Friday, May 22, 2009

Crepes Sales, Crepes Sucres

(Literally, salty crepes and sweet crepes, but replace "salty" with "savory" and you get where the French are going with this)

Last weekend was kind of a bonanza of free food:  Van Cheeseman tossed me a head of bok choy with a wink when I told him how much I liked the one I bought the previous week; managed to score some grub gratuit at Barbecue Fest; and the find of all finds:  wild blackberry brambles, somewhere in the downtown region.  Drop your email address if you want to know where.  But this secret is too good to broadcast all over the interwebs!

So say you have an abundance of too-sweet-to-be-believed strawberries (from, I believe, Clark Farms, who were new at the market last week) and some tart, feral blackberries.  Wouldn't you marry them with a white-sugar blessing and plop them down into a francophone honeymoon?  I would.  And I did.

This crepe recipe is my French great grandmother's.  When I was growing up, we called them "French pancakes" and only got them on special occasions, like holiday mornings, or when friends spent the night and we pulled out all the stops.  But now I get to have them whenever I want.  I can deal with that part of living on my own.  

My brother, Alex, was definitely the best French pancake-maker in the house, but even he knows this iron-clad truth about crepes:  the first one is always a test crepe.

French Pancakes
3/4 cup AP flour
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
pinch salt
[plus more milk until the batter is pretty thin -- my mother's modification]

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk with a fork until there are no more lumps.  Lightly oil a griddle and bring to high heat.  Ladle out the batter 1/4 cup at a time.  It's easiest to do this with a small ladle, because you need to use the back of the ladle (or a spoon) to spread and thin the batter on the griddle.  Aim for really, really thin.  I try to get mine about 5-6 inches in diameter.  They should turn brown and lacy at the edges almost immediately.  Watch them closely and flip when the side facing up is firm (as opposed to liquid-y).  The second side takes much less time to cook than the first and the edges will curl up when you flip them.

Butter the inside if you want, and fill with berries and confectioner's sugar.  Fold sides over and enjoy.

Or, goat cheese and a shiitake-spring onion saute.

Or, you could do what we did growing up:  butter and powder-sugar the inside, then roll up very tightly, and top with a little lemon juice and more powdered sugar.  Note: this is easiest to put away when you are ten years old.

Another good idea for fresh strawberries:

Finally, I was so happy to see one of my dearest friends from undergrad, a ms. JoBeth, this past week, when she came through town.  While she was here, we of course had to indulge in a little sweet treat from the Cheesecake Corner on G.E. Patterson.  This picture should have been of a pina colada cheesecake slice:

But instead, it is a picture of the Aftermath.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Early Summer Market Stir-Fry

Kohlrabi:  looks like a vegetable from outer space, means "cabbage turnip" in German, is surprisingly light, crispy and and sweet.  If you see these at your local farmer's market, be adventurous and take a few home to peel and cook, because they are truly tasty.  The tops are edible, too.

My market is lucky enough to have a good number of Asian farmers who, currently, are offering all that is young, green and crunchy about early summer.  Daikon radishes from Ly Vu Family Farms came home with me this past Saturday, and were kind of a mystery at first.  They are a large, white, incredibly peppery radish, but it turns out that only the outermost skin stings--peel them, and they have the texture of water chestnuts.  So, what to do with a bounty of produce?  A stir-fry is usually a good way to use a generous market haul.  This one included sugar snap peas, broccoli rabe, bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, baby leeks, spring onions, kohlrabi (all from Flora at Bluebird Farms), sirloin steak (Donnell Century Farms, a new vendor this year), and the aforementioned peeled, thinly-sliced daikon radishes from Ly Vu.  

There is really no recipe to follow, and in fact, a good stir-fry is special precisely because you throw in what you have. 

 In general, though, slice your meat thinly against the grain and cook it with a little oil in a saute pan, then set it aside.  

Next, throw in your crunchy veggies, cook until they soften a bit, then add in your greens, meat, and the sauce you fancy.  This stir-fry was dressed up with a 2:1 ratio of rice vinegar to hoisin sauce.  But, use what you like!  A stir-fry is the easiest place to get creative.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Corn Fritters with Feta and Bok Choy

Hello, Laziness!  Remember me?  It's been a while since we hung out, but I promised I'd be back, and here I am, and I brought my friends, Stack-of-Books, Cup-of-Coffee, and Long-Sunshiney-Mornings.  We're going to stay for a while, so I hope you cleaned up the guest room.

Indeed, it is that most SPF-ful of seasons, my beloved summer, and I have a couple of glorious weeks in which to do nothing before my internship starts.  "Nothing" in that sentence actually means "house sitting in the suburbs," so if you see different (and much nicer) cookware in the next few weeks' posts, that is why.

It's not technically high corn season yet, but Jessica's mom had given me some they cut and froze from their garden last summer.  I kept lingering over this page in Local Flavors, so I broke out the frozen veggies.  The original recipe calls for cheddar and arugula instead of feta and bok choy, which would be just as much of a study in contrasts as my improvised version:  sweet corn, salty feta, grassy herbs, and mustardy bok choy.  I even left the centers less-than-firm, so the crispness of the greens was a nice foil to interior softness of the fritters.  (Also, it is the south, and I am game for anything called "_____ Fritters").  The measurements in the recipe below are as-called-for in the cookbook; mostly, though, this was an "eh, that looks about right" job.

Corn Fritters with Feta and Bok Choy
adapted from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison

6 ears sweet corn, about 3 cups' worth of kernels
2 eggs, beaten
4 spring onions, including an inch of the greens, finely sliced (Whitton Farms)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons shredded basil or dill
1 cup grated or crumbled cheese (feta from Bonnie Blue Farms)
1/3 cup AP flour
sea salt and ground pepper
unsalted butter or oil for frying
as much greens, washed and torn, as you like (bok choy from Flora at Bluebird Farms)

Chop up your herbs and spring onions.

Slice the tops of the kernels off the corn, then reverse your knife and press out the milk (already done, thanks Mama L!).  Mix the kernels and scrapings with the eggs, scallions, herbs and cheese.

Add as much flour as can easily be absorbed.  Season with 1/2 tsp salt and some pepper.

Melt enough butter or heat enough oil to coat a wide skillet generously (can I just say that I *heart* Deborah Madison because she doesn't split infinitives?  I was an English major and old habits die HARD).  Drop the batter into the skillet, flatten slightly to cook more evenly.  Fry over medium heat until golden, about 2 minutes on each side.  Keep them on a cookie sheet in an oven warmed to about 200 degrees as you work in batches.

Top with greens, and serve right away, with some summer reading material.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Strawberry Cream Tart

Okay, this was  really good, but holy butter, Batman.  I later realized that mine was incredibly rich because I'd misread the recipe and added 1/8 cup of flour instead of 7/8.  So, learn from my mistake!  And ye shall have a more cakelike cake part.

The original recipe calls for raspberries, but the market is currently awash in strawberries, so why not?  Many farmers have them in right now; mine in particular came from Jones Orchard.  A new item to the market this year is eggs---get there early, and be ready to pay a bit more than you pay for supermarket eggs, but they are so worth it.  The goat cheese folks from Bonnie Blue Farms supplied the ones used in this recipe.

Strawberry Cream Tart
adapted from Local Flavors by Deborah Madison

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 plus 1 teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 medium eggs, at room temperature
7/8 cup AP flour
3/4 cup creme fraiche (or, heavy whipping cream, as creme fraiche is pretty rare to find in the States... or you could try to make your own)
about a pint of strawberries
confectioner's sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly butter an 11-inch tart pan.  Cream the butter with the 1/2 cup sugar and the salt until smooth.  

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 2 whole eggs plus the white of the third egg.  Beat until smooth.

With the speed on low, add the flour (7/8 cup!!) and mix just until combined.

Scrape the batter into the tart pan.  Smooth the batter over the pan, then push up enough batter to make a slightly higher rim around the edge.  It doesn't have to be even or pretty (mine certainly wasn't).

Mix the egg yolk with the creme fraiche and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  

Pour this over the batter and spread it just to the raised edge.

Cut up your berries!

Arrange the berries on the custard, sprinkle the remaining sugar over the fruit, and bake in the oven until golden brown around the edges and the custard is set, about 40 minutes (you can slide a knife into it to see if the center is firm).  Let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.  Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve barely warm (it kept in the fridge for a couple of days as well and was still good cold).

It makes a very tasty breakfast for the immoderate.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spring and Things

Well buy me a margarita and tell me I'm pretty 'cause I am DONE with my first year of law school, y'all!  Exams have left me feeling like a limp noodle, so here are some pictures of finals-meals in lieu of regular post-age (which will commence soon):

Spaghetti with Parsley and Roasted Almond Pesto, salad with strawberries from Jones Orchard, and a slice of ridiculously good strawberry custard, which I will post in all its glory tomorrow.

Not super exciting, but a very delicious roasted chicken from West Wind Farms (plus, put some of that excess rosemary to good use!)

Leftover chicken with a spring onion (Flora at Bluebird Farms) and radish (Whitton Farms) braise, of which much better pictures+recipe can be found here.

In other domesticity, the plants are doing really well, but I'm pretty sure they resent their red solo-cup homes.  Was the best I could do while frantically memorizing Rule 26, but they'll get bigger digs later this week.

Garlic babies have transformed into gangly garlic teenagers.

I also wish a very happy Mother's Day to the moms and the moms-t0-be, including Mama L, my adoptive Memphis mom, and the trio of very amazing Floridian women in my life:  my Jewish grandmother, who admonishes me to drink a malted every day to gain weight; my Mennonite grandmother, from whom I have inherited the family recipe for "Scalloped Potatoes for Eighty"; and my own mother, who taught me to make baking-powder biscuits, how to saute, the joys of punching down risen bread dough, and the patience it takes to make all-afternoon Amish buttermilk cookies; my mother who is an enthusiastic follower of this blog, and who is currently trying to use the fact that her daughter is in law school to get out of jury duty.  Thank you for everything.  You are all so special to me and I miss you like crazy.