mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

salmon “poke” salad with seaweed and jasmine rice

 

We’re fortunate to live in New England so the fish that is sold at fish markets and even grocery stores is pretty high quality most of the week. I was a little hesitant to buy salmon on a Monday but it turned out to be tasty in a “poke” salad bowl that I served for dinner tonight along with freshly made jasmine rice.

Sometimes in Hawaii where the “poke” (pronounced po’kay;) tradition emanates, they place the marinated raw fish on a mound of rice. I avoided that because I didn’t want the temperature of the warm rice to diminish the freshness of the raw salmon. So, here’s how I put together this dish:

  1. I bought 3/4 pound of the freshest salmon I could find today.
  2. Also picked up a container of seaweed salad which added a wonderful taste to the salad.
  3. I skinned the fillet of salmon after rinsing it in cold water and drying it with paper towels. I then cut it up in medium sized cubes.
  4. For a marinade, I put powdered wasabi in a bowl, added Ohsawa soy sauce, diluted it with a little cold water, added sesame oil, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. A tiny bit of honey to take the edge off – then added a few spoonfuls of the marinade on the fish, turning it around and then put it in the fridge. This was about half an hour before dinner.
  5. I cooked jasmine rice in my rice cooker and served it in separate bowls. We really like this rice, especially when it’s made right before we eat and served hot.
  6. Preparing the salad included using two shallow bowls, lining it with fresh lettuce, cut up endive, a Persian cucumber quarter cut and lightly covered with the same marinade as for the salmon.
  7. Then, I piled up the marinated salmon in the middle and finished it with the seaweed salad ringed around it with some on top of the fish.

We enjoyed this supper because the tastes were very clean and all in all, it was pretty healthy too.

fresh spinach! . . .

At the farmstand this week, I picked through some farm grown spinach for tender sprouts of spinach. Back home, I showed it to G. and he suggested we have it for dinner – all of it! So, I made a spinach souffle from scratch after soaking the spinach to get rid of the grit – and saved the tender leaves for a salad to go alongside.

Making spinach salad is one of my favorites because I cook a few slices of bacon, break it up and slice up a fresh mushrooms dressed with a simple vinaigrette. It’s tasty and refreshing!

 

 

homemade lobster macaroni and cheese! . . .

Yesterday at the Stop and Shop, I happened upon a small cooked lobster at the seafood counter. I picked it up and asked the counterwoman if there were any more and she said she hadn’t had any time to steam any more because it had been so busy.

I decided to buy it anyhow and shelled it when I got home, thinking there might just be enough for a couple of lobster rolls for dinner but there didn’t seem to be enough for two of us.  Somehow, I got distracted and I decided to make the wild mushroom pasta with lemon sauce instead. So, what to do with the shelled lobster?

Many places I have looked feature a lobster macaroni and cheese dish which I’ve always thought was a cringe-worthy gilding the lily kind of dish. I mean, why would anyone put lobster into mac and cheese? Well, tonight, I’m going to find out. I looked at numerous lobster mac and cheese recipes online (Ree Drummond, Ina Garten, Bobby Flay,) and was struck by how expensive and how many types of cheese were included in their recipes to make the dish: cheddar, gruyere, goat cheese, fontina, pecorino, parmesan and on and on.

Being somewhat of a luddite when it comes to making an erstwhile pretty simple dish for supper, I went to the grocery store and bought extra-large elbow macaroni (the better to soak up the sauce); a package of Kraft white sharp grated cheese; and whole milk. I already had unsalted butter, flour and of course the lobster.

One of the tips from the recipes (I think it was Ree Drummond’s) was to lightly warm the lobster pieces in a skillet of melted butter first and then set aside; otherwise the lobster might be watery. After that,  it’s the usual 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, 2 tablespoons of flour stirred in to make a roux and then, adding whole milk to make a bechamel sauce base and then melting the cheese in it. I planned to do that, then folded in the buttered lobster pieces, mixing gently. For the finishing touch, I melted a little butter in the microwave and stirred some panko crumbs in it, covering them to make them brown in golden bits on top of the casserole. I then grated some fresh parmesan cheese on top and baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.

The proportions of the sauce and the macaroni was perfect as it baked – because when we served it, there was no gooey mess (too much sauce) and the plump elbow macaroni was scrumptions! I could have eaten the whole thing without lobster too – but that too was good. Gives me some more ideas of other simple macaroni casseroles to make – with ground beef, green peppers, onions and tomato sauce, right?

 

 

fresh pasta with wild mushrooms & lemon sauce. . .

While I was in Gloucester this week, my daughter took me to a pasta store named  Pastaio via corta where I bought some freshly made curly edged pasta called Mafalda. I’ve cooked it before from a package of dried pasta – this was slightly thinner and very tender to the bite when cooked.

We had just shared a tasty lunch of pasta with lemon sauce and caviar, whose basic lemon sauce I also used for this recipe. At Idylwylde Farm, I picked up a pack of assorted wild mushrooms which I saved to cook with the fresh pasta. So in a skillet, I melted a tablespoon of unsalted butter and when it was sizzling, I threw the whole pack of mushrooms in to cook gently. On the back burner, I boiled water to cook the pasta, which was done in about 9 minutes. I drained it, saving some of the pasta water and then shook it to make sure it was separated.

The recipe called for zest of one lemon and the juice of same. I had done that and set it aside. In a large mixing bowl, I put three tablespoons of butter, tossed the warm pasta in it and added a little pasta water. Then, I added the lemon zest and lemon juice, tossing the pasta well. The pasta looked beautifully creamy although there was no dairy in this dish. I divided the pasta onto two plates and then lay the wild mushrooms on top – a twist of cracked pepper is all that it needed. We had parmesan cheese on the side but the flavor of the lemon pasta was so clean and pure that it didn’t warrant adding any grated cheese to the mix.

It’s a keeper and I’m looking forward to going back and buying more fresh pasta – this time, enough so that I can freeze it for future meals!

 

lemon chiffon pie! . . .

I make a key lime pie that is a family favorite – my 98-year old mother-in-law who lives across the street from us especially enjoys it. But today, I read about a restaurant in NYC that served a scrumptious lemon chiffon pie. I thought that might be nice to try and so went to the store to buy fresh lemons, a graham cracker crust and some heavy whipping cream.

The recipe from Epicurious sounded pretty straightforward but the lemon filling part turned out to be a little tricky when I tried it. Here’s the steps I followed:

  1. Baked a store-bought graham crust in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
  2. During that time, I zested two lemons and separated 4 eggs, retaining the yolks.
  3. I squeezed 3/4 cup lemon juice using my Oster electric citrus juicer (handy for this pie and also key lime pie!)
  4. Set an envelope of gelatin into 1/4 cup of water and stirred it together, letting it set for 15 minutes.
  5. Cooked the 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 lemon juice, 4 egg yolks and lemon zest in a saucepan on the stove. Forgot to add the salt. Stirred it under boiling for 6 minutes. It blended together but didn’t thicken very much. I added the gelatin mixture and stirred it over heat for another minute (following the recipe.)
  6. Placed the filling in a bowl of ice water. During this step, I moved the filling and a little water got into the mixture  (roll eyes!) – so I put it back in a smaller saucepan and tried to cook off the extra water for about 5 more minutes.  Back into the ice water bath to cool down.
  7. I had put a stainless bowl and beater into the freezer to chill for whipping the cream. Took it out when the lemon filling had cooled and wasn’t warm anymore.
  8. I beat the cream until stiff – didn’t take very long because of the chilled utensils which always helps. Then I folded a third of the whipped cream into the lemon filling, using the whipping beater to gently fold it in – then in four more payloads of whipping cream, I folded in the rest. It looked creamy and fluffy – which was good because I had been worried the filling wasn’t thick enough.
  9. I poured the filling into the cooled crust and piled it higher in the middle. Set four toothpicks and put a clingwrap over the top. Instead of chilling it in the fridge, I placed the pie in the freezer, hoping it would “take” for our supper tonight. By this time, it was 4 o’clock and the recipe had called for chilling in the fridge for 4 hours.

I couldn’t resist tasting a little of the filling while washing up. It was delicious! I had used less sugar in both the filling and the whipped cream and a little more lemon juice because we like things tart. It will be interesting to see how chilling it will affect the taste.

I’ll caution you that making this pie was about three times more work than the key lime pie that I make pretty often – the cooking, 6 minutes of stirring the filling, the gelatin, cooling, whipping cream and folding it in. But, I’m also thinking that it might be at least twice as tasty!  We’ll see about that.

Later, I thought of folding the whipped cream into the key lime pie filling rather than putting it on later. The texture of that pie would change dramatically too!

Anyhow, both are nice summer desserts. Good for colder weather too when there are heavier meals – and it would be refreshing to have a light, cool dessert!

Note: We just ate our first slice of pie – it was very different from the key lime pie – the texture in particular was smoother with the whipped cream incorporated into the lemon filling. Plus, there was gelatin in this recipe and you can tell. It’s lemons vs. limes but both pies are very tasty!

 

tofu dishes . . .

Last week, Caitlin and I had lunch at a sushi bar in Cambridge. A cold tofu appetizer was delicious – a cube of tofu with a little tamari or soy with nori strips and sesame seeds – it was refreshing and tasty. Today, I read a bewitching article in the NYTimes “Eat” section by Gabrielle Hamilton about making tofu from scratch and serving it in a novel way.

This afternoon, I opened a pack of “silken” tofu and spooned about a third of the contents into a large white bowl. It was just enough for a mid-afternoon snack after a rather sparse salad for lunch. To it, I poured a little Ohsawa organic soy sauce, snipped some “spicy nori strips” on top and sprinkled on some Eden brand Gomasio (sesame seeds, seaweed salt, etc.) on top.

It was tasty and satisfied my craving for something cool and savory on a summer Sunday afternoon. If you like fresh cilantro, a little on top might be tasty too.

a (white) peach pie for summer! . . .

I’ve been wanting to make a peach pie all summer but I haven’t found any fruit that was ripe enough to use. Even the local peaches at the farm stand were rock hard. So today at the grocery store, I found some white peaches that were fragrant and felt ripe but not too ripe. I bought six of them and put them in a simmering pot of water for about 3-4 minutes. I took them out and under cold running water, their skins peeled off readily and as easily as any I’ve ever prepared.

The peeled peaches lend an extra challenge when using because the center of the peach has a crusty rough part that sticks to the peach segments when you cut them up. I cut them off the first peach but then cut slices around the core to avoid the tough red stuff on the others. To the sliced peaches, I mixed together about a third of a cup of flour, a third of a cup of sugar, two tablespoons of cinnamon and a tablespoon of ground nutmeg. I stirred it together until finely mixed and added it to the peaches, stirring gently until all the fruit was covered.

Instead of making a pie crust, I had taken out a piece of puff pastry from the freezer when I had begun to prepare the peaches. After it thawed, I spread a little flour on a board and laid it out, rolling it gently with a rolling pin until it was as thin as it could be and still hold together to be a crust.

I then spooned the peach mixture onto the puff pastry sheet and drew up both sides, leaving the top open and closing the sides by pinching the dough together. The trickiest part was lifting the pie in one piece onto parchment paper in a baking pan (next time, I’ll put the pastry on the parchment paper and fill it there!)  Into a 400 degree oven, I set the timer for about 45 minutes.

We’ll give a portion to George’s brother and Mom who live across the street, and serve ours warmed up with a little vanilla ice cream I have in the freezer tonight. A luscious dessert to enjoy after a rather spartan dinner. Yum!

cooking summer vegetables in the morning! . . .

raw eggplant, quarter-cut

eggplant cooked in garlic, peanut oil, soy, honey & grated fresh ginger root

Since I came home last Thursday with an armload of fresh vegetables from the local farm, I’ve been meaning to cook the slender asian eggplants, not wanting to have them languish too long in the fridge. I’ve discovered that cooking in the morning after breakfast suits me very well because it’s still relatively cool and most of the cooking for supper is done before lunch!

So today, I washed and sliced the golden beets in half and put them into a Japanese donabe pot with lid and about an inch of water. I placed the vessel in a cold oven and brought it up to 350 degrees and then 375 degrees, setting the timer for an hour. I’ve been putting off cooking these too because it’s too warm to heat up the oven around 5 o’clock in the afternoon. So, I’ll dress the beets in a Japanese vinegar, honey dressing when they’re cool for a side dish tonight.

In the meantime, I heated up a deep pot with a layer of peanut oil and chopped up a huge clove of garlic, letting it cook gently while I quarter cut the thin eggplants (cut on a diagonal, turn 1 quarter, cut diagonally, in chunks) until the vegetables were cut up and ready to toss into the simmering garlic oil. I used four slender eggplants and cooked them, adding just a little more vegetable oil over high heat midway, and a dressing of Ohsawa soy sauce (organic from VitaCost.) Mixed the eggplant well and added a dollop of honey (vs. sugar) and let it cook. Taking a large piece of fresh ginger root, I hand grated it on the large holes of a box grater (microplane was too small) and added a hefty amount into the cooked eggplant. Stirred it around and turned off the heat.

The eggplant and the beets will stay at room temperature on top of the stove until supper time to serve with bowls of hot jasmine rice.  Right before serving, I’ll chop up some fresh cilantro leaves and sprinkle it on top of the eggplant. So the only thing left to do is to start the rice cooker before dinner. Sounds pretty good to me!

 

thank you, “mother earth”! . . .

I’ve debated about joining a CSA for the growing season and this year, I decided as usual to take my chances going to farm stands for vegetables and fresh corn when it’s in season. Berberian’s Farm is about 20 minutes drive from my house and today, I was especially impressed with the produce – locally grown at the farm and picked at the peak of perfection – small beautiful eggplants, rosy radishes, patty pan squash, golden beets and of course ears of their wonderfully sweet butter and sugar corn. (They also have Silver Queen white corn later in August which is even sweeter and more succulent than the B&S they have now.)

This armful of freshness cost less than $15.00! The end of July and beginning of August is sweet corn season – and some years, we’ve had it available all the way to November, believe it or not! Rolled on a stick of chilled unsalted Kerrygold butter and sprinkled with Maldon Salt, bathed in freshly ground peppercorns: this is heaven for everyone – whether you’re going on vacation in August or staying home like us to savor the bounty of Mother Earth in the peak of summer! YAY!

green gazpacho! . . .

For the last few years, my granddaughter has given me a subscription to the cooking magazine, “Bon Appetit,” for Christmas and I have consistently found recipes to try out in almost every issue that I have received. It arrived in the mail yesterday (thanks again, Anna!) and I saw a recipe that I wanted to make right away: “sippin” green gazpacho made with cucumbers!

This morning, I pulled together the ingredients: two large English cucumbers ($1.29 each at Trader Joe’s,) fresh arugula, fresh parsley and cilantro, wine vinegar, salt and extra virgin olive oil. It looked appetizing even before I put them into the large Cuisinart. I filled the processor to the brim with chopped cucumber, greens (fresh arugula, parsley, cilantro, basil leaves,) two large cloves of chopped garlic. Started the motor up and waited for the greens to emulsify and then added lots of Maldon salt, 4 tablespoons of wine vinegar and  3/4 cup of olive oil.

I opened it up and tasted a spoonful – a little grainy because I hadn’t peeled nor seeded the cucumbers but it was refreshing and tasty. I ran it a little longer and put in a little more vinegar and salt according to the recipe which advised it should be saltier and more acidic because when it cools down a few hours in the fridge, its taste will be more muted.

As I transferred it into a container to chill, I also put two glasses in the freezer to use when it is served. I might add a slice of fresh lime and some fresh basil leaves on top!

Wow! So easy and appetizing – plus, it could be a healthy substitute for lunch too!