Archive for the ‘At the market’ Category

The best (roasted) leeks

23 September 2014

IMG_4132

Leeks are in season again. After a long bountiful summer of tomatoes, zucchini, artichoke, beans and tomatoes, more tomatoes — fall vegetables are back at the markets and it’s the time to start roasting.

This is not only my favorite way to prepare leeks, it’s one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables, period, and leeks are incredibly versatile and always a hit.

They are a stellar companion alongside simply grilled fish and lentils. Or together with braised carrots and a roast chicken. I make them with a good steak and very crispy roasted potatoes. The possibilities are endless.

Roasted leeks
This method is inspired by the wood-roasted vegetables from The River Cafe Cookbook Two (yellow). It is not exactly a recipe, and can be adapted to other vegetables and modified using different vinegars (apple cider, sherry) or perhaps lemon juice, and an array of herbs (rosemary, sage, marjoram, chillies…) depending on the mood. It is especially important to use very good quality ingredients.

Leeks

Balsamic vinegar

Red wine vinegar

Garlic cloves

Olive oil

Fresh thyme

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).

To clean the leeks, trim the roots at one end and darker leaves at the other, peel off the tough outer leaves, and thoroughly wash of any grit. Cut the stalks into 2-inch (5cm) pieces, then halve each of these lengthwise.

In a large bowl, create a dressing of sorts with the vinegars, crushed garlic, olive oil, and picked thyme leaves. As in a vinaigrette, the proportions should be approximately two thirds olive oil, one third vinegar(s). In this case I would do half balsamic/half red wine.

Toss the leeks in the dressing until well coated. Season generously with salt and pepper. Place the leeks in an oven-proof dish large enough to fit them in one layer. Slide the dish into the oven and roast for a good hour. Every 20 minutes approximately, gently toss the leeks. The leeks should be well caramelized and meltingly tender. Don’t hesitate to leave them in the oven a little longer than you think.

Rhubarb rosemary jam

7 June 2014

photo(22)

This is me realizing that jam need not be a well planned out, day-long project. It can be, of course, and should, on occasion, because is there a better way to spend a day than whiling away the hours hunched over bubbling vats of sugared fruit? This is not about those days. This is about how making jam can be an afterthought, as easy as clearing out the fridge before a week-long holiday.

I was the first to consider jam making an incredibly laborious process. Carefully timed trips to the market to grab the last of the season’s fruit at an unbeatable bargain, endless kilos of berries to cut and trim and wash, giant jam pans boiling furiously for hours… I didn’t make jam very often. For one, market vendors in New York don’t usually sell off fruits for a good bargain, even as they pack up to leave  (I’ve tried); second, fruit at home often disappears so quickly I need to hide it to keep it safe (and I have); third, I don’t own a jam pan, giant or otherwise.

So I don’t (didn’t) make much jam. There were exceptions, naturally, few and far between, so noteworthy I usually recorded them, here, and here.

A few years ago my mother gave me Christine Ferber’s book (available only in French). Christine Ferber is a world re-known Frenchwoman from Alsace, widely described as the ‘fée des confitures’ (jam fairy). I’ve never actually eaten from one of her jars, but I have read so many tantalizing descriptions that I feel I might have. Taken literally, her technique is quite time-consuming, but using her inspiration, some latitude, and a little improvisation (she would be appalled), I’ve realized that making jam can actually fit quite snugly into my life.

Key is that the process in divided into two parts. In the evening, prep the fruit, mix it with sugar and lemon juice, and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, cook the jam. Chances are, it’s easier to find 15 quick minutes in the evening and another 45 of mostly cooking time the next day, than scheduling a full long slot for the entire process.

Emboldened by this realization, last week I made jam, the easiest thing I found to save a few remaining bunches of rhubarb.

Rhubarb jam recipe

1 kg rhubarb

1 kg sugar

Juice from one lemon

Few sprigs rosemary

Wash the rhubarb, trim the ends, and chop the stalks into 1/2 inch (1 cm) pieces.

In a saucepan, mix the rhubarb, sugar, and lemon juice.

Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

The next morning, cook the jam. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook for approximately 30 minutes. At first it will bubble furiously, but as the jam jells it thickens, the bubbles slow down and burst at a more leisurely pace. To check whether the juice has “gelled,” take out a small spoonful and let it cool. Once cold, the juice should have thickened in the spoon, and when you try to pour it the drip is not liquid but heavy, as though it was sticking to the spoon. Cook longer if necessary and check again.

Meanwhile, sterilize the jars in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes.

Once the jam is ready, stir in the rosemary to steep for about 5 minutes. Remove. Pour into sterilized jars and close tightly.

Jam is best stored for a few weeks (and up to a year at least) before eating.

 

 

Green asparagus salad with parmesan shavings

30 April 2014

DSC_1286

When you grow up in France or Germany, asparagus is invariably white, steamed or gently boiled, and served with some variant of Hollandaise sauce. When you move elsewhere, say to New York, your view of the world will likely deepen, expand, diversify; you will notice that asparagus can also be green.

You will learn that asparagus is, in fact, always green, that white asparagus is manually ‘blanched,’ hidden in little mounds of earth as it grows to prevent the sun from wielding its photosynthetic magic. You will discover that green asparagus absolutely should be grilled on a barbecue as soon the weather permits, or braised with a little acidity in the oven on a wintry spring evening. And, indispensably, green asparagus must also be eaten raw, in a simple salad, just like this.

DSC_1348

The tricky aspect is slicing the asparagus very thinly, lengthwise, so a good vegetable peeler is a must. My personal favorite is this kind.

Green asparagus, it should be very fresh and taut

Extra virgin olive oil

Freshly squeezed lemon juice

Good quality balsamic vinegar

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Chunk of parmiggiano reggiano cheese

Wash the asparagus. With a knife, cut off the tough end of the stalks (about 1 inch) and discard.

Cut off the asparagus heads and slice these lengthwise in halves or thirds (depending how thick they are). For the stalks, use the vegetable peeler to shave them into long strands, beginning at the thicker end.

In a serving bowl, toss the asparagus with some olive oil, lemon juice, a few drops balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Add coarse shavings of parmiggiano reggiano, and serve.

At the market | Ramps (Ramp pesto)

26 April 2012

       

I get excited about strawberries in June, quinces in October, and clementines at Christmas. So naturally, some years ago when I discovered ramps, the very first greens to appear at farmer’s markets here in spring, I talked about them a lot. Few of my family and friends in Europe knew ramps, and I somewhat precipitously made the connection with ‘ail des ours‘ in French and ‘bärlauch‘ in German. For years I’ve been talking about ramps, you know, ail des ours, bärlauch.

Well, Wikipedia has just informed me that I was wrong. Ramps are Allium tricoccum, and they are native to America, while the French and German (and English) ‘bear garlic’ is Allium ursinum. They are closely related but not the same thing. So the ramps we foraged in Haute Savoie last spring were not actually ramps, which explains why they felt different. If my memory serves me well the leaves were a little harsher, the taste a little coarser. In any case, that answers the question of their origin: ramps are Northern American. They are foraged and it is commonly assumed that, like wild mushrooms, they cannot be cultivated, but this appears to be a myth.

Ramps are sometimes called ransom (the common name of the European allium), but also wild leek, wood leek, or wild garlic, which gives a good idea of their taste, unmistakably in the onion/garlic family.

I’ve baked ramps with potatoes into very good and very pretty gratins; for Easter I tossed a potato salad with ramp pesto; just yesterday I made a ramp risotto with rosé wine that wasn’t half bad; ramps can also be woven into egg nests for breakfast; they can even be pickled. The pleasures are many, but the season is short — take advantage!

***

Ramp pesto

I started out with saenyc’s Wild Ramp Pesto on Food52. I found that raw ramps made the pesto too garlicky, while blanching them all made it too mellow, so I added a few raw ramps to give the pesto just the right kick. I also reduced the amount of walnuts and parmigiano and added parsley for a more vibrant taste.

1 bunch (about 28 to 30) ramps

2-3 sprigs parsley

5 whole walnuts

1/3 cup (20 g) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano

1/3 cup (100 ml) good extra virgin olive oil

2 tsps lemon juice

Good pinch sea salt

3-4 grinds black pepper

*

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Prepare another bowl with ice water.

Trim off the roots of the ramps, rub off any loose skins around the bulbs, and wash the ramps in cold water. Wash the parsley and cut off most of the stems.

Set aside 2 to 3 of the smaller, more tender ramps, and chop them coarsely. Blanch all the others in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer the blanched ramps to the ice water. Take them out and squeeze them to remove excess water.

In a blender or food processor, purée the ramps (blanched and raw), the parsley, walnuts, and parmiggiano, pouring in a steady drizzle of olive oil. Blend thoroughly to form a paste. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend again, taste, and adjust seasoning.

Use as you would any other pesto: with pasta, potato salad, smeared on bruschetta and topped with fresh goat cheese, etc…

Note: As is, this pesto will keep just one or two days. To increase its longevity, add some olive oil and/or freeze.

*

Related posts

Spaghetti with ramp pesto, walnuts, and parmigiano

At the market | Rhubarb (Rhubarb compote)

At the market in Brittany | Artichokes

21 August 2011

I don’t know how better to describe a field of artichokes than as a shimmering sea of silver green plants growing dinosaur eggs – they are at once beautiful and funny.

Because somehow it’s hard to take an artichoke entirely seriously. The legendary French comedian Coluche famously derided artichokes as “the only dish that, when you finish eating it, there’s more on your plate than when you started.”

When we eat an artichoke, we eat the bud of a domesticated thistle, cynara scolymus, which comes from the Mediterranean and dislikes frost. It is therefore ideally suited to the mild maritime climate of Brittany, where it is never terribly cold and – have I mentioned this before? – rarely particularly hot.

While the artichoke bud is still very small, the whole head is edible. Later, as pictured above and described below, it is still a bud but only the fleshy part of the leaves and the heart can be eaten.

To eat a globe artichoke you pluck a leaf, scrape the flesh gently but firmly with the bottom front teeth, discard the leaf, and repeat, working your way toward the tender heart. The very soft central leaves can practically be eaten whole, then onto the choke – the inedible part called “hay” in French, to describe its prickly quality. The choke must be removed carefully to reveal the heart, which most consider the prized part of the artichoke, though most children find eating the leaves much more fun.

***

Steamed globe artichokes with butter lemon sauce

Traditionally artichoke leaves are often dipped in a simple vinaigrette or a hollandaise sauce, but in my opinion this simple butter lemon sauce far surpasses both.

1 artichoke per person

2 Tbsps butter per artichoke

1/2 lemon per artichoke

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

***

In a pot large enough to hold all the artichokes, bring 1 to 2 inches (3 to 5 cm) of water to boil.

Just before using, cut the stems flush off the artichoke. **If this is done in advance, rub some lemon on the bottom so the artichoke doesn’t oxidize.**

Place the artichokes in the pot. **It is also possible to use a steamer, but not necessary. The bottom artichokes will touch the water slightly but the result is the same.**

Steam the artichokes for about 40-45 minutes. The artichokes are cooked when an outer leaf peels off easily and a knife slides into the heart (bottom part) of the artichoke.

For the sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan, squeeze in the lemon juice, season with salt and pepper, and stir well. Taste and adjust with more lemon juice if desired.

To serve, place one artichoke on each plate with the sauce in a little pot on the side, and a large bowl on the table for the discarded leaves.

*

Related posts

Mussels with shallots and white wine

In Brittany | Kouign Amann from Au Four St Melaine bakery in Morlaix

At the market | Rhubarb [Compote recipe]

At the market | Quinces

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 115 other followers

%d bloggers like this: