Saturday, June 21, 2008

Food for the world-weary.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks for me - I'm on a few new projects at work, I've been busy bringing my home into the 21st century (DVR and its infinite possibilities!), and I'm gearing up for a trip out to Ohio (yup, just like last summer) that kicks off next Saturday. All in all, I've been a very busy woman.

All of that, of course, means I've had very little time for cooking, let alone visiting the Greenmarket or eating out. But last Sunday, I woke up craving protein and was confronted by a fridge full of take-out debris, most notably two or three half-full containers of steamed broccoli from my local Chinese. I decided to saute the broccoli with some scallions and garlic and use that as the filling for a frittata, my favorite go-to egg dish (if you don't count carbonara).

It was delicious, simple, and fast. Not too bad for a woman on the run - from her Blackberry, not the law. Would that I were so exciting. Sigh.

Broccoli Frittata

1 tbs. olive oil, divided
2-3 scallions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups steamed broccoli, cut into 1-inch pieces
Salt and pepper
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbs. Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Pre-heat the broiler.

Heat 2 tsps. of the olive oil in an eight-inch oven-proof skillet set over medium-high heat. Once it's hot (it should shimmer slightly) add the scallions and saute until fragrant and slightly translucent. Add the garlic and saute until you can smell the garlic, about one minute. Add the broccoli, season with salt and pepper, and saute until thoroughly warmed-through.

Brush the sides of the skillet lightly with the remaining teaspoon of olive oil, then pour the eggs down over the broccoli mixture. Cook over medium heat until the bottom of the frittata is just set. Sprinkle the top with the cheese, and place the skillet under the broiler. Broil for two to four minutes, until the top is set and slight browned. Using a heat-proof spatula, gently remove the frittata from the skillet and scooch it onto a plate. Eat right away.

Serves one, generously, or two, with a salad on the side.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Romping through the strawberry patch.

Summer is here, the weather in New York is hot, sticky and smelly, and - far more delightfully - strawberries abound at the Greenmarket!

This past Saturday morning, my friend Faith lured me out of my apartment and to Union Square by telling me it was still only about 65 degrees out. The second I walked outside I knew she'd been lying, but the sight of all those gorgeous berries completely made up for it. Booth after booth featured perfectly-ripened, sweet-smelling Jersey strawberries, all at the pretty reasonable price of about $5 per quart.

When you live alone, it can be tough to make it through a big pile of berries before they go bad. That's why you should arm yourself with a myriad of recipes - sweet and savory - before you go forth and indulge the passion for strawberries that lurks within us all. Cook some into a sauce, make a compote with some more, and enjoy the rest with a glass of champagne. Or two.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote

This is fantastic served shortcake-style (over a biscuit with some whipped cream), spooned over vanilla ice cream, or on top of plain Greek yogurt.

3-4 stalks rhubarb, leaves trimmed, strings removed, cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 - 1/2 cup sugar (depending on taste)
1 quart strawberries, hulled and sliced length-wise into 1/4 inch pieces

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, cook the rhubarb down till just softened, but still holding its shape. Stir in the sugar and heat till it dissolves in the rhubarb's juice, then stir in the strawberries.

Cook just until bubbling, then remove from heat. Once the mixture has cooled somewhat, spoon into a clean mason jar and refrigerate until you're ready to eat! It should last about two or three weeks in the fridge.

You can also eat it warm, if you so desire.

Makes approximately 3/4 quart of compote.

Strawberry Sauce with Bacon and Ramps

This sauce is great with roasted and grilled meats, particularly chicken and pork.

1/4 lb. slab bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch batons
1 tbs. olive oil
1 shallot, chopped fine
1 tbs. Dijon mustard
3-4 pickled ramps, sliced crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces*
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered
Salt and pepper, to taste
Minced chives, to garnish

In a medium skillet set over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until most of the fat has been rendered out and the pieces are crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the olive oil to the pan and cook the shallot over medium heat until transparent and fragrant. Add the mustard and mix well with the shallots. Cook for a minute or so more.

Add the pickled ramps to the pan and cook until slightly softened. Add the strawberries and a tablespoon of water to the pan. Cook until the strawberries are warm through and the sauce has thickened slightly, then stir in the reserved bacon. Taste and adjust for seasoning before serving the sauce on top of the roasted meat or fish of your choosing.

Serves two.

*If you can't find pickled ramps and didn't put any up yourself this year, try substituting spring onions or scallions, supplemented with a pinch each of sugar and white wine vinegar.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Improvisation is the spice of life.

Last weekend, I went to the market with a craving for pork chops and fresh fruit, and left with a pound of bone-in chops and a bag of nectarines. I didn't foresee eating them together, but sometimes things just work out that way.

Eager to find a use for the ramps I'd pickled a couple of days before, I decided to top the pan-cooked pork chop with a nectarine and ramp relish. The result was delicious - sweet, spicy, soft and crunchy, made fresh with a sprinkling of chopped Greenmarket parsley. One of the easiest dinners I've made in recent weeks, and also one of the tastiest.

This recipe would be equally good (or, really, probably ten times better) with in-season peaches. Something to keep in mind as summer approaches...

Pork Chop with Nectarines and Pickled Ramps

1 bone-in pork chop (about 1/2 pound)
Salt and pepper
1 tbs. neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola
1 small nectarine, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3-4 pickled ramps, thinly sliced cross-wise
2 tsps. finely-chopped parsley

Pat the pork chop dry and dress with salt and pepper on both sides. Add the oil to a small skillet set over medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated through, add the pork chop and sear for two to three minutes on each side to form a crust. (You'll know the chop is ready to turn when you pull it gently with your tongs and it comes easily away from the skillet.)

Turn the heat down to medium and cook the chop another three to four minutes on both sides, or until it is just cooked through. Remove from the skillet to a plate and tent with aluminum foil while you make the relish.

Turn the heat back up to medium high, and add a bit more oil if the pan is dry. Add the ramps and sautee for a minute or so, then add the nectarine to the pan. Sautee for a minute, or until the nectarine is slightly softened and heated through. Add the parsley to the skillet, toss to combine, and remove from heat.

Top the pork chop with the relish, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Serves one.
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