Monthly ArchiveMay 2010

Seasonal Cooking 19 May 2010 09:57 pm

Rubarb Lemonade

Rhubarb LemonadeI wanted to begin this post by saying “Rhubarb isn’t just for dessert. In fact, if you google ‘rhubarb isn’t just for dessert’ you get dozens of the most amazing results.” But, unfortunately, you don’t. Just about all of the google results you get are for desserts — rhubarb crisps, rhubarb ice cream, rhubarb pies— though you do get one page entitled “rhubarb, it isn’t just for Yankees anymore!”

Rhubarb really is much too delicious to be relegated to the end of the meal. It makes a great sauce to serve alongside a roast pork loin, for example. And there’s a very interesting looking balsamic rhubarb compote posted recently on Epicurious’ Epi-Log blog.

Its tartness beautifully offsets sweet flavors, in much the same way that lemons do. Since its fresh-tartness is so refreshing, it makes a great drink.  So far this spring I’ve made two versions of it: a rhubarb-ginger lemonade and a rhubarb-strawberry lemonade. Both have been delicious.

The Rhubarb, Lemontechnique couldn’t be simpler: roughly chop the rhubarb and its accompaniments, put them into a saucepan with sugar, water and lemon zest, and boil. Let everything simmer for a while, let it steep together as it cools a bit, then strain it. Add lemon juice. When you’re thirsty, pour some of this syrup in a glass, top with water – preferably the carbonated kind – add ice and stir. Add a garnish of lemon peel or a lemon slice if you’re feeling patient and classy enough.

Last summer I used this method to make a varieties of berry sodas. They were delicious, though Straining bags for jam or rhubarb as I described, not very refined: the ordinary, medium-mesh strainer I used produced a thick, pulpy syrup. I had no complaints — the drinks I made with it were terrific, but this year I wanted to find a way to make my soda syrups a bit clearer. I went up the street to the Brooklyn Kitchen for some cheesecloth, but a helpful shopkeeper directed me instead to a pack of nylon jam-straining bags. I think they’re supposed to go along with some other equipment in a jam-straining kit, but I found they work very well simply draped around my mesh strainer. Rhubarb SimmeringThey have a big advantage over cheesecloth in that they’re re-useable.

And they produce a beautiful, clear syrup, which in turn made a clear, pulp-free drink.  I’m petty happy with my rhubarb-ades so far, and I hope there’s enough time left in rhubarb season to experiment with more flavors. Rhubarb-orange? Rhubarb-carrot? Rhubarb-vodka?

NYC Greenmarkets 12 May 2010 10:00 pm

McCarren Park Greenmarket – Angela Miller of Consider Bardwell Farms

Angela Miller of Consider Bardewll FarmsConsider Bardwell’s  cheeses aren’t just for us greenmarket customers – they’re also on the cheese boards of such celebrated restaurants as The French Laundry, Blue Hill, and The Spotted Pig. This Saturday the proprietor of Consider Bardwell Farm, Angela Miller, will be on hand at the McCarren Park greenmarket to answer questions about her delicious cheeses and to promote her new book, Hay Fever. It tells the story of how she bought and renovated Consider Bardwell Farm in Pawlett, VT, learned to raise goats, and put together a farming and cheesemaking team that has won awards from coast-to-coast — all while continuing her life as a Manhattan literary agent.

Also happening at the market this weekend:
Osczepinski Farms, more easily known as S & SO, are back for the season. Last week they had fresh chamomile and fat bunches of hearty spinach. Look for the offerings at their booth to expand to bursting over the next few weeks.

There will be strawberries! Yes, Lani’s Farm will have strawberries. Get there early so you don’t miss ‘em!

Red Jacket will be bringing in a new juice blend for the summer season: apples and lemon. I’m told it’s incredibly tasty.

There will also be music by Greg Cornell and his band. And the greenmarket will be giving a demo at the Williamsburg Park Kite Festival happening nearby in McCarren Park.

See you there!

Seasonal Cooking 01 May 2010 04:02 pm

Root Vegetable Chips: a Farewell to Winter

Root Veggie ChipsSpring is here. The first fresh veggies of the new growing season are in. It’s time to say farewell to the root vegetables that sustained me through the Winter. But it’s a fond farewell — they’ve warmed me in many a bracing stew, spawned some inventions, and some discoveries, and even won me a prize. So let’s give them a fitting send-off.

A farewell that showcases them in all their variety! In a form that everyone loves!Let’s bring them out to a jovial, celebrating holiday crowd as … a Bag of Chips!

Yes, root vegetable chips, fried crispy and brownCelery Root, Potato,  Parsnip, Beet and lightly salted. Preparing them couldn’t be simpler – just slice them wafer-thin on a mandeline — being very careful and using the finger guard — and fry them up in a kettle of hot oil.

Over Superbowl weekend I tried potato and sweet potato chips and brought them to a party. The partygoers loved them, and devoured them to their last crumbs, but I wasn’t quite satisfied. They were flavorful but not chippy enough — they were crispy around the edges but limp in the middle.

So I came home and did what, of course, I should’ve done in the first place: I consulted a cookbook. The Joy of Cooking, my old standby, includes an instruction I’d entirely omitted: soak the sliced potatoes in cold water for 2 hours. Maybe this was the secret path to crispiness.

thin sliced Healthway  Farms Adironcack Red potatoes

So I watched the calendar for the next excuse to fire up the deep-fry oil. It came on Easter: one of Noah Berland’s much-anticipated Brooklyn Foodie Potlucks was scheduled. This was my chance to improve upon my Superbowl chip. Not only would I make them crispier, I’d expand the very notion of the chip: I’d bring in the beet, the parsnip, the carrot, and yes, even the celery root.Adirondack Blue Potato  Chips

All of them, in the end, worked beautifully. The ice-water bath firmed them up nicely, and after patting them dry on paper towels, a batch at a time, I dunked them into the hot oil, making sure not to crowd them. I don’t own a deep fry thermometer, so I watched closely to make sure the chips were cooking vigorously & turned up the heat if they weren’t.Chips Frying

I flipped them all once or twice, and when each batch was crisp and brown, I removed them with a slotted spoon and drained them on several layers of paper towels. I sprinkled them with a Creole spice mix and transferred them to a just-warm oven. When all were cooked, I piled them into a large paper bag and shuttled them to the party. The bag made a handy serving bowl too once I’d arrived. They were again a hit and again devoured.Beet Chips

So farewell hearty root vegetables! Farewell dark winter flavors! I’ll think of you for a moment in August when the heat makes me dream of cold Winter days, though I’ll forget you again with each bite of summer corn. But then, in December, when the frost kills off the last Brussels sprout, I’ll find you again.

Watch your Fingers