Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Rainy Day Farm Share No. 12 & 35

When I arrived at the pickup location today I noticed a distinct lack of fruits and vegetables. What I was greeted with instead was an ample supply of crunchy looking hippies looking annoyed. Some of them were sitting down against the wall to the church and looking like they were suffering organic, sustainable produce withdrawal.

After waiting twenty-five minutes or so I got bored and went home. When I got home I found an email from farmer Ted explaining that the driver was running quite late. Just as I decided to leave a tremendous thunderstorm started which drenched me over the course of the twenty minute round trip walk.

After taking some pretty great pictures of the share my flash memory card on my camera just completely died. I lost all the pictures on the card. Luckily the only pictures that were not backed up on the computer were the several pictures of the farm share haul from this week. Unluckily I have no pictures yet which I why I posted this iPhone picture of the rain-soaked hippies picking up their vegetables.

For the rest of the pictures I had to dust off my trust old (kinda broken) Kodak.

This week we were supposed to get a bag of snow peas but I apparently forgot to get them while trying to hold my umbrella and collect the rest of my vegetables. The things I actually did get: Swiss chard, collard greens, radishes, cucumbers, squash, garlic scapes, purple and green kohlrabi, and some cherries which had tiny bits of disintegrated blue-green container melted in the rain.

For a salad I used the remainder of last week's red romaine with some mixed baby greens. I sliced up the radishes and cucumbers, marinated them with some rice wine vinegar, garlic scapes, olive oil and dill. Jen thought it was a great salad. I thought it was only all right, mostly because of the cucumbers. I am an expert at eating around cucumbers. In fact I delight in not eating them and then throwing them in the garbage.

I hate cucumbers.

We had some archaic sourdough bread around so I sliced it up and toasted it up with some shredded Bergfex and garlic scapes.

For the main course I took some boneless pork loin chops, butterflied them, and stuffed them with the remaining salmon burger mix from Sunday night. I also boiled the kohlrabi and tossed it with sour cream, horseradish, and dill. I also tossed the Swiss chard in the pan after the pork came out of the oven and wilted it with some additional garlic scape.

For dessert I served up some cherries, leftover shortcake, and very loose whipped cream. These cherries were actually leftover from the picnic we had on Saturday. The ones we got form the farm are pretty much past their prime so I decided that I'd have to turn them into something else, maybe preserves, if I intend to use them in any way.

In other culinary news my sim recently got promoted to line cook. His boss assigned him the task of learning how to make ratatouille and he learned it in a little under 24 hours. His boss was so impressed with this incredibly minor feat that he gave my sim a huge bonus, a promotion, and a pay raise. My sim now makes §149 an hour and works the extra sweet schedule of 3:00PM to 8:30PM, five days a week.

If this was how the restaurant industry was in real life I would never have left.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Leftover Shuffle

There are two things that last night's dinner left us with an abundance of: dirty dishes and leftovers. I was glad Jen had done the laundry on Sunday as I spent the bulk of my afternoon doing four extraordinarily large batches of dishes.

While I generally make it a rule to keep things new and interesting for dinner with the amount of leftovers, odds and ends, and various scraps in the fridge and pantry I made it my mission to utilize all of these items in a way that would almost fool us into thinking none of these items were old, previously used, or in any other way not intended for tonight's dinner.

The leftover seviche was tossed with some cubed watermelon and served over some mixed greens from Maine's Locally Known farm. Certainly this farm 304 miles away is not terribly local, however it beats the standard Earthbound Farms which is 2,545 from our doorstep. As a bridge for the gap until we get our next batch of greens from the farm tomorrow these greens are actually much crisper and tastier than those I've had from Earthbound. Perhaps the 2,241 less miles traveled affect the quality positively.

Who would have guessed?

For a main course I blindly reached into the fridge and pulled out one ingredient after another to assemble these odd little pizzas. For the first pizza I pulled out some ricotta, some of Thursday night's chicken, tomato, avocado, Bergfex, and cilantro.

For the second pizza I used some of the olives leftover from Saturday's picnic lunch, some more ricotta and Bergfex, anchovies, some sliced potato wedges from last night, and basil from the farm.

The leftover bread from last night's dinner served as the base for both pizzas.

With my parents' gift to Jen being The Sims 3 there was really very little time for worrying about dinner this evening. My sim, Tarkus Filibuster, is hard at work on his eighth book, a fantasy novel titled The Wand of a Thousand Tomorrows. My sim has also recently achieved level eight skill in cooking.

Why waste my time cooking in real life when I can watch my sim make simulated tri-tip steak?

Real cooking is such a waste of time. I can't wait until they come out with the first expansion pack: The Sims: Community Supported Agriculture.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Operation: Pescetarian

Yesterday was Jen's birthday and we spent the day doing some of her favorite activities.

We met our friend Joe in Prospect park and had some delicious radish sandwiches with dill and Ronnybrook Farms butter on bread from Bread Alone.

We cruised about the Brooklyn Botanical Garden . . .

. . . which had shockingly good coffee!

We then hit Brooklyn Heights to attempt dinner at Grimaldi's Pizzeria. The people at the front of the line were kind enough to tell us about their two hour trip to their present location so we opted to go around the corner to a restaurant that may have existed exclusively for the impatient guests fleeing the Grimaldi's line. This place may not have been quite as good but in the end we had dinner before midnight. Sure they were "out of medium-sized pizza" thus giving away the freshness of their dough, but all told it was some decent pizza.

* * *

Tonight presented a culinary challenge: preparing seafood for someone who has only recently rejected his former vegetarian ways. Matt and Jocelyn were our dinner guests and I did my best to make an entry level seafood dinner which was tasty but did not beat the diner over the head with the fact that they were eating something which once swam in the ocean.

It was a very warm day so I started off with this watermelon salad over arugula with goat cheese. I made a vinaigrette out of the leftover farm strawberries, some dijon mustard, and a little olive oil.

For the second course: a "seviche" out of more local sea scallops and gulf shrimp. I used a little lime juice, orange juice, scallions, red onions, olive oil, garlic scapes, and cilantro to marinate the shellfish. It wasn't a true seviche in that I'd already poached them with a little lemon, bay, black pepper, chili, and lime. I then sliced up some avocado over the top and served with a lime wedge and some tortillas that I'd pan fried.

The main course was a salmon burger made with dill, scallion, garlic scape, lemon, panko, salt, pepper, whole grain mustard, and a touch of olive oil. I pan fried them in the same pan from the tortilla chips and finished them in an oven. I also sliced and roasted some Idaho potato wedges to serve as an accompaniment. The two condiments I made were a chipotle ketchup and a whole grain mustard mayonnaise.

The final course was a berry shortcake with some strawberries from the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket and more of the Jersey blueberries. There was a slight mishap with the shortcake dough in that the baking powder was omitted, however, the final result was delightful. Flat, but delightful.

So, after a three-peat of the local Jersey scallops it may be time to move on for the remainder of the summer. Perhaps it is time to explore more beef and pork options in the coming months. Yet, the scallops are so delicious I may just keep making them three nights a week until they are harvested into extinction.

One must make hay while the sun shines!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Local Surf & Turf

After a one hour commute over the George Washington Bridge I was grumpy but prepared to make the dinner I'd planned on starting an hour sooner. I had a lot of time to think simultaneously about what I could do with the various items in my fridge, warming up in my car, and my hatred of New Jersey drivers.

We started off with this interesting cheese I found at the local cheese shop. It's called Bergfex, a cheese I'd never heard of until yesterday. It's made in Styria, a state in southeast Austria. My cheese guy called it the "poor man's raclette." He also noted that it may be best used with a grilled cheese or a melting cheese. I ignored his advice and served it simply with some sourdough bread. I think my cheese guy was right, however, it was certainly a very interesting cheese eaten plain with bread.

For a salad I used some of the red romaine from the farm with the farm scallions, goat cheese, crushed pecans, and some of the remaining dried Michigan cherries.

For the main course I got a top loin steak from Simply Grazin' Organic Farm. I hate to join the throngs of insufferable people who bruise themselves by patting themselves on the back so hard about eating grass fed beef so I will leave it up to your imagination to decide how this beef was fed.

I accompanied the steak with boiled potatoes, truffle oil, and butter. Also I picked up some more fantastic local sea scallops from Bedford, New Jersey. I asked my scallop monger if he had any shells he could give me and he happily handed over a shell which made for a great presentation. He then commented that he'd been waiting all day for someone to ask him for a scallop shell. I was pleased that I could assist in ridding him of his excess shells. The woman who rung me up thought that I was getting the shell because I was a shell collector. I didn't bother trying to explain.

For wine we had some Goats du Roam which was a sufficiently inexpensive and humorously labeled wine to delight our palates.

Jen's birthday is tomorrow. Generally I make her a fruit tart. Tonight I didn't have time so I picked up this fruit tart at the store. After I arrived home Jen, the meddler that she is, grabbed the bag concealing the tart and picked it up, tilting the tart 90 degrees and destroying the wonderfully constructed fruit topping. This caused me to have to reconstruct the tart in the kitchen prior to bringing it out. As you can see, it was not a perfect reconstruction.

Jen likes to be very nosy around the time of her birthday. It is my greatest challenge in life.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Oddity In Three Courses

Just when I thought there couldn't be less time to cook dinner: tonight happened!

I don't think I was really even thinking about what I was doing. I just continually pulled things out of the fridge and combined them together until I had a pretty strange dinner. None of it seemed to go together or have any consistency. That being said it wasn't inedible -- it was just weird.

The first course was the remainder of the turnip greens, some goat cheese, strawberries and blueberries, chopped almonds, lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper. This probably would have gone a touch better with spinach but one cannot choose what the farm brings.

The second course was seared chicken breast. I used the white wine (that I'd foolishly left uncorked last night) at the end to deglaze the pan and add a little flavor. I boiled and buttered the Japanese turnips as an accompaniment. Then I used some cooked lo mein noodles, kalamata olives, a tiny amount of mozzarella, olive oil, garlic scapes, sliced turnip greens, the grape tomatoes which would not last until the morning, some green onion, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.

To add to the strange mix Jen brought home some cupcakes from Crumbs. Jen often comes home from work with cupcakes from some trendy New York City cupcake shop and that is great for me. While I hate trendy cupcake shops and their stupid, trendy customers, I love to eat trendy cupcakes!

Even a gaggle of skinny jeans wearing hipsters can's spoil the magic of a delicious, moist cupcake!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Guest Chef: Alan Smithee

I had some pretty good ideas for a salad tonight but when I opened the fridge I was staring directly into the eyes of a neglected package of tofu. The tofu looked so sad, so lonely, so at its expiration date that I was forced to incorporate it into tonight's dinner.

The greens from the farm turnips made a nice base for a little marinated tofu with some basil from the farm, local grape tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and kalamata olives. The salad would possibly have been better had I replaced the tofu with some sort of delicious Italian cheese but my desire to not waste $1.59 worth of tofu was too strong to worry about dinner being tasty.

Sometimes frugality trumps culinary excellence.

For dinner I had some fresh cut Severino Pasta that I combined with some day boat scallops from Bedford, New Jersey; chard, garlic scapes, and snap peas from the farm; and a splash of Castle Rock Sauvignon Blanc -- a wine I would highly recommend if you plan on using 50% of it for cooking.

For dessert -- aside from some more blueberries, strawberries, and yogurt -- we enjoyed the genius of Jonathan Frakes by watching The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice. While you'd expect that Mr. Frakes may have been better advised to lend the credit to his friend Alan Smithee, he opted to take full credit.

As for tonight's dinner, I may give credit to the famed director. Hey, give him a break! He only had about twenty minutes to make dinner!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Return of the Pork and Clams

I rushed home from work, parked the car illegally (to hell with you, meter maids!), and picked up the farm share. While I love the farm share I get extremely annoyed waiting in line to get the vegetables. It's very simple: the vegetables are laid you, you just put one of everything in your bag and leave. For some reason the line moves exceptionally slow so that it takes about five minutes to collect your week's share. I'm confidant that if the line was not occupied by all these slow pokes I could easily put nine or ten items in a bag in under twenty seconds.

I guess I should be grateful to all these molasses-shoed slugs because without each other we wouldn't be able to enjoy the farm share. However, I am much happier being annoyed than being grateful and I'm going to leave it at that.

The second week of this farm season brought us: snow peas, dandelion greens, red romaine lettuce, garlic scapes, Swiss chard, Japenese white turnips, basil, scallions, kohlrabi, and strawberries.

I made a salad out of the dandelion greens tossing them with some sherry vinegar, red onion, olive oil, dill, and green onion. I made a few errors: 1) I served the leaves whole (one of Jen's pet peeves), 2) I used a plate that was clearly too small, and 3) I probably should have cooked the greens since these were a little too mature to be tender.

My local fishmonger (or is he a clammonger since he mongered me up a bunch of clams?) had some beautiful littlenecks from Sandy Hook, NJ. Finally I was able to relive my dream by combining yesterday's pork leftovers with the littlenecks for something approximating Portuguese pork and clams. Jen spent most of the dinner talking about how she'd never heard of Portuguese pork and clams and I spent most of the dinner faking outrage on behalf of my friends in East Providence and Fall River.

For the third course I cooked up some Severino gnocchi and then tossed it with some part skim ricotta, chopped basil, and topped it with Parmaggiano Reggiano. The result ended up being far more delicious that I'd anticipated. Sometimes it pays to be lazy.

Apart from the farm berries I also picked up some local New Jersey blueberries from Jersey Fruit. Apparently down in south Jersey they turn off the Whitesnake and stop working on their Camaros just long enough to grow some really delicious blueberries!

With the challenge of day one's surprise ingredients over we only need find a main course suitable of all this produce for tomorrow. Hopefully the gods of the markets will be smiling down on me.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Raising The Price of Pork

The Winkler family owns and operates the Lucki 7 Livestock Co. in Rodman, New York. They are a certified natural (I was not aware there was such a thing) hog farm located just east of Lake Ontario. This just means that they don't stuff their pigs together until they get sick, force feed them antibiotics, or give them any growth hormones like is the case with most of the pork we eat in this country.

These pigs are allowed to roam all over green grass, enjoy hay-filled barns, and enjoy a stress free environment before they are killed for us to eat. Then they are shipped to my local meat market where I was fortunate enough to pick up a pair of bone-in loin chops for tonight's meal.

I had the full intention of doing some good old fashioned Portuguese pork and clams with this pork. I wanted to use some little necks from Sandy Hook, NJ but unfortunately my fish guy wasn't mongering any of them and there didn't appear to be any alternative. As my Portuguese grandmother used to say: "Às vezes não têm os moluscos!"

Vovô Sousa was not a native Portuguese speaker.

With no clams I was forced to resort to the manuscript I'm currently researching, Nate's Insane Guide To Food Substitutions. Lo and behold it turns out the kohlrabi is a perfect substitution for little necks! Just simply add one part kohlrabi for one part little necks in your recipe and your dinner guests will never even know the difference!

I had some ancient saffron in the spice cabinet that I purchased in 2002, I believe to make some sort of paella dish for my father's birthday that year. It still smelled saffrony so I didn't heed the use by date of October, 2005.

I cooked up some crushed garlic cloves, onion, and celery in a little olive oil, added in some red wine, baby potatoes, and diced tomatoes with a pinch of saffron. I left that to simmer on the stove while I prepared the kohlrabi. I decided to simply boil it with a touch of saffron and cayenne.

A few leaves of parsley from the AeroGarden (locally grown on our kitchen table) and a sprinkle of the farm scallions really completed the dish.

For a local beverage I enjoyed a River Horse Brewing Company Summer Blonde Ale from Lambertville, New Jersey. In honor of the first full day of summer I also put the air conditioner in the window even though it was only 72 degrees and raining, marking the latest insertion the device has seen into said window.

It was a nice early night. Apart from the lack of a grill, finishing dinner before 8:00PM made it seem like we're almost living the suburban life.

Maybe we'll pick up a couple of folding lawn chairs to really complete the illusion.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Great Minds Think Alike (About Pasta)

I got home kinda late tonight. On the drive home I was thinking about ways I could incorporate Thursday's leftovers into some sort of pasta. I thought about how I might toss some of the Italian bok choy with some oil and butter and some tomato and fresh herbs.

When I got home I found that clever Jen had already made this very thing for her lunch. Therefore I had to do some very quick last minute adjustments to make something new.

I made a salad with some grape tomatoes, some Lioni mozzarella, kalamata olives, farm scallions, garlic scapes, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. I presented it (for myself) inside of a whole leaf of romaine lettuce. For Jen's salad I broke the romaine into tiny pieces because she hates to have a salad with pieces of lettuce that are too big. Apparently she is allergic to nice plate presentations.

For the main course I used a rather elderly jar of arrabbiata we had kicking around and doctored it up with some basil, cream, and a touch of butter. I tossed in some pipe rigate and grated some Parmaggiano Reggiano over the top.

For dessert: more angel food cake, farm strawberries, and whipped cream. Additional dessert: The Librarian: Quest for the Spear.

It's amazing how Noah Wyle helps one digest.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Tonight we took the night off and left to cooking to our good friend Marcus Samuelsson at Aquavit. It was a delayed anniversary dinner of sorts. We've been wanting to go to Aquavit for nearly six years so tonight was quite a treat for both of us.

Please excuse the poor quality of these photos. They were taken in very low light with my iPhone. I didn't want to be one of those people taking flash photographs throughout the meal.

The first complimentary course was this tuna tartar with what appeared to be diced pear and cucumber. It is commonly known that I despise cucumber but this was the perfect quantity for me being barely enough to feed a dust mite.

Soon after the tuna and some assorted breads we received another tartare, this time with char. It was served with some sort of passionfruit puree. This picture doesn't quite display how tiny the elements of this dish were. I don't think it's possible that this was created by humans. I think it's more likely that they were created by a clan of Brownies from the movie Willow.

The herring sampler was exceptional. I can't remember what all four of them were but they were some sort of smoked herring, sour cream and dill, pickled, and curried (from top left in clockwise direction). It was also accompanied by a shot of aquavit, Carlsbad beer, boiled potato, and sliced cheese of an unknown type.

The oysters on the half shell were served with fennel cream, green apple sorbet, and caviar.

I had the smoked venison with huckleberry, dumplings, and morels. I would argue that it was actually morel (singular) but regardless it was fantastic. The chef recommended it medium rare. I accepted this recommendation but the chef undershot it by a bit. The rare venison was just fine by me.

Jen had the duck breast with parsley spätzle, radicchio, and root vegetables. The baby turnips were reminiscent of something we would be given on our farm share. The spätzle was reminiscent of something that would have been cooked by one of my nasty German chef instructors in culinary school.

He may have possibly been a member of the Hitler youth at some point but man could he make some spätzle!

After the main courses they brought us out this strange concoction made from what tasted like grapefruit (though the server described it as "orange") with a yogurt cream on the top.

This is not a mistake. After these were cleared, about two minute later, another server came by and brought us another round of the same.

Nothing cleanses your palette like two intermezzos!

My dessert was the "Arctic Circle" which was a goat cheese parfait, blueberry sorbet, and passionfruit curd. I didn't know passionfruit was so big in Scandinavia!

Jen had the Tomme Crayeuse with acacia honey, marcona almonds, and fried baguette slices. Who'd have thought fried baguette slices would make for such a delicious dessert?

It was nice of them to bring out these little "cookies" after dinner since we'd only had six courses up until that point (seven if you count the double course mistake). We were quite worried about leaving hungry.

Overall I'd rank this amongst the top restaurant experiences I've had. However, it's a bit of a predicament to have to simultaneously loosen and tighten our belts directly following the meal.