Saturday, May 24, 2008

What's cooking, what's growing

Not much progress at the farmer's market in Lenox this Friday, though there were oodles of plants to buy. I was waiting, though, because I knew I'd find some treasures at the plant sale at this year's CSA farm, The Farm at Miller's Crossing, in Hudson. And I did--in particular, some chile plants I'd been looking for, tomatillos, too, so I can make my own salsa and other Mexican dishes this summer.

As for what's for dinner, I'm still stuck on the (really terrific) April issue of Gourmet. (Maybe because May in upstate NY is like April everywhere else?) Every once in a while, Gourmet hits it out of the park for me--I want to cook just about everything in the issue. In any case, there are three recipes that I've found particular delicious, and two of them take about 45 seconds to make. Check out Salmon with Agrodolce Sauce, Broiled Chicken and Artichokes, and Mediterranean Rice Stuffed Escarole. As a side note, the chicken recipe is by Paul Grimes, who is also responsible for an amazing lamb tagine featured in the May issue of the magazine. I made this for a dinner party (using lamb shanks instead of the lamb shoulder called for in the recipe) and it was luscious, perfectly spiced, rich but not overwhelmingly so. A huge hit, and great for this time of year. I served it with couscous and braised carrots flavored with mint from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, a great book which belongs in the kitchen of anyone who eats vegetables, not just those who are true vegetarians.

Monday, May 19, 2008

More kale, more Bittman

The second bunch of lacinato was begging to be dispatched tonight, so I heated some olive oil, tossed in three cloves of garlic, sliced up, an inch and a half piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks, and then the kale, sliced into ribbons. I let it sizzle for a minute then added 3/4 cup of chicken stock and let it cook down, stirring it occasionally. When the liquid had reduced somewhat, I added a teaspoon of black bean chili paste, a recent and accidental discovery. I let it cook nearly dry, so that some of the kale was almost crispy.

This was a side dish for some chicken thighs poached in my treasured poaching liquid from this recipe (yep, Bittman again.) I've made this three times with whole chickens, and tonight with some frozen and defrosted thighs. They simmered in the hot sauce for ten minutes and then I turned off the heat and let them sit for another ten minutes or so before serving. I sliced the chicken and served it and the greens atop my staple rice (short grain brown rice with turmeric and ginger: take 1 T olive oil, heat in a heavy pot, add 2 c. organic short grain brown rice and begin to saute; add 2 T. ground turmeric and a 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into four chunks; after sauteing on medium heat about four or five minutes, add four cups of chicken or vegetable stock, or plain water, and salt to taste (usually, for me, 1 1/2 t. celtic sea salt) and bring to a boil. Once it boils, turn the heat way down, as low as it will go, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, usually about an hour. This stuff is delicious; I eat it twice a day and don't get tired of it. Maybe that says more about me than about the rice; judge for yourselves.)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Loca-sort of

Dinner party conversation last night was about growing things (the search for a true red geranium) and also about the lack of things grown--the farmer's market pickings are still slim, as we are barely, barely into spring here in near-New England. I did make it to the Lenox market on Friday, and mostly bought plants--herbs and some lacinato kale which I will set out in a week or two. We bought some cider, too, no doubt from stored apples. Fine, but not exactly a sign of things to come.

I did manage to find some fiddleheads at the healthfood store this week, though, and so I decided to experiment with them. (For those who don't know, fiddleheads are fern shoots, tightly coiled baby leaves forming circles about an inch across, shaped like the head of a violin. Along with morels and asparagus, they are a classic first-of-spring delicacy, but one I'd never eaten or cooked.) I first blanched them, then briefly sauteed them in good olive oil with salt and pepper; I served them as part of a salad (they were still warm when I tossed it all together) with pea shoots and goat cheese (both local) and a vinaigrette with champagne vinegar, shallots and more good olive oil. (So much for that locavore thing.) It was good, but the fiddleheads overwhelmed the pea shoots, and the whole thing needed a punch--I think pomegranate seeds would have been a welcome addition. (Again, just kick that whole 100 mile idea to the curb.)

My main course, chicken breasts with a kale stuffing, came from Mark Bittman's Bitten blog, a source of many great meals over the last few months. I adapted his dish, changing his spinach for kale (a California-grown lacinato like the one I plan to plant) and using currants instead of golden raisins, because that's what I had in the pantry. I also added a little chicken stock and cooked the stuffing a bit longer, since the kale is tougher and slower to soften than the spinach. The result was truly delicious, served with brown rice cooked with cumin and ginger, a staple of my diet these days (and another challenge to eating locally.)