Mark Twain said cauliflower is nothing but cabbage with a college education, but he may have been talking about bok choy, who went to college in Asia. Baby Bok Choy, a variety of Chinese cabbage, offers eaters both silky mild greens and a crunchy cabbage with a subtle taste and excellent mouth feel. It is also shockingly good when fresh. And of course, it’s meant to marry into the classic family of Asian flavors — ginger, soy, sesame oil and scallions.
Last year I grew too much boy choy, so this year I skipped it, then, of course, missed it this fall. So I picked up a bunch of three medium heads from Crista Stosiek at the farmers market on Saturday. I knew it would come in handy when there wasn’t much in the house, now that my garden is pretty much finished, except for my hearty herbs, hence the recipe’s use of chives.
A snap to make, this tasty dish is fresh tasting and healthy, combining the fresh veggies and whole grains we’re supposed to feast on. I like to cook the pasta while I’m wokking up the bok choy so it all comes together at once. 2 very generous one pot meals to 4 side dishes.
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon or so grated ginger*
1 or so tablespoons any oil that’s not strong
1-1/4 pounds or about 4-5 baby bok choy
8 ounces buckwheat (soba) noodles
1/4 cup sliced scallion greens or chives
1 tablespoon soy
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 generous pinch of hot chili pepper flakes
Salt to taste
Toasted sesame seeds, optional
1-Put about 3 quarts of water on to boil.
2-Add the garlic, ginger and oil to the bottom a wok. Slice the bok choy, both the green and white part, into 1-inch pieces, or cut into long thin strips, as you wish. Rinse in a colander, leaving some of the water clinging to it.
3-Heat the oil over high heat, stirring it once or twice to prevent burning. Immediately, the rinsed bok choy, without worrying if a little water is still clinging to it. Turn continuously, until the greens are wilted and the cabbagey part is hot and a little softer, but still crunchy, about 5 minutes.
4-Add the pasta to the lightly boiling water. Cook until soft but not mushy, about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. (Taste!) Drain.
5-Immediately, add the cooked noodles to the wok, tossing it all together with the scallions or chives, sesame oil, soy, hot chili pepper flakes and salt, if needed. Sprinkle with optional sesame seeds, if you are using them. Serve.
* Ginger tip
Ginger doesn’t hold well, but I love to have it around when I need it. So I freeze it and grate it straight from frozen. Barbara Tropp, the Chinese food maven, freed me from peeling it, as she didn’t. But you can, if you wish.
Italian First Courses the Make a Meal
Monday, October 7th
Find out more here
Join me for a lineup of delectable dishes inspired by the flavors of Italy. Often served as the starter of the meal, they deserve the spotlight to themselves. Learn some great new recipes that can be easily adapted for anytime of the year using what’s fresh and local.
Shrimp and Fennel Risotto
Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout
Harvest Vegetable Antipasto with White Bean Broschetta
Rolled Fresh Pasta filled with Greens, Ricotta and Prosciutto’
Maybe I should have called this Last Chance Soup. I cooked it to celebrate the end of the corn season. Finally, we’re sick of corn on the cob. That’s the idea, right? Eat it until you’ve had enough, then wait till next year. I also made this to welcome Sanjaban and Cynthia’s visit a few years ago, to reciprocate after the honest country meal they served us the year before, carefully prepared and straight from their garden. I especially remember Cynthia’s rustic vegetable soup with fat meaty scarlet runner beans. Dried beans from the store, organic or not, just don’t compare. Cynthia told me that they taste best when allowed to dry in their pods until you can wiggle them like a rattle.
Serves 4 main course, 6 appetizers, makes about 6 cups
1 large onion
1 poblano chili
1 jalapano chili
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon butter
8 ears of corn
3 cups chicken stock*
1 cup milk, preferably whole
2-3 ripe tomatoes or 1 basket of cherry tomatoes
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar or cider vinegar
6-8 large basil leaves
1-Dice onion. (I like using a sweet onion.) You’ll want 1-1/2 cups, but if you get less, don’t worry about it. Cut the chilies end to end. Pull out the stem, knock or spoon out the seeds. Cut into strips and dice. Peel and mince garlic cloves.
2-Melt butter over medium heat in a pot or large skillet with a tall lip. Add the onion, chilies and most of the garlic, reserving about 1/3 for later. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
3-Shuck the corn, then remove the silk. Hold each cob, standing up by the large end in bowl. Scrape down the kernels with a sharp knife to remove them, turning as you work. Add kernels to the pot. (If the pot is the right shape, that is more wide than tall, I like to turn off the heat and scrape the corn right into it.)
4-Add chicken stock, salting to taste if it’s homemade. (Less is better than more.) Simmer for 15 minutes. Add milk and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Add the juice of the lemon, then taste, adding salt if necessary.
5-Remove the tops and chop the tomatoes. Or, if using cherry tomatoes, half or quarter, as you like. Mix in a small bowl with the reserved garlic and the vinegar. Pile the basil leaves on top of each other and roll. Then slice thinly. Do not chill. Reserve the tomatoes and basil for garnish.
6-To serve, heat the soup. Ladle into the warm bowls. Spoon the tomato mixture into center of each bowl, dividing it equally. Sprinkle with the basil.
Salt: I like adding salt several times, but never too much. Most chefs add kosher of sea salt at various stages of cooking so it gets integrated into the flavors, rather than layered on top at the end. Recipes generally don’t do this, as it’s too much to talk about!) Soup can be made and held in the fridge.
*For vegetarians, use vegetable instead of chicken stock
This quick soup dinner warms the soul. My mom gave me this classic recipe years ago, which I adapted just a bit, using regional fish — anything white and flaky will do — local leeks and potatoes with a splash of Pernod. (And an optional aioli crouton topping.)
It’s in Joy of Cooking format — remember that? — because I wrote the soup chapter for the 2000 version. Not sure if they printed this one:)
If you can’t find local leeks yet, wait! Makes about 7 Cups
Bring to a boil:
1-1/2 quarts water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock
l teaspoon salt
4 leeks, tough green ends removed, well rinsed, finely sliced
about 2 russet potatoes, or more smaller potatoes, peeled and sliced (2 cups)
l bulb fennel, sliced, leaves reserved for garnish (about 2 cups)
l cup dry white wine or vermouth
l/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
Simmer rapidly until the potatoes start to fall apart, about 20-30 minutes.
l pound white flaky fish filets, cut into 2” pieces
l teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/4-1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, to taste
Cover and cook over low heat, until the fish is just cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.
1 tablespoon sliced butter, optional
1 teaspoon Pernod, optional
Sprigs or chopped fennel leaves
Optional Aioli topping
If using, omit butter in soup.
Drop a toasted baguette slice topped with aioli into each bowl of soup.
Set in a bowl over warm water:
Immediately start to beat and remove from heat when starts to trail and turn cover.
Immediately whisk in:
l teaspoon Dijon mustard
Add in a thin stream, whisking all the the time:
Stop when it reaches the texture of mayonnaise.
Pureed or very finely minced garlic, to taste
lemon juice, to taste
salt, to taste
I conjured this up at 9 or 10 last night, not my sharpest time, so I used the food processor to help out. The results may not be as pretty as hand cut produce, but the flavor is summer’s finale in a bowl — glorious. (And the colors still pop.) The fresher the veggies the tastier the dish, and I picked up these up at a nameless farm stand, a tiny screech stop in nearby Richmond. Serve at any temperature with crusty bread. Later this week, I may simmer skinless chicken thighs in the leftovers until cooked through, then sprinkle them with chopped garden celery or parsley leaves. Makes about 2 quarts, but whoops. nighttime cooking, I didn’t really measure.
5 cloves garlic
1 large sweet onion
1/4 cup olive oil, preferably fruity
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
2 small to medium eggplants, about 1-1/2 pounds
1 medium zucchini
1 medium summer squash
1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons capers
1 pound fresh ripe tomatoes
freshly ground pepper
Pulse garlic in food processor. Peel and cut onion in 4 and pulse just until chopped but not beyond. Add to oil to pot and simmer over medium heat until onions are transluscent, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, halve peppers lenghtwise and pull out stem and core, shaking the seeds out. Cut each half in half and pulse in food processor until chopped. Don’t worry if they are cut unevenly. Add to pot.
Slice eggplant. Stack and quarter slices. Pulse in food processor, in batches if needed, until chopped. If any large pieces remain, leave them behind and pulse once more. Add to a bowl and toss in just a touch of flour to coat. Remove eggplant to pot, leaving any excess flour behind.
Slice zucchini and yellow squash and add to pot. Also add capers, throwing in more or less, depending on how much you like capers (I like ‘em). Then, add 1 teaspoon of salt and stir well. Cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes, or until eggplant is soft and tasty.
Core or cut off tops of tomatoes and pulse just to chop. Drain off some of the juice. The more you drain off the thicker the result, your choice. (Reserve any fresh tomatoes juice and drink with a touch of salt.) Add tomatoes and cook 5 more minutes. Add salt, if needed, and pepper to taste. Serve hot or cold.
If you’re not following me on facebook at this link, here are some missed nuggets —
– Pepper Season is in full swing, and so the mass roasting begins!
2 approaches. Lazy person’s: Not as smoky but good for winter meals anyway. Pile them into a brown paper bag, bending the top over to seal. Bake on a sheet pan until wrinkled and great smelling in a 375 oven. Takes a while. Let cool. Peel or not and freeze to can or eat. ( I sometimes freeze ‘em whole and deal with them later, sometimes I cut them in half and remove seeds and stem and peel, then slice and freeze.) Second classic approach: Broil or grill whole, turning them until charred. Let cool in brown bag or with cloth thrown over them. Peel. Roasted peppers freeze wonderfully…
– Today’s mint day
Spaghetti with tomatoes, mint and feta. Cantaloupe with lime and mint. Mint pesto. Rolled then very thinly slivered mint leaves in a otherwise ordinary salad with a lemony dressing. Couscous or rice salad with finely diced summer vegetables and apples with sun-shiny chopped fresh mint. Sun tea with fresh mint….– Sad loss of a great place
Café Reva is closing! Not only can she really cook tasty honest food at fair prices, but she loves local goodies. Good bye Aura, Reva; we hope you’ll come back in another form….
– Should you wash your chicken?
Yet another opinion here. What do you do?
– Great Organization Looking for Executive Director
Massachusetts Farm to School Project, who I worked with for my MA Farm to School Cookbook, which is free on this site and was distributed to every school district in the state. Interested? Follow this link.
Please join me and spread the word….
Boy, do I love to teach.
Join me for this fun, informative cooking class in
Northampton, Massachusetts at the Different Drummer.
Find out more here.
(Picture not mine: Food fabulous!)
Local peaches or pears are in. Eat them out of hand until you can’t stand it, as the season is short. Today I stuffed them with ginger cookies, almonds and chocolate. They barely made it to the fridge, but they’re good warm or cold.
1 ounce ginger snap cookies (5 small, 4 large)
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 tablespoon dark chocolate chips or grated chocolate
1 tablespoon brandy or cognac
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg yolk (small egg, if possible)
2 firm-ripe pears or peaches (cling free peaches*)
1 teaspoon butter, optional
1-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2-Pulse cookies, almonds and chocolate in the food processor until they are crumb sized. (Don’t over process. Better too large than too small.) Transfer to a small bowl and add the rum, sugar and egg yolk. Mix thoroughly.
3-For peaches, cut them in half and remove the pits. For pears, cut them in half lengthwise; scoop out the core with a spoon. Scoop out about a tablespoon or so the center of the peaches or pears to enlarge their cavities for the filling. Finely chop the scooped out flesh and add to the ginger-chocolate mixture. Spoon a little of the filling into each half. If you are using it, top each with chopped or thin shavings of the butter.
4- Place fruit in an baking dish, and bake for 45 minutes or until the filling firms up and forms a crust. Let cool. Transfer to a serving dish.
*Late season peaches are usually cling-free, meaning that you can cut around the pit and pull the two halves apart easily.
Today’s personal produce rant
Eat produce for its flavor, not its caché. At least in principle, no one is opposed to biodiversity, but I have a pet peeve about the growing popularity of varieties that don’t cut the mustard. (Especially when old favorites are forgotten.) Give me GREEN beans like meaty Roma varieties. Yellow beans are OK but mostly leave me cold because, like white asparagus, they miss the point — their green beany flavor.
Seedless watermelon, don’t get me started — all sweet, no watermelon flavor. The same for supersweet corn, which isn’t corny enough for my tastes. Instead savor heirloom varieties right after they’re picked, but before the turn to starch. (Supersweet doesn’t get starchy, because it’s designed to get sweeter over time, but tastes like saccharrin.) And, while fashionable white peaches are excellent for their subtlety, where’s their acidic bite? Gone flat. Yellow tomatoes have less acid, true, and some are extraordinary, I agree, but a good Brandywine screams, “I’m red, ripe and have swallowed the sun!
We’ve got a long road ahead of us, as big-agribusiness still rules the roost. But this excellent USDA is packed with good information tipping us in the right direction, including a September 14th article, Scientists Agree: Toward Sustainable Agriculture Systems in the 21st Century. (Took you long enough!)
With oodles of resources, this website recognizes the importance of regional food systems with direct farm to consumer sales, and that’s good news for us all. Direct sales have increased from $551 million in 1997 to $1.2 billion in 2007, with Massachusetts leading the way. These kinds of sales, like those in CSAs, farm stands and farmers markets, are about relationships between people, not corporations, and that builds more humane communities. Direct sales also leave more dough in farmers’ hands and fresher food on consumer’ tables. They also boost local economies, because food dollars stay close home, rather than being shipped out to corporate headquarters. All good.
Pictures from the wonderful Berkshire Food Journal. Visit them!
I Only Eat Corn When It’s In Season Near You
The local corn season is short and sweet. So savor it while it’s available until you are fully satisfied. Start by celebrating each year’s harvest with a corn on the cob corn dinner, piling up cobs like cord wood. After that, eat it so often that when the frost comes you’re almost relieved to see it go. Then wait until next year. The flown in stuff doesn’t make the cut and waiting makes the local crop taste even better.
II Buy it directly from the farmer or Grow Your Own
It’s a pleasure to buy from directly from those that grow it. Farmers markets abound in the country, city and suburbs, so you’ve got no excuse. But, if you don’t know where the closest one is, search one using this Local Harvest link. And don’t forget to screech to a halt when you see a farm stand. Meeting your farmer puts people, not faceless corporations, back into the food chain.
Urban farmers out there: Grow your own. It’s a commitment, because you need a roomy backyard or a community garden. (You’re likely to be luckier than I was here in the country. A family of raccoons took one bite out of each cob as soon as it was ready to harvest!)
III Try Varietals
Sweet corn, the kind you and I eat in August, has been hybridized almost forever. Since the 80′s, SuperSweet corn, which can be up to 10 times sweeter than the conventional corn, has become hugely popular. I like corn that takes corny rather than just sweet, and you may have corn preferences too. So taste around. Eating all kinds of corn keeps a larger spectrum of it available, yielding more flavor choices and a bio-diverse world.
IV Start with Corn on the Cob
When the first crop is ready for harvest feast on it in its purest form, so its flavor shines through. You can’t beat it steamed in water for 3 or so minutes then tossed with butter, salt, and pepper. Then move on to topping variations by mixing room temperature butter or (olive oil) with flavoring ingredients to taste.
Here are a few —
•White Miso Compound, a favorite in my house. Just stir in a touch of miso paste.
•Herb Butter, using your favorite herb, such as basil, or dill For Herb-Chive Butter add chopped chives or scallion greens.
•Garlic Butter. Simmer butter or olive oil with minced garlic.
•Lemon Pepper Butter or olive oil, using cracked pepper and lemon zest.
•Chipotle Butter, going light on canned minced chipotle peppers
• Your new invention!
For a smoky flavor,grill corn. (See above!) Remove the silk but not the husks, and then soak before grilling. Or for a deeper smoke, grill husked ears directly. The browner the kernels the smokier the taste, But don’t overdo it, because you still want to taste the corn. (I like a cob grilled with some bright yellow and some nicely browned kernels.) Corning grilled over wood will add the best flavor, next best is charcoal and then gas.
V Shuck More than You Need
Once you start shucking keep going. I never shuck less than a six, because shucked corn is fabulous to have on hand. Steam or grill it for kernels to use in other dishes. (Or eat cold or reheated, as I’ve been known to do for breakfast.) Keep cooked corn in the fridge for a summer staple.
VI Go Kernel Crazy
When corn’s in, its kernels add a sweet summery taste to everything. To remove kernels, husk, remove the silk, and then slice down the length of the cob with a sharp knife. Use already cooked corn, or you can steam or microwave kernels for a minute, then add into any kind of vegetable, grain, or cooked dried bean dish. Shave kernels right off the cob into any kind of chili, stew soup or salad.
Sweet corn and tangy lemon pair well in summer salads. Make a lemon dressing with 1 part fresh lemon juice to 3 parts olive oil, adding some minced garlic and a touch of mustard if you like.
•A Summer Bean and Corn Salad with canned, drained and rinsed cannellini beans and halved heirloom cherry tomatoes, adding herbs for the garden if you like.
• Summer Bulgur Salad, with cooked bulgur, corn kernels and tons of chopped parsley
•Warm Rice Salad with warmed left over brown rice from your Chinese take-out restaurant, with kernels, cilantro and scallions and freshly grated ginger. You can even add cubes of chicken or fish.
•Pasta salad with other seasonal vegetables and herbs, spiking it with vinegar and coarsely grated Parmesan.
•And don’t forget to add corn kernels to your favorite potato salad.
VII Combine Corn and Tomatoes
Corn and tomatoes come into season together and were born to marry. Make a homemade tomato-corn salsa using chopped tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeños and a touch of garlic and onion. You’ll never look at the jarred stuff again. Enjoy fresh tomato salsa with corn pudding for which recipes abound. Shave lightly cooked corn kernels atop a tomato, mozzarella salad for a sweet and pretty hit that balances the acidity of the tomatoes.
VIII Entertain the Corn Way
Corn holds up to an entire meal, so go for it! Hold a potluck or cook your own feast with corn in every course. Remember it’s a long wait until next year so eat up. Or cut cobs in half and hold a corn variety tasting within a meal or on it’s own. Supply your own or have people bring their favorites.
IX Take Corny Vacations
Visiting relatives or hitting the road this summer? Drop by a local farm stand or farmers market and pick up corn. Eat out at restaurants that boast of local corn. Top it off with by finding a corn maze in the area and bringing the kids, or the kid within.
X Spread the word
Share stories about where your great corn comes from. That will help keep your farmer in business and their variety of corn alive and well. Besides, it pleasure to enjoy great food together.
“Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn, “ says Garrison Keillor.
I used apples, peaches and a few cherry tomatoes tossed in sugar.
Little input, great results. This quick ‘n easy crowd pleaser is ideal for those who hate to bake or are pressed for time. Serve it to holiday guests or at pot luck meals. I especially like it for brunch.
Better yet, top it with whatever fresh, local fruit is in season. Earlier this year I tripled the recipe, then baked it on a sheet pan for my reading at the Pittsfield Library, using Barlett Orchard’s cortland apples. (The smell of their cider donuts drives me wild!)
The recipe is from my new book, The Locavore Way, and is a variation on Jane Brody’s popular plum tart recipe, published in The New York Times years ago, which is a loose adaptation of a German Kuchen.
1 stick (4 ounces)
1 cup sugar
½ teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Best of the fruit harvest (see variations below)
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons sliced almonds (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. Using a mixer, food processor, or wooden spoon, mix the butter, sugar, eggs, extract, and cardamom until combined. Add the flour and baking powder, and blend again until combined.
3. Generously grease an 8- or 10-inch springform pan. (Or better yet, use a nonstick one.) Add the batter and spread evenly.Lay the fruit on top, close together in a pattern. Dust with cinnamon and a generous amount of sugar; drizzle with the lemon.
4. Bake for 50 minutes to l hour, or until well browned on top and sides.
5. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. If using almonds, toast in a dry pan over medium heat, stirring. Sprinkle over kuchen. When the kuchen is cool, remove the cake; run a knife along the side of the pan if it sticks.
Local food improvisations
Try these or experiment with whatever’s been freshly harvested.
• 2 peeled and sliced apples or pears, lightly tossed in cinnamon and nutmeg or a touch of exotic garam masala. Overlap them slightly in concentric circles.
• 2 cups of blueberries, tossed with a touch of maple syrup and a little flour to coat. (I usually have some frozen from summer picking.)
• 12 prune plums, halved lengthwise, pitted, and pressed cutside down in circles. (Try this in the fall)
Update: Guess this recipe really works with all kinds of fruit. Just tried it with peaches and nectarines from the Great Barrington Farmers Market. Wow. (Note: They were ripe, so I tossed them with a touch of flour to absorb their liquid. And I plunged them into boiling water, then pealed them before adding them in large pieces to the uncooked batter,but not sure that was necessary.) Then I tried the recipe again with unpeeled nectarines firm-ripe and a handful of raspberries, with the berries tossed in a touch of flour. That worked wonderfully too.