Monday, August 10, 2009

Bittmanspiration and Beet caviar

The Mark Bittman 101 summer salads article I mentioned recently has already created some big hits, especially with the recent influx of sungold tomatoes in my kitchen. One of his recommendations:

"19. Mix cooked cannellini or other white beans, chopped cherry or grape tomatoes and arugula or baby spinach. Lightly toast sliced garlic in olive oil with rosemary and red pepper flakes; cool slightly, add lemon zest or juice or both, then pour over beans."

Very good. The beans gives the dish some substance, the dressing is easy, all in all a filling meal. But even Mark Bittman knows it's not as good as this:

"15. Cut cherry or grape tomatoes in half; toss with soy sauce, a bit of dark sesame oil and basil or cilantro. I love this — the tomato juice-soy thing is incredible."

Yes, sir, the tomato-soy thing is indeed incredible. This week it was paired with marinated tempeh one night and a corn/black bean combo another.

It's so good I forgot to take a photo until it was almost gone!

Another treat from this week came from Deborah Madison's cookbook "Local Flavors." She suggests using three colors of beets in the same dish to make a "caviar" along with endive and goat cheese.

Three-Beet Caviar with Endive and Goat Cheese

6 beets: 2 golden, 2 Chioggia, 2 red
1 very small red onion, finely diced (used shallot instead)
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar (used apple cider instead)
sea salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped parsley or chervil (went without it)
2 Belgian endives, red or white (skipped this too!)
4 ounces fresh goat cheese
olive oil

Leaving an inch of the stem and all of the roots, steam the beets until they're tender-firm when pierced with a knife, 25-45 minutes. Cool, then slip off the skins. (I find it much easier to scrub them to death, then cut them into reasonable pieces, rather than have to wait for them to cook all the way through. And slipping of the skins is the worst.)

Cut them into chunks, then pulse 6 to 8 times in a food processor until finely chopped, taking care not to turn the beets into mush. Alternatively, dice them by hand. Chop each color of beet separately.

While the beets are cooking, toss the onion in the binegar with 1/4 teaspoon salt and set aside. Toss each of the three types of beets with a third of the onion and vinegar. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Toss again with the parsley and chill.

Slice the endives crosswise into rounds and separate the pieces. Arrange mounds of the beets, a mound of the endive, and a smaller one of goat cheese on the place. Drizzle a little olive oil over the endive and cheese. Add pepper and serve. Toss everything together into a pile of confetti before eating.

So pretty! So good!

And, finally, this weekend's trip to the market:

Replenished the sungolds, of course! I found the best deal at the Grand Army Plaza market: $2/pint at Maxwell's Farm, the first stand on the left when you ender from Prospect Park West. Also a bag of corn and a bag on onions for $2 each, some nectarines, Lacinato kale, green beans, and a cabbage.

In other big food news this week: this blog is now a member of the Park Slope Food Coop! This means lots of inexpensive, delicious, Socialist fruits and veggies. The weekly grocery bill has already been sliced. Next up: slicing and dicing the new assortment of soy products and other goodies from the Coop.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Pesto and More

It's been another adventureful week of food here in Brooklyn! We started off the week with a roommate beer share from our local fancy food store, Grab. They sell really nice cheese, meats, expensive chocolates, and high-quality beers, including a bunch on draft every week that you can take home in a growler. Fun!

We were all in the mood for a beer one night so I ran across the street and picked us up a growler of Allagash White. By putting down $5 or so for a growler deposit, you can hang onto the container itself and bring it back for different refills. Hopefully this will be the start of a frequent growler tradition. Plus, as if we needed more incentive to drink beers, once you fill your growler twelve times, you can get the thirteenth one for $1. What a deal!

I adapted my favorite strawberry rhubarb crumble recipe to incorporate new fruits this week. Our apartment had an abundance of peaches and blueberries, as well as some quickly disintegrating rhubarb, so a peach-blueberry-rhubarb crumble was in order.

More peaches were purchased to replace those in the crumble, which quickly became Mark Bittman's famous tomato and peach salad. Remember this, Katey and Nicole? We made it a few years back at one of our picnic potlucks in the park and it was a big old hit. Mark Bittman says:

Toss together sliced seeded tomatoes and peaches, along with thinly sliced red onion and chopped cilantro or rosemary. Dress at the last minute with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

This made a great lunch on top of some salad greens, though I wished I had waited to dress it until the last minute. Got a tiny bit soggy. But delicious as always.

This week also held pesto adventures aplenty. Remember the garlic scapes I purchased last week at the farmer's market?

These became a delicious, bright, super-garlicky scape pesto. I found the recipe on the blog of fellow Park Slopers (Park Slopians? Park Slopettes?) Thirty Bucks a Week, but dug up their original recipe from Dorie Greenspan.

Garlic Scape and Almond Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

10 garlic scapes, finely chopped

1/3 to 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (to taste and texture)

1/3 cup slivered almonds (you could toast them lightly, if you'd like)

About 1/2 cup olive oil

Sea salt

Put the scapes, 1/3 cup of the cheese, almonds and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor (or use a blender or a mortar and pestle).

Whir to chop and blend all the ingredients and then add the remainder of the oil and, if you want, more cheese. If you like the texture, stop; if you'd like it a little thinner, add some more oil. Season with salt.

I, however, prefer pine nuts to almonds. so used pine nuts instead. Maybe almonds next time. The garlic scapes were so cheap ($1.50 for the whole bunch, I think?), making this a great way to stock up on pesto. The fresh pesto was combined with some artichoke ravioli and fresh portobello mushrooms for dinner.

The rest went into the freezer. Score.

Yesterday I attended the Grand Army Plaza market at the bright and early hour of 8:30am, which was completely wonderful. The market opens at 8, so only a few dozen folks had arrived by that time, and the sun wasn't so blazing hot yet, allowing me a leisurely early morning of walking through the market. I brought home a bunch of beets, some garlic, a big old bag full of carrots (only $2!) two glorious pints of sungolds, and an enormous bunch of basil.

I quickly turned the basil into pesto, which is now in the freezer alongside the garlic scape pesto. Fresh pasta sauce all winter long!

At this point I've made basil pesto often enough that I don't really follow a strict recipe, just mix up my basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and parmesan (and salt and pepper) in the food processor until it looks right and tastes great.

One of the farmstands at the market, I believe it's Evolutionary Organics, sells absolutely stunning-smelling cinnamon basil pesto, which I would love to replicate. They also sell the cinnamon basil itself, which is a bit pricey, and I'm debating whether it would make more financial sense to buy the ready-made stuff, done by the experts, or splurge on the herbs and make my own. Perhaps a project for next weekend...

I've got a few of those Mark Bittman summer salad recipes on my radar for this week, one to use the carrots and one or two for all those sungolds (if they last long enough! I've been known to eat them raw mighty quick...). Stay tuned!