Archive | April, 2008

The Delinquent Blogger’s Fabulous Spring Frittata

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My apologies for being blog delinquent the last few weeks. I spent the better part of a week in Florida for work and visiting my Aunt and Uncle. You’ll be happy to know that I still managed to make it to a farm stand during my visit. My aunt made these great sweet whole wheat biscuits that we smothered in strawberries. Yum! Don’t worry I’ll post the recipe.

This past weekend was special at the Downtown Austin Farmers Market because it was also the Earth Day celebration. In addition to the farm stands, there were booths from different eco-minded vendors. I was delighted to see Amanda from The Purple Fig Cleaning Coop selling her earth friendly cleaning supplies (Sandy bought some).

As for the produce booths, things are really kicking in to full swing. There was tons of amazing produce to pick from and, after a week on the road, I was thrilled to spend the weekend cooking and eating veggies. And I was sooooo happy that the dairy vendor, Buttercup Dairy, is back at the market. I missed their milk, yogurt and cheese. Seriously, you’ll never want to buy store bought milk again. And, of course, we visited the hummus dealer, I mean vendor, to restock.

I had too many catch up chores to do to get too fancy with my cooking this weekend, but I did make what I considered to be an outstanding asparagus and spring onion frittata (recipe below.) I love making frittatas on Sunday morning. None of the pressure of trying to flip an omelette – what if it tears? – but all the yummy goodness while you sip your morning coffee, listen to news shows and read the New York Times online. And yes, you now know my sacred Sunday morning routine. Typically followed by a long workout to deal with any fatty elements from the fritatta. I know I could just eat oatmeal and maybe skip the long workout, but what’s the fun in that?

Asparagus & Spring Onion Frittata
This serves two or one very hungry person. You can increase the quantities to serve more and you can substitute any vegetables or cheese you want. Frittatas are very forgiving that way.

Olive oil
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
1 small bunch of spring onions, chopped with some, but not all of the green – you can chop the greens and freeze or dry them for chives if you don’t want to waste that part
1 clove of garlic
3 eggs beaten with a little bit of milk – in our family, we add milk to the scrambled eggs because it makes them fluffier. You can skip this if you want.
Sliced mozzarella
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the broiler.

On the stove, heat the skillet to medium and add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute the onion, garlic and asparagus until just tender. Add the eggs to the skillet and using a spatula, distribute the rest of the ingredients around the eggs (basically scoot things around so there is an even distribution of asparagus and onions in the two servings. You don’t want to get accused of being the asparagus hog.). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Let the eggs sit without stirring them further until you can see the eggs starting to cook through; only the top of the frittata should still be runny.

Add the cheese to the top of the frittata and then place the skillet under the broiler to finish cooking the top – a couple of minutes. Keep a careful eye on it so you don’t burn the top of the frittata.

This frittata is particularly good with Rosemary Ciabatta bread from Texas French Bread.

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Forget the syrup, have some Beet Pancakes

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I haven’t been able to cook much lately because of my hectic travel schedule and missed the farmers market completely last week. Luckily, I had bought beets the week before and they kept, so I made this recipe from my friend Ana.

After hearing me recount my beet risotto experience, Ana encouraged me to try this version of beets before I gave up on them. Ana, of course, was right. These beet pancakes, similar to potato pancakes in style, were delicious, particularly when served over gently sauteed greens – like the beet greens or spinach.

Ana noted a few details when she sent me the link to the recipe:

“Now that I looked it up it seems that I’ve actually changed it a bit. My amounts are not exact since it depends on the size of the bunch of beets. I don’t usually use the rosemary – but like it when I do. Cook the beets briefly to loosen the skins. (I lose less beet this way and I hate peeling vegetables). Cool by plunging in ice water and remove the skins by rubbing them off. Grate.

I make small beet cakes by mixing the grated beets with a touch of salt, the flour and the grated beets and a tiny bit of corn starch if they are too moist. I just pan fry until they are crisp on one side and flip with a spatula.

I stem the leaves, fry a clove of garlic in a tablespoon or so of olive oil, some shallots if I have them, and add the greens, stirring until they are limp but not mushy. I add a little goat cheese or cream cheese if I have it and serve over the beet cakes.”

I followed Ana’s advice and made smaller beet cakes instead of one massive one. Unlike Ana, I didn’t cook the beets first and since I don’t have a food processor right now, I grated them. It wasn’t that messy, but make sure you leave a couple of inches of stem on the beet so you have something to hold on to while your grating. I did use the rosemary and liked it.

I served it with some broiled Salmon, quinoa and sauteed spinach (my beet greens had wilted.) It was a great, healthy meal.

Beet Roesti with Rosemary
From NPR and a story about chef Mark Bittman
Makes 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

An almost unbelievably sweet and wonderful side dish. The sugar in the beets caramelizes, and the flavors of the rosemary, beets, and butter meld beautifully. With thanks to Michael Romano, the brilliant chef at New York’s Union Square Cafe, who shared this recipe with me almost 10 years ago.

· 1 to 1 1/2 pounds beets

· 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

· 1 teaspoon salt

· 1/4 cup flour

· 2 tablespoons butter

1. Trim the beets and peel them as you would potatoes; grate them in a food processor or by hand. Begin preheating a medium to large non-stick skillet over medium heat.

2. Toss the grated beets in a bowl with the rosemary and salt, then add about half the flour; toss well, add the rest of the flour, then toss again.

3. Place the butter in the skillet and heat until it begins to turn nut-brown. Scrape the beet mixture into the skillet, shape it into a nice circle, and press it down with a spatula. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the bottom of the beet cake is nicely crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Slide the cake out onto a plate, top with another plate, invert the two plates, and slide the cake back into the pan. Continue to cook, adjusting the heat if necessary, until the second side is browned. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

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Field Trip to the Sunset Valley Farmers Market

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Some friends of mine were recently giving me a hard time about always going to the Downtown Farmers market, so a couple of weekends ago, my friend Roxanne and I decided to head to the Sunset Valley Farmers Market and see what all the fuss was about.

I had been to the market before and thought it was okay. But everyone kept telling me it was so much bigger and better than the Downtown market that I thought I should check it out again.

Well, it is bigger. There are more vendors, but not more farm vendors – being the nerd that I am, I counted. I was happy to see that a number of farms and meat purveyors are the same, meaning that they are finding a way to be represented at both and have greater support from the community.

There were more artists and prepared foods. The guy with the yummy rotisserie chickens that comes to the Wednesday Triangle market was there. There was a very cool woman named Amanda May who runs a natural cleaning products and services company called The Purple Fig Cleaning Coop (512.351.1405 or I bought some of her great multi-purpose cleaner.

The big disappointment of the day was that there was no one selling uncooked poultry; I ended up going downtown anyway to get Cornish Game Hens (see previous post). The second was that a number of the vendors weren’t local. The coffee booth is from Houston and the Doctor Krackers (which are awesome) are from Dallas which kind of undermines the whole shop local thing.

My final hang up is that the market isn’t a nonprofit. I’m not against people making money, but the many of the other markets are nonprofits which means they are supporting farmers AND reinvesting the money in the community.

So, having said all that, if it was around the corner from my house, I’d go too. But it’s not so I’ll probably keep shopping at the Downtown market and head over there when I need cleaning supplies from Amanda – seriously you should check them out.

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Why you leave the skin on when you roast chicken/hens…

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I left home for college with very few cooking skills. I could bake – cookies, cakes, etc. – but other than scrambled eggs and a grilled cheese sandwich, my repertoire was pretty limited. Over time, I learned to cook a few things, particularly from my friend and roommate Beverly, and became interested in food besides Kraft mac & cheese.

As a senior in college, I decided I was going to cook a special dinner for my boyfriend. I called my stepmother and asked her for her cornish game hens recipe she used to make for us. Of course, I thought that I knew a little better and decided to skin the game hens because it is healthier without the skin. (Now, is a good time to groan.)

Needless to say, after an hour at 400 degrees, I did not have cooked hens. I had naked, nasty, raw birds that ended up in the trash while we called Domino’s. It was a well intended effort and a valuable lesson learned. I haven’t pulled that bone-headed move since.

As I walked through the market the other day, I noticed that Countryside Family Farms (downtown Austin Farmers Market – 4th & Colorado) sells cornish game hens and thought it would be nice to cook up Barbara’s recipe again, but this time with the skin.

I added a little twist to her recipe and threw some fresh veggies in the pan for the last 20 minutes (mostly because I’m lazy and like to cook in one pan.) It was a great, healthy one-pot meal.

Barbara’s Cornish Game Hens

Cornish game hens
poultry seasoning or a combination of sage, thyme, salt & pepper

Rinse the hens in cold water.

Melt a stick of real butter and pour all over the hens. Sprinkle the birds with some poultry seasoning (or you can use a combination of sage, thyme, salt & pepper if you don’t have poultry seasoning) and paprika to brown the SKIN (which of course you will leave on.)

Cook for an hour at 400 and be sure they are done.

Barbara likes to serve them with wild rice and broccoli and cheese (easy kind in the freezer section) and a relish tray.

I took some fresh veggies – carrots, mushrooms and purple asparagus – and added them to the pot before the bird finished cooking. I tossed the veggies in a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper and let it sit for a bit. I added the carrots and mushrooms to the dish about 20 minutes before the hen was finished cooking and added the asparagus on top about 7 minutes before it was finished.

Everything tasted great – even the skin!

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