I had heard of this Italian dish and it always sounded nice. But we don’t eat a lot of bread so therefore we rarely have stale bread. It never came to be. And it seems silly to buy something just so it could get stale. We’ve made many tomato basil cheese etc salads but the stale, crusty bread hadn’t joined the party. So…..with the perfect storm of house guests last weekend who didn’t eat everything we bought (including a delicious, now hard as a shoe, Berkshire Mountain Bakery baguette), beautiful ripe Wolfe Spring Farm tomatoes bursting with juice, extra roasted WSF garlic sitting around, uneaten boiled WSF corn that was in the fridge for a day or two, fresh parsley, basil, and chives from our garden. I came to understand the true origin and beauty of this dish. Cut it all up, toss it all together with whatever vinegar turns you on (I used white balsamic the first time and it was a little timid. Then, good old supermarket red wine vinegar and it was just right), olive oil, salt and pepper (I also added little bit of minced WSF jalapeño for pizazz and some cubed pressed tofu for protein) let it sit for 10 minutes or so until the bread softens a little in the juices of the tomatoes , vinegar and oil, and BOOM, dinnuh! and lunch, and a snack. I was possessed by this fresh, quick, flavorful assembly of stuff lying around. I ate so much of it. I think it would be great with a little red onion, fresh cheese, anything you have left over that does’t seem too gross to put in. My guess is that the corn is not authentic but I adapted the dish to our region. Even though a dish may be common, tried and true, or part of the popular repertoire, it still feels new and exciting when we discover it, even “invent” it, for ourselves, doesn’t it? I think this is one of the great joys of cooking.
While Paul, Debra, and Sam are glamming it up on the continent, we’re keeping it real here down on the farm. A few fat eggplants challenged us to make some baba ganoush. Could we get any where near the smoky deliciousness of Fatoosh on Hicks Street in Brooklyn? We were willing to humiliate ourselves trying so………….I’m usually a Jamie Oliver throw-it-all-together-and-see-what-happens kind of guy but Baba ganoush mystified me. I knew it was a roasted eggplant dip with garlic and lemon but that was it. So, I turned to the New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden. This book has inspired me many times. She had a great recipe for baba ganoush which I’ll get to later. We through the eggplant on the grille. While we had the grill going, I put some garlic in to roast and, why not?, some edamame to see what would happen. Toss it with salt and pepper and roast it (rather than steam it) OMFG – so delicious. It took on some of the smoke of the eggplant and was magnificent. I bet they don’t do THAT in Ittly……….
My Italian-American (Calabrese) grandmother (we called her nanny) was a lousy cook. I know, it’s counter to what everyone wants to believe about her type but she made greasy tomato sauce, tough pork chops and tasteless baccala. But she made one delicious, memorable favorite dish: peppers and onions, usually with sausage or potatoes. I updated it with Wolfe Spring Farm bell peppers, fingerling potatoes, and some regular old supermarket onions. And since it’s August and I’m doin’ everything on the grille in my new dumptique enameled metal pan……… Slice everything up as shown, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, throw in some fresh oregano, rosemary and whatever else you have around, thyme would be nice, and then put on the grille on high heat. Toss every so often until looks done. This could easily be done on the stovetop or in the oven, OMG……..memories……. light the corners of my mind……..greasy oily-tasting memories……of the way we were…..
Next, we made an amazing grille-roasted chicken with a Wolfe Springs Farm naturally raised chicken, some WSF fingerling potatoes, some herbs from our garden and some WSF tomatoes.
Slip a few herbs under the chicken’s skin, cram some lemon wedges and whole herbs in the cavity, salt and pepper everything in sight and throw it in a pan (this one was a wedding gift that we dedicated to the grill) cook for a while, add some sliced onions and crushed garlic, cook until done, serve with sliced fresh WSF tomatoes and chopped basil. The whole cooking time was about 1.5 hours – just enough time to have a bloody mary or two. This was a truly sublime feast.
OK, so the first thing we did was make a quick cole slaw with the WSF red cabbage, WSF jalapeño and some epazote for our garden. Its super easy and fresh and delicious tasting. Slice up the cabbage, finely chop the jalapeño and the epazote, grind some fresh pepper and salt on top, add a dollop of mayonnaise (we used Hellman’s but if you are more ambitious that we are, make fresh) and a drizzle of white vinegar. Toss, let sit for a few hours in the fridge and enjoy!
Take a look at this awesome haul from Wolfe Spring Farm! Organic corn, eggplant, string beans, garlic, tomatoes, red cabbage, jalapeños, zucchini, bell peppers, fingerling potatoes, edamame, and beautiful sunflowers. Thanks so much to Paul and Debra for letting us pick up their CSA produce while they are on jury duty. While at the farm, we had a nice chat with Jim, who told us that they had naturally raised chickens for sale. We bought two. Stay tuned for what we do with all this gorgeous produce. Thanks!
Ever grilled a whole fish? Easier than you think if you have a trusty fishmonger and a hot fire. I’m visiting dear friend Alyce Henness in the Italian Alps. Alyce and her snowboarding superstar husband Luca live in a cozy, Alpine-style home with all the mod cons in the town of La Salle, which is in the region of the Valle d’Aosta. Imagine clean mountain air, soft green grass, a river roaring past and Mont Blanc in the background. One could do worse…
Not eating meat is a rarity in Italy, but actually extremely easy to do with all the readily available fresh produce, pasta and fish. Even here in the mountains, Alyce picked up a beautiful whole branzino for me at the local supermarket.
Branzino is Italian for sea bass, and let me tell you, we are hours from the sea and this guy looks like he blew his last bubbles this morning. The branzino weighed in at a hefty pound an a quarter and thankfully Alyce had the foresight to ask the fishmonger to clean it for us. Like I said, need to have a good fishmonger, because no one wants to scale a fish in the kitchen. I stuffed the fish with sliced lemon, branches of rosemary, and some sliced garlic. Drizzled it with olive oil and some salt and pepper and it was ready to go.
Luca grilled it to perfection on the charcoal grill in their garden – about 6 or 7 minutes per side and voila.
I removed the flesh from the bones and placed the delicate white meat on a clean plate, drizzled it with a little more olive oil, squirt of lemon and some salt and pepper. Cooked perfectly. Delicious – even Alyce and Luca, who were happily eating grilled fillet, agreed. Bravo, Luca!
And to accompany our meal, Alyce prepared yummy baked zucchini boats topped with melted parmiggiano. The recipe was passed along from Alyce’s mom Susan, in Erie, PA. Maybe Alyce could share her timely recipe as we are all overloaded with zucchini at this time of year…and to drink, we had a local, light and refreshing Muller-Thurgau with our meal.
And as if that weren’t enough, hostess extraordinaire Alyce served homemade strawberry ice cream, made with tiny pieces of local fragole. I couldn’t get a picture because my 2 scoops were consumed too fast. Whoops.
Thank you again, Alyce and Luca!
If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good Raw Bar. And a Raw Bar at a cocktail party with breathtaking water views…now we are talking.
Hubs and I had the good fortune to attend a beautiful wedding last weekend in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Friends Liz Creelman and Rob Patterson celebrated their wedding in classic New England style with a tented outdoor reception, gorgeous harbor views, tons of seersucker and seafood galore. I could go on about the beautiful bride and the handsome groom, the thoughtfully-selected reading selections at the ceremony, the happy families, blah blah blah. And it’s all true. But I’ll focus on one specific detail: the Raw Bar.
The Raw Bar was awesome. During the cocktail hour, and in addition to very tasty passed hors d’oeuvres, there were 3 pros shucking Wellfleet oysters, Littleneck clams and another local oyster from Chatham [somebody help me here] all beautifully displayed in a wooden row boat. Hot sauce and classic mignonette on the side. Step right up and help yourself. What a great “of the place” addition to the event – what could be more local at a New England seaside village? The boat photographed above should be laden with oysters, but I may have been single-handedly responsible for keeping the Wellfleet supply low. So briny, juicy, fresh and scrumptious. Is there nothing better?
Thanks again, Liz and Rob. It was a fantastic event and we were delighted to be included.
Next stop: ITALY!!
While Dan’s been keeping it real and hyper-local, Hubs and I have been letting the others do the dirty work for us. On a sultry summer night, we hit a West Village hot spot called Jeffrey’s Grocery for dinner. And when I say hot spot, I am not only referring to desirability, but also the temperature. The restaurant has an open kitchen which is great for the curious diner, but it doesn’t help you dry on a hot summer’s night. The restaurant’s on a cute corner in a historic building, and you almost feel bad for the struggling AC. Jeffrey’s Grocery is a sister restaurant to Joseph Leonard’s, Fedora and Perla. Media darling owner Gabriel Stulman is a lover of all things local, sustainable and hip.
Sitting at the corner of the bar with 2 friends, we started our meal with oysters on the half shell and the Coho Wild Salmon appetizer. Our bartender and waiter had the obligatory pencil-thin mustache and an easy smile. He insisted on the Salmon appetizer, which was good, but not a stand out. I also had a glass of rose’ cava served in an old school champagne glass.
For our entrees, we had roast chicken, Jonah crab salad, pork loin and an outstanding side dish – Roasted Creamed Corn. Let me tell you about this Creamed Corn – it was awesome. It was creamy and rich and crunchy all at the same time. The chef topped it with popcorn. Nice touch, I thought. Thank you to blogger Yijia for taking the photo above last month. Check out Yijia’s review of Jeffrey’s Grocery here.
Dinner was good, with a festive ambiance and tasty flavors. Definitely worth a return visit in the fall when the mercury drops.