Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Salade Nicoise-esque

I'd been thinking of making salade Nicoise for a while, especially during our recent heat wave.  Of course I got around to it as soon as it cooled off again.

I was reminded of this delicious salad after a recent lunch with the parents of one of the Mister's old college friends. They have a beach house in pretty Madison, CT.  We had a simple but beautiful and very French (the mother is French) lunch.  We had salmon rillette with dill, a lovely, green salad with red skinned potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, tarragon and dijon vinaigrette.  Of course, crusty bread and some delicious cheese to go with a chilled glass of white wine.  The perfect meal to sit on a porch on a sunny day and look out at rocky islands in the Long Island Sound.  I loved the potatoes, fresh herbs and that mustard dressing.

Just two days ago, after I'd gone to my first ever Moms' Meetup in New Haven, the Mister called to say that we'd been invited to meet some friends for dinner near the shore in Milford.  After a quick sprucing up of baby and me we headed for the shore.  We ate at The Little Stone House, a casual spot near Hammonasset Beach. I had seared scallops over a green salad with hearts of palm and a honey mustard vinaigrette.  Delicious!  It was especially nice to dine outside along a small inlet where we could watch cormorants diving for their suppers.

My salade Nicoise isn't classic.  There are no green beans or capers.  I made my own version that combines those two recent meals that I described.  I used romaine lettuce, red skinned potatoes, some sort of "black" tomato from our CSA share, hard boiled eggs, kalamata olives, tuna, cheese and some slices of a baguette.  The tuna was really good.  It was packed in olive oil with garlic.  It was so rich and totally unlike canned tuna.  Which is good because the Mister isn't really a fan of canned tuna.  I made my own honey mustard vinaigrette for it.  It's a pretty filling dinner but very tasty.  I may make it for lunch, today!

I should add that I never saw myself as a Moms' Meetup kind of gal.  But, when you move to another state and leave behind everyone you love and care for, you need help.  I was feeling fairly isolated staying home to care for our baby girl.   I met two women at the Meetup that I really liked.  They also were new to the area and it felt good to spend some time with new friends.  Here's to new friends and old ones, too!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ethiopian Collard Greens-Ye'abesha Gomen

We've been getting collard greens in our CSA share lately.  The Mister and I stopped eating meat more than 2 years ago so cooking them with a piece of smoky ham was out.  M. suggested Ethiopian collards and I was more than happy to oblige.  I followed Saveur's recipe and it is so delicious. http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Yeabesha-Gomen-Ethiopian-Collard-GreensI made this recipe twice in 2 weeks.  The first time I made it with Alecha (vegetable stew), spiced lentils and a pretty decent injera.  The second time I made it with roasted beets and added the beet greens to the collards.  Each time it was very good.  

Injera is a stretchy flatbread that looks like a big crepe.  One large piece of injera is put on a platter and little piles of the other foods are put on top of it. The flavors of the food seep into the injera making it taste delicious.  Another platter of just injera is usually nearby so the diner can tear off pieces to scoop up the food.  Berbere is a blend of spices that seasons the meat and lentils dishes in Ethiopian food.  It makes the food hot and spicy and sooo good!

I've made Ethiopian food before and it was fine but this time it was much tastier.  I think the key was making the Spiced Butter http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Ethiopian-Spiced-Butter and the Berebere seasoning-http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Ethiopian-Spice-Mixhttp://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Ethiopian-Spice-Mix.  I roasted the spices and ground them in a coffee grinder.  We live in an apartment and the smell of the spices filled the whole house.  M. ran into one of our upstairs neighbor and he said the smells wafting from our apartment was making them crave curry.  

My injera took 24 hours. Much shorter than the authentic way of making it which entails making a starter and capturing wild yeast.  I couldn't wait that long.  Nor could I find Teff flour which is what injera is traditionally made from.  I made a whole wheat version with bread yeast and let it ferment overnight.  The texture was very good.  It was holey and stretchy like real injera.  The flavor wasn't quite right, it was more sour.  Still, it made for a good base for the lentils, vegetables and collards.  

I followed the recipe for the Alecha vegetable stew from my Extending the Table cookbook.  It's a basic recipe with cabbage, potatoes and carrots.  The lentils also came from Saveur-http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Ethiopian-Lentil-Stew.  All in all, these were great meals and I hope that we keep getting collard greens in our weekly share!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Creme de Laitue, or what to do with all. that. CSA. lettuce

You know what I'm talking about. Every week you get your CSA share and there are at least 3 or 4 heads of lettuce. We barely got through last week's share by making lots and lots of salad. On Saturday we got more lettuce. I realized yesterday that it was Wednesday and we hadn't even touched any of the lettuce.  There was no way we could eat enough salad to finish it before getting the next share. I remembered listening to a recent radio broadcast about Thomas Jefferson's garden.  He really loved his veggies, apparently. Lettuce, it seems, was a favorite of his. It came up that in Jefferson's time lettuce was frequently cooked.  Other than wilted lettuce salad I don't think I've ever had lettuce cooked. I'm so glad that I heard that little tidbit about cooking lettuce because it led me to Creme de Laitue, or cream of lettuce soup.

I did a little internet search for "cooked lettuce" and found a fair number of unappealing recipes.  Braised lettuce, for one (apparently it turns gray-ew).  Fortunately, I stumbled across a Martha Rose Shulman recipe in the N.Y. Times for Lettuce and Green Garlic Soup http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/07/health/nutrition/turning-up-the-heat-on-lettuce-lettuce-and-green-garlic-soup.html.  I changed it quite a bit since I didn't have green garlic and wanted to some herbs from our CSA (are you seeing a pattern here?).  I followed Ms. Shulman's recipe but used 4 garlic cloves minced, added chopped dill and basil at the end of cooking.  After blending the soup with an immersion blender I added a bit of cream (I had half and half but heavy cream would be very nice), maybe half a cup.  I sprinkled some cayenne pepper in and served the soup with some shredded parmesan.

The soup is a lovely spring green color and has more flavor than I expected from soup made from lettuce.  It reminded me of Marcella Hazan's escarole and rice soup in flavor.  It's elegant and delicious and I used up most of my Romaine and Buttercrunch lettuce.  I would definitely make this again when I am confronted with a surfeit of lettuce.  Which will probably be next week.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lobster rolls at Lobster Landing

Saturday was cool and rainy so we stayed close to home. Sunday, however, was beautiful. The sun was shining and it was considerable less humid than it's been lately. A good day to drive to Clinton, CT on the shore to check out Lobster Landing. I'd been looking around for a good place to try Connecticut style lobster rolls. Basically, that means they are hot and made without mayonnaise. Just butter and lobster meat on a grilled roll. I've had lobster salad rolls made with mayo and enjoyed them but I can't help feeling like I'm getting more filler and less lobster. I remember finding a cart at the top of a steep hill in St. Johns, U.S.V.I. It was a lobster salad roll with water chestnut. It was good and welcome after driving a terrifyingly steep hill in a Jeep on a very hot, day in the Caribbean. I have to say, though, that I much prefer my lobster rolls made with butter.

Clinton, CT (what I saw of it) is a picturesque town with Victorian cottages lining the road on the way to the marina. Lobster Landing is right at the marina. When we pulled up to the tiny, weather-beaten shack the parking lot was packed. I thought that some of the cars may have been for the marina folks but the lobster shack was doing brisk business. There are 2 buildings. The one with the Lobster Landing sign with the dangling "O" is where customers can pick up live lobsters and fresh shellfish.  Another building is where you can get the rolls. They also make sausage and pepper sandwiches, hot dogs and have gelato and bottled drinks for sale. But, who wants hot dogs and sausage when there's lobster?

M. and I split a lobster roll, they're fairly large ($15, too). The roll was grilled and piled high with lobster. The butter was done with a light hand so the lobster roll wasn't greasy. The lobster itself was sweet and delicious. I saw baby E. eyeing our lunch with envy. Poor kiddie; too young for lobster still but some day!

Lobster Landing isn't a restaurant. It's basically a food stand, like you'd find at a county fair. There is only a porta-potty for rest room facilities. Plastic tables and chairs under a vinyl tent or outside picnic tables overlooking the water. The view of the marina is nice and the lobster rolls are worth the drive.