My family started composting in our backyard last year, and this summer, my husband scattered some of the resulting soil in the bed where we plant thyme, basil, parsley and sage. A few weeks later, out sprouted two big, leafy plants we didn't recognize. "It looks like some kind of squash," said my husband, who grew up with a quarter-acre vegetable plot in his backyard. So we let the mystery plants grow. It turns out, the seeds from a spaghetti squash we'd eaten last summer must have survived the composting process. We got tons of rain this summer, so we never even watered the plants. A few weeks ago, we had our first harvest. I cooked a squash using steps 1 & 3 from this recipe by F&W's Marcia Kiesel and tossed the strands with some whole-wheat spaghetti and pesto. The process of composting is basically benign neglect—you throw vegetable peelings, eggshells and leaves in a pile and let it sit. I never expected I would also get a vegetable garden without having to lift a finger.
Right now I am eating my way through the bushy hedge of flat-leaf parsley bordering my garden. Using the parsley like spinach, I recently blanched a pile of leaves, sautéed them with garlic and lemon, put them in a baking dish and dotted them with goat cheese. Then I topped them with bread crumbs and olive oil and baked them in a hot oven. Super!
To get ready for winter, I plan to make a puree with the blanched leaves, then mix it with olive oil for freezing in small batches. That way I'll have it on hand to drizzle over soft- or hard-cooked eggs, cheese grits and smoked-salmon sandwiches.
Here, a few more ideas for this underrated green:
Make a salad of parsley leaves and celery dressed with lemon juice and olive oil, then tuck it into a pita pocket along with olives, feta and tomatoes.
Chop a mess of parsley and stir it into mayo for a sandwich spread. Tasty and vitamin packed, it's mightier than lettuce.
Make parsley pesto in the blender to toss with angel hair pasta and scallops or to dress green beans and/or cooked, sliced potatoes.
Make salsa verde for poached chicken and grilled fish.
My morning ritual has always revolved around an oversize mug of really good coffee (usually Peets or LaMill), which I brew at my apartment and drink while reading the paper before work. But now that I'm training for November’s New York City marathon, my morning runs end at my gym near the Food & Wine offices in midtown. As a result, I’ve found myself purchasing questionable-quality Joe so that I can get my morning caffeine fix.
So I was thrilled last month when I saw that a new coffee shop called Gregorys had opened around the corner from our office on 44th Street and even more excited after I tasted their coffee and incredible espresso. After some sleuthing, I discovered that Gregorys gets its freshly roasted beans from Kobricks, a roaster in Jersey City, N.J. Kobricks imports green coffee beans from Central and South America as well as the East Indies and Africa. The family-run roaster also happens to be the exclusive importer of Antica Tostura Triestina, an espresso roasted in Northern Italy using a 100-year-old wood-oven method.
This is actually Gregorys second store. The original, on Park Avenue and 24th Street, is where all the baked goods (like the excellent granola), sandwiches and salads get made. The staff is currently being trained in latte art, so lattes will come delivered with a heart shape swirled into the foam.
Every year I miss out on olallieberry season. This is partially because the season is short, but also because olallieberries grow almost exclusively in coastal California. Their lineage is confusing, but the best way to describe them is a tart cross between a blackberry and a raspberry. I don't fret too much about missing them at the market, though, because the berries taste best when sweetened up a bit in things like jams. I’ll be placing my “order” with friends on the West Coast soon, but you can also buy this season’s jams here and here.
Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Saffron Cucumber Pickles (amazing with grilled food, pictured here).
F&W Best New Chef 2009 Linton Hopkins’s Bread-and-Butter Pickles (crunchy, sweet and tangy).
F&W’s own Grace Parisi’s Winey Briny Quick Pickles (total prep time is only 20 minutes, plus overnight brining).
OR these 13 fantastic pickled vegetable recipes.
I hadn't cooked for my kids for more than two weeks, but all that changed when they returned from camp yesterday. Maybe I was out of practice, maybe I was feeling a bit defiant or maybe I was just hoping for a change, but given how much I enjoyed superspicy broccoli rabe last week, I wanted it again. There were sweet Italian sausages in the fridge, some homemade focaccia buns in the freezer and, of course, broccoli rabe—all ready to come together. I thought about sautéing the broccoli rabe, chopping it and kneading it into the sausage meat, but that would've been too cruel to my kids, not to mention self-defeating (I would surely have wound up making PB&Js). To satisfy everyone, I sautéed the broccoli rabe with garlic and so much crushed red pepper flakes all our mouths were vibrating, grilled the sausage patties (and the buns) and sandwiched it all together. A little aioli with olives, capers and herbs from my garden finished the dish. Malcolm, my 7-year-old son, passed on the aioli and broccoli rabe, but my 12-year-old daughter, Pia, ate it all.
I’m wild about the taste of kimchi, but the Korean condiment’s pungency is renowned. It can overpower a fridge in hours—a friend of mine was actually forced by housemates to keep hers in a second refrigerator, which otherwise held only beer. So I’m curious to see if the promise of odorless kimchi pans out. Kim Soon-ja, who in 2007 was declared by the South Korean government to be a kimchi master, says she has created a freeze-dried version that doesn’t smell. I’m not sure I’d use it to make kimchi fried rice or pot stickers, but I bet I could find a place for it in my fridge.
Don't get me wrong—I love my kids, and I love eating with them. Some days I challenge them with unusual foods, but mostly I take the path of least resistance. But since they've been away at camp, I've rediscovered the joys of eating whatever and whenever I want (if at all). Tuesday's dinner was a bowl of cereal (Chex, granola and Grape-Nuts), Wednesday's was a peach, Thursday's was a PB&J (natural peanut butter and homemade berry jam) and Friday's was sautéed broccoli rabe with anchovies, olives and so much crushed red pepper that my mouth was vibrating. Maybe someday, my kids will appreciate stinky, spicy and bitter foods, but right now, that's a challenge I'm not ready to take on. Till then, I'll seize every opportunity to satisfy my own appetite.
I spotted an unusual cheese on both of Le Bernardin’s tasting menus recently: la faisselle. When I asked about it, I discovered that it's a soft, creamy cheese handmade exclusively for the restaurant by the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company.
La faisselle looks like fromage blanc, but tastes extraordinarily different because of what’s in the cultures. Also, the fromage blanc found in stores is made with skim milk, while la faisselle is made with whole milk and has a little crème fraîche added at the end. The result is a delicate texture and a fresh, milky flavor with a hint of hazelnuts and a bit of acidity.
© Michael Laiskonis
La faisselle cheese at Le Bernardin.
Part of the fun is how the cheese is served at Le Bernardin: The cheese is ladled into special ceramic pots (faisselles) that have holes to allow the whey to drain out. Michael Laiskonis, Le Bernardin’s pastry chef, pairs the cheese with honey, toasted almonds and a coulis of local strawberries.