Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Fancy Food Show - NYC


These two photos do have a story behind them, lest you think they are just random. I was given these wonderful bottles of delicious, superior quality extra virgin olive oil from Apulia in Italy by the owner of said groves as a thank you for having helped out at the Fancy Food Show in New York earlier this week. It was a great experience and really gave my Italian language skills a fantastic workout.

Mr. Cazzetta, like many of the vendors at the trade fair, is looking for a way to introduce his product into the U.S. market. Having seen this process first-hand, I realized how unbelievably competitive it seems to be to try to knock on the doors to get buyers to even look at your wares, not to mention trying to get a deal done to get into the shops where we, the consumer, would actually consider purchasing some of them. After a while, all the sauces, cheeses, oils, mustards, pastas, jams, jellies, and sweet things on display seemed to blend together. It was, however, also interesting to see new items from the well-established brands that I recognized.

How did I end up there, at the end of the day on Monday, sipping wine and sampling the wonderful and unique olive grappa that Mr. Cazzetta also makes? Right now, I'm networking for another job and trying to see if I can use this blog to launch myself into a different career area, much like I'd discussed very early when I started this project. The fates have intervened, and I was let go from my position in banking at the end of March. A couple of months of consulting work later, and I find that now I'm searching for the opening that will let me combine my passion for food with the dire need for a steady paycheck and benefits.

Along those lines, I've been trying to network almost everyone I know about entrepreneurial opportunities, how to make a business work, opinions about continuing in financial services, etc. The people who get to sample my results are all firmly in the category of those who say that I should be pursing something culinary-related. I'm grateful for their support (and willingness to eat my products), but I'm still a bit gun-shy about how it can turn into a viable enterprise.

One of the groups of contacts to which I've turned has been my graduate school colleagues, many of whom have started their own businesses. On Monday, bright and early, but after I'd already had coffee, I met up with one of them at a diner in my neighborhood. Susannah Gold has been running her own communications company for several years and was kind enough to let me buy her breakfast and pick her brain about the concept of my going on my own.

As part of her client development, she was going to attend the Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center over on the far west side of town. She kindly asked me if I would be interested in accompanying her as a guest. I jumped at the chance to get some firsthand experience at how this market works. As I mentioned above, it was pretty eye-opening. The New York Times did a breakdown of the show here. So, we made our base at the booth of Mr. Cazzetta to help him with his promotions, and that was how I ended up with the olive oil. Not a bad way to end an eventful and enlightening day!

Buon appetito!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Grilled Corn and Shrimp Salad

As corn is starting to come into season around here, it made me dig through my files for another one of my standby meals for summer. A few years ago, a friend of mine sent me a recipe for Grilled Corn and Shrimp Salad (link to recipe here). It comes from the late Gourmet* magazine.

Look at the bright colors of the shrimp, corn, onions, jalapeno, and cilantro. The dressing gives it a light citrus punch that complements the smoky, grilled flavor of the shrimp and the corn. Like usual, I made some changes to the recipe. I used lime juice instead of lemon juice and changed up the watercress (which I generally have a hard time finding) for some great, peppery Italian arugula from the Greenmarket along with some fresh salad leaves. I also added chunks of very ripe avocado to provide a contrast in textures.



This salad has been in my keeper file for a while. I hope that you decide to add it to yours as well. It is easy to make and would be a great picnic dish or easy weeknight supper to prepare when you can get some in-season fresh corn.

Buon appetito!

Kitchen Witch Tip:
Epicurious.com is a good resource for trying to track down some of the recipes that appeared in Gourmet magazine. Their website also still seems to be active, too, at www.gourmet.com.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Salade Lyonnaise

Now that it is distinctly getting to be salad weather, I'm pulling out some of my old stand-by recipes to help me get through the steamy summer months. In checking out the New York Times website earlier this week, my eye was drawn to Mark Bittman's Minimalist column and his Salade Lyonnaise. I've gotten several good recipes from him and enjoy reading about how he got to his end result, so I thought I'd try something new this week.

Normally, I'm not a huge fan of frisée. It isn't that I don't like the taste but, rather, that it is always the odd one out in the salad bowl, with all the other leaves so smooth and curly. It comes off as the angry, spiky one competing for attention, and the pieces are always too big. I feel like I'm wrestling it into submission as I try to eat it. In this dish, however, its bitter little leaves stand on their own and serve as a crunchy counterpart to the smoky, crisp bacon and the creamy poached egg, all tied together with a mustardy vinaigrette.

For me, this is the perfect, light weeknight supper. It turns two classic, breakfast ingredients - bacon and eggs - on their heads, and makes them more grown up with the addition of the salad and dressing. If you have never poached an egg before, I strongly encourage you to give this a try. One of my favorite food sites, the Kitchn, has a tutorial on how to do it. Once you get the hang of a few basic steps (listed below), it is really quite easy to make these, and the side benefit is that the eggs are cooked without adding fat, making them healthier to eat.







Friday, June 18, 2010

Vital Juice and Facebook



I have some great news to pass along as a follow up to my Farmers' Market Frittata post! Vital Juice, another great resource, picked up my recipe (see that category on their site) on a recommendation from Karen Seiger at Markets of New York and published it yesterday (see my post on her book here). Today, she posted a gorgeous photo of the garlic scapes at the Greenmarket in Union Square, just like the ones that went into the frittata that I mentioned.


The other news is that I've started doing mini-posts on Facebook. Please become a fan of The Experimental Gourmand there and see some more food photos, links to articles I think are interesting, and posts on other food (and eating!) topics. I'm not responsible for any hunger pangs that might follow as a result!


Buon appetito!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Garlic Scapes and a Greenmarket Frittata

A friend of mine emailed me this afternoon with a request for a recipe featuring Garlic Scapes. Her timing couldn't have been more perfect. I have no idea how on earth she knew that I had been playing around with this very seasonal, very limited availability ingredient just this past weekend.


Looking like something of a cross between a scallion and a chive, the garlic scape is actually the stem of the garlic plant in a very young stage (pre becoming a bulb). I spotted them last week at Keith's Farm at the Union Square Greenmarket*. The vendors were very helpful when I asked what to do with it, as I'd never cooked with this before. They said that I should first try it raw. Sensing that I was a bit skeptical, once again I was prodded to take off a tip of the green part and taste for myself what the fascination is with this item.

As I chewed a piece of the stalk, a burst of raw garlic flavor woke up my mouth. Then, it gently subsided. Cooking it, I was told, would mellow out some of the intensity, as well. I was also reassured that the entire stem could be used, top to bottom. So, I picked up a small bunch and took it home to try. For $1.50, it was worth the risk of ruining such an intriguing plant. On the contrary, it ended up being my secret ingredient in the Fettucine with Peas and Asparagus that I wrote about on Sunday. The taste of the scape was a light, fresh counterpart to the seasonal vegetables.

After my success this weekend using the scapes in a pasta dish, I decided to see how this ingredient would work in another recipe I'd tried recently. A couple of weeks ago, I had made the Pea, Asparagus, Pancetta, and Goat's Cheese Frittata from an episode of Gordon Ramsay's The F Word. After the call from my friend today, I decided to revamp the recipe with the addition of the scapes and attempt to make it completely (or as much as possible) about what I had found at the Greenmarket, a.k.a. seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients. Here is the result below: Farmers' Market Frittata.


Serving Size: 6 wedges
Prep Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
5 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic ramp, white part only, minced (if you still have green part, also mince)
2 garlic scapes, minced
1/2 c. freshly-shelled peas
1 c. pencil-thin asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped finely
2 oz. goat's cheese, unsalted

Assembly:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 degrees Centigrade or Gas Mark 4). Beat egg whites in medium bowl until frothy. Whisk in egg yolks to combine. Add salt and pepper and stir. Set aside.

In a 10-inch non-stick ovenproof skillet, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium to low heat, until they are fully incorporated. Add peas and asparagus. Toss to coat in the butter/oil and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in minced ramp (white only) and garlic scapes and continue to cook for 1 minute more.

Pour in egg mixture so that the vegetables and eggs are distributed evenly throughout. Sprinkle basil and green part of ramp, if using. Crumble goat's cheese on top of egg-vegetable mixture. Let cook undisturbed for 5 minutes or until the edges are set and just getting brown and the interior part is still slightly wobbly when you shake the pan.

Put the entire pan in the oven and cook for another 5 minutes, until the frittata has set completely. Take out of the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring on to a plate. Slice into wedges to serve. This can be chilled whole or after cutting into pieces.

I love the collage of vibrant colors that come together in this dish. When you cut open the frittata, you see the bits of green from the vegetables and herbs with specks of white from the cheese, all surrounded by deep yellow eggs. The yolks of some of the eggs from Knoll Krest Farm, my standby source for these, were almost orange, which is why the hue of the final product came out as richly-colored as it did. This recipe was also a great way to use up some of the vegetables I'd bought a week or so ago, and that were sitting in my fridge looking for a home. It is rewarding to me to see that it is possible to create a mostly locally-sourced dish.

I'd shelled my own peas that I'd bought at Migliorelli Farm (and brought back the pods for composting the next week). The asparagus had come from Terhune Orchard, which might also be the same source for the lone garlic ramp, I can't remember exactly. My go-to source for herbs when they are at the market is Stokes Farm. I picked up the basil there, some of the first I've seen this year. Lynn Haven Goat Farm has gorgeous logs of goat cheese, some with herbs and some without. I've cooked with their product before, and it has produced excellent and flavorful results. Even the butter I used to cook everything in came from the market, from Ronnybrook Farm.

This is definitely a good, quick weeknight supper or a make-ahead, lunchbox treat. That's what I really like about making frittatas in general. They can be so flexible. A side salad of greens from one of the other market stalls, where lettuce is just exploding at this point in the season, along with a dessert of some early-season strawberries that are also all around, and you can keep up the local theme of this meal.

Buon appetito!

*The Greenmarket at Union Square in New York City is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays year-round, with some exceptions. For more information on this and the other greenmarkets in the city, you can go to: http://www.cenyc.org/greenmarket

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Fettuccine with Peas, Asparagus, and Pancetta

Bon Appetit's May issue cover recipe for Fettuccine with Peas, Asparagus, and Pancetta was one that I'd pulled aside to try in the continuing seasonal intersection between local peas and farmers' market asparagus this year. In looking at the magazine photo on their website, it isn't difficult to see how the dish draws you in with the bright green colors and allure of fresh tastes.

I'd made something similar earlier in the week when I took some leftovers I'd brought home from dinner out. The difference in the glossy coating of the reduced cream sauce I pulled together versus the one that had just a bit of cream along with the olive oil and pasta water from the magazine article is almost visible in the photos.



Sunday, June 06, 2010

Off the List


In my parents' household, there is "The List." If it isn't on the "The List," it doesn't get bought at the store during shopping trips. I'm also a list-maker for my weekly grocery shop, so maybe it is hereditary. I write it down usually on Saturday mornings before I head downtown to the Greenmarket. Sometimes I jot on deli napkins, occasionally I find a small slip of paper on which to make notes, but it can really be written down on anything handy, like the back of the envelope on which I wrote this week's list. It is small, isn't it, with just a few, basic items?

Well, then, how come I ended up coming home with all of this beautiful bounty? I committed the transgression of which my family routinely accuses me: I went off of the list. I couldn't help myself. It just all looked so beautiful in the bright sunshine of a Saturday morning at the market. When I saw that peas and asparagus had collided, which sometimes they don't, I realized that I could try a dish I'd seen on The F Word, and I proceeded to track down the other things I needed as well.
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