Sunday, October 31, 2010

Paonia and Excelsior Best Of Pics, Summer 2010

All of the pictures took up a bit too much memory space for one blog post so I put the whole album up on Facebook to browse in full.  Click here to check them out!  And feel free to share your feedback

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Proper Farewell

Recently I have found myself at a crossroads during visits to farm stands.  The other day, for example, I walked down to Verrill Farm in Concord, MA and stood in their outdoor produce section presented with a predicament.  To my left I saw crates of butternut, acorn, and delicata squashes, practically asking me to crack them open, roast them, and make soup…all next to a warm fire, and probably while watching a football game.  Then, to my right, I saw crates of the last ears of corn, and an entire table of…what’s this?  The last-man-standing summer tomatoes?  I must’ve looked like the most conflicted shopper the produce section had ever seen. 

Do I let summer go and embrace fall, or hang on until Mr. Frost makes me let go?  I decided that that moment at the stand was probably the last living breath these summer treats would have before becoming compost, and I had to act accordingly.  With that, I reached for the tomatoes – the more delicate of the two summer options – and filled my up my basket.  Sure, technically it was fall, but that didn’t mean I still couldn’t give summer a proper goodbye.

That’s when I knew what I had to make; a sandwich so simple in principle that it would showcase the pure tomato justly, but with enough room for alteration to make it worthy of the fruit’s final bow (or vegetable’s, depending on who you ask).

That’s right, we’re talking about The Ultimate BLT.  This is when you go for the best of the best for every ingredient; bakery fresh bread (thanks Nashoba Bakery!), farm fresh lettuce and tomatoes (thanks Verrill!), high end bacon (thanks Vermont Smoke and Cure!), and an ultimate dressed up mayo spread (ingredients also thanks to Verrill).  The end product leaves you with a sandwich stacked so high with quality ingredients that the symphony of flavors in your mouth will lead you into a meal of silence.  Homemade black pepper candied bacon?  Lemon-garlic-herb mayo?  A slight tang of warm sourdough?  A refreshing crisp of lettuce, with a final hurrah of that juicy, sweet, and meaty tomato?  Go get a napkin and wipe off your drool, then get to the kitchen and give the tomato the proper farewell it deserves.  

Ultimate BLT Recipe
Serves 4

1 loaf of bakery fresh sourdough bread
1 head of fresh leaf lettuce
3 large garden tomatoes, cut into ¼” slices
1 lb package of bacon
¼ c. packed light brown sugar
Black pepper
1 c. mayonnaise
½ c. packed fresh basil leaves
I TB chopped fresh chives
1 clove garlic
Zest of one whole lemon plus the juice of half of it
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place an oven safe cooling rack on top.   Cover rack with strips of bacon.  Generously sprinkle cracked black pepper over each strip of bacon.  Then sprinkle brown sugar evenly over bacon slices.  Bake in oven for around 20 minutes, depending on how you like your bacon.  Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, place the mayonnaise, basil, chives, garlic, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a food processor or blender.  Blend - while pulsing to chop all the ingredients - until everything is evenly distributed.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Slightly toast 8 slices of bread.  Spread each side of bread with herb mayo, and layer on the slices of tomato, bacon, and lettuce leaves.  Devour immediately. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Long Live the King

Another article posted on Local In Season, catch the specific link here.  Slightly belated, but enjoy!

Every year when summer time approaches, there are specific things I really look forward to.  There are of course the longer days, the warm rays of sun, the nightly ice cream cones.  It just wouldn’t be summer without these things.  But, I must tell you, there are few things that get me as excited as what I consider one of the Kings of Summer.  He’s tall, he’s strong, his history lies within the roots of this continent.  He is Sir Sweet Corn.  And not just any sweet corn, but local sweet corn.  Those imposters available year round in the grocery store simply will not do.  When I take my first trip to the local market and find those green treasures piled high on produce stands, I know the epitome of summer’s treats are upon us.

From then on I cannot resist eating straight up roasted corn on the cob every night for dinner for days straight.  Seriously though, it’s a problem.  Each year I become more and more nervous that I will overdose and never be able to eat corn ever again.  The horror!  In light of this though, I try to mix up the menu as much as I can while still incorporating the golden seasonal treat.  This salad thankfully has enough supplemental ingredients – and delicious ones at that - to ensure me that I will still be able to eat dozens upon dozens of ears every year without losing touch with my love for every sweet, crunchy, and summery morsel.

Take some to your next summer potluck.  That is, if there’s enough left after you can’t stop eating it straight from the bowl.

Summer Corn and Black Bean Salad

(serves 6 as a side dish)

6 ears of fresh sweet corn
1 can of black beans, drained
1 red bell pepper, cut into ¼” dice
1 small jalapeno pepper, minced, ribs and seeds removed for less heat if desired
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
¼ teaspoon cumin
Juice of one lime
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (red wine vinegar would be fine too, I just love the hint of sweetness in the rice vinegar)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

If you are using fresh ears of corn, cut off all the kernels on each ear with a sharp knife.  Preheat a skillet over medium high heat and add some oil to coat the pan.  Sautee all of the corn kernels in the skillet, stirring often, until they are cooked through – I even like to get a bit of char on them for extra flavor.  This recipe is also perfect for leftover ears of corn from an earlier-in-the-week dinner. Simply cut the kernels off of the leftover cooked ears and save them until you make the salad.  

Add the cooled corn kernels to a large bowl.  Add the rest of the prepped ingredients and mix to combine, adding salt to taste.  Enjoy the gifts of the King.