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Archive for November, 2008

quince

Quince is my favorite ingredient du jour! As a faithful listener of the market watch with Laura Avery every Saturday morning via Good Food on KCRW with Evan Kleinman – the description of a quince and goat cheese tart really captured my attention. The pastry chef Zoe Nathan described the fairly simple process and you can find her recipe here. My non-pastry chef version includes store bought pastry dough. I know I need to get over the reluctance to make my own dough…and I will start making my own dough again, when I get a new food processor.

Walking through the produce section of my favorite market du jour, Buy Low, I spotted the quince and remembered the recipe for the tart. I picked up the frozen pie dough and honey infused goat cheese from Trader Joe’s, and voila a Quince and Goat cheese Crostada I could serve to guests. And it was super easy and not too sweet.

New favorite food blog and American in Paris, David Lebovitz writes about quince tatin and a poached version and the syrup you’re left with if you reduce the poaching liquid. Mmmmmm. His recipes are really nicely done.

Another little item I had my heart set on, was the quince paste or Membrillo. Popular in Spain and served with Manchego cheese, this tasty pantry item is next on my list for the quince I have hanging out in my kitchen right now.

After reading all these recipes and having worked with this intriguing fruit the one time…my professional opinion is to poach whole and cool in liquid, then slice off the core as described by Nathan. It is very soft and pear like, and easy to handle. I will even use this method for the paste, using the poaching liquid to sweeten the puree, rather than sugar.

For history and details about all things quince, another site I love is Vegetarians in Paradise. I will have to go back and read the confidently titled recipe, Quince Essential Crisp. Look for the quince on your next trip to the market, for they will be gone soon and you’ll have to wait until next fall for this terrific treat!

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I do not usually roast whole butternut squash because it is a battleship of a vegetable. But, since I ended up with several of these fall gems because of a harvesty display on my mantel, I felt somewhat committed.

Forget about peeling raw, these babies must be roasted and scooped. So, I got out my cleaver and raised my arm and took a whack. Oven at 350, skin side down, salt, pepper and fresh nutmeg liberally applied then rubbed with olive oil. I roasted until they were pretty soft when the knife went in. Scooped and mashed with the old school hand held potato masher, and set aside. Griffin had a bowl of the stuff with a pat of butter.  No, two bowls actually and that was his dinner! Kiely, not so much.

Rich and I had our butternut squash puree thinned out with chicken stock. It was ladled into nice wide noodle bowls, topped with wine poached salmon, a trader joe’s roasted beet thinly sliced and fanned out over the salmon and finished with julienne of roasted pasilla chile. Wow! For a bunch of crap left over from room decor, last night’s cobb salad and two nights ago stuffed chiles…that was a memorable looking and tasting dish. Some of you will see that on a plate in my dining room very soon…pictures of the next incarnation will appear later.

Oh, two of the lovely and average sized butternut squash made two very full quart sized containers after the first night meals…with chicken or mushroom stock this would make a lot of soup…for say, a soup swap party…

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top-dollar-soup

So, this little piggy went to market…Santa Monica Farmers Market, that is…it was going along just swimmingly, what with the petite dejeuner at Anisette and the good parking spot and all. The produce looked amazing, and I bolted over to the table with the orca beans. As soon as I saw them I knew I had to have them. At any cost?  Well, yes.  I was already committed, having scooped a nice big handful into the bag, before I did the math. I was making my first purchase of the day and it was a precious bag of beans, at $7.50 for less than a pound.

I was a little surprised, but I had to have them because I grew them this summer. Or should I say, tried to grow them! Not a great crop.  So when I think about all the tending, sprouting, watering, fretting, picking and shelling I did…and ended up with just a tiny handful. I suppose $7.50 was cheap.  I read somewhere you need 16 plants per person…Gives me a new appreciation for farming.  I have a renewed appreciation for food everyday I garden.

They did make a lovely soup…and all I had to do was chop a rib of celery (store), a leek (market), the stems of a handful of the swiss chard (homegrown!), a few bay leaves (market), saute. Add the beans and a quart of chicken stock, and simmer. The chard leaves, and basil when the beans are soft. The whole pot was about a quart and a half. I took 2 cups of the soup and put it in the blender, added back in to the soup to thicken and of course, season expertly (aka salt and pepper). Delish!

So, with the help of homegrown veggies it was not all that extravagant.  I think I am going to grab a bowl right now…

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The best part? Riding up there with a friend, finding a parking spot right on SM at 3rd Street, and breakfast at Anisette! Oh yeah, the veggies looked beautiful too.

Anisette looks like it has been there forever, a real French Bistro. Ambiance for days, from the absinthe bottles that line the entire wall behind the bar to the ancient, red-haired restroom attendant. It was perfect, especially the vanilla butter for the fresh brioche.

Said friend, the Bad Home Cook, Julie. Goddess of parking spots, and market enthusiast.

Lots of lovely items in the squash family…

Lots of beautiful pomegranates, asparagus and roots veg…though I just bought chocolate persimmons, orca beans, leeks and Medjool Dates. Okay, Julie turned me on to these dates. I can honestly say I have never just bitten in to a date. I know! So, this is the richest most amazingly amazing flavor and texture…I have previously been deprived. I imagine so many ways to use these, just a little bite goes a long way. Griffin loved it, he had a bit on top of a pink lady apple slice. Loved it, nodding approvingly. Kiely gagged and ran to the bathroom and spit it out. She was blown away by how disgusting the mouth feel was and I am blown away that she actually gagged! That was fuh-nny….

Tomorrow-my top dollar bean soup. You’ll see.

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