Saturday, June 20, 2009

Whole Wheat Crêpes with Rhubarb and Quark

My parents are on their way to Paris right now (for a well-deserved vacation), and I am quite bummed that I can't be there with them. During my visit to France a few years ago, John and I gorged ourselves on crêpes, simple baguette sandwiches, and pain au chocolat while wandering around the picturesque streets of Paris in our dirty, travel-worn sneakers. The last French meal we had was three nearly indecently buttery croissants (for €1,50) from a nondescript bakery, grabbed at the last minute before hopping on the Metro at 6 AM.

Since I was thinking about French street food, I decided to make some crêpes. I cooked some chopped rhubarb with minced ginger, sugar, and a splash of water. I mixed some quark (a cheese whose name does not really make you think of cheese) with some honey. Then I rolled it all up in my whole wheat crêpes. Not bad for a first attempt at crêpe-making.

Whole Wheat Crêpes
(serves 2)

1 large egg
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
pinch of salt

Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat. Beat egg in a medium bowl, then add remaining ingredients. Stir until everything is evenly combined. The batter should be runny.

Add a teaspoon or so of butter or oil to the pan. Add about 3 tablespoons of batter to the pan, and immediately swirl it around to make a big flat circle. Cook for a few minutes, until the bottom of the crepe is just beginning to brown. Flip over with a spatula, and cook for just a bit longer. Remove from pan and fill with just about anything.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bitter Greens Salad with Fried Cheese

So far, so good. My first CSA salad of the summer combined a big plate of arugula, mizuna, and lettuce with sliced radishes, fresh herbs, toasted pumpkin seeds, and a tangy-sweet honey balsamic dressing. I originally intended to top it off with some pan-fried halloumi cheese, but found a block of equally suitable queso de freir for a few dollars less (spending wisely now that I'm a part-time starving part-time student). The end result was a palate-pleasing combination of bitter, tangy, salty, and sweet.

Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 tsp olive oil
1 shallot bulb, chopped finely
2 Tbsp water
1 tsp honey
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Heat olive oil in a small pan. Add shallot and cook until slightly caramelized. Add water and heath through for a few minutes. Add honey, vinegar, a bit of salt and pepper, and extra virgin olive oil. Turn off heat. Toss with greens and serve.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Love the Lovage

Last weekend, I braved the crowds at the Union Square to go on one last greenmarket shopping spree before CSA season begins. Highlights included the photogenic radishes from my previous post, an enormous pile of sugar snap peas at the Mignorelli Farm stand ("Can I eat these raw? Are they low in fat?" a fellow shopper asked me... I love encouraging people to eat more vegetables), and a big bunch of lovage. The leaves of the lovage plant look like big celery leaves, while the stems are thin and hollow. It has a distinct aroma that I'll describe as savory and salty. So far I've enjoyed my lovage in soup, potato salad, and the two dishes below. I've also heard that the English make a cordial with lovage, traditionally mixed with brandy as a winter warmer (something I learned from a band called Lovage).

Lentils with Lovage

lentils with lovage
4 strips bacon (or 1 Tbsp vegetable or olive oil, to make it vegetarian)
1 small onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup green lentils
broth or water
20 lovage leaves
small splash of sherry vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Fry bacon in a small pot over medium-low heat until slightly crisp. Remove and drain on a paper towel. Leave about half of the bacon fat in the pot. If you're making this dish vegetarian, just heat the oil.

Add onion, carrot, garlic, and some salt and pepper. Cook a few minutes, until onion is translucent. Add tomato paste and stir to coat. Add lentils and enough water or broth to cover them by about an inch. Partially cover the pot with a lid, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender.

Stir in chopped lovage leaves and sherry vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with chopped bacon.

Potato Gratin with Lovage

potato gratin with lovage
1 small white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 medium waxy potatoes, thinly sliced (I used a mandoline set at 2.0 mm)
12 lovage leaves, chopped
salt and pepper

for bechamel sauce:
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups milk

shredded Gruyere cheese (as much or as little as you'd like)

To make bechamel sauce, melt butter in a small saucepan on low heat. Add flour to form a roux. Season with salt and pepper, then slowly whisk in milk to make a smooth sauce. Cook until slightly thickened.

Add a few tablespoons of bechamel sauce to a buttered small casserole dish. Add 1/3 of the potatoes in an even layer over the sauce, then 1/2 of the onions and 1/2 of the lovage. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Pour 1/3 of the remaining sauce over the onions and lovage. Repeat to make one more layer, then top with potato slices and bechamel sauce. Sprinkle (or pile) grated cheese on top. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 350. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until cheese is golden brown. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

French Breakfast Radishes

Just wanted to show you how pretty they are.