Thursday, June 20, 2013

In Season – The Sweet Pea

This past weekend I went to the Linden Hills farmers market in my neighborhood.  I hadn’t been before and was pleasantly surprised.  It is small and easily manageable, not to mention a 15-minute walk from my house.  My only regret is that I ate before I went.  Red Wagon Pizza had some amazing selections and there was an Indian fusion food truck that had a breakfast samosa that sounded delicious.  Next time I will definitely go hungry. 

This is what I bought: Asparagus - $4; Radishes - $2; Sweet peas - $5; Fresh lettuce mix - $3; Granola - $4.50; Energy bar - $2; and a Zucchini bite - $2 (I know I said I was not hungry but I couldn’t resist).  Total:  $22.50.

Zucchini Bite - it had apples and chocolate chips in it.  So good.
I left inspired.  I am liking this new plan to frequent the farmers markets and buy more than I normally would and to buy local ingredients that are at their peak for the season. 

For dinner, I used the sweet peas as my theme.

As a starter, I rinsed the radishes, trimmed them and cut them in half.  I served them with coarse sea salt for dipping. 


For the cocktail, I had remembered seeing a sweet pea cocktail recipe in Food & Wine and gave that a try.  (Another "goal" of mine is to experiment with new cocktails – Penelope the Mixologist.  I like the sound of that.)

The Sweet Pea Cocktail

Muddled peas add a fresh twist.
Makes 1
Recipe by Mary-Frances Heck; April 2013

Muddle 2 tablespoons fresh (or frozen, thawed) peas, 1 lemon wedge, and 1 teaspoon sugar in a cocktail shaker until peas are completely mashed. Add 2 ounces vodka; fill shaker with ice. Cover and shake until outside of shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a pea tendril (optional).

My Version:  I followed the recipe but added some mint to give it a fresher taste.  I also ended up adding a tiny drip of green food coloring because mine wasn’t as green as the photo in the mag.  It was a mistake because the drink ended up looking like something you’d see in 21-year-old's hand on St. Patty’s Day.  

Verdict:  It was just okay.  However, there are much better cocktails out there so I doubt I would make it again.  But it was fun to incorporate a fresh vegetable in the mix.  

Fresh Snow Pea Salad

Contributed by Daniel Humm
·        SERVINGS: 8
Slideshow: Summer Salads
  • 1 pound snow peas—strings removed, peas sliced on the diagonal 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, torn
  • 2 ounces shaved Pecorino cheese

Soak the snow peas in a bowl of ice water for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry. In a medium bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the olive oil with the lemon juice and lemon oil and season the dressing with salt and pepper. Add the snow peas.

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook over moderate heat until lightly browned and the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 minutes.

Scrape the pancetta into the snow pea salad. Add half of the mint, season with salt and pepper and toss well. Garnish with the remaining mint and the Pecorino and serve.

My Version:  I added some arugula because I wanted some “lettuce” in my salad.  I also added some Champagne mustard to the vinaigrette.  I didn’t use lemon oil because I don’t have any. 

Verdict: This salad was really, really good.  In fact, my husband has already asked me to make it again.  I highly recommend it.  Next time I will use a little less mint because it was a little overwhelming.


For the entrée I made lamb chops.   I just seasoned them with salt and pepper and a little cayenne and sautéed them in a pan with olive oil.   I created my own sauce to go on top of the lamb and it turned out great (if I do say so myself).   I got out my food processor and added some garlic, cucumber, and mint, then added plain Greek yogurt, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cayenne.  I would definitely make it again.  My husband even liked it and he does not like Greek yogurt. 

For a side dish I made garlic lemon potatoes.   I just cut up the potatoes, seasoned them with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon juice and roasted them in the oven.

Cheers to cooking with fresh, season ingredients!

Friday, June 14, 2013

In Season - Morel Mushrooms

This summer, I’ve decided to eat “in season.”   I seriously considered joining a CSA but with a busy summer coming up, I was worried that a lot of it would go to waste.  Instead I’ve decided to hit multiple farmers markets, double my budget, and buy what is in season locally.   I normally hit the farmers markets but tend to just buy the "usual" things.  I’m so looking forward to playing with the freshest produce available this summer.

For my first endeavor, I bought fresh asparagus and morels at the Mill City Farmers Market.  

The morels were $45/pound.  Yikes!  A small handful set me back $12.   Needless to say, I was really anxious to experiment with them.  I feel like I had tried them before but couldn’t remember when or where.  I think maybe in a soup or a sauce some time ago?  I remember a distinct earthy, nutty flavor and that is what I was expecting.

I decided to make an asparagus risotto with sautéed trout and top it with morels that I was planning to sauté in butter and season with salt and pepper, which is the recommended cooking method in many articles and by the farm I bought them from.

I’ve made risotto so many times that I don’t really follow a recipe.  This is my usual method: I sauté butter, shallots, and garlic; and then add the rice to sauté for a little bit; then add some white wine; then a little bit of lemon juice (I only use lemon juice for some risottos; not all); and then add the chicken stock slowly.   I then finished it by adding about a cup of freshly grated parmesan and sautéed asparagus.   Risotto usually takes about 22 minutes to make.  

SIDEBAR: I pulled out my book How to Pick a Peach to read about the proper way to pick and store asparagus.  One interesting thing that I learned is that you are supposed to peel asparagus.  How did I never know that? For choosing asparagus, the tip should be firm with no trace of softening and the base should be moist.  For storing, keep the spears upright in a container of water and drape a plastic bad over the top to create a moisture trap.  

For the fish, I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and cayenne and then sautéd it in olive oil over medium-high heat.

This is the thickest trout I have ever seen.  It tasted amazing.

For the morels, I cut them in half and then sautéed them over high heat with clarified butter.

Of course the presentation was gorgeou;s but I was so hungry I forgot to take a photo of the final dish, so you’ll have to use your imagination…… 

I made this dinner for my husband and sister and they were not big fans of the morels (my husband even scraped them off).  Admittedly, they didn’t really do much for me either. Which was a bummer, given all of my excitement and anticipation.  The morels didn’t get caramelized because they hold a lot of moisture, so it was more like they were steamed.   And the texture is weird; very sponge like.   However, I do like the deep, unique  flavor.  Next time I think I will chop them up into much smaller pieces and add them to a sauce or soup.

Do you have any morel tricks or recipes?  Do tell…….