Posts Tagged ‘local’

Asparagus soup

11 May 2017

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It all starts with the memory of a chilled asparagus soup served with black salt. It was at a friend’s house and I was smitten with the combination. I immediately proceeded to buy black salt — i.e.  Hawaiian lava salt — which added nicely to my slightly frivolous collection (never fewer than five or six salts in the house at any time). And the black salt became the wallflower of my pantry cupboard. Always there, rarely noticed. But every time I did, I thought of asparagus soup.

Quite a few years later, here, then, is the ideal — though entirely optional — use for black salt.

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Asparagus soup recipe inspired from Simon Hopkinson’s Roast Chicken and Other Stories

The soup requires only four ingredients and is very simple if the use of a food processor and then a food mill doesn’t seem like too much trouble.

4 small leeks
1 medium potato
600 g (1 1/2 lbs) green asparagus
120 g (1/2 cup) butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Black Hawaiian lava salt to serve (optional)

Prepare the leeks by removing all the green leaves, slicing thinly, and washing thoroughly to remove any grit. Peel the potato and cut into small chunks.

Wash and trim the asparagus stalks to remove the tough ends. Reserve some asparagus tips to garnish the soup: about 8 to 10 tips if the asparagus is quite thin, or 4 to 5 tips to be each cut in half (lengthwise) if the asparagus is thicker. Roughly chop the rest of the stalks.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and stew the leeks over low heat until soft (about 5 to 10 minutes), taking care that the leeks don’t color.

Once the leeks have softened, add 750 ml (3 cups) water and the potato. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes until the potato pieces have cooked through.

Add the chopped asparagus stalks (not the reserved tips) to the soup at a lively simmer for another 5 minutes until the asparagus is cooked. *Take care not to overcook at this point, it will damage the delicate taste of the asparagus.*

Transfer the soup to a food processor and blend thoroughly until the soup is as smooth as possible. There will always remain strands from the asparagus, however, which is why the soup then needs to be passed through a food mill (or a fine mesh sieve, but I’ve always found that to be much too fussy).

The soup can be served hot or chilled. Before serving, quickly sautée the asparagus tips in a little olive oil in a small frying pan. *If reheating, use very low heat and take care not to let the soup boil as it will distort the flavor.*

The soup should be garnished with black salt or regular flakey sea salt and pepper, and/or a spoonful of crème fraîche.

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Related recipes

Asparagus salad ** Cauliflower soup ** Roasted leeks

Baked apples

26 January 2017

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January is the time to huddle close, meet friends, have a pint, a meal, a whiskey nightcap. But after months of cooking and feasting, dim winter days call for easy comforts. Delicious meals that require barely any effort. Hardly a thought. Simple dishes that can be effortlessly adapted with whatever languishes in a pantry in the aftermath of holiday baking marathons.

Baked apples for instance. The basics are simple, the variations many: wash an apple, core it, stuff it, bake it, eat it warm with a dollop of cream.

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Any apple will do. Some hold their figure while others erupt into shapeless volcanoes; anything is fine by me. For the stuffing the elements might be dried fruits — for example raisins, chopped dates, cranberries; chopped nuts — pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds; some sweetness and spice — brown sugar, dark sugar, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon, lemon zest, ginger, allspice, cardamom. A splash of fortified wine. For serving, a generous spoonful of cream.

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Baked apples recipe

One whole apple per person
Currants (or raisins, cranberries, chopped dates or apricots)
Pecans (or walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds)
Dark muscovado sugar (or brown sugar, honey, maple syrup)
Ginger and cardamom (or cinnamon, allspice, lemon zest)
Sherry (or Marsala, Madeira)
Clotted cream (or crème fraîche, ice cream, yogurt) for serving

Preheat the oven to 375°F (180°C)

Wash and core the apples (leaving them whole)

Toss the nuts, dried fruits, sugar, and spices together. Stuff each apple with the mixture. Sprinkle with a dash of wine if using. Send into the oven for 25 to 40 minutes, until the apples are soft through.

Let cool just a little and serve warm with a spoonful of cream.

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Quinces poached with honey and bay

20 October 2016

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For someone who has named their blog after the fruit, I have far too few quince recipes on this site! So if you have made too much quince jelly, if you have no time for quince paste, if you are still waiting for the lamb and quince tagine promised some six years ago (blame this, like so much else, on Thomas), here, finally, is a recipe for poached quinces.

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Poached quinces recipe
Recipe inspired by Alice Waters’ poached quinces in Chez Panisse Fruit and Skye Gyngell’s baked quinces from A year in my kitchen

2 cups golden/caster sugar
4 medium quinces (about 2 lbs)
3 Tbsps flavorful honey
1/2 vanilla bean
One bay leaf (I used a fresh one)
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 untreated lemon

Make a syrup with the sugar and 6 cups (1.5 liters) of water. Bring to a boil and simmer briefly until the sugar has dissolved.

Meanwhile, wash, peel, core, and slice the quinces lengthwise into quarters then eighths (this must be done at the last minute as quinces tend to turn brown very quickly).

Slice one half of the lemon very thinly, and juice the other half.

Add to the simmering syrup the honey, the vanilla bean after scraping out the seeds into the syrup, the bay leaf, the cinnamon stick, the lemon slices, the lemon juice, and finally, the quince slices. Cover the liquid with a round of parchment paper and place a weight on top if possible to ensure that the pieces of quince are submerged in the liquid as they cook. Let the quince simmer for approximately 45 minutes until they are tender.

Once cooked, carefully strain out the pieces of quince and place them in a bowl or canning jars. Return the syrup without the quinces to the heat and simmer down for a good 20 to 30 minutes to concentrate the liquid (there must be enough left to cover the fruit!).

If preserving, sterilize the canning jars in boiling water for 5 to 10 minutes and close the jars immediately after pouring the reduced hot liquid on top of the fruit.

If using immediately, pour the hot liquid over the fruit and let cool to room temperature.

In both cases serve with thick Greek-style yogurt.

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Buying local | Butter

24 June 2013

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For a while I practically gave up on butter. I wasn’t aware of it immediately, it was a few years later that I realized, with some puzzlement, how indifferent I’d become.

When I moved to New York 14 years ago, though I was already very keen on cooking as a means to gather friends around the table, I wasn’t yet too obsessed about daily ingredients. I was busy working and loving it and finding a life in this somewhat intimidating city.

I didn’t go out of my way to seek just the right product, except for friends when I would gladly trek to all corners of the city to find the elusive squid ink and fish bones for that black risotto. Day to day, without really noticing it, I just stopped eating certain foods, mistaking and too quickly dismissing industrial blandness for ‘different to what I was used to at home.’ In any case, we went out practically every night.

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So, among other things, I never bought chicken, and I stopped liking butter. When one day — I don’t remember who or when — someone commented on the transcendent quality of bread and butter, I realized I had stopped caring. How could this have happened?

I decided I must right the many years of neglect; I started buying butter from France. This didn’t strike me as terribly sensible, practical, or environmentally responsible, but it was tasty. Until I became attuned to real butter, good butter, made relatively close by in upstate New York, or the Northeast at the very least.

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At first there was essentially Ronnybrook. Now a number of other butters have become quite readily available, and more seem to appear at the market and in stores every day. Here is a small sampling of butters that are most easily found at markets and supermarkets in New York.

Kriemhield Meadow Butter — the best — is from grass-fed cows, with a high fat content (crucial). It is very tasty and assertively salty.

Ronnybrook — old habits die hard — is always in the fridge (we often have three, four, sometimes five different kinds of butter at a time. Ahem.). This one is mild in taste, even the salty version. Good for everyday.

Vermont European Style Cultured Butter from Vermont Creamery and Kate’s Homemade Butter are local-ish and definitely better than the average mega-brand, but not all that tasty.

Despite all its local-ish, organic, and grass-feddedness, I didn’t much like Natural by Nature’s Salted Whipped Sweet Cream Butter. It has much lower fat content than the other butters, and therein lies the rub.

Grilled pork chops with fennel, sage, and pimentón

13 September 2012

I have a dilemma, and it involves pork.

As I may have mentioned, a few years ago I discovered Flying Pigs Farm at Union Square market. Before then I never bought pork (ham and bacon excepted), but since I’ve become more than a little fond of the animal, largely encouraged by a pretty remarkable recipe for slow roasted shoulder.

As I may also have mentioned, last November a real local butcher, Harlem Shambles, opened in our neighborhood.

So I have a problem of fealty: where should I buy pork now?

Rather than resolve this question just yet I’ve embraced this sudden begging supply of excellent pork and expanded my pork-cooking horizon further; I’ve been making pork chops. We’ve grilled them and, due to uncooperative weather gods, have seared them in a pan. Both work very well; key are the quality of the pork, and seasoning that respectfully complements the flavor of the meat.

They were amazing, I thought. Whether here or there, another great reason to buy pork.

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Serves 4, one pork chop per person

4 (1 inch-thick) all natural and preferably heritage breed pork chops
1  1/2 tsps fennel seeds
1 tsp coarse sea salt
8 sage leaves
Smoked Spanish paprika (pimentón)

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Take the pork chops out of the refrigerator and prepare the rub at least 45 minutes before cooking.

In a mortar, crush the fennel seeds with the sea salt.

Rub the chops on each side with the spices and add a sage leaf in the middle. Let sit at room temperature. *Meat cooks more evenly if allowed to come to room temperature.*

Just before cooking — on a grill or in a pan faintly coated with olive oil — sprinkle some smoked Spanish paprika on each side of the chops.

Cook the chops over very high heat so they become beautifully brown on the outside without having time to dry up inside. It’s difficult to give an exact cooking time but it should be approximately 4 minutes on one side and 3 to 4 on the other.

As always, let the meat rest in a warmish place 5 to 7 minutes before serving. The chops should be faintly pink inside and very juicy.

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Related posts

Slow-roasted pork shoulder

Pork rillettes

Ratatouille


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