Squash Blossom Serenade

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I’ve always been afraid of squash blossoms. I knew you could cook them–stuff them with cheese and fry them–but somehow that seemed difficult. Plus you have to search inside each flower for bugs and who wants to take a chance that you might miss one? “No thank you,” I used to say to myself. “No squash blossoms for me.”

But then on Saturday at the farmer’s market I’d purchased the obligatory heirloom tomatoes for an heirloom tomato salad when I passed $5 packages of squash blossoms at the stand near the subway stop. They called to me and this time I didn’t run away in fear: I purchased a box and brought them home. And boy am I glad I did, as you will soon learn…

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Elise’s Fritters & An Heirloom Tomato Salad

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Do I hold the record for fastest re-blogged recipe? Probably not. Elise put up her recipe for spicy corn fritters on August 12th, I made them “today” (technically yesterday) August 13th, and now it’s 12:22 AM and I’m blogging about it on August 14th (my mom’s birthday: happy birthday mom!) But no matter. The point is, these corn fritters are truly excellent and a cinch to make. Head to your local farmer’s market to load up on corn and then do what I did: buy a basket of strange looking heirloom tomatoes and make a little salad to serve next to the fritters. Just add olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and basil if you have it. That’s it! A perfect summer meal. Thanks Elise, your fritters make me twitter with joy.

Clotilde’s Carpaccio

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I’ve been sleeping with Clotilde. Since Craig’s left for Seattle to shoot his first feature (I’ll be there in a week to join him for two weeks), I had no choice but to find a substitute. And that substitute is everyone’s favorite Parisian food blogger. Well. Ok. Not her. Her cookbook. I’ve been reading it in bed and when I wake up the next morning it’s right there next to me smiling “hello.” Is it weird that I talk to it at breakfast? Help it to the bathroom? Take it out to lunch? That’s the normal way to treat a cookbook, right?

Well can I help it if I’m smitten? The book is adorable and smart and filled with good ideas, just like its creator. And even though I’ve had the book for a few weeks, I’ve found it very difficult to choose a first recipe to try from it: they all look so good. The mustard chicken is the one that makes my lips smack the loudest, but I think it’s too hot for mustard chicken. Plus I made chicken last night for dinner. And it’s called “Chocolate & Zucchini,” shouldn’t I make something with zucchini in it?

The picture you see above, then, was my solution. I was at the farmer’s market today and saw, for the first time this season, piles of gorgeous, bright green zucchini. I chose two large ones (even though Clotilde says to choose three small ones–I didn’t have the book with me, I had taken it to the park where it wanted some private time) and brought them home and proceeded to make her “Carpaccio De Courgette Au Vinaigre De Framboise.” Only I didn’t use Vinaigre De Framboise (raspberry vinegar): I had Balsamic. But that was ok: Clotilde mentions Balsamic as a variation.

This recipe is so simple you can just memorize it. You slice the zucchini very thin (I need better knife skills, as you can tell by that photo), put them in a circular pattern on the plate, scatter goat cheese over the top (I bought fresh chevre at the farmer’s market too). Then you make a vinagirette with olive oil and the vinegar, though I just drizzled the olive oil over the top, along with a few drops of the Balsamic. I spinkled on some nice sea salt and a few grindings of pepper and did as Clotilde commanded: covered it with plastic and let it sit, at room temperature, for ten minutes.

Ten minutes later, I sat down and consumed this strange and delightful dish. It’s hard to explain why it’s so good: maybe because the zucchini is so good right now, and this dish highlights its vegetal brightness? Or is it the way the cheese gives it body and the oil a slickness and the vinegar a zippy punch? I don’t know, but I loved it. Along with some fresh bread, this was my dinner. And I was happy.

Only the book hasn’t come home yet. Maybe I shouldn’t have left it at the park? Who will I sleep with tonight? Any takers?

70 Steps To Foie Gras Torchon

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1. Receive a free lobe of foie gras from Mirepoix USA.

2. Post about it on your website.

3. Consider your options. (Option 1: Go as Foie Gras Head to that Halloween party; Option 2: Sear it and serve it; Option 3: Make a torchon from The French Laundry Cookbook.)

4. Decide on Option Two.

5. Meet Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune and ask her what she would do with a lobe of foie gras if she received one in the mail. Hear her say, “I’d make the recipe that appeared last summer in Saveur where you cure it in salt.” [This is the recipe. I think the article’s by her sister.]

6. Decide to make that recipe.

7. Consult Meg who has also received a lobe of foie gras. Let her convince you not to make that recipe, but to make Option 3: the torchon from The French Laundry cookbook. She says, “It’s totally worth it.” She says she’s going to make torchon with hers.

8. Decide to make that recipe.

9. Challenge her to a Torchon Tournament.

9. Begin the process.

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To Cut An Artichoke

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For months now I have watched Mario Batali cut artichokes on “Molto Mario,” demanding the participation of this three guests and charging that “it’s really easy and really worthwhile.” What’s infuriating (but admirable) is that he takes the time, each time, to explain the process to his audience. The religious viewer is left irritated at the repetition: “Ok, Mario,” you want to say, “I know how to cut an artichoke.”

I said that very thing last week watching him on Tivo when I had an idea. “I have an idea,” I said to myself. “Let’s buy some artichokes and see if I really do know how to cut an artichoke.”

And thus this post was born.

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When life throws you risotto, make Arancini!

There’s nothing I like less than day-old risotto. When it’s hot off the stove, all the textures and flavors meld together to create a soothing, heavenly mixture. But after a day in the fridge, it turns a bit gummy and then heating it up inevitably makes it gummier. What to do with day old risotto?!

Thank the Lord for this website. Because a while back, when I last made risotto, I said I threw out the leftovers because they were kind of nasty. A commenter wrote: “Don’t do that next time! Make Arancini!” Which is exactly what I did last night.

Arancini is a fried risotto ball. Putting it together is a cinch. The only thing I had to go out and buy was breadcrumbs (and salad ingredients to serve with it) but that’s it. That and cheese—but I had goat cheese on hand. So set up three bowls: (1) 1/2 cup of flour; (2) 2 eggs beaten; (3) 1/2 cup of bread crumbs.

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I seasoned the flour a bit but that’s your choice. Some of the recipes I read didn’t have you do that, but I’m a rebel. I opened a package of Coach Farm goat cheese that I bought at the farmer’s market, and unlike the last one this one was creamy and tangy just the way I like it:

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So the next part’s kind of gross, but just work fast. You open up your day-old refrigerated risotto, and stick your hand in and make a 1 to 2 inch ball. Flatten it and break off a piece of goat cheese, insert it in the middle, and reform the ball. (My risotto was really wet and it made all this really difficult, but I still managed.) Then dip that ball into the flour, coat, shake off; then into the egg; and finally the breadcrumbs. Here’s what you’ll end up with:

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I rested them on wax paper as I heated up the oil. It took an entire bottle of Canola oil to fill 2-inches of my heavy pot, but that happens when you fry. You heat up the oil to 360 (make sure you have a thermometer) and once there, drop your balls in. (I wanna dip my balls in it!) (<--anyone remember that?) IMG_4.JPG

They only took a little more than 2 minutes before they were golden brown. I took them out with a slotted spoon and drained them on paper towels:

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Don’t they look great? Just so I didn’t feel too unhealthy, I served them with a salad (basically a bag of exotic lettuce with grape tomatoes in a homemade vinaigrette—I’m a pro!):

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Biting into the Arancini was awesome: crunchy on the outside, and creamy/risotto-ey on the inside. Plus that goat cheese is a nice surprise:

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It’s almost worth making risotto so you can make this the next day. Two meals out of one dish: that’s my kind of food.