October 31, 2011 § 1 Comment
This year was supposed to be the Year of Ellen Baking, right? Or was it the Year of Ellen Reading? I was supposed to run three half-marathons this year, read 12 books, and start the engine on something Big and Awesome. It’s turned out to be more of the Year of Ellen Waffling, and I don’t mean those maple-dripped golden squares on your brunch plate. It’s not been an all-that-great year, and I want it to be over with. I’ve petitioned the International Calendarological Society to just end 2011 here and now, and to get a move on with 2012. Apparently only Popes and Julius Caesar can do that. Officially. You can imagine my regard for “official.”
I’m declaring an end to 2011 as of Oct. 31—which conveniently makes Halloween the equivalent of New Year’s Eve. November 1st will begin a 61-day period known as Daintydays. It’s a time when Dainty and anyone who may have a thread of Daintyness in her/himself says “I’ve had enough of this, and I’m just gonna do ______” (with the blank being nothing that harms others, of course; that’s not very Dainty). Two months. Two months to do what you think you couldn’t by the end of the year. Think on it—we start tomorrow.
What does this have to do with moqueca? Absolutely nothing. Unless “Making the freakin’ best fish stew ever” is that thing you want to do by the end of the year. I first had moqueca at Edwige at Night in Provincetown in 2010. When I heard they were closing for good at the end of the Summer 2011 season, I rushed over for one last order. Last week, we made our own moqueca with a little help from Emeril Lagasse. While it’s no Edwige, it’s still damn good.
Moqueca (Brazilian fish stew)
- 2 1/2 pounds white-fleshed fish cut into 1-2 in. pieces —we used a combo of bluefish (from our Cape Ann Fresh Catch share) and some shrimp
- 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onions
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups roughly chopped tomatoes – we used a 25 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes and gave them a rough chop
- 1/2 cup fish stock or water
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- up to 1/4 cup hot sauce – recipe calls for Piri Piri, which is a blender hot sauce, but we dumbed it down a bit
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- Steamed white rice, as an accompaniment
-Put the fish in a glass mixing bowl with the lime juice. Set aside for 20 minutes and prep the remaining ingredients.
-Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Believe me, you’ll need a larger pan than you expected. Heat up the oil, and saute the onions until translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic saute for about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes, fish stock and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine everything.
-Turn up heat a tad and bring the mixture to a boil. Once boiling, add the limed fish, the hot sauce (try half the amount first then add more after afterward) and the coconut milk. Stir it up again and let it heat to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low and until the flesh starts to flake, about 10 minutes. IF you are using shrimp, add the shrimp separately from the fish, about 5 minutes through that cooking period.
-Remove the cover and sprinkle the cilantro over the fish. Season with the remaining salt and hot sauce, if you so choose.
-Serve with the rice. A nice basmati rice is perfect. Make LOTS of it, you’ll need it.
October 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
No, we did not whither away and die from lack of food after Day 5 of our Homegrown Food Challenge. We survived quite nicely, thank you very much. I’ve just not been … well … in the blogging mood, I guess. If you’re a blogger, you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down. Hey, it happens. I’m back on track now, though, no worries.
Day 6—it was all the way back last Saturday. I had promised we’d kick it up a bit with something for breakfast that was more interesting than yogurt. And we did—omelets! Not an omelet, per se, but more of a flat egg. That’s what my mom called them when I was growing up. It’s just two eggs, slightly beaten and NOTHING added to the eggs, as you would were you making omelets. Just a straight ol’ egg. We added in some local goat cheese and diced homegrown tomato right at the last second, folded and called it breakfast. A slice or two of toasted homemade bread made it a filling meal.
After, Jennifer took off for the weekend to attend to some business, leaving me to fend for myself. Lunch was … honestly, I can’t remember. Must have been the last of the grilled eggplant paninni … yum … By the way, that post was way popular. Way. Popular.
Dinner was when I got creative on Day 6. Earlier in the week I had cooked up some homegrown Vermont cranberry beans. Used the pressure cooker, actually, and the process yielded some terrific bean broth. Add some homegrown leeks, homegrown carrots, and a neighbor’s small bunch of homegrown celery, and it’s the beginning of soup! I added to that the leftover Vermont cranberry beans, some leftover homegrown/homemade tomato sauce, a fading homegrown zucchini and a couple of locally grown potatoes—along with salt, pepper, homegrown oregano and sage. Soup and bread for dinner—the end of a great gardening day.
Our weeklong Homegrown Food Challenge ended not with a big banquet ala Julie and Julia, but on a much more common, everyday note. Plans for going out with a bang—lasagna of homemade pasta, homegrown broccoli, eggplant and kale—faded with the afternoon. Instead we hunkered down, ate our soup and toasted our accomplishment with the last of the local beer.
Next year … I truly wonder what that will bring.
October 16, 2011 § 6 Comments
Has this been the longest week ever? Were there 10 days in this particular week? God, it just seems never-ending. What is up with that, calendar?
Not to imply that the Homegrown Food Challenge is getting old. It’s not. As I said yesterday, we actually have too much food to work with, and I haven’t end gotten around to using our homegrown leeks and beets and … whaddaya know … we have a head of broccoli ready to go.
It’s just that, well, I’m realizing how boring my breakfast (or lack of it) is becoming. It’s the same, every time. Coffee, well, duh, I require daily morning intakes. It’s just the non-liquids that go along with that meal. It’s not as mind-numbing as the time in Jr. High that I ate a Toaster Strudel every day for two years. But … unless I’m going to have home-baked baked goods for breakfast, I’m not so sure I have any thrilling alternatives. Suggestions, anyone?
On to Day 5, which, I must admit, was borderline local …
Flat Black coffee with Maine’s Own Organic milk. Stonyfield yogurt. Local apple. Thank god for good coffee.
I feel almost sinful having the grilled eggplant paninni with smoky mayo two days in a row. But I did. And I loved it. Really and truly. No tomato this time.
Another local eatery. This time with our new-found friend who was flying solo that night. We headed to Gaslight. No, they aren’t a struggling local place that needs our money. But the place has darn-good food and surely the fish on the menu is local, right? And the broccoli rabe under the fish, I hope. The Harpoon IPA definitely was local. Ring it up—we liked it all.
October 15, 2011 § 1 Comment
Day 4 … halfway through our week of eating and drinking stuff as homegrown and as local as possible. How’s it going? Great. In fact, we might have too much food. Well, we’ll make it to the end, definitely.
Okay, I had promised some scintillating breakfasts. Not happening on Day 4. The morning meal, to me, is utilitarian. I know, that’s the wrong way to think about it. You’re supposed to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper. Or something like that. I honestly don’t have the stomach for breakfast until, say, 9 am.
Day 4 was a whole two days ago. Let’s see if I can remember what we had.
Flat Black coffee. Maine’s Own Organic Milk. And honestly, I may have had an apple. I know it wasn’t much. I was kinda busy and on a role with things, work-wise. Sometimes that happens. Kids, eat your breakfast and don’t be like Auntie Dainty.
Lunch … I have to say what I made for lunch was the best thing ever constructed out of two pieces of bread. Seriously. Some cookbook-writing chef is going to see my delicious creation and will put it front and center in his/her lunch options.
It’s a grilled eggplant and tomato paninni with smoky mayo. Recall the smoky mayo originally topped the broiled bluefish on Day 2. Imagine that spread not-too-thinly on two slices of homemade sourdoughish bread. And remember the eggplant on the grilled pizza from Day 3? Lay a couple of those grilled eggplant slices down on top. Add some sliced tomato, top with another mayo-slathered slice of bread. Put a bit of olive oil in a hot cast iron pan. Lay down the sammies. And add some wait to make them “pressed sandwiches.” In this case, I used a very heavy Dutch oven. Grill both sides to a nice crispness. Smoky mayo+grilled eggplant=the world’s perfect pairing. I wanted to share it with everyone and no one all at once.
We still had two bluefish fillets in the fridge from our Cape Ann Fresh Catch share on Tuesday. We did another round of Broiled Bluefish with Smoky Mayo since it was so good on Day 2. And we had a small side salad. See those beans on top? Vermont Cranberry Beans – the best homegrown beans. Ever.
That was it for Day 4. We won’t tell you if we finish the remaining Topsfield Fair-made kettle corn. We’ll let you think on that.
October 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
Day 3 on the Homegrown Food Challenge and no fish heads were lopped off on this particular day. But the grill did get lit, and that’s always a fun thing. Here’s how our day progressed.
Starting to look very familiar. Flat Black coffee with Maine’s Own Organic Milk. Stonyfield yogurt with local apple, honey and a crumbled Effie’s oatcake. We’ll get a bit more creative with breakfast on the weekend, no worries.
Jennifer and I both had big salads with local stuff, similar to the one I had for lunch on Day 2. Local lettuce and red pepper, pickled beets, homemade dressing, etc etc. I even made some homemade croutons from homemade bread.
This is where the grill gets lit—finally! We cranked it up for some pizza made with homemade pizza dough. Two pizzas are usually enough to take care of dinner plus give us enough for lunch the following day.
Pizza #1: Homemade sauce using slightly green homegrown tomatoes (similar to the roasted cherry tomato sauce I make), grilled eggplant (from farmers market) and locally made mozzarella.
Pizza #2: Homemade pesto using homegrown basil, grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper (from farmers market) and caramelized homegrown leeks.
Can’t have pizza without beer, right? We had some Whale’s Tale Pale Ale from Cisco Brewers on Nantucket. Pretty tasty stuff!
As I am two days behind in posting, I can hint at what awaits you for Day 4: One of the most fabulous creations to ever have been sandwiched between two pieces of bread. Think I over-exaggerate? Oh. No.
October 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
One day down in the Homegrown Food Challenge, and it went quite well. A local eatery and leftovers – we eased into it. Nothing wrong with that. Day 2, as I promised, was much more exciting.
Chopping a head off a fish-type of exciting.
But, alas, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin at the beginning.
More coffee from our favorite local coffee roaster, Flat Black Coffee Company, with the Maine’s Own Organic Milk.
More Stonyfield plain yogurt with half a local apple, Topsfield-produced honey and an Effie’s Oatcake crumbled on top. Hey, they’re a local company. It counts. And I’m inspired to make my own oatcakes now.
A big ol’ salad using:
- lettuce and red pepper from the farmers market
- a homegrown carrot
- a local apple
- a boiled egg – the eggs are local
- homemade salad dressing – just something I whipped up, no biggie
- my very own and awesomely tasty pickled beets. That’s right, pickled beets on a salad. It was awesome.
- some shavings from a homegrown head of red cabbage
Filling and tasty. I washed that down with some home brewed iced tea.
Jennifer had the rest of the leftover pasta and a local apple.
This is where the fish head comes in. Or I should say, where the fish head comes off. Realizing there was way too much to say about last night’s dinner, I posted about the fish and side dish separately. (Click on the lick to check out the dish.) On the menu:
- Cape Ann-caught broiled bluefish with a homemade smoky mayo
- Roasted romanesco
- A glass of white wine. Okay, okay, it was Tohu from New Zealand. BUT, it had been opened a few days earlier ans was in the fridge. That counts as a leftover, right?
- I may or may not have had a handful (or two) of kettle corn purchased at the Topsfield Fair. It was popped on site! That’s local, right?
Day 3 is already two-thirds complete, and I’m happy to say we are both still on track with this Challenge. Tonight’s dinner is just an hour away. Grilled pizza is always a fun thing to make.
October 12, 2011 § 4 Comments
Fish have heads.
That’s right. Fish aren’t just big slabs of fillets that motor around on their own in the ocean or in a river. They have heads. And tails, too. And fins. They even have guts. All of that—plus the nice fishy flesh—constitutes a whole fish.
And that’s what we signed up for when we bought a 5-week share in the Cape Ann Fresh Catch Community-Supported Fisheries (CSF). Whole fish one week, fillets the next.
Yesterday was our first fish pick-up.
“You know you’re getting a whole bluefish today, right?” said the pleasant assistant when I walked into the CSF pick-up location and proudly announcing this was my first-ever fish delivery.
“Yup, a whole fish.”
“You know how to fillet a whole fish?”
“Nope, but I’m gonna learn today, I guess.”
Among the millions of dogs-learning-to-talk YouTube videos and clips of hormone-laden boys throwing themselves off suburban rooftops into holly-filled foundation plantings, there are videos that are quite instructional. A quick search for “how to fillet a bluefish” netted me two great videos by none other than Tony Maws, chef over at the Craigie Street Bistro in Cambridge.
Compare this photo to the one above: Notice how many more tools I have? An 8-in. chef’s knife, a rubber mallet, kitchen shears. Not kidding. And that was just to remove the head.
In the end, I had two nice 1.5-ish pound bluefish fillets and …
… some fish heads, tails and an intact spine and bones. Those were chucked into the freezer for a future turn in a stock pot. Also put in the freezer was one whole fillet. The other fillet was quartered, and two of those slabs were stored in the fridge. The other two were headed for the dinner table.
Finally, getting on with dinner …
For those paying attention, this meal falls into Day 2 of our Homegrown Food Challenge, and we’re doing our best to keep the ingredients either homegrown or locally sourced. The fish was locally sourced: check. The mayo? Jennifer’s a mayo whipper-upper using fresh ingredients. So yes, if it didn’t come out of a Hellman’s jar, this is locally made and sourced. And boy, does she make a yummy mayo.
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tsp. good-quality mustard
- 3/4 cup canola or veg oil (not a flavored or savory oil like olive)
- 2 tsp. smoked Hungarian paprika
- salt, pepper
- juice of 1/2 lemon
-In a blender or food processor, add the egg yolk and super-slowly (Jennifer’s exact words) drizzle in the oil. Super. Slowly. It’ll start to thicken and look mayo-ey. That’s a good thing. Want it thick? Less oil. Thin? More oil.
-Add in paprika and give it a whir. Taste and add in salt and pepper to your liking. Then add in the lemon juice and whir some more.
This’ll give you WAY more mayo than you’ll need for two or even four individual fillets. Have fun with the rest of it! We’re thinking grilled eggplant paninnis. Refrigerate and use within two to three days.
Broiled Bluefish with Smoky Mayo
- 2 6 oz. Bluefish fillets
- 2-3 Tbs. smoky mayo (recipe above)
-Place your oven’s top rack under the broiler and set your oven on broil. Let that heat up good and hot.
-Meanwhile, place the bluefish fillets in an ovenproof baking dish, skin side down. Spread 1 to 1.5 Tbs. smoky mayo on each fillet. I’d even do a little more than that. Just give the fillet a nice, thick coating of mayo.
-When the broiler is ready to go, place the fillets under the heat—7 minutes should do it. But, keep an eye on them. Broiler distance varies and your mayo could scorch. Some scorching is okay, but you don’t want grizzled char.
The mayo holds in the fish’s moisture and adds a tasty smokiness to the fish. Really quite nice.
I know some think bluefish is … fishy. I grew up eating bluefish, so I had no worries. Jennifer quite liked the fish’s flavor, too. Plus, the fact that the fish was alive and swimming earlier that morning had a whole lot to do with the awesome flavor.
Oh, that green stuff over there on the other side of the plate—that would be roasted romanesco.
October 12, 2011 § 2 Comments
I love funky-looking things. Especially vegetables. Remember my experiment with growing kohlrabi?
Romanesco is a a funky-looking thing. And when I had a choice between broccoli and romanesco, I jumped on it.
It’s a bit like broccoli, taste-wise. Look-wise, though, it would be what Escher would paint/draw if he took the vegetable route with his art.
Am I right or what?
Now, the thing about romanesco is that a good portion of it is stem. If you cut off the stem portion and leave just the florets, you’ll be left with not so much. Eat the stem, people. It’s tasty.
What to do with romanesco? Well, when I see the Brassica genus, I think roasting. And that’s exactly what I did.
- 1 head romanesco, separated into individual stem-florets or clumps of smaller florets.
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- salt and pepper
-Heat oven to 425F.
-If any of your romanesco sections look particularly large, feel free to cut them in half. Place romanesco sections in a big bowl. Douse with the olive oil. Sprinkle two or three large pinches of kosher salt on top (depending on the romanesco’s size) and give it a couple turns from a pepper grinder. Toss.
-Spread romanesco onto a rimmed baking sheet and pop in the oven for about 23-25 minutes or until they develop a nice brown char and a fork can just be inserted.
Finally, a new item to share space with broccoli and cauliflower in the winter months.
October 11, 2011 § 1 Comment
Yesterday began our week-long Homegrown Food Challenge (HGFC). So, right from the beginning I have to amend the title, or rather—I should clarify and lay out the rules of this Homegrown Food Challenge we’ve undertaken:
- “Homegrown” … with such a small garden plot and the fact that it’s nearly done producing, we’re amending “homegrown food” to “local food.”
- “Local” for this challenge will mean somewhere in New England. I know, it could be more local than that. Maybe for the next challenge we’ll pull in the boundaries.
- Items that are in our allowable “pantry” include oils, vinegars and flours. And I reserve the right to add in quinoa as a “cheater” grain.
- Leftovers that were in our fridge need to be eaten, right? And trust me, we did not stock the fridge with “leftovers” so we could cheat with them.
- Our “veganish” diet – two out of three meals not containing animal products – will be put on hold for the week.
Hey, that’s not so bad, right? So far, so good.
To prep for the challenge, I hit the closest local farmers market I could find, which just happens to be at Boston Medical Center on Fridays. I came back with butternut squash, two eggplant, red peppers, dinosaur kale, two heads of leaf lettuce and romanesco – it’s like a fractal-influenced head of broccoli. All produce brought to us by the good folks at Farmer Dave’s in Dracut.
We also stopped by Whole Foods to find some local dairy products. And you know what? We did actually find some.
So, with that, let the challenge begin!
Breakfast: We need coffee. Coffee doesn’t grow in this climate. What to do … Well, there are local coffee roasters. That counts. And our favorite local coffee roaster is Flat Black Coffee Company with locations in Dorchester and downtown Boston. We’ve known the owner for years and can attest he and his crew produce a great and responsible bean. Into that cup we usually pour some almond or soymilk. Not happening this week, so how about some local milk? We picked up some Maine’s Own Organic Milk.
The coffee accompanied a bowl of Stonyfield plain yogurt – I’m positive all that dairy is from New England cows and if not, someone clue me in – mixed with a local chopped apple and topped with Topsfield-produced honey. Breakfast, done.
Lunch: Okay, so … It’s Columbus Day. Jennifer’s off work, and I’m working but not all that hard … A friend calls us. Hadn’t seen her in a while. “Wanna go out for lunch?” Say no? No. We said yes. And we opted to eat at a small, local Mexican restaurant two blocks away where I know they a) make a lot of their own stuff and b) could use our dining dollars. I feel completely in-line with the challenge by supporting our local small eateries.
Dinner: Gotta clean out the leftovers from the fridge, right? Pasta with shrimp, red pepper and pesto. And just the pasta and shrimp weren’t local in that dish. Plus, we had homemade bread. And, a bottle of Harpoon IPA brewed right down the street in Southie.
Day 2 should be interesting—it’s our first Cape Ann Fresh Catch share pick-up. Fish with heads!! Awesome!
October 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
I listen to the local news as part of my morning ritual. But, most days I head online if I want to learn about the weather, even though sassy JC Monahan just gave me the five-day forecast five minutes ago.
My memory is a sieve when it comes to the weather. Except … when frost is predicted. It’s been a whole five hours since I heard this morning’s news, and I can still remember JC predicted frost will be in the air for Worcester County and western Massachusetts this evening. Thanks to being a “heat island” with all our brick and pavement, Boston proper will make it only down into the low 40s.
I eased up on my fall-harvest plantings this year, but I still do have a few summer stragglers hanging on. Of what’s left, this is what will and won’t like temperatures in the low 40s:
Zucchini/squash: Not a good year for them and they are not beefy enough to deal with temps too much colder than the low 50s. Hey, I had zucchini up until November last year. Maybe a quick one-night of 40s will be fine.
Tomatoes: I have just two plants left and neither look great. It’s just cruel of me to keep them hangin’ on. Absolutely cruel, like pulling wings off flies. But I do it to see how far they can go.
Carrots: They’ll be just fine for a long time yet, thanks to that insulating layer of soil.
Basil: Aaaaccckkk!!!!! I better go harvest that asap. It definitely won’t survive. It doesn’t even like my fridge set much below 45.
ps – this little guy is why it’s important to inspect your harvest before you bring it in your home – we had a few snails crawling on the walls in our fridge one morning …
Leeks: I have a good batch of leeks going this year. VERY excited about them. They’ll hang on for a good long time yet. I won’t have to worry about them until November or so. At that time I will try to mount them with as much soil as possible. I could be lucky enough to harvest leeks in January if I work it right.
Jalepenos: We have jalepenos??
Broccoli: It’s lovin’ this time of year.
Chard: Back in mid August I pulled up all of my chard. Or so I thought. On a few of the smaller plants I pulled the biggest leaves off, leaving the small runts behind. A Well, wouldn’t you know but I have a batch of chard ready to go.
Beets: Happy as clams in this weather. And I have a lot of them. I’ll be harvesting them two by two for the rest of the month. I still have a whole jar of pickled beets in the fridge—maybe I need to make another.
If your ears have perked up with the sounding of the “frost predicted tonight” alarm, in all likelihood you’ll have a light frost, one that will damage only the most sensitive summer veggies in your garden. If you’re so inclined, try these techniques to help them survive a little bit longer:
-While the sun is still out, break out that old set of sheets you never use anymore and cover the most sensitive plants. The sheets will act light a light coat and keep the temps slightly elevated underneath as the soil gives off heat. Remove those covers the next day—it could really heat up under there. Plus, your neighbors will start talking about you.
Don’t have extra sheets or plant covers?
-As evening sets in, turn a hose on and water down the summer-loving veggies—the leaves, stems, fruit, etc.—and also the soil around the plants. The water around the foliage will freeze first or give up its heat first (it’s physics). Same with the moist soil.
Maybe with the temperatures climbing in the 80s starting tomorrow, I’ll be lucky enough to have some homegrown zucchini for next week’s Homegrown Food Challenge.