Winter Squash Vichyssoise

Lots of leeks and squash in the farmer's market today, I couldn't resist.

2 large leeks, chopped
3 parsnips, peeled and diced
2 potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 winter squash, baked in olive oil (350F for 40 min)
1 quart of chicken stock
4 tbsp heavy cream

In a heavy pot, bring olive oil to temp and add potatoes, leeks and parsnip. When leeks are starting to turn clear, add stock. Close with a lid and let boil until all vegetables are ready. Remove from heat, scoop in the baked squash, puree with a hand blender. Add seasonings to taste and a few tablespoons of heavy cream. Serve warm with some hearty bread, no need for an entree. I served the soup with balsamic creme freckles and few pieces of the skin from roasted winter squash.


Durian and Bat Nuts

There is nothing better then an epicurean scavenger hunt, and though I didn't intentionally set out on one recently, I found myself looking like a tourist in a Chinatown grocery. I mean, I was camera equipped and somewhat dangerous as I stopped in the middle of narrow, traffic-y pathways of the store. Fortunately, I didn't understand most of what was said in my direction, although I would have loved to be able to ask questions about some of what I was looking at.

Fresh longans, rambutans, loquats, jujubees....butchered duck tongues, de-boned poultry feet, 1001 parts of a cow, 6 varieties of fresh crabs, I didn't know where to turn next. My partner in crime stood with hands in pockets most of the time, and I don't blame her. The unique ingredients and "fresh" handling attribute to an interesting smelling ambient. I would think twice about filling my lungs fully while at this market, but I was too involved in looking at giant okra. It was just about when I caught a giant pine cone at the corner of my eye. The only English label was "Flying Horse" and it was nested in a plastic net. Immediately I started taking pictures of this amazing thing, excited about the premise of coming back to buy one. I mean, who wouldn't want to eat a pine cone! Well, maybe just me.

If you thought that's all the excitement I could handle, you were wrong. I saw something distinctly plastic looking in the produce section. As we got closer, this pile of black plastic, started to resemble bats. Yes, bats. No labels of course, but someone kindly explained, "Nut!". "Nut?", I said puzzled. That's all the explanation I could have hoped for anyway.

Getting back to the comfort of my home and wireless connection, I spent 20 minutes on google to try to find the giant pine cone and bat nuts. You'd think this is tough but google is far more knowledgeable then one expects. Bat nuts came up right away, with PG rated results. These are also known as caltrops and are apparently a flavor cross between a peanut and a water chestnut. Giant pine cone was more difficult to find, but eventually, I did identify it as the Durian fruit, which I welcome you to read about...and even watch, so you can understand why I don't plan on rushing back to the market.

photography courtesy of google.

Amuse Bouche

Nothing like a biting into a piece of jewelry, full of flavor... I love the concept of an amuse bouche. Perhaps because in many restaurants I've had the opportunity to try things that would have otherwise not been available on the menu. It's a great way to experiment with food, though if rewards are great, they are tiny.

My experiment today was to play with the flavor trees I've become fond of on a site I found several years ago (http://www.foodpairing.be/), which I've referred to time and again, in both agreement and disagreement on the "recommendations".
Pictured is a toasted apple, chicken pate, lemon basil and mustard sauce with a potato crisp. These are not typical flavors I'd throw together, however they balanced each other very nicely. I think depending on the flavors of all the ingredients this has a lot of potential of going very wrong too. Take a chance!


Updated Caprese Salad

Served with a garlic rubbed crouton, 25 year aged balsamic and a pepper variety.


The Garden Tomato

Really, I mean the tomato! I am so proud of our garden, even with the rainy summer, the tomato plants are producing. This is an heirloom.
I picked it today after it started very obviously pulling down the rest of the plant with its weight. Over a pound!!!!

Fig and Lemon Tart

I couldn't resist the small crate of fresh figs at the store, and on my way home decided to take inspiration from La Tartine Gourmand and make a tart. I decided to pair the figs with lemon in hopes the tartness will balance the sweet flavor of the fig. The crust was incredible, but I decided I would have enjoyed a savory preparation with the figs. I do have some left so.....

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
grated lemon peel from one lemon
1 large egg yolk

In a food processor or a bowl, combine flour, granulated sugar, butter, and lemon peel. Whirl or rub with your fingers until mixture has texture of fine crumbs. Add egg yolk and whirl or stir with a fork until a dough forms. Pat dough into a ball, then press evenly over bottom and up sides of a 10-inch tart pan with removable rim.

Bake crust in a 300° oven until golden, about 30 minutes.

1 cup of whole milk ricotta cheese
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp grated lemon peel
2 tsp lemon juice
1 egg
8-10 fresh figs
2 tsp sugar, for sprinkling

Whisk all the ingredients together. Pour into the prepared crust. Layer atop with sliced figs (you can do quarters or slices, up to you). Sprinkle figs with some sugar. Return to the over for the filling to set, about 30 minutes at 350F.


Dad vs. Daughter: Meal #2 - Ratatouille and Roasted Chicken

It's been the kind of weather the past couple of days that makes me want for fall; cool at night and just sunny enough to enjoy in the daytime. The weather plus the bounty of fresh vegetables available in farmers markets made us all want some rustic comfort food. I haven't made ratatouille in some time, and forgot how much like a puzzle it can be. E. watched over husband's shoulder, touching rounds of zucchini I handed to her. I think there is definitely more of ratatouille in her future.

1 Chinese eggplant
1 green zucchini
2 large garden tomatoes, fully ripened

3 tbsp olive oil

Cut all vegetables into equal rounds, salt, and layer in a ceramic baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and cover with foil. Bake covered at 375F for 1 hour, then uncover and bake at 300F for 30 more minutes.

Serve warm with
roasted chicken. No need to do anything special for the husband, he loved this the way it is!