Wednesday, April 21, 2010


 I am a cheapskate. I hate buying the little plastic packets of herbs in the produce aisle, which cost north of two dollars and usually contain way more herb than I need. I parsimoniously buy only what a recipe calls for, sometimes limping along on thyme when it calls for both rosemary and thyme, or  (horrors) substituting dried. At the end of the month, I clear out the odds and ends of the vegetable bin for broth, but inside the plastic packs of herbs is  a greenhouse, generally brown and slimy, having traveled way to far in the first place to have any longevity.

And so I love when the herbs come in. I am a way less than diligent gardener, and yet back they come, year after year, bigger and better and lusher and fatter. I step out of my kitchen in my Uggs and grab a little sage, or thyme, for my morning egg. I tuck oregano into roasting chickens, and poke mint into juleps. When we are assured of no more freezing nights, I will plant basil to grow into big bushes for pesto, of which I freeze copious amounts each autumn.

It didn't take too much for my garden to grow. I excavated a small patch between the porch and the garage, hauled out wheelbarrows full of Virginia's red clay soil and filled in with loamy dirt mixed with compost and manure. Then I plopped in a few choice stepping stones and mulched. As I traveled through spring, I collected a sage here, a chive here and a dill another spot. Into the garden they went. Add water, sun, summer and boom.

Which made crafting this tenderloin all the more pleasurable. Because generally, in the dead of winter,  I cheap out on either the thyme or the sage. But making it with the duo is infinitely more complex and satisfying.

Pork and herbs wrapped in Prosciutto

4 slices fresh prosciutto
8 portions pork tenderloin, 4 ounces each
sage leaves, sliced thinly
thyme leaves, pulled off the stalk
sea salt and ground pepper
2 T avocado oil

Cut proscuitto slices lengthwise in half.  Spread a half strip flat on work surface and sprinkle with sage and thyme (about a half teaspoon each),  put pork in the middle and wrap. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.

Heat avocado oil (I like avocado oil for sauteeing as it has the highest heat point of any monosaturated vegetable oil; grapeseed oil is also good). Cook pork pieces, turning once, until meat is brown and internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

I served with fresh asparagus sprinkled with coarse sea salt, accompanied by jasmine rice. Yum.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Dinner with Matt Lauer

Last week I took my son to the dentist. While they were cleaning and flossing and answering his questions about plaque (the preschool took a trip to the dentist just a month ago, and since then my son has declared that instead of a marine biologist, he wants to be a dentist) I was perusing all the magazines I read only because my health care providers have subscriptions. Ladies Home Journal. Self. People. OK, mostly People. Because I have no idea who is breaking up with who, or shopping in their underwear, unless I get some People time.

Usually I do not find menu inspiration in People. In fact, the last recipe I clipped from a magazine was a quick cheesecake in an ad for Philly Cream Cheese, which I made with organic cream cheese just to make myself feel better about it. (Not that good: it also called for Cool Whip, for which there is no foodsource in nature to match.)

But this issue had a recipe that no lesser than Mr. Matt Lauer claimed as his favorite. This made me take notice. When I left home to work I watched the Today show every morning over coffee, and I know that Mr. Matt Lauer is right up there with the President when it comes to being feted with food. I mean, for how many years now have we gotten to guess "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" (I just looked it up: this will be the 10th; he has circled the globe nine times.)  And all those places probably served him three squares, with, plenty of tasties in between (worms, not so great; fried crickets, ok). Not to mention the meals that Mr. Matt Lauer eats out in real life (the man lives in New York)? Or dishes served up by famous chefs on the Today Show set?

My point is, he has a lot to choose from. This must be really something. I ripped it right out of the magazine. (April 12 issue, page 113. Sorry, Dr. Woodside.) Chicken Marbella, a Silver Palate classic.

The next day, my brother in law, who is also called Matt, was coming to town. Too perfect. I went down to the Home Farm Store and bought 5 pounds of assorted chicken parts, all fresh, raised on their farm right here. I got their home grown garlic and tossed it all about with Sterling Vineyard's organic Chardonnay, and a jar of Spanish green olives.

Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I picked up a bag of Ayreshire Farms arugula, an avocado, tiny fingerling potatoes and fennel. While the chicken cooked, we took a glass of the leftover wine to the garden and picked the first asparagus, so fresh much of it never even made it to the pan. Try this at home.

Chicken Marbella
adapted from Silver Palate Cookbook

1 whole chicken, 5 lbs., cut into 8-10 pieces
1/2 head of garlic, peeled and pureed
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
coarse salt
ground pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/4 cup pitted green olives
1/4 cup capers with a bit of juice
3 bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup brown sugar (here is where I adapted: the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup, but I couldn't do it to all this fine chicken. Turns out, 1/4 was perfect.)
2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped

Combine chicken, garlic, oregan, salt, pepper, vinegar, olive oil. prunes, olives, capers and ay leaves in a large bowl. Cover bowl and marinate in refridgerator over night.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place chicken in large, shallow baking pan and spoon marinade over it evenly.

Pour white wine over the chicken and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, basting frequently with pan juices.

Transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to serving platters with a slotted spoon. Moisten with pan juices and sprinkle with parsley.


Grapefruit and Fennel Salad with Wasabi dressing
adapted from Su-Mei-Yu

1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon minced shallot
2 teapooons finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon wasabi paste

Large ruby grapefruit
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly on a mandoline
1 avocado, sliced thin
6 cups of arugula

In a small bowl combine lemon juice and zest with shallot and ginger and wasabi paste and season with salt.

Using a sharp knife, peel the grapefruit, removing all the bitter white pith. Working over a large serving bowl, cut in between the membranes to release the sections. Layer grapefruit, fennel, avocado and arugula on a serving plate and drizzle with the dressing. Toss gently before serving.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter crepes

Easter means a lot to many people. When we lived in Greece, the whole country shut down and ate spitted lamb. In Japan, we wrapped blown out eggs in delicate washi paper. In Pittsburgh, one could buy gorgeous hand-decorated eggs at the Orthodox church crafts show.

In my family, we had an egg hunt and a big lunch. So that is what I strive for. That, and a bit of time set aside to just be.

Last Easter, my son (then 4) had a broken leg, and we pushed him around in a stroller to hunt eggs. But this year, he darted around, collecting them up, counting how many he had. Not surprisingly, he was going for the gaudy plastic eggs over the real ones we dyed earlier in the week, because they had chocolates hidden inside. I thought they were no where near as beautiful.

It is the same with crepes. You turn out thin, eggy circles and people can do what they like with them. Sweet, savory, just dotted with butter and sugar, whatever. My step-son, since he was very small, can eat an amazing number of these. He gets all the jellies out of the fridge and creates a veritable smorgasbord of fillings, making each crepe individual and luscious, sprinkled with a little vanilla sugar for a final touch.

We fried up some pork and maple sausages from Fauquier's Finest Country Butcher Shop, put out a bowl of the season's first strawberries, and voila. So yummy I was entreated to make an entire second round, of everything.

And we ate it all up.

Rice Flour Crepes 
adapted from The Wheat-Free Cook

2 large eggs
pinch of sea salt
pinch of sugar
1 cup milk
1/3 cup white rice flour
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 Tablespoons melted butter

butter or coconut oil for skillet

In a blender, add eggs, salt, sugar and milk and whiz briefly. Add flour and cornstarch and process until smooth. Mix in melted butter with a spatula.

Heat a medium skillet over high heat until sizzling. Melt a dollop of oil or butter and swirl to coat pan. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter into the skillet and swirl to spread out. When batter gets small air holes, it is ready to flip, literally about a minute. Flip with large spatula and brown on other side, about 30 seconds more. Repeat. Makes about 10 crepes.

To eat, spread with favorite preserves, or melted butter, and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Roll like a cigar and enjoy.

Because we ate so late and so long (and stopped to taste the new vintages at our local Vintage Ridge Winery, which come complete with nibbles of cheese and nuts and salamis -- more on them later!) we hardly needed dinner. But earlier that day a friend had given me a "small" chunk of fresh-caught tuna, which a friend from the South had brought her just the day before.

I agonized over how to treat it. I even made a marinade of fresh ginger and coriander. But in the end, I just sprinkled it with some Hawaiian lava salt another friend gifted me recently. It was so thick we had to slice it to sear it on the grill. We ate it with a simple salad of arugula and shaved parmesean, with just a touch of LuLu's fig balsamic, and a bottle of Vintage Ridge Syrah, of course.

I don't believe in the Easter bunny anymore. But man, do I believe in the Easter Tuna.