Tag Archives: kitchen

Hannibal’s favorite

22 Jun
I got fresh fava beans this week. Hannibal Lecter likes to eat his with liver and a nice Chianti, but frankly I can’t stand the consistency of organ meat, so we settled instead on red snapper, which I’ll explain below.
Turns out, fava beans are a lot of work for little yield. You have to remove the beans from the pod, then on remove the beans from a little white sheath. We had a big handful and ended up with just a tiny amount.
  
The beans are tough, so my mom suggested to first blanche them, which essentially means to drop them into hot water with salt just before it boils, then leave them in about 2-5 minutes, until the beans turn bright green, then drain them and shock them in a bowl of cold water. This method works well on just about any green veg, and you can leave them in a little longer if you want a more cooked vegetable with a retained crunch.
I didn’t end up with a lot of beans so I also blanched some fresh English peas I had lying around. Meanwhile, I heated up 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 cloves fresh garlic, diced, and sautéed the favas for a few minutes until they were on the crunchy side, then I threw in the peas right at the end to warm them.
It also happens to be fresh fig season, which I’ll write about in more detail later. But I had a package going bad in my fridge, so I chopped them up and threw them on top of a filet of red snapper that had been smeared with a table spoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. I broiled it for about 10-15 minutes, then squeezed on some fresh lemon.
Not bad, and also not criminal. Andrew did bring Chianti home for dinner, though. Clariiiiicceeeeee ….
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Adventures in CSA: Kohlrabi

3 Jun

My friend Jenna and I are splitting a share this summer of what’s known in New York as “CSA.” It stands for community-supported agriculture, and I’d never heard of it before moving here so forgive me if I’m explaining something that everyone already knows. You pay up front and then get 25 weeks of surprise vegetables and 22 weeks of fruit delivered to a spot near you from farms upstate.

In Brooklyn there is no shortage of organic, farm-fresh vegetables. Or really of anything artisanal or niche (New York Magazine said with its usual snark that it’s a borough pretending it’s a 19th century English village, and that pretty much nailed it.) But the benefit of the CSA is the surprise factor. At a farmer’s market, you’re still going to step away from the strange-looking root and choose a more familiar edible. With CSA you have no choice.

Which brings me to kohlrabi

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Jenna picked up the batch this week and was so excited about this root vegetable I’d never heard of that she traded for two so we could each have a bunch. I called my mom, but shockingly, she was little help. The only thing she said was: “I like it, therefore you should, too.” Oh, and she told me to peel it.

To end the suspense, it tastes sort of like a mild broccoli with the consistency in-between a turnip and a crisp apple.

Thanks to the delivery this week I also had a giant head of napa cabbage. So here’s what I did with this mystery veg: I made a light summer slaw.

I cut off the green so it resembled an apple, peeled.

I shredded the cabbage, then I used a cheese grater (because I have a small kitchen and lack other more precious kitchen utensils, and frankly they’re expensive and not worth it) to grate three carrots, the three heads of kohlrabi, and one gala apple, peeled. I tossed them all together in a bowl with some freshly, thinly sliced scallion, and then I made a slaw dressing variation I think I already talked about here so forgive me for repetition but it was relevant in this case.

        

If you need a crash course on the dressing it is:

Approximately:

3 tablespoons thick, plain yogurt, or mayo

3 tablespoons whole-seed mustard

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper.

Whip with fork until creamy and sort of runny. I tossed it over the mix and I had the most delightful, light, crisp slaw ever. I served it with sautéed shrimp.

Oh, as an aside, we also at the leafy green tips, first steamed then sautéed with olive oil. They were hearty, sort of like an edible construction paper, maybe they’re not ideal as a leafy green, but they tasted good to me.

So here’s to strange summer vegetables and summer in general, huh?

Unusual vegetables Part II: Fiddlehead Ferns

27 Apr

I’m in a food rut. Lucky for me, it’s early spring and there are a host of vegetables I don’t often cook. Fiddlehead ferns, for one. They’re the windy green stalks of a fern that haven’t yet grown. They’re high in iron, fibre and deliciousness as long as you’re not afraid of them. Mom says to steam them first, for a few minutes to soften them.  I don’t have a double boiler so instead I just stick a strainer on top of a pot of boiling water, works just fine.  I steamed them about five minutes. They got a little brown in color.

Then, I added 2 cloves of minced garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil to a pan, and turned the heat on high, and sautéed them, adding about 1/4 a cup of chicken broth to soften further and add flavor. You can eat them alone, but I served them with patty-pan squash, which  has a sweeter taste, to offset the bitter, earthiness of the ferns.  I cooked the squash in the same mixture, just tossed them in first and then let the ferns cook. The squash took about 15 minutes, the ferns 10. They were still crunchy, which is how I like them.

I served the vegetables with Israeli couscous and broiled sea bass. The whole meal took 35 minutes to cook.

On knives and bad luck

14 Feb

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My mom says all you really need when you’re buying kitchen gear is One Good Sharp Knife. The rest is just bells and whistles. I’ve never actually bought one for myself, though I now own two.

Giving and/or receiving a knife is bad luck, or so the story goes. If a love gives you one, your relationship is about to end. If a friend does, it severs the ties.

I am totally superstitious. I can’t help myself, I think it’s my Catholic upbringing and the Italians in my family. I don’t walk under ladders, I don’t break mirrors (fingers crossed).

So when I got the newest one for Christmas from Andrew’s mother, I mailed her a penny in a thank-you note. The knife is beautiful: An 8-inch Wusthof Classic Icon knife, with a heavy handle and a beveled edge. It’s so sharp it slices through tomatoes and doesn’t mush them, and could easily cut off my fingertip if I lost concentration julienneing vegetables. Anyhoo, if you give a penny, then technically you bought it, and it’s not a gift and no bad luck.

It may sound nuts but I wasn’t taking any chances. The last time I got a knife as a gift it was about a decade a go, a generous surprise from a guy. That knife is 10-inches, also a Wusthof, also fantastic. I was thrilled, I was amazed, I was totally enamored of both guy and kitchen tool. But good grief the entire demise of our relationship can be traced back that damn gift.

So beware of kitchen curses. Just sayin’.