Get Your Meal On

Added on by Lisa Homa.

Putting a home-cooked meal on the table never gets stale.

So you got your Fresh Direct, your Peapod, your Munchery. You Sun Basket, your Hello Fresh and your Blue Apron. And how did any of us ever even survive before Grubhub, Seamless (aren't they the same thing?) and UberEats. Of course, you can always walk in and take out. That also works. (Apologies to the many food delivery options I might have missed.)

Each of these are designed to aid the ever-increasing number among us who are too time crunched to leisurely peruse the food aisles of a Fairway or local farmers market, for whom shopping, cooking and getting a decent homemade meal on the table – especially on a weeknight – is just all too much.

As a food stylist I’m fortunate that my career not only allows, but requires, that I haunt the grocery aisles in search of inspiration and seasonal freshness. (Though I often have to remind myself that I’m the exception.)

Recently, I had the pleasure of styling a cookbook that hit booksellers earlier this fall: From Freezer to Table, by Polly Conner and Rachel Tiemeyer. It brings back the old-fashioned concept of cooking, when you have the time, freezing it for later, coming home, heating it up and – voila! – bringing to the table the home-cooked meal you and your family deserve. There are lots of good reasons for adopting this prepare-in-advance method versus another night of take-out: it’s healthier, it’s ultimately cheaper, and it makes you happy.

Real food made from scratch – when the time is right, even if all the ingredients are delivered to your door in a nifty, temperature-controlled box. Who cares how it arrives; it’s what you do with it that counts – freeze it for meals to come or eat it now!

Here are some of my favorite shots from the book. Photos: Mitch Mandel. Props: Stephanie Hanes.

BROWN BAGGIN' IT

Added on by Lisa Homa.

I imagine it’s not coincidental that a cookbook oozing with butter and chocolate comes out about now. As the weather's turned crisp it's time to abandon your light summer fare of fresh berries and cream, hunker down, turn on the oven, get those braises going and start baking!

A cookbook I recently had the opportunity to food style, Sheila G’s Butter & Chocolate, just hit the shelves. For those unfamiliar, Sheila G. Mains gained her fame by creating the now ubiquitous Brownie Brittle. If you haven’t indulged in a bag, think of those crispy edges you pick at in every brownie batch, only intentionally baked in sheets, cracked into pieces and filling an entire bag.

From the book's 101 recipes here are just a few of my favorite shots. (My collaborators were Tina Rupp, photography, and Karin Olsen, props.) You've got your brownies covered, your brownie ice cream sandwich and even some boozy brownie truffles to really help cut the chill.

Wouldn’t you love to swim in a little butter and chocolate right about now?

I SCREAM

Added on by Lisa Homa.

Let's face it, we all scream for creamy dreamy ice cream in August. Though for some it’s a year round pleasure (or food group). For me, this part of summer represents last licks. I’m not a huge sweet-eater but indulging Memorial through Labor Day is darn right de rigueur. Even if it means a few days of fasting, summer would be a little soulless without ice cream.

My remembrances of ice creams past go way back, to homemade fresh Jersey peach. We used the crank bucket and rock salt during summers down the shore (i.e. Ocean City, New Jersey: a dry town but with homemade fresh peach ice cream who needed booze – especially at ten years old.).

Last fall I worked on the cookbook Ice Cream Adventures, Stef Ferrari’s love letter to ice cream. Stef’s credentials are many but most significantly she’s known for Hay Rosie Craft Ice Cream of Brooklyn. And I was looking forward to it.

The photo shoot was out of town and the schedule was demanding: somewhere between 50 and 60 images during the week-long shoot. Then on Day Two I was blindsided by a full blown, knock down case of the flu. Shivers, fever. The only thing I could manage to get down my throat all week was chicken broth. The smell of those creamy decadent flavors was nauseating. The sticky feel of it dripping off my hands, almost intolerable. I thought my once Proust-like passion for ice cream would never return.

I don’t know how many scoops of cold, sweet, rich, drippy ice cream 50 shots equates to but it’s a lot. And flavor combinations were all over the map from Strawberry Pop Tart and Pale Ale to Tomato Feta Swirl and Cacio e Pepe.

On a cookbook shoot of this size, you can’t go on hiatus for a few days. Too many players, props, ingredients and recipes prepared, plus all of the equipment and the rental space. So the show goes on and the food stylist is typically the driver. You scoop, hope for drips in the right spot, the photographer gets the shot and we all move on to the next. In this case, despite the out-of-bodyness of it all, experience kicked in, my awesome assistant and friend Cindi Gasparre stepped up and we got our pretty shots.

Ice Cream Adventures is a terrific book and there’s no better time to crack it open than now. It’s full of “I want to eat you, lick you” shots and off-the-wall, recipes. It’s a beautiful, deliciously different book. I think the whole team is pretty proud of the work we did.

Fast forward to this summer when my husband, son and I road tripped to Toronto where we find ourselves on Ossington Avenue waiting on an hour-long line for Bang Bang Ice Cream, a local artisanal spot that draws patient crowds of ice cream lovers nightly.

So, I’m not only eating ice cream again but willing to walk the walk and wait the wait to get to the good stuff. (Should any of you Americans scouting a potential move north this election summer find yourselves at Bang Bang, I recommend the orange cardamom in a fresh baked profiterole; it is sooo worth it!).

Stef Ferrari says “Ice cream is optional but always advised”.  Whether it’s homemade, a pint of Ample Hills, Thai rolled or a waffle cone from your favorite Pennsylvania dairy farm (hello, Merrymead Farm!), for me summertime just screams ice cream.

Get yours while it’s still hot.

 

Photos by Tina Rupp & Props by Stephanie Hanes

I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS...ON ONE CONDITION.

Added on by Lisa Homa.

I realize that many people – okay most people – equate the night before Christmas with Santa squeezing down the chimney and all that. But for me, nothing is so evocative of the holidays as the three-day prep and ultimate enjoyment of some Christmas Eve oh-so-flavorful baccalà, the salt cod staple of Italians’ Feast of the Seven Fishes.

In fact, it was my mother’s baccalà that ended a months long estrangement between us when, at sixteen, I left her house with no immediate intention of returning. The source of our discontent: her disapproval of my love life. I had been dating the same boy all through high school. He was a great kid, she admitted, but we were too settled as a couple and she didn’t like it. “It’s not healthy,” she’d argue. “You’re too young!” My mother wanted me to play around. Talk about progressive.

Her perspective, that there’s danger in becoming too cozy at so tender an age, is quite obvious to me now. At the time, though, I was in loooove and would have none of it. One evening our ongoing argument grew violent. My mother slapped me (I probably deserved it), and in a rage I packed my bags and “ran away” to live with a friend’s family a few miles from our house. You might ask why this family so readily opened their doors to a runaway teen. I’m not really sure but I always suspected that the families were in cahoots, that my mother decided it best that I stay with people whom she knew and from whom she could get regular updates simply by picking up the phone.

My newly adopted family, the Steingrebes, were German-American. They lived in a 1700s farmhouse that they had restored and furnished to authentic perfection. Their home life, in comparison to my own, was placid. No shouting. No slapping. Nothing. The calmness of their life was reflected in their obsessions, things like the ideal dovetail wood joint. To the Steingrebes, food was a necessity, and more often than not an afterthought. In their kitchen was a huge walk-in hearth. How cool is that, I thought. Imagine the roasts we’ll prepare! But nuh-uh; the hearth was not for cooking. That’s what the microwave was for. The quality and color of “milk” paint was as close as we came to discussing anything food-related.

Whereas, I grew up in a mixed household, Italian and Ukrainian; from both sides our lives were about great food. Bring on the next meal, baby! With my mother I regularly pilgrimaged to Lancaster County for eggs and cheese, to south Philly for cured meats and porchetta, and to Conshohocken for hot Italian crusty bread to slap it all on. The Steingrebes? Not so much. Calling their food bland would be an insult to bland.

But at sixteen I was stubborn and unforgiving and remained with the Steingrebes for six months, an eternity in teen years. In fairness to my hosts – their disinterest in food notwithstanding – they couldn’t have been more kind and generous, treated me as their own, and during my time with them I learned a tremendous amount about early American art and antiques; it was a unique, formative experience that I’ll forever be grateful for.

At the same time, I was starving…for my mom’s food and for the cacophony of our dinner table.

One day, a few days before Christmas, I ran into my mother at a local drugstore. Our meeting was like a Mexican standoff, tumbleweed wafting through the aisle, neither of us fully prepared to make the first move. At last, she broke the icy silence: “Do you want to come home?”

“Will you make me baccalà?”

Deal. Done.

I was back home that night.

Eventually I did break up with my boyfriend. But on my terms.

I now have a son verging on teen-dom, and we don’t always see eye to eye, which makes this story all the more horrifying for me. Might, one day soon, my independent and headstrong kid serve up my comeuppance for the way I treated my own mother? If so, I hope he will be mollified by the comfort of some home cooking, and that it will take six minutes – okay, six hours – instead of six crazy months for both of us to come to our senses.

Tonight, however, while we won't be decking the halls with boughs of holly, we will be enjoying Grace's baccalà-la-la, la-la la la...


GRACE'S BACCALA SALAD
INGREDIENTS:
2 lbs. Salt cod
2 Celery stalks sliced, plus leaves
¾ cup Green olives with pimentoes, sliced or any mixed variety of cured, pitted green olives
Pepperocinis or hot cherry peppers, sliced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
Good Olive oil & red wine vinegar to taste
2 T. chopped Flat leaf parsley


METHOD:
1. Rinse the dried cod in cold water to get some of the salt off and make it more pliable. Soak the cod in a pot of cold water in the fridge for three days, changing the water once each day. The third day, replace the water and soak with a combo of milk and water.

2. Boil cod on the stove (not long) until it flakes. Drain and rinse if still very salty. Rid of any skin or stray bones. 

3. Flake the cod in a bowl and add all the ingredients from above. Add oil and vinegar to taste and toss gently. Make a day ahead to let flavors meld. Store in refrigerator. Toss periodically. It is definitely better with age!

Makes 12 appetizer servings.

POSTCARD FROM THE CATSKILLS

Added on by Lisa Homa.

From this summer of food, there’s one simple dish that stands out in my mind, so delicious and evocative of the season – RIGHT NOW – that if you try it a month from now it just won’t be the same.

Recently my friend Robin, owner of the local and popular Callicoon Wine Merchant, had some friends over for a lovely meal. Here at his home in the hills of the Beechwoods, surrounded by farms and fields of wildflowers, it was one of this summer’s rare hot nights. The free-ranging conversation ran from raising kids to raising pigs.

The first course was a pretty and welcomed butter-yellow corn soup, served cool. Not chilled, not cold. Cool. Purees are nice served cool and the process allows for the flavors to truly mingle.

Other than corn, the pronounced flavor was fresh chervil. I thought it was a brilliant combo, more so than Robin, who actually prefers it with basil. But what he served was so delicious it stuck with me for days after. So when I saw the farmers selling the season’s freshest corn at Sunday’s market, I decided to make my own.

I swapped out the chervil with tarragon, one of my other favorite summer herbs, preserving the subtle licorice-y flavor. I also included a dash of Philly-made St. Lucifer, my go-to spice when looking to add a slight kick of flavor and heat. This soup’s got great sweet-and-savory appeal and to me just screams summer.

The seasons will soon change and for my family, the river, the time spent with our Catskill friends, and perfectly ripe corn, will all be a lovely memory, as will this delicious butter-yellow corn soup.

Make it now.


CORN SOUP WITH TARRAGON
INGREDIENTS:
1 T. Butter
1 Carrot, medium, chopped
1 Onion, small to medium, chopped
½ celery stalk, chopped
1/8 t. sweet paprika
1/8 t. St. Lucifer – optional
3 ears fresh corn, cut off cob with scraped milk*
¼ cup cream
2 cups water or to desired thickness
1 + T. chopped fresh tarragon
½ t. salt to taste


METHOD:
1. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add vegetables and spices, excluding corn. Saute until softened but not browned.

2. Add corn, cream and water. Bring to a simmer. Take off heat. Add tarragon and season to taste. Allow to cool off a bit.

3. Puree in a processor or blender. I used a processor because that’s what I had on hand. The texture is not quite as smooth but still tastes great.

4. Serve it hot, room temp or cool, all good.

* When cutting corn off the cob, break the ears in half so that you're cutting off of a shorter half cob. The corn kernels won’t spray all over the kitchen.

4 servings

The Year of the Ravioli

Added on by Lisa Homa.

Just hours before the clock turned 2015 it occurred to me that I’d yet to teach my only child, Ellis, how to roll out homemade pasta. (Yes, these are the thoughts that keep me up at night.) How could this have happened? What kind of negligent mother am I?

I grew up turning out both ravioli and pierogies with my mom by the time I was five. These joyful and serene memories – in an otherwise frenetic household of five siblings who would rather play or prank than create dozens of these delightful packets by rote – were clear, early indications of a life as a food stylist.

Back to New Year's Eve. I was feeling pangs of end-of-lineage demise. If Ellis doesn’t learn to create pasta from scratch now, if we don’t do this together right now, who in the family will carry the torch? A lot of pressure for an only child? Hey, you gotta be tough to make a tender ravioli.

So out came the flour and eggs and incredibly long, supple sheets winding through the old but forever shiny manual pasta crank. Out came the wood-handled pasta wheel (same one I used at Ellis’ age) to make that cool, classic zig-zag pattern. Out came Ellis’ inner pasta maker, zipping around his beet greens-shallot-white pepper filled little packets of joy.

As the clock neared midnight we settled into our homemade ravioli, garnished with caviar, crème fraiche and chives.

Happy New Year! 


LISA'S (AND NOW ELLIS') HOMEMADE RAVIOLI
(Recipe makes 40-50 ravioli)

INGREDIENTS FOR FILLING:
1 large shallot – minced
2 cups finely chopped (de-ribbed) beet greens
1½ cups whole milk ricotta
¼ cup grated Parmesan
1 beaten egg white
Ground white pepper and salt to taste

INGREDIENTS FOR PASTA DOUGH:
2 1/2 cups flour, plus more for kneading
½ tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 tsp. olive oil
4 eggs + 1 yolk

TECHNIQUE:
Michael Tusk’s pasta/ravioli demo in Fine Cooking is excellent for technique. (The specialty flours weren’t on hand nor the seven egg yolks. I went for a modified version of his recipe.)

On Gifting and Drinking: Open That Nice Bottle of Wine Now, or Save It?

Added on by Lisa Homa.

A friend recently hosted a dinner party and approached me with this question: “What’s the protocol when guests bring wine? Should you serve it?”. 

Now, when it comes to things culinary, this friend is pretty darn sophisticated. Which is why his question stuck with me. If he struggles with this issue, others must too.

And at no time does this common conundrum more frequently arise than during the holiday season, starting pretty much…now.

Here’s my take on this vintage question. 

First, consider this: when planning a meal, or a party with food, selecting wine that pairs well is high on the to-do list. Presumably, you’ve selected wine that complements the food you’re serving. It’s unlikely your guest was privy to your menu when she decided which wine to bring.

Therefore, treat your guests’ wine or liquor as the gift it was intended to be. Thank them, put it aside, and pour what you’ve planned.  

Just because you’re not cracking open their bottle right this instant doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate it. It means you appreciate it enough to enjoy it at another time. And enjoyed it will be. (In my house, it will be enjoyed sooner than later, I promise!)

Here are two instances that serve as exceptions to this rule:

·      If your guest’s wine pairs better with your meal than yours does

·      If your guest says, “Can we break this open, I’d like to try it with you,” then reach for the corkscrew

Of course, if you’ve asked folks to bring something to contribute to the party, well then bottoms up!

May this be one less thing to mull over this holiday season.

On Duty With Marcus Samuelsson

Added on by Lisa Homa.

Earlier this week my son Ellis and I attended the book party for Marcus Samuelsson’s new - and long awaited - cookbook, "Marcus Off Duty" (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Ellis and a few of his buddies from the country are featured in the book, so it only made sense to leave my husband at home and take Ellis as my date. It was an exciting night for this ten year old. 

There he was, the only kid in the room, swilling ginger beer out of a wine glass and scooping up every hors d’oeuvre that came within reach. His favorite was the mini hot dog garnished with shrimp salad and crispy shallots – apparently a Scandinavian thing – a combination that doesn’t sound like it would work but it does, big time.

Marcus_(2)_300_300_c1.jpg

This book is a labor of love for Marcus and for the folks he enlisted to make it come to fruition. It’s packed with a diversity of colorful, flavorful food, art and even cool music playlists. I loved working on the project, from talking over style and direction with Marcus at Red Rooster, to collaborating with chef James Bowen. 

For my portion of the book, Eden Fesehaye really pulled it all together by wearing lots of hats – she even indulged the team by letting us capture her gorgeous cocoa colored hand and red nails grabbing a cookie. The sweets were dynamite but the browns, pinks and reds were super hot!

On most book projects I cook and style the food solely, but with James manning the stove I was free to style the plates and prop the shots, too. We tried to bring Marcus’ eclectic nature to the propping (have you seen the way the guy dresses?!) While working in his Harlem loft, I discovered that Marcus is not only a chef but a prolific painter. Inspired by the art and all of surfaces he painted on, I incorporated some of his art as surfaces or backgrounds in shots.

 All of this, and the rest of the book, was beautifully captured by photographer Paul Brissman. The book is full of his glorious photographs. Here are a just few of my favorites that we worked on together.



Citymeals and the Naughty Gnudi

Added on by Lisa Homa.

AS A SUPPORTER OF CITYMEALS-ON-WHEELS, I receive a monthly newsletter called “Food for Thought” which features different chef’s recipes. As a food stylist, a lot of recipes cross my plate in a day; most get deleted.

 This one caught my attention, though: a recipe for ramp gnudi.

For me, ramps evoke spring days pulling some of the first vegetables brave enough to rear their heads out of their sandy soil. Sure they’re a bit labor intensive to clean, but they’re tasty, and in early spring there’s not much competition out there. A recipe with ramps is a nod to warmer days and an end to this freak show of a winter.

Now that the recipe has my attention, I’m thinking, ‘What the hell are gnudi?’

I felt like I should know but I didn’t. Turns out to be a tasty little Tuscan gnocchi-type dumpling. And when I told my nine year old son, Ellis, what we were making the litany of jokes commenced, starting with “Do we have to eat these naked!”.

I have to tell you: these gnudi are so fabulously decadent, he would happily have eaten them naked, swaddled like a mummy, whatever.

This dumpling is largely goat cheese, parm and egg combined with a sauté made from the ramps, but I adapted the recipe to what I had. Though I might have gone a little gaga over the ramps, earlier, there were none in the larder so I substituted with the spring asparagus and shallots I had on hand.

I also added a bit of chicken stock creating a less rich pool of sauce for the gnudi to bath in. The dish was comforting yet sophisticated; delicate, not leaden. The goat cheese lent the flavor a slight tang that complemented the spring vegetable.

In my home, we enjoy our meals, though we tend to eat a little faster than we should. Inevitably, one of us will take a breath and utter the word “savor” like a meditative ohm – a reminder to slow down. In this case, I’m sorry to say, there was no savoring: the gnudi vanished as quickly as our third layer of clothes on that recent 60 degree day. 

And see the original recipe by Executive Chef Marco Moreira and Chef de Cuisine Jason Hall of The Fourth.

Loving gnudi. Savoring? Not so much.

Loving gnudi. Savoring? Not so much.

Of Apples and Peers

Added on by Lisa Homa.

YOU COULD SAY THAT I'M GALETTE CRAZY. I’ve been turning them out for years using whatever seasonal ingredients are available. I’ve written articles on these sweet and savory rustic tarts, including a Top 10 List of their virtues. My son and I have made a cottage industry of appearing in magazines under cooking-with-kids headlines like “Easy As Pie” and “Galette, How Do I Love Thee!”

Last week the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance held its annual fall potluck. When I mention this event to friends it always elicits a variation on the same response: “Wow! I’d love to be invited to that. The food must be awesome!”.

It is. This is the ultimate potluck, whose contributors are all highly-experienced culinary professionals – in this case solely women – vying for their dish to be named “Tastiest” or, at the very least, creating something you wouldn’t mind attaching your name to in this room full of demanding female foodies.

Each year’s potluck has a theme. This year’s was simply (and appropriately for fall) “local”. The previous weekend I had loaded up with bags of just-picked apples from the orchard of our friends, the aptly-named Cooks of Obernburg, NY. And as always, I had plenty of potatoes and onions on hand. Being galette-crazy as I am, this was a no-brainer. Food & Wine had just featured one using a crème fraiche and pecorino base. I took that as my lead and made it my own.

The key to a great galette is the combination of a flakey crust and an inspired filling, whether simple or complex. For this galette, I used potatoes sliced paper thin, apples sliced a bit thicker, and onion a width in between, because nobody wants to bite into raw potato or onion and I was aiming for cooked apples, not applesauce. I decided that thyme would be just the right herb for seasoning this beauty.

Apparently my peers thought so, too, and voted mine this potluck's Tastiest Dish. The recipe is below. Enjoy!

savory galette.jpg

LISA HOMA'S POTATO, APPLE AND ONION GALETTE
INGREDIENTS:
Pie pastry (*see my recipe below, based on the classic pate brisee) 
Use 2/3 of the complete pie pastry recipe for a larger, party-style 9"x13" galette
For a flakier crust, make the dough ahead, allowing glutens to relax
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano or any harder Italian cheese, grated
2-3 medium red potatoes
2 tart/sweet firm apples, like Granny Smith, Cortland, Braeburns
1 medium onion
2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
Grind of cracked black pepper
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water (for egg wash) 


METHOD:
1. On a floured surface, roll out pastry into an oblong (approx. 11"x15"). This is a fairly delicate pastry; in order to move it onto a parchment lined sheet pan, roll pastry onto your rolling pin first and unroll it out onto your lined pan.
2. Preheat oven to 450-degrees
3. In a small bowl, combine creme fraiche and grated cheese. Spread onto pastry, leaving a 2" border all around. Cover pastry with plastic wrap and refrigerate until rest of filling is ready.
4. Using a mandoline or Benriner, slice potatoes close to paper thin.
5. Peel and core apples. Slice about 3/8" thick. Toss potatoes and apples in 1 tablespoon of the melted butter and cover.
6. Half the onion length-wise; slice thinly and toss with potato apple mix.
7. Take sheet pan with pastry from fridge and layer potato, apple and onion mix over the cheese portion of the pastry still leaving the 2" border. Quickly alternate potato and apple as you go, sprinkling the onions and adding thyme along the way.
8. Finish by brushing the potato/apple mix with remaining 1 tablespoon of butter; sprinkle with remaining thyme, salt and pepper.
9. Fold perimeter pastry over onto the galette, pleating as you go. The overlap onto the vegetable/fruit mix will be about 1-1/2" to 2" all around.
10. Brush the egg wash onto the pleated pastry border.
11. Bake the galette in the lower 1/3 of the oven for about 45 minutes or until the center is bubbling and pastry is golden brown.

Allow to cool for 15 minutes before slicing. Best served warm or at room temperature. If cool, can easily be reheated in a 350-degree oven. 

Yield: Approx. 20 thin slices.  


*LISA HOMA'S CLASSIC PIE PASTRY
My crust is classic pate brisee style. I recommend making  the dough ahead, allowing glutens to relax.

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 large egg, cold

Add flour, salt and butter to bowl of food processor fit with blade attachment. Process until butter forms small peas. Add egg plus cold water to make a shy 1/3 cup. Pulse until dough starts to pull together (don't overwork). Turn out onto floured surface. Pull together; divide into two 5" discs. Wrap individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for up to five days. May freeze for up to one month. Defrost for use. Dough should be cool to touch for rolling, not room temperature. 

Makes 2 9" crusts for pie or galette. 

Added notes for flakier crust: I allow crust to relax in fridge after rolling out and before filling. Whether sitting in a pie plate or on a sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap and chill while prepping fruit or other filling. If crust is rolled out/ready when fruit is prepped, it will keep the fruit/sugar mix from sitting and weeping too much before baking. 

 

It's Saturday Night And I Ain't Got No Bok Choy

Added on by Lisa Homa.

OKAY, AS USUAL, I'VE BEEN COOKING MYSELF INSIDE OUT, LATELY. Today, I decided to step back from the stove and dive into a cleaning frenzy. My husband Bennett and I spent five hours cleaning our son Ellis’ room. Saturday night is upon us and we’re still waving around rags and a vacuum. Clinging to the days of yore, when Saturday night meant partaay! – or at least some form of enjoyment; the stuff you lived for all week – I’m starting to feel that all of this is just very wrong. It’s SATURDAY NIGHT! At the very least someone could cook for me – quickly and not in my momentarily clean kitchen. 

Bennett’s first, and usually second, suggestion is “Let’s order Chinese.”

“Fine,” I say, “just please get some greens – steamed – no sauce to supplement whatever greasy stuff you order. I’d love some bok choy.”

The order arrives with a container of steamed white chunks – the base of the bok choy. NO GREENS! What the hell? I call No. 1 Chinese (they can't all be No. 1!) and demand to know from the lady answering the phone “Where are the greens?”

“Bok choy white," she says.

“Where?!” I ask. I'm dumbfounded, apoplectic. “Who?! Why?!" I spit into the phone. "What do you do with the green part? I mean, it’s most of the plant for God's sake!” I repeated that “What do you do with the green part?” mantra maybe a 10 or 12 times. She parried right back by repeating “Boy choy white, bok choy white.” This went on until Bennett and Ellis individually and as a team threatened to commit me.

Bad Bok Choy

Bad Bok Choy

Good Bok Choy

Good Bok Choy

Since I was a kid, I always had a thing for greens. I would not only willingly but joyfully make the salad for our nightly dinner, which was never complete without it.  My love of greens became ingrained.

Okay, so I admit, I may have over-reacted. Scratch that. No, I didn't over-react. The punishment should fit the crime, and for the sin of serving all-white bok choy, No. 1 Chinese got me.

But I would still love to know what they do with the green part of the bok choy. I envision the No. 1 Chinese folk sitting in the back for a staff meal, with glorious mounds of sautéed, glistening, emerald green bok choy, laughing and loving it. I pass this place everyday, and I can't help thinking they know. "It's that crazy bok choy lady," they whisper and nudge each other as I pass their door. 

I think it’s criminal that they would de-green a beautiful head of bok choy and try to pawn it off on somebody. Will they think twice next time they behead the bok choy? Not bloody likely.

Grab Winter By The Roots

Added on by Lisa Homa.

ONE OF THE THINGS I LOVE ABOUT A CSA is that it requires you to use vegetables that you might not be inclined to otherwise. If you continue your share in the dead of winter, like I do, the not-so-inclined vegetables are plentiful. This week’s share, among the very useful, never-have-enough onions, carrots and apples included a nice big bag of turnips and rutabagas (I honestly think rutabaga should consider a name change). 

IMG_3844.JPG

This earthy, spicy, winter soup recipe turned out to be a tasty alternative to watching the rutabagas and turnips shrivel up in my vegetable drawer. It’s an unusual flavor that I attribute to the rutabagas but so good that my son Ellis had seconds. It stands on it’s own but a garnish of sour cream or crème fraiche works well, too.

I used all of the rutabagas and turnips and added a bit of onion, carrot and apple to round it out. Garam masala, one of my go-to spices for fall squash soup makes a flashy and welcomed appearance on a cold, dull winter day.  

 WINTER ROOT SOUP
 
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 1/2 pounds mix of rutabagas, turnips (even parsnips), peeled and chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 quart chicken stock (vegetable stock if preferred)

Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste


Method:
 In 5 quart pot, over medium low heat, add oil and butter to melt. Add spices and stir for 1 minute to become aromatic. Add carrot and onion, sauté for 5 minutes until onion softens. Mix in the rest of vegetables and apple. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Add stock. Simmer over medium heat until vegetables are soft. Let cool slight before pureeing all in blender. Will need to puree in 2 or 3 batches. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

 

And The Winner Is...

Added on by Lisa Homa.

I'M USUALLY UNAFFECTED BY ALL OF THE OSCAR NIGHT HOOPLA. But this year I not only saw many of contenders but was inspired enough by the likes of Beast of the Southern Wild’s Hushpuppy to Searching for Sugarman’s Rodriquez to go all out for the big night.

Yep, like many moviegoers, my husband and I came up with our own Oscar-themed menu to enjoy with friends as we watched the whole damn show. In the end, we had some tasty food and happily witnessed Argo pick up the big kahuna.

85th Oscars Menu:
• Amour & Les Miz: Lillet Rouge and bubbly with orange twist cocktail
• Silver Linings Playbook: Yuenlings and “crabby snacks” made with real cheddar
  (instead of Wiz) on crostini (instead of English Muffins)
• Argo & Zero Dark Thirty: Hummus made with yogurt and sherry vinegar (adapted from
  Bon Appetit’s March 2013 issue) with Persian cucumbers, radishes and olives
• Beasts of Southern Wild & Django Unchained: Hush Puppies
• Life of Pi: Spicy Curried Chicken noodle stew (also adapted from Bon App)
• Clementines and Chocolate (just because)

Here’s a sample recipe from the night; an homage to Quvenzhané Wallis:

Hush Puppies

Hush Puppies

BSW HUSH PUPPIES
Ingredients:
1 1/2 quarts peanut oil or vegetable, for frying
1 1/3 cups cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
5 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced
1 (15-ounce) can corn, drained
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten


Method:
Heat oil to 350 degrees F. in a deep-fryer or Dutch oven.

In a 1-quart mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients with seasonings. Add the remaining items and stir until blended. Allow to stand 5 minutes.

Drop the batter by heaping teaspoonful into the hot oil. Don't overcrowd; leave room for the hush puppies to be turned. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Lightly sprinkle with salt to taste, and transfer to a serving dish.

If you find they’re not all eaten by hungry guest as soon as they’re made, keep the cooked hush puppies warm in an oven while cooking up the last of the batter.