Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cantaloupe-Chorizo Salad

It's cantaloupe season! That means icy cold, juicy melon chunks straight from the fridge--the perfect antidote to super summer heat. And since it almost hit 80º today, you know we're in need of some serious cooling. Phew! How about a no-cook meal featuring that vitamins A-, B-, C-, and potassium-packed fruit?

Meanwhile, Lynne Rossetto Kasper has been sending me emails lately, left and right. This woman cannot get enough of me or any of the other thousands of people who subscribe to her weekly newsletter but today she shot me a real winner of a recipe. With the CSA lettuce hanging out in my fridge, and the gigantor cantaloupe I just lugged home taking up precious shelf space, I decided to clean both out in one fell swoop. Oh, and make it all portable so I could meet up with David for lunch (hence, the cell phone photos).

All I needed was the sausage, no problem: spicy chorizo comes dried in most markets around here. But since that package of dried was so expensive and the individual links from the butcher were so not, I just grabbed a lone link and baked it off at home. If you can't find chorizo, linguica or andouille will sub in just fine.

Cantaloupe-Chorizo Salad
(adapted from LRK, see above; serves 1-2; potentially ready in 15 minutes or less)

1 small garlic clove, minced
sprinkle red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp fish sauce
2-3 Tbsp water
3 Tbsp rice wine or apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp honey, agave, or sugar

Lettuce for two: romaine, mesclun mix, or some nice combination thereof
1 cup 1-inch chunks of cantaloupe
6 inches chorizo, sliced thin*
1/4 white onion, sliced thin
2 Tbsp mint, chopped
2-3 Tbsp chopped peanuts or almonds
  1. Throw together dressing ingredients and shake well. Set aside.
  2. Make a bed of lettuce and top with fruit, sausage, onion, mint, and nuts and drizzle dressing over top. *If you are working with already cooked sausage, simply slice it into bite-size pieces. If you are like me and only wanted to buy enough for the one meal (i.e. a single link from the butcher), simply cook it in the oven at 350º for about 10 minutes, flipping halfway through. Slice down the middle longways and open it out for faster cooking.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Carrot "cous cous"

Determined to do my consumer-ly duty and eat every possible part of every single vegetable that comes in our CSA, I set about figuring how to eat those cascading greens atop my carrots.

There seems to be some ambivalence about whether or not carrot tops are dangerous. Apparently, Oregon Health and Science University considers them mildly toxic. Others feel that the greens are highly nutritious and should be enjoyed. It seems as though some people have allergens that could react with the greens? (Warning! Completely uninformed Google opinion!) I guess I wouldn't eat greens from random, supermarket (even Whole Foods) carrots -- only ones from a stand where I can look the farmer in the eye.

So, turns out, the greens taste just like carrots. Maybe not unexpected, but a little surprising just the same. I found a website where someone said they use the tops just like parsley: for flavor, like an herb. They make a lovely, earthy addition to many savory dishes, but are featured in this cold "cous cous" salad. So if you're feeling brave, read on.

Carrot "Cous Cous" Salad
(serves 2-4; comes together in about 6 minutes)

1 bunch carrots, with greens
1 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 Tbsp raisins or dried currants
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

  1. Wash carrots really well. Chances are, if you bought them from a farmer's market, they're still rocking some dirt. Scrub well. If you're not working with organic carrots, peel them. Cut into big chunks and throw in the food processor. Buzz until carrots reach the size and shape of cous cous.
  2. Likewise, wash tops really well by holding them under running water or submerging in a large bowl full of water and shaking gently. Chop finely like you would any herb.
  3. In a large bowl, combine "cous cous" carrots, tops, and remaining ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste. Eat immediately or let sit at room temp for half an hour. Flavors will intensify.

M. Y. O. I. C. (Make Your Own Iced Coffee)

Well, just this week, summer came to town. Our apartment has reached that stage in which heat creeps in first thing in the morning and stays stubbornly put until well after sundown. It is hot. It is muggy. Visions of ice cream dance in my head. Sometimes I just stand in front of the open refrigerator (I'm totally going to get run out of Cambridge by the energy-flag waving hippies for admitting that).

Sufficed to say, my morning coffee ritual changes with the seasons. Because one must first make espresso (that is, hot espresso) in order to enjoy an iced espresso beverage, and because making that espresso involves heat, and because the thought of any additional heat makes me wilt, and because at any Dunkin Donuts within a 50-mile radius of Boston there is a perma-line, I have finally adopted the coolest (yes, it's a pun) home cold-brew method that you have probably already been doing for, like, ever. It's kind of genius.

What you must do is stir some coarse-ground coffee beans into room temperature water and let it sit out overnight on the counter. Just a wee stir--that's it. In the morning you have a coffee concentrate that is as versatile as it was easy to make. Want cappuccino? Add steamed milk. Want coffee? Add hot water. Want that perfect iced latte with almost no effort? Add ice and milk. Don't even get me started on the dessert applications of this concoction.

Minimal Effort Cold-Brew Coffee
4 oz. coarse-ground coffee beans (that's 1/4-lb.)
2 3/4 cup room temperature water
  1. Stir together and let sit out overnight.
  2. In the morning, strain twice through a fine-mesh sieve.
  3. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Because I like espresso, I use dark beans. If you grind at the store or at home, don't get too fine. The long soak will get all the bean-y goodness, I promise. Also, this "recipe" is a ratio thing. The general consensus seems to be 1 lb. (16 oz) of coffee to 12 cups of water. Divide and conquer at will.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Greens 101

I recently became aware that I use the term "greens" with some ambiguity. "What exactly are greens?" a friend asked me. Ready to bestow my overflowing knowledge to this greenhorn (pun comPLEtely intended), I opened my mouth and froze.


The leaves? There are the basics: mustard, kale, collards, chard, etc. You can also eat the tops of lots of root vegetables like beets and turnips. I am continually surprised by delicious greens turning up at the farmer's markets around here--are they grown in and of themselves, like spinach and bok choi? Or are they a byproduct of something else, like broccoli or kohlrabi?

After snapping my gaping yapper shut (realizing I had no real wisdom to dispense), I did some half-hearted and fruitless research. The conclusion I have reached--and feel quite comfortable with--is that "greens" can encompass any kind of edible leaves that aren't grown into a compact head (like lettuce, cabbage, etc.).

Problem is, most of these greens are quite bitter, especially the kind you'll find in the grocery store, unless prepared well. Because they are in season now, we have been eating a lot (a LOT) of greens lately, and I wanted to you to eat them too. So, allow me to introduce you to a simple, three step, 15-minute way of preparing any green of your choice.

Greens 101
(serves 2; start-to-finish 10ish minutes)

1 bunch greens
olive oil
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (depending on your preference; I like 2)
1/4 cup chicken broth
  1. Start by preparing your greens. Rinse them well under running water or submerge them in a big bowl of water, lightly shaking to release dirt. Do not dry. Remove the leaves from the stem, then chop the leaves. I like to slice the leaves crosswise in thin ribbons because they're easier to eat.
  2. Film a large pan with olive oil and heat med-hi. Saute onions with a little salt until tender, 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add your chopped greens to the skillet and turn to distribute garlic/onions in the pan. Pour in broth and cover. Let steam for 3 or 4 minutes, until greens are tender.
  3. Remove lid and stir; season liberally with salt and pepper and taste. If greens are too bitter, add more broth and continue to simmer.
  4. To serve, lift out greens, leaving any liquid behind. Eat up.

Hi There

Hey, remember that time almost a year ago when I told some friends I'd make the pies for their wedding? So they wouldn't have to bother with a cake? And I'd just throw together some dough and fruit? No problem? Easy as--well--you see where this is going...

That once-distant date crept up on me last week and turned me into a baking tornado. Flour flew, sleep was eschewed, unkind words were exchanged with my husband, but all turned out well. Plus, our two friends ended up happily married at the end of the day, which, I was reminded, was kind of the point anyway.

All this to say, few things without a lattice top or fruity filling have been appearing in my kitchen lately. Be back soon.