Here in Hurriquake land, it’s hard to find time to make food, photograph it and then write about it, so I decided to do some spelunking on my flickr account and uncover some pics that I can yammer about, lest Food Punk slip into the land of the lost food blogs..(I am already there, I know)
What we are looking at here is an old flame of mine. This summer I revisited my love of Onion Dip but I took it back to the old house, if you will. I went out and I bought Lipton Onion Soup mix and sour cream and Greek yogurt and I made straight up 70′s style Onion Dip. Usually when I make onion dip, (Thanksgiving, BBQs, Easter, breakfast…) I lop off the bottom and top of a giant Vidalia or yellow onion and roast the thing for a good 30-40 mins. Then chop it up and further caramelize it awhile with some herbs and olive oil. The rest is what you would expect, add dairy and refrigeration while you decide how best to get the stuff into your mouth. Veggies? Chips? Crackers? A spoon? So the return to a packaged mix was sort of like dating the wild, bad boy older brother of your straight laced high school sweetheart. (I’m hypothesizing here)
I don’t recall why I strayed from this recipe these past few months but I think it had something to do with the shining sun, a pitcher of something cold and boozy and these new ultra thin “Ode to the Potato Chip” chips I saw at Trader Joes. I prefer my dipping chips on the razor blade thin side, no ridged chips for me, thanks.
So suddenly, I was trolling the market, looking for that bright blue box filled with MSG, dehydrated onion and other “spices”. To be honest, I did taste test a natural one, but it was so sharp, and had way too much powdered garlic. I was trying to recreate a childhood taste and high brow ingredients would not do!
Of course I do not want to subject everyone to my wanton ways, so if you are a guest in my home chances are you will be served homemade onion dip ala these pictures or if I am short on time a hybrid dip with both the packaged mix and some caramelized bits thrown in. Lucky you!
The Ramp craze has it’s devotees and detractors. They are so HOT right now (and not to be persnickety, have been in NYC for the last few years). It is one popular, stinky, and super delicious little allium still enjoying it’s day in the hip culinary trend sun.
Where I am here in central VA, one would think they’d be rampant (sorry).
Just a quick trek to a nearby forest and you are all set. Well, one would be wrong. I have searched high and low since late March and not one farmers market has had any to sell.
This past Monday, I popped into Farm to Family and my luck changed. I was a little put off as to how they were presented there, I am used to my ramps -greens attached…and not in plastic baggies. The farmers road is a hard one however, and I am not one to judge or to stare a gift ramp in the face for that matter. So home we went.
How best to use these ramps? We always put them into pasta, so that’s been done. Sometimes a quick saute for an appetizer is easy and fun. (We have yet to grill them I just realized, that would be spectacular, no doubt). I remembered a friend recently bragging about devouring some ramp concoction his mate brought back home from her shift at a local restaurant…and it hit me. RAMP BUTTER. He had mentioned ramp BUTTER.
How could I be so stupid!! The obvious answer to bringing any food obsession into the next phase of maniacal behavior; Turn it into a butter.
I softened a stick and a half of butter. I blanched the ramps you see pictured (put into boiling water for around 40 seconds, then plunge into an ice bath). I sliced them up and then in the mixer on low speed introduced them and some salt and pepper to the butter. Rolled up into some parchment and left to harden up in the fridge, this made an excellent gift last night for a friend.
I do wish the leaves had been left on, a bright green chiffonade would have enhanced the butter’s appearance and flavor of course. Leaves or not, I am not gonna lie, that was some tasty butter.
Perfect for fish, pasta, biscuits, popcorn, a baguette, a sandwich, anyplace butter goes! Onto a spoon and into your mouth! Also it gives ramps a nice little fatty home for a stay in the freezer ensuring that we can have ramp flavor well after the season is over.
How would you use ramps or ramp butter?
This week is pure madness.
We are moving. In the midst of it all we still need to feed ourselves. This becomes quite a dilemma as more than half of my spices and cooking paraphernalia sit across town in an empty apartment. My mixing bowls and tools are boxed up, mocking me, for having packed them with days yet to go. Last night we did manage to eat a satisfying and simple meal thanks to my immersion blender, which I THANKFULLY forgot to pack.
But first, I need to mention where this idea came from. have you ever been to Tom Lenoard’s?
It’s kind of berserk in there with the singing animatrons, but they have tremendous deals from time to time on produce. It’s been helpful during these non farmers market Winter months and I do try to only buy local to local-ish produce when we go.
So the last time we were there, they had a jarred butternut squash pasta sauce that looked very interesting. Alas, I have a rule when it comes to buying sauce though, and that is, I don’t do it. ( I have my father to blame for this.) It is physically impossible for me to buy jarred sauce, I have to make Marty do it as otherwise I will just take it back out of the basket from shame.
So they had butternut squash for sale and I picked up a nice 3 lb specimen and forgot all about it. Then last night as we looked, forlornly into our empty fridge I remembered it!
Here is how it went down.
Orecchiette with Butternut Squash
1 3lb butternut squash peeled and diced
1 lb of Orecchiette
2 ribs of celery
1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
tomato paste or leftover red pasta sauce
salt and pepper
Toss the squash in olive oil and salt it, Put in oven at350 for about a half hour until a knife slides through the largest piece easily. Set a pasta pot filled with water to a boil. Finely dice the celery and the onion and garlic and saute in oil and/or butter until translucent. When the squash is done, transfer to a sauce pot and add 1-1 1/2 cups of water, veg or chicken stock and/or white wine. Now blend, baby blend! Like I said I used handy immersion blender but a blender would work too I think, in batches.
Add the aromatics and blend them as well. Add the red sauce or some tomato paste (or maybe diced sun dried tomatoes!) and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. When the pasta is done, drain (save a quarter cup of the water) it and toss the orecchiette into the sauce with a wee bit of that pasta water. Spoon into bowls and garnish with parsley and romano and dream about your new kitchen all unpacked and ready for business!
Friday, I had a macro/microcosm day.
It seemed the universe was relaying back to me my thoughts and mine out to it. It just so happens my thoughts are about quiche and My Bloody Valentine.
Earlier in the day, Sound Opinions had a 90′s music show on (which prompted me to learn that while I was at Lollapalooza in 91′, one (most?) of my coworkers were in the under 5 set, yikes!) and played all sorts of music I have totally lost touch with but still treasure, My Bloody Valentine, Blur, Nirvana, J&MC, Jane’s and the like.
I also had been thinking about quiche. I wanted to made a quick crustless quiche and use up whatever I found in the fridge. Then later I saw a feature on quiche on the internet.
So I came home and searched our record room boxes (yes, we still have boxes, unpacked 9 mos. later) for My Bloody Valentine…and I don’t find it. Grrrrrrr.
So I made my quiche listening to Paranoid instead. Not Kevin Shields, but still good music to make quiche to. A $4 dollar bottle of Malbec and some onion and olive potato quiche and it’s Friday night dinner and lots of youtube:
We are really scrimpin’ and savin’ here at Key manor and I have to say quiche makes a elegant dinner and it’s already in your fridge RIGHT NOW. Eggs, milk, veggies, meat…whatever scraps you have- a quiche awaits. Throw in some salad and wine and you may as well be lunching at Barneys. Except of course, you are not at Barneys and it’s not lunch, it’s dinner and you are wearing hats and scarves inside cos’ the heat is so expensive and who eats quiche in January and wait, didn’t you move down South? Why is it so cold?
Sigh. The music helps though.
What is it? Cabbage! Hooray!
There is a restaurant here that serves simple, really wonderful food.
Recently I ordered baked cabbage off the menu that was….how do I describe it.. on the astral plane.
You know, when food is so ridiculously good that you just keep repeating “This is so good” to your dining mates, like a neanderthal and waitress roll their eyes at each other as they walk by you. (Who can blame em?)
You stare at the plate like it holds the secret somewhere.
“I see seasonings, I see clues to how it was cooked but really, HOW CAN THIS BE SO GOOD? IT’S CABBAGE!”
Looks brainy, tastes like a warm blankey.
Well, while I was unable to recreate this exact experience at home, we still ate some fab baked cabbage (with whole wheat pasta and pesto). I threw a half of avocado and some lemon in with the pesto by the way and it was over the top creamy and maybe a bit much. Perhaps just a few tablespoons of avocado would have done, but it gave the pesto a rich, velvety, non-dairy boost.
So, back to the mystical cabbage. I took the advice of this little lady at work and baked the cabbage, (covered in foil) in a bath of white wine, and red pepper flakes,
salt and pepper and olive oil, for an hour and a half. Had we any carrots they would have gone in as well. After an hour I took off the foil and let the tops brown and crunch up. If we had cooked it an additional 45 minitues, in foil, I believe it would have been what I was after. The perfect winter weather stewed-in-the-oven-and-melt-into- warmth dish.
It was not angels singing from the clouds straight into my taste buds, but it was pretty damn good.
As soon as we moved into town, I kept hearing about this restaurant, FULL KEE. It’s an authentic Cantonese place nestled within an area of town that is littered with many Asian dining options and nearby a great Asian market, Tan A. I was alerted that they have amazing vegetable dishes and if we went, to get the Leek Flowers.
What is a Leek Flower? I pondered.
In all my trolling about Chinatown in NYC (that ‘s 16 years of trolling, mind you) I had never noticed them in the green grocers, though I am sure they were there. (Neuman can you confirm?)
Upon arriving at Full Kee, I noticed a dish called “Leed Flower” on the menu and promptly ordered it. It came with squid which was good, but not as tender as it could have been, BUT OH THOSE LEEK FLOWERS. Everyone in our party heralded it as the best dish on the table. They looked like Chinese chives, but with little buds at the end of their narrow stems. Their flavor was slightly garlic scape-esque but so sweet and tender! If “green” could be a taste, these Leek Flowers were it.
Last week I was absolutely thrilled to see a thick baton of them for $2.00 at Tan A. Leek Flowers may be the simplest thing to cook.
Like many in the Allium family, they are super versatile and would make a tasty bed for most any protein. (Tofu and Pork, I am looking at you.)
The bunch I bought was so ample that I had plenty left over to blanch and use in an adaptation of a Green Goddess dressing, which was also a favorite at a recent soiree. So popular with crowds, this Leek Flower!
One of these days I am going to get an Asian cookbook/food guide and figure out what other fantastic stuff I am missing out on.
Like everybody else, I have been reading the Times and spied a super simple hot sauce recipe that I could not stop thinking about. I have been tangling with peppers all summer actually, trying to make hot pepper jelly and instead letting them all go bad or using them in taco related dinners.
Today at Byrd Market I picked up less than a peck of peppers, proceeded to procure a plethora of produce and pranced home post haste to parlay them into a perfect pepper sauce.
They had all sorts of specimens at the market, Chocolate Habanero, Red Lantern, Jalapeno, and yellow Belgium. So I took the most colorful and shiny of the bunch.
This is how it went down.
I’m no fool so I grabbed a pair of gloves. I cut up 8 hot peppers. I added a large sweet red pepper as directed by the nice lady in the Times. I crushed 3 fat cloves of garlic and into a heavy bottomed sauce pan went all of them. I added a large pinch of salt. Twice. I poured about a half cup of vinegar in and over medium heat, simmered until the peppers soaked up all the liquid. I carefully transferred the mixture into a blender and pureed until I had a smooth a uniform liquid. Then just as carefully, I poured all that hot pepper goodness into a bottle with the help of a funnel.
At this point Marty came into the kitchen and exclaimed “Whew! Peppers!” and clutched at his face.
They did indeed permeate the kitchen…yes there was much sneezing …but now we have HOT SAUCE.
One of the greatest inventions in all mankind. if you don’t believe me, go ask a bowl of grits.
I know it’s been kind of quiet on Food Punk lately. I have been sick a bunch this Spring, which is a downer, but exciting things are in the works, which is an upper! You know what else makes me feel UP?
Ramps…..and garlic scapes, but they come later.
Simple and delightful ramp consumption awaits you:
Clean (easier than it sounds, treat em’ like scallions and remove anything slimy) a bunch of ramps.
Blanch them and then plunge into ice water.
Put them in the food processor with salt and pepper and olive oil and some ricotta cheese
Boil some linguini, fry up some nice bread crumbs.
Toss the pasta in the ramp/cheese sauce.
Sprinkle with bread crumbs and maybe some shaved pecorino if you are feeling extra cheesy. I know I am.
I have been a ‘Southern Enthusiast’ since about 1995, when I went to New Orleans for the first and (sadly) only time. It was my first real exposure to southern culture aside from 95 South pit stops in VA, NC, and GA (roadside peaches!) on annual family road trips to Disney World. While I was there and I am so ashamed to admit this, I ate like a 20 year old gutter punk. I had beignets at cafe Du Monde of course, like every tourist but that was the extent of the Nawlins’ food specialties I encountered. Ok I had a Muffaletta but it was not from Central Grocery so it does not count in my opinion.
Let me tell you, the 35 year old me looks at that 20 year old and wants to wring her neck! Galatoire’s Arnaud’s, Brigtsen’s Dooky Chase’s, Brennan’s. Domilise’s…..
How could I have been so foolish? I guess I was focused on other things back then (read: dranks and dancing).
I imagine I thought that I’d be back again before long. Of course, then came Hurricane Katrina.
I had wanted to make a trip down for my 35th birthday but could not make it happen. I was perusing the recipes in Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times Picayune of New Orleans the other night and realized I had not made Jambalaya since the late 90s! WHAAAAAT? Of course, back then it was a box of Zatarain’s and frozen veggies. Sometime soon I hope to make a full tilt Jambalaya with okra and andouille and whatnot but for now I settled on this simple but flavorful cousin to Paella perfect for the weather right now and ample to boot.
VEG JAMBALAYA FOR TWO PLUS LUNCH THE NEXT DAY
2 tbs of butter or olive oil
1 cup each chopped red and green bell pepper
1 cup onion
1 med zucchini quartered and diced
a few celery stalks diced
1.5 cups of long grain rice
as many cloves of garlic as you see fit
1 can whole crushed tomatoes in their juice
any combo or all of the following seasonings, adjusted to taste:
black and white pepper
2 cups of vegetable stock (or broth if you’ve happen to have been boiling some turkey)
1.5 cups rice
half package of fake sausage crumbled or fake Italian sausage links sliced browned separately and added to the brew before serving
a handful of chopped scallions
Louisianna hot sauce
In a dutch oven melt the butter or oil over med heat. Add the peppers, celery, onion and garlic until soft and fragrant. Now add the can of tomatoes, your spices and herb sand the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
Add the rice, reduce heat to medium/low and cover the dutch oven for 15-18 minutes.
In a separate pan, saute the zucchini ( oh hey you could use okra here as well, this way it won’t get all slimesville) and your fake meats.
( If using real meats you can add them in the beginning after you saute the peppers and onions etc)
Take the lid off the dutch oven and see what is going on in there. Add tomato paste if you think you need to and stir it a bit, if most of the water has cooked off you are good to go. (It should sizzle a bit when you stir it, if not let it cook off more moisture.)
Serve in big bowls topped with the scallions and keep the hot sauce handy.