Saturday, July 25, 2009

All hail Mark Bittman.

A special treat this week from my hero Mark Bittman, food writer for the New York Times. Mark Bittman's moniker is "The Minimalist" -- he gives limited instructions for recipes, inexact measurements, mere suggestions for proportions, plenty of room for improvisation. In this article, published earlier this week, he writes 101 suggestions for summer salads. I love his style of writing, both in being concise and in letting the cook take control of the meal, rather than giving strict prescriptions of how to prepare food. He wrote a similar article last year giving 101 ideas for summer picnics. I refer to both of these often for inspiration, and recommend them highly.

This past week's cooking adventures included another pizza, this time using pizza sauce from Trader Joe's and mozzarella cheese instead of last week's goat cheese base.

On top is caramelized red onion, thinly sliced and sauteed veggie sausage from Trader Joe's, and a sprinkle of parsley. Great stuff.

Today's trip to the market included a few summer staples: sourdough bread, blueberries, peaches, corn, red onion and tomato. Finally, the tomatos at the market up here are starting to look decent, and all come from the field rather than the greenhouse. By next week, I expect the baby tomatoes (and hopefully the sungolds!) will be out in full force. As a treat, I picked out two portobello mushrooms from one of the specialized mushroom vendors. These mushrooms were pricey, but I think they'll be delicious either in a chipotle sandwich or in a parmesan portobello recipe from a recent copy of Bon Appetit. In addition, a new pick: garlic scapes, the tops of the garlic plant that grows up from the ground when garlic matures as the root. This will become a spicy, garlicy pesto this week. Look out for photos. Also, a few okra! Gotta keep my southern roots in check.

I loved laying all this produce out on the counter after coming back from the market. Summer purchases just look so colorful and appealing and absolutely natural. Truly a rainbow of food.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Goat Cheese Heaven. Also beets, beans, and pizza.

This weekend's adventures at the farmer's markets involved more rhubarb, more beets (I ended up buying a few loose beets at a farmer's market near my work mid-week; see below for the delicious results!), parsley (will become Israeli couscous salad), cabbage (will become crunchy peanut slaw), and some more blueberries and green beans that hopped into the fridge before their photo was taken.

While at the market this morning, I went to check in with the goat cheese vendors who I got cheese from last week to make last week's squash pizza. I told them how well it turned out, and one of the guys mentioned his wish to see a photo of the pizza. Of course, I had a picture on the iPhone! I showed it to him and explained how I had made the goat cheese sauce by adding lemon juice. He asked me to email the photo to him, along with my blog address, so he can pass on the recipe to other customers. He said people always wonder what to do with goat cheese and hoped that this recipe would inspire them. I'm tickled that he liked the pizza idea (though I must give credit to Smitten Kitchen for the recipe) and that I'm getting to know the local farmers.

After the success of the squash pizza, the second half of the pizza dough became a roasted tomato, caramelized onion, goat cheese and lemon combo.

The dough held up pretty well after a few days in the fridge, though it needed some more kneading and was a bit more difficult to work with. However, this combo of toppings was definitely a winner. The tomatoes were roasted a bit with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper before going on the pizza and into the oven.

I brought Win to the farmer's market later this afternoon as he wanted to buy some goat cheese to bring to his sister's house for dinner. We chatted with the goat cheese farmers again and they ended up giving us a great deal on some additional cheeses: now we've got a veritable goat cheese heaven in our fridge!

This week I followed a few recipes but mostly improvised on a few noteworthy meals. First, using some extra veggies I had on hand post-pizza, I experimented with a tempeh black bean salad.

I marinated and sauteed the tempeh using a Lemon Garlic Tempeh marinade from VegWeb.

1 block Tempeh
1 lemon squeezed
2-4 cloves garlic chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (had fresh chives, so used those instead)
salt and pepper to taste


Slice tempeh into thin slices. Whisk lemon, oil, garlic, basil, and S & P. Marinate Tempeh for about 10 minutes. Brown tempeh in a hot skillet for about 5 minutes on each side, adding the marinade until all is gone. The garlic should be browned too.

Easy! I added it to a mix of cut up zucchini, yellow squash, red onion, tomato, and escarole inspired by Smitten Kitchen's black bean confetti salad.

Great for lunch at work!

Also a big hit this week was an experiment with steaming beets rather than roasting them in the oven. I scrubbed the beets, sliced them up, and steamed them in my steamer basket.

This is waaaay easier than roasting them in the oven.

Then I cooked and quickly pan-fried some portobello mushroom ravioli from Trader Joe's along with some pine nuts.

Add some goat cheese and the beets with a drizzle of olive oil and you've got a fantastic looking and tasting dinner.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Weekend Market + Lemony Zucchini Goat Cheese Pizza

Another great weekend purchasing veggies and other goodies at the markets of Brooklyn.

First, from Saturday: another pint of blueberries, more amazing sugar snap peas from Evolutionary Organics, rhubarb (!!), summer squash, kirby cucumbers, and assorted green and yellow beans.

And from Sunday: an enormous head of lettuce, a bunch of cilantro, assorted apples, a small sourdough from Amy's Breads, and the most delicious goat cheese of all time from Coach Farm. For real. It's amazing. Next time there will be aged goat cheese, which I tried at the market stand -- oh my Lord. The triple cream aged goat cheese, obviously, is incredible. It will be a splurge purchase one of these weeks, no doubt.

Doesn't this photo look so Parisian? As if it should all be tied up in a basket for a picnic on the Seine. Yes?

Onto the new projects. How could Smitten Kitchen's post about this pizza not make you drool? I'd invited my roommates from my junior year of college (Dance Party Junior Senior No Pants LoRise, holler back!) over for a late brunch on Sunday, and clearly needed to impress them by making this pizza from scratch, dough and all.

I chose Barbara Kingsolver's recipe for pizza dough over the one from Smitten Kitchen, mostly because it makes two batches and because it uses a mixture of wheat and white flours, which seemed like a better bet than an all-white dough. I love Barbara Kingsolver, and her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle definitely inspired me to start purchasing more at farmer's markets. She writes of tales and recipes from her family's year of eating locally, including their Friday night homemade pizza tradition.

Barbara Kingsolver's Friday Night Pizza Dough (makes two twelve inch pizzas):

3 tsp. yeast
1½ cups WARM water
3 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
2½ cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour

To make crust, dissolve the yeast into the warm water and add oil and salt to that mixture.

Mix the flours and knead them into the liquid mixture.

Let dough rise for 30 to 40 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, divide it in half and roll out two round 12 inch pizza crusts on a clean, floured countertop, using your fingers to roll the perimeter into on outer crust as thick as you like. Using spatulas, slide the crusts onto well floured pans or baking stones and spread toppings. Bake pizzas at 425° for about 15-20 minutes, until crust is brown and crisp.

And now for the Lemony Zucchini Goat Cheese pizza itself:

1 batch Simplest Pizza Dough or a store-bought pizza dough that will yield one small (approx. 11 to 12 inches across), thin pizza
1 lemon
4 ounces goat cheese, at room temperature
Few leaves of fresh basil, cut into thin slivers (had chives, so used those instead)
1/2 medium yellow zucchini, sliced as thinly as you can pull off
1/2 medium green zucchini, sliced as the same as above
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Roll your pizza dough into a thin 12-inch circle and lay it on a tray or stone that has been dusted lightly with cornmeal. (I just used parchment paper instead.)

In a small bowl, stir together the goat cheese with the juice of half your lemon.

Season it with salt and freshly ground pepper, and spread it over your pizza dough.

Scatter fresh basil slivers over the cheese. Arrange your zucchini coins in concentric circles over the goat cheese spread, overlapping them slightly. You can alternate their colors, if you’re feeling fancy.

Squeeze the juice of the second half of your lemon on top of you zucchini, then drizzle with olive oil and finish with more salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes (your baking time will vary, so please watch carefully), or until the edges of your pizza are golden brown and the zucchini looks roasted and a little curled up at the edges.

Having never really made a dough from scratch before, this recipe felt like quite the endeavor. It ended up being relatively easy, and enjoyable to boot. Who doesn't like squishing dough between their fingers and watching it magically double in size?

The pizza came out great. The lemony goat cheese combo is awesome, and the dough is puffy but hearty. Great stuff, and I'll definitely use the dough recipe again with other toppings.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Horseradish Potato Salad

Today I ventured out to the Trader Joe's of Brooklyn, a good two mile walk from my apartment. It is lovely, large, free of the miniscule cramped aisles of the Union Square location. In fact, it is more akin to the suburban Trader Joe's I frequented in Chapel Hill than its Manhattan cousin. After purchasing my groceries, tucked safely in the purple confines of my Weaver Street tote bags, I boarded the B75 bus back to Park Slope. An older woman with a thick Brooklyn accent got on the bus and started chatting with me.

"Where did you get those bags?"
"Oh, I just moved here from North Carolina. The bags are from there."
"What? You got them at a hotel?"
"Uh, no. They're from North Carolina."
"North Carolina?"
"Well they're a lovely color."


And on to the recipe: Smitten Kitchen's Horseradish Potato Salad

Just as I promised yesterday, this recipe uses the red onion, small potatoes, and dill I purchased over the weekend at the market.

3 pounds small (2-inch) potatoes, your choice of variety
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar (used apple cider vinegar, what I found in the kitchen)
1 cup sour cream (I probably used just a touch less -- this seemed like a ton!)
2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper (none in our kitchen yet -- left it out)

Boil the potatoes until fork tender, cool them to room temperature and quarter them.

In a large bowl, mix the remaining ingredients and fold over the potatoes. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Clearly this was delicious. Zingy but also creamy. We ate them for dinner alongside Morningstar barbeque veggie nuggets, a great combo of hot and spicy with cool and tangy.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Welcome to Brooklyn

Big changes: I've moved to Park Slope, Brooklyn! Apologies for my absence over the last few weeks. I was spending a glorious last month in Carrboro, full of farmer's markets and fun and friends and fabulous times. Though the local veggies remained close to my heart (saying goodbye to my favorite Carrboro farmer, Rob, was actually almost tearful), this blog fell by the wayside. However, I'm newly invigorated by fresh landscape and Yankee seasonal foods, and starting next week I'll be a full-fledged, honest-to-God employed social worker, so I hope to live up to my Foodie Social Worker aspirations.

Though I miss Carrboro desperately, Park Slope certainly has its charms. One item of note is the abundance of farmer's markets: I can go to one of the biggest farmer's markets in the city every Saturday at Grand Army Plaza, and most months of the year on Sundays go to another sizeable market at 5th Avenue and 4th Street, each within a fifteen minute walk of my apartment. This weekend, of course, I attended both.

The goods from Saturday's market: blueberries, a sourdough baguette, one tomato (still from the greenhouse; not quite the season here yet!), sugar snap peas (rated the best in the market six years in a row), kirby cukes, and some fresh, fragrant garlic.

And from Sunday's market: baby potatoes, a huge amount of fresh dill, and one red onion -- I'm planning to make Smitten Kitchen's horseradish potato salad this week, so keep your eyes peeled -- and as a special New York treat, pickles! Doc Pickle, run out of New Jersey, had a stand with many a persuasive free sample. We ended up with half-sours and sweet chips, both really excellent pickles. The chips were truly New York aside my pastrami sandwich at lunch.

So much dill came in the one bunch, much more than I'll use for my potato salad, so I chopped it all up and food processed it with a bit of water and oil to make a light paste. I stuck it in the freezer so next time I need some dill in a recipe I can break off a bit. Thanks for the idea, Mark Bittman!

In other update news, when I left Carrboro, I left my baby tomato plant (recently given the moniker "Beulah") in the caring hands of my dearest friends. As I left, Beulah's fruits were reaching an amazing size, but sadly none were ripe at all, and despite all my weeks of hard work, I wasn't able to try a tomato before hitting the UHaul. However, Hilary and Erin have been keeping me up to date with Beulah's progress: she's started to show her sultry side! Enjoy those tomatoes, my dears.