Posts Tagged ‘Cooking At Home’

Four Ingredients

Posted 26 Aug 2010 — by S.E.
Category At Home

  

It is rare that I talk about foods that I prepare myself on this blog. However, tonight I ate a tomato that inspired me. While poking around outside my back door I discovered and harvested a beautiful ripe red heirloom tomato from the small patch of vegetables I tend. I was drawn to it by the fragrant aroma radiating from the group of tomato plants on this side of the garden. The smell and taste of fresh home-grown tomatoes are two of a handful of sensory experiences that define summer for me.

As summer begins its gradual transition toward shorter days and the autumnal equinox moves closer, I stop taking my fresh tomato supply for granted. By the time our first frost arrives I often have several dozen green tomatoes that have no hope of ripening on the vine. These are tomatoes with the best of intentions that will never reach their prime. Thoughts about the fading days of late August and the end of summer flash through my head as I carefully pluck the tomato from its stem with a heightened level of appreciation.

The lucky specimen I select is a plump, globe shaped Ceylon tomato although this Ceylon doesn’t look like the others I have grown in the past. It’s perfect round shape and lack of pronounced ribs cause me to wonder if this plant was an actual Ceylon or some other varietal. However, when I rinse, cut, and taste the tomato it is perfectly sweet with slight acid and good bite much like a typical Ceylon. Perhaps this is the real thing.

 

Across from my tomatoes, there’s an out-of-control group of broad leaf Genovese basil plants. They are full and healthy with perfect shaped shiny leaves and a deep and sweet aroma. I snip off a handful of leaves and bring them in to my sink for a rinse. After gently patting them dry, I roll and roughly chiffonade the leaves and toss them in the bowl with the tomatoes, a rough teaspoon of sea salt, and several grinds of fresh black pepper.

Four ingredients, that’s it. Four ingredients that when combined define summer and, after one bite, provide an unrivaled flavor experience.

First Fruits of Spring: Fiddleheads, Spargel and Morels

Posted 25 Apr 2010 — by S.E.
Category At Home

Tonight, dinner was with some old friends, one of whom is a well know chef of the highest caliber. We had planned our dinner for some weeks and, knowing his penchant for keeping all ingredients local and organic, I couldn’t wait to head over to his house. It didn’t surprise me to discover upon arrival that his mise en place was complete and that dinner would be served within the hour. This included fresh spargel (white asparagus), fiddlehead ferns, morel mushrooms and a wood-roasted half sirloin. I suspected he would focus on local ingredients in season, and had been thinking about this since arriving home for the weekend from work to find a local ingredient of my own growing in my yard.

Last Friday evening I noticed garlic chives growing along the back border of my lawn. Pulling one up and snapping it in half, I took in its fragrant, sharp aroma. The smell reminded me of how, as a child, we used to dare each other to chew their garlicky, pale white bulbs raw.  Even then, I loved food and would take the dare, breath reeking the rest of the afternoon to my brother’s sheer delight. As kids, we used to find garlic chives, morel mushrooms, and fiddlehead ferns growing wild throughout a twenty acre dairy farm pasture and the dense woods along its perimeter. They were sure signs of spring and arrived each year like clockwork.

Fiddlehead Ferns

Later on Saturday I came across these ingredients again. I made a quick trip to Whole Foods and found crates of ramps and fiddleheads stacked in the produce section (few people were buying). Large bundles of white asparagus were on display as well. I was tempted, but stayed focused on what I needed (two loaves of sourdough) and made my way to the exit.

Spargel (White Asparagus)

So, imagine how pleased I was today to find three wonderful, local, in-season ingredients waiting to be finished for our meal along with several other accompaniments. These included a batch of artichokes roasting, cipollini onions sautéing and golden beets sautéing with garlic. After an hour of visiting while the sirloin finished, the meal was nearly complete. The morels were completed with cognac and veal glace, sea salt and fresh pepper while the golden beets and garlic, on low heat, became tender, caramelized and sweet. He roasted a small batch of fingerling potatoes with rosemary as well to round out the meal. When all was set, I took an end-cut of the sirloin, topped it with two succulent morels and a liberal portion of veal glace, a scoop of golden beets, an artichoke, three potatoes, an onion, a half-dozen white asparagus and a small spoonful of fiddleheads. Within minutes we were seated and within another twenty, sated. Sunday dinner the way it should be!

Dinner!