9.30.2013

Farmer's Market Preservation

 
Fall is definitely my favorite season. I love everything about it- sweaters, leaves, cider and pumpkins- with one glaring exception: the demise of the beautiful produce at the farmers’ markets. 


I love walking past the weekly farmstands spilling over with rainbow tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, herbs, greens, and gorgeous bright flowers. The produce is spectacularly more delicious, and more colorful, than anything you can buy during the year at the grocery store.  I get so bummed when I start to see everything disappearing slowly, until the stands close up shop for cold weather. 

So I’m always looking for ways to preserve my farm-fresh goodies and enjoy them year round. I’m too nervous I’ll poison myself if I try canning or preserving, but the freezer is my friend and I wanted to share a few tips to extend your summer bounty into the winter. 

Green Beans

Green beans and other similar vegetables freeze really well using the blanching method:
1.      Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.  Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.
2.      Add your green beans and boil for about 2 minutes, just until that raw vegetal taste is gone.
3.      Drain green beans and drop immediately into ice water to shock, which will set the color and stop the cooking. Submerge for five minutes.
4.      Drain, dry, and pack in a Ziploc bag to freeze.
Stays good in freezer for up to one year.


Corn
There is nothing like the taste of fresh summer corn.
1.      Blanch, as in above method.
2.      Once the corn is cool enough to handle, slice the kernels off the cob.
3.      Lay them out on a baking sheet and slide sheet into the freezer.
4.      Once frozen, you can pile them into a Ziploc bag or freezer container.

It’s important to freeze the kernels on the baking sheet first, otherwise they will freeze together in one huge lump and then you have to use everything at once. Freezing individually first allows you to just take what you need from a big stockpile.

Stays good in freezer for up to one year. 



Bell Peppers
Bell peppers freeze ridiculously well, and are the easiest to handle. Simply slice up your peppers and place them in a freezer bag or other storage container. They’ll keep for up to 8 months.


Berries
Lay berries out on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, pile into a container to keep for 10-12 months.
 
Make Soup!
I love making big batches of summer minestrone and freezing individual portions for cold winter nights. Soup will keep for 4-6 months in the freezer.


Other Tips:
  • Don’t forget to date everything, so you know exactly when you stored it and how long you can use it for.
  • Hardy greens like kale freeze well raw, softer ones like lettuce cannot be frozen, and spinach and swiss chard freeze better if cooked first.
  • Herbs are not the same after freezing. Most wilt; basil will even turn black. But while they’re not visually appealing but the flavor is still there, so you can use them for stock.  
  • You can’t freeze a tomato, but you can make sauce and freeze that for a few months. Or try making passata, a version of tomato paste: slow-roast plum tomatoes until they are falling apart, then remove skins and run through a blender.  Freeze in small batches and add to soups, braises, and stews for a flavor hit throughout the year.
Resources:
StillTasty.com: a great website (and iPhone app!) that tells you how long both fresh and cooked food remains safe for in the fridge and the freezer.
National Center for  Home Food Preservation: how to freeze a large variety of fruits and vegetables
My Thirty Spot: tips for better short term storage of produce 

9.26.2013

Fall Nails

I’m normally very straight-laced with my nails, wearing Essie’s sheer pink Limoscene 90% of the year.  But lately I’m kind of obsessed with all the glitzy jewel tones popping up for fall.

I’m particularly into Revlon’s Elusive, a deep sparkly blue-green, reminiscent of outer space: (seen here with a glossy topcoat, it actually dries matte):

 
I love the colors in Deborah Lippman's Jewel Heist collection. What a perfect expression of fall trends:


 
OPI’S “In The Cable Car Pool Lane” is a deep berry that’s perfect for the office (unlike some of those above shades!)

 

And I must get my hands on Bewitched, by Laura Mercier- what a deep, gorgeous shade of green!
 


While we’re on the nails topic, check out “Gotham Polish,” a blog about nail style in New York City.  
 What shades will you be rocking this fall?

9.24.2013

Antipasto

Pretty sure antipasto is one of my favorite things in the world. Meat, cheese, olives, bread- I could happily subsist on all of the above. 

It’s also great to serve at a party- there’s something for everyone, and it requires no cooking, just arranging of some purchased cold cuts and jarred items.


I’ve served it as a light lunch for three, crowding a platter with crusty Italian bread, spicy soppressata, roasted red peppers, and olives:






Sometimes, I step things up with the inclusions of mini cheese boards, here featuring mozzarella and robiola. I like a mixed green salad to round things out as well, and I really love arugula lightly tossed with lemon juice and olive oil. 



For a football party recently, I put together this spread:





But basically, you can pick and choose whatever you like, arrange it nicely, and serve up a delicious appetizer with basically no cooking.


Some ideas to include:

·        Artichoke hearts
·        Olives
·        Marinated mushrooms
·        Pepperoncini
·        Cured hard salami
·        Mortadella
·        Prosciutto or speck (its smoked sister)
·        Mini bell peppers
·        Cheese: Provolone, Taleggio, Robiola, Fontina, or hunks of Parmesan
·        Giardinera (pickled vegetables)
·        Breadsticks or crostini
·        Figs
·        Caponata

9.16.2013

Presentation: Caprese Salad


It’s been said a lot and I have to agree: you eat with your eyes first. A five star meal doesn’t stand out as much if you serve it in a fast food way. My mom loves to tell the story of my grandmother’s friend Josephine, who was fond of serving crappy cuts of meat and chicken at dinner parties.

 “Josephine made shit, but always put it out on her best china platters and set a nice table, and everyone loved it! Meanwhile your aunt Millie was the best cook, but no one ever commented because she would just dump it from the pan onto a plate.”

Thanks to food blogs and Pinterest, I think people, at least unconsciously, pay more attention to how food looks. So many of my friends have “Entertaining” pin boards, which feature nothing but elegantly arranged cheese boards and cute little appetizer buffets.
 
So I thought I’d start a series of posts called Presentation, where I’ll highlight easy ways to make your dishes look better. The focus will be on simple tricks, so that you don’t spend as much time arranging as you did cooking. I’ll post whenever I have ideas, and to start, here’s a pretty way to serve the classic Caprese Salad.

 
 Here’s my tips:
  • Try using various colored tomatoes. I went with red and yellow heirlooms, but I think adding in Green Zebras would make a big impact too.  Use a mix of large tomatoes and small cherry ones too, as the flavor is different, and the visual impact is better.
  • When serving large groups, I use Belgioso mozzarella cheese. It comes pre-sliced, which makes life easier, and since you can purchase a double pack in Sam’s Club for around $10, it’s also cost-effective. Of course, if you live near a good Italian deli, get their fresh mutz, or spring for delicious, creamy burrata.
  • To assemble, slice your tomatoes about the same size as your cheese. Going around your platter in concentric circles, place a slice of tomato, slice of cheese, slice of basil, over and over till you’ve filled it in. Add some halved cherry tomatoes and torn basil leaves in the center.  The platter can be assembled a couple of hours ahead at this point.
  • Garnish just before serving- use loads of fresh basil, big pieces of flaky sea salt, and a bright olive oil. My dad buys me fancy balsamic for my birthday each year, so I added a few drops of that as well.   

9.13.2013

Skirts and Sweaters

It’s the season of the sweater- crazy how such a basic wardrobe element can be suddenly become wildly fashionable, but I’m loving it. How great is it that when you just want to be cozy and comfortable, you’ll look trendy too? Take your pick of Aran knits, printed crewnecks, or turtlenecks, which feel freshest when paired with a swingy skirt.

Get inspired:




 
 
Get Shopping:
 



 

9.11.2013

Animal Print Accessories



I don’t think a fall season goes by without everyone proclaiming animal print is totally in, and fall 2013 is no exception. This year, I’m loving it for accessories, especially leopard print done in black and white.
 

Cap, J. Crew
Clutch, Lauren Merkin
Sunglasses, Roberto Cavalli

Shoes, Enzo Angiolini
Tote, Kelsi Dagger
Scarf,  Tasha

9.10.2013

Fall '13 Fashion Recap

Every year, I eagerly await mid-August, when issues of Vogue and Bazaar are six inches thick and it’s still warm enough to read them by the pool. I love to pore over the shopping guides, and each year I make a mental list of what the big trends are, so I can attack the stores with a plan of action.

This year I'm loving:




 

 
 
 
 
 

All photos are from Harper's Bazaar. Text edits are my own.  

What are you excited to wear this fall?

9.05.2013

Matzo Ball Soup

As an Italian girl married to a nice Jewish boy, I have a plethora of extra holidays in my year. My Septembers are full with the High Holy Days, my Easter flanked by Passover, and my Christmas always preceded by Hanukkah. I love it, and I love that it gives me an excuse to add classic Jewish dishes to my cooking repertoire.

My matzo ball soup is my husband’s favorite, and mine too, so I thought I’d post it in honor of Rosh Hashanah tonight. It’s not hard to make, but it is a two step process that starts with making your own stock. Let’s get started, shall we?

 photo matzoresize2_zpsaac87d64.jpg


Quick Chicken Stock
I use Pam Anderson's super easy recipe.  You will need:

2 quarts chicken broth (Swanson, College Inn, whatever  you like)
Carcass (skin + bones) of a rotisserie chicken
4 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a large stockpot. Bring to a simmer, and simmer 30 minutes.  Don't let it boil, or your stock may get cloudy.

Strain broth, cool quickly, and refrigerate for 3 days or freeze 3 months.

Matzo Balls:

Smitten Kitchen’s matzo ball recipe is perfection. I can take absolutely no credit for the recipe seen below. I follow it exactly, and have successfully halved and doubled it as well.
For balls
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons reserved chicken fat or vegetable oil (I always use olive oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons chicken stock or seltzer
For soup
2 to 3 quarts prepared chicken stock (recipe above)
1 carrot, thinly sliced
A few sprigs of dill


Mix all matzo ball ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Bring 1 1/2 quarts of well-salted water to a brisk boil in a medium sized pot.

Lower the flame. Wet your hands, and form matzo balls by grabbing ping pong ball- size drops of batter and rolling them loosely into balls. Drop them into the simmering salt water one at a time. Cover pot and cook them for 30 to 40 minutes.

About ten minutes before the matzo balls are ready, bring prepared chicken stock to a simmer and add the sliced carrot in it. Ladle some soup and a couple matzo balls into each bowl and top with a couple snips of fresh parsley or dill.

What You Can Do In Advance
I usually make my matzo balls the night before, and keep them in a bowl with a little water, covered by a wet paper towel. Sounds weird, I learned the trick in a Barefoot Contessa cookbook, works like a charm.

And of course, the stock will keep for 3 days in the fridge or three months in the freezer.


 Has anyone out there tried to freeze matzo balls? I’ve heard you can, but we always eat whatever I make! I’d love to know how they turn out.

9.04.2013

Antipasto Salad


I love this recipe from Giada’s Everyday Pasta book. She combines antipasto and pasta into one delicious salad, perfect for fall’s upcoming football parties.

Feel free to swap out or change ingredients- the sundried tomatoes can easily become roasted red peppers, salami can become pepperoni, or add Provolone, mozzarella, artichokes - whatever you love!

Here is the recipe, with my changes:

Antipasto Pasta Salad, adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

For the vinaigrette:
¾ cup olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

For the Pasta:
1 lb cavatappi, rigatoni, or fusilli pasta
6 slices Genoa salami, cut into strips
6 slices smoked turkey, cut into strips
1 cup arugula
½  cup fresh basil
¼ cup grated Parmesan
½ a bunch of asparagus (about 10 spears), chopped in thirds
¼ cup tbsp sundried tomatoes (I prefer the ones packed in oil)
¼ cup kalamata olives

Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender. I don’t like raw garlic, so I sautéed mine in the oil, removed it, and just whisked everything together with the flavored oil.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Generously salt water and add pasta. Cook according to package directions, about 8-10 minutes. Two minutes before the pasta is done, add the asparagus. Drain, and rinse both under cold water.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss with dressing. Serve at room temperature.  This can be made a few hours ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before serving.

For an attractive presentation, I mixed my pasta with half the dressing, and arranged each ingredient in a stripe on top of the pasta, Cobb salad style.  I sprinkled the Parmesan cheese and poured remaining dressing over that. 

9.02.2013

Mini Shrimp Rolls

I always find myself gravitating towards the same old party appetizers, so for this year’s Super Bowl, I was determined to change things up.  I wanted something that could be served in individual portions and laid out nicely on a tray, so I opted for Bon Appetit’s Mini Shrimp Rolls.  They’re like lobster rolls, except with a more budget-friendly shrimp filling. Of course, if you love your friends enough to buy them lobster (I don’t), I’m sure that would work quite nicely.

They were a huge hit, the surprise favorite of the party, and simple to make ahead.  Here’s the recipe how I made it, but you can check out the original on Bon Appetit.


Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 bag frozen shrimp, thawed, shelled, deveined
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 small celery stalk, diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus juice of half a lemon, divided
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 24 King’s Hawaiian mini dinner rolls
  • Chopped parsley for garnish  

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400.
Lay out shrimp on baking sheet and toss with the juice of half a lemon, plus salt and pepper. Roast at 400 for 10-12 minutes, until cooked through, depending on the size of your shrimp.  Let cool.
Whisk mayonnaise, celery, chives, oil, lemon juice, and dijon in a medium bowl to blend; season to taste with salt and pepper. Chop shrimp into small pieces and add to bowl with mayonnaise mixture. Stir to coat. Shrimp salad can be made 1 day ahead at this point. Cover and chill.
Preheat oven to 375°. Using a small serrated knife, make a 1/2-inch-deep cut across the top of each dinner roll and gently pry open roll with your fingers to create a mini New England–style hot dog bun. Place on a baking sheet and toast until light golden, about 8 minutes. Let cool slightly. Can be done a few hours ahead at this point.
Divide shrimp mixture among rolls, pressing into cut across top; garnish with chopped parsley.