Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fresh, the Movie

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending a screening of a new documentary called Fresh. Like Food, Inc., it's a critique of factory farming and big agriculture, and emphasizes the need for a more sustainable food system. While Food, Inc. delves into labor issues, food safety, and issues surrounding genetically modified seeds, Fresh focuses on farmers and communities that are making strides toward more local, sustainable eating (and is basically less of a downer). Last night's screening included giggles and "awwwww"s everytime a non-industrially raised piglet appeared on screen. Heartwarming images of baby animals aside, Fresh tells inspiring stories about individuals who want to do better for the entire planet and their own neighbors. The panel discussion is also worth a watch; I hope there are videos of it online soon. Check out a schedule of screenings here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Soba with Mushrooms, Ramps and Tofu

I used the last of my ramps for this quick lunch, but they can easily be replaced with leeks or scallions in this recipe.

makes 1 serving

2-3 oz soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
5 ramps, chopped (keep bulbs separate from leaves)
5 mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
2 oz tofu (I used marinated baked tofu)
1/2 teaspoon rice wine
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
a pinch of sugar
Sriracha chili sauce
sesame oil
sesame seeds

Cook soba in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain and rinse.

Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Add ginger and ramp bulbs. Stir and cook for a minute or two, until fragrant. Add mushrooms and tofu. After 3 to 4 minutes, add rice wine, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and as much chili sauce as you'd like. Add ramp leaves, then noodles, and stir to coat everything evenly. Add a tiny drizzle of sesame oil, and garnish with sesame seeds.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rhubarb Streusel Cakes

rhubarb streusel cakes
These cupcakes were my contribution to a pre-Memorial Day picnic this weekend. I love how tart rhubarb is, and I'm glad my friends did too.

(adapted from Gourmet)
makes 12 cupcakes

For topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 lb fresh rhubarb (about 3 stalks), cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar

For cake batter:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with paper muffin cups.

Make streusel for topping:
Whisk together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl. Blend in butter with your fingertips until mixture forms small clumps.

Make batter:
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl until blended, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture and milk alternately in 2 batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until just combined.

Top and bake cakes:
Divide batter among muffin cups (each cup will be about half full). Toss rhubarb with confectioners sugar and sprinkle batter with rhubarb, then crumble streusel evenly on top. Bake in middle of oven until tops are golden and a tester inserted in center of a cake comes out clean, 22 to 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pan on a rack 3 minutes, then loosen edges of cakes with a small sharp knife or small metal spatula. Remove cakes from pan and put on rack to cool slightly.

Cakes keep in an airtight container at room temperature 3 days.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Roast Chicken with Spring Panzanella

Ramps are one of the first really exciting items to emerge at the farmers' market in the spring. While I admit to being a bit turned off by their popularity among fine diners, I finally bought a bunch for myself and now appreciate what some of the fuss is all about. They're a little sweet, a little grassy, a little onion-y, and a little garlicky without being very harsh. A quick peek around the food blogs will bring recipes for pasta with ramps, pizza with ramps, and tarts with ramps. You can also hoard them now and enjoy ramp butter or pickled ramps beyond their short season. I chose to saute my Allium tricoccum with asparagus and toss it all into a bread salad. Sure, there was also roast chicken for dinner, but this tasty side dish got a little more attention.

Panzanella with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Ramps
3 slices prosciutto (or pancetta or bacon)
4 oz stale bread, torn into bite-size pieces
5 ramps, chopped (keep bulbs and leaves separate)
2/3 lb asparagus (about 10-12 medium stalks), cut into 1-inch pieces
8 mushrooms (I used cremini and shiitake), cleaned and quartered
2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat a medium pan over medium heat. Add a bit of olive oil (or not, if you're using bacon or pancetta), and fry prosciutto on both sides until slightly crispy. Set aside when done.

Meanwhile, toss bread with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven (I used my toaster oven) for 10-15 minutes, until barely browned.

In the same pan that the prosciutto was in, add chopped ramp bulbs and asparagus. Season with salt and pepper. After a couple minutes, add mushrooms. Cook for another 5-7 minutes, tossing occasionally. Add chopped ramp leaves, and cook just until they wilt. Turn off heat, and add vinegar.

Chop prosciutto into bite-size pieces. Add bread, prosciutto, and vegetable mixture to a bowl, and toss to coat everything evenly. Drizzle olive oil over the salad if it looks like it needs some. Serve beneath a portion of roast chicken, and try not to die of happiness.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sauteed Asparagus and Baby Arugula Salad

Spring is here, and everything is green right now. Central Park went from bare-branched to joltingly leafy overnight, it seems. Seasonal allergies cause my face to spontaneously expel clear liquids at the most inconvenient of times (example: on a crowded bus while my hands are full and people are freaking out about swine flu). And of course, the farmers' markets are full of ramps, green garlic, asparagus, baby greens, and the people who love them.

Here's a charmingly easy spring salad I made with just a few ingredients:

asparagus, cut on a bias (diagonally) into 1-inch pieces
baby arugula, washed and dried
olive oil
salt and pepper
pine nuts

Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add a bit of olive oil. Add asparagus and saute until crisp-tender, tossing frequently (about 7 to 10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper. Toss in pine nuts and cook just until they are lightly toasted (careful, they burn easily). Add asparagus mixture to arugula. Add a few squeezes of lemon juice, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Toss and serve.

- shave some Parmigiano cheese over the salad
- add crisped pieces of bacon or pancetta
- substitute balsamic vinegar for lemon juice
- add toasted bread cubes to make panzanella
- put a poached or fried egg on top of the salad