Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No rest for the wicked.

Memorial Day weekend was a delightful patchwork of cooking, growing, building, shoveling, chasing, eating, drinking, parties, more cooking ... Mark and I got everything checked off of our list and I helped out some clients in between. All-in-all, a very satisfying turn of events.

I'm pretty sure this was on our way to grab a pick-up-truck's worth of compost from Lewis Farm in Concord. They're a favorite local grower of ours and their compost is dynamite.

Compost led to garden beds. We finally have a spot to put all those heirloom tomatoes we bought on impulse.

Our newest family members arrived courtesy of our amazing friends Bob Jones and Abby Tomich. They hand-raised these little guys for us *and* Bob built their coop. I will forever attempt to repay their kindness. I worry I may always come up short.

Mojitos were a hit at the Robfoustinson house. I made a mint simple syrup, and all we had was dark rum. No matter, they still tasted great.

Hannah and Melissa joined forces to create this beautiful endeavor. There's St. Germaine liquor in the strawberries AND the whipped cream. Everyone in the room was floored.

These came from a client and very good friend's garden. They are currently perfuming the entire kitchen. I must grow peonies immediately!

So it seems I've gotten into the habit of over producing particular recipes for weeks at a time. Currently, No-Noodle Lasagna is in the lead:

3 to 4 zucchinis, washed and cut into thin strips (I find a long blade paring knife works great for this job)
Tomato sauce of your choice, though from scratch is always best
1 cup ricotta cheese (whole milk tastes best)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 small package of frozen spinach, thawed
1 lb turkey or pork sausage, cooked through

The key to this recipe is layering ... we've all had lasagna, we all know the fundamentals. Mix the cup of ricotta and one cup of the mozzarella together with the spinach (be sure to squeeze the water out of the spinach first). I layer like this:

Sauce, zucchini strips, cheese mixture, sausage, more zucchini, more sauce ... until whatever pan you're using is totally full. Top off with the remaining cheese and bake at 350 for 30 or so minutes. If it's bubbling frantically, it's done. And it's delicious!!! You'll never want the pasta version again, I swear. I've all but ruled it out, myself.

Another frequent that I fall back on this time of year is Lemon Anything Chicken. I call it that because you can literally pair it with any herb and it still tastes great. 

3 full chicken breasts, butterflied into 6 servings
zest of one lemon
juice of two lemons
1/3 cup olive oil (the good stuff)
2 large garlic cloves, pressed or microplaned into a paste
1 Tbs salt
1 Tbs fresh ground pepper
Any fresh herb you choose ... dill, basil, tarragon, oregano, chive, seriously anything will work here.

Hence the name "Lemon Anything Chicken" ... mix all of these ingredients together in a heavy duty plastic bag- freezer bags usually do the trick- and allow it to sit for a bit, anywhere from a half hour to an hour ... don't let it sit longer than that, though ... lemon juice will cook the proteins in the chicken while it sits there.

I recommend grilling this outside or on a grill pan on the stove top. With that option you get the added benefit of delicious kitchen smells.

I would serve it with some orzo tossed with tomatoes, kalamata olives, and feta cheese, with a bit of lemon juice, zest and olive oil to keep things interesting.

There you have it, two amazingly easy and oh-so-tasty options for a summer meal this week.

Aren't you glad you bothered to read another one of these posts? I'm sure glad you're here. I hope everyone had a stellar holiday. 

May all your meals be celebrations. xo

Friday, May 18, 2012

Recipe Onslaught

Growing season is upon us.

It's a big deal.

This year Mark and I will have our garden on our property, which means greater success and less water to lug (dragging 30 gallons a day over two miles to our last site started to feel more like a chore than glorious growing).

We made a trip out to Murray Farms Greenhouse in Concord last weekend and had to cut ourselves off after 6 heirloom tomato varieties, a handful of eggplants and more jalapenos than you can shake a stick at.

Hello, lovelies.

I find Japanese eggplant varieties to have some of the most beautiful foliage. 
Don't you agree?

So, it isn't safe to put anything in the ground yet. Which is frustrating, because I just want to start gardening already! In the mean time I've been trying to get my veggie fix in new and different ways. Asparagus has been almost an every day thing in my world, which is great because the stuff is delicious. For a client of mine who is adverse to peas, I've used it as the veggie in my Spring Pasta with Chicken to great success:

Spring Pasta with Chicken
Serves 4 (give or take, I eye-ball everything)

One bunch of asparagus, cleaned, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
4 Chicken Breasts
1 cup of frozen peas (optional)
1/2 cup diced Pancetta
2 cups Parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy cream
3 cups whole wheat pasta
Salt and Pepper to taste

First things first: season and brown the chicken breasts in a cast iron skillet with a quick spray of canola oil. Finish them in a 350 degree oven until cooked through. Cube and set aside.

While the chicken is cooking, start a pot of boiling water and cook pasta according to box directions.

To the skillet, add the pancetta. Removed the cooked bits and set aside. Add the cut asparagus to the skillet and cook until bright green. Add the asparagus to the chicken. By this time your pasta should be finished. Add the pasta to the asparagus and chicken, with a few tablespoons of the pasta water. Mix together.

Next add the parmesan cheese, reserving 1/2 cup for garnish. Add the heavy cream and mix it all together. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Garnish the pasta dish with remaining cheese and the pancetta bits.

This stuff is a knock out and it's super easy to throw together.

Something that also happened recently- I hung out at Cole Gardens for an afternoon helping CYPN with a Lunch and Learn event. I gabbed about pantry items to keep on hand in preparation for drowning in veggies come July and August. I also handed out a bunch of recipes to folks that can help them make the most of their harvest. And here they are:

Basil Pesto
2 to 3 cups basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup extra-version olive oil, divided
Salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Combine first three ingredients in a food processor and pulse until coarsely combined. Add ½ cup of the oil and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.  While processor runs, add remaining oil until a smooth consistency is achieved. Transfer to a serving bowl and combine with parmesan cheese.
Pesto is easily frozen in ice cube trays and can last up to 90 days in your freezer!

Quick Cherry Tomato Sauce
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced or minced
Flavor enhancer: anchovies, pancetta, sweet bell pepper, hot chili pepper, whatever you have on hand.
Enough cherry tomatoes- cut in half- to fill a large sauté pan.
1 Tbs chopped fresh basil
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
Additional garden veggies of your choice- the sky is the limit.

Saute garlic in the olive oil on medium heat. Before the garlic browns, add any flavor enhancers you want. Anchovies are a great idea for a salty and savory sauce, as is pancetta. For a sweeter sauce, red bell peppers help. Allow your flavor enhancer to cook for a few minutes before adding the cherry tomatoes. After the tomatoes simmer long enough to start to break down, add any additional vegetables you would like in the sauce. Allow to simmer for a few more minutes, and then add herbs to finish. Enjoy with pasta, chicken, fish, really anything you want an acidic and delicious kick with.

Tarragon Grilled Shrimp
Dozen Jumbo Shrimp, shells on
Juice of one lime
¼ cup Olive Oil
2 Tbs Tarragon
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Allow shrimp to marinate in mixture for at least two hours, tossing once to recoat the shrimp. Grill shrimp on a hot grill until just pink on either side. Serve with lots of napkins. This appetizer is delicious, but very messy!

Tzatziki Sauce
1 cup of plain yogurt
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 small garden cucumber, diced
1 Tbs fresh dill, mint, or parsley, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, pressed or run over a microplane
Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and allow the mixture to sit in the fridge for an hour. Serve with meat, vegetables, pita bread … this sauce is good on everything!

Zucchini Pasta with Fennel
2 lbs zucchini squash
I bulb of fennel, thinly sliced, with one table spoon of fronds saved, chopped
Juice of one lemon and 1 Tbs lemon zest
1/4 cup chopped basil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Salt & pepper to taste

Using a vegetable peeler, thinly slice zucchini to produce pasta like strands. Transfer pasta strands to bowl and combine with remainder of ingredients. Toss together and serve.

BAM! There you have it, more recipes than I've ever posted before! And just in time for you to pull on the gardening gloves, pick up your favorite shovel, and start dreaming of all the delicious things you can grow.

When in doubt, start an herb garden. Not sure how to go about it? Call me. I'll set you up for $60, plus the cost of herbs. Then you can pretty much ignore them for the rest of the summer and reap the amazing benefits.

Trust me. It's worth it.

Another thing I wanted to mention: the fantastic annual Merrimack County Savings Bank Rock 'N Race for Concord Hospital's Payson Center for Cancer Care. This was my fourth or fifth year participating and I have to say it just gets bigger and better every year. I finished in 29 minutes, which isn't my best time, but it also isn't my worst. Truly, I was hoping for better. There is always time. My future goals are to run farther distances. I could use some LSD in my life (Long Slow Distance). I consider running my time to meditate and it has helped me keep my mind and body right among the stresses of starting and maintaining a business. So far, so good. So happy, so healthy.

Reach for the sun, ya'll. And happy Friday! xo