A Simple Supper: Artichokes and Potatoes

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by Edward Schneider

Am I wrong to think that only a handful of farmers who come to Manhattan Greenmarkets grow artichokes? I’ve seen them only at Maxwell’s stand, but surely there must be other growers too, no? 

Whatever the case, that’s where Jackie bought some lovely little ones last week, along with a bag of nice dense new-season potatoes, a bunch of thyme and some juicy onions. Her shopping bag contained our entire dinner, apart from the salt, pepper, olive oil and smoked prosciutto (speck). With the oven pre-heating to 375 degrees, we first cut off the tops of the artichokes, stripped them down to the pale, tender inner leaves and pared the stems (dipping them and holding them in lemon-juiced water as we worked). Then we par-steamed the potatoes – just for four or five minutes to give them a head start – sliced some speck and cut an onion into wedges. All of this, we tossed with olive oil, thyme and salt and pepper in a baking dish and roasted until the artichoke hearts and potatoes were tender and lightly browned. 

Apart from the adventure of trimming the artichokes (see this: though ours were far smaller, the idea is the same), this was hardly cooking at all, and it made a hell of a dinner. Although the focus was on the vegetables, I have to say that the crisp roasted speck was irresistible; we’ll use twice as much next time. Maybe three times as much.

Posted in American, Recipes

Politics of the Plate

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by Barry Estabrook

Pop a Cork, Save a Forest

We had a dinner party last night for a group of friends who enjoy their wine. I’m glad to report that we more than did our bit to save the forests of Portugal, Spain, Italy, and northern Africa. The vintages we selected all came in bottles sealed with cork, which is made from the bark of a species of oak.

But with the increasing popularity of screw caps and plastic “corks,” the real cork industry is threatened, and along with it, more than four million acres of forest. In addition to providing some 100,000 jobs, cork forests combat global warming and provide habitat for wildlife. Portugal’s Montada Forest is home to hundreds of species of birds and also habitat for the Iberian lynx, one of the world’s most endangered animals. Apcor, the Portuguese Cork Association says that cork is compostable and produces 24 times less carbon than the aluminum in screw caps—if you need another reason to pop a cork and raise a glass.

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Posted in Food Politics

Sunday Supper: Crawfish or Shrimp Boil

Over on Kitchen Daily I’m talking lobster, but here’s another shellfish recipe that just screams Summer. Adapted from How to Cook Everything.

Crawfish or Shrimp Boil, Louisiana Style

Makes: 4 to 6 servings

Time: 30 minutes, plus time to cool

It’s traditional to serve the seafood (and vegetables; see the variation) in the center of a newspaper-covered table with some French bread and a bowl of the cooking water—which will taste pretty good after having all this cooked in it—handy for dipping.

About 6 quarts water, fish stock, or shrimp stock

4 bay leaves

2 teaspoons dried thyme or several sprigs fresh thyme

1 tablespoon black peppercorns

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

3 cloves

4 small dried hot red chiles

Salt

4 pounds whole crawfish or shrimp

Tabasco or other hot red pepper sauce for serving

Lemon wedges for serving

Freshly ground black pepper

Garlic mayonnaise, or tartar sauce for dipping, optional

1. Bring the liquid to a boil in a medium to large saucepan and add the bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns, garlic, coriander, cloves, chiles, and plenty of salt. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 10 minutes.

2. Add the crawfish or shrimp. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the seafood cool down for a few minutes in the liquid.

3. Remove the crawfish or shrimp with a slotted spoon, sprinkle with more salt, and serve, passing hot sauce, lemon wedges, black pepper, and sauce at the table.

Crawfish or Shrimp Boil with Vegetables. More of a meal: In Step 1, add 11/2pounds waxy potatoes and 1 pound onions (all cut into large chunks if they’re big- ger than eggs). Boil with the seasonings until just beginning to get tender, about 10 minutes. When you add the seafood in Step 2, add 4 to 6 ears of shucked corn (cut in half if you like). Proceed with the recipe.

Posted in Recipes, Seafood

Quick Pickles, the Wrong Way

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by Kerri Conan 

Or call them skillet pickles. Whatever: They’re the perfect antidote to full-on canning or refrigerator-cured vegetables, since there’s no work involved and you don’t need a bushel of produce. 

Start with trimmed whole or sliced vegetables (in this case green beans but I later made a batch with beets) and a hot skillet filmed with olive oil. Add some aromatics (the first garlic from the garden for the first; the other got a mixture of sesame and grape seed oils with scallions). When the seasoning just starts to sputter, toss in the veg. Move them around in the pan a bit so the color brightens evenly, then stir in a splash each of water and vinegar (I used sherry v. for the beans and rice v. for the beets, but your call). If you’re worried about ratios, figure 1 part each of oil, water, vinegar. But you only need enough to douse the vegetables, not submerge them.  

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Posted in Produce, Recipes

On Finding and Shucking Oysters

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by Cathy Erway

It was something I would have normally found awe-inspiring: a platter of freshly shucked oysters, placed ceremoniously on a chrome stand. The opened half shells dotted the perimeter of the dish, sunken into a bed of crushed ice. In the center lay lemon wedges and small cups of cocktail sauce, horseradish and vinaigrette, with spoons dug provocatively down in. In their pools of clear brine, the silver flesh of the oysters seemed to quiver gently even seconds after being set down, and their juices threatened to drip into the ice. These were served up at a well-heeled restaurant with much recent hype, no less, at a table that was the envy of every person waiting patiently outside. It was, by all standards, a real foodie’s dream. But it just wasn’t the same for me.  

You see, the day before, I had foraged for oysters on a calm and sandy beach. I wasn’t expecting to find them, nor the quahogs, hermit crabs and miniature shellfish that lay half-hidden at my feet. But I recognized the teardrop shape and craggy surface of the first oyster from afar, and spent the next hour or so peeling the beach for more. Once home, I shucked them open one by one, to enjoy with friends. I’d collected ten oysters in total, and they ranged wildly in stature: the smallest being the size of a baby’s ear and the largest one, a round and deep-bowled object that held a mouthful-sized mollusk. Some had translucent green strands of seaweed clinging to its shells, which I could never get off. One had another oyster shell impossibly stuck against it like a Siamese twin. Slipped into the mouth, some oysters gave with a subtle crunch, like a softened piece of cartilage, while others went down as a smooth, cold lobe of blubber. All of them were very easy to shuck. Perhaps it was this particular species, but the way the tiny crevice between the pointed ends of both shells – the sweet spot – gave so easily with the shove of a shucker made it seem as if they had been waiting to be opened, too.  

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Posted in Farming, Seafood

Early Birds Abroad

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By Edward Schneider

A perennial problem for visitors to Spain is the dining timetable. Many Spaniards have their main meal at lunchtime, eventually going back to work and staying there until well into the evening. Only then do they start to think about going out for a stroll, a drink, another stroll and something more to eat. But if my wife and I were to have a full-blown sit-down lunch, we’d be useless for the rest of the afternoon and would miss a precious half day of sightseeing. So going native is not for us.

Before a brief trip to Córdoba, our first, we asked friends for dining ideas that were a little off the beaten track – that might take us out of the ancient center of the city into neighborhoods that most tourists don’t see. The one that particularly struck our fancy was about a twenty-minute walk east of our hotel (the dreamy Palacio del Bailío, which for a September stay, for example, can be booked on hotels.com for $233 a night). Continue reading

Posted in Travel

Fix the Farm, Not the Salmon

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By Paul Greenberg

[Paul Greenberg is author of the newly released “Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food” and a frequent contributor to the New York Times on fish, seafood and ocean issues. As far as I’m concerned, he’s fast becoming the country’s most knowledgeable writer about aquaculture, a difficult topic if ever there was one. – mb)

When the New York Times reported in June of 2010 that the US Food and Drug Administration was “seriously considering” approving a genetically modified Atlantic salmon for American consumption the cries from environmentalists and food reformers were, predictably, almost audible on the streets. The AquAdvantage® Salmon uses a “genetic on-switch” from a fish called an ocean pout (a very different animal) in combination with a growth gene from a Chinook salmon to achieve double the growth rate of unmodified Atlantic salmon.

The animal’s creator, AquaBounty Technologies of Waltham, MA, asserts that the fish will be sterile and grown in out-of-ocean bio-secure containment structures. (We’ve heard that before. – ed.) Nevertheless the emotional worry of genetic contamination of wild fish, the public preoccupation with health risks a modified salmon could pose, and just the overall ick-factor consumers have about GMO food were all on display across the foodie and environmental blogosphere a few days after the Times article ran.

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Posted in Food Politics, Seafood

My AOL Piece About Noma, And Some Comments:

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If you haven’t read the AOL piece, you can do so now; or after you read this. -mb

Someone said to me yesterday “If you’re skeptical about the ‘best restaurant in the world’ awards, why did you go to Noma”?

It’s a good question. The fact is I’m often slow, perhaps not uncommonly so, but in any case I’m busy, with many things drawing my attention. And I don’t always listen to good advice. In the mid-90s Colman Andrews told me to go to El Bulli; I got there five years later, after Jose Andres and others told me I was a moron for not going earlier.

Two years ago, Dave Chang told me to go to Noma. I responded similarly: I didn’t go.

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Posted in Behind The Scenes

This #$!% Has Got to Stop: Part Seven, Local Gone Stupid

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- mb & Kerri Conan

A greenhouse, a real greenhouse – with sun and soil – this makes all the sense in the world. But hi-tech lettuce? Dumb. Yet a Subway in Tokyo is growing five percent of its lettuce hydroponically, in the shop. This is local? This is junk. No soil, no sun means hi-energy input (lights) and hi-nutrient input (fertilizer). A complete waste, and tasteless no doubt to boot – flavor comes from sun and soil, not from water and lightbulbs. Sheesh.

 

 

 

Posted in Behind The Scenes