjack completed the rich mixture, and we ate the scramble atop hearty seeded bread from the Harvard Farmer’s Market. It’s oppressively hot in our tiny kitchen, and a side of cold green beans I’d gotten from the same Farmer’s Market and parboiled a couple of days earlier provided a few refreshing bites. Although not pictured, our favorite summer salad of Farmer’s Market arugula, crisp green grapes, pickled red onions, and parmesan was the final component of our hasty, inventive meal.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Lovely Leftovers - 7/8/2012

Sunday afternoon after a California to Boston red-eye and a morning filled with food shopping, I arrived back to our apartment starving and ready for a savory and satisfying brunch. My efforts to hand carry Sonoma County leftovers across the country certainly paid off - I didn’t have to do much more than arrange and divide the toothsome components onto separate plates.
Sunday leftovers
My mother had made a savory galette the previous morning (arriving home from a long run to find this masterpiece gracing our kitchen table was truly a dream come true), and it tasted just as good the next day. A decadent buttery crust, brushed with whipping cream and freshly ground salt, delicately encased our farm eggs, Friday’s roasted vegetables - leftovers within leftovers! - and melted and browned cheese.

Mom's savory galette
The vegetables represented perfect summer variety - colorful roasted beets, tender zucchini, and onions from dad’s garden, sweetened during the grilling process. I want to come up with a more creative word, but “heavenly” seems to most aptly represent the feeling instilled by each biteful. More zucchinis and onions presented the purity and refreshment provided by fresh garden vegetables.
Garden vegetable dinner
A small mound of Dad’s pesto, our Saturday night pre-airport dinner - made with basil and italian parsley from the garden, a hefty amount of garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil, the flavors of a couple of anchovies and crushed red chili pepper flakes poking subtly through. We reveled in the various intense flavors, and my closing comment to Andrew went something along the lines of, “Someday I hope to be able to cook like this.”
Dad's pesto

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Puttanesca Pasta - 7/9/2012

I recently spent 5 days at home, a trip that yielded some delicious eats and tantalizing food photos. Although my account will be out of order, I'll write about the dinner that Andrew and I had yesterday before diving into a more extensive recap of my brief time in Sonoma County.
Actually, the grilled zucchini made the trip across the country in order to grace our plates on this Monday night - I am mildly embarrassed to admit that I hand carried the tender slices, grilled to perfection by my father and grown with utmost care at Green String Farm in Petaluma, on the plane with me. The delicate vegetable side dish provided a cold, refreshing taste of home. Andrew and I had purchased the rainbow chard at the Farmer's Market on Sunday, and sauteed it simply that night with garlic, crushed red peppers, and salt. Also served chilled, these other leftovers complemented both the zucchini and the fresh puttanesca pasta. This is one of my favorite pasta dishes, and I've been craving it lately - perhaps this is why it tasted even better than usual. A gloriously simple dish, the speedy preparation only requires sauteing garlic, a couple of anchovy fillets, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt together before adding crushed tomatoes, capers, and olives and simmering the mixture until fragrant. The addition of piping hot al dente pasta and fresh parsley enables flavor absorption, and it is indeed the strong-flavored ingredients that make this dish so toothsome. Indeed, no one aspect is overpowering - the satisfying saltiness of each component somehow complements every other ingredient present in the melee. A most delicious summer meal, thrown together quickly after an hour spent lounging in a nearby summer park..