Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Foodie Holiday...

What better way to kick off the holiday season than with some gorgeous food-fashioned photos from Barneys' recent catalog and a few shots from the store's comically ornate windows featuring a handful of celebrity chefs like Martha Stewart, Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali at their best.  The theme this year might be my all-time favorite: "have a foodie holiday," something I'll surely be keeping in mind come Thursday and Thanksgiving...plenty of great food, health, family and friends to be thankful for this year.

images via: Barney's catalog, Heather Clawson for Habitually Chic

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Dose of Butternut Squash & Rue Magazine Issue 2!

With visions of turkey, stuffing, green beans and pumpkin pie running through your head just days before the Thanksgiving feast, I thought I'd change things up a bit and infuse your plate with a little butternut squash - one of the most versatile, most nutritious (antioxidant-packed and fiber-rich) and most flavorful standouts of the season.  When the turkey coma is all said and done, here are two bright and warm b-nut squash recipes to bring you back to balance.  Check them out here on the pages ( 86-87) of Rue Magazine's issue #2 that just went live yesterday!  
Wishing you a deliciously healthful and thankful holiday!

Pan Seared Scallops with Brown Butter Sage Sauce, Butternut Squash Puree & Maple-Cider Reduction
Serves 4

butternut squash
1 butternut squash, halved
extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
salt to taste
1 head of garlic 

maple-cider reduction
¼ cup maple syrup
¼ cup apple cider
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 

1 pound medium to large diver scallops
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 

brown butter sage sauce
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh sage leaves

butternut squash
Preheat oven to 375.  Drizzle olive oil over squash, sprinkle with salt and place cut-side down on a baking sheet.  Roast for about 50 minutes, or until flesh is soft.  Meanwhile, drizzle head of garlic with 1 tablespoon olive oil, wrap in aluminum foil and bake about 50 to 60 minutes. 
Remove butternut squash from oven and allow to slightly cool.  Scoop out seeds and discard.  Scoop out remaining flesh.  Cut garlic head in half and squeeze 3 to 4 cloves, adding the puree to the butternut squash.  Blend the garlic and butternut squash well until a smooth puree forms.  
maple-cider reduction
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer about 15-20 minutes to reduce by nearly half.  Drain through a sieve to remove peppercorns.   Return to saucepan and keep warm on low heat. 
Turn oven up to 400.  Pat scallops dry and season with salt and pepper.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Sear scallops until lightly browned and opaque in the center, about 2 to 2 1/2 minutes on each side.
brown butter sage sauce
Add butter and sage leaves to pan over medium-high heat.  Butter will begin to lightly brown after 3 to 4 minutes.  Remove from heat.
To serve, spoon a dollop of butternut squash puree in the center of a plate, creating a bed for scallops.  Arrange 3 to 4 scallops per plate atop butternut squash.  Drizzle brown butter sage sauce over top scallops.   Drizzle maple-cider reduction around butternut squash puree.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Lentils, Goat Cheese, Crispy Shallots & Balsamic Reduction
(pictured above)
Makes 4-6 servings

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 to 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup dried French lentils
4 oz goat cheese (1 small log)
1 shallot, peeled and cut into thin rounds or half-moon shapes
additional extra-virgin olive oil for "frying" the shallots and to coat the salad
6 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups arugula

Preheat oven to 4oo degrees. Soak lentils for 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, toss butternut squash with olive oil and season lightly with salt.
Spread on a cookie sheet or in a roasting pan and roast until soft, about 30-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook lentils in salted, boiling water until soft, about 30 minutes.
Heat balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan on medium-low and reduce to about half, about 10-15 minutes.
Pour about 1 inch worth of olive oil into a small-medium heavy pan or skillet (enough oil to cover shallots). Heat oil over medium-high and fry shallots for 3 to 5 minutes until crispy, golden brown. Remove and drain excess oil on a paper towel.
Mix butternut squash with lentils and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper.  Spoon over a bed of arugula in a large serving bowl.  Sprinkle goat cheese over top, garnish with crispy shallot and finish with drizzled balsamic reduction.

Photography: Rima Campbell

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Comforting & Healthful Side for Thanksgiving

After a long day of work a few weeks ago, I returned home determined to unwind in the kitchen and create a simple, comforting dish with whatever ingredients I had lying around (truth be told, I was in pretty desperate need to get to the grocery store).  Thankfully, I had a few base staples and some remaining vegetables just waiting to be mixed and matched.  The result was a warm and hearty farro dish that would serve as a welcomed addition to any Thanksgiving spread (and it's perfect if you've got a vegetarian guest).  Fall flavors, thyme, antioxidant-rich butternut squash, mushrooms and a toothsome and high-fiber complex carb like farro made a perfect combination.  

Pantry Farro with Butternut Squash, Mushrooms, Thyme & Parmesan
Serves 6 to 8

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 to 3 celery stalks, diced
1 cup chopped mushrooms (a mix of cremini, hen of woods etc)
1 1/2 cups farro 
water (or low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth)
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons of fresh thyme
Parmesan cheese for serving, about 1/2 cup grated

In a heavy saucepan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat, add butternut squash, onion and celery and saute for about 3 minutes.  Add in mushrooms and farro and cook another 1 to 2 minutes.  Cover farro mixture with water or broth (or half and half) by just under one inch.  Season with salt, pepper and thyme.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat.  Simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring once, until all liquid has evaporated.  Fluff with a fork and let stand for 5 minutes.  Finish with grated Parmesan and a little additional cracked pepper.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Staking a Claim on a $140 Thanksgiving Turkey

With Thanksgiving just over a week away, I couldn't resist a quick post on Bon Appetit's recent interview with Patrick Martins, founder of Heritage Foods USA, who makes the case for making a serious investment this holiday in the prized poultry that crowns your holiday table.  It might sound a little outlandish when most good-sized turkeys run you well under half the $140 pricetag, but Martins makes a solid case.  When you break it down, it's $8 per person or per pound, which sounds a lot better.  Heritage breeds are free roaming, which translates to better health (leaner), better taste and better environment and production processes.  Not to mention you're furthering sustainable farming and ensuring that an artisanal, storied breed of animal keeps going.  It's still pretty darn pricey, but you might think of that $8 as a way to give thanks in a slightly different way this season.  And you might be pleasantly satisfied.  In case you missed it, here's the full interview below.  

Patrick Martins likes happy animals--particularly endangered, humanely raised pigs, cows, and turkeys--and not just because they taste better. He believes their happiness is a moral imperative. As co-founder of Heritage Foods USA, his mission to save heritage breeds of livestock and the family farms that raise them began nine years ago, when a few hundred of his heirloom turkeys fanned out across the country. Today, that number is closer to 7,500, and every last one is raised by a farmer who shares Martins's passion. 

Why did you start with turkeys?
It seemed like a single item that everyone in the country could get behind to support the small farmer. And it was a project that revolved around a single day, so it made it easier to find a sustainable source--to say, "We have to get 800 of these things raised for a single day in November."

What's the argument for a $140 turkey?
It ends up coming out to $8 a pound, or $8 per person. That's cheaper than Applebee's and almost as cheap as a McDonald's value meal. 

What makes a happy turkey?
It has room. That's the biggest thing. It can walk around. No living creature should be forced to spend its entire life in a box. That should shoot through to the heart of every American. We live in a country that is wealthy, that is trying to improve itself, that is like a moral beacon to the rest of the world. We cannot keep animals in boxes. Period. With turkeys, if their instinct is to roost--to wrap their talons around something and fall asleep--they should be allowed to roost. A happy animal is one that is allowed to fulfill its God-given instincts. And walking is a natural instinct.

Do you cook the turkey at Thanksgiving?
Yes. I stuff it with an absurd amount of herbs. Like 20 sprigs of rosemary, and I just stuff it everywhere. And then I cook it to its appropriate temperature, which is about ten degrees less than what the USDA says. It really doesn't need anything else.

Do you feel like you're hounded by this perception that artisanal, slow food is an elitist thing for rich foodies in big coastal cities?
The sustainable food movement likes to point out that we can't feed public schools with only sustainable food. And it's true; we can't yet. But there are probably 3,000 corporate cafeterias in America. The sustainable food movement should be a part of those cafeterias and feeding wealthy private schools and universities. We need to bring sports arenas and music venues into this discussion. That's where the battle needs to be fought. So I don't believe in holding the sustainable food movement accountable for the poorest people in the world--yet. Maybe in a hundred years. 

Why save heritage breeds? 
Heritage breeds are part of our diverse food supply, and we must preserve what diversity is left. 

What would you like to see happen in the meat industry next?
I'm a big believer in prepared foods--even with cheap cuts--like ground beef. I'd like to see an entrepreneur or a famous chef take [ground] beef grown in a sustainable way and make a burger franchise. Like In-N-Out, but across the nation. Give people convenience and service and cheap prices and be sustainable. 

Another option is to serve cheap cuts cooked well from trucks in every neighborhood in America. I guarantee that a great chef making [street] food with good ingredients would be the downfall of any fast food outlet.

Stay tuned throughout the week for more on Thanksgiving, from simple side dishes to gorgeous gravy boats. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stirring it Up in Boston, Barbara Lynch Hits Food Spot On

Sometimes we all need a little hiatus.  I just returned from a few days in Boston earlier this week, and while I was not exactly enthralled with the chilly weather, my discovery of award-winning chef Barbara Lynch's multiple restaurants and concept stores/bars made the trip quite cozy all-around.  Lynch is a born and bred South Bostonite and she's not one to mess with in the kitchen (and possibly out of it as well).  Her culinary empire in the city is fairly extensive, with 5 restaurants, a mid-century inspired bar, a catering & special events company and a unique concept store that blends cookbooks and private classes.  She's best known for drop-dead delicious and toothsome pasta dishes as highlighted in her recent book, Stir.  I was lucky enough to get a solid sense of Lynch's flavors over the weekend both at Menton (which was just noted among Esquire's best restaurants for 2010) and the more-casual, modern diner spot Sportello.  I also took a peek into the restaurant/butcher shop, aptly named the Butcher Shop (above) and Stir, her tiny concept store/kitchen that makes you feel right at home as soon as you walk through the door and plop down at a communal kitchen table surrounded by colorful cookbooks.  To sum it up, Lynch's food and ideas are pretty inspirational.  And she herself is wonderfully approachable. Quite a pleasant surprise to randomly sit at a communal table on a Saturday afternoon and schmooze with the chef about running shoes and new cookbooks.  
If you get a chance, check out Stir, it's guaranteed to make you hungry.

the interior at the Butcher Shop where wine and a meat-heavy menu intermingle with 
prepared take-away items and an on-the-spot butcher
the graphic menu at Sportello
lunch at Sportello: Lynch's pasta with duck, picholine olives & rosemary was deemed 
"transcendent" by Bon Appetit this month...and they were spot on. 
 Accompanied by a hen of woods and frisee salad with roasted chestnuts

Sportello's Gnocchi with Peas and Chanterelles

For Sauce:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 oz mushrooms, preferably chanterelles, cleaned and trimmed (about 2 cups)
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup peas (fresh or thawed frozen)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives (for garnish)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For Gnocchi:
4 large russet potatoes
½ cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons white truffle oil
1 egg
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Place the unpeeled potatoes in a pot, cover them with water and bring to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and cook until the potatoes are tender and can be pierced easily with a fork (about 20 min). Strain the potatoes, peel and put through a ricer. Spread the riced potatoes on a baking sheet and let cool.
Once cool, sprinkle the flour over the potatoes and gather them into a mound. Create a well in the center of the mound and add the salt, truffle oil and egg. Using the tips of your fingers, knead the dough together until it forms a ball. Do not overwork. Using a knife, cut the dough into six even pieces. Working one at a time, roll each piece of dough into one-inch thick rope. Cut each rope into one-inch pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Using a gnocchi board, roll the balls lightly across the board to form the gnocchi shape. Place the formed gnocchi on a well-floured tray.
Cook the gnocchi in batches in a large pot of boiling, salted water. The gnocchi are done when they float (about 4 minutes). Strain from the water, place in a colander and refresh under cold running water. Season the gnocchi well with salt and freshly ground black pepper before dividing it among four warm bowls. Garnish each with the chopped chives and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

In the Kitchen: A Little Grape Grows Up

We've seen deep, rich purples across the board this season - from the runway to the kitchen table to home design.  Taking advantage of the final harvest of concord grapes the other week (my mini food obsession this fall), I wanted to make these tiny jewels of sweetness last a little longer.  The result, a concord grape reduction with its concentrated flavor that reminds me a bit of my childhood, sipping mini glasses of Welch's concord grape juice.  All grown up without any of the extra added sugar (those grapes are so wonderfully sweet, you really don't need any).  Toss a bunch of grapes into a small saucepan with a bit of water and simmer on medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.  Pour the juices and grapes through a sieve and strain well to obtain excess juices.  Toss the seeds and skins and you're done.  Pretty pure and simple.  I updated my morning Maple Hill plain yogurt and 18 Rabbits granola with a drizzle of the reduction.  A few other ideas...a decadent, fruit-forward sauce to compliment duck breast or roasted chicken; a low-sugar syrup drizzled over hearty buckwheat pancakes; crostini toasts topped with fresh ricotta, crushed toasted hazelnuts and a swirl of concord grape reduction.  Until next year...