Harissa
 Grilled Chicken with Harissa and Mint - april 21, 2010

Harissa is a fabulous thing. I recently had some with couscous, when I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday at Chez Panisse. I love harissa because I can make it myself, put it in a little clip-top jar with a quarter inch of oil covering the top and keep it in the fridge for a thousand years. Its been so long since I made harissa that I don't even remember what is in it. You don't have to make it from scratch, though, its easy enough to buy at a middle eastern grocery or probably at Andronicos or Rainbow. But if you happen to have a food processor and access to Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, you can make it pretty easily too.

Continue »
 

Favas  

Pasta Primavera - april 6, 2010

No eggs for egg salad today, after yesterday's debacle.  

I love fava beans, they are one of the first harbingers of spring at my house. Most years they are ready to harvest from my garden and appear at markets around the same time as shelling peas, asparagus and lilacs. Lilacs are my absolute favorite seasonal delight, except for lilies of the valley, both superstars of the northeastern American springtime garden. As much as I love favas, I would gladly trade a year's worth to get either of those to flower in my Californian yard.

Continue »
 

Asparagus 

Mmm...tasty!

 What is a home without tequila?  As I found this afternoon, perfectly fine, as long as there is vodka around. The margarita recipe I posted last friday works well with either one.

Today I had the honor of meeting Novella Carpenter, author of the book Farm City about her adventures in urban agriculture in Oakland, CA.  She was great, even more Farmy than I had imagined she'd be.  As she likes to explain in her book, she is not the first to raise a garden and livestock in an inner city.  Its not that uncommon in other countries, and even some parts of the United States. Today, I'm told, Detroit has the most active urban farming community in our country.  Nonetheless, her story of breaking ground for a farm in Oakland's Ghost Town neighborhood where she raises poultry, rabbits and pigs is pretty impressive.  

As for my garden, I took the big step of planting our pre-sprouted bean seeds today.  if you remember from a day or two back, the seeds have been growing in paper towels as my efforts to settle them into the ground were thwarted by uncooperative children.  Today I finally dispensed with my need for family planting and planted them by myself.  Naturally there was much shrieking and rending of garments when my children learned the fate of their seeds, but luckily I had a few left for them to drop into holes in the ground.  And now, thank goodness, it is done.  

For the second time this month we ate an asparagus and pea salad, from Canal House Cooking's spring issue. It is so good that I plan to make it again before the season ends.  We also grilled salmon, my college pal Jenny Nelson's recipe, that Jason and I first ate years ago on the east coast in their wonderful garden. This spring pairing is great, and for the kids (there were five - my friend Shelley and her munchkins joined us for dinner) there was also a side of buttered pasta, some sort of twisty noodles they were very fond of. I had some too, really not a bad addition to the meal.

---

Asparagus and Pea Salad (adapted from Canal House Cooking Volume 3):

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 bunches thin asparagus,  sliced crosswise after tough bottoms have been trimmed off.

1 cup fresh peas, shelled

4 skinny spring onions, thinly sliced

1 small head butter lettuce, washed and chopped

8 pieces cooked bacon, chopped

1 handful fresh mint leaves, chopped

pepper & salt

Bring a pot of water to boil, and toss the peas in for two minutes, then the sliced asparagus.  Boil for two more minutes, then dump the pot into a colander in the sink.  Then immerse the vegetables in a big bowl of ice water to stop them from further cooking.  Put the lettuce, onions, mint and bacon in a salad bowl, then add the peas and asparagus when they are cool.

Put some water on in a kettle to boil, keeping it warm until the rest of your meal is almost ready.  At that time, heat the water back to a boil and mix 1/4 cup of hot water with the parmesan and olive oil.  Whisk it until smooth.  Add the pepper and some salt.  Pour this dressing over your salad, toss it and serve.

---

---

Jenny Nelson's Grilled Salmon:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 Tablespoon soy sauce

1 Tablespoon dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon grated ginger

1 teaspoon honey

fresh wild caught salmon filet for four

Put the olive oil, soy sauce and brown sugar into a teeny-tiny pot over low heat (I use a metal measuring cup).  Bring it to a gentle simmer, then add the butter, ginger and honey. Stir it all together, then let the sauce simmer until it thickens, so that it is not terribly runny any longer. Remove it from heat.

Lay each piece of salmon skin side down on a sheet of tinfoil, and fold up the edges to make a sort of boat around the fish. This will hold the sauce in place, so the tinfoil edges should be close to the fish edge, and at least as tall.  

Heat the grill, and when it is medium heat, put each fish boat on the grill, and brush the sauce on with a pastry brush.  Try to divide it equally among the fish pieces.

Close the grill lid and wait five or ten minutes.  Then check on the fish - it will be a paler pink color and opaque looking when it is ready.  You can cut into the middle of the fish with a knife to see how its done and judge for yourself.  Bright pink is undercooked, but you don't want to cook the fish so much that even the middle is overcooked, so a completely opaque middle section is too cooked.  When the fish is ready, you should be able to scoop it off the foil, leaving the skin behind, with a spatula.

---