Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Recipe Post!! Mussels!

This dinner is from a while back now. Shaw's had mussels on sale for $1.99/lb. I bought 1.5 lbs for dinner for the boyfriend and I. I had never purchased mussels before, but I'm really starting to trust this fish guy. He lets me smell things and touch them, and he's usually pretty honest with me about the state of things. I once read (or watched on some cooking program) that to tell if mussels are fresh, they should smell like the ocean...and if a slightly open mussel is tapped on its shell, it should close up immediately. When you buy mussels they should still be alive, and hopefully slightly active (by mussel standards) to indicate that they are freshly caught or harvested.
They should only be stored in the fridge on ice for a day or two. Rinse the mussels thoroughly before cooking in cold water. Clean their little 'beards' off. The fuzzy barnacle like growth. Just pull it out. My batch were relatively clean, so I only had to pull a few beards. And if any are wide open, and don't close when tapped...throw them away! They are dead and no good to eat! Also, once cooking, if you have any mussels that don't open....throw those away too. Don't get brave. Food poisoning is terrible.

When it came time to cook these little fellas, I realized that I had a bunch of things in my fridge that were about to spoil, and I wanted to use them up before they went bad. I had some white wine, a half an onion, half a tomato, some chourica, 1/4 carton of Trader Joe's cream of tomato soup, half a container of chives...and some organic asparagus from that week's delivery.

I started with the chourica, which I chopped up and rendered in a hot dutch oven. I let it cook slowly until some bright red oil came out of the sausage, and the meat took on a slightly browned. I then added chopped onion and stirred until it became translucent. Garlic was next into the pan, and it was cooked just a few seconds, until it was fragrant. I then added about a half cup of dry white wine. Once the alcohol was cooked off, I added some chicken broth, and the remaining tomato soup, and seasoned the broth with salt, pepper, thyme and a little cayenne.

Then I dumped the mussels into the pot, and covered them for about 5 minutes (until they were all open). We served them in a bowl and I topped each bowl with freshly chopped tomato and chives. We at the mussels with some garlic ciabatta bread - for sopping up the delicious broth...and broiled asparagus. The BF was a little worried that the 1.5lbs of mussels wouldn't be enough, but I think they were just right!


So sorry for the lack of posting lately!! Life has gotten crazy. I was on vacation/boyfriend-family time in San Francisco (his sister was graduating from med school - CONGRATS!!!). We had a great time, and of course, lots of good eating (and drinking). In addition to the requisite Mexican fare, we also dined on Cambodian and Senegalese cuisine...Probably two kinds of food I would never think to try, but they were absolutely delicious! We also made a side trip to Sonoma where we purchased some wine. The BF became a fan of syrah, while I bought sparkling and Port....I also bought some 20 year aged balsamic vinegar...mmm.

After the trip I was pretty sick, so no cooking for me...but I promise I will begin posting regularly again ... no excuses, because I'm getting Internet at home!! This means I don't have to work late to drum up posts...and they will happen more often.

I have been really excited to read all of the comments that I've been receiving...and I plan to be more swift with the replies. I am really touched that people are actually reading this...so I wanted to give you a treat!

I've been on a roll with reading lately - mostly about food. Yes, this could be all I think about. I recently finished the book Julie and Julia. The book is being turned into a film (if it hasn't already?). It is about the author, Julia Powell, and her food blog. She started a blog with the personal goal to cook every dish in Julia Child's "The Art of French Cooking". The book was a great read, and I really enjoyed it. It's a pretty funny, easy read.

So here it is. For all the folks who have been commenting...and those of you who may be reading and haven't commented...I am giving away this book!! You can enter into the contest by leaving a comment in this post....I will enter all the names into a hat, and the bf will choose one at random. I will ship the winner the book. Bad economy, free book? Everybody wins!

**EDITED** MUST ENTER BY LEAVING A COMMENT POST BY TUESDAY JUNE 30th....I'll give you a topic. Breakfast: Savory or sweet or nothing at all?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Boston Organics

I've gotten a lot of questions about my produce delivery lately...So I thought I would dedicate a post to this service. Boston Organics is an organic produce delivery service, serving the greater Boston Area. (http://www.bostonorganics.com/).

Since I live alone, and only cook for the boyfriend a couple times a week, I usually only receive deliveries every other week. Its pretty simple to do this...I use the veggies that go bad quickly (lettuce, herbs) and save the heartier things (squashes, collard greens) for later in the week. If it looks as though something is going to go bad sooner than anticipated, I'll just cook it up and freeze it.
Munch of Meet and Eat (http://www.meetandeatonline.com/) inquired a bit, and noticed that it does not look like I have any say in what comes in my produce delivery....I do have a little bit of say, but it is limited by what the company is able to get their hands on! It also often reflects what is in-season at the time. Let me clear this up with some of the specifics!

There are several levels of commitment - you can get deliveries every week or every other week. And there are 3 price ranges. You can also determine the ratio of fruits to vegetables. You can get all of one or the other, 1/2, 2/3's ... whatever works for you. I started with the $29 1/2 fruit/1/2 veggie option. After a few weeks of not eating all of my oranges, and having to buy broccoli mid week, I decided to heavy up on the veggies.
Boston Organics also gives the option of a 'NO' list. So folks with allergies, sensitivities, or a hatred for all mushrooms (not me) can let the good people at Boston O. know, and they can replace something else for the offending fruit/veggie. As a side note, I almost never eat salad that I make myself. It is rare that I crave one...so instead, I substitute any greens (kale, collards) for lettuce.

There is also the option to 'add on' other locally produced organic items such as bread, coffee, cheeses and honey.....For my last order I added on some green onion cheddar, some local (not organic, but who cares when its that fresh!) honey, as well as strawberries and ginger. Per the strawbs and ging...you can also add on produce items that aren't in enough abundance to include in the boxes....Let me tell you those strawberries were worth every penny.

They have recently rolled out a new option as well, called the 'Dogma' box. This is sourced as close to Boston as absolutely possible. The variety seems a little less, and there are no substitutions. But I suppose that if you love squash, and good environmental Karma this is the one for you.

Here is a picture of my delivery yesterday....it's a bit blurry - sorry!

And this is what it contained:

2 Braeburn Apples (WA) 1.5 lbs Fair Trade Bananas (Ecuador) 1 Red Grapefruit (CA) 2 Valencia Oranges (FL) 1 lbs Asparagus (NY) 1 bunch Collard Greens (MA) 1 Cucumbers (GA) 1 Eggplant (FL) Another bunch of dandelion greens substituted for 1 Red Leaf Lettuce (MA) 0.5 lbs Salad Tomatoes (FL) 1 lbs Vidalia Onions (GA) 0.75 lbs Zucchini (GA)

I already ate the asparagus with dinner last night...I'll post that tomorrow with the mussels.

All in all, I've been really happy with the deliveries. The produce is always VERY fresh and is as good if not better than what I could pick on my own from the market...the price is pretty reasonable for a fridge full of organic produce. I've been much better about getting a lot of veggies in my diet, and the range of produce means that I often get a veggie or a fruit that I have never prepared before and would likely never choose on my own. For a food lover like me, opening that box every other Tuesday is like a bi-monthly Christmas.

If you are in the Boston area I whole-heartedly recommend Boston Organics for both quality and service. If you are outside the Boston area, look for similar options in your area, or frequent your local farmers markets. Oftentimes, local farms operate with organic/sustainable farming, but cannot afford to get certified. Companies like this one, and local farmers, clearly love and respect their food enough to give their customers the very best. Plus, its always nice to know who is producing your food. Support your local economy, your local farmers, and the environment by choosing local (or local and organic) whenever possible.
((((steps down from soapbox)))

Please let me know if you have any other questions, I would love to answer anyway I can.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Roasted Cod and Potatoes

What I cook for dinner is often dictated by 2 things. What I have in my bi-weekly produce box, and what is on sale at Shaw's. This meal represents a very 'red letter' week. Black Cod was on sale at Shaws, and I had fresh spring asparagus in my organic box. It also helps that my favorite fella was working behind the counter in the seafood dept. I like him because he doesn't get all defensive when I ask about the fish (what's fresh, what's frozen...what's been sitting there for DAYS). And he lets me pick a specific piece of fish and smell it before he wraps it up. I think he likes that I take it seriously...we're pals now. He hooked me up with REALLY prime PEI mussels this week....I can't wait to blog about those.....

I did not have much in the way of starch, and I've been cooking some really unique starches lately. I think the boyfriend needed some normalcy...I had a few organic potatoes kicking around, so I thought I would do him a solid and make roast cod and potatoes from Mark Bittman's 'How to Cook Everything'. I don't usually follow a recipe to the letter, so this is an adaptation.

Preheat the oven to 425….once preheated, add 2 – 4 tablespoons of butter to the pan and let it *just barely* melt in the pan (I only used 2 tablespoons because David once chided my use of butter, and because it's almost bathing suit season)…once melted, add the sliced potatoes to the butter and toss them to coat…then season the potatoes with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Roast the potatoes for about 20 minutes, tossing/turning them after about 10 minutes. Once they are golden and crispy, take the pan out of the oven. Lay the cod on top, season with a little salt and pepper. I also added some old bay, and some bread crumbs (you can really lay off the salt with the old bay too, celery salt is the main ingredient). Bake for about 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Squeeze a little lemon over the fish and then serve. It was very easy, and I always like a weeknight meal that only requires one cooking vessel.

Now, onto the asparagus. These were not the usual thin green asparagus. These things were HUGE and super thick, and if I had just steamed them I would anticipate that they might be tough and stringy. I had recently read a recipe for a salad using just this type of asparagus in my cooking light magazine. So I made this recipe:http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=1634752 . Asparagus ribbons with lemon and goat cheese. It was really good and a VERY different way to enjoy some asparagus...very light and refreshing. I recommend waiting to add the goat chese right before serving...I added it a little too soon and some of it got kinda soggy in the lemony dressing. Still good, soggy goat cheese is always better than no goat cheese at all.