Monthly ArchiveAugust 2009

NYC Greenmarkets 21 Aug 2009 05:12 pm

Greenpoint Greenmarket Late August: Apricots, Polenta and the Farmer Olympics

A report from Laruen, the Greenpoint Greenmarket market manager on what you’ll find this weekend. Stop by McCarren Park tomorrow (Corner of Bedford and Lorimer) and check it out!

The 2nd annual “Farmer Olympics!” Potato sack races, watermelon seed spitting contest, and tomato target throwing contest. Fun for all ages!

Cayuga Organics has polenta, cracked wheat cereal, whole spelt flour, and whole cornmeal flour.

Red Jacket has donut peaches, plums and apricots

Suka Di also has apricots

Garden of Eve has great organic sungold tomatoes

S&SO has peppers!

Aracdian pastures has rabbits (you can also be special-order rabbits if they’re out)

Cranberry hall has eggplant — american and japanese

Consider Bardwell won 3rd place in the “best in show” category for the Rupert cheese a couple of weeks ago at the National Cheese Society national awards show. Over 1300 cheeses were in the running and Bardwell’s Rupert, an aged raw cow’s milk, took 3rd. The Pawlet, raw cow milk aged 6mth, received best in it’s category. Both will be for sale at the market — award winning cheese in Greenpoint!

Textile recycling is back and here to stay. Items accepted = clothes, linens, belts, bags, shoes, etc. All clean and dry, of course.

I got behind with posting these updates that Lauren so kindly sends me. Here are a couple of things I missed: Last weekend Bob McClure of McClure Pickles held a pickle-making demo; and the Brooklyn Rhythm Masters were on hand to provide some music. Be sure to stop by the market — there’s always something happening!

Seasonal Cooking 18 Aug 2009 07:51 pm

Artichoke-Ricotta Sandwich Spread with Arugula Pesto, Heirloom Tomatoes and Sweet Pepper Rings: a Tale of Woe

There were a dozen stories at the Souperdouper Soup Kitchen Sandwich Special, and this is four of them. First: the cookoff – the latest in the rash of edible dogfights that’ve swept through Brooklyn this year. Who planned this event? Who was there? Who were the winners? Who were the losers, and what, exactly, did they lose? Second: the sandwich, my artichoke-ricotta spread with arugula-pesto on sourdough (it never did have a proper name), my vision of culinary inspiration that lured me to Greenpoint that hot August afternoon. The third story: an unexpected find – a ricotta, very fresh, a brand previously unknown to me, discovered under the counter of a neighborhood deli.  And forth: a cautionary tale of the toll these cook offs sometimes take, the payment demanded, if not in life and limb, then in digits, in fingertips lost, never to grow back. A dire tale of blood spent and scars gained in… the Naked Kitchen.

The cookoff was a charity affair, its proceeds sent off in support of the Greenpoint Soup Kitchen. Cathy Erway and Noah Berland, a winner in last month’s Hot Dog Cookoff, hosted it in the back courtyard of the TBD Bar, on Greenpoint’s burgeoning Franklin Avenue.  My fellow contestants and I all brought a soup or a sandwich or both – enough to feed small servings to a hundred or so guests. I don’t think the crowd ever numbered quite that many, but those who came tasted entries that ranged from the homey and familiar, like Mike O’Neil’s tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons (one of my favorites of the day); to the thematic “Naughty Jew,” stuffed with Bacon; to a spicy Tex-Mex gazpacho; to a pesto and tomato canapé made entirely from produce raised at the Greenpoint rooftop farm; to the indomitable Nick Suarez’ grilled-on-the-spot grilled cheese garnished with mustard and sliced cornichons. The prizes were tempting and they were many: a Le Creuset dutch oven and griddle; a bag filled with chocolates; a copy of the venerable Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Sadly, none of these prizes came my way.  But whatever the judges and voting public may have thought, I knew in my heart that mine was a tasty sandwich — a sandwich I believed in. And that, more than prizes,more than glory, fame, the envy of other cooks, is what really matters, right?

To make it, I cleaned and steamed a dozen or so large artichokes and mixed their chopped hearts with ricotta, freshly-grated parmesan, lots of fresh basil, 5 or 6 cloves of roasted garlic, and plenty of salt and pepper. That was step one. Step two was cleaning two bunches of arugula & toasting a cup or two of walnuts, grinding them together with salt and grated parmesan, then adding a thin stream of olive oil until the mixture turned into a creamy paste: arugula pesto. Step three: thinly slice a multicolored array of heirloom tomatoes; and step four — the dangerous step four: very thinly slice a multicolored array of sweet bell peppers with a mandoline. More about that later. For the sandwich I layered ricotta spread, pesto, tomato and pepper rings on slices of sourdough bread from nearby Napoli bakery on Metropolitan Avenue. (As for some reason has been my custom lately I neglected to take photos of the finished creation, so you’ll have to check it out at Not Eating Out in New York, where Cathy has kindly featured it.

The sandwich was inspired by the locally-grown artichokes at the Osczepinski Farms booth in the Greenpoint greenmarket, but I couldn‘t track these down when game day came, and so I had to use commercial ‘chokes from a nearby grocer. Everything else though – the basil, the peppers, the tomatoes & arugula, even the garlic, all came from local farms. Even the ricotta came from a nearby cheesemaker, and in keeping with the Dave’s Kitchen Ricotta Quest I’ll mention it here.  The counterman at Lorimer Meats, where I’d previously discovered the delicious Lioni Latticini Ricotta, handed me a 3-lb ricotta tin of a brand I hadn’t seen: Calabro, from East Haven, CT.  He assured me it was as good as the Lioni Latticini, and he was right. Like the Lioni, it was packed in a perforated tin to allow extra liquid to drain out, and it had a delicious, rich flavor. It had a firmer, more solid texture, and broke apart in the bowl into something almost like chunks, but when stirred it became smooth and creamy. It balanced the subtle flavor of the artichokes very nicely and lent a slightly sweet, slightly buttery flavor to the spread. I’ll definitely pick up this brand again when I see it.

And this brings me to the last, sad story of the day. It’s a story of bandages, of great quantities of Neosporin, of doctors wielding sinister, cauterizing wands of silver nitrate. But I’ll leave out all of that, and just say this: when using a mandoline, pay attention! Stay alert and use whatever finger guard or safety device is provided. I was doing none of those and I’ll likely have a misshapen finger to show for it once the bandages come off. Those things are dangerous — but oh man do they make thin slices.

Seasonal Cooking 04 Aug 2009 11:09 pm

Shallot and Sugar-Snap Potato Salad

Potato salad is divided into three parts — at least, that’s true of the shallot and snap pea potato salad I made for the summer picnic at the Red Shed Community Garden, and then again for Grilliardsburg, the annual Brooklyn backyard BBQ at Redd’s Tavern organized by local pool shark, gourmand, food activist, and all around excellent hostess Karol Lu.  The salad proved to be a hit at both events, and it came together pretty easily. The “three parts” to its preparation are: 1) fry shallots into crispy brown rings, and, importantly, reserve the oil they were cooked in; 2) blanch new potatoes and sugar snap peas just until they’re soft enough for salad and toss them with the oil; and 3) at serving time stir in fresh herbs and greens and top with the shallot rings.

(Once again, thanks to Cathy Erway for the photo of the finished dish)

Anthony Bourdain, at the end of Kitchen Confidential, lists shallots among his secret tips for making a home cooked dish taste like food from the pros. Indeed, these cousins to onions have a flavor that’s subtle and delicate, and that lends a certain je ne sais quoi to a dish that onions or garlic can’t deliver. At some point, somehow, I discovered that frying a sliced shallot in deep olive oil does two things: creates lovely, crispy-brown shallot rings; and leaves behind a delicious shallot-scented oil. I used this double-barreled technique to top and flavor a dish of boiled, smashed potatoes one St. Patrick’s Day a few years ago, and I thought of it again as I dreamed up this summer’s potato salads.

To make the shallot rings and shallot oil, simply peel and trim the shallots, slice them cross-wise into thin rings, and drop them into a small skillet in which about half an inch of olive oil has been heated until it’s fragrant and shimmery.  Add the shallot rings carefully to form a single, uncrowded layer. It’s much better to cook them in batches than to try and cook them all at once — they won’t crisp up well if they’re too crowded in the pan. Adjust the temperature as needed to keep the rings simmering calmly but vigorously and watch them closely so they don’t burn. They’ll take 5 minutes or so to cook, and they may all get brown at once, so you’ll have to move quickly once the batch is ready. With a slotted spoon remove them to a double-layer of paper towels, and fastidiously scoop out any remaining shallot bits; you’ll be using this oil later, so you don’t want to spoil its flavor by allowing them to linger in the oil and burn. Once all the shallot rings have been cooked to a crispy brown, allow the oil to cool slightly and strain it through a fine-meshed sieve.

I’ve always loved peas and potatoes together, and this summer the sugar snap peas at the Greenpoint greenmarket seemed especially plump and sweet. The new potatoes, which I bought from the Osczepinski Farms booth, were also a delight, with tiny potatoes the size of marbles mixed with more ordinarily walnut-sized and plum-sized spuds.  When I blanched them for the salad, I had to arrange them carefully so that the larger ones would go first into the kettle and boil the longest.

Blanch the potatoes until they yield easily to a poke from a fork but are still firm – don’t let them get mushy. Then give the snow peas (stems and strings removed) a quick dip in the boiling water as well. They’ll only need a minute or two to soften them and brighten their color — not so much that they lose their crunch. Allow them to cool slightly, then rough-cut them into thirds. You might also want to cut the larger potatoes into halves or quarters, depending on their size, to make them bite-sized. (I recommend cutting them after they’re blanched, not before, so their flavor doesn’t boil away into the blanching liquid). The little marble-sized spuds I left whole.

While the potatoes and snow peas are still warm, toss them with salt & fresh-ground pepper and dress them with the warm shallot oil. Add just enough oil to coat everything – not so much that it pools in the bottom of the bowl. Chill for an hour or so. Just before serving, toss in about a quarter of a cup of chopped fresh parsley and a small bunch of some kind of firm greens. I used sorrel, which I found at the greenmarket and which gave the salad both a slightly bitter edge and a delicious green freshness; endive, spinach, or even radicchio might work as well.  On top of it all spread the fried shallot rings. Yum!