This week's dreary weather has me longing to cozy up indoors, but my empty fridge means that until my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) starts delivering in June, grocery-shop I must. Luckily, a number of new CSAs and subscription delivery services are popping up nationwide this year, so one barely needs leave the house. New York City pork lovers can get fresh cuts (chops, ribs and more) and charcuterie, as well as meal ideas from chef Peter Hoffman, through Flying Pigs Farm’s new Snout-to-Tail CSA. For meat eaters and vegetarians around the country, The Scrumptious Pantry outfits bare cupboards with handmade pastas, Italian olive oils and fun extras like grappa-infused tomato jam, all sourced from family farms. And CraftCoffee.com distributes beans from excellent roasters like Stumptown, Ritual and Counter Culture to make even the morning coffee run obsolete. Suddenly I don't mind the rain quite so much.
© Michael Graham
I know basic meat-speak: prosciutto, soppressata, mortadella. But I couldn’t tell you the difference between zampone modena (an Italian salami stuffed inside a boned-out pig trotter) or lonza stagionata (a dried, cured pork tenderloin). I recently discovered a smart new app developed by Michael Graham, the co-owner of C’est Cheese in Santa Barbara, California. “The cured-meats section of the shop is my little baby,” says Graham. “And I noticed that there were cheese apps on the market, but nothing devoted to navigating the sometimes-confusing world of charcuterie. I wanted to create something to help people understand the style of meat, the flavor and substitutions. For instance, if a recipe calls for pancetta, the app tells them they can use bacon instead.” The app includes information for more than 100 cured meats and other cured foods, such as anchovies and foie gras. Graham says he’ll release an updated version with more photos and information in just a few weeks. Download it here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/salumi/id398103550?mt=8.
© Marcia Kiesel
Grilled opah with jalapenos.
I had a chance to taste various Hawaiian fish last week, sent to us by Honolulu Fish Company which was shipped to the Food & Wine test kitchen. We needed to test a recipe for our "Chefs Know Best" column that called for opah, a large, beautiful Pacific fish. I also decided I should develop some recipes using opah and a few other varieties that the company offers.
The Honolulu Fish Company offers a unique variety of Hawaiian fish, freshly caught and delivered overnight. The company integrates environmentally conscious practices of no net fishing (hook-caught wild fish only), and all fish are of proper maturity with no fish waste. (All fish parts are recycled into agricultural supplements or distributed to local food processors.) There are no bycatch issues, so no other species are harmed.
Here is an opportunity to try a selection of delectable, unusual fish for $20.00 per pound plus shipping. That is less than many varieties sold here. Granted the shipping wasn't cheap but if you invest with other fish-fanatic friends, it turns out to be a rare and wonderful experience.
Okay, onto the tasty part. Opah was our number one favorite. Even when cooked through, it was the most juicy, rich-tasting and melt-in-your-mouth fish. Maybe the best fish ever! We also loved the emperor black cod, or sable. This black cod was properly rich but slightly lighter on the palate than west coast black cod and the flake of the flesh fell into thick, silky slices. We also tried the striped marlin which had a gorgeous orangey, flesh that was very mild and lean.
I found certain methods and ingredients that work best with each fish. The opah can be seared on one side only, close to sashimi, serve with jalapeño slices macerated in soy and lemon juice. It is fantastic just sautéed in butter, letting the butter brown, then adding a few capers, white wine or even kernels of fresh corn. It grills beautifully. Top it with sautéed garlic, anchovy and some hot pepper, adding parsley leaves at the last moment to slightly wilt. The black cod pan-fries nicely. I loved the richness with some sautéed shallot and rehydrated porcini, deglazed with sherry. Serve with a garlic aioli on top. Killer. Or pan-fry, remove, and add little neck clams with a pinch of saffron and garlic. Off the heat, swirl in some butter. The marlin made an exquisite, very clean-tasting ceviche. It was made with a dressing of soy, lime and sesame oil and was tossed with tomato, avocado and toasted sesame seeds. I served it with crisp rice crackers.
There are many fish varieties to choose from and availability depends on seasonality but it ranges from several types of tuna, groupers, marlin, snapper and swordfish to special Hawaiian species besides the opah: kaku (barracuda), walu (escolar) and rainbow runner (a hamachi). Minimum orders are for twenty pounds. So gather a group, divide up the catch and have a unforgettable fish feast. Check out the website: you can drool over the close-ups of glistening hunks of each fish being expertly carved.
© Nigel Parry
Jonathon Sawyer, vintage egg nog expert.
If you’re too impatient to squirrel away some spiked egg nog for a couple years, my colleague Kristin Donnelly did a great job of rounding up other novel vintage things, from cookbooks to wines; they’re in F&W’s December issue.
Cult California cheesemaker Cypress Grove recently visited the office. F&W Features intern Chelsea Morse reports on what she learned about her favorite cheese:
When I moved from San Francisco to New York, I was happy to discover that Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog goat cheese is widely available nationwide. It has been my go-to cheese-plate anchor since I first tasted it years ago. Cypress Grove cheesemaker and founder Mary Keehn had these tips to share about my favorite snack:
-Fresh goat cheeses and farm cheeses, which have high moisture content, can be frozen without adversely affecting their flavor. This is a great way to save cheese for future cooking projects.
-Storing semi-soft cheese in plastic wrap is the surest way to ruin it. The rind is alive with good bacteria: Plastic wrap cuts off its air supply and kills it. Parchment paper is a much better wrapping – it's breathable and far less expensive than fancy cheese storage papers.
-Depending on the cheese’s age, it can be crumbly and citrusy or creamy and earthy – as the rind ages, the flavor deepens, and the texture changes. An oozy cheese has definitely not necessarily gone bad.
The Cypress Grove website has much more trivia, tasting notes, and pairing suggestions.
The restaurant at The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel.
Hard-core foragers like “Wildman” Steve Brill have proven that great ingredients don't have to come from country farms. Now, chef James Sakatos of The Carlyle, a Rosewood Hotel, is going extreme-locavore with his new Tastings of Central Park menu, which debuts tomorrow. The iconic New York City hotel is just blocks from the park, and the menu will highlight park ingredients such as oyster mushrooms, chickweed, sheep’s sorrel and sumac berries. Don't expect to find anything too crazy, like squirrel or pigeon, though. The park produce acts as an accent in dishes like sumac-spiced Amish chicken, sautéed dandelions and potato-crusted black bass with park-sourced braised burdock.
© Daniel Gritzer
Poached eggs with basil potatoes
The question, then, is what to do with the sudden glut of the herb? Luckily, it’s easy to turn fresh basil into a puree in a blender with just enough oil to keep things spinning. The puree will keep for a couple of months in the freezer, and once defrosted it can be added to dishes for a wonderful basil kick. It doesn’t have to be too complicated either: I recently tossed boiled fingerling potatoes with a puree of basil, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil (in this case, pounded with a mortar and pestle)—sort of a cheese-less, nut-free pesto (pictured). Bathed with the yolks of two poached eggs, it made for a simple and very delicious brunch.
© Ross Todd
© Deborah Jones
By far my favorite tool for preserving is the food mill. In years past, when making fruit jams or tomato sauce, I would simmer fruit, mash it, then strain it through a fine-meshed sieve—entirely too much work for me nowadays. With a food mill, though, I can combine the mashing and straining into one step. The resulting puree is silky smooth and free of skins and seeds.
In "The Primary Pantry" in our August issue, I preserve a whole bunch of summery things—beans, garlic, tomatoes, corn, chiles, herbs and berries—and recommended a food mill for preparing the tomato sauce and fruit butters.
At a recent All-Clad press event, I was super impressed by their brand-new food mill and wished it had been available when I was developing these recipes (in the dead of winter). The discs have tiny raised teeth to catch the skin and seeds as the handle is spun, allowing more of the puree to be passed through. The legs are rubberized for better stability and the knob feels great in my hands. Luckily, with summer in full swing, there’s no lack of fruit and tomatoes to pass through my new food mill. (I got a prototype, but you can get yours in just a few weeks—it lauches in early September, peak tomato and peach month!)
© Tata Harper
Tata Harper skincare line.
I’m probably the furthest thing in the world from a beauty junkie. So when I find myself smitten with a skincare line, it’s really got to be pretty darn spectacular. I recently had breakfast with Colombian-born beauty guru Tata Harper, who has launched her own eponymous line of all-natural skincare products. Tata was appalled to find out how many toxins and chemicals are packed into commercial lotions and facial cleansers. In an effort to educate consumers, she and other all-natural-beauty gurus gathered at the Spotted Pig last night for the premiere of The Story of Cosmetics, the beauty world’s version of Food Inc., directed by the Story of Stuff Project. "We are so concerned with what we put in our bodies; why should we also not be equally concerned with what we put on them?" asks Tata. Looking for an alternative to what was on the market, she spent more than four years developing her skincare line, which she makes out of a barn in Vermont's Champlain Valley. And many of the products are made from ingredients grown on her 1,200-acre organic farm, Julius Kingdom. Her products are so pure, she says she didn't even flinch when she caught her young son eating her beauty serum.