Friday, June 19, 2009

Plated: Fresh Pea Puree with Garlic Scapes

My love of fresh peas has just grown a little larger. Earlier this week, my good friend Lauren and I whipped up a simple, light weeknight meal that will definitely go into the recipe file. Brainstorming what we would cook a bit earlier in the day, we both realized our fridge's were uncommonly barren (Lauren's moving next week, but I really have no excuse!). The one item I did have on hand were some great looking shell peas I'd bought at the greenmarket last weekend. And so we built our dinner around the simple pea...and I transformed those little suckers into a tasty, "lick-your-plate clean" pea puree (seriously, Lauren literally licked her plate). I also had some fresh chives and garlic scapes lying around, so I decided to saute them up and toss them into the puree. If you've never heard or cooked with garlic scapes before, you're not alone. Last night was my first experience and I'm hooked. They look like curly scallions with a subtle garlic flavor. They're tasty and thanks to their shape, are kind of fun to have around (see picture below).
We ended up pairing the puree with a garlic-lemony baked tilapia and baby red potatoes fresh from the farmers market. Here are the details:

Lemon-Garlic Tilapia with Pea Puree and Baby Potatoes

Serves 2

Tilapia --
3/4 lb fresh tilapia (2 small fillets)
1 lemon
1/4 cup fresh chives, minced
2 Tbsp garlic
scapes, minced
cayenne pepper, to taste
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400. Place tilapia in 9x9 baking dish. Halve lemons, squeeze juice over fish and include rinds in baking dish for additional flavor. Sprinkle chives, garlic scapes and cayenne pepper over top of fish. Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes. Turn on broiler and broil for 5-7 additional minutes, checking frequently so fish doesn't burn.

Pea Puree -
~ 1 lb fresh shell peas, shelled (comes to about 1 1/4 cup of peas)
1.5 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup fresh chives, minced
1/4 - 1/3 cup garlic scapes, minced
juice of 1/
2 lemon
1/4 tsp sea salt, or more to taste
1-2 Tbsp cooking water from the peas
Boil peas in a medium saucepan. Saute chives and garlic scapes in butter 2-3 minutes on medium heat. In a food processor, combine peas, chive-scape-butter mixture, lemon juice, salt and cooking water. Puree until well blended. Taste test and add additional salt.

Potatoes -
8-10 small-medium baby red potatoes
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup chives, minced
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
In a large sauce pan, boil potatoes until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat and add potatoes, chives, salt and pepper. Saute 3-5 minutes.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Quick & Dirty News Feed

I just read/watched two good news stories that are worthy of a quick post.

1) 5 Meals with 10 Kitchen Staples
Checkout Mark Bittman's spot on this morning's Today Show and watch him whip up a summer pasta with breadcrumbs, spinach and a touch of bacon along with 4 other meals in under 15 minutes. I've mentioned Mark (and his kitchen staples) before and you all know I'm all about a teeny bit of easy prep to keep a healthy kitchen well-stocked.

2) The Latest & Not-So-Greatest Diet "Quick Fix"...It's all about Smell
Here's an article in today's Times unmasking Sensa, tiny granules you sprinkle on food that act as appetite suppressants by stimulating your olfactory gland (smell from nose to brain) to signal satiety. Basically Sensa and other similar products take the pleasure out of eating and thus, make your favorite dish of mac n'cheese or piece of chocolate cake much less appetizing. Take pleasure and enjoyment away from me? Not so fast, sorry. I'll pass and would prefer to sniff AND healthful, indulgent moderation of course.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What's in Season Near You?

I spent a good amount of time sauntering through NYC's farmers market in Union Square this past weekend and I can confidently say that summer produce is finally on the horizon (fingers crossed with this gray, rainy weather we've been having). Depending on where we live however, summertime, seasonal produce may vary. Just because peaches are out by the bushel in early July in Virginia, doesn't mean you'll find them at your local greenmarket in Vermont. Weather and agriculture is certainly unpredictable, but I think it also makes the shopping experience that much more exciting, intriguing and creative (well, it often forces you to be more creative!). Go with what your geographic area gives you and you won't be disappointed in terms of flavor and taste. Wondering what's in season near you during June, July and August? Checkout's fantastic Farm-to-Table Seasonal Cooking guide -- seasonal recipes, tips, 10 of the nation's best locavore restaurants, AND a peak-season map for produce around the country. See what's happening right now in your state. For NY, we've just hit strawberry season. Sugar snap and shell peas, rhubarb, asparagus, radishes and spinach are on overdrive at the greenmarket. Eat up! Here's one of my favorite early summer recipes that plays up the perfect pairing of strawberries and rhubarb in an indulgently healthful dessert.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Serves 10-12

3/4 cup sugar

1 Tbsp cornstarch

3 cups chopped rhubarb (about 1" pieces)

4 cups strawberries (halved or quartered, about 1 1/2 pints)

1 tsp lemon juice

1-2 tsp vanilla extract (my secret ingredient)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup quick cooking oats

2 tsp. cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, toss the sugar, cornstarch, rhubarb, berries, vanilla and lemon juice. Mix well and transfer to a lightly buttered 13x9 glass baking dish. Mix the remaining ingredients to form coarse crumb and sprinkle over the fruit mixture. Bake at 350ยบ for 30 to 40 minutes or until the crumb topping is lightly browned. Serve warm with a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fish for thought...responsible eating

I couldn't resist doing a quick post on Mark Bittman's article on eating fish responsibly in today's NY Times Dining section. In "Loving Fish, This Time With the Fish in Mind," Bittman writes of the woes and confusion around the eating of fish and seafood. Talk of wild v. farmed, overfishing, pollution, antibiotics and aiming to go sustainable around fish has been hot and heavy for a good number of years now. With so many varieties of fish (Atlantic v. Pacific v. who knows where), it's hard to decipher restaurant menus let alone labels at your local grocery store or fish monger. I do my best to make eco-conscious, sustainable decisions when deciding what to order, but it's tough and either you're left completely confused, completely guilt-ridden or completely hungry when you leave the table. For a great site to double check the sustainability of your favorite fish or seafood, checkout Seafood Watch or follow them on Twitter for the latest underwater updates. You can even download a regional seafood pocket guide to see what's most ocean-friendly in your area.

Here's Bittman's quick takeaway tips for when you're next in the mood for fish:

My approach — which I readily admit is a work in progress and is as imperfect as my approach to all foods — goes something like this:

I don’t buy or order the common fish I can easily keep in mind as being super-troubled — most cod, for example, or bluefin tuna, most species of shark and skate. When in doubt, I move on.

With rare exceptions, I don’t buy or order farm-raised fish, except clams and oysters. Farmed mussels and shrimp don’t seem to come with egregious environmental consequences, but neither tastes like much, either.

I don’t eat fish as often as I once did. (I don’t promote eating it as I once did, either.)

And I keep re-evaluating these “rules,” and thinking about them. The “safe” lists are difficult to understand, impossible to remember and change frequently. When the fishing of a species is well managed, it can recover and become sustainable. When it’s not, the stocks of that fish disappear, sometimes quickly.

I’m probably not going to stop eating fish. And fortunately I don’t have to, since there are species that have never been depleted — squid and mackerel, for example — and those that have recovered, like haddock and Maine lobster.

And finally, here's an enticing recipe for Lobster with Pasta and Mint that accompanied the article.


1 1 1/2 -pound live lobster

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Crushed red chili flakes to taste

1 pound long pasta, like linguine

1/2 cup chopped mint, or to taste.

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put about an inch of water into another large pot, add a not-too-big pinch of salt, put in lobster and cover pot. Steam lobster until it is red, about 3 minutes; you do not have to cook it through. Remove it and keep water simmering with cover off. As soon as you can, remove lobster’s tail and claws; return body to simmering liquid. Remove meat from claws and tail and return shells to pot; chop meat roughly.

2. Put olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and lobster meat and toss; cook until it sizzles, then add chili flakes and lower heat. Strain lobster-cooking water, discarding body and shells; you will want a couple of cups.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta until it is not even close to tender, but just bending. Drain it, reserving some cooking liquid if you have less than 2 cups of lobster liquid. Add pasta to lobster/garlic mixture, with about a cup of lobster liquid. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, adding more liquid as necessary. Stop cooking when pasta is tender, taking care not to add too much liquid.

4. Taste and add more salt, chili flakes or olive oil if you like. Stir in the mint and serve.

Yield: 4 servings.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Food's back in theaters

The food industry is headed back to the big screen this weekend as Food, Inc. opens in NYC and LA this Friday, June 12. Filmmaker Robert Kenner takes a closer look at our nation's food industry exposes "the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer." The movie, which took 6 years to make, highlights the big business of corporate food production and how it impacts consumer health, the average American farmer and our environment. I've been meaning to see a screening of the film for a few months now, but continuous conflicts prevented me from doing so. I'll be catching the flick this weekend and will report back with a full review. My instinct tells me it's going to be a must-see film and has the backing (and on-screen interviews) of a number major players in the food industry, Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation and co-producer of the film), and Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms among them.
Get your organic/all natural-popcorn ready to go...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Market Fresh Herb Salad

This might be my new staple salad for the summer. Simple, light, super green and packed with nutrients, try it out for yourself. Who doesn't love avocado, goat cheese, mint, basil and more all wrapped up into one plate of deliciousness?

Summer Herb Salad with Goat Cheese & Avocado
serves 4

1 small bunch arugula
1 small bunch watercress
1 small head of frisee
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3 vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
1 cup chick peas
2-3 scallions, minced
1 avocado, diced
3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
juice of 1 lemon
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Toss all ingredients together arugula through goat cheese. Whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and drizzle over salad. *Serve with toasted garlic and herb crostini and a dollop of hummus if desired.