Tag Archives: dinner

Smoked Sardines

If you told me at age ten that I would have a bad case of ‘sardine obsession’ in my twenties, I would have laughed in your face AND rolled my eyes.  ‘Sardines are gross!’ I would have told you.  But here I am, finding sneaky ways to bring sardines up in conversation, looking up sardine recipes at work and enjoying them for more lunches and dinners than I’d care to say.  For anyone who aligns with my ten year old self, let me tell you, they really aren’t gross at all.  In fact, they are quite delicious, versatile, healthy and cheap (and sustainable and low in mercury content)!  Canned sardines are not overly salty or fishy, like anchovies, and actually taste more like a mild canned tuna.  Grilled fresh sardines are also delicious but this post focuses on these, which I found in the grocery store:

I love smoked fish.  When I was a kid, my Dad, on occasion, would bring home smoked tuna from the local seafood store.  While I wouldn’t have touched sardines with ten foot pole at that time, I was totally into this smoked tuna.  Now that I know I like sardines, I knew I would love these too.

I think my original obsession began with the No Reservations ‘Brittany’ episode where Tony eats sardines that are jarred standing up in oil.  I never thought preserved fish could be gourmet or elegantly prepared or special in any way- until I watched this episode.

And here I am, obsessing about a can of fish.  Anyway, I ate them on water crackers with fresh squeezed lemon, fresh cilantro and a squeeze of sriracha.  It was great.

Tomorrow I will try them on a toasted bagel with olive oil and capers.  Yum.

End of Summer Invasion: Cucumbers and Zucchini

Cooking with a farm share delivery means that you cook what is in season.  Sometimes I feel like if I have to eat one more beet I just might… well use your imagination…  Toward the end of the summer we started getting a TON of cucumbers and zucchini.  At first, I was so excited to make zucchini bread and cucumber infused gin and tonics.  When I’d had my fill of those (didn’t take long), these little guys started to linger in the crisper drawer until they withered and aged and finally made the inevitable journey to veggie heaven, aka the compost bin.  This ALWAYS makes me feel guilty-  they didn’t even get a chance to be great!  Farm shares should not induce guilt.

And so, I dusted off the old imagination and came up with this:  Zucchini and Potato Fritters with Greek Yogurt, Smoked Salmon and Fresh Dill (with a side of cucumber salad!)  Behold:

Please excuse the terrible quality of this picture- it was taken with my cell phone.

Miraculously I had all of these items in my house.

To make the fritters, simply grate equal measures of potato and zucchini. Squeeze a bit of the moisture out when you finish grating.   Add an egg or two and a few tablespoons of flour to bind.  Season with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and onion powder.   Or if you prefer to grate fresh onion, be my guest.  I don’t like to torture myself or cry in my food.  Mix all ingredients together.  Heat up a few tablespoons of oil ( I like grapeseed) on medium heat in a large frying pan.  Form little flat fritters (about 1″ thick) and cook until deep brown on both sides.  Then top with a dollop of greek yogurt, sour cream, creme fraiche or whatever you prefer that’s creamy- even a schmear of cream cheese would work.  Top with wild-caught smoked salmon and a few sprigs of fresh dill.  Dust with a bit more salt and pepper and there you have it.  Not bad, huh?  The cucumber salad is just sliced cukes with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil and a few dashes of white wine vinegar.  This meal was great for an end of the summer dinner and still delicious for lunch the next day.  Plus, no veggies were left to wither and die- my crisper drawer was empty and ready for the next delivery!

Grilled Chicken and Radicchio Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing

This salad is easy, delicious and filling.  Often I find that lettuce remains in the crisper drawer in the refrigerator for far to long after my farm share delivery – a sure sign I’m not eating enough salad.  When I found out that I was getting radicchio and romaine lettuce in my share, I made it a priority to use it first.  This salad is the result.  I made it a few weeks ago and forgot to post- so my apologies for not providing exact measurements.

Salad:  Top washed and dried radicchio and romaine lettuce with toasted chopped pecans, apple slices, crumbled blue cheese and grilled chicken.

Dressing:  Cook 4 slices of bacon in a frying pan.  Remove bacon and crumble on top of salad.  Deglaze pan with several tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.  Add freshly ground cracked pepper.  Drizzle on top of salad and enjoy!

Another Recipe from 101 Cookbooks – Harissa Spaghetti

Oh, Kale.  A vegetable I couldn’t pick out of a line up just a few years ago – now I can’t seem to get enough of it.  Heidi Swanson’s Harrissa Spaghettini was one of the first recipes I attempted when I  joined my CSA.  I had never eaten kale, never heard of harissa, but the combination of spicy chili mixed with garlic, fresh kale, lemon zest, pine nuts and salty oil-cured olives (my favorite kind) on top of a bed of whole wheat pasta sounded so incredible to me.  I thought it would be impossible to track down harissa, but as it turned out, a Middle Eastern market just a few blocks from my apartment carries several canned varieties. I’ve made this numerous times with whole wheat pasta, but when my most recent head of kale came in, I decided to try it with a pound of quinoa pasta I had on hand.  The results were outstanding and this remains one of my favorite dishes.  If it looks a little kale-heavy, trust me, it is.  I love the stuff but you can add as little or as much as you like.  Follow Heidi’s recipe and enjoy.  This tastes just a good cold as it does fresh out of the pot so make some extra for lunch tomorrow!

Gnocchi Con Amore

My love affair with gnocchi started with a visit to Cucina Forte, a quiet byob in Philadelphia’s Queen Village neighborhood.  My mother, my sister and I had just returned from a day in New York and, each of us maddeningly hungry, decided to try this restaurant on a whim.  Everything that came to our table was exquisitely fresh (try the saltimbocca!  You can actually hear the chef in the kitchen pounding the chicken from the dining room) but the gnocchi was clearly the star of the table.  To bite into a gnocchi at this place is to know what it feels like to bite into a cloud.  They are so light, so delicate and so fresh that I realized I must not have known what great gnocchi was before eating them.  In fact, these morsels are so wonderful that I decided to attempt to make them at home.  At Cucina Forte, the gnocchi are served two ways: with marinara sauce and with a gorgonzola cream sauce.  Each sauce is wonderful in its own way and I decided we needed to have both. 

I had a lot of gnocchi anxiety.  Do a quick internet search for gnocchi recipes and you will find many, many conflicting opinions.  Some chefs call for boiling the potatoes, others say bake.  Some say add egg, some egg whites, some scoff at the idea of adding any egg at all.  This can be quite intimidating for a kitchen novice who has no idea what gnocchi dough is even supposed to look like (that would be me!)  Lucky for me, I have a great friend who has cooked in professional kitchens who has made gnocchi before.  His name is Eric and he always cuts the onions when we cook together — like I said, he’s a great friend!

We ended up with five pounds of potatoes, baked for about an hour at 425.  We mashed the potatoes and added 2.5 cups of flour and two eggs.  We grated fresh nutmeg, salt and pepper into the dough and I kneaded it by hand.  It looked something like this.

This dinner party came together to celebrate my dear friend Jenny’s visit to Philadelphia from San Francisco.  We were having seven people over for dinner so I had a lot of gnocchi to form.

I tried to put the cute fork indentations into them but it just wasn’t working.  We decided they looked just as nice shaped like that.  While I formed the gnocchi, Eric made the sauces.  The gorgonzola cream sauce consisted of heavy cream, gorgonzola cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly ground nutmeg, garlic, and salt and pepper.  The marinara included sauteed onions and garlic, chopped plum tomatoes, canned tomato puree, bay leaves, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper and fresh basil.  He blended it a bit with an emersion blender to keep it delicate enough for the gnocchi.  While he whipped the sauces up, I finished these:

We then added about ten gnocchi to a pot of boiling salted water.  When they floated to the surface, we cooked them for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.  The results were wonderful!  Each guest had a least two plates.  The sauces complemented each other perfectly.

Jenny was excited to prepare a salad recipe she had picked up from a friend in San Francisco which they call Egyptian Salad.  It was a refreshing mixture of tomatoes, cucumbers, baby spinach, and avocado dressed with white wine vinegar, olive oil, cayenne pepper and fresh cilantro.  I will definitely be making that again. 

The gnocchi making process was a bit stressful, a bit long and a bit tiring, but the results were absolutely worth it.   Now that I am no longer a novice, I look forward to experimenting with different recipes in the near future.