Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Ready for Summer

Well, I guess you never know how many readers you have until you space out for a couple weeks and forget to post. I'm so sorry that I've been MIA this month. Is it just me, or is May the busiest month of the year? It's actually become competitive with December this year! For some reason I feel like I haven't had the chance to slow down at all this month to sit back and enjoy the beautiful weather we've been having, or even to spend time in my kitchen. Between graduations (congrats Morgan and Bowen!), a big show at the gallery, yankees games, birthday dinners and the Lost finale, I have been running around like crazy. Everything has been an absolute blast, but I am definitely looking forward to some relaxation this weekend and a slower summer.

I am so excited to be driving up to Maine this weekend for Memorial Day. (You may remember last summer's fateful lobster roll.) We're planning on lots of walks on the beach, reading by the pool (I can't wait to dive into The Imperfectionists), and eating lots of lobster.

I only made it to the Farmer's Market once this month. And only for about fifteen minutes - totally pathetic! But I brought home a (now beautifully blooming) bunch of peonies from Wright and a pint of the most beautiful strawberries I've ever seen.

I'll be back in full force in June!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spring Vegetables

Despite back and forth weather, it finally feels like spring is in full swing in New York when you visit the market. Ramps, asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, irises, peonies... it is so exciting these days! I've been obsessing over ramps and leeks and just itching to make my first strawberry rhubarb pie of the season.

One thing that I've been keeping my refrigerator stocked with these days is asparagus. I just can't get enough of it - I have filled up multiple quiches, chopped it up to go on top of pasta, grilled it with a little lemon juice, and even made a raw asparagus salad.

Come again? RAW? I know, I didn't believe it would work either. I thought about it and thought about it and couldn't wrap my brain around eating this bizarrely delicious vegetable without cooking it first. But I was inspired and curious.

The results? A refreshing, crunchy, rustic and flavorful salad. A vinaigrette soaks into the asparagus to brighten it up and loosen up the earthy flavors, warm hazelnuts add a decadent spin, and shallots a bit of sweetness. I ate it with a full smile and a glass of rose - perfect summer dinner for one. I do have to admit, though, that since I am only one, I had leftovers. And the leftovers, they were not so good. The vinegar kept biting into the salad overnight and it turned into a cough-worthy strength of a salad - not my cup of tea.

But if you, like me, are looking for fun twists on an old standby of a spring vegetable, look no further.

Cold Asparagus Salad
Adapted from Culinerapy

Note: this recipe is very flexible, do not feel the need to be exact. You can certainly change around the nuts, add cheese, skip the mustard, use champagne vinegar, etc.

1/2 bunch medium to thin asparagus
3 tablesp0ons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon mustard
pinch salt, pinch pepper
1 shallot, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup hazelnuts

1. Wash and trim asparagus. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper, and shallot. Slowly whisk in olive oil, then toss in the asparagus. Cover and let soak in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
3. Just before serving, toast the hazelnuts in a dry pan over medium heat for 5-8 minutes. Toss into the salad and serve.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Frozen Blueberries

While (not) cleaning out my freezer, I stumbled upon a bag full of frozen blueberries. I may have some mysterious items in that freezer, but I do try to be diligent about writing the dates on things I freeze. Sometimes this backfires. Like when I found blueberries from July 2009.

The good thing about finding blueberries from July 2009 is that you know they were fresh and most likely even local. Which is a lot better than the $5.99 tasteless blueberries that you'll find in your grocery stores in April. The bad thing about finding blueberries from July 2009 is that, well, they are from July 2009. Which was kind of a long time ago, even in freezer years.

This fact did not stop me from popping one in my mouth, deeming them good as new, and whipping up a Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Cake featuring said blueberries. And no, this cake did not taste like it was from 2009. It tasted like summer... fresh, delicious, summer.

The best way, by the way, to freeze fruits like blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, is to spread them out on a baking sheet or plate so that they aren't touching each other. Place in the freezer for 4-6 hours or overnight, until they have frozen individually. Then put into a freezer bag and label with the date (and item! You never know how long it will be...) and freeze as long as you'd like. Generally the rule of thumb is only about 1-3 months maximum for meats, 3-6 months for every thing else, depending on quality, fragility, and freezer reliability. If freezer burn (those white crystals) start to grow, take it out and use it before it gets bad, otherwise I wouldn't bother with eating it, especially meat.

Lemon Blueberry Yogurt Cake
Adapted from Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain yogurt
Zest of two lemons
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup blueberries (frozen or plain)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a loaf pan and line with parchment paper.
2. Sift 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.
3. Whisk together yogurt, lemon zest, sugar, eggs and vanilla.
4. Slowly stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
5. Fold vegetable oil into batter.
6. Toss blueberries in remaining 1 tablespoon of flour, until they are all covered. Fold them into the batter, then pour batter into loaf pan.
7. Bake at 350 for 50-55 minutes, until cake is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.