Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

The best (roasted) leeks

23 September 2014

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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, keeping only the tender green and white hearts, 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

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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

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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.

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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.

Mackerel rillettes

15 May 2013

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Sometimes food happens without much forethought or planning. I could have pondered it for weeks, in fact I’ve been wanting to make these for years, but when I bought mackerel fillets at the market last week I had no plan; a quick weeknight dinner at best. Rillettes were far from my thoughts, lurking behind the distant corner of a hazy summer memory. But as I contemplated dinner for friends and something that could easily be made ahead, I found myself searching for mackerel rillettes recipes.

So this is adapted from one by Annie Bell, modified to suit what I had on hand. It was delicious.

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Recipe adapted from Mackerel Rillettes by Annie Bell

8 small mackerel fillets

2 bay leaves

2 stems fresh garlic (or 3 garlic cloves)

Few sprigs fresh thyme

100 ml dry white wine

100 ml water

1 lemon

3 Tbsps very good olive oil

Fleur de sel or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the mackerel fillets flat at the bottom of a pan, add the bay leaves, garlic, thyme, wine, and water. Bring to a gentle boil, simmer for 1 minute and remove from heat. As soon as the liquid is cool enough, take out the fillets and flake the fish, taking care to remove any remaining bones.

Place the cooking liquid back onto the stove, cook for a few minutes until ireduced to a couple of tablespoons.

In a medium bowl, combine the mackerel gently with the reduced liquid, the juice from 1/2 lemon (the other half for serving), and 3 Tbsps very good olive oil. Season with fleur de sel or sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Transfer to a serving bowl or jar and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 2 days.

Serve with bread and butter, and a generous squeeze of lemon.

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Related posts

Cheat’s potted crab

Baked mackerel with mustard and thyme

Pork rillettes

Lamb stew with lemon, spices, prunes, almonds

26 March 2013

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It’s late March and no one heeds the snow flurries that still furtively sprinkle the city. Winter always draws too long in New York, we know, we grumble, we long for spring, for sunshine warm enough to cut through the chill, for blossoms, for green!

Looking for distractions some flee south, others hide out, I make stew. This one will briefly delude with the promise of travel, or dupe into enjoying the lingering cold.

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I modify this recipe constantly. I have added spices, forgotten the prunes, used ground ginger… It is meant to be played with. It took me a while to get perfect, melt-in-your-mouth consistency, but this is it. The cooking method was inspired by April Bloomfield’s lamb curry.

3 lbs boneless lamb shoulder

Salt

Olive oil

4 onions (red and or yellow)

4 garlic cloves

Fresh ginger, a piece approximately 1 x 2 inches long

2 tsps turmeric

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 dried chili

1 bay leaf

1 lemon

A generous handful dried prunes

A generous handful blanched almonds

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Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).

Cut the meat into 2 x 2 inch chunks, season with salt, and brown assertively in a little olive oil in a heavy saucepan (with lid) or dutch oven, a few pieces at a time (about 5 to 7 minutes per batch). Set meat aside.

Peel and chop the onions into large-ish (1/2 inch) pieces. Cook in the meat fat (unless it is burned, in which case discard the fat and use more olive oil) until the onions start to turn golden, stirring occasionally and adding oil if necessary.

Meanwhile peel and slice the garlic. Peel and grate the ginger. Crush the fennel seeds in a mortar. Thinly slice the chili. First peel the lemon, then juice it.

Add the garlic to the onions, stir and cook for a few minutes, then stir in the spices: ginger, fennel, turmeric, chili, cinnamon, chili, bay, and lemon rind. Stir a few times to combine well.

Place the lamb pieces on top of the onions mixed with spices, sprinkle the lemon juice over the meat, add just enough water to cover the meat, close the lid, and place in the oven.

Cook for 2 hours at 300°F (150°C), stirring occasionally. Add the prunes after 1 1/2 hours.

Lower the oven temperature to 250°F (120°C), and cook for another hour. Add almonds 1/2 hour before the end.

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Related posts

Slow-roasted lamb shoulder

Slow-roasted pork shoulder


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