Friday, August 15th, 2014
Over the last few years, watermelon of the seedless variety has seemingly conquered what was once a seed-only market. As a kid (to give you an historical reference here, think the golden years of Michael Jackson and Van Halen), I don’t remember ever devouring a ruby wedge of watermelon that wasn’t bedazzled with dark seeds. Sitting on a porch stoop or picnic table, eating that half-fruit/half-water confection, and silently spitting out slippery seeds, was one of the happy givens of summer. Spitting without consequence was one of the best parts of the experience of eating watermelon, was it not? But then gradually, creepily, the seeds became smaller, thinner, wimpier. Summer after summer they lost their heft and faux bois woodsy coloring, becoming a flimsier, almost translucent version of their former selves, until one day you realize, “hey, what happened to the seeds?”.
At first, it seemed like the cleverest of marketing strategies, right? Along with skim milk and egg white omelets, let’s take away the perceived baddy part of what nature has created—after much time and evolution—to make things more convenient for ourseves. But then, like any good-bad thing, there’s a rub: Take out the seeds, genetically modify any food that nature in its wisdom has made so for probably a very good reason, and something else disappears… In the case of milk, eggs and butter, we’re learning that basically all the good stuff is in that fat. With watermelon, I might extend that argument and say that all the good stuff was because of the seeds, specifically the flavor.
Luckily for me, my CSA farmer is growing terrific heirloom watermelons with the seeds! So we have been happily expectorating the little buggers all over the place, just like the good old days. Do I think that watermelon with seeds in it tastes better? I do. But don’t take my word for it: find yourself a seeded watermelon and taste for yourself.
To be fair, some science has come out saying that there’s nothing to the seed-flavor argument, it’s all in my head (perhaps a result of listening to too much Van Halen). Perhaps. But when I chomp on a purely seeded watermelon I really do feel like it’s the way it should be, in all its messy authenticity. How about you?
And a bonus: If you’ve never read anything by the great Southern writer Eudora Welty, then start with her novel Delta Wedding, which has one of the best scenes with a watermelon I’ve ever read.
Have a good weekend!
Thursday, August 14th, 2014
I just returned from Maine and have a lot to share, as always, about that food paradise of a state (we’ve been going there on summer vacation for seven years, but I still always discover new and amazing things to do and eat). Until I get those posts up and running though, I wanted to share photos of my other favorite summer pastime: Eating ice cream.
So far this summer I have three favorite ice cream shops/parlors/stands, which is not to say that I don’t plan on visiting several more before the first frost.
First up is:
THE BENT SPOON in Princeton, NJ
Of the three ice cream destinations I’m featuring today, this is the most grassrootsy, farm-to-tabley (or as they say, “farm-to-spoon”), with creative and seasonal flavors being what sets them apart. I keep going back for one flavor in particular: sweet New Jersey basil. I swear, it’s amazing—not at all like you’re eating frozen pesto in a cone—just sweet, herbal, and addictive. Bent Spoon was also featured along with KEEPERS in the latest issue of Edible Jersey, which was a thrill for me (I’m hoping it buys me an extra punch on my frequent purchase cone card, but we’ll see).
DORMAN’S DAIRY-DREAM in Thomaston, Maine.
Dorman’s is an old-fashioned roadside stand on Rte. 1 in Maine, just outside of Rockland on the mid-coast, that makes homemade ice cream; which is an important distinction because I’ve learned that many ice cream places customize a pre-made base with their own flavors and add-ins, but don’t actually make the ice cream itself. Unlike Bent Spoon, the flavors at Dorman’s are old school—you will not see a bourbon-beets-marscapone sundae on the menu—with the exception of Grape Nut, something I only ever see in New England (who in the world thought of making a flavor out of a health breakfast cereal, I’d like to know). Dorman’s also makes their own hot fudge which is so good it should be illegal.
ARETHUSA FARM DAIRY in Bantam, Connecticut
The ice cream from Arethusa Dairy— located in bucolic Litchfield County— is so authentic and heirloom-quality, it makes Haagen-Dazs taste like Dairy Queen (no offense to you, Dairy Queen, your chocolate shell dipped soft serve is magical). Created with milk from beloved pure bred cows, who are literally massaged and fawned over on a daily basis (don’t believe me? read THIS piece about the dairy and its fashion-world founders), the proof is in the product: Extremely rich and delicious ice cream in only the most traditional flavors: strawberry, vanilla, coffee (amazing), and the occasional seasonal offering like peach and sour cherry with dark chocolate chips (see above). Arethusa is located a bit off the beaten pathh, but the beautiful shop (where you can also buy the dairy’s milk products) is worth the detour over hill and dale. Did I mention that they make their own waffle cones? Hot, fresh, waffles, cooked and folded into cones right before your eyes…run don’t walk.
Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
I’ll be in Maine for our annual summer vacay so not posting for awhile…but I will be taking plenty of photos, mostly of food and edible sea creatures.
See you when I return—and in the meantime, I hope you’re having a wonderful summer!
Thursday, July 17th, 2014
Last week I went to pick up my CSA share and was given four pounds of cucumbers.
Luckily I love cukes. As a child they were the only vegetable I would eat, probably because they taste less like a vegetable and more like the Good Seasons Italian dressing (remember the one that came in a powder packet that you’d mix in its own cruet?) that I would bathe them in. But still, four pounds is no joke for a weekly share. You master canners out there are probably thinking I should have pulled out the Ball jars and started pickling, and I would of, if I had the time and energy. But at this point in the summer, I’m so exhausted from swim team and camp runs, that there’s a good chance that any attempt to sanitize a large amount of jars and produce would lead to household botulism. So I decided to wait and do the canning-project during late summer when things are lazier and the tomatoes are in, and for now, do a quick pickle instead; that way I could enjoy many delicious pickled cucumber slices for a week, plus share the bounty with friends and neighbors.
The recipe I like to use is called Lazy Cucumber and Onion Pickle from one of my favorite all-time cookbooks: Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy, a guide to what to do with pretty much every herb and vegetable you will encounter at the farmer’s market or CSA this summer, with simple recipes, good tips, and clear instructions. You can find the recipe HERE (although I HIGHLY recommend getting the book). But basically for a quick pickle there’s a simple formula:
Sliced cucumbers (I like them thin with a benriner) and sliced onion (sweet, red, or shallot), added to a solution that’s made up of sugar, salt, 1 part vinegar (rice or apple or white wine) and 1 part water. You can also add herbs and spices like mustard seed, celery seeds, dill, turmeric, or chile peppers.
In KEEPERS we included an even simpler version but with a slightly different technique: First you salt the sliced and peeled cucumbers and leave them in a colander to drain (removing the water from the cucumbers makes them soft and pliable and also allows the to absorb the vinegar solution). After about 20 minutes you squeeze out any remaining liquid (but don’t rinse them!) and then add them to a mixture of rice vinegar and sugar (so 1 English cucumber added to a combination of 2 tbs of rice vinegar and 1 teaspoon sugar).
Once you have your pickles done, you can then fill up your spare Ball/mustard/jam jars and store them in the fridge (you should let them soak for a few hours before you start to eat them so they’re nice and pickle-y). I can happily eat them straight from the jar (I especially like to have a few after a meal because I think they’re good for digestion), but they’re also pretty good on almost everything. You may ask, “why not just buy a jar of pickles and save yourself the trouble?” Well, I promise you that fresh pickles, made with from-the-farm cucumbers, are going to taste infinitely better then what you would by at the supermarket.
For starters: On sandwiches they shine, like inside of a warm pita (see above), also stuffed with hummus, feta and arugula.
This was grilled and sliced pork tenderloin (a KEEPERS recipe–the tenderloin is marinated in apple juice and then glazed with hoisin sauce) wrapped in a lettuce leaf and then stuffed with pickles, avocado, radish, and spicy-miso-mayo.
For breakfast I layered an everything bagel with cream cheese, sliced radish, the pickles, and topped with flaky salt.
For Belle’s pre-camp lunch I also put some inside of a ham and cheddar sandwich, and grilled it in a skillet with butter to make it like a melted Cubano. As you can see, the options are endless, and by the end of the week, we had consumed all four pounds of pickles (not including the ones we share with those we love).
So give it a try! And if there’s anything awesome you like to put your homemade cucumbers on, please share!
Thursday, July 10th, 2014
Just a quick and exciting announcement: KEEPERS is featured in the latest issue of edibleJERSEY!
The edible community of publications has been such a terrific addition to the landscape of food writing and so I was thrilled when my home-state’s edition asked us to be included in an upcoming issue. My co-author and I did an interview about how we created the cookbook, as well as our weeknight meal philosophy, and the magazine includes two of our favorite summer recipes from the book: Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa and Raw Corn Salad with Jalapeno and Radish.
I’m also thrilled that it’s the High Summer issue and we get to share space with the magazine’s “Ice Cream In-Depth” feature, which includes a write-up of probably my all-time favorite ice cream shop, The Bent Spoon in Princeton, NJ. To celebrate, I went there yesterday and had a cone with a scoop of vanilla-caramel-sea salt and a scoop of sweet Jersey basil (which is out of this world, really and truly). If you’re ever in that gorgeous ivy-covered college town, you must MUST go there and knock yourself out.
BIG thanks to everyone at edibleJERSEY, as well as the lovely writer Emily Suzuki (who impressively enough, is also a doula AND a post-partum chef…here’s a link to her site), and photographer Amy Roth for creating such a terrific piece.