7.17.2014

LEMON-VERBENA SCENTED POUND CAKE // the local food report


It's waay too hot and humid for the oven. I know. And yet, the other night after dinner, Sally and I found ourselves baking a cake. The cake in question is a riff on David Lebovitz's bay-leaf scented pound cake, only we used lemon verbena leaves. I'd been learning about unusual summer herbs for this week's Local Food Report, and lemon verbena and orange with a rich sour cream batter sounded very, very right. 

It was. The specimen you see up there is the unglazed version, but I've included the glaze in the recipe below. With it, it's dessert. Without it, it can pass for breakfast, which is how we've been justifying the slices that disappear at 7am. 

LEMON-VERBENA SCENTED POUND CAKE

Adapted from this recipe by David Lebovitz. If you can't get your hands on lemon verbena leaves, you can always try the original! I've made it both ways, and it's amazing pretty much no matter what.

for the cake:
6 tablespoons butter, melted
14 fresh lemon verbena leaves
1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
finely grated zest of one orange
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

for the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 and 1/2 tablespoons orange juice, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon orange liquor, like Grand Mariner

Grease a standard 9-inch loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Dip ten of the lemon verbena leaves in the butter and arrange them on the bottom of the loaf pan. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another small bowl, whisk together the butter, eggs, sour cream, orange zest, and vanilla. Use a spatula to gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just mixed. Scrape the batter into the pan, then arrange the remaining four lemon verbena leaves on top. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until just set. It's better to under- than over-bake this cake.

Cool for ten minutes in the pan, then gently take the loaf out. Cool completely before glazing. To make the glaze, stir together the powdered sugar, orange juice, and orange liquor until smooth. Pour the glaze over the cake, and let it drip down the sides and harden before serving.

7.14.2014

CHOCOLATE BIRTHDAY CAKE // elspeth


From Sally, a public service announcement: If there's a birthday coming up in your life, you ought to make the person you're celebrating this chocolate cake. It is dead simple, and sinfully, amazingly delicious. It's also easy to make gluten-free, in the event that the person you're baking for can't tolerate wheat. You will thank her, she says. Oh! And lick the bowl. Even if it wrecks your face.

And from me, birthday wishes. Happiest of days to Siobhan and Casey, two of my very best friends in the world. I'm not sure what exactly, but I feel like it means something that you were born on the same day. 


7.10.2014

THE MULBERRY TREE // elspeth


A few years ago—five, maybe six?—we planted a mulberry tree. I got the idea from a neighborhood my sister lived in during college, where every summer it rained mulberries. They stained the sidewalks and porches and stuck to people's shoes, but there were heaps and heaps of beautiful black berries. 

Our tree started producing right away, and every year it's gotten bigger. This year for the first time, the top branches are too high to reach. So the other day Sally and I took out three old sheets, laid them on the ground around the tree, and gave it a good shake. I'd say we got about a quart of berries, and judging by the number of green ones still on the tree, I'd say we have at least another 4-5 quarts coming.


But besides eating them, I'm not really sure what to do with all these mulberries. I've never had enough to try jam or cobbler or ice cream. They don't hold their shape for long, but the flavor is fantastic—subtle, not too sweet, almost grape-y. So I'm wondering—anyone out there have any ideas for mulberries? Any must-try recipes? In the meantime, we'll be snacking.

7.07.2014

BEET & SUGAR SNAP PEA SALAD // liz


We're just home from five busy, wonderful days in Wellfleet. I took my copy of The Farm by Ian Knauer, and Elspeth and I had fun perusing it together. I'd been especially eager to try this beet and snap pea salad. It's not as quick and easy as the garlic scape pesto Elspeth wrote about a few days ago, but it's very tasty. It's also gorgeous. I thought the original recipe was fussier than it needed to be, so I've pared down the steps in our version. 

Two tips. (1) Don't use several small beets, as I did the first time I made the recipe; it makes the peeling and slicing a big nuisance. A few good-sized beets are much easier to handle. (2) If you can find fresh black walnuts, lucky you. The taste is incomparable. Regular walnuts will work just fine, however. 

We made this for lunch yesterday, after working all morning in the garden. It's more substantial than you might think, especially with the ricotta on it. We served it as a ploughman's lunch: with a platter of fresh carrots, cheese, two types of hard salami, and some nice crackers, alongside a big pitcher of freshly made iced tea. Then we sat down at the picnic table and dug in. We all agreed: it was different, a good addition to our usual salad repertoire, and altogether a perfect summer lunch.


BEET & SUGAR SNAP PEA SALAD

This recipe comes from The Farm by Ian Knauer. We've adapted it slightly to make it simpler. It serves 6.

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sugar snap peas
1 pound beets; a combination of varieties—red and golden, for example—are especially beautiful
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint, plus a few leaves for garnish
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup ricotta

Toast the walnuts in the olive oil in a small skillet, over medium-high heat, for 2–3 minutes—until they are nicely golden. Watch them carefully, as they can go in an instant from just-right-done to burned. Set aside and let cool.

Trim the peas, slice them thinly on the diagonal, and put them in a large bowl. 

Trim the roots off the beets, peel them, and slice them thinly. (If you have one, a mandolin works well for this.) Cut the slices into thin matchsticks and add them to the bowl with the peas. 

Add the nuts and olive oil, mint, vinegar, salt, and pepper and toss the salad gently. Serve with a garnish of mint leaves and dollops of ricotta on the side.

7.03.2014

GARLIC SCAPE PESTO // the local food report


Garlic scapes. You see them everywhere at farmers' markets this time of year. But what do you do with them? Around here, we make pesto. Specifically, Ian Knauer's pistachio-laced garlic scape pesto from his beautiful cookbook The Farm. I don't own it, but my mom does, and for a while it sat on her coffee table. This recipe caught my eye right away—it's simple, and it does great things with a hard to use ingredient.

GARLIC SCAPE PESTO

We use this as a spread on bread, rubbed onto a whole chicken, or tossed over pasta. It will keep for about a week in the fridge, and you can also freeze it if you want to have some on hand for the winter. 

10 large garlic scapes
1/3 cup unsalted shelled pistachios
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
fine grain sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Puree the garlic scapes, pistachios, Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a food processor. Keep pureeing until the scapes and nuts are finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly pour in the oil. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

6.30.2014

CHIMICHURRI // anna

Hi, everyone!  It's been a long time since I've posted.  The last few months for me have been a whirlwind of finishing school, graduating, taking my boards, and now, searching for jobs.  I’m going to try to make a habit of stopping by here more regularly with recipes–promise!

We’re just back from our cousin Molly’s beautiful wedding in the mountains outside Charlottesville, Virginia.  The food was South American-inspired and absolutely delicious.  Elspeth and I became particularly enamored with the chimichurri sauce – it was served with flank steak, but we put it on just about everything.  As it just so happens I had just made a batch of chimichurri a few days earlier, so it was nice to compare the two batches for subtle flavor differences.  Turns out I like my chimichurri a little vinegary and very garlicky with a lot of cilantro, and you’ll see that reflected in the recipe below. Andy has already given this recipe his stamp of approval, so I have a feeling this will be a staple around my house this summer.


CHIMICHURRI

Chimichurri is an Argentinian sauce typically served on steak or meat, but I’ve been using it as a kind of salad dressing as well and I love the flavor it adds. I've seen recipes call for both white and red wine vinegar, and either will do (although purists may disagree!). I happened to have white on hand so that's what I used. This recipe is loosely adapted from A Cozy Kitchen.

1 medium-sized bunch flat leaf parsley
1 small bunch cilantro
4 large cloves garlic, or 6 smaller ones
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white or red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Put parsley, cilantro, garlic and olive oil in a food processor or blender and pulse until ingredients come together in a thick sauce.  Add vinegar, salt and red pepper flakes and pulse again.  That's it!  Easy, peasy.  

I have also made this using an immersion blender and it worked great and made a lot fewer dishes, so you might try it if you have one on hand. 

6.26.2014

STRAWBERRY VARIETIES // the local food report


Well. The time has come! Strawberries—the local ones, the red ones, the sweet ones, the ones worth eating—they're finally here. Something I never thought about until this year was varieties. Obviously, there are all kinds of varieties with most fruits and vegetables. But strawberries usually seem so...similar. 


Not so, it turns out. Bartlett's Farm on Nantucket grows fourteen varieties. Tony Andrews Farm in Falmouth likes Honey-Eye and All-Star because they get ripe early, and as a pick-your-own place, they like to be done with the season by the time the weather gets too hot. Checkerberry Farm in Orleans like Evie-2, a big sweet berry that fruits once in June and again in August. Hay Shaker Farm in Truro likes Sparkles, because they're small and sweet and high yielding.


If you're into geeking out over this kind of thing, check out this exhaustive list of strawberry varieties, and click on the MA section to see varieties recommended for Massachusetts. 

Personally, I like them all. Of course, the sweeter the better. And I especially like strawberry shortcake. Here's a no-miss version, from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. Happy eating!


STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

I've adapted this a bit from Kim's original. You can use either half all-purpose flour and half whole-wheat here. I prefer all whole wheat. Also, later in the season when strawberries overlap for a brief time with peaches, I think a peach-strawberry rendition would be fantastic.

for the biscuits
1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 cup cold heavy cream

for the filling:
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup cold heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients for the biscuits. Use a fork to stir in the cream until the dough is "shaggy"—a perfect word from Kim for the texture you're looking for. As soon as it comes together, form the dough into six mounds and arrange them evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, toss the strawberries with the sugar. Let them macerate at room temperature for about half an hour. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks and chill. 

To assemble: cut the biscuits in half, top with strawberries and a bit of juice and a dollop of cool cream. 

6.24.2014

MARKET DAY // elspeth


If you're in Wellfleet tomorrow, I hope we'll see you for the farmers' market. We're expecting strawberries, peas, greens, Barnstable pork, eggs, sea salt, lots of baked goodies, hot coffee, live music, and so much more. We'll be on the green behind Preservation Hall on Main Street from 8 to noon. Enjoy the day!

6.18.2014

BLACK SEA BASS // the local food report

Seasons are something Sally is just starting to understand. The weather changes, she grasps that. And she's starting to see it has a pattern. She keeps asking to go apple picking, and we keep showing her the tiny apples just swelling up on the trees and explaining that apples don't get ripe until the fall. Seasons are fleeting, we tell her. That's why it's important to enjoy the one you're in.

For the time being, it's black sea bass time, at least in the last standing local weir fishery. The weirs were big business on the Cape in the late 1800s, early 1900s, but these days the Eldredge family is the only company still setting up traps in Nantucket Sound. The idea is to use nets to catch migratory fish—small species like squid and scup and butterfish and black sea bass. Black sea bass is one of Shannon's favorites—that's her down there, bent over the net. She and her boyfriend Russell work alongside Shannon's parents to run the family's weirs—seasonal nets set up off the coast of Chatham from April til July. The other day I met them at the docks to talk black sea bass, and they shared a bit about the fishery and how they like to eat the little grouper relative. 

First of all, they say it's one of the most beautiful fish they catch. In the water it shines iridescent purple and blue and green, and then of course there's that line of spikes on the top fin. Russell says he still has one stuck in his finger from a fish that got him two weeks back.


The thing about the weir fishery is that the fish are culled by hand—pulled up from the trap with dip nets and sorted according to size and species—too small or not the right kind and the fish are thrown back. They're still alive and healthy, which is the beautiful thing about this scale of fishing. Only salable fish are coming into the docks.

In the markets, the black sea bass are graded by size—small, large, and jumbo, with bigger fish getting higher prices. Shannon and Russell end up eating a lot of the little ones, and they've come up with all kinds of delicious preparations—broiled with ginger and soy and garlic, stuffed with corn salsa and then finished in the oven, folded into a Thai fish stew with ginger and coconut and curry. The fish are small—between a pound and two pounds, usually—which means they're not worth filleting. They're a fish you want to eat whole, on the bone. The flavor is delicate, sweet—something like a cross between flounder and striped bass. They're popular with chefs and home cooks. And there's a strong recreational fishery too.

And the way they catch them is just as fascinating as the fish. Different sources give different estimates for just how many traps were set up along Nantucket Sound and Cape Cod Bay in their heyday, but an account in the History of Barnstable County, Massachusetts, edited by Simeon L. Deyo from 1890 reads as follows:

"The invention of the modern fish weir marked an important period in the whole business of shore fishing [...] Individuals and corporations are engaged on nearly every shore in the weir or trap fishing. The fish weir, or trap, now modified to various plans and purposes, was first used by its inventors on the shores of Long Island sound. At Monomoy Point in Chatham, where, about 1848, the first weir on these shores was set, at Woods Holl where a very large business is still carried on, and off the shores almost around the entire Cape, especially the lower towns, this branch of enterprise has furnished a channel of investment for large amounts of capital and employment to considerable numbers of people."

Another book, Truro: The Story of a Cape Cod Town, cites Deyo's history as well, and says that small town alone had twelve weirs in 1890, each 2,500 feet long. Each weir had an associated building on shore, where the fish were sorted, gutted, cleaned, iced, and packed in barrels to be shipped to Boston. 

It's amazing to think that such a booming industry has all but disappeared. What the Eldredges are doing is keeping a little slice of history going, and fishing in one of the most sustainable ways around. If you're interested in share of the catch, check out their Facebook page. They post what they bring in, and you can call or text if you're going to show up at the docks.

THAI-SPICED FISH STEW

If you can't get your hands on black sea bass, try flounder, haddock, or striped bass for this dish. If you can find black sea bass, try throwing the fish in gutted and scaled but still whole. The bones will add flavor and nutrients.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 stalk lemon grass, cut into three pieces
2 teaspoons red curry paste
4 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 (13.5 ounce) cans coconut milk
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 heads baby bok choy, ends trimmed so that the stalks fall apart
a 1 pound whole black sea bass, scaled and gutted, or 1 pound filleted white fish cut into 1-inch pieces
fresh limes, for squeezing
finely chopped cilantro, as a garnish

Warm up the oil over medium heat. Add the ginger, lemongrass, and curry paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, fish sauce, and brown sugar. Turn the heat up, bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and mushrooms and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the fish and cook an additional4 minutes. Serve hot, garnished with a squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkling of cilantro.

6.13.2014

SUMMER SEAFOOD STEW // elspeth


I don't know where to start today. You want to eat this? I want to eat this? I guess that's as good a place as any. I want to eat this, and I just finished eating it for lunch. We also had it for dinner last night. And I made a different version the night before. The sheer volume of consumption alone should tell you something.

So, what is it? It's a simple seafood stew I ripped out of Bon Appétit—have you noticed how many good, simple dinner recipes they've been offering in the Quick Recipes section recently?—and it hits all the right notes. Garlic, wine, crème fraîche, plenty of broth, good fresh fish. The original version calls for just fennel and potatoes, which makes it more of a right now stew, but in the second version I cheated the seasons a bit (ok a lot) and went high summer with an ear of corn, chorizo, littlenecks, and a handful of cherry tomatoes. 

Whichever version you make—or even if you come up with a rendition that's all your own—I think you'll find yourself using this recipe again and again as a base. It's the perfect summer seafood stew—lots of flavor, quick to prep, and easy to get ready ahead of time if you want dinner ten minutes from ready when you get back from the beach. And you can use pretty much any seafood you want—lobster, shrimp, mussels, any light white fish, or even something meatier like halibut. 

In summary: it's delicious, it's flexible, and if you've got company, it's also pretty. Happy summer, friends.

SEAFOOD STEW WITH CHORIZO, LITTLENECKS, & FLOUNDER

I'm going to publish my "high summer" rendition of the stew here, as you can easily check out the simpler original over here at Bon Appétit. Think of this as a base with endless possibilities, and you've got your summer dinner parties mapped out.

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup chorizo sausage, cut into bite-size pieces
3 small potatoes (8 ounces), cut into bite size pieces 1/4-inch thick
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 large fennel bulb, cut into thin ribbons
black pepper to taste
1/2 cup white wine
3 cups water
kernels from 1 ear corn, cut off the cob
a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup crème fraîche
12 littlenecks
3/4 pound flounder, cut into 2-inch pieces

Warm up the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook for 5-6 minutes, until it starts to brown around the edges. Add the potatoes and salt and cook another 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Add the garlic and fennel and pepper to taste. Turn the heat up to high and pour in the white wine. Bring to a boil and cook until almost completely evaporated, about 4-5 minutes. Add the water, corn, and tomatoes and bring back to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. (Note: this is your stopping point if you want to prep the base of the stew ahead of time.)

Add the crème fraîche and stir until it dissolves. Add the littlenecks, bring the soup back to a simmer, then cover and cook for 3 minutes. Add the flounder, cover again, and cook another 4-5 minutes. Taste for salt and add more as needed. Serve hot.

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