Sunday, May 29, 2011

Brown Sugar Rhubarb Tart

It's the hardest thing to remember, but it's important to just stop sometimes. I mean stop thinking, stop doing, and take a few minutes, or a few hours, and just enjoy.

Kind of funny, but today's "zen" moment was brought to you by the fruit, rhubarb.

It's something you don't see often in farmers' markets in New England. It always seems like I see it once or twice a year, and that's it. It's fleeting, but it's also extremely inspiring. I bought a bunch. I brought it home. I sliced it.

I pick up the satin-smooth slices and they go into the large pot on the stove. I've done this a hundred times. In goes the sugar, the butter, the salt, and the pinch of cinnamon. Start to cook, low and slow until the rhubarb begins to soften and break down. As I stood there stirring, I thought of all the things I was supposed to do. I had this blog post to write, I had to run to the store, the laundry hamper was full, but I kept stirring. Then and there, I changed the day.

Instead of writing or the store, there were Lemon-Rhubarb Martinis with my husband.

Instead of laundry, there were stalks of local asparagus tossed in olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and Parmesan. There were bourbon steak tips. There was peace and quiet because it's Sunday, and there was no excuse not to just stop.

Did I mention there was also a Brown Sugar Rhubarb Tart?

Brown Sugar Rhubarb Tart
Serves: 8-10
Base tart shell recipe adapted from: Smitten Kitchen

Rhubarb Compote:
1 3/4 pounds rhubarb, sliced
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Tart Shell:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (187.5 grams)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (this is the adaptation from a normal tart shell which usually uses confectioner's sugar, this makes your tart a tad more "rustic")
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons, 4 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled or frozen
1 large egg
2 tablespoons cold water

Brown Sugar Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup light brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour.
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled.

Let's start with the compote. In a large dutch oven or saucepan, combine rhubarb, sugar, butter, salt, and cinnamon. Cook over low heat, stirring here and there, until the rhubarb breaks down and pieces are soft. You don't want all of it to turn to mush, so take it off the heat when the pieces are softened. Set the compote aside.

Butter a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and set aside.

In a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt together until combined. Next, add your chilled butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse cornmeal. Finally, add your egg and pulse until just combined.

Turn crumbly dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Add your two tablespoons of cold water and knead lightly with your hands until the dough comes together. Take your buttered tart pan, and press your dough into the pan. Butter the shiny side of a sheet of aluminum foil and place on top of the dough in the pan. Transfer to the freezer for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. 

After the tart shell has been in the freezer for 30 minutes. Take it out, remove the foil in one piece, prick the center with a fork, and cover the dough again with the foil. Add dried beans or pie weights to the top of the foil and bake for 20-minutes until the edges are starting to get golden brown.

Take the shell out of the oven and set aside to cool a bit.

Head back over to the food processor, we're going to make the topping. In the food processor, combine the half cup of brown sugar, the 2.5 tablespoons of flour, salt, and cinnamon. Add your chilled butter to the mixture and pulse until you get a mixture that resembles coarse cornmeal.

Now let's assemble the tart. Take your shell, spread about a cup and a half of the rhubarb compote (you'll have some leftover to enjoy in other ways) over the top of the shell until it's completely covered. After that, take your topping and sprinkle it over the entire tart.

Pop it into the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the top is browned and fairly crispy. Take the tart out of the oven and allow to cool on a wire baking rack. Once it's cool enough to handle, pop the tart out of the pan and transfer to a plate. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

The Lighter Side of Local:

After a week off, we're back up and running. The meal described above was almost entirely local, other than the pantry ingredients. The steak tips and asparagus were from Tendercrop Farm in Newbury, MA. The rhubarb came from Arrowhead Farm in Newburyport. It's nice to be getting to that part of the season where the choices are getting much more diverse.

Here's what I got this week:
1 bag baby chard (for salads) - $4
1 bunch rhubarb - $5
1 bunch radishes - $3
1 bunch hakurei turnips - $3

$15 for the whole bunch this week, to be used in a bunch of different ways this week.

What are you finding locally this week?

And just a reminder, this offer is still available to you all!
I took so much away from Eat, Write, Retreat, last weekend in D.C. Apparently, the fine folks over at Calphalon want to give us all even more. Readers of Lighter and Local can receive 10% off on online purchases* at Calphalon between now and June 6th by using promotional code C95926

*Clearance Items and Gift Certificates do not qualify. Excludes John Boos & Co. Cannot be combined with other special offers or applied to previous purchases. Terms subject to change. Offer valid through June 6th, 2011.
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

A story about Eat, Write, Retreat with Honey & Sage Biscuits

I'm craving comfort again. This time let's switch pasta for full-fat, filled with butter, biscuits. I'm not scared or nervous. I just can't get this #@%* post to go quite right.

I never said I was anything but honest.

A week ago at this time, I was filled with butterflies. I was worried that I'd get to my first blogging conference, "Eat, Write, Retreat", and I'd be shunned like the leftovers in the back of your fridge.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

I came, I saw, I ate, I drank, I learned, I was inspired, but most importantly, I left with a whole lot of new friends.

Not bad for three days' time, eh? (Yes, new-found Canadian friends, that's for you.)

I tried this post about three different ways. Finally, I did what Monica Bhide suggested we all do in her writing workshop this weekend. I let the resistance go and I let all the assumptions go. There are some days where I can wax poetic about the extreme softness of the sage I picked from my garden for these biscuits. They slipped through my fingers, slightly damp from the morning, caked with just a little dirt from the rain the night before. This isn't one of those posts, this one needs to be straight up, and honest, like bourbon or a good scotch.

Things Eat, Write, Retreat taught me:

1. For the love of all things out there, talk to people.

Look at those faces. Are they scary, intimidating or look like they'll snub you? Nope, not going to happen. I was so worried that other food bloggers would think I'm not worthy enough, being the newbie that I am in this world. However, from the first moment I stepped out of the shadows and extended my hand, everyone was more than happy to chat and be friendly. Now, I've read all the stuff about other conferences this past weekend, and boy I'm glad I landed in D.C. Co-Founders Robyn Webb and Casey Benedict made sure we all mixed, mingled, and they tossed in a few glasses of wine to take the edge off.

2. Learn from each other.

We had a litany of people from every aspect of this business to chat with, which was amazing. However, some of the most fabulous (as Robyn would say) tidbits I soaked in, were from my fellow Eat, Write, Retreat attendees.

- Meet Mike from Verses from My Kitchen and Dan from Dan's Good Side. They were my partners in cooking at our cooking classes at CulinAerie and my partners in crime for a good part of the weekend. I have horrendous knife skills, they have amazing ones. Mike, especially, took the time to teach me.
- Ethan from Tastes Better with Friends truly taught me things *do* taste better with friends.
- Maisha from Girl Born Hungry gave us a beautiful look at her city at night.
- Kelly from Way More than Cheesecake, Isabelle from Good Food, Good Wine, and a Bad Girl, and Lara from Good Cook Doris, gave me a lesson that strong, confident, and dare I say it, fierce women are simply awesome.
- Chatting with Wendy from Celiacs in the House while waiting to head to airport, made me really think about where this whole blogging things is going, and I applaud her efforts to get it all there.

There are so many more, it would take me forever to mention every single writer that touched my heart and mind this weekend. I hope you know who you all are. I learned something from every, single, one of you.

3. Learn from the people who are "there".

When I say "there", I mean those who are well-known. Maybe they've published a cookbook or are working towards some major high-profile projects. You see Domenica Marchetti, Jennifer Perillo, and Shauna James Ahern above. They spoke to us about loving what you do, to be protective of our brands, and pay attention to our voices. They, along with several other amazing speakers, had so much knowledge to offer, but their biggest strengths was their approachability. All weekend long, they joined us at events, chatted with us, and offered their immense volumes of knowledge to all of us. Now, that we're home, they've continued the dialogue. I thank you all for that.

4. Let your expectations go.

From a lunch at McCormick & Schmick's (with that fabulous group of ladies on the left) that exceeded all my expectations to how much I love endive, I was constantly surprised this weekend. I was amazed by food writers who were more sweet than I could ever imagine to sponsors who really gave a damn. Sponsors can be about way more than just swag, people. I saw them at every panel, at every event, trying to learn how we work. They knew we were looking for quality people and products to work with, and ideas in which to engage. They did not fail in that mission.

5. Make friends.

Food blogging is about community. If you're not getting that message, figure out what you're doing wrong and fix it, you're missing the boat. Maybe it's just me. I'm not in this to get famous. If something bigger grows from this endeavor, so be it. It will be an organic process. However, along the way I'm happy to meet like-minded people, people who really love food and all that it means. I walked away from Eat, Write, Retreat with friends I hope I'll have for a lifetime, not just a weekend in D.C.

There are so many more photos. I realized I took far too many of food, and not enough of people. If you want to see more of our adventures, I'm OK with that. You can click here to see a few more. 

An offer for you, my dear readers:

I took so much away from Eat, Write, Retreat. Apparently, the fine folks over at Calphalon want to give us all even more. Readers of Lighter and Local can receive 10% off on online purchases* at Calphalon between now and June 6th by using promotional code C95926

*Clearance Items and Gift Certificates do not qualify. Excludes John Boos & Co. Cannot be combined with other special offers or applied to previous purchases. Terms subject to change. Offer valid through June 6th, 2011.

Honey & Sage Biscuits
Yield: 9 biscuits
Adapted from: The New York Times

I know this is a marathon post. I just don't want to give background without something yummy to nibble on. These are addicting. Don't say I didn't warn you in advance. The honey is from a local beekeeper. Use local honey if you can, it helps with allergies as well! The sage is from my backyard garden, how I love how it comes back every year with a vengeance.

2 cups all-purpose flour (250 grams)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tablespoon honey (preferably local)
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk (I made my own, 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar, fill measuring cup to the 1 cup line with regular milk, allow to stand for 5 minutes, use as much as you need)
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. 

Over a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. At this point, you can either transfer to a large food processor or continue in the large bowl to cut the butter in. Add your chilled, diced butter to the food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. If doing by hand, cut butter into dry ingredients using two knifes or a pastry blender. Again, you want the consistency of coarse cornmeal here. 

Next, stir in your chopped fresh sage leaves (if using a food processor, transfer mixture back into the large bowl). Create a well in the middle of the mixture and add in your honey and your milk. Stir until combined and you can create a large ball of the dough with your hands. 

At this point, lightly flour your work surface. You have choices here. You could shape the dough with your hands into a 7x7 rectangle about 1/2 an inch thick and cut it into nine rectangles. Alternatively, you can roll the dough out on that floured surface (with a piece of plastic wrap on top) and use a biscuit cutter to make rounds with the dough.

Whichever way you choose, transfer the pieces to a baking sheet and brush the top of each with your melted butter. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Serve warm.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

A gift to Eat, Write, Retreat - Chocolate Bourbon Toffee Cupcakes

I'm a very lucky lady. I mean that statement in its most honest form. I'm filled this morning with swells of happy sappiness. Thick, gooey, need-a-harsh-chemical-to-get-it-all-off, kind of sappiness. The kind that people think is cute and then wonder what's wrong with you, kind of sappiness. I can't help it. It's who I am.

Sleepy, eyes ringed in dark circles, but with a brain energized, I got home to Boston from Washington, DC, last night. I spent the weekend putting voices to names and photos I only knew from a tweet or an email. Lovely, lilting, laughing voices who are still in my head this morning, making me smile from ear-to-ear. Seriously people, I'm sitting here at my laptop with a massive grin on my face as I write.

I jetted (doesn't that sound fabulous? I jest.) down to D.C. for Eat, Write, Retreat, my first-ever blogging conference. I don't want to recap it entirely for you. I'd never do it justice. I could never catch the spirit of the amazing people I met and from which I learned. I'll say this, I'm blessed to be part of this community of food bloggers. We have so much to learn from one another, and everyone is so eager to share what they know, and what they don't.

When I first sat down to my table for dinner on Saturday night to a table full of people I had never met in real life, several of my fellow food writers said, "You're just like you are on Twitter!". It was probably the most cherished thing said to me the entire weekend. Why? I strive to be honest here, to give you a little slice of something from my kitchen, and from my life. I want people to know the joy my kitchen creates for me, and hopefully for them. You can't go through life pretending you're something you're not. It's exhausting. This is me, you get the whole deal.

I have a lot to say about this weekend, but it's still marinating in my brain. It's not ready to be thrown on the grill yet, it needs time to soak up all the amazing flavor it has been given. So instead, I'll give you cupcakes. Don't lecture me on how cupcakes are "so over". Get over it. They taste like birthday parties in elementary school,  they go anywhere, they're classic. Nothing that tastes amazing should ever be passé. It should be cherished like the scrawl on the cupcake recipe card you have stashed in a box, you know, the one your mother gave you.

So to all of my fellow attendees from Eat, Write, Retreat this weekend, the amazing organizers of Robyn Webb and Casey Benedict, the amazing panels that allowed our thoughts to grow, the sponsors who made our suitcases nearly burst at the seams on the way home, this one's for you. A simple cupcake to nibble on and look back on this weekend. Thank you for the journey and I hope there are many more to come.

Chocolate Bourbon Toffee Cupcakes
Yield: 18
Base recipes adapted from: David Lebovitz and Joy of Baking

You might be saying, "where's the local in this?". I've explained before, I believe baking from scratch at home is the ultimate local, but in this case, several ingredients used are local/regional. The flour hails from King Arthur in Vermont, but more importantly the semi-sweet chocolate used in the frosting is from Taza Chocolate in Somerville, MA. They're amazing on all fronts, please check them out. The frosting recipe will make extra, but that's OK, you can never go wrong with extra frosting.

9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) cake flour (not self-rising)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup strong coffee (or water, but I recommend the coffee), cooled
1/2 cup whole or low-fat milk (I used low fat)
3/4 cup of milk-chocolate covered toffee pieces (such as Heath's baking pieces)

8 ounces (240 grams) semi-sweet baking chocolate
1 1/3 cup (200 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 cup (250 grams) confectioner's (icing) sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons bourbon

Milk-chocolate covered toffee pieces (such as Heath's baking pieces)
Sea Salt

Set the rack in your oven to the center, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Take two cupcake/muffin pans and butter top of each pan and fill the little holes with your favorite cupcake liner, and set them aside. (You'll have one full pan, one half full)

Now, sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a bowl.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, or by hand, beat together the butter and sugar about a minute until it becomes smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.

In a glass measuring cup or bowl, combine the coffee and the milk.

Stir half the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, add the coffee/milk mixture and then stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.

Finally, you can stir in your toffee chips. If you do this in a stand mixer, do it on the "stir setting", and make sure they don't get pulverized by the paddle. It's almost easier to simply stir the pieces in by hand.

Now take that batter, and pour it into your little cupcake liners, filling them about 2/3 of the way full. Pop them in the oven and bake until a toothpick comes out of the center cleanly, about 19-21 minutes.

Allow the cupcakes to cool in their pan 5 minutes, and then let them cool completely on a wire baking rack. As the cupcakes cool, let's make your frosting.

In a double boiler (or a heat-safe bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water), melt your chocolate, stirring constantly. Take the chocolate off the heat, and allow to cool to room temperature.

While the chocolate is cooling, beat your butter in a stand mixer (or with a hand variety) until smooth and creamy (about a minute). Add your confectioner's sugar to the mixture and continue beating until fluffy (about two minutes). Stir in your vanilla extract and your chocolate. Beat the frosting on low speed until everything is combined. Finally, add your bourbon and increase speed to medium-high until frosting is smooth and shiny (about two to three minutes).

If you'd like, using a long piping tip and a bag, you can pipe a bit of the frosting into the center of each cooled cupcake, or you can simply frost the top in any fashion you like. Sprinkle some chocolate-covered toffee bits and a touch of sea salt on top and enjoy! Pin It

Thursday, May 19, 2011

First Day of School and a Broccoli Rabe & Kale Pasta Bake

I need some comfort food. I need pasta. I'm a ball of nervous excitement this week. I feel like a kid before their first day at a new school. I'm thinking about what I'm going to say, wear, and wondering if the kids will like me. No, Kimmy, don't have another glass of wine, and dear, definitely stop at one margarita, tequila can be bad. I'm a fairly confident person, but the idea of walking into a room of crazy talented people and trying to keep up, well, it's still pretty scary. This Friday, I'm going to Eat, Write Retreat, my first blogging conference.

While I'm a tad nervous, I don't think I've been this excited for something in a long time. I'm going to get to meet people I've been dying to meet. I'm going to learn things that I never dreamed of learning. I'm going to figure out how to arm myself in the best way to keep bringing all my readers awesome and informative (and yummy) content.

I promise myself that I will get all my courage up and talk to people, a lot of people. I'm going to explain my purpose clearly. Most of all, I'm going to have fun, because that's really what life is all about right? It's about finding amazing, kindred souls and new friends to share life's cool offerings with.

For all of you that are going to Eat, Write, Retreat, I can't wait to meet you, toast with you,  have an amazing time learning with you all. Please, for the love of all things lovely, if you see me in a corner, looking around nervously, come chat with me, I don't bite. For those not going, please follow along all weekend at #ewr11 on Twitter, and I'm sure I'll have plenty to recap for you all early next week.

In the meanwhile, I'm sure you have plenty of yummy local produce to use up this week. One good way to tackle all that bounty is a good old fashioned pasta bake. It's rainy, cold, and yucky up in New England this week and this will warm you up. It's not the tomato sauce filled time of pasta bake, but a lighter, fluffier version with a little kick from the hot Italian sausage. I hope you enjoy and I'll catch you all after the weekend.

Broccoli Rabe & Kale Pasta Bake
Serves: 8

1 cup roughly chopped kale
1 cup chopped broccoli rabe (or raab, or rapini, all the same thing)
1 pound penne pasta
1/2 pound (about four links) hot Italian turkey sausage (or pork, up to you)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1 cup chopped garlic greens
salt and pepper
16 ounces ricotta cheese (whole or skim, your choice)
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, reserving some to sprinkle over the top
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Bring 4-6 quarts of water up to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot. While the water is getting up to a boil, prepare an ice bath and set aside. Once water is boiling, add kale and broccoli rabe, and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft. Using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer the rabe and the kale to the ice bath to stop the cooking process and to keep that great green color. Drain, and set aside.

Now in that same saucepan of water, add your penne and cook until al dente, drain and set aside and keep warm.

In a large skillet, brown your Italian sausage (if in casing, remove from casings). Once browned and crumbly, transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.

Now, in that same skillet you were just using, melt your butter over medium heat, and then add your onion and cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Next, add your garlic greens and cook for about 30 seconds, until you can smell them. At this point, you want to add your kale and broccoli rabe to the skillet. Season the greens with salt and pepper and allow the greens to soak up the flavor of the onion and garlic greens. Add back in the sausage and stir to combine everything. Once everything is mixed together, take off of the heat and set aside.

While that mixture cools a bit, take a very large bowl (you're going to add the greens and pasta in soon) and combine ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, and the eggs, mix well. Dump your pasta and your greens/sausage mixture in with the cheeses and toss to coat. Sprinkle the top with additional mozzarella cheese.

Pour mixture into a 9x13 baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for 25-30 minutes until bubbly. Take out of oven, and dig in while it's piping hot! Pin It

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza Grinding Challenge: Spring Chorizo Arepas

It's the 15th of May, and you all know what comes on the 15th, right? It's this month's Charcutepalooza challenge, which happens to be grinding. Now, we're also going to make this a local affair as well, so stay with me here. Grinding meat is the start of making your own sausage. Well, technically it is making sausage, you're just not stuffing it quite yet. I'm feeling a whole lot of possible jokes here, but let's just bypass the 6th grade humor and move on, shall we?

We are making chorizo today, that spicy Mexican sausage that can spice up everything from pasta to scrambled eggs. Foraying your way into home sausage making, meat curing, grinding, etc. is one of the ultimate ways to stay local and homemade. You control what goes into your food, not some processing plant in Iowa. You've got to play by the rules and stay safe, however. You want to chill all your tools, your food processor (or grinder parts) blades, bowls, and you want to have your mise en place all set up. In other words, make sure all your ingredients are measured out and all set to dump in, you're going to work quickly.

You want to source out fresh, antibiotic and hormone-free, local pork for this event. I'm lucky enough to have the kind folks at Kellie Brook Farm in Greenland, NH nearby. I ordered up 4 pounds of pork butt from Tim, who was nice enough to drop it off at my local farm. They're also at the Newburyport Farmers' Market every Sunday. I'm lucky, I know. You want to make 1-inch cubes out of that pork, keep the fat with it, you need it. Once you've cubed it up, chill it. The colder you keep everything involved, the safer you are.

Now, I used my food processor to grind the pork. It's a great method, and you can find out more about it from Cathy over at Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen. There's a funny story here, however. I did purchase the meat grinding attachment for my Kitchen Aid Mixer. I was thrilled, I've always wanted it. So, it came in the mail, I looked through it, but obviously not close enough. Last night, I pulled it all out to clean and put into the freezer and I noticed there was no blade. No blade, means no grinding. So, while I sort this all out with Amazon, I improvised with the food processor. Honestly, it worked absolutely great.

Chorizo is fabulous. It crumbles beautifully and browns up perfect. A lot goes into this, from various chiles to tequila to fresh oregano. I'm not sharing the exact recipe (against our Charcutepalooza rules), but it's a mash up of Michael Ruhlman's version in his book Charcuterie (the Charcutepalooza bible) and Cathy's version, which you can find here. I liked Cathy's idea of using whole dried chiles and I couldn't pass up Ruhlman's use of tequila.

The Lighter Side of Local, Week 3 - Sourcing Local Meat

I thought this would be a great time to chat about sourcing local meat, since it was used in his chorizo and in this recipe that follows. If you're unsure of where to start your search, ask around at your local farmers' market or farm. Often produce farmers have partnerships with those who raise cattle or pigs. Local meat has so many advantages. You know where it grazes and roams, it's fresher, and you can question the people who raise the animals. Find out what they eat; for many people, eating grass-fed beef is important because of quality and taste. Where do they live on the farm, how are they treated, are big questions for me. You probably also want to ask if the meat is organic or if any antibiotics or hormones are used (most local farms do not). It's a good idea to inquire about their processing methods. Ask if the animals butchered and processed on site (sometimes), or are they sent to a USDA processing plant (more common), and then sent back for furthering butchering at the farm before being sold to you.

I'm telling you this. Yes, it's more expensive. I'm lucky enough to have a local farm who sells something like grass-fed ground beef for maybe $2 a pound more than my grocery store, but I know not everyone is so lucky. Here's a secret though, the quality and taste is so good, you can use less of it. Less meat is better for your wallet, and it's better for your health.

What I picked up this week (let's include the local meat this week, shall we?)

4.75 pounds pork butt - $17.65 (yielded 3 pounds chorizo, I could have made various sausages or even roasted or braised half of that roast)
1 bunch leeks
1 bunch spinach
1 bunch rainbow chard (greens were a deal from Arrowhead Farm in Newburyport, 3 for $10)
3 pounds red potatoes - $4.50

Plans for meals this week include chorizo with pasta with beans, and corn frozen when it was fresh. A potato and leek soup is also on the menu as well as a quiche made with the spinach and the chard.


Arepas are made of ground corn flour, popular in Columbia and Venezuela. They're a corn griddle cake that can be filled or topped with cheese, eggs, meat, pretty much whatever you want. You'll need to find Masarepa (pre-cooked white or yellow corn flour) in order to make them. Goya makes a version that I found at my local supermarket. It's fairly easy to find. They're tasty, especially when filled with some kind of cheese, and they happen to be perfect topped with chorizo.

Spring Chorizo Arepas
Yield: 8

Source: Goya
2 cups masarepa
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups warm water
butter for grilling

1 1/2 cups chopped kale
1 1/2 cups chopped rainbow chard
1/2 pound chorizo
1/2 cup chopped garlic greens (or 3 cloves regular garlic)
1 cup sliced radishes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chipolte chile powder (or regular or Mexican chile powder)
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 avocado, sliced
queso fresco (Mexican white cheese, farmer's cheese would be similar)

First, let's make the arepas. In large bowl, combine masarepa, water, and salt and stir until combined. Allow to sit for five minutes. While you're allowing it to rest, heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat, melting enough butter to grill the cakes you're about to make. Now, form 8 small balls of the mixture, pressing each down until they make a 4-5 inch tortilla, about 1/2 an inch thick. Grill each until golden on each side. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Now, get your water boiling in a large saucepan. While that's happening, fill an ice bath in a large bowl and set aside. Once your water is boiling, add kale and rainbow chard, cooking about 2 minutes before you fish it out with a slotted spoon or strainer, plunging it into the ice bath. Drain and set aside.

Begin to brown your chorizo in a large skillet over medium heat. You want it to get nice and browned, very crumbly. Once it gets to that point, transfer it to a paper-towel lined plate, cover with foil and set aside.

In that same skillet with the fat from the chorizo, add your garlic greens, radishes, kale, chard and all of your spices. Cook for 7-8 minutes until the radishes are tender.

Finally, you want to assemble these babies. Take your arepas, top with greens mixture, chorizo, queso fresco, and then top with the slices of avocado. Serve and enjoy! Pin It

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

I should probably be talking about asparagus or something, right? Well, this girl, she can't live on lovely, local, seasonal produce alone. I'll be checking in with all of you on your local journey on early on in the week, but today is for me to show you what else is going on in my kitchen. Today, we're talking brownies, as in, "can't stop eating them" brownies.

If you bake well, or heck, even if you're a disastrous baker, friends come out of the woodwork. I mean, even a fallen cake is tasty, how could any combination of butter, sugar, and chocolate not be tasty? Most of my baking creations go to my friends at work. Several who peek over at my desk from day-to-day to see what I've brought in. This usually immediately follows a discussion with my husband at home where he tells me, "Do NOT bring any of that in, it's mine." Usually, I ignore him, there's a good reason though. Keep reading.

I made that mistake with these brownies. I believed him. I didn't bring any to work. Oh, how that was a mistake. You see, if that pan sits on my counter for a couple of days, this is what happens. I get up in the morning, make my coffee, I see that pan, covered with little foil, gleaming on the kitchen island. While I mindlessly start sipping coffee in my lack-of-sleep induced haze, my fingers start stretching. They tiptoe across the wooden cutting board, towards that pan, pick up the knife that's always nearby, and cut the smallest of squares. Brownies with coffee, hell's yeah.

But it doesn't end there.

Mid-morning comes, sun streaming through my kitchen windows beautifully, hitting than pan of brownies, making the foil shimmer like diamonds. I'm maybe working on a blog post, chatting with you all on Twitter, playing with pugs, or thinking (stress, "thinking" here) about cleaning the house. I see the sparkle, my fingers start stretching again. Suddenly, in my walk from the kitchen to the living room to stop a pug from eating paperwork left on the table (yes, they eat paper), I stop and cut off a tiny square.

You see a pattern here, right?

By the time I'm thinking of packing up a tiny square for dessert after my dinner at work, I'm horrified. I look down at that seemingly innocent baking pan, and a big chunk is missing. That's because the scene I described for you above, it keeps happening all morning.

So that is why, dear co-workers, you always get treats. Your producer has zero willpower. Love, Kimmy.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies
Makes: 16 brownies
Adapted from: Ghiradelli

4 oz Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate (1 bar)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Peanut Butter Topping:
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used all-natural and local Teddie's. If using a commercial version, use sugar to taste)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Grease an 8x8 baking pan and set aside. In a double-boiler (or a heat-safe bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water), melt chocolate bar and butter over low heat, consistently stirring, until smooth. Take pan off the heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Next, add your eggs and stir until combined. Now, in another bowl, sift (yes I mean it, sift it) together flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture. Finally, stir in your chocolate chips. Pour batter into the prepared pan and set aside.

In another bowl, combine your peanut butter, sugar and vanilla and stir until well-mixed. Now, taste the mixture. You can add more sugar if it's not sweet enough for you. Now, take the peanut butter mixture and pour it out on top of your brownie batter. Using a spatula, spread and swirl the peanut butter topping across the brownie batter.

Pop that pan in the oven, and bake about 25 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire baking rack before cutting.

North Shore Bloggers Consortium Weekend Picks 5/13-5/15

North Berwick Farmers' Market, Opening Day
Friday, May 13th, at North Berwick Town Hall Parking Lot, 21 Main Street North Berwick, Maine
Now, OK, I know this is outside the North Shore, but I'm always happy to give any farmers' market some love on opening day. I mean, this farmers' market has lobster, granola, honey, greens, duck eggs, the whole nine yards. Check them out, it sounds lovely. If you want more information, click here

Vintage Baseball
Saturday, May 14th, at Spencer-Little Farm (5 Little’s Lane Newbury, Mass)
11am -4pm / Free Admission
Watch the Essex Base Ball Club take on the Brooklyn Atlantics in this throwback game of baseball. It's played just like it was in the 1860's. You can bring a blanket, sample some Ipswich Ale and watch it unfold on a lovely spring afternoon.

Bouquets in Bloom, An Evening of Wine Tasting
Saturday, May 14th, at Newburyport City Hall, 60 Pleasant Street, Newburyport, MA
6pm-9:30pm / Tickets: $35 at the door, $30 in advance (for ticket info, click here)
Enjoy an evening of tasting different wines from all over. Various nibbles will be on hand from local chefs and Cabot Cheddar. There will be a live auction and plenty of yummy stuff to talk over. The proceeds from the evening are going to Yankee Homecoming, Newburyport's week-long summer celebration.  

Check out what Seth of Lynn Happens has found for you here.
North Shore Dish spices things up with their weekend picks here North Shore Dish
Choices from all over New England at The Two Palaverers.
The wonderful Jane Ward has some great ideas, over at Food and Fiction. Pin It

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spinach, Arugula, and Feta Dip

Ah, this dip, it's my present to myself this Mother's Day. I have only furbabies at the moment, but I'm very much their mom.

However, before I share this slice of heaven with you, I want to talk about my Mom.

My mother and I share a passion for food and drink. If she hadn't taught me to appreciate every flavor, every process, every bite, I probably wouldn't be writing this, at this very moment. A love of food is handed down in families, from generation to generation. My mom's side of the family is mostly Italian and they truly believe food is love. No gathering is complete without a copious amount of some kind of Italian red, boisterous (some would say loud, I would disagree) conversation, and the dishes made possible by the talent of our amazing family.

My mom and I in Florence, Italy
No where does this passion for food come out more than in our travels. We have been blessed to travel across the country together, and the world. We've traveled to Italy together not once, but twice at this point. We navigated the hills and winding roads of Siena, in Tuscany, listening to the lovely clink of fork to plate on a Sunday afternoon. We spent an afternoon in Sicily with my husband, and brother, taking down plate after plate of local cuisine, followed by copious amounts of grappa with the owner.

My family in Sicily

I would love to say I was smart enough to plan ahead for this post, that this dish has something to do with our roots and our travels across the world, but it doesn't. I was simply inspired to write this today. I wouldn't spend the time in the kitchen that I do, or savoring the last sip of an amazing wine if it wasn't for my mother. This is simply a nod to her, and all she's done for me, in the kitchen, and in life in general. I love you Mom, I hope we continue to taste all this world has to put in front of us.

The Lighter Side of Local, Week 2

Did you make it to your farmers' market, or perhaps a local farm this week? What did you get, anything you'd like to share with the class here? Weather in New England continues to be fickle. This week has seen warm with thunderstorms at one moment, cold with rain another. However, as you see above, it did not stop me from grabbing a tumbler tomato hanging basket at the market today. Yes, it's pretty chilly for tomatoes, so it will split its time between the backyard and the breezeway. It gives me hope for things to come however.

Organizing and Meal Planning

I want to talk about meal planning and organizing your purchases this week. It's such a key to making your buys last longer, and to make sure they're not going to waste. If you're going to start eating more locally, as I've mentioned, you can't always have a set list in your brain, ahead of time. You need to base your meal planning around what's available in your area that week. Once you've been shopping at a market or farm for awhile, you'll have a better sense, week-to-week, as to what might be available at what time. Until that point though, it's better to shop first, plan right after.

I meal plan around what is freshest, and the best bargain for the week. Last week, I made it through the entire week on what we bought at market and a local farm the week before. I tossed broccoli raab into risotto and pasta, spinach and arugula went into salads, omelets, and the dip I'm about to share with you today. The onions went into homemade bread, and the garlic greens, they went into just about everything this week.

This is how I suggest it all go down.

- Go to your farmers' market or local farm, pick up a variety of things that look amazing to you.  Remember to add in some kind of garlic and onion varietal for flavor and head home.
- Once you get home, clean it all. I cannot stress this enough. If you clean it all, prep it, you're more likely to use it during the week.
- After you've cleaned it all, think of ways you can use it. Search for recipes online, your favorite blogs (ahem), through magazines. Remember, especially at this time of the year, most recipes involving greens are interchangeable. I'll make the same pasta with spinach, mustard greens, or kale. The end flavor is tad different, but not far off.
- Don't forget about all the common ways you can use this stuff as well, salads, omelets, sandwiches, pasta, and soups. Archive base recipes for your favorites and change out the produce depending on what's in season.

What I picked up this week:

1 bunch broccoli raab (it's so good right now, I just can't help it)
1/2 pound of kale
1 bunch garlic greens
1 bunch radishes

I didn't get as much as last week. I still had some spinach and arugula left from the previous trip, so I figured I can get by on what I have on hand. This week's trip to market only cost me $9.50. I'm also not yet preserving anything again. Just too early on to really get on board with that.

And do you have some greens leftover like I do? Spinach and arugula combine with feta cheese for this amazing dip. You could sub out pretty much anything for the arugula, such as mustard greens, or you could just do the entire dip with the sweet spring spinach that's out there right now.

Spinach, Arugula, and Feta Dip
Serves: 4-6 people (makes one 8x8 or one pie dish worth)

1 large shallot, chopped
1/2 cup chopped garlic greens
1 cup chopped spinach
1 cup chopped arugula
1 block (8 oz) cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-3 slices slightly stale bread (or fresh, toasted) of your choice
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

In a dutch oven, or large sauce pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Once melted, add your shallots and cook until just tender, about 3-4 minutes. Next, add your garlic greens and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so. Now, take your greens (the spinach and arugula) and add them to your pan. You want to cook them down a bit, until just wilted, stirring here and there so they get the flavor of those shallots and garlic greens. At this point, add your cream cheese and begin to melt it, stirring it into the greens mixture. Once completely melted and combined, add your salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and keep mixture warm.

In a small food processor or by hand, make breadcrumbs by chopping up your slices of bread, placing 3/4 of a cup of the crumbs in a small bowl (you might have some leftover, that's OK). Take the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and melt it. You want to then pour the butter over the breadcrumbs and toss to coat.

Now you're going to assemble the dip. Pour the warmed greens and cream cheese mixture into an 8x8 baking pan or a standard pie dish or similar sized baking dish. Sprinkle a 1/2 cup of feta cheese over the mixture. Finally, cover the top of the dip with your bread crumbs.

Place in your preheated oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the mixture is bubbling.

Serve warm with crackers, pita chips, or tortilla chips. Pin It

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spring Risotto with Pan-Fried Radishes

 I'm feeling happier, more inspired in the kitchen than I have been in months. I'm going to credit the green in the trees and the access again to all things spring at the market. Like with anything, if you have wonderful raw material, the end product is going to be out of this world. That's how I feel about this risotto. I could eat bowls of it for days on end and be perfectly content with life.

For many, some of spring's offerings can be a little foreign. How exactly do I use garlic greens or broccoli raab? Is there anything I can do with radishes that doesn't involve a salad? There's plenty you can do with all the above. That's what this series is about, encouraging you to dip your toes into the world of local eating. I want to give you ideas that make sense, can form full meals, so you can get the best value out of the local products you buy. The raw materials may be a touch more expensive, but in the end, the final product goes further, I promise you.

So, at this point, maybe you were inspired by the post earlier this week explaining what you can pick up during this time of year and what to start doing with it. It's page one in my new series "The Lighter Side of Local". If you have a second, take a look back and read it, see where I'm going, get on board, and ask some questions. I'd love to hear from you all throughout this process.

Be Versatile

This risotto is a way to use some of those garlic greens, broccoli raab (or rapini), and radishes you can find at market this time of year. Here's the beauty of this recipe, you can basically sub out whatever you want. Don't have broccoli raab? Try spinach or arugula in this instead. Can't find garlic greens? You can use garlic scapes (more mature greens) or garlic itself, just reduce the amount you're using. The best part about risotto is that it's versatile, you can adapt it to whatever you have on hand which is perfect when you're buying produce at a market.

Remember, often you may head to your local market or farm with something in mind, but they don't have it. It's OK, move on, find something better that week. I'll introduce you to some basic recipes (like this risotto) that can be adapted no matter what. In this risotto's case, simply make the recipe up to the addition of whatever seasonal produce you're adding (in this case broccoli raab) and then add whatever you have on hand. I always use garlic in this risotto, in this case I used a cup of garlic greens, however, I'd usually use 2-3 garlic cloves, minced.

Other ideas for this week

If risotto just isn't your thing or you're looking for some ways to use up some of the produce you have on hand, here's a few ideas or things I'm doing with what I picked up. 

Broccoli Raab (or Rabe or Rapini, a bunch of spellings)
Penne with Sausage, Garlic, and Broccoli Raab (this is a favorite in our house and easy)
Simple Sausage and Broccoli Raab Soup

Radishes (they're also just perfect sliced over salad)
Radish Green Pesto (making this tomorrow)
Stuffed Radishes

Spinach (my go-to salad base)
Flank Steak Stuffed with Blue Cheese and Spinach
Baked Spinach and Gruyere

Garlic Greens
You can sub out this for regular garlic (increase amount) or in place of leeks or chives in recipes. Perfect in an herbed butter, or scrambled into eggs or even a quiche (which is what I think I'm going to be doing this weekend)

I've already used this in a turkey sandwich with my Caramelized Onion & Cheddar Pumpernickel, and it's perfect in salads or on top of pizza.
I'm dying to try this at some point from Fine Cooking and I have corn frozen from the late fall still usable in the freezer.
Risotto with Corn, Spicy Sausage, and Wilted Arugula

OK, on to the main event now. If you have ideas or recipes for seasonal produce, please send them along, I'd love to feature them as suggestions every week!

Spring Risotto with Pan-Fried Radishes
Serves: 4-6

2 cups roughly chopped broccoli raab (rapini) 
2 cups chicken broth plus 1 cup water
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 large shallots, chopped (you can also use 1 small sweet onion here as well)
1 cup Arborio Rice
1 cup chopped garlic greens (or 2-3 garlic cloves minced) 

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground back pepper
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Pan-Fried Radishes
1 cup sliced radishes (greens and ends removed)
1/3 cup flour
1 egg, beaten 
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons olive oil

First, let's blanch your broccoli raab. Boil water in a large saucepan. While it's coming up to a boil, take a large bowl and fill with ice and water. Once that water is boiling, dump your raab in and cook for 1-2 minutes, until just softened. Remove from boiling water with a sieve or slotted spoon and transfer to the ice bath. This will stop the cooking process and keep that beautiful green. Drain ice bath and set aside your broccoli raab.

Now, let's start on the risotto. First, you want to get your broth/water mixture warm. Combine the two in a small saucepan and heat until warmed, but not hot.

Next, in large dutch oven, oven medium heat, melt your 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter. Once melted, add your shallots and cool about 5-6 minutes until softened. Now, you want to add your arborio rice and cook until rice looks translucent. At this point, you can add your cup of garlic greens, stirring away until everything is nicely combined.

You can now start adding the warm broth to the rice, 1/2 a cup at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid is absorbed. Keep adding broth mixture 1/2 a cup at a time until rice is al dente. That's very important, you don't want it to get mushy. You may not use all your broth mixture, and that's OK.

Once you reach that desired consistency, stir in your blanched broccoli raab, salt and pepper. The last step here is to mix in your Parmesan cheese. Don't skimp here, it helps make that risotto even more irresistibly creamy than the rice itself. Keep that risotto warm on the stove while you quickly make up your topping.

In a small plastic ziploc bag or bowl, put your 1/3 cup flour and your radishes and shake or toss until they're coated. Now, in separate bowl, beat your egg and pour the flour-coated slices into the egg and make sure they're coated well. In that same ziploc bag or bowl, add your 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Transfer your now flour and egg coated radish slices into the panko mixture and shake or toss to coat.

In a large skilled over medium to medium-high, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add your coated radish slices and fry until just brown, flipping to get all sides. Serve the risotto with several radish slices as your topping. 

And just because I'm happy and they're forever my little clean-up crew - here are Gordie and Gabbie the puggies. They're always at my feet when I cook, looking for whatever I drop. 

North Shore Bloggers Consortium Weekend Picks 5/6-5/8 

Spring Invitation Night
Friday, May 6th, 6-9 p.m.
Downtown Newburyport

Like during the holiday season, Newburyport shops and businesses will open up downtown and at the Tannery Marketplace in the evening with food and drink. Come, drink, eat, and be merry and check out all Newburyport has to offer. They're always a lovely and festive time! 

Roaring 20's Gala
Saturday, May 7th, 6 p.m. until late
Firehouse Center for the Arts, Market Square, Newburyport
Tickets: $75 or $125 a couple

This is the single largest fundraiser for the Firehouse for the entire year. Find you flapper dress, get your bob on and prepare to dance to some jazz on Saturday night. They're transforming the center into a hub of the roaring 20's. Food, drink, and dance and a whole lot of fun for a good cause. The theme is "Building the Boardwalk Empire" and it's fashioned after the success of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire (fantastic by the way if you haven't seen it).  

Bluegrass and BBQ 
Sunday, May 8th, 2 p.m.
Belleville Congressional Church, 300 High Street, Newburyport
Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 the day of the concert. 

Do something a little different for Mother's Day. Belleville Church Concerts presents the Spinney Brothers in an afternoon of bluegrass. Listen to their sounds while munching away on BBQ provided by American Barbecue

Check out what the other North Shore Bloggers are up to!

Check out what Seth of Lynn Happens has found for you here.
North Shore Dish spices things up with their weekend picks here North Shore Dish
Choices from all over New England at The Two Palaverers.
The wonderful Jane Ward has some great ideas, over at Food and Fiction.

Joey C of Good Morning Gloucester offers up his events here.

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