Friday, June 29, 2007

Roasted Garlic Scapes with Heirloom Tomatoes

Garlic scapes are the shoots that sprout up in early summer from the center of a garlic bulb. Curved and serpentine, they carry a false bud or pod that will eventually produce garlic seeds. But harvested fresh and young, the scape is a glorious vegetable: tender, mild, and perfect for blanching, sautéing, or roasting.

Pittstown Farm had some gorgeous heirloom tomatoes at the market this week, and, as you've heard, I've been craving them for a long while. Well they finally came into season while I was in Italy, and I knew that the mild garlicky crunch of the scapes would be a lovely foil for a plate of the juicy tomatoes sliced and drizzled in peppery olive oil.

We had ours with some roasted flounder as a simple, refreshing dinner. A word to the wise though: scapes are not date food. Nor are they food for any other situation where you might tend to take yourself seriously. The curls get out from under you if you’re not vigilant about cutting small bites. So eat with a friend or alone, but do take advantage of scape season. Not sure where to find scapes near you? Try the Local Harvest Market Finder.

Serves 4

2 small bunches garlic scapes
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
3 large or 5 small heirloom tomatoes
good sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
small handful fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400 F

Trim the picked end of the scapes. In a small roasting pan, toss the scapes with a generous glug of olive oil and a good shower of salt. Roast for 15 - 20 minutes until tender but firm.

Meanwhile, slice the tomatoes and arrange them on a platter. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper. Tear over the basil leaves and, when the scapes are ready, tumble them over the tomatoes. Serve while the scapes are still hot.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Caffé Cibrèo & a Rare Meme

I tend not to participate in memes, and I hope this hasn’t ever offended anyone. They don’t usually work with the format of my site. But when the lovely Foodette at Restaurant Review World tagged me for the Lucky Seven meme, she caught me at a fairly introspective moment, and I was intrigued.

The rules are to state 7 random facts or habits about oneself, and to then tag 7 other bloggers to do the same. I won’t tag anyone specific here, as I'd hate you to feel obligated (except maybe you, Naptime Writer - we all know how you love a good list). I will say, though, that I’d be interested in hearing 7 random facts about any of you, because I think food bloggers are about as interesting a bunch as you're likely to meet. So in a way, I tag you all. Let me know if you’re inspired to write your own list, so I can include a link to it below. (And watch the anarchy start to rain down on meme-land. The fair Foodette’s wishing she’d never heard of figs, olives, or wine…)

Now back to that introspective moment. When I’m in Florence, I love to have my breakfast at Caffé Cibrèo. It’s a spot a friend who spends a lot of time in that city introduced me to, and it’s a heavenly place to start the day. Friendly waiters, plenty of locals, fabulous Florentine chef Fabio Picchi at the helm, and, best of all, a location right on the outskirts of Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti – home to the Mercato Sant’Ambrogio.

Sitting at breakfast and watching Florentines stop in for a caffé on their way to work while nonnas (grandmothers) and their bambini sit at the outdoor tables and share a cornetto con marmellata (jam-filled croissant) before heading over to the market makes for a lovely morning. I usually get cappuccino and a panino con crudo (a slightly sweet roll, in this case, filled with a single slice of prosciutto).

I should add that my list in no way holds true for someone who has specific health problems or dietary restrictions – I’ve been there, and I respect the discipline it takes to manage such challenges! And so, without further ado, here’s a list of my thoughts and culinary musings as they were that morning in Firenze:

1) I’m vaguely embarrassed by how much I miss my husband when I travel for work.

2) It’s a shame that families are so spread out these days. A loving nonna is irreplacable, and my Granny was the greatest.

3) I honestly believe that if we took a 2 or 3 hour pausa in the middle of every day to eat a proper meal, chat with friends, and take a wee nap, we’d be a healthier, more likable, and, yes, more productive people.

4) I think the strange, outdated American obsession with having all of the food groups represented at each meal is partly why we eat too much. And frankly, aren't we all capable of remembering what we ate at lunch and balancing it later on at dinner?

5) On this particular morning, I heard an American student order a “decaf coffee with skim milk on the side.” After she’d left, the waiter informed me that at Cibreo they call this a “why bother?” Agreed.

6) Despite eating and drinking heroic amounts whenever I’m on a research trip to the Mediterranean, I always lose weight. Peculiar indeed considering that, as you well know, I eat mostly local, seasonal foods at home.

7) Bread, prosciutto, and whole milk don’t make you fat. Processed bread, prosciutto, and milk made from flour drenched in pesticides and pigs and cows souped up with hormones do though.

Caffé Cibrèo
Via A. Del Verrocchio, 5 r
Tel. 055 234 58 53

Now let me know if you should feel inspired to write a list of your own, and I'll include a link to it here. And thank you Foodette for thinking of me.
Naptime Writer
The Leftover Queen
The Traveling McMahans
Trap Door

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Early Summer Tian

Eating for research is different than eating for sustenance or enjoyment. Though I derive great pleasure from my job, it does mean trying foods that don’t necessarily appeal, or sometimes eating when I’m not at all hungry. It’s usually fairly easy to find a balance, but on a research trip, like the one I just returned from in Tuscany, no culinary curiosity should be left untried. And after a couple of weeks of that, aided by a natural propensity for excess and bon vivance, I frankly feel as though you could use me for foie gras.

Fortunately, upon my first visit back to my beloved greenmarkets, I found that in my absence the early summer vegetables had ripened. Perfect for tian.

Tian (pronounced as one syllable: tyahnn) is a word from the Provençal dialect for an earthenware dish as well as for the casseroles cooked in it. Traditionally, a tian contains vegetables and herbs, but breadcrumbs, cheese, and anchovies all make regular appearances as well. The substantial vegetables of late summer and autumn (think eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes) are most frequently used for tian, but after the glut of research-eating, I want the quiet flavors of early summer.

Presented this simply, the nuttiness of summer squash, the crunch of fresh peas, and the sweetness of braised onions all shine, and I think the meat lovers among you (self included) will be surprised at how satisfying a meal this tian can be. I’ve used the pecorino dolce I lugged back from Florence’s Mercato Centrale here, but you could use chevre, feta, fontina, mozzarella – really whatever appeals or waits in the fridge.

And use whichever vegetables seem freshest – I simply list what appealed to me at the market. As you line up the multi-hued slices of squash, spring onion, and crunchy lettuce, I think you’ll agree that tian must have been created by a true vegetable lover – maybe an avid gardener overjoyed by the sudden abundance of summer. Regardless, this is true home food: easy to throw together and infinitely adaptable to season and availability.

Sip something cool and crisp with this tian and enjoy the fragrant broth that the vegetables and herbs form as they melt into the white wine and olive oil.

Serves 4

3 small yellow summer squash
2 – 3 patty pan squash
2 – 3 small zucchini
extra virgin olive oil
1 head & stem of spring garlic (or 2 mature cloves), minced
1 large handful fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly, plus a little more for serving
1 large handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped, plus a little more for serving
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
6 spring onions or 1 - 2 small onions
½ head red leaf lettuce
1 cup white wine
¾ cup freshly shelled young peas
2 – 3oz nice young cheese

Preheat the oven to 325 F

Slice the squash lengthwise into ¼ inch thick pieces. Toss them in a bowl with a good glug of olive oil and the garlic, basil, and parsley. Season well with salt and pepper, and toss again. Remove the spring onions’ roots and leaves, and then slice them lengthwise as thinly as you can (probably ¼ - ½ inch thick for spring onions - thinner if you use normal onions).

In a large earthenware or cast iron dish, arrange the vegetable slices vertically, adding the lettuce leaves to the mix. Pack them in tightly, and them sprinkle with any herb and garlic mixture left over in the bowl. Pour in the wine and cover the dish with tin foil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Uncover the tian and sprinkle over the peas. Tear or crumble the cheese over the vegetables and raise the oven to 400 F. Roast uncovered for 20 – 25 more minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Check the seasoning and serve either hot or room temperature, sprinkled with a little more basil and parsley.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Markets of Florence

I’ve made no secret of my adoration for markets – particularly open air ones. This blog is, after all, primarily concerned with my interaction with the food markets in Manhattan, and so it will come as no surprise that the spectacular markets of Florence were foremost on my list to revisit this trip.

Shopping for food is as close to hunting and gathering as most of us get on a daily basis, and, in all its tactile sniffing and tasting, the act of choosing and purchasing food forms a subliminal channel to our need to maintain health and sustain life itself. As our friend Piero Camporesi has noted, in old Italian, food was spoken of as munizioni di bocca or munitions of the mouth. And so we are reminded of the relentless battle humans have faced through the ages to find or grow food and feed their own.

Open-air markets are vigorous centers of gathering and exchange, and it’s wondrous to stop and realize what an ancient institution this is that survives in modern countries today. Florence has a wealth of markets, some of which have operated on the same sites for centuries.

The Mercato Sant’Ambrogio is located in the Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti. The stalls outside feature a vast array of seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as flowers and flea market items.

Indoors, a stunning selection of meats, whole chickens, cheeses, salumi, oils, wine, spice blends, fresh and dried pastas, steel bins of soaking baccala bagnato, and fresh seafood await.

Friends took me to their favorite Bertagni stall inside where we bought pungent bresaola (air-dried beef), sweet prosciutto, creamy ricotta, and buffalo mozzarella so tender and fresh that it released great pools of milk when we sliced it at home.

Next I went to see the Mercato Cascine, primarily a vast flea market, but also stocked with beautiful produce and lunch stalls. Great cans of sardines and anchovies preserved in salt or oil are stacked alongside dry baccala. There are crates of beautiful baby lettuces and the eggs “fresche da bere (fresh enough to drink) that I’ve written about before.

For lunch there’s polenta fritta, porchetta sandwiches sliced off of great fennel-infused pork roasts whose heads, still attached, smile across the counter at you, and the ominous panini con lampredotto. Lampredotto is the lining of a cow’s 4th and final stomach – far ruddier than the comparatively pristine trippa and centopelle or the 1st and 2nd or 3rd stomach linings.

The magnificent Marco of Tripperia M & L at the Mercato Centrale, Florence’s largest food market, will teach you all about lampredotto as well as any other innards you can imagine (and some you can’t).

I watch him cube diaframma manzo or cow diaphragm (“good for barbeque,” he remarks) for a customer before he turns to deliver an anatomy lesson to me.

Suddenly the diaframma seems tame. Here’s nervetti cotti, boiled, transluscent white beef nerves Marco says are “nice for salad.” There’s buddelina maiale or pork intestines (“wash very well”), and over there’s musetto crudo or cow’s face (“slice very thin’). When I ask about the poppa mucca he smiles and tells me “I don’t have, but you have 2.” It takes me a moment before realizing I’m looking at udders. He sends me off a wiser woman with a booklet of recipes for delicacies including poppa crostini and risotto col lampredotto.

But it’s not all blood and guts at the Mercato Centrale. Candied carrots, kiwis, melon, and tomatoes sparkle like jewels.

Fresh pasta is cut to order when your timing’s right, and stunning fish stalls line the far corner. Upstairs lie the beautiful fruits and vegetables. On my way out, I stop at Marco Salumi e Formaggi on Marco’s recommendation to buy some pecorino dolce (fresh, creamy sheep’s milk cheese), some wild boar prosciutto, and a hunk of my beloved finocchiona (Tuscan pork salami with fennel), which this 2nd Marco (pictured at the top) kindly vacuum packs for me.

I stuff the great hunks of meat and cheese into my bag feeling more than adequately “munitioned” for the long months ahead back in Manhattan.

Mercato Sant’Ambrogio
Via dei Macci, Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti
Open Monday – Saturday, 7:30am – 1:30pm

Mercato Cascine
Viale Lincoln, Parco delle Cascine
Open Tuesdays, 8am – 2pm
Open Sundays before Easter and Christmas Day, 8am – 2pm

Mercato Centrale
Piazza del Mercato Centrale
Open Monday – Saturday, 9am – 2pm

Tripperia Marco e Lorella
Mercato Centrale, Stand 266-267
(Tel: 055211270)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Passeggiata Toscana

The passeggiata is one of my favorite Italian customs. Whether a lazy stroll, arm-in-arm, after the daily siesta (or pausa as it’s known here in Tuscany), or a midnight gelato and turn about town after dinner, the passeggiata anchors the day and affirms community in the most pleasant way.

I suppose the passeggiata began as a way to see neighbors and conduct the business of life. By the Renaissance in Florence, the 1st floor of most palazzos was open to the street, and commerce was conducted under the loggia or out in front of the buildings. Florentines who navigated the streets and the interactions that occurred there with capable grace and intelligence were known as furbos – a great compliment.

Modest women were expected to stay within the home, and so the street became their theatre – something to be looked out on or spoken across to women in windows on the other side of the narrow streets while remaining properly hidden. These days, of course, everyone participates in the passeggiata: men, women, and children (who are far less segregated from adult life here than they are in the States).

In larger cities, such as Florence, a passeggiata can be hard to recognize in the crowded streets, though the tradition is still evident in some quieter neighborhoods. But glorious passeggiatas still take place in smaller Tuscan cities like Lucca and Siena and in some villages, including Castiglione della Pescaia in the Maremma.

Siena has a festa each Sunday between April and September – yesterday in celebration of Sant’Antonio of Padua – and the locals drape their neighborhoods in heraldic colors.

The passeggiata here really picks up by 4pm, when cars pull up to the city gates and both locals and tourists pour into the streets.

It's a true treat to watch the walk begin while nibbling the town’s panforte – a spiced fruit and nut cake treasured as long ago as the crusades for its endless shelf life.

Panforte comes in many flavors at Nannini, including chocolate and cherry, fig and hazelnut, peppery Antico, and the almond and citron-studded Classico.

By 6pm yesterday, the parade had begun. Drums echoed up the winding stone streets as small boys in traditional dress rounded the corner. Next came teenagers – far more matter-of-fact about the whole thing than I can imagine any self-conscious American adolescent boy feeling.

Then came the men, stopping to chat with friends and holding up the procession for a few moments whenever a familiar face appeared in the crowd. Finally the neighborhood officials and women processed past, all draped in their neighborhood’s colors.

The passeggiata in Castiglione della Pescaia, a beach village, is a nighttime affair. It starts at the end of the day, when sun-drenched wanderers filter past the harbor fish market and fishermen mending their nets up to the main drag for aperitivi and antipasti.

Astringent Negronis and Americanos or a simple glass of Prosecco or beer and some slices off a hunk of soppresata refresh as the ritual begins.

The crowds build during dinner, and by the time you’re ready for a gelato (always look for a gelateria artigianale, where the frozen treats are made on the premises), the cafes and bars have overflowed onto the ancient stone streets. Babies sleep and dogs wag as locals greet one another and stop for a chat or a digestivo.

I think there may be no better way to get a feel for daily life in a new town or to reacquaint oneself with a beloved city after a few years away.

Nannini Conca d'Ora in Siena
Via Banchi di Sopra, 24 (0577 236 009)
Open: Monday - Saturday, 7:30am - 11pm; Sunday, 8am - 9pm.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

La Dolce Vita in Firenze

I love waking up in a new city. Before I even opened my eyes yesterday morning, I knew I was in Florence. Some sounds and scents are just unmistakable: church bells ringing even though it’s not Sunday, the wail of a distant, Italian siren, the subtly foreign pronunciation of the word “taxi” shouted out on the street below, the insistent call of the hoards of rondine, or swallows, that dive-bomb the city each morning, the scent of lemon blossoms from our terrace outside, and then the bubble of espresso on the stove.

After a long day reacquainting myself with Florence and shaking off jet lag, a friend and I headed to Dolce Vita, an after-work favorite with the locals on the Piazza del Carmine in the Oltrarno. The Oltrarno (literally “beyond the Arno”) is the district that spans the width of the city center south of the Arno.

The Dolce Vita’s tables in the piazza outside are shaded from the late afternoon sun by giant canvas canopies, and large couches are strewn with pillows next to the more classic tables. I recommend the bar to any who shares my compulsive affection for people watching.

Designer shades and impossibly short skirts are not exactly my scene, but who can resist the elegant preening and stylish machismo of the impeccably tailored Italian man?

The men's display of effortless grace, or sprezzatura, is actually an important and admirable cultural remnant of the Renaissance, when man was entirely focused on cultivating and improving himself.

The vespas parked outside Dolce Vita are draped with 2 or 3 of them at any given moment, posing and lighting their cigarettes in time with the Brazilian band playing over in the corner. A chance to watch real Florentine life unfold in the midst of tourist-swamped June is a true treat.

But Dolce Vita is an institution in Florence for another reason - the incredible and ever-changing buffet of antipasti laid out on the bar, free for anyone who buys a drink.

Each visit inside brought new delights: house-smoked tuna carpaccio with parsley and fruity olive oil, jet-black tapenade (heaven on the narrow wedges of pizza and bowls of fennel, celery, and carrot crudité), fried shellfish and rice balls, tender chicken legs, slow roasted in white wine, garlic, and thyme until they fall off the bone, spinach, chive, and goat cheese mousse tart, Crostini Toscana with the traditional and deliciously rich chicken liver spread, saffron zucchini frittata, and tiny soppressata sandwiches on salty schiacciata (the Florentine answer to focaccia and a true treat after all the unsalted pane toscano, which I’ve never learned to love).

I can’t help wondering what came after we left, but, for 14 euros (the price of 2 glasses of the vino rosso della casa), we were stuffed and reluctantly sauntered home across the Arno.

Dolce Vita
Piazza del Carmine (055 284 595)
Open: April – October, 10am – 2am daily; November – March, 6pm – 2am Tuesday – Sunday.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Prosecco with Basil

The cicadas are out in Chicago. A great, biblical plague of them - clinging to trees, crunching underfoot, and finding their way into our clothes with alarming stealth. (I've had an Indiana Jones moment or two myself since I've been out here).

The cicadas' life cycle is a peculiarly timed affair. The insects wriggle about in the earth for 17 years and then, curiosity piqued by the first hot day of their 17th year, stream out into the fresh air to moult, mate, and die. It’s all a bit like a senior spring gone horribly wrong. Apparently this isn’t even a bad season. 17 summers ago, there were so many cicadas that the ground itself seemed to be moving.

Fortunately, and despite the occasional discovery of a large, plump insect on the back of my neck, it’s too hot in Chicago right now to panic. The only thing to be done is to slouch with cold drink in hand, try to ignore the deafening screech of the cicadas, and watch Teva the retriever gulp down as many of them as she can hold. They are, after all, considered a gourmet feast in some parts of the world.

I’ll stick to my prosecco though. It’s truly one of my favorite summer drinks – mildly mineral, straightforward, and simple, prosecco is the perfect hot weather celebration wine. The prosecco grape, thought to be a native of Friuli where there is actually a town named Prosecco, is now grown in the Veneto.

But for me, the wine is probably more woven into the fabric of my life in Florence than anywhere else. There, once I'm safely ensconced at a café or enoteca table in the shady corner of an old stone piazza, prosecco makes the most restorative and relaxing break from a day in the heat.

Lately, and in anticipation of my upcoming trip back to Florence, I’ve been drinking my prosecco with a sprig of basil. Some Italians like an olive and some orange rind in their prosecco, and I’m hoping to try that soon. But, served in a bulbous glass usually reserved for bigger reds, the fragrant combination of the chilled, gently peachy wine and the blunt, earthy, floral basil washes over the senses like summer itself. Pinch a few small leaves into your next glass and revive.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Sea Scallops & Baby Fennel Provençal

Scallops are near and dear to our hearts in this house. I served them the first time I cooked for my future husband, 2 days after we met. A friend gave a dinner party, which I prepared the food for – fresh tapenade, bouillabaisse, and a tarte tatin.

When my date arrived, I asked him to pull the little muscles or “feet” off the sides of the scallops while I finished the broth for the bouillabaise. The only men I’d been around in recent memory were line cooks, so he seemed very slow in the kitchen, but incredibly charming and attentive. The rest, as they say, is history, and whenever we have scallops now, we seem to end up telling each other the story of that night again.

Coquilles St. Jacques à la Provençal just might be my favorite preparation for scallops. It’s a traditional, time-honored recipe that applies the addictive combination of white wine, parsley, and garlic – so well-loved by mussel eaters in bistros the world over – to fresh, sweet, barely-cooked scallops.

The PE & DD Seafood stand at the greenmarket has the best scallops in the city, as far as I’m concerned. They’re incredibly fresh, wild-caught, and smell so sweet that, as I rinse them under the tap, it’s always a challenge not to pop one in my mouth right then and there. On Friday, I picked some up. I had some beautiful baby fennel from Migliorelli Farm that would add just the right (though not as traditional) Provençal tinge of anise to the sauce. If you can’t find baby fennel, a thinly sliced mature bulb will work very well. I just couldn’t resist these baby ones, each a perfect miniature of the more familiar mature plant.

Mediterranean scallops are quite a bit smaller than the Atlantic scallops we buy in the northeast, and so for this recipe, I usually slice sea scallops into 2 rounds rather than keeping them whole. I encourage you to use whatever’s freshest where you shop: whole bay scallops, halved large sea scallops, or whole smaller ones. On colder days, I might sauté some thinly sliced bacon or pancetta until crisp and then crumble it back into the pan before adding the scallops.

Serves 2 as a main course or 4 as an appetizer

1 large bunch baby fennel or 1 bulb fennel
¾ lb sea scallops
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 good-sized glass white wine
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp fresh minced parsley
juice ½ lemon

Clean the fennel bulbs and trim the roots and the tops. Reserve the leaves for soups, pestos, and anything else that might benefit. If using a mature bulb of fennel, slice it thinly. Rinse the scallops, peel off the muscle or “foot” on their sides, and pat them dry.

Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add a glug of extra virgin olive oil and then the fennel. Sprinkle with salt and sauté, stirring often, until the fennel's slightly translucent – about 5 minutes.

Remove the fennel to a plate and refresh the olive oil in the pan. Season the scallops generously on both sides with more salt. Add to the pan and cook for 1 minute until lightly golden on the edges. Turn the scallops and add the minced garlic. Cook for 1 more minute, moving the garlic from time to time so it doesn’t burn.

Return the fennel to the pan and then pour in the white wine. Season with black pepper and let bubble for 1 – 2 more minutes until the liquid is reduced by ½. Remove from the heat, sprinkle in the parsley and lemon juice, and swirl the pan to combine. Check the seasoning with more salt and pepper if necessary, and serve immediately.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Chorizo with Sherry & Crispy Capers

It’s tapas time. Not that I don’t like tapas all year round. But when the sun gets hot, that’s when I really crave those little nibbles of pungent flavor, all washed down with glasses of ice cold sherry or rosé. I’ve lost whole days in tapas bars from Barcelona to Seville. They are simply the only place to be when the light gets too bright and the heat too intense.

Tapa literally means "lid" in Spanish. Traditionally, as Spaniards bar-hopped to fill the long hours between the end of the work day and the customarily late evening meal, they would be given a piece of bread to protect their glass from flies. Topping this bread with a little cured ham or marinated fish surely seemed the natural thing to do, and the tapas bar was born.

Perched at a tapas bar, you can ogle all the food, most of which is precooked and kept under glass, as well as the people ordering it. The dishes are usually too strong to eat a whole plate of, just like the weather’s too stifling to endure a whole day of, but small helpings of whatever’s offered will rouse the senses like nothing else. Tapas is made to be shared, and that’s the nicest food of all in my book.

Chorizo is a Spanish pork sausage flavored with smoked paprika and garlic. It can be bought picante (hot) or dulce (mild), and either fresh or fermented and dried. If it’s fresh, you must cook it, but if you have dried chorizo, you can usually serve it like any other salumi.

Here’s the fresh version, crisp and caramelized on the outside but juicy and savory within. The sherry goes slightly syrupy, and the sizzled capers taste sharply exotic. It’s a wonderful contrast in texture and flavor, and something I come back to again and again.

And when I’ve got my wits about me, I cook extra. The cold sausages make a fantastic sandwich on a hunk of baguette the next day.

Serves 4 - 6 as tapas

2 tbsp capers, preferably preserved in salt, but brined is fine
extra virgin olive oil
2 lb fresh chorizo or other spicy sausages
½ cup dry sherry

Rinse the capers under running water. If you’re using salted capers, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes and rinse again. Squeeze out the excess water and drain the capers on paper towels.

Heat a small sauté pan over medium high heat. Add a glug of olive oil and then the capers. Sauté until crisp and drain on more paper towels.

Using a very sharp knife, slice the sausages into inch-thick disks. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add another glug of olive oil and arrange the sausage slices in the pan. You may have to work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Sauté 4 - 5 minutes a side and then pour off the fat.

Remove from the heat and add the sherry. Turn the heat to high, and reduce the sherry by two-thirds. Toss with the capers and serve with crusty bread and cold wine.

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Harvest Calender

Hello June! For those of you who haven’t yet noticed it over there on the right, Figs Olives Wine features a calendar that lists major crops being harvested from the field (rather than the hot house) this month in New York State, as well as major crops grown locally that are available from storage. All information comes from the Council on the Environment of New York’s greenmarkets page, where you can also find city greenmarket schedules.

This month, beets, broccoli, cabbage, herbs, peas, strawberries, summer squash, swiss chard, and zucchini all make their official appearance on the list, and we bid adieu to parsnips until October.

I find the compilation incredibly helpful for coming up with new seasonal combinations of ingredients, and I hope you will too.

Of course, the best way to familiarize yourself with what's in season where you live is to visit farmer's markets in your area at least a couple of times a month. And talk to the growers. They're always more than happy to discuss which crops are at their peak. To find markets near you in the US, check the Zip or City Quick Search at Local Harvest. Happy Eating!

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