One Pea Pod/Scallops and Pea Puree

What did I have for lunch yesterday?  One perfect pea pod.  No kidding.  I was rushing like crazy and forgot to eat lunch.  I was at my favorite stand at the Union Square Farmer's Market buying micro-greens, edible flowers, pink-stemmed buckwheat sprouts, and more.  Windfall Farms carries "boutique" produce unlike any other and that's where all the photo/prop/food styling folks go.  Including me...and I have a photo shoot for Lenox China coming up.  Anyway, I was also thirsty and the nice farmer said, "here, eat a pea pod."  In one fell swoop, I tasted early summer...I felt satisfied...and my thirst was quenched. That's it. A pea pod bursting with tiny fresh peas.  The essence. Nothing more. As promised yesterday on my Facebook page, I present the recipe that got a surprise rave from cooking maestro Arthur Schwartz who said he made my "Seared Scallops on Sweet Pea Puree" from Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease.  He said "be mindful when browning the scallops," but he also said that the timing was perfect and that it was delicious.  I think he added a burst of fresh lemon juice and so may you. I hope you enjoy it as much as Arthur and his guest did.

This dish is an adaptation of one of the most beloved recipes from my original Recipes 1-2-3, but I've updated it with dry vermouth and a garnish of trendy pea shoots. It is a dish for any time of the year because frozen peas, always available, provide the base of the lovely buttery puree, but I suggest you try it soon with super-fresh peas from the farmers market.  If using fresh peas, shell enough peas (from their pods) to get about 1-1/2 cups and follow the recipe, cooking the peas as long as needed to get tender but still bright green.

Seared Scallops on Sweet Pea Puree Get the best freshest scallops available.  Make sure they haven't been "dipped" in a solution or you will have difficulty browning them.

10 ounces frozen petits pois, thawed 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 20 medium-large sea scallops 3 tablespoons dry vermouth handful of pea shoots, mache, or microgreens

Put the peas in a saucepan with water to just cover. Bring to a boil and boil 2 minutes (longer if using fresh peas.) Drain well and save 6 tablespoons cooking water. Put the peas, 2 tablespoons of the butter, and the reserved cooking water in a blender.  Puree until very smooth and thick.  Add salt and pepper.  Return to the saucepan and keep warm.   Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet.  Season the scallops and add to the pan.  Sear over high heat 2 minutes per side until golden and just cooked through.  Spread the warm pea puree in the centers of 4 large warm plates.  Arrange the scallops on the puree.  Add the vermouth and remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the pan. Cook over high heat until syrupy, about 30 seconds.  Pour over the scallops and top with pea shoots.  Serves 4

Give peas a chance.  Enjoy!

10-Minute Summer Pastas

There is no better time of the year to take full advantage of nature's bounty and...good fresh pasta. There are several available on the market today.  However, I do long for Henry Lambert's ground-breaking concept -- launched in New York decades ago -- called "Pasta & Cheese." It was sensational to be able to go to a store featuring taleggio and gorgonzola (both rarities then) and revolutionary to encounter sheets of freshly made pasta that would be cut in front of you to your desired specs -- fettuccine, pappardelle, etc. I believe the first store was on the upper east side and opened right after I learned to make my own pasta in Italy -- the summer of 1978 -- when I began drying my own freshly-made pasta on broomstick handles perched atop two chairs in the kitchen of Gracie Mansion! Life was nothing short of discovery back then. It was a time of innocence, gleaming new pasta machines in home kitchens, and pesto madness. It was the delicious homemade Sicilian pesto that I had the other day at Arthur Schwartz's home, that made me remember my own version of  "pesto rosso" from Radically Simple: Brilliant Flavors with Breathtaking Ease. This pesto is unusual in that it is made with almonds and has fresh tomato in it. It hails from Trapani in Sicily and is known as pesto Trapanese. I hadn't made it in awhile and ran home to do so!  The secret, according to Arthur, was to use really good garlic. And I agree that it made all the difference in the world. He buys his at the Grand Army Plaza farmer's market on Saturday mornings. The Linguine with Pesto Rosso, below, is my take on this famous dish, here made with ingredients gathered from the four corners of my refrigerator. It would be lovely to serve with my salad of Shaved Fennel with Parmigiano & Hot Pepper -- to which I sometimes add tiny segments of fresh oranges.  It will put some sunshine into this gray summer day.

This week I will be offering more 10-ten pasta dishes, perfect for summer entertaining so, stay tuned.

Linguine with Pesto Rosso

1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves 1/2 pint ripe grape tomatoes 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/4 cup whole almonds (with skins) 1 medium garlic clove 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 2/3 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano 12 ounces fresh linguine

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Combine the parsley, basil, tomatoes, oil, almonds, garlic and Parmesan in a food processor.  Add 1/3 cup of the pecorino and process until very smooth.  Add salt and pepper.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Cook the pasta in the boiling water for 3 minutes, or until tender.  Drain well and shake dry. Add the pasta to the pesto and toss thoroughly.  Sprinkle with the remaining pecorino.  Serves 4

Shaved Fennel with Parmigiano & Hot Pepper This is an unusual starter to a hefty meal or a nice side salad for a summer pasta dinner.  The little nubbins of cheese are unexpected.  Add fresh orange segments if you wish.

1 large fennel bulb, about 1-1/2 pounds 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar large pinch red pepper flakes 4-ounce piece Parmigiano-Reggiano 2 big handfuls baby arugula

Trim the feathery fronds from the fennel bulb; chop to get 1/4 cup and set aside.  Cut the fennel in half lengthwise and cut crosswise as thinly as possible.  Place in a bowl.  Add the oil, vinegar, pepper flakes, and salt.  Break the cheese into very small pieces; add to the salad and toss.  Stir in the arugula.  Scatter chopped fronds on top.  Serves 4

Tastes of the Week

From July 11th to July 17th, 2011 Amazing fresh chickpeas at Union Square Market from the Bodhitree Organic farm (located 20 minutes south of Trenton). Boiled in their pods they taste somewhere between fresh peas and edamame. They are even interesting raw.  But we loved them best tossed with olive oil and a bit of garlic and "grilled" in a searing hot pan until slightly charred, then sprinkled with salt.  You suck them from their pods and then lick your fingers.

A pile of super-fresh peaches with thick yogurt and Rota organic honey from New Zealand.  A handful of fresh raspberries on top.  The honey is made from "the brilliant red flowering Rota trees" that flower every 3 or 4 years.  It is a highly prized white honey that is considered one of the world's best.

A slice of my Venetian Wine Cake made with olive oil, red wine, rosemary and lemon.  Am thinking about bringing it back on the market in the fall!

The best soft-serve ice cream at the Margate Dairy Bar in Margate, New Jersey.  Its chocolatey-ness came through the the black and white swirl like a blast from the past. Ultra-creamy texture.  Also enjoyed the orange and vanilla swirl (like a Creamsicle) on a cone.

A fun "cheese steak pizza" at Cavallino Nero in Mays Landing, New Jersey.  Sat outside in the front garden entwined with grape vines, feeling like we were somewhere in an obscure town in Italy.  (Where we will be next week!)

Fabulous cheeses from Cato Corner Farm located in the Union Square Market.  I especially adored the Black Ledge Blue and a very cheddary cheese called Bloomsday.  They name their cows and also their cheeses with great charm:  Dairyere, Drunk Monk, and Wise Womenchego. The amazing Dale Bellisfield, holistic medical practitioner, clinical herbalist and NJ bee keeper, turned me on to them.

Imported taralli, roasted almonds and white wine at Arthur Schwartz's house.

Lovely breakfast in Iva's garden (a friend in the neighborhood) sitting amongst fig trees and hanging clusters of green grapes. Fig trees!  Who knew? Great coffee and toasted slices of Amy's fennel-golden raisin rolls.

My daughter's homemade chocolate chip cookies.  Hers are much better than mine!

A large, lush, fleshy purple fig.

What to Buy at the Farmer's Market

One of life's greatest pleasures, anywhere in the world, is to go to a local farmer's market. My life straddles two of them -- the bustling Union Square market on Wednesday morning and the slightly more intimate market at Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope, Brooklyn on Saturday. At this time of the year, it is as though someone flipped the switch as the smells, energy and variety of nature's bounty deepens and expands. The color of "fresh" seems to pulsate and I tenderly look for what was not there the week before.  The semaphores of the season alert me as to what to cook for dinner. I like the idea of being a seasonalist -- and fondly remember the excitement generated around the idea of cuisine du marché (cooking from the market) first popularized by Paul Bocuse in 1976 with his book "La Cuisine du Marché. But several years earlier, the American cooking teacher Perla Meyers, wrote a book we all loved (even before most of us had farmer's markets in our own zip codes!) called "The Seasonal Kitchen" in 1973!

So... this coming week, consider fleshy purple scallions (a wonderful garnish or lovely to sauté with peas), fresh peas!, petit ripe strawberries (small compared to what you get in the supermarket), fresh chamomile! (I infuse it in vodka), nasturtium flowers and leaves (superb in any salad), six different colors of slender carrots, crisp asparagus, and from Windfall Farms (my favorite place), flowering pea shoots (with a tiny purple flower) that I chop up and throw in consommé (Chinese style) or lightly sauté with garlic as a bed for roasted halibut. There are radishes for spreading with sweet butter and roasting and serving with one of the local nutty, sharp cheeses or creamier goat cheeses. I slipped the peas from several pounds of fresh peas today. It was quite meditative. I thought about the lecture I went to several weeks ago at the World Science Festival in New York about the "brain and the articulate hand." This is what I thought about, pod by pod.

Do consider making my Seared Scallops on Sweet Pea Puree this weekend -- and make it with fresh peas. It comes from Radically Simple and it is. Or try my Campanelle with Caramelized Onions, Peas & Mint. There's lots of mint at the market, too! End with a basket full of berries topped with sweetened crème fraiche and snippets of lemon verbena. Campanelle with Caramelized Onions, Peas & Mint This is an exuberant way to dress up any short pasta.  Thai fish sauce adds a does of umami...and intrigue.  Use fresh peas!

4 large yellow onions, about 1-1/2 pounds 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 12 ounces uncooked campanelle or penne rigati 1 cup shelled fresh peas 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint 1/3 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus a 2-ounce piece

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cut the onions in half through the roots.  Place cut side down on a board. Thinly slice lengthwise (not into half-circles.) Heat the oil in a very large skillet.  Add the onions and cook over high heat, stirring, until dark brown, about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Add the peas and cook 7 minutes longer.  Drain well, saving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.  Add the vinegar and fish sauce to the onions and cook 2 minutes.  Add the drained pasta and peas, reserved cooking water, mint and grated cheese.  Cook 2 minutes until hot.  Add salt and pepper.  Serve in warm bowl, use a vegetable peeler to shave shards of cheese on top.  Serves 4 to 6

Ten-Minute Cooking

Many years ago, Edouard de Pomiane wrote an engaging book called French Cooking in Ten Minutes.  I have loved that book for decades -- more for its ideology than any recipe in particular.  Reading it gives you a sense of being "present,"  and at the brink of cooking-in-the-moment.  The book calls for quite a few ingredients culled from the cupboard, cans and such, but I was thinking of all the fresh recipes one could make gleaning the season's best ingredients from the farmer's market.  Those gorgeous tomatoes?  In ten minutes I sliced a whole platter of them, drizzled on extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and ground cumin, then showered the arrangement with a blanket of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.  (I have recently discovered that umami-laden tomatoes have great affinity with cumin.)  Or how about a lovely pea soup laced with wasabi and mint, buttermilk and shallots?  I love the purple scallions now available at the Union Square Market and have taken to simply sautéing a pan full, with bits of prosciutto to pour over a filet of broiled bluefish. My dear friend, Arthur (the food maven), has taken to eating "crudo" at home -- thin slices of raw tuna drizzled with his best olive oil, lemon, hot pepper and salt.  You can make my 500-Degree Cod with Macadamia Butter & Radicchio in 10 minutes and roast an entire sheet pan of plump mussels at the same time.  And this is the season when nothing satisfies quite like a big juicy sun-dried tomato burger or a sirloin steak topped with Magic Green Sauce -- you must try it -- recipe below!  This sauce, which transforms almost anything -- from a simple grilled chicken paillard to roasted asparagus to a pan full of soft-scrambled eggs (also from the farmer's market), takes only minutes to make and four simple ingredients.

Ten-minute desserts are also exciting.  Soon will come the joy of pairing fleshy peaches with fresh basil (and a splash of peach schnapps), and fragrant strawberries under a blanket of freshly-made emerald green mint sugar.  I just brought home a quart of berries which my family loved -- you can tell by their color -- almost purple -- that they were going to taste great.

With a nod to Pomiane, I offer, in my book Radically Simple, more than three dozen salads, perfect for this time of year, in a chapter simply called "10-Minute Salads." 'Tis the season.  Check it out.

Magic Green Sauce (from Radically Simple) From a platter of tomatoes to a juicy charred steak, this is a sauce that transforms.  The flavors coalesce so that even guests who don't think they like cilantro probably will.

1 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves with a bit of their stems 1/2 cup capers, plus 2 tablespoons brine 2 tablespoons chopped scallions, white parts only 6 tablespoons olive oil

Combine the cilantro, capers, brine, and scallions in a food processor.  Slowly add the oil and 2 tablespoons water; process until almost smooth.  Add salt and pepper.

The Rhubarb Dish

So here it is, slowly making its way onto supermarket produce aisles and into our local farmer's markets.  Rhubarb:  It's easy to love. Extra long rosy stalks of vegetable masquerading as fruit appear just when I covet transition from cold winter days to bright Spring effervescence.  In and of itself, it is a "tonic" food:  Defined as anything that stimulates or invigorates.   It is complete with acidity and antioxidants (anthocyanins) and is a cinch to prepare.  Not long ago, a neighbor told me about a memorable rhubarb dish she was served at a very recent dinner party.  The host of that dinner, David Burrell, kindly shared the recipe that made such an impression on our neighbor, Jerri Mayer (Her husband, a well-known bankruptcy lawyer, is an awesome home cook.)   You can imagine my delight when I found out that the recipe required only two ingredients!  Three, if you serve it hot over vanilla ice cream and consider ice cream an ingredient!  David says "take 6 to 8 stalks of rhubarb and wash them but do not dry.  Cut into pieces between 1 and 2 inches.  Place into a saucepan still wet with only the water they were washed in.  Cover with 1/2 cup of sugar and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally.  Keep an eye on them as it will eventually froth over.  Add sugar to taste. Serve hot over ice cream."   That's it! Rhubarb came to American kitchens in the 1820's.  Commonly mixed with strawberries in a pie, it came to be known as "pie plant," famously so, in an early book of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  In the Scandinavian countries, tender stalks of rhubarb would be dipped into sugar as an inexpensive treat for children.  Rhubarb generally appears in the market minus its wide green leaves which contain high amounts of oxalic acid.  Do not consume:  A lot of it will kill you.  But as charmingly put by "The City Cook" website, "With its big personality, rhubarb has been used medicinally, to color hair (brewed as a tea to add golden highlights), as a natural and non-toxic scrub to clean pots and pans, and by gardeners as a safe-to-humans insecticide.  All this -- and it can be dessert!"

I say, serve it for breakfast!  Try my Warm Rhubarb Compote with Walnut-Coconut Crunch.  Radically delicious, this complex-sounding fruit-and-yogurt dish is ready to eat in 15 minutes.  It can either begin or end a special weekend brunch and would be delightful this Easter Sunday. Warm Rhubarb Compote with Walnut-Coconut Crunch

4 cups rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces 2/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar 1/3 cup creme de Cassis or Chambord 1/2 cup walnut pieces 12/ cup unsweetened organic flaked coconut 2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt 3 tablespoons wildflower honey

Wash the rhubarb; pat dry.  Place in a medium saucepan with 2/3 cup sugar and the Cassis.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat and cover.  Simmer, stirring often, until soft, 10 minutes.  Place saucepan in the freezer while you prepare the topping.  Combine the walnuts and remaining 3 tablespoons sugar in a medium skillet.  Cook over high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sugar melts and the nuts are crunchy, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the coconut and cook 30 seconds.  Transfer the rhubarb to 4 glasses.  Dollop with the yogurt and sprinkle with the walnut-coconut mixture.  Drizzle with honey.  Serves 4

A Farmer's Market Meal

You can pretty much get everything on this plate at your local farmer's market.  After all, there are only 9 ingredients that make up this eternally spring meal. Although it's a bit gray and rainy today, I am off to the Union Square Market, the heart and soul of the city, to get the ingredients for tonight's dinner.  This image, from one of my earlier books, Recipes 1-2-3 Menu Cookbook (published in 1998), is attention-getting as it is stunning in its simplicity and restraint.  The three simple recipes include tender lamb chops under a "crust" of goat cheese and rosemary; a slow-cooked tomato layered with red onion "napoleon-style," and stir-fried watercress with garlic chips.  Only today, 14 years later when pea shoots are now the veg du jour, I may substitute them for the watercress in this recipe.  I may also, instead of the rosemary, use fresh lavender -- just a bit -- as my husband really likes it.  It is an unforgiving herb, however, as a little too much is...a little too much.  Goat cheese and lavender have great affinity and my husband often stuffs it under the skin of a large chicken and roasts it to perfection.  This menu brings great rewards for modest amounts of effort. Open an unexpected bottle of Domaine Clavel's Les Garrigues, a blend of syrah and grenache noir from the Languedoc, or choose a flowery Beaujolais like Chiroubles. Check in later for dessert.  I will see what's new and exciting at the market this morning!  One of life's simple pleasures is checking out what's on nature's agenda each week. Enjoy!

Lamb Chops with Goat Cheese & Rosemary 8 thick rib lamb chops 6 ounces fresh goat cheese 3 tablespoons finely snipped fresh rosemary or lavender

"French" the chops, cutting all meat from the bones to the "eye" of the chops; or leave them as they are.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a small bowl, mix goat cheese with 2 tablespoons rosemary or lavender.  Season chops with salt and pepper and steak in a large nonstick skillet until browned, about 2 minutes on each side.  Pack approximately 1-1/2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture on one side of each chop to cover completely.  Place chops in oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until desired doneness, but still rare in the center.  You may brown the cheese for 30 seconds under the broiler.  Scatter remaining herbs on top.  Serves 4 "Short-Stack" Tomatoes and Onions These can be made ahead of time and reheated for 10 minutes at 375 degrees.

4 medium-large ripe tomatoes, about 1-1/2 pounds 2 large red onions 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Slice 1/4-inch from top and bottom of each tomato.  Cut each tomato into 3 thick slices.  Re-assemble each to look like whole tomato. Peel onions and slice 1/4-inch thick.  Layer thicker onions between tomato slices, ending on top with a thin slice of onion.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over each and season with salt and pepper.  Place a short skewer in center of each stack to help hold together.  Place in shallow baking pan and bake 1-1/4 hours.  Baste with pan juice twice.  Remove from oven and let rest 15 minutes.  Carefully transfer to plates and spoon pan juices on top.  Drizzle with more oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Serves 4

Watercress (or Pea Shoots) Saute with Garlic Chips

3 large bunches watercress or 12 ounces pea shoots 4 large garlic cloves 3 tablespoons olive oil

Remove woody stems from watercress.  Peel garlic and slice paper thin, lengthwise.  Heat oil in a large skillet until hot.  Add garlic, cook 15 seconds until crisp, then immediately remove.  Add watercress or pea shoots.  Cook over high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until just wilted.  Stir in garlic chips and salt to taste.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4