Monday, June 20, 2011

The Perfect Saturday

The urban chef and I had the most perfect Saturday—well at least my definition of a perfect Saturday.  I love brunch, nothing says happiness and weekend fun like eggs cooked by other people while drinking a Bloody Mary’s.  Jon tends to disagree—brunch for him is like a postpartum flashback on his days of getting up at 5am to be at work by 7am so that he could cook eggs for others for 10 hours.  But, too bad, I love it!  Now that Jon works evenings all weekend, we only have the AM hours to spend together.  This does cause some discord, I want to get up at 10am and spend three hours exploring, going to brunch, taking a walk though the park, while Jon wants to lie in bed and get some more sleep (and rightly so, he went to bed at 3 or 4 am).  But some weekends, I just want to get out—I mean what’s the point of having a sexy boyfriend if he won’t take me to brunch??? (right ladies!)  So, being the great guy that he is, he gave me my perfect Saturday.

The urban chef and I signed up for a CSA summer share this year.  CSA is community supported agriculture, basically, a local farmer grows various things and a group of people pay him a set amount of money, and in exchange, we get the bounty of his harvest for 16 weeks—the catch is, you get what you get, no exchanges.  It works for both parties because the farmer receives guaranteed revenue for the season and we get access to the freshest local produce.  Every week when you go to pick up your share, it is a variable “surprise” conglomerate of veggies—whatever is in season.  I convinced the urban chef to do this, but we both had different motives, chef: to challenge himself to make things with new and different ingredients and me: well, I like the fresh fruit and flowers, plus, leafy greens are my favorite and you are always guaranteed to get a ton!  This week was our first CSA pickup.  We arrive at 11am (after a long discussion in our Zipcar regarding the guy from The Hills, Spencer? I think, basically, we were trying to decide if he still had money, he doesn’t, yay!) Basic rundown of the CSA, everyone is really nice and friendly, but it’s a touch “granola”, but if you can handle it, it’s always so much fun and the fruit and veggies taste better than anything you will ever get at the store.  A quick grab and go…and off to brunch!

I decided I wanted to brunch at The Farm on Adderley.  It is a quaint farm to table restaurant in Ditmas Park (South Slope) Brooklyn—near our CSA pickup.  I had never been before, but had read it was fantastic—and, it was!  The décor was inviting, but not pretentious, and the space was large, yet they managed to keep it very intimate feeling.  The restaurant also had a large patio which sat probably about 50 people.  Our waiter, who incidentally looked like Richard Blais from Top Chef Season 8, was very attentive.  We ordered Bloody Mary’s—very spicy (lots of horseradish) and peppery.  I ordered a farmers breakfast, which came with scrambled eggs over a bed of chard and home fries.  Jon ordered scrambled eggs with housemaid sausage.  The eggs were light and fluffy, the home fries were fresh and roasted perfectly (aka lots of garlic and salt), and Jon’s sausage was spicy and savory.  Also, the restaurant has a no substitutions policy at brunch, earning it 2-thumbs up from our urban chef.  The price was also very reasonable.  I highly recommend The Farm on Adderly, and if you go, don’t forget to ask for the waiter who looks like Richard Blais!  Jon can never believe how happy I get when he takes me to brunch, and honestly, I wish I could explain it, I have no idea, but I had the best time!

But my Saturday with the urban chef was coming to a close, he had to go to work.  But, to complete my perfect Saturday, we took a quick detour by Tasty-Delight!  For the non-New Yorkers, tasty delight is a low fat frozen yogurt store, and it is so so so good, you would never know, and today’s flavor was Nutella—delicious! 

After I dropped our urban chef at Thistle Hill Tavern I headed home and unpacked our CSA bounty.
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe
  • 1 bunch turnip greens
  • 1 bunch lettuce
  • 1 bunch turnips
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • 2 yellow squash
  • 1 crate blueberries
  • 1 crate strawberries
  • 3 stalks of rhubarb
  • 1 bunch of sunflowers with snapdragons
  • 6 farm fresh eggs

Those who read my blog regular know that the first thing I did was make a strawberry rhubarb pie (Check out previous entries for the recipe). 

But, what I decided to do what make Quinoa Chard Cakes.  These were based on a recipe from the New York Times, but I made it my own. Just a note, I made it with chard but it really could be done with any leafy green.  Also, for those who don’t know about quinoa (check out this section, you won’t believe how great it is for you, and for those who are dieting… your new bff)

Quinoa Chard Cakes
  • 1 1/2 pounds chard, (rainbow is best, but Swiss is fine) washed and stemmed (do not discard the stems)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 plump garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups shitake mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Red Pepper flakes
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 jalapeno peppers diced (optional)

For serving: Spicy Greek Yogurt
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, puréed with a generous pinch of salt
  • 1T preserved lemon (regular lemon juice is also fine)
  • 1 t of hot sauce (optional)

  1. Cook quinoa according to directions on package.
  2. Fill a bowl with ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously and add the chard leaves. Blanch for two to three minutes until tender, then transfer to the ice water. Drain, squeeze out excess water.  Add the chard stems to the water (bring back to a boil before adding stems), and cook four to five minutes until tender. Transfer to the ice water, then drain.
  3. After chard and stems are dry, cut chard leaves into medium pieces and cut the stems in 1/4-inch dice. Measure out 1 cup of the stems, and discard the rest.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat in large skillet. Add the mushrooms are sauté, 2min, then add the garlic. When it is fragrant, in 30 seconds to a minute, stir in the chard leaves and stems and the cumin. Stir together for about a minute, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Transfer to a large bowl, and add the quinoa, Parmesan, jalapenos and egg. Stir together.
  5. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the canola oil together over medium-high heat in a large, heavy skillet. Moisten your hands, and shape the quinoa and chard mixture into mini slider size patties (or you can do four large patties, I find the medium size ones are easier to deal with).  The patties will be most and look like they are not going to stay together, press into a ball and do not over handle.  Make them thick—roll together like making a large meatball. 
  6. Carefully place the patties in the hot oil, taking care not to crowd them in the pan. Press down on the tops of the patties with the bottom of your spatula to prevent them from falling apart; if they are thick enough, they should stay together. I used a fish spatula, would press down, then come up around the sides and pull them back gently back toward the center.  It worked great.  Cook for four to five minutes on each side until nicely browned. Remove from the heat and serve with yogurt.

These were so delicious and savory.  I find it so satisfying when I find a recipe that is both filling, tasty, and decadent without fill me out! 

Sunday night I decided to take on the yellow squash.  In honor of father’s day, I made a recipe from my childhood, one my dad used to make for me.  I love you dad, thank you for always being there for me and for being the first person who taught me to love food.

Soule Summer Squash
2 medium Summer squash – yellow, green, zucchini, crookneck…
1 shallot (diced)
1 T olive oil
½ cup of plum tomatoes (optional)
5 mushrooms (optional)
1 t dill or thyme
¼ chicken stock
1/3 cup of parmesan cheese

  1. Shred squash with a grater or food processor.  Salt and place in a colander to drain.  Let sit for 30 minutes.  Rinse squash and then press out all water (squash must be dry).  
  2. Heat 1 T of olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  Saute shallot and add sliced mushrooms.  Turn heat to medium, add squash, and chicken stock and cover (2 min).  Add tomatoes if using.  Turn off heat and stir in parmesan cheese.  (If you want the squash to be really creamy you can use American cheese instead of parmesan).

A weekend of fabulous meals, with great company (a big thank you to the Urban chef, I love you) that are also green and economically friendly… does it really get anymore delicious than that?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Going South....

This edition of the Urban Chef takes us out of the urban, into the suburban, and well, sometimes pretty rural!  I went home last weekend to good old Burtonsville MD (Silver Spring) to visit my family.  My brother turned 24 on June 9th (Yay! Bennett!!!) and I hadn’t been home since Christmas and a visit was in order.  I was very excited to see my family, but a bit less so when Bennett told me that for his birthday celebration he wanted to eat at the BBQ rib joint, Red Hot and Blue (more on that later…)  As for me, all I wanted from my visit was a grilled half smoke (a half-smoke is a local sausage delicacy found in Washington, D.C. and the surrounding regions. Similar to a hot dog, but usually larger, spicier, and with more coarsely-ground meat, the sausage is often half-pork and half-beef, and smoked,) and some good wine from my dad’s cellar.  I love living in this urban lifestyle, but sometimes, I just want to hang out on the deck and grill (well, watch my dad grill anyway!)

Friday, I visited with my grandma, who is 84 and still very spunky.  She is always fun to be around, but a bit of an over-sharer and an over-interviewer, believe me, no secrets are kept by or from my grandma. I think she really missed her calling; she could have been Barbara Walters!  My grandma also takes care of my cat, Lucy, fondly referred to as Lucifer.  They are two peas on a pod, Lucy gets all the attention she could ever want and my grandma has a companion and something to fuss over and about.  I still miss my Lucifer, but she and the urban chef don’t quite get along, and I’m glad she’s happy with my grandma.

Friday night birthday dinner at Red, Hot, and Blue—Bennett was so excited, all he kept saying to me is “ribs, Jess, ribs, how can you not like ribs?!”  I’ll tell you why.  They are messy and kinda fatty, and really the flavor does nothing for me as I don’t like BBQ sauce, it’s something about the sugar sweet stickiness that really turns me off.  Overall, the restaurant experience was very good.  If you are ever in MD and need some BBQ, I highly recommend.  For appetizers, we shared hot wings (not nearly hot enough), hush puppies (awesome, really had good onion flavor and were perfectly fried) and fries (good, standard thick cut well fried fries.)  Entrees arrive, my dad had convinced Bernice to order a rack of ribs, which looked ridiculous as they sat in front of her!  Dad I think forgets that Bernice is not a big eater like his children—(we can seriously pack it away), but even Bennett (who is 6’5”) couldn’t wipe out this rack.  What I loved was the desset, a brownie Sunday!!! YUM!! It even came with one of those maraschino cherries!  So, happy birthday Bennett, to the best brother a sister could ever want, who is there for me in the good and bad, who always makes me laugh, and is one of the smartest people I know.  I ate ribs for you, so clearly, I love you.

Saturday night cookout!  Half smokes were thawing on the counter and meat had been pulled from my dad’s meat fridge.  Yes, my dad has a meat fridge, it’s in the garage, and usually stuffed to the gunnels as he buys a part of an organic grass fed cow each year—the meat is always so fresh, flavorful, and tender.  My dad is the grill master, he makes excellent hamburgers and hotdogs, and well, anything else you can think of grilling.  For the hamburgers he has been using the trick of adding soggy white bread to the hamburger meat to keep it moist.  See below, my dad making our cookout feast.  

I really put it away that night, I ate a hamburger (with American cheese, a classic combo!) a half smoke, baked beans, chips, and fruit salad!  Delicious!!! Nothing beats home cooking.  Thank you to Dad and Bernice who cooked all day (kudos to Bernice, she made baked beans I would actually eat!)  It was a good Saturday. 

My dad is also a master pie maker—in addition to all the yummy cookout food, he made a strawberry pie, which I assisted with (note the decorative look of the pie!).  The trick to fruit pie is to make a slurry of cornstarch and sugar and cook half the fruit, but leave the other half uncooked so that the pie is fresh, otherwise you just have a pie with jam in it!  The below recipe works with any fruit, but is best with peaches, blueberries, or strawberry’s.

Glazed Fruit Pie
Preparation time:  20 minutes
Total time:  20 minutes

Number of servings:  8

Make these low cook pies in summer when fruit is fresh and you don’t want to run the oven.  For my friends who are doing CSA, this is a great recipe to use up all that fruit we are getting.

1 pie crust (see recipe from earlier post or use store bought)
6 to 7 cups of fruit
1 c water
½ to 1 cup of sugar
2 ½ T corn starch
1 ½ T lemon juice (optional)
½ t cinnamon (optional)
½ t vanilla (optional)
¼ t salt

Preheat oven 450 and bake empty, docked pie crust.

Clean fruit.  Over medium heat, combine water, sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, cinnamon, salt and 2 cups of the fruit.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.  Mash fruit until a glaze forms (thin with water if necessary or cook to thicken).

Let pie crust cool.  Let glaze cool.  Pour in glaze into cooled pie crust and then add remaining fruit creating a pattern on the top (or you can just stir and mix together).  Pour into pie shell and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

All in all, a great trip home.  A little cute picture below, on my run (trying to work off all that BBQ) I saw chickens and a rooster in the road!  Thanks to Dad, Bernice, Bennett, Grandma, and mom for a fun visit.  Hope to see you up here in Brooklyn soon.