Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wood Smoked Brisling Sardine Dip

After reading Mary Sue Milliken's recollections in the pages of this month's SAVEUR on her time spent in Mandelieu-La Napoule (on the French Riviera), and her discovery of sardines as a versatile ingredient, I had to try one of her preparations. She recalls picking up fresh sardines at local markets, cleaning and filleting them, then layering them with herbs and salt to cure.
When she returned to the States, she had not lost her taste for sardines, though often turned toward readily available (and inexpensive) tinned varieties to inspire her many recipes.
I learned the term sardine is used loosely to define over 20 different kinds of small, oily fish from the Clupeidae family. This includes pilchards, sprat, and herring, and other foraging fish low on the oceanic food chain.
I have written about sardines before, how they are a wise choice when selecting which seafood to consume, not only in their population stability but they are also low in mercury while still providing essential nutritional properties. Plus, they taste good, not that the rich flavor is for everyone. But for those who enjoy a wide spectrum of flavor provided by the sea, this dip of Mary Sue's is foolproof.  She mentions whipping up this dish for parties, an excellent last-minute and affordable idea. Next time the weather is cool, I will put this preparation in a shallow ceramic dish, sprinkle with panko and heat in the oven until bubbly hot. You can't go wrong.

Wood Smoked Brisling Sardine Dip: 
*1 package organic cream cheese
*1 package smoked brisling sardines, packed in olive oil, drained
*1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
*Tabasco to taste

Place first 3 ingredients in a food processor fitted with a blade. Blend until smooth. Add dashes of Tabasco sauce to taste.
Enjoy on crostini, or with fresh cut vegetables.

*Variation: Place dip in oven safe ceramic crock and cover with panko bread crumbs. Bake at 375 until bread crumbs turn golden and contents are heated through (about 10 minutes). Serve with toasts or crostini.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Creamy Chicken n' Nettles

Though quickly fleeting, we are still flanked by the bony fingers of winter. This is not always an easy transition. The movement and stirring of spring can bring movement and stirring within, which can be accompanied by a fair share of discomfort. What has settled during the cold months, covered in layers of wool and nestled by the fire, is awakened and asked to preform, and even put on new growth. 
This is where wild greens can offer excellent support. Even before our spring gardens produce salads and sweet kales, wild greens are in full force. 
Nettles are a favorite of mine (just cruise through previous recipes). They have a profile worthy of respect. Coming in early, while things are still waking up, nettles offer our bodies the same prospect. All we have to do is harvest (carefully) and prepare. They are vital---full of vitamins and minerals, and have something else about them unlike any other leafy green. Maybe it is the stinging characteristic, but nettles pack a punch.
The primary ethos surrounding seasonal eating is based on this example: by eating what is available within each special moment of the season, our bodies glean exactly what they need, physically and otherwise.
The first day of our local farmer's market resumed yesterday, where freshly harvested, grass-fed meats were available. The chicken I brought home from East Fork Farm accompanied fresh nettles in this dish, alongside a bit of cream, pungent garlic and onion, vegetables and a slow simmered broth made from duck feet. 
Meals like this help us find our sense of place in a remarkable, ever changing environment. 

Creamy Chicken n' Nettles:
*1 small whole chicken (roasted, meat pulled)
*2 tablespoons butter
*1 small sweet onion, chopped
*3 cloves garlic, minced
*3 celery ribs, including leaves, chopped
*1 zucchini, chopped
*1 tablespoon flour
*1/4 cup cream
*1 cup broth
*4-5 cups fresh stinging nettle, loosely packed
*3/4 cup frozen corn kernels
*3/4 cup frozen peas
*sea salt 
*black pepper

In a large skillet, saute onion, garlic and celery in 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add zucchini. Saute until contents are slightly softened and onion is aromatic. Move contents to perimeter of the pan, creating a well in the middle. Add additional tablespoon of butter in well. Stir flour into melted butter to create a paste. Allow to slightly brown. Add cream and broth. Season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Bring to a simmer. Once liquid begins to thicken, add pulled chicken meat. Stir. Add nettles to pan and stir hot contents over leaves until they begin to wilt. Reduce heat to med-low and cover. 
Remove from heat once nettles are well wilted but still bright green. Add peas and corn. Stir well.  Adjust seasonings. 
Serve hot.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Equionx

Here again, 
while beasts slumber
beneath their lofty furs,
the decay of previous 
bloom and fruit
make a crib 
for the freshly born.


 (Sanguinaria canadensis, Bloodroot)

(Goodyera pubescens, Rattlesnake plantain)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Deep Dish

My friends Jen and Andy introduced me to this deep dish recipe from the Gourmet cookbook. The recipe includes cornmeal, which adds very nice texture to the crust. Baking in a large cast iron skillet makes for the perfect dinner table centerpiece. Dig in.

Deep Dish Pizza: 
Adapted from Gourmet's original recipe:
1/2 teaspoon raw honey
1 cup warm water (110° - 115°F.)
a 1/4-ounce package (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups quality unbleached flour
1/2 cup organic yellow cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil plus additional for oiling bowl

Make dough:
In a large bowl dissolve honey in water. Sprinkle yeast over water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 1/4 cups flour, cornmeal, salt, and 2 tablespoons oil and blend until mixture forms a dough. 
Knead dough on a floured surface, incorporating as much of remaining 1/4 cup flour as necessary to prevent dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.
Put dough in a deep oiled bowl and turn to coat with oil. Let dough rise, covered with plastic wrap, in a warm place 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
While dough is rising, prepare desired toppings.
Preheat oven to 500°F.

Punch down dough and knead 4 times. In an oiled 10 1/2-inch cast-iron skillet, press dough with oiled finger until it comes 2 inches up the side and is an even thickness on bottom. Let dough rise, covered loosely with plastic wrap, in a warm place 15 minutes.
Coat base of dough with marinara, cheese and toppings. Bake pizza in lower third of an electric oven or on floor of a gas oven for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 400°F. and bake 10 minutes more, or until crust is golden.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Wishbone For You. A Wishbone For Me.

I've had a thing for wishbones since childhood when my mother would place them in the windowsill to dry after picking a roasted chicken clean. My siblings and I would take turns placing a pinkie finger on each side, pulling away from each other in hopes of breaking the largest piece. 

To this day, this particular part of the chicken never makes it to the broth pot. I place them in the windowsill just like mom did, but have used them to decorate gifts instead. 

When I saw the gold dipped version on the pages of Martha Stewart over the holidays, the sky split open and a ray of sun beamed down on my kitchen windowsill. Had to try. Had to share. I could look at them all day, with their little necks all wrapped up in bright embroidery thread. 

Not sure how far down the rabbit hole this may lead. Maybe it's officially time for an intervention?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Tuscan White Bean Soup

This soup was so good it had to be shared before the the dishes had been cleared. It began as most soups do, as an effort to use pantry items threatening sitting duck status. Bone broth yanked from the freezer, dry white beans, and local bratwurst from East Fork Farm made this a welcome treat on a Monday evening. Slightly sweet skillet cornbread is a fine companion to mop up the savory broth.

Tuscan White Bean Soup:
*6 cups homemade chicken broth
*2 cups dry white beans
*4 stalks celery, chopped
*1 small onion, chopped
*4 cloves garlic, minced
*4 carrots, chopped
*1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
*1 package local bratwurst
*1 package (about 10oz) frozen chopped organic spinach
*sea salt
*black pepper
*1 cup shredded parmesan *optional

Place first 7 ingredients in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low. Season with sea salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until beans begin to soften, about 3 hours. (To shorten cooking time, use precooked beans or you can place ingredients in a slow cooker).
Place a large skillet over medium heat and cook bratwurst until nearly cooked through, turning once. Remove from pan and cool slightly. Slice into 1/4 inch coins. Return pan to heat and brown slices, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bratwurst to soup pot. Cover and simmer until beans are completely soft, about 1 more hour.
Adjust seasonings. Add spinach. Simmer for additional 10 minutes. Portion into bowls, sprinkle with parmesan and serve with honey skillet cornbread.