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The last gasp of summer…

corn chowder

My own version of a late summer corn soup, topped with a bit of basil to seal in the summery goodness.

I am a corn fanatic.

I only eat it on the cob (or occasionally in a salad where I know the kernels have just been cut off moments ago.) I only eat it on the same day it was picked, otherwise, as far as I’m concerned, there’s no point. I always eat it boiled (not grilled) for 3 minutes, with no salt or butter. And I pretty much only buy it from one or two farms in Bridgehampton, NY, though I have been known to begrudgingly make an exception or two here.

So the happiest day of my culinary year is when the corn shows up on the farm stands. And the sad time, which is now, is when the cobs start getting smaller and the end is in sight.

To mitigate my sadness, I bought well over a dozen ears last weekend, ate a few of them almost raw, and then made the rest into corn chowder, which I will be able to eat for days on end and even potentially freeze to enjoy much later on, when the temperatures are low and the vegetable pickings are slim.

I started with this recipe for Summer Corn Soup from the NY Times Cooking site (thanks, Elaine Louie) and then went left of center, adding bacon and chicken broth to the mix. I’m sure any version that is even close to this will be delicious, as long as you start out with high quality corn. Which means this might be your last week, so get on it!

Corn Soup To Honor The End Of Summer

Ingredients

6 slices bacon
12 ears corn
1 onion
1 clove garlic
2 red bell peppers
1 bay leaf
10 whole black peppercorns
6 basil leaves
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup chicken broth
1 to 2 tablespoons salt, to taste
Black pepper
½ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon smoked paprika, optional

Preparation

Husk corn. Dice onion and mince garlic. Cut bell peppers in half lengthwise, discard seeds and dice. Chiffonade basil leaves.

For the corn stock, cut kernels off corn ears and reserves cobs. In large pot, combine cobs, bay leaf, peppercorns, 1 pinch salt and 16 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes.

Cook bacon in a heavy stockpot and remove when done, leaving 2 Tbs of bacon fat in the pot. Break up the bacon into bits and reserve. Add onions and let simmer for 5 minutes or so, until they begin to soften. Then add peppers, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 and 1/2 minutes more, until garlic is golden but not brown. Increase heat to medium, and add butter and corn kernels. Add a tablespoon salt, pepper to taste and stir for about 4 minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Add 5 cups corn stock and 1 cup chicken stock. Stir broth. Add heavy cream and stir. Cover pot and lower heat to simmer for 10 minutes.

Take 4 or 5 cups of the soup, vegetables and all, and puree it in a food processor. Add the newly pureed batch into the pot with the rest of the soup (this adds body, but you still get to munch on the individual kernels of corn.) Add more salt and pepper to taste and, if desired, smoked paprika. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with basil.

You will not be bummed.

Strawberry Fields (and jam) Forever

strawberry jam

The fruits of our labor, carefully labeled and put into mini bell jars to be (mostly) given out as gifts.

Strawberry season is drawing to a close. TO A CLOSE!!! Not that you can’t eat these berries all year long, but the supermarket variety has nothing on the fresh-from-the-farm beauties that we have been enjoying for the past 2 months or so. Luckily, peaches and other stone fruits are taking center stage, so I don’t have to jump off of the cliff just yet.

But still– this is one instance when hoarding isn’t an altogether bad thing. And hoarding berries in the form of jam might actually be considered a virtue.

strawberry pickers

Whoever said that child labor is a bad thing clearly does not understand the advantage of the tiny hands when it comes to picking berries.

Step one is to gather as many strawberries as you can muster (here are my daughter and nephew gathering way more berries than a body could possibly eat in one… or three.. sittings.)

Then you basically wash them, cut off the stems (and cut them in half if they are particularity large), throw them in a pot with the warm sugar/lemon juice/lemon zest combo you’ve mixed up, and then simmer till the berries break up and the whole mixture thickens into a jam-like substance that gels when you pour a bit of it onto a very cold plate.

And voila, fresh strawberry jam… perfect for hostess gifts, or teacher gifts, or gifts to your grandparents, or just a gift to your own stomach. We couldn’t be bothered to actually can the stuff to make bonified preserves, but our version will last a few weeks in the fridge, which is far longer than you’ll need as it tends to be eaten in a flash. Perhaps next year we’ll go all Little House On The Prairie and try canning for real.

Click below for the full recipe, or get it straight from the source (we followed Ina Garten’s version…) — Read more

Happy National Martini Day!!

I found this lady while searching through the creative commons photos on Flickr.

I found this lady while searching through the creative commons photos on Flickr.

Yes that’s right. Today is National Martini Day. And if I drank Martinis (and wasn’t just recovering from a fairly brutal summer cold) I would be shaking myself up one of these babies right about now. It’s my daughter’s last day of school, and while that means the end of the miles-long series of school related activities/celebrations/performances/etc, it also means that the two of us are about to become 24-hour constant companions. With all the joy and pain that accompanies that particular situation.

So bottoms up!

For those of you who may want to dig a bit deeper into the world of this classic libation, I give you a bit of martini history, a whole bunch of martini recipes (from the classic to the blood orange cabernet you never knew you were craving), a photographic survey of some of this drink’s most iconic fans, and, last but not least, a lovely post about how one might get over a hangover (not that any of you will need that, but just in case…)

Last night’s dinner: Turkey sliders

turkey sliders

I like to think of them as the chicken fingers of the burger world…

To begin, let me take a moment to thank Jenny Rosenstrach of Dinner: A Love Story for providing me with this and so many other great ideas for how to cook real food for my family meals. Of which there are thousands a day. Or at least, that’s how it feels to me.

And now for the food… These delicious turkey burgers flavored with hoisin and ginger are now on regular rotation in our house because they are really quick and can be easily adjusted to fit everybody’s particular eating issues. First off, who doesn’t love the cuteness of a slider? And perhaps even more importantly, I can hold the pepper (and Cayenne pepper and ginger) in a couple of patties for my daughter, and my husband can skip the buns and we’re all good to go. WIth these, we take the humble turkey burger to the next level and are all the better for it, let me tell you.

Recipe is below and comes from the book Dinner, The Playbook, in which Ms Rosenstrach (and her husband, it is important to note) cooks 30 different dinners for her family in 30 consecutive nights. That will never happen on my watch, but a girl can dream…

Hoisin Turkey Burgers

1 1/4 lb ground turkey
2 scallions (white and light green parts only) minced
1 Tbsp peeled minced fresh ginger
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
salt and pepper to taste
hamburger buns

Pre heat grill or cast iron pan to medium high

In a large bowl, combine the turkey, scallions, ginger, cilantro, hoisin, lime juice, cayenne, five-spice powder and salt and pepper. Shape the turkey mixture into 12 patties and grill over hot coals or in a pan, flipping frequently for a total of 10 – 12 minutes, until the burgers are firm but not rock hard. (you can also broil the burgers for 10 – 12 minutes on high.) Serve on buns with extra hoisin sauce or your favorite condiment.

Yesterday, at some point…

okonomi

Last night we had a family dinner date at a tiny (12 seat) Japanese spot in East Williamsburg called Okonomi (by day) and Yuji Ramen (for dinner). This is a photograph of my place setting, with water and sake, before the food came.

One day, I will develop self control and remember to photograph the food first, before I dig in. But for now, you should just trust me and head straight for this gem of a restaurant as fast as your legs will carry you.

By day (9 – 3), they serve traditional Japanese breakfast. In the evenings (from 6 – 11) they serve their own take on ramen, both with and without the traditional broths. I had what was essentially the ramen version of spaghetti carbonara, with huge pieces of fresh bacon from the Meat Hook, and was in heaven. Everything we ate was delicious, and I can’t wait to go back for more.

For dinner on weekends, they do a sit down tasting menu (did I hear the waiter say 12 courses?) that you need to reserve via their website. Or maybe you just call them. It all seemed quite mysterious.

See you there.

Okonomi or Yuji Ramen
150 Ainslie St
Brooklyn, NY 11211

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Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day (or thereabouts). The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting. If not, feel free to ignore it.

Last night’s dinner: Lasagna

lasagna

Here it is, my first lasagna, in all of it’s cheesy glory.

Yesterday was the first time I have ever made a lasagna. My mother used to make it often, much to our delight. My sister, who’s energies tend to be focused elsewhere than the kitchen, also makes a delicious version which I have enjoyed on several occasions. And yet, for some reason, I have always been a bit intimidated.

Until now.

I found this recipe on Food52 and thought, how could I not want to make a dish called “Birthday Lasagna?” Especially as it features a bechamel sauce rather than ricotta? (There’s something really satisfying about blending the butter, milk and flour into such delicious perfection.) It was a huge hit, everybody had seconds, and I can’t wait to make lunch out of what little remains in the fridge. This dish is going on high rotation.

A brief note before I share the details with you here… I used dried lasagna noodles that I just precooked till they were al dente. I also dumped twice as much mozzarella on top because one should always overdo it when it comes to mozzarella, don’t you think? My slightly altered version is below. The original can be found here.

Birthday Lasagna
(adapted from the version on Food52 by Merill Stubs)

Ingredients:

for the Bolognese

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground beef (85% lean)
Salt
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
Splash red wine (optional- I skipped as we had none in the house)
1 1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes, with their juices
1 cup beef stock or water
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

for the rest of the Lasagna:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
Salt
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 package lasagna sheets, cooked al dente
1 1/2 cups shredded fresh mozzarella

To make the bolognese, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy saucepan. Add the ground beef, along with a couple pinches of salt. Brown the meat well and remove it to a bowl using a slotted spoon.

Add the carrot and onion to the pan and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for one more minute. Stir in the browned meat.

Stir in the flour and then the red wine, if using. Add the tomatoes, stock and oregano and stir well to combine. Raise the heat and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cover the pan and lower the heat so that the sauce is just simmering. Cook until the meat is tender and the flavors have melded, at least half an hour and up to an hour and a half. (Add more stock or water if the sauce starts to look dry.)

While the sauce is cooking, make the bechamel. In a medium heavy saucepan melt the butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in the flour, and once the mixture starts to bubble cook for another 2 minutes, whisking frequently. Don’t let the mixture brown. Whisk in the milk slowly and raise the heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and keep whisking until the sauce turns thick and smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bechamel from the heat, cover and set aside.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. To assemble the lasagna, spread a couple of tablespoons of the bolognese in the bottom of an 8-by-8-inch square baking dish. Add a layer of lasagna noodles, overlapping them slightly if necessary. Spread 1/3 of the bechamel evenly over the noodles, and then spread 1/4 of the remaining bolognese over that. Add another layer of noodles.

Repeat until you have used all of the bechamel. Add a final layer of noodles and spread the remaining bolognese over the top. Sprinkle the mozzarella evenly over the top of the lasagna. Cover the lasagna with a sheet of parchment paper and then wrap the dish tightly in aluminum foil. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the noodles are just tender (test them by piercing the lasagna with a sharp knife).

Turn the oven up to 425 degrees and remove the foil and the parchment. Return the lasagna to the oven and cook for about 10 minutes, until deeply browned and bubbling. Let the lasagna cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Bask in the glory of your accomplishment.

My co-chef, who was not surprisingly very enthusiastic about her job as 'lasagna builder'

For your viewing pleasure, I give you a shot of my co-chef, who was not surprisingly very enthusiastic about her job as ‘lasagna builder.’ Not only is this dish heavenly, it’s a great kitchen activity for the kids.

Suddenly, it’s summer…

DIY pops

Nothing says summertime like a triple flavored home made popsicle, right?

And then, overnight, the temperatures rose into the high 80′s (some say we hit 90 this week, but I refuse to believe it). Down jackets are a distant memory. The sprinklers have been turned on in the playgrounds. Summer is upon us.

In response, we are making our own popsicles again, this time with a little help from The Cookbook For Kids, by Lisa Atwood for William Sonoma. We changed the recipe to fit our personal tastes (and what was available at the market) and I’ve copied our take on the formal instructions below in the hopes that you will all become avid pop makers.

For those of you who want to dive deeper into the world of DIY pops, I wrote a comprehensive piece for Krrb that includes links to molds you might want to buy plus lots of recipe ideas.

Oh and if you are looking for a slightly more grown up version (read: frozen drinks on a stick) check out One Kings Lane’s brilliant post with 4 great recipes for the fruity-but-also-alcoholic pop. Oh and also there’s this Strawberry Greyhound poptail from Endless Simmer.

And, last but not least, check out these Blood Orange Pops from The Little Epicurean. Yum!!

Here’s our slightly altered 3 tier pop recipe:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen blackberries
1 cup frozen mango
3/4 cup OJ

How to make it:

In a small pan, combine sugar and 1/3 cup water. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves into a syrup. (2 – 3 minutes) To be honest, you can probably skip the whole simple syrup apart and still have insanely delicious treats. We will most likely do that next time, but I have given birth to someone who is a stickler for following directions line for line.

Next, rinse the strawberries with room temperature water. Set aside to thaw. Pour mango cubes into a blender. Add 1/4 cup OJ and 2 Tbs syrup (from step one) Purée until smooth. Divide the mango purée among 6 ice pop molds or 4 paper cups. (we used cups, because my daughter insisted that ours look JUST LIKE THE PICTURE in the book). Tap the bottom of the cups/molds on the countertop to settle the purée. Place in the freezer. After 1 hour, place a craft stick in the center of each cup/mold.

For the second layer, purée the blackberries, 1/4 cup OJ and 2 Tbs syrup until smooth. Pour over the mango purée in the cups/molds and return to the freezer.

Last but not least, blend the now pretty much melted strawberries with the rest of the OJ and syrup until smooth. Pour over the other layers and return to the freezer.

Freeze the layered pops until firm, 2 – 4 hours. To remove pops from molds, dip the bottoms into a bowl of hot water till they begin to loosen (or just peel off the paper cups.)

Enjoy!

Yesterday, at some point…

maryland crabs from Harbor House crabs

2 dozen Maryland Blue crabs, steamed in Old Bay.
Potato salad in the covered white serving plate
A little taste of spinach dressed in sesame oil
Arugula salad with thinly shaved fresh rhubarb (this came out later)
Water for all
Plenty of beer

Perfect Mother’s Day Dinner.

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Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day (or thereabouts). The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting. If not, feel free to ignore it.

Yesterday, at some point…

easter cookies

Nothing like a few cookies after a rigorous Easter egg hunt…

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Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day (mostly). The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting. If not, feel free to ignore it.

Last night’s dinner: oven-braised beef with tomatoes and garlic

Gourmet's oven braised beef  via smitten kitchen

They call it oven-braised beef. I call it pot roast, though I’m thinking of changing up as the former sounds considerately more elaborate than the latter…

I had this idea of doing a regular recipe column on this blog… I thought Thursdays would be good as Wednesday is the one day my daughter is occupied till 5:30, giving me a bit more time to shop, cook and photograph. Turns out, doing anything on a regular basis is much harder than I figured. Life manages to get in the way more than I care to admit (what? mid-winter break? in-laws in town? kid out sick for THREE DAYS STRAIGHT?) Plus sometimes I get so excited to eat that I forget to photograph the finished product, which is super annoying.

But I refuse to give up. And so here, on a Friday, is the next installment of the Thursday food post. About a pot roast I made over a week ago, featuring a photograph of the lunch time leftovers I had 2 days after I cooked it in the first place.

I found the instructions on Smitten Kitchen, but she got it from a 2001 issue of Gourmet Magazine (may it rest in piece). The appeal is that it is super simple, with just meat, a can of tomatoes and garlic. You tie up the beef, chop up the tomatoes and garlic, dump them on the beef, and cook it.

tied roast

OK so maybe I’m not the best at tying up a roast. But hey, at least I’m trying.

Deb used a 3 1/2 lb roast and cooked it at 300 for 3 – 4 hours. I used a piece half the size and cooked it for around an hour and a half till my thermometer read 135 degrees for medium rare. I also couldn’t help myself and added an onion (peeled and quartered) as well as some thyme and a good pour of red wine. Also, Gourmet says to buy meat from the supermarket because it’s fatty, which is evidently what you want. I stand with Deb Parker on this one and went to my local butcher (The Meat Hook, which rocks) and bought me a high quality, grass-fed, free-range cut, but just asked them to leave the fat on. And it was delicious, let me tell you.

As long as you like beef and tomatoes, you won’t be sorry you made this dish. And the leftovers are even better than the first night’s version, if you ask me, so a generously size piece of meat is not a bad thing.

You can cook from the original Gourmet recipe, or enjoy Smitten Kitchen aka Deb Parker’s snappy prose and extensive photos. Or just scroll down as I’ve reprinted the whole shebang below: — Read more