March 29th, 2015

Signs of Spring

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This lacy green array, which reminds me of wallpaper in a summer cottage, is the herb, chervil. A member of the parsley family, it grows well in cool weather. With its frill of carrot-like leaves and mild licorice taste, chervil is one of the quartet of fines herbes, a seasoning pillar of French cuisine.

I have used chervil, in dried form, on occasion. Bearnaise sauce comes to mind.

But I had never found any fresh…until recently, through Fresh Harvest Co-op.

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Which is also where I bought this beautiful rainbow of carrots…

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…and leeks, for this lush tart.

After a long winter of eating hardy greens and tubers, (and, trust me, I’m not complaining,) it sure feels good (uplifting!) to have these early spring herbs and vegetables.

It inspired me to put together a little grazing spread for friends–all of us ready to celebrate longer days, warmer weather, a world in bloom.

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My menu included steelhead trout brushed with fruity olive oil and quick-roasted, artichoke-leek tart in puff pastry-layered with a ricotta-Greek yogurt blend–and those sweet rainbow carrots, oven-browned in thyme.

The chervil found its way into a versatile buttermilk-based sauce–whipped up in a blink.

It tasted fresh and light, grassy and tangy, with a hint of anise. It was delicious spooned over the fish. And, it was also quite nice with the carrots.

For your pleasure, here are the recipes. Be on the lookout for fresh chervil–like most herbs, it is different, and better than its dried form.

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Welcome Spring! Looking forward to all that the season brings.

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SPRING LEEK TART adapted from Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook

1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed but still chilled
1 large leek, cleaned well and sliced (white and light green parts)
6 artichoke hearts
1/2 large red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a food processor with steel blade, add the ricotta cheese, yogurt, salt, and pepper, and blend until smooth.

Slightly roll out the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface with a rolling pin. Place one piece of pastry onto each baking sheet.

Spread the cheese mixture over the surface of each to the edge all the way around. Cover with roasted leeks, artichokes and bell pepper pieces. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake the pastries until they are golden brown and puffy, about 25 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking time. Remove from the oven and let the pastries rest for a few minutes.

Cut into squares and serve.

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BUTTERMILK CHERVIL SAUCE

2 heaping tablespoons chopped fresh chervil
3/4 cup whole buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 spring onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons good mayonnaise, like Hellman’s
1 teaspoon salt

Place all of the ingredients into a bowl and whisk together until the mixture is smooth and well incorporated. Cover and chill.

Makes one cup.

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QUICK-ROASTED STEELHEAD TROUT
2 1/2-3 pounds steelhead trout (or salmon) fillet(s)
3 tablespoons good olive oil
sea salt
coarse ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse the fillet(s) and pat dry. Place onto a baking sheet, skin side down.
Liberally brush the surface with your favorite fruity olive oil.
Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

Roast for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the fish rest for 5 minutes,
Remove and cool.

Serve warm, or at room temperature with chervil sauce.
Serves 10-12

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RAINBOW CARROTS ROASTED WITH FRESH THYME adapted from Cooking Light’s Lighten Up America
1 pound fresh carrots, different colors/varieties if you like
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
kosher or sea salt
black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Clean and trim carrots, keeping small ones intact, and cutting long ones into 2-3 lengths.
Peel only if the outer layer seems tough.
Coat the carrots in olive oil and lay them out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle them with fresh thyme, salt and black pepper.
Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning the carrots after 12 minutes.
Serve warm, or allow to cool and serve with dip.

Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Fish/Seafood, Recipes, Sauces, Vegetables | 17 Comments »




October 21st, 2013

Sage Praise

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Dear Friends,

Almost an entire month has past since I last visited with you here at Good Food Matters, but be assured that I’ve been busy-busy, hands-on: making good—and beautiful—-food for the cookbook. In addition to the book cover shoot, we’ve had 4 separate photo sessions, working to capture the bounty of produce in this transitional season and the waning light. We’ve garnered over 60 stunning images that I can’t wait to share with you. And the dishes! Passion fruit Pavlova, German-style Pretzels with stout mustard, figs in syrup, figs on flatbread, Cornbread Panzanella, gazpacho with spiced grilled shrimp, ricotta gnocchi with arugula-three herb pesto, lofty strawberry sponge cake…

Patience, patience. It shall happen, in due time.

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Meanwhile, what has transpired since I’ve been relegated to the kitchen and studio? I look up from my work and see that fall is upon us. The weather has shifted mightily. Days move apace, with dry, crisp chill in the air. Tomatoes have just about played out in our gardens, and the basil plants are looking rather ragged. No matter. Now the markets brim with all manner of greens, hardy squashes, leeks, onions, and peppers. Now I am ready to prepare dishes using them, aren’t you?

And now, I like to cook with sage.

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I should use it in my cooking all year long–but for whatever reason, the grey-green leaf with its musty, woodsy taste, (I think of a forest floor, slightly damp) its paradoxical tough-velvet touch, finds its way into my fall and winter recipes: Larded with garlic into juicy pork roast, scenting cornbread stuffing for turkey, sizzled in brown butter sauce napped over pumpkin ravioli.

There’s nothing faint about my praise for the herb and today’s recipe uses it with vigor. Chicken breasts cut and pounded into thin scallops pick up the sage leaves first in the dredging. (For a great description of how to easily pound the cutlets, check this on Cooking Light’s website.)

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I saute the chicken in a meld of butter and olive oil–the best of both!—which gives the coating a golden burnish, as delectable brown bits form in the pan. To this, I add minced garlic and More sage, before I scrape and swirl in the white wine and light cream. The sage is distinct, assertive–for me, pleasingly so. If that concerns you, don’t let it. The wine-cream reduction muffles it, blanketing the chicken.

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Serve it with this orzo dish, which is more vegetable than it is pasta. Poblanos, leeks, and butternut squash make a harmony of fall colors, roasted to smoky sweetness. I think you’ll enjoy the undercurrent of mild heat imparted by the peppers.

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CHICKEN SCALLOPINE WITH SAGE CREAM SAUCE
2 pounds boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin pieces and pounded
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
12 sage leaves, finely chopped
3 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup half-and-half

Slice through the length of each chicken breast into halves or thirds. Using wax paper or plastic wrap, pound them to an even thinness, using a mallet or small skillet.
Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and finely chopped sage together.
Place a large skillet on medium heat. Melt the butter and olive oil together.
Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture; dust off the excess, and place into the hot skillet. Brown the chicken, sauteing the pieces for 3-4 minutes on one side, before flipping. Remove the pieces from the skillet as they are finished, placing them into a baking dish. Keep them warm.
After you have browned and removed all the chicken, add the garlic and sage to the skillet. Saute for a minute, then pour in the white wine. Let it bubble and reduce by half as you stir it in the skillet, scraping up the browned bits. Reduce the heat to low and pour in the half-and-half. Stir well. The sauce should thicken nicely. Taste for seasonings. Pour hot sauce over warm chicken scallopine and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings

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ORZO WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH, LEEKS, AND POBLANOS
1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded, and cut into bite-sized cubes
2 large leeks, carefully washed, dried and chopped (discard tough dark green leaves)
2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
3+tablespoons olive oil
salt
black pepper
1/2 pound orzo

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Place the butternut squash cubes onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, and toss well to coat all the pieces.
Place chopped leeks and poblanos onto a separate baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, season with salt and black pepper, and toss well to coat the vegetables.
Place both baking sheets into the oven. Roast the butternuts for 15-18 minutes, roast the leeks and poblanos for 12-15 minutes. Rotate the pans about halfway through the cooking time.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a rolling boil on medium high heat. Add the orzo and cook according to package directions (about 9-10 minutes.)
Drain the orzo and return it to the pot.
Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven. Scrape the butternuts in their roasting oil, and the poblano-leeks in their oil into the pot with the orzo. Toss the mixture well.

Makes 6-8 servings

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Here’s a glimpse!

Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook cover

Posted in Meats/Poultry, Pastas, Recipes | 18 Comments »




January 31st, 2012

Lemons to the Rescue

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My friend Allison confessed that she was becoming a hoarder. Not in the Crazy Reality TV way–thank goodness. More like in the Fill the Pantry with Good Food way. She had been buying big crates of citrus–Cara Cara oranges, and organic lemons—and making batches of marmalades, limoncello, lemon curd, preserved lemons, and the like. And, she still hadn’t made much of a dent in her purchase. So I was very happy to be the recipient of a bag of these luscious fruits, along with a pretty jar of her Cara Cara marmalade.

There’s nothing to match the power and versatility of the mighty lemon, whose juice and fragrant zest elevate all manner of sweet and savory things. And, as my initial foray into 2012 has been marked with a little slump in the kitchen, a gaze at the cooktop and cutting board with a world-weary eye, I recognized Allison’s kind gift as more than a bag of excess citrus trying find a home. No.

It was lemons to the rescue.

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Just seeing them in the welcome sunlight this afternoon was a lift alone.
Lemons for Dinner? You bet.

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My cousin Cathy and her husband John are both avid cooks. Whenever we get together, we love to share recipes and cook. Last visit, Cathy brought a lemon-based pasta recipe from her collection to prepare. “Capelli d’Angelo Olio e Limone” or Olive Oil and Lemon Angel Hair, from the 1997 cookbook Pastissima! Pasta the Italian Way was simple–deceptively so. There were few ingredients—a sauce comprised of onion cooked in a fair amount of olive oil, mixed with a lot of lemon juice, tossed throughout pasta, and dusted with parmesan.

It took mere minutes to make—and was truly delicious.

The lemons today inspired my to recreate the dish—with a few modifications. Rather than using onion, I substituted a leek. Lemon and leek are terrific together, and the strips of light green tangled throughout the pasta bring welcome color.

Other change-ups include red pepper flakes for bite, over black pepper, and pecorino-romano for pungency, over parmesan.

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Without question, this pasta would be a fine foundation for a plank of grilled fish, a tender fillet of trout, even a scatter of lump crabmeat. But solo, it is exceptional, light yet rich, with a pleasant tang. It’s the kind of toss that accentuates the angel hair, rather than masking it with a complex sauce. So use your best here–DeCecco’s Capellini No.9 has been a constant favorite.

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This romaine salad is one that I refer to as a “Mock Caesar”—it lacks the depth that anchovies bring to the traditional version, but is just right for the Vegetarian in my household.

Here lemon juice, roasted garlic cloves, and extra virgin olive oil cream up together into a vibrant dressing, generously tossed on chopped romaine leaves mixed with some finely sliced red cabbage.

Again, simple ingredients—simply assembled. It’s more a matter of using your best. Roasting the garlic brings out an inherent sweetness, and the softened cloves act as an emulsifier in the lemon-forward dressing. A crusty piece of ciabatta transforms readily into croutons. Sprinkle some fresh thyme over the cubed bread before toasting for an welcome herbal note.

With this salad and pasta, you can let the lemony sunshine in.

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CAPELLINI WITH LEMON, LEEKS, AND OLIVE OIL (adapted from Pastissima! Pasta the Italian Way by Leonardo Castellucci
1 Leek, finely sliced
1/3 cup Olive Oil
Juice of 1 1/2 large Lemons
Sea Salt
Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 cup shedded Pecorino-Romano
6 ounces Capellini (DeCecco is excellent)

Heat olive oil on medium in a skillet or cast-iron pot. Add the leeks, and cook for about 5 minutes, until they become soft. Cook the capellini according to package directions–about 2 minutes in a large pot of salted boiling water. Drain well.

Place pasta in the pot with the leeks and olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt, red pepper flakes (a couple of pinches) and pour lemon juice over all. Add most of the shredded cheese, reserving some to garnish the top of the pasta after it is served. Toss well, so that the lemon, olive oil, and leeks coat all the strands of pasta.

Serve in warm bowls. Dust with more pecorino. Enjoy!

Makes 2 generous servings.

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ROMAINE SALAD WITH ROASTED GARLIC-LEMON DRESSING
1 head Romaine lettuce, washed, dried, and chopped
1 cup Red Cabbage, very finely sliced
2 cups homemade Croutons (cubed from a good crusty loaf, tossed in olive oil, seasoned with salt, black pepper, fresh thyme–toasted in a 300 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned)
1 cup shredded Pecorino-Romano

Juice from 1/2 large Lemon
3 Garlic Cloves, oven-roasted
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Cracked Black Pepper

immersion blender

In a salad bowl, assemble romaine, red cabbage, croutons and shredded pecorino.

In a measuring cup or small mixing bowl, place lemon juice, roasted garlic cloves, salt and pepper. Using the immersion blender, begin mixing. The garlic will cream into the lemon juice. Add the olive oil slowly, and continue blending. Taste for seasoning.

Pour over salad greens and toss well. Serves 4

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Posted in Fruit, Pastas, Recipes, Salads | 28 Comments »




November 23rd, 2010

Butternut Squash Bread Pudding with vegetable veloute

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Before I finish packing up our car with Thanksgiving goodies and go careening full tilt to my daughter and son-in-law’s for the holiday, I wanted to check in with you all, say hey, and share a recipe.

It had been on my mind for a while to experiment with the versatile butternut squash, mix it up with some leftover cubed bread I’ve been saving,
add leeks, sage, butter, eggs, and
voila!
turn it into a kind of savory bread pudding.

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I made this one up, with success, for our community potluck last Thursday.
And, while it emerged a bit denser in texture that I had envisioned, (more liquid and eggs, less bread for that!) it made a hearty and delicious vegetarian main dish casserole: one that you’d enjoy eating with a mixed green salad, or side of sauteed kale.

But I realized that this also would find favor—with vegetarians and turkey-eaters alike–on the holiday dinner table.

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The casserole imparts many of the aromas I associate with Thanksgiving: fresh sage, browned butter, earthy-sweet butternut, caramel notes from the onion family. Place a slice of roast turkey and gravy over a square of this bread pudding, and you’ve got one special serving of turkey and dressing! Equally delectable would be succulent pork roast and its rosemary and garlic enriched juices.

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And, for those of us who don’t partake of the noble bird (or beast!), I want to offer a vegetarian based “gravy”–a little something warm and saucy to pour over the bread pudding. Enter the Vegetable Veloute’: it’s a simple mirepoix cooked with vegetable stock, seasoned with fresh herbs, thickened with roux. Add some white wine to it, if you like, for added complexity. Everybody deserves dressing and gravy!

So, friends, that’s the word from this kitchen, for now. I just finished making garlic-sage butter for seasoning the turkey (a generous rub beneath the skin helps insure a juicy bird.) I’ve got a pumpkin and chocolate pie to get out of the oven. Then, back to packing— soon we’ll be DC bound!

To all of you, whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I wish you safe travels, cooperative ovens, and good times with friends and family at the table. May every day be an expression of gratitude.

See you next week!

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH BREAD PUDDING
6 cups diced, roasted Butternut Squash (2-3 butternuts, depending on size)
6 cups cubed Bread–from sturdy loaves, like baguettes, farmbreads, soudough
2-3 Leeks, washed, sliced, using white and some of the green
2T. Butter
6 large Eggs
2 cups Half-and Half
1 cup Milk
3 T. fresh Sage leaves
Salt and Black Pepper
1 c. shredded Pecorino Romano

Saute leeks in butter until soft, and toss with roasted squash pieces in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs with half-and-half, milk, 2 T. chopped sage leaves, salt and pepper. Pour over squash and leeks.

Add cubed bread, and toss until everything is well-coated.

Spoon into a greased 9×13 casserole dish and top with shredded romano.
Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes—until puffed but firm, and nicely browned.

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VEGETABLE VELOUTE
2 T. Butter
1 medium Onion,small dice
2-3 Carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks Celery, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
2 T. all purpose Flour
3 Cups Vegetable Stock
2 T. chopped fresh flat-leaf Parsley
salt, black pepper, white pepper

Melt butter on medium heat in a 2 qt. saucepan. Saute vegetables togerher unto softened, slightly browned. Stir in flour and cook it into the vegetable-butter mix. When no traces of white from the flour remain, add the stock, while stirring. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens. Add parsley, or other fresh herbs (thyme, or sage would be nice) and taste for seasoning. Add salt, black pepper, pinch of white pepper. The sauce will get a a glazy look when the flour is cooked into it, and thickens.

Serve on the side, like a gravy.

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Posted in Casseroles, Recipes, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 21 Comments »