Friday, July 31, 2015

Farmers Market Inspiration - Salad with Pickled Sour Cherries, Sungolds & Chevre + Salty Pickled Rye Croutons

I promised myself I'd never use the far too cutesy word "inspo," that seems super popular in the blogosphere. Despite the theme of today's food-based reflection, I am going to keep that promise. Still - inspiration (see, I can spare the time to write the entire word) is key to keeping your cooking and creating fresh. You can never anticipate where and when your creative juices might be revved up by food, but there are a few places where you can certainly up your odds.

Arugula, Red Leaf Lettuce, Vidalia Onion, Chevre, Pickled Tart Cherries 
+ Specialty Rye Bread toasted into croutons! YUM. Photo: NK

I get many recipe ideas from imitating dishes I enjoy at restaurants, but another favorite way I like to build new recipes is by beginning with one really sensational or unique ingredient and letting it jumpstart your imagination. Green Markets and Farmers Markets are a great place to begin because you can find a plethora of specialty foods and local produce all in place. That's where I came across a few of the elements that inspired the salads we'll show you today.

One nibble of "Salty Pickled Sour Rye" from Hamptons-based Carissa's Breads and I was reaching for my wallet. I just knew that this hearty Rye with a very unique, slightly piquant flavor would make the perfect croutons for my salad of Red Leaf Lettuce and Arugula. I couldn't resist grabbing some fresh Chevre from the adjacent Goodale Farms booth, reasoning that it would be lovely to sprinkle throughout.  And then there are those lucky times where food is gifted to you; these home-canned Sour Cherries that my best friend made me from her CSA delivery were just destined to be a part of all the excitement. Side note - she's so talented! Here's the how to:

Salad with Pickled Sour Cherries, Sungolds & Chevre + Salty Pickled Rye Croutons 

Serves 6

How To: 
Small Bunch Arugula + Medium Head of Red Leaf Lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
Small Basket Sungold (Yellow) Tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes), cut in half or thirds (about 12 total)
Hearty Rye Bread cut into 1/2 inch cubes and lightly toasted
10 Pitted Pickled Sour Cherries, chopped (or Sour Cherries would work well too, even the dried type)
1/3 large Vidalia or Sweet Onion sliced thinly 

COMBINE all of the above in a large bowl. 
Before serving, DRESS with 2 Parts Olive Oil, 1 Part Red Wine Vinegar + teaspoon minced fresh Thyme leaves. (Optionally) 

FINISH with 2 Ounces Chilled Chevre (Goat Cheese) - Crumble onto salad just before serving and let sit for a few minutes to come to room temperature. 


NEXT - Tomatoes. Stars of summer. They sure did look stellar at the market. That's why I just had to spotlight them in the most simple way. Our favorite Tomato Carpaccio is really where it's at when you need a foolproof and ridiculously easy way to highlight everyone's summer favorite. 
Click HERE for the Tomato Carpaccio Recipe. 

Classic Tomato Carpaccio, Photo: NK 

Until your next great idea strikes, happy eating!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Elegant and Easy -Tuna Crudo With Peach & Jalapeno

Crudo is my latest in a long string of cooking obsessions. Why? Well first, I love fish, so any dish that starts with it as the main ingredient is ok in my book. Second, and most compellingly, Crudo is one of the easiest things you can make because it is, as the name suggests, raw. All you're really doing is assembling a collection of very high quality ingredients on a plate. Trust me, the payoff in both taste and elegance far exceeds the effort you'll invest.  

Tuna Crudo with Peach, Scallion and Jalapeno, Photo: NK 

Case in point, how beautiful is this? 

The idea for today's Crudo came to me after a trip to our local fishmonger. I always quiz the good folks there on what's freshest, and on this particular day, with Crudo in mind, I asked what fish they had on hand that was sushi-grade. The Tuna you see above had just come in and, I was told, promised to be particularly great. The price tag, on the other hand, not so great, but fish is one thing I never skimp on, and the wonderful thing about Crudo is that you don't need very much. 4-6 ounces of high quality Tuna will feed four, so for twelve bucks (compare that to just one 16 dollar or more restaurant appetizer), I walked out a very happy lady.

The rest of the ingredients dawned on me as I pondered some of the flavor profiles I most enjoy with fish. With maki as my inspiration, I decided to use a bit of Jalapeno for spice. Thinking seasonally, some very gorgeous Peaches I'd bought the day before were hitting peak ripeness. I opted to incorporate them (sliced very thinly), for both color and sweetness. I always enjoy balancing sweet and savory. For texture, I julienned Scallions (the white part mostly). They also impart a little bit of zest. 

I cannot resist reiterating that for Crudo (and many other simply conceived fresh dishes) the quality of your ingredients is absolutely key to creating a successful, restaurant quality dish - and for today's recipe, particularly important (besides, of course, the fish) is the olive oil. Choose a fruity or bold extra virgin olive oil depending on your preference. Click HERE to see the one we like (it falls on the bold, medium-bodied side). Sardinian Sea Salt is my new go-to when I'm looking for flavor. Put it all together and you're sure to get raves on this dish that is as visually striking as it is delicious. 

Let's get to it.

Tuna Crudo With Jalapeno & Peaches
Serves 4 

4-6 Ounces Sushi Grade Fresh Tuna
1/2 a very ripe Peach, very thinly sliced 
2 Limes, cut in half
1 Jalapeno, seeded and finely minced 
High Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil
High Quality Sea Salt
2-3 Scallions, the white part cut into very fine strips (as above)
Cilantro Leaves, optional

To Assemble:
Set out four small serving dishes. 
Squeeze the juice of half a Lime into each dish.
Arrange the Tuna on top as pictured.

Add thin slices of Peach on top.
Sprinkle minced Jalapeno on top.

Scatter a few strips of Scallion as well.
Drizzle it all with a bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Finish with a dusting of Sea Salt. 

Optionally garnish with Cilantro and any extra Lime Wedges

Serve right away and enjoy!!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Vacation Roundup - Tastes of July Fourth

Every year my family gathers to celebrate Fourth of July Weekend. This year we did one better, and extended our Long Island vacation for an additional week - a week in which we did almost nothing but spend time together, relax by the water, cook, eat, and enjoy. 

Independence Day started off with a delicious bang thanks to great company and my brother and sister-in-laws outstanding Clam Bake/Seafood Boil which can be done on the stovetop if you choose. It's everything good about summer on a plate. Get the simple recipe HERE.

Stovetop Clambake, Photo: NK

The remainder of our sojourn was dominated by more of our favorite summer fare - dishes that are simple, seasonal and driven by just a few exceptional ingredients

There was no shortage of culinary inspiration either. We were fortunate enough to head out for a special evening out at Tom Colicchio's Topping Rose House (read about last years visit to this lovely and scenic New American restaurant HERE).

Pappardelle with Burrata, Pancetta and Sweet Corn
and  at Topping Rose House, Bridgehamton
 Photo: NK 

The Composed Salad as beautiful as it was delicious,
 at Topping Rose, Bridgehampton, NY

We enjoyed a great dinner and a few well-crafted cocktails. In fact, that glass to the right was a Margarita made with with Beet Juice! A Beet-a-Rita.Talk about farm to table, right? Believe it or not, it was delicious, even if you don't love Beets as much as I do. 

I know that I don't have to tell you that it just wouldn't be July without grill-time. Since we had time a day ahead for an easy and quick blender marinade, it just seemed to me make sense that we grill one of our favorite easy yet wildly delicious Tacos Carne Asada

The recipe, which uses flavorful Skirt Steak, works wonderfully on your outdoor grill (and equally well on your indoor grill pan). With both the Marinade and the Pico De Gallo being make ahead, this dish also lends itself to parties. The recipe multiplies easily and it's fun for guests to assemble their own Taco creation. For the Tacos Carne Asada recipe click HERE.

Tacos Carne Asada, Photo: NK 
What's for dessert, you ask? None other than this luscious Pretzel and Strawberry Sundae (inspired by Tom Colicchio's Topping Rose House as well). For the recipe, head to Neurotic Kitchen's version HERE

I am happy to report that as our seaside vacation drew to a close, we were relaxed, happy and well fed.  As it always does, the East End of Long Island inspired our cooking. I am excited to share yet another recipe for our latest obsession, Crudo, in next week's post. Until then, CHEERS to the weekend! 

Domaine Sautereau Rose Sancerre, my favorite wine to pair with Oysters!
Photo: NK