Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pork Chops with Bing Cherries

Bing cherries are one of my favorite summer foods.  Juicy, sweet, easy to eat out of hand...they are a perfect snack.  Occasionally in my kitchen a few of them will find their way into a batch of scones...or a cake...or a tart....  But mostly, I don't cook with them—I just want to enjoy them raw.

That said, one way I do enjoy Bing cherries in their cooked form is in a compote.  I usually think of a Bing cherry compote as being something for spoon over vanilla ice cream...or accompany a slice of pound cake.  But not always.  A few years ago I ran across a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks for pork tenderloin with Bing cherries.  The cherries in this recipe are the foundation of a reduction sauce that is really just a savory compote....and it is truly delicious with the pork.  Best of all, if you are willing to pit a few cherries, it is a fast and easy center piece for a simple summer meal (just roast some potatoes...or make some rice or couscous...and blanch a green vegetable ... and you have dinner). 

I have made only one change to the original recipe.  I use boneless pork loin chops instead of pork tenderloin.  I'm not a huge fan of pork tenderloin.  It tends to be a bit dry (because it is so very lean)...and its tapered shape makes it so that it is difficult to cook to a uniform doneness.  Either the narrow portion will be overcooked and dry, or the fatter end will be too undercooked for most people's liking.  Pork loin chops don't have any of these problems.

While on the subject of doneness, I would like to make a case for cooking pork to a lower temperature than the traditionally recommended 145° to 160° F.  The trichinae parasite which for many years was associated with pork has been virtually eradicated in the U.S.   Even if you did have in your possession a piece of pork harboring this parasite, cooking the pork so that it reaches (and maintains for a few moments) a temperature in the range of 135° to 140° F will eradicate the parasite.  (If you are interested in the technical details, there is a lot of information on this USDA site.).  When I cook pork, I aim for an internal temperature between 130° and 135°.  The temperature will continue to rise as the meat rests, stopping somewhere between 135° and 140°.  Cooking to this lower temperature range will result in a nice juicy piece of meat.  Pork with a final internal temperature much over 140° can be pretty dry.

Finally, I want to draw attention to the section of the recipe concerning pan size.  It's very important that the pan be large enough to hold all of the halved cherries in a single layer.  If the cherries are piled on top of one another (in a smaller pan), they will overcook and fall apart while the port and vinegar are reducing.  While I'm sure this would taste fine, it wouldn't be nearly as beautiful on the plate.  It is much better to use two pans than try to crowd everything into one. 

The original recipe for this dish is large, and I should admit that in practice, I almost never make the full recipe.  At home I am only feeding two...and neither of us are very big meat eaters.  We find that one 8 oz. pork chop is sufficient for us...and as long as I prepare a one third recipe of the sauce to go with our one chop (sliced and divided between two plates), we are more than satisfied.  I mention this for a couple of reasons:  First, to show that the recipe is quite flexible...that it can be easily altered to suit your family's needs....and secondly, to point out that all the pictures for this post were taken with these altered quantities (i.e. 1/6th recipe of pork...and 1/3rd recipe of the sauce).

If you have never had Bing cherries—or any of the other dark, sweet varieties that fill the markets during cherry season—in a savory preparation, you should definitely give this recipe a try.  I think that you will find this to be a dish that you will want to revisit each summer... at least once or twice. 

Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Bing Cherries

6 Boneless Pork Loin Chops (about 6 oz. each)
3 small cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
12 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt & Cracked Black Pepper
1 to 2 T. olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
1 T. minced fresh thyme
3 c. Bing Cherries (a generous pound), halved and pitted
2 T. sugar
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. port
Juice of 1/2 a lemon (or to taste)
2 T. butter

The day before you plan to serve the pork, place the pork in a non-reactive baking dish.  Add the thyme, crushing it with your fingers to release its fragrance, along with the garlic.  Rub the pork all over with the thyme and garlic.  Season generously with salt (about 1/4 t. per chop...more or less, to taste) and freshly cracked black pepper.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

Heat an ovenproof sauté pan (large enough to hold all of the halved cherries in a single layer*) over medium high heat.  Add the oil and then the pork chops.  Sear, turning once, until the chops are nicely browned.  Transfer the pan to a preheated 400° oven and cook until the chops are done to your liking (an instant read thermometer will read between 130° and 135° for medium).  Total cooking time (including the time on the stove and in the oven) will be about 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops.  Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the chops to a platter.

While the chops rest, make the sauce: Place the pan over medium-high heat and add the shallots and thyme.  Sauté until translucent and fragrant—a minute or so.  

Add the cherries.  Cook, shaking the pan, until the cherries are beginning to sizzle.  

Continuing to shake the pan, scatter the sugar over 

and cook until melted and beginning to caramelize.  

Increase the heat to high and add the balsamic vinegar and port.  Bring to a boil and cook until thickened.  (If the cherries are tender before the sauce is sufficiently reduced.  Remove the pan from the heat and using a slotted spoon, transfer the cherries to a plate.  Return the pan to the heat and continue to reduce the sauce.)  If you are not yet ready to serve the pork, set the pan aside. 

To serve, return the pan to high heat and bring the cherry sauce to a boil, adding any resting juices from the pork to the pan (and returning the cherries to the pan, if they have been removed).  Taste the sauce and add a squeeze of lemon juice if the sauce is overly sweet or flat in taste.  Season to taste with salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.  Swirl in the butter and spoon the cherries and their sauce over the pork (you may serve the chops whole, or slice each on a slight angle for a more elegant presentation).  Serve immediately.  Serves 6

* If you don’t have a sauté pan this large, use 2 smaller sauté pans.  Consolidate all of the cherries and reduced sauce to one of the pans for the final warming with the butter and pork resting juices.

(Recipe adapted from The Vineyard Kitchen—Menus Inspired by the Seasons, Maria Helm Sinskey)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Summer Lasagne...with Swiss Chard, Corn Pesto & Italian Sausage

I never cease to be amazed at the serendipitous way in which a delicious recipe can come together.  Case in point:  Recently, while purchasing dried pasta at the grocery store, I grabbed a box of no-boil lasagne noodles.  I was thinking about the beautiful Swiss chard I had at home and how it might be nice tucked into a lasagne. I didn't really have any specific ideas, other than I knew I had some ricotta in my fridge and consequently a beginning.

It wasn’t until I got home that I began to think about what else might be good.  Tomato sauce is an obvious choice...but the tomatoes really hadn't started to come into their own yet and the few that I had, I wanted to eat raw.  I did have a lot of fresh sweet corn (which is delicious with chard)...but this didn't solve my problem of a sauce...  A béchamel would have worked...but I didn't want anything quite so heavy. 

As it happened, my summer Corn & Zucchini class was approaching and the things that I teach in that class were in the forefront of my mind.  One of the recipes is for a delicious corn pesto.  It occurred to me that the corn pesto would make a pretty fine sauce-y component.  Suddenly, the lasagne fell into place:  Corn pesto, chard (braised with a little onion and garlic), ricotta, more corn...   Italian sausage (I almost always have some in my freezer...and I knew that its salty-sweetness would be just the thing)...  and finally, some low-moisture mozzarella that I happened to have in my cheese drawer.  If I had been purchasing cheese with the purpose of this lasagne in mind, I would have gravitated towards Fontal.  But the mild, faintly sweet, taste of the mozzarella turned out to be the perfect finishing touch.

If you keep regular lasagne (the kind you boil before using) on hand, I'm sure you could boil them and use them instead of the no-boil noodles in this lasagne.  But if you have never tried no-boil noodles, you should.  For one thing, no-boil noodles tend to be thinner than regular lasagne.  This makes for a finished pan of lasagne that is a bit more refined.  Furthermore, no matter how you make it, building lasagne is a project.  No-boil noodles relieve you of at least some of the work and the mess.  I like to dip the no-boil noodles into hot water (in a shallow pan, just off the boil) for a few seconds while I'm building each layer. (It is not necessary to spread them on towels or dry them.)  The quick dip in hot water will help them begin to soften and add the very small amount of moisture they will need to give them a nice tender—but not mushy—texture in the finished dish.  If you cover the baking lasagne with foil until the last 10 to 15 minutes of baking time, the noodles will become evenly hydrated, without drying out on the edges.

To make the lasagne, you will need 1 1/4 cups of roasted corn for the pesto and 1 cup to tuck into the lasagne.  This latter amount is an approximation....  I roast 2 to 3 ears of corn—depending on their size—make the pesto, and then add the remaining kernels to the lasagne.  If you have already made the pesto and don't want to roast more corn, simply add raw corn kernels to the onion and chard mixture in place of roasted corn.  If you have never roasted corn in the husk, check out my post from a few years back for a description of how it's done

As you look at this lasagne, you may think that it doesn't seem like a very large lasagne...but I think you will find that it is pretty rich.  Depending on what else you might be serving, you could get as many as 6 servings out of it.  I confess that the first time I made it, I didn't serve anything else and I ate a quarter of the pan.  On other occasions—with a side vegetable...or a fresh tomato salad—I have been content with a sixth.  If you are feeding a crowd of big eaters, you could make two pans (or in one big pan if you happen to have a 4 1/2-quart shallow, rectangular dish—like a 15- by 9- inch Pyrex).  The leftovers reheat beautifully, so you may want to make a double batch no matter how many you are feeding, just so you can have another serving all to yourself for lunch the next day.

 Swiss Chard & Corn Lasagne with Italian Sausage

4 to 6 oz. Sweet Italian Sausage, casings removed if necessary
1 to 2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1 c. corn kernels (cut from a raw or roasted ear of corn)
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
1 large bunch chard, stems removed, leaves cut into wide ribbons and rinsed thoroughly

1 c. (240 g) whole milk ricotta
1 oz. (1/3 c.) finely grated Parmesan
Salt & pepper

1 recipe corn pesto
1/4 c. heavy cream

8 "no-boil" lasagna (half of an 8 oz. box)

5 to 6 oz. coarsely grated low-moisture mozzarella

Place a tablespoon of oil in a wide sauté pan and crumble in the Italian sausage.  Place the pan over moderate heat and cook until the sausage is cooked through (no longer pink).  Remove the sausage to a plate. 

If the sausage was very lean, add more oil to the pan.  Add the onion, along with a good pinch of salt and sweat until very tender and beginning to caramelize on the edges—about 10 to 15 minutes (adding more oil if the onions seem dry).  

Add the corn—along with a pinch of salt—to the pan and cook until it is sizzling and hot through...5 minutes or so. 

Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant—less than a minute.  Begin adding the chard to the pan a handful at a time, turning it to coat in the oil and vegetables and adding successive handfuls as the previous handful begins to collapse.  (If the chard was just washed, it will still have water clinging to it that will help it to collapse.  If it was washed ahead, it may be which case you may need to add a quarter cup or so of water to the pan to create some steam to help the chard wilt.)  When all the chard has been added, cover the pan and cook over low heat until the chard is just tender (about 10 minutes).  Uncover and continue to cook until all the liquid has evaporated (the ingredients will begin to sizzle in the fat) and the chard is very tender.  Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.  

While the chard cooks, combine the ricotta and Parmesan in a small bowl.  Add salt & pepper to taste and blend well.  Set aside. 

In another small bowl, combine the pesto and cream.  Taste and correct the seasoning.  Set aside.

When you are ready to build the lasagne, oil a square 2-quart baking dish (an 8 1/2- by 8 1/2-inch Pyrex is perfect) and bring a shallow pan of water just to the boil and remove from the heat.  Arrange these two items...along with all the other components—on your workspace so that you have easy access to everything.   Add two of the noodles to the pan of hot water.  Spread a couple of spoonfuls of corn pesto in the bottom of the oiled dish.  (The layer of corn pesto on the bottom should be very more than a quarter of a cup.  You should have a cup and a half in total of the corn pesto/cream mixture...if you use a scant quarter cup on the bottom...and then a third cup in each layer, you should have a generous quarter cup left to spread on the top) You are now ready to build the lasagne:

Lift the noodles out of the pan. (They should not be soft or flexible at this're just giving them a head start by soaking them briefly—less than a minute.)  Let the excess water drip back in to the pan and arrange them in a single layer in the prepared baking dish.  Add a couple more noodles to the pan of hot water (to soak while you build the first layer).  Spread a third of the chard/corn mixture over the noodles in the lasagne pan. Scatter a third of the sausage over the chard.  

Daub a third of the ricotta over everything.  

Spread a third cup of the pesto over the ricotta (they will marble together a bit...this is fine).  Finally, add an ounce or so (about 1/4 cup) of the grated mozzarella.  

Repeat this process (beginning with the placement of the two noodles) 

two more times.  Finish with two more (soaked) noodles, the remainder of the pesto (spreading evenly) 

and a scattering of the remaining mozzarella (about 2 oz.).

Cover the pan with a piece of aluminum foil that has been brushed on the underside with olive oil (or sprayed with pan spray), tenting the foil slightly if possible so that it isn't touching the top of the lasagne.  Bake in a 375° oven until the mozzarella on top has just melted—about 20 to 25 minutes.  Uncover and continue to bake until the lasagne is bubbling around the edges and a skewer inserted in the center is hot (160° to 180°).  If the top is not browned to your liking, briefly run the lasagne under the broiler.  Let the lasagne rest for 10 to 15 minutes.  Cut with a sharp knife and serve.  Serves 4 to 6.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Gina DePalma's Zucchini & Olive Oil Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze

I think I have mentioned before that one of the many reasons that I keep a food blog is an entirely selfish one. My work in food tends to be quite varied.... I prepare private dinners, teach classes, develop recipes...and I work on call for a friend. An unfortunate consequence of all of this interesting variety is that often weeks will go by before I make a recipe for a second or third time. Without regular repetition it can be easy to forget exactly how I did something for a particular recipe. (The fact that I really do cook seasonally...which makes it so that often I will go a year before making something again...doesn't help.) Keeping a blog has given me a written...and just as importantly, a photographic...memory bank of exactly how I made something. Being able to see a certain dish again...and read about what was going on in my head the first time I made it...helps me immensely—both privately and professionally.

Today's post falls into this "selfish" category. I have mentioned this cake...and linked to the original recipe (which I am sharing today, unchanged from the original)...on another occasion. So in some respects, it is a redundant post. But when I pulled out this recipe to make it again this year for my "Corn & Zucchini" class, my memory of the actual nuts and bolts of the recipe wasn't as clear as I would have liked (I really just remembered how much I liked the cake). I wanted to know, for example, exactly how finely I had grated the zucchini...and what I had meant by "finely chopped" walnuts. These terms are pretty specific...and I had a pretty good idea what they meant...but there is no guarantee that I will make the cake often enough to remember these things next time... So I took a picture.

In my defense, my reasons for writing a post are not entirely self-serving.  I know that the pictures will help others too.  Moreover, by posting it again, it will emphasize to visitors how really great this cake is. I think it is the best zucchini cake ever.  As I mentioned, I can claim no credit for the recipe.  It was developed by Gina DePalma (former pastry chef at Babbo) and adapted by David Lebovitz.  Unlike a lot of zucchini cakes that have a damp, slightly sponge-y and coarse texture, this one is moist (but not wet) and beautifully fine-grained.  And it tastes wonderful.  Not only did DePalma incorporate walnuts and lemon...two of my favorite zucchini companions in savory cooking, she added a healthy dose of spice (always a good idea in a squash cake—I'm convinced it's the spices that people love in pumpkin baked goods...).

You should definitely make plans to make this cake.  And since zucchini season is long and abundant, I'm certain you will be able to find an occasion sometime during the next couple of months for which it would be appropriate.  As a matter of fact, right now would be a fine occasion:  as a treat...for yourself.  The cake is large, so there will be plenty to share.  You can tell you family and friends that you made it for them.  Only you have to know that your reasons for making the cake were (almost) entirely selfish.       

Zucchini & Olive Oil Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze

1 c. (115g) walnuts, toasted
2 1/2 c. (280g) all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. kosher salt
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 3/4 c. (350g) sugar
1 c. (200g) olive oil
2 t. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. (300g) finely grated zucchini (from 340g/12oz. whole zucchini)

1/4 c. (55g) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 c. (65g) granulated sugar
1 1/4 c. (140g) confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease a 10-cup bundt pan (see note) with non-stick spray or butter, dust with flour, then tap out any excess.

Pulse the nuts in a food processor until finely chopped.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and olive oil for 3 minutes on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Stop and scrape down the sides of the mixer, then beat in the vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the mixer bowl to make sure everything is mixed in well, then beat on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Stir in the chopped nuts and zucchini.

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan, smooth the top, then bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake has begun to pull away from the sides of the pan.

During the last few minutes of the cake baking, make the glaze by whisking together the lemon juice, 1/3 cup (65g) granulated sugar, and powdered sugar.  Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then carefully invert it onto a cooling rack. Brush the glaze over the cake with a pastry brush and let the cake cool completely.

Note: This cake can also be baked in two loaf pans.  You may need to reduce the baking time a little to compensate for the smaller pans.

(Recipe adapted by David Lebovitz from Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen by Gina DePalma)

Monday, June 27, 2016

New Potatoes Roasted with Pimentón de la Vera

I have really been enjoying the wide variety of new potatoes on offer at my new farmers' market over the past two or three weeks.   The available array is astonishing...and I have only had time so far to sample a few:  beautiful fingerlings, baby reds, and this week, some gorgeous little yellow fleshed potatoes called German Butterballs.   I love potatoes, but it has been a while since I have enjoyed them so much.

My last post featured some of the fingerling potatoes in a simple braise with baby carrots and shelling peas.  We had enjoyed the braise so much that I made it a second time within the span of a week.  Something similar happened with the roasted potatoes that I am posting today.  I served them on Thursday with a Swiss chard frittata, and they were so good I made them again on Sunday night to go with a pork chop and some green beans with almonds.  The first time a used a baby red variety...and the second time those special little German Butterballs.  I'm certain you could use just about any potato that you prefer....or that is available to you at your local market.

As far as food with which to pair your pimentón de la Vera-seasoned potatoes, I would be hard pressed to come up with a chop...or cutlet...or filet...that wouldn't be delicious.  Pimentón de la Vera—or smoked Spanish paprika—is delicious with fish and fowl...and pork and beef and lamb.  If you have never encountered the subtle smoky sweetness of pimentón de la Vera, it's time that you did.  And these simple potatoes are a perfect place to try it out. 

Occasionally I rebel at the thought of giving a hard a fast recipe for something...and this is one of those times.  These are just roasted potatoes...with some extra seasoning.  Everyone who cooks should master the technique of roasting vegetables...a recipe should not be necessary.  It is a basic..and truly easy...method.  When done properly, it produces delicious results that are appropriate for all kinds of occasions and are always greeted with much appreciation.  If you haven't learned the basics of roasting vegetables, then you should take the time to read the detailed post I wrote several years ago on the subject...and then try it out.

For these potatoes, I have altered my method described in that old post in only one respect.  I have incorporated the French technique of finishing with a bit of butter.  Butter added towards the end of the cooking process (to a pan of sautéed or roasted vegetables....or a pan-seared steak or chop...) is a great way to add flavor and moisture.  It also makes foods look great since it rounds out the golden color of whatever it is you are browning (the milk solids in the butter begin to toast and brown immediately upon contact with the hot pan and hot food...then they cling to the food, imparting a beautiful golden brown color as you baste or turn the food over in the melting butterfat).

I have said I don't want to give a recipe...this should be a "to taste" endeavor...but I will give a range on the measurements in addition to the method to get you started.  To begin, choose a roasting pan that will hold the potatoes in a snug single layer.  I like to use a shallow enameled cast iron gratin/casserole.  Scrub the potatoes.  If they are freshly dug new potatoes, the skins will probably rub off—which is fine.  Depending on the size of the potatoes, cut them in halves, quarters or wedges....or leave them whole.  You want them to be in rough 1-inch chunks...some may be slightly larger and some slightly smaller, but they should all be about the same size so they will roast evenly.  If the potatoes you happen to have are long and narrow, simply halve them lengthwise and don't worry that they are longer than an inch. 

Preheat the oven to 425°.  Toss the potatoes in olive oil, smoked paprika, salt & pepper.  For a pound of potatoes, you will need about 1 to 1 1/2 T. of oil (enough to coat the potatoes generously) and 3/4 to 1 t. of pimentón de la Vera (more...or you prefer...).  Spread the potatoes in the pan and transfer to the oven.  

After about 15 to 20 minutes...when the potatoes are sizzling and have begun to take on color, use a pancake turner-style spatula to "stir" and turn them over.  Continue to roast until almost tender...another 10 minutes or so.  Cut some butter into 1/2-inch cubes (use 1 to 1 1/2 T. for a pound of potatoes) and add to the pan, tossing and stirring to coat the potatoes in the melting and bubbling butter.  Return the pan to the oven and continue to roast until the potatoes are beautifully browned and tender all the way through.  Stir them once or twice to make sure they aren’t sticking or burning.  When done, remove from the oven and add some chopped flat leaf parsley (roughly 2 T. for a pound of potatoes).  

Serve right away.  You will need about 1 1/4 to 1 1/3 lb of potatoes to feed four people. 

If you read the post on roasting vegetables, you will know there is a lot of wiggle room in the above method.  For example, if you cut your potatoes larger than mine, you will need to lower the oven temperature 25° to 50° (and roast them for a longer length of time).  Similarly, if your pan is more crowded, you will need to increase the temperature...  And if your pan is a bit large (and the potatoes are spread further apart), you will need to lower the temperature.  Your oven will also vary from mine in its power and capacity to brown.  My oven browns very well...  If yours does not, you might need to use a higher temperature.  As always, start with the recipe...then use your senses to adjust as you go to achieve the desired result. 

Finally, I'm certain if you make these simple potatoes that you will come up with some interesting variations.  The second time I made them I added a handful of green olives (pitted and halved...but you could add them whole and unpitted...or whole and pitted) to the pan with the butter.  The olives were deliciously browned and slightly shriveled when the potatoes were done.  I could have added them during just the last couple of minutes if I had only wanted to heat them through.  A few cloves of unpeeled garlic, added at the beginning would be delicious....  Or, you could add a clove of finely minced garlic when you add the parsley.  A little bit of Spanish chorizo, diced and added five minutes before the potatoes are done would be nice too.... There are lots of possibilities...  But really.  None of these variations are necessary.  These simple potatoes are pretty fine with just the pimentón de la Vera, butter and parsley.

Monday, June 20, 2016

A New Farmers' Market...and an Early Summer Vegetable Ragoût of New Fingerling Potatoes, Baby Carrots and the Last of the Shelling Peas

I recently decided that it was time to try a new farmers' market.  Since I tend to be a creature of habit...and I have made a habit of my old market (shopping there every Saturday during the growing season for more than fifteen years)...switching to another is kind of a big deal.   The reasons for the move are too numerous and personal to share.  I will only say here that it was time for a least for a while.  There are of course many things I will miss from my old market.  Two or three vendors in particular I will miss so much that I'll probably take the time to swing by my old market occasionally just to say hello and purchase some of my favorite items.  But for the most part I am enjoying the new one very, very much. 

My new market, the Brookside Farmers' Market, is not really new.  It has been around for more than 10 years.  I might have even visited once or twice before.  But for some reason it has never caught my fancy in quite the way it did when I wandered into the midst of the stalls a couple of weeks ago.  There is much at the Brookside Market that appeals:  It is an all local (everything comes from within 100 miles), all organic, vendor run market.  Best of all—as far as I'm concerned—is the fact that no re-sale is allowed.  The vendors are also the producers.  The consequent pride with which they display their products is evident in the beautiful, visual feast that greets you at each and every stall.  These vendors are intimately acquainted with their produce...and are pleased and proud to tell you about it. 

Since I have posted less frequently than usual in recent weeks, it would be tempting to assume that I might have been feeling a bit uninspired.  But this is not the case at all.  Rather, I have just been experiencing the normal busy-ness of June (looking back at the frequency of posting in previous Junes will bear this out).  I have actually been feeling more inspired by the beautiful things I have been bringing home with me from the Brookside Market...I just haven't had the time to write a post.  (If you follow me on Instagram, I have been trying to at least take a few pictures...).  It is my hope that my blog will reflect this newfound inspiration during the months ahead.    

In the mean time, I wanted share a simple and delicious early summer vegetable ragoût made with some of my recent market finds.  We have enjoyed it twice during the past week (it was that good!)—once with pork...and once with chicken.  Featuring true new fingerling potatoes (so new the skin can be simply rubbed off under running water), 

small and tender carrots, and sweet shelling peas (unfortunately, the last ones of the year), it is a perfect example of what I love about market cooking: There is nothing exotic...or complicated...about it.  Rather, the final dish is just a thoughtfully composed and carefully prepared combination of the best the season has to offer....   The goal is simply to allow each vegetable to shine.

I am of course including the recipe for the ragoût at the end of the post, but if you have never prepared a simple mixed vegetable ragoût, you might want to read the post I wrote a few years ago on how to build a seasonal vegetable ragoût. I think you will find it to be quite helpful—not only for preparing this particular ragoût, but also for creating your own ragoûts as the growing season progresses. 

If you would like to serve your ragoût as I did with pork or chicken, you can find instructions for cooking the pork in a post I wrote last spring (just omit the sage...  or not...  I'm sure it would be delicious....) and for cooking the chicken in a basics post from several years ago.  If you do choose to serve the ragoût with a pan-fried or roasted chop or cutlet of some kind, don't forget to deglaze the pan with a bit of white wine...or stock...or water...and then add these deglazings to the ragoût at the end.  This small step will add flavor and at the same time tie the meat to the ragoût, creating a more unified plate.

Finally, if you are looking at this post and thinking that you are just looking at a plain old dish of potatoes with the dreaded childhood combination of peas and carrots, I can assure you that this dish—when made with fresh, in-season ingredients—is a revelation of just how good these humble vegetables can be.

With a Pan-roasted Chicken Breast

Market Ragoût of New Fingerling Potatoes, Young Carrots & English Peas

1/2 T. olive oil
2 1/2 T. unsalted butter, divided
2/3 c. sliced spring or early summer onions, white and very pale green portions only (see notes)
1 fat clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
6 oz. young carrots (about four), trimmed, peeled and halved lengthwise (see notes)
8 oz. new fingerling potatoes, well scrubbed (the skin will rub off—see notes) and halved lengthwise
2/3 to 1 c. chicken (or vegetable) stock
3 oz. shelled peas (a generous half cup)
1 T. minced chives
1 1/2 T. minced flat leaf parsley
Deglazings from pan-roasted meats (optional)

Set a sauté pan that is wide enough to hold all the vegetables in a snug single layer over medium heat.  Add the oil and a tablespoon of butter.  When the butter is melted, add the onions, garlic and carrots along with a generous pinch of salt.  Gently sweat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are just tender—about 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes and stir to coat in the fat and onions.  

If the pan seems dry, add a bit more butter.  Season with salt.  Add stock to a depth of about 1/2 inch. 

Bring to a simmer.  Cover with a tight fitting lid, reduce the heat and simmer gently until the carrots and potatoes are just tender—about 15 minutes.  Add the peas, cover and continue to cook until the peas are tender...another 3 to 5 minutes. 

Uncover.  If you have pan deglazings from a cutlet or chop, add them now.  Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  If the ragout is too dry for your liking (the finished stew should be a bit broth-y...but how broth-y is up to you), add more stock or water...tasting and correcting the seasoning again.  Bring to a gentle simmer, add the herbs and swirl in the remaining butter.  Serve immediately.  Serves 2 (see notes).

  • To prepare the onions, trim the root and tough green and then split the onions lengthwise. If there is a fibrous or tough shoot in the center, remove and discard it. Cut the halves lengthwise in 1/2 to 3/4-inch intervals. Slice these strips thinly (1/4-inch or so) crosswise. 
  • At this point in the season the dark green portions of the onions are becoming tough and bruised. If you are making a ragout earlier in the season and the green portions are still tender and fresh, by all means add them too...they may be added during the early stages of the cooking with the white of the onions, or tossed in at the end more like an herb. 
  • You may leave some of the green tops (a half inch or so) on the carrots if they are nice and you prefer. If the carrots are very small (1/2-inch in diameter), it is not necessary to halve them lengthwise. 
  • If your fingerlings are not "new", simply scrub them and leave the skin intact.
  • If you are not comfortable estimating how long the peas will take to cook and you don't want to risk under or over cooked carrots and potatoes, you may blanch the peas separately in boiling salted water. Shock in an ice bath or under cold running water to stop the cooking process. Add with the herbs and butter. 
  • This recipe is for two but it can obviously be increased to feed as many as you like. Simply make sure you choose a pan that will hold all of your vegetables in a snug single layer. A little overlap is OK...but if the vegetables don't have enough room to move you might end up with a mix of over and undercooked is better to use two pans...perhaps cooking the carrots in one and the potatoes in another...and combining them quickly at the end with blanched peas (see previous note), butter and herbs. 
With a Pan-Seared Pork Loin Chop