Cooking from the Farms: Kitchen Update

Here’s some sad news:  summer’s peaches are G-O-N-E from the area.  I miss them already.  But other fruits are moving in to fill the void.

The Week’s Pick of the Produce

The week’s Cider Hill share  bestowed apples like this Cortland

and my favorite fall fruit, the Bartlett pear.

Yes, fruit is the best indicator that summer is on the wane and fall is upon us.  But cherry tomatoes are still making a show, as sweet as candy too, I might add.

And field greens continue to taste fresh and new, like spring.

I Can No Longer Include Carrots on My Orange Aversion List

Because they now come in purple.

If you are a long time reader, you know about my issues with fall’s orange vegetables.  I like some, well, one: the rutabaga.  And struggle to find preparations for the others – hard squashes, carrots, sweet potatoes – that will change my opinion of the sweet-ish fruits, roots and tubers.  I simply don’t find the orange veggies very palatable although I try new recipes every year in the hope that one or another will change my mind.

I remain unsuccessful with trying to love hard squashes (and I could happily live my life without ever smelling/seeing/tasting butternut squash soup).  But last year I discovered I like sweet potato latkes and sweet potato yeast rolls all right, although I’d still consider my life a rich and full one if those two items disappeared off the face of the earth.

I have a bit of an easier relationship with carrots.  Although when raw I find them to be a licorice kind of sweet, one note, not complex at all.  And although most methods of cooking carrots attempt to amp up the sweet aspect while yielding a bland and mushy disc.

But neither blandness nor poor texture are an issue when the carrot is baked.  Think of carrots in baked goods like carrot cake and Morning Glory muffins.  These carrots develop a rich and nutty flavor and a slight toothsome quality.  Roasting does wonders for carrots too.  Carrots roasted alongside a chicken become wonderfully desiccated after a couple of hours inside the pan, fully cooked but chewy, their outer edges caramelized and their insides tender, their own sugars developed so there is no need for gilding with honey or brown sugar or ginger.

Marcella Hazan works magic on carrots, using a stovetop version of the roasting technique along with a little braising.  She writes in her book, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, “I know of no other preparation in the Italian repertory, or in other cuisines for that matter, more successful than this one in freeing the rich flavor that is locked inside the carrot.  It does it by cooking the carrots slowly…so that they are reduced to their essential elements of flavor.”

Indeed.  We’ll be having a version of her preparation tonight to use up the purple carrots as well as a bunch of the traditional orange ones.

Braised Carrots with Capers

(from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking)

  • 1 pound choice young carrots
  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. capers, drained

Peel the carrots and wash them in cold water.  They ought to be no thicker than your little finger.  If they are not that size to start with, cut them in half lengthwise, or in quarters if necessary.

Choose a saute pan that can accommodate all the carrots loosely.  Put in the olive oil and garlic and turn the heat to medium high.  Cook and stir the garlic until it becomes colored a pale gold, then add the carrots and parsley.  Toss the carrots once or twice to coat them well, then add 1/4 cup water.  When the water has completely evaporated, add another 1/4 cup.  Continue adding water at this pace, whenever it has evaporated, until the carrots are done.  They should feel tender but firm when prodded with a fork.  Test them from time to time.  Depending on the youth and freshness of the carrots, it should take about 20 to 30 minutes.  When done, there should be no water left in the pan.  If there is still some, boil it away quickly, and let the carrots brown slightly.

Add pepper and the capers, and toss the carrots once or twice.  Cook for another minute or two, then taste and correct for salt, stir once again, transfer to a warm platter, and serve at once.

First and Last Beach Day

Labor Day Monday was spent at the beach, my first time there all season.  It looks like my first will also be my last, given the temperatures.  Shoes off quickly, then, and down to the business of soaking up the sun.

Lunch followed at MC Perkins Cove, Ogunquit, Maine.  Heirloom tomato salad riff on a caprese: sweet and meaty tomatoes, basil cream, panko-crusted fresh mozzarella.

And lobster rolls served the only sensible way:  in a buttered, toasted hot dog roll.

And Because I Really Love Cheese

This week’s cheese plate, clockwise from top:  Marzollino Rosso Chianti (Italy), Clochette (France), Tarentaise (Vermont).

The Tarentaise is my current favorite cheese.  It has the kind of lively sharpness that makes your tongue tingle when you taste it, a wonderful bite that pairs well with the season’s crisp, tart apples. Try that combination for lunch soon.  You’ll love it.

©2010  Jane A. Ward