Bad Ass Mother……..

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This is mother-of-vinegar. And this is homemade slow made apple cider vinegar. The apple juice is from last Autumn.

 

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Cherries and Goats Milk Feta from the Greek market is the starting point of this flatbread. I wanted a Middle Eastern accent so I just picked the thyme as is and added some green coriander seeds. Then I remembered unsalted pistachio nuts in my freezer.

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I received this bottle of extra virgin olive oil for Fathers Day from my son, Eoin. I like his exquisite good taste.

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Pre-oven…….I had some Tallegio that needed to be used up.

 

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I pressed cumin seed into the stretched out dough where it would meet the baking stone. The cumin toasted and roasted and added a layer of mystery. And teased me. So much potential for this little plate. Spiced game bird of some kind like quail or squab. Perhaps trade in the cherries for another in season stone fruit. I like plums. Or nectarines. And work on the spice a little too. You get the idea. Eat like a peasant. Thanks for reading.

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A Spring Supper

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Now is the time to make arugula pesto and that will be amongst the items for to-night’s plan of work. I have lots of arugula to pick and I can’t pick it fast enough. I’m hoping to be able to freeze and preserve some pesto for later use in sauces, soups or pizza for example. And fish too.

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I’ll have a bowl of strawberries for dessert, maybe.

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The base ingredients for risotto this evening. Garden scallions, parsley and peas. the peas are not this years crop. You can see the condensation rising. I pulled them from the back of the freezer…..my bad. The jist is that risotto made with peas in the springtime is a classic dish in the northern Italian kitchen. Risi e Pisi or rice and peas.

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Now this is what I’m talking about. Simple peasant style cooking requires minimal screwing around with fish before you get it. Here we have transparency. Not only can you see the fish in it’s sealed security wrap but there are certain details that are pertinent here. You can see the name of the vendor, Red’s Best. And they are selling large monkfish tails.You also get the name of the boat that caught the fish, their home port and the kind of gear they employed. A perfect storm of detail, so to speak. But they also have one of those smart phone doodads. The next generation of responsible fishmongers. Diggit! It helps that my friend Jason is a big part of this. It is also the freshest fish in Boston.

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Monkfish tails in garden spun wild arugula pesto. For this pesto, I used no nuts, capers or cheese. Really, just some scallion greens, lemon zest and arugula. Later, I seasoned the fish with sea salt, cracked black pepper and some of last summers spicy red pepper flakes. Just in case.

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Monkfish working on the grill. Because the fish is so fresh and has such a high moisture content, you need a high flame to sear the fish, to color it. And don’t poke the fish either once it is on your grill. Let it sear. After it is seared properly, it will be a whole lot easier to manipulate and move the pieces around. For these pieces, I’m looking at a short cooking time of perhaps no more than 7-9 minutes. The side that hits the grill first will have more colorisation than the part that you see facing you in the photo. And the last thing you want to do is overcook this delicious Massachussets fish.

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Here we go.

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Grilled monkfish, sauteed golden beets and swiss chard, arugula pesto and garden herbs.

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Spring risotto with garden peas.

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This grilled wholewheat flatbread is going to be dipped in arugula pesto.

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Seed potato. I got these as a surprise.I’m told they are called “Goldrush” but they do not look too yellow fleshed to me. But being Irish, of course I love potatoes. I’ll give these a chance and see if they live up to their name. Thanks for reading. Eat like a peasant.

 

 

What Do You Call The Chicken Crossing The Road?

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The answer is poultry in motion. I bought a chicken today, the whole thing, a refugee from an organic farm someplace. Like the fella said, I don’t eat a lot of chicken but when I do…then I suffer “Anaconda Syndrome”. That’s enough chicken for six months.
The first thing I did was make chicken stock the classic route, onion, carrot, celery, bay, thyme, parsley and black peppercorns. I added a couple of garlic cloves for fun.
I simmered the chicken stock for two hours and got a quart. Plenty.
I brined the two chicken breasts in a simple brine with aromatics for two hours, drained and dried them and now they rest in a marinade for another evening. My brine included bay, thyme and blackpeppercorns. My marinade otherwise, on this day, is extra virgin olive oil, garlic, spicy pepper flakes, lemon zest, thyme, scallion and parsley.
From the drum sticks, thighs and chicken stock, I have enough for a couple of soups for the week. Chicken all week long, folks.

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This is my version…today… of a peasant style chicken soup. Of course, there are thousands of versions and thousands of variations on how to make this. I spent 10 bucks on that bird and I want value for my disposable chicken dollar. For the base, I sweated my “soffrito” of smoked prosciutto, onion and garlic in extra virgin olive oil. Into this, I added one thigh and one drumstick, skin removed and bone in. Stirred this about in the pot with everything. Poured  in a pint of chicken stock. Loaded it with rutabaga and celery root. Brought it to a boil and let it simmer slowly. I did mine on top of the stove. You can also do it in the oven.
Later, I added some cooked pole beans from my garden that I had frozen. Then, I added parsley and scallion. I picked the chicken off the bone and returned the meat to the soup.  At this point, all it really needs is some Parmigiana cheese and some good extra virgin olive oil to finish.I liked this because, firstly, the soup was more about the vegetables even though they were cooked in chicken stock. The rutabaga and celery root were very sweet. Secondly, the smokiness of the “prosciutto affumicato” permeated lightly throughout the broth and it was absorbed by all the components. I used no wine though one could. Something dry. In the classical French kitchen, it was the “Saucier” or sauce chef that had responsibility of the raw materials for stock-making, hot and cold sauces, soups, stews, braises and more. A saucier trained in the traditional style was a senior member of the kitchen brigade and well on his way to being a sous chef. A proficient saucier takes years to develop his or her skills. But I digress. The point is to keep it all the flavors clear and direct in your home kitchen. A few humble ingredients in a well-made homemade stock can go a long way. The entire supper tonight set me back about 5 bucks or less. Definately worth it and I would make it again. Would it be the same….probably not. So many vegetables, not enough time.

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I got lucky. I had pizza dough in the fridge. I made it about 10 days ago and kneaded it down twice in the interim. I saved a little bit of the dough to include in my next batch of pizza dough. As long as I keep feeding that little bit of dough, by and large, I can get half-way decent homemade bread on a shoe-string for little or no effort. And I have an inexpensive oven that I beat up. If, in the winter, I am home, then that thar oven will be on. And to make it worth my while to have the oven on, I’ll make bread.
This focaccia will be great alongside the soup. It has rosemary and chunks of sea salt as a topping. And generous too with the olive oil. Eat like a peasant. Thanks for looking.

Heat

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Irish brown soda bread in the raw. See the lines or marks on the bread where I tried to tamp the bread down. I also deviated from the traditional round cake.

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From my oven to your interface.

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The mise-en-place or essentials for scallion risotto.

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Risotto con lo Scalogno…………..Scallion Risotto.

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Focaccia…………olive oil, olives, chunky sea saly and rosemary in the raw.

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Curried Lentil Soup with carrot, parsnip and potato. Nice and thick the way it should be for winter and loaded with lentils. Scallion risotto could be a nice accompaniment.

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Monkfish, otherwise known as the poor man’s lobster, in a marinade of olive oil,  scallions, garlic, lemon zest and Allepo pepper.

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It’s still white bread but I know what I put in it. I can live with that.

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Home style skillet roasted monkfish with garlicky braised kale.

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Lots of small plates for supper and left-overs will be great for padding out my lunch-box and flask.

For me, simple cooking is about making food from scratch, every day. Or eight days out of ten. there is something soul satisfying about it. I get to be up close to the food chain for a few brief moments or so each day.

And as I cook, sometimes my thoughts run…….we have managed, as a species, to climb to the very top of the chain. We can hunt anything, we can eat or devour anything in our path because we are the alpha predators on this planet. And look at how we do it.

Instead, I take heart from my food that I feed myself and understand that I am a contrarian in food terms, most of the time. Though I am neither vegan or vegetarian, it seems to be that is mostly the style I enjoy, without the tofu or tempeh.

Meat is over-rated and nobody needs to consume the amounts that we do. I might eat or cook beef a couple of times a year. On my terms. The same with chicken. Have to be in the mood for it. Rack of lamb, domestic, Australian or New Zealand, all over-rated. Rib-eyes, porterhouses, dry-aged this, beef tenderloin that……all over-rated. Duck confit this, lobster that…..all over-rated. Anything deemed expensive in a luxury class………over-rated.

For me, forever the contrarian, if I am going to cook and eat a plate of dead steaming animal protein, give me fish. Think of a dead cow and what you can do with it. Roast, grill, braise, or stew. But it is still the same dead cow every time you go to shop. From this cook’s point of view, it does’nt vary throughout the year. Whether you choose to grill bone-in rib-eye steaks or braise short ribs, it is still a large dead cow of questionable pedigree

I prefer cooking fish. There is a simplicity and sophistication about fish cookery. You can certainly apply the same classic cooking techniques but it will never be the same type of fish twice  in a row. I’m drawn to fish cooking over meat any day. I love it’s seasonality. And in this regard, I lucky to live in New England. I buy and cook local, New England fish.  Available to me in this season are mussels, clams, oysters, monkfish, flounder, cod, Maine shrimp and haddock. There is plenty of range within that listing for me and I do not eat a lot of fish either. Over-rated are fish that travel long distances to market. I’d rather the fish swim long distances to get here like the bluefish in late spring, striped bass in the summer or the swordfish in the autumn.

The reality is grains, legumes and vegetables are underrated. So is extra virgin olive oil. 90% of the time, that is all I need. Hopefully, the grains and vegetables come from someplace local. The best part about not eating a lot of dead animals is that clean-up is a breeze. And that’s important to me.

Despite cooking from scratch, I try to minimize my time in the kitchen. Recipes are rarely used. In terms of simple cooking (time and expense) most recipes are improved by the removal of an ingredient or two.

Recipes are great for reference, to use as a guideline. The only vegetables in my fridge right now are mostly roots. They are cheap and tasty so I cook with them……..winter style vegetables. Base vegetables like onions, carrots, turnip, potato, rutabaga and celery root. Greens like Brussels sprouts and kale.  And grains. Oats for breakfast, buckwheat too, rices, farro, spelt, barley, corn in the form of polenta, and lastly, wheat. I’m all about wheat, pasta, bread, pastry and whole grain wheat also, please. All non GMO. Legumes like lentils, chick-peas, favas and cannellini. Most everything else is overrated. Preferably, the only processing is the interaction between me, my blade and my cutting-board.

When I cook fish, I use classical techniques. I either use a court-bouillon to cook the fish or I fry, grill, poach or stew the fish. Steamed fish already sounds like punishment. Frying can involve either saute, shallow frying or deep fat frying. I’m not set up to perform the last detail. Why do I want fish and chips?

In terms of simple cooking, I try to think in terms of minutes rather than hours. We are all busy. Eat like a fish-monger. Thank you for reading my cooking efforts.