Abigail Cahill O'Brien

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

CSA Week 4: Vegetarian Delight

In Food on July 12, 2010 at 8:08 am

So much for CSA week 3.  It was sweltering, I ate salads – even the squash made it into salads – and I won’t bore you with it.

As the heat lifted last week, the urge to cook returned, and I managed to serve almost all of Farmer Dave’s Week 4’s haul in one large vegetarian meal.

For apps, I whirred a bunch of basil into a quick pesto (using olive oil, Parmesan, pine nuts, honey, lemon juice and sat and pepper), topped it with more olive oil and served it with ciabatta and a bowl of  goat cheese.

Zucchini au gratin took center stage, accompanied by a citrus beet salad, minted peas, and wilted greens with caramelized Vidalia onions.

Dessert?  The first of the native peaches, peeled and sliced and tossed with a little brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, then topped with whipped cream.

I plain forgot to take a picture.

Zucchini Au Gratin Serves 4-6.  I doubled this for 12 adults and 4 kids.  We had leftovers for dinner the next day.

I used Manchego because that’s what I had on hand.  Parmesan alone would do the trick, and nothing baked ever suffered from the inclusion of Gruyère.  The basil is optional.  Fresh thyme baked in with the vegetables would work.

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 small yellow summer squash
  • 1 large pattypan squash (5-6 inches in diameter)
  • 2 small red potatoes
  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1/2 cup Manchego, grated
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Fresh basil, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the squash and potatoes into very thin slices, 1/8-inch or less. Toss the sliced vegetables with the olive oil in a large bowl.

Coat an 8 or 9 inch square casserole dish with a thin layer of olive oil (I used a brush).
Place 1/3 of the squash and potato slices in the bottom of the dish—no need to layer them squash-potato-squash.  Season with salt and pepper. Top with half of the goat cheese, scattered evenly in large chunks. Repeat with another 1/3 of the vegetables, seasoning again with salt and pepper and topping with the other 1/2 of the goat cheese. Finish by layering on the final 1/3 of the vegetables and seasoning with salt and pepper.

Pour the milk over the entire dish. Top with the Manchego and Parmesan cheese. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake 15-20 more minutes, until the top browns. Scatter on the fresh basil, if using.

Citrus Beet Salad

  • 6 medium beets
  • 4 oranges
  • 1/3 cup sliced red onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425.  Wrap washed, whole beets in tinfoil and roast 1 hour or until done.  Stick a fork in one to test; it should slide in easily.  Allow to cool before peeling.  The skin should slip off easily.  I peel by hand, wearing gloves to avoid staining.  Slice beets thinly into rounds.

Prepare oranges as follows. Cut the ends off.  Place one now-flattened end on your cutting board, and shave the peel and pith off with a sharp knife in vertical strips.  Cut into disks, reserving one half of an orange for juicing. Arrange orange slices on a platter, drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Top with a layer of beets and thinly sliced red onions.  Drizzle with more olive oil.  Squeeze the reserved half orange over the beets.  Season again with salt and pepper.

I know – the onions above aren’t yet caramelized.  I snuck a few out of the pan early to get this shot taken.  You really want a lovely light brown color, which can take quite a long time to develop.

Wilted Greens

  • 1 head Swiss chard
  • 1 head amaranth
  • 1 head arugula
  • 1 bunch beet greens
  • olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper

Remove the stalks from the swiss chard; dice and set aside.  Wash the greens in a sink of water, inspecting each leaf.  Place the still-wet greens in a large stockpot over high heat.  When they let off a sizzle, begin to turn them.  When they are wilted remove them from the pot to a large bowl, leaving the liquid behind.

In a small sauce pan, heat a generous pour of olive oil.  Add the sliced garlic and red pepper flakes (a small dash or more depending on the desired level of heat) and cook over medium heat, stirring often, until garlic begins to take on a golden color.  Add the diced chard stems; cook until softened.  Drizzle the olive oil and chard mixture over the greens.  Toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Caramelized Onions

  • 4-5 Vidalia onions, sliced into rounds
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • Paprika

In a large pan, melt the butter and vegetable oil over medium heat.  Add sliced onions and a dash of paprika.  Sauté the onions until translucent and cooked through.  Salt generously.  Turn heat to very low and cook, stirring often, until the onions take on a golden light brown color.  I cook them for at least 2 hours, and will leave them on the stove all day if I have the luxury.


Friday Flotsam

In Fashion, Flotsam, Food on July 9, 2010 at 5:30 am

1. Karen Walker Crazy Tortoise shades via Mrs. Lilien.

2. Paper Plane airmail coin purse, via The Fabric of My Life.

3. Vanessa Jackman’s photo of Carine Roitfeld’s killer combo: camp shirt and white flared jeans.  Try this, or this, and definitely these.

4. Cold drink Inspiration via The Kitchn.

5. Check out their salad dressing roundup while you’re at it.

Minted Limeade, Anyone?

In Food on July 7, 2010 at 11:25 am

Well hello there.  Heat getting to you yet?  The breeze blew again this morning, but we haven’t seen the last of the seat-melting warm weather.

I chased my ice coffee with a glass of minted limeade, drawing on the reserved mint simple syrup and a bag of limes left over from weekend entertaining.

Lula’s Pantry carries these barber stripe straws, and they’re also available online here.  Starting the day with a little solo garnishing gives new meaning to drinking alone.

I’m so inspired, I might just get dressed.

Minted Limeade

  • 3/4 cup mint simple syrup
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 limes, juiced
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced for garnish
  • Mint sprigs for garnish
  • Sparkling water (optional)
  • 1/4 cup super fine sugar (optional)

Combine lime juice, water and mint simple syrup in a pitcher.  Stir and add additional superfine sugar, if you like.  Pour over ice to halfway full.  Top with sparkling water, wafer thin lime slices and a sprig of mint.

CSA Week 2 Recipes: Lentil-Radish Salad in Thyme Vinaigrette

In Food on July 1, 2010 at 10:06 am

Here we are at the end of Week 2.  For anyone interested in joining, Farmer Dave’s still has a few shares available for pick up throughout the Boston area (go here for pickup locations).

I wasted less food this week, which is always the goal.  A few leafs of green were lost to yellowing (which has me thinking I ought to replace my Debbie Meyer green bags – they’re well beyond the recommended 10 uses) but nothing as heartbreaking as last week’s sodden English peas.

Earlier in the week I shared my recipe for scallops, zucchini and peas in lemon-bacon broth. I also made the famous garlic scape and white bean dip, and yes, it’s as good (and simple) as everyone says. My Hurukei turnips went into a romaine and green apple salad, and I threw the cilantro into guacamole.   This steak marinade won high marks – though in the spirit of full disclosure i omitted the garlic salt and parsley flakes, and substituted Worcestershire for fish sauce.  There’s a big hole in my pantry where fish sauce ought to be.

My favorite, besides the scallops?  This lovely lentil salad.  Start with French lentils if you can find them; they hold their shape well and won’t turn o mush when cooked.   The cooking liquid looked so rich and green that I reserved it in a mug.  A little salt and pepper, et voilà! A thyme-lentil broth on which to sip while cooking.

Lentil & Radish Salad in Thyme Vinaigrette

Chop 3 shallots and cook in olive oil in a medium pot until soft. Mince 2 cloves of garlic and 2 tbsp fresh thyme; add to shallots and stir until garlic softens.  Add 6 cups water, 3 bay leaves and 2 1/4 cups French lentils.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a fast simmer for 20-25 minutes, until water is almost gone.  Drain lentils and remove bay leaves.  Let lentils cool.  Stir in one cup diced cucumbers and one bunch of radishes, also diced.  Dress with thyme vinaigrette:  1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, salt and pepper.  Top with goat cheese.  Lentils double in volume when cooked, so this will make about 6-8 cups depending on how many vegetables you add.

Poached Egg on Basil Pesto Greens: Just what it sounds like! Cook greens in a tsp of olive oil until they wilt. I had no idea what my greens were, until Food and Fiction identified them as Yukina Savoy (thanks, Jane).  Stir in 1-2 tbsp basil pesto.  Top with a poached egg and grated Parmesan.

There’s nothing quite like an arugula and steak salad.  I sliced in some radishes and cucumbers, and dressed it with a mustard-caper vinaigrette (olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard and capers).

Simple salads get me through the week’s lunches.  This chilled beauty, featuring grapefruit, celery and Parmesan, used fruit that might have otherwise languished on my counter.  Get the recipe here (I added wafer-thin red onion slices), and go here for useful pictorial directions on how to segment citrus fruit.

To finish it off, leftover steak topped an onion-celery-bok choy stirfry, flavored with fresh ginger, cilantro, soy sauce and lime juice.

Scallops, Zucchini and Peas in Lemon-Bacon Broth

In Food on June 28, 2010 at 10:06 am

When it comes to my tendency to eat large quantities of pasta, I have a couple tricks up my sleeve.

Sometimes I buy individual bird nest servings of fresh pasta at Duckworth Beach Gourmet, a double-whammy win that’s a huge treat by virtue of its quality, but also automatically controls serving size.

More often, though, I recreate pasta dishes with summer squash as a base.  This works well in CSA season, or for anyone with an overload of zucchini on their hands.

We made this dish on a whim over the weekend.  If you’d like to omit the broth, salt your julienned zucchini first and allow it to drain in a colander for 30-40 minutes.  The salt will draw out the water.  Be sure to rinse and pat dry after to avoid over-salting the whole dish.

Now, that’s much too complicated for my usual dinner mode – you won’t find me dunking blanched veggies in ice baths on a Friday night either – which is why we ended up with this bright-tasting broth.  By the time you serve it, the broth will be warm but not steaming, so it’s still suitable for all but the hottest summer nights.

A final note: don’t use a non-stick pan.  It’s hard to get a good sear on the scallops in one.

Scallops, Zucchini and Peas in Lemon-Bacon Broth Serves 4

  • 3 slices of bacon (or substitute pancetta)
  • 5-6 small summer squash or zucchini, julienned
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh English peas, shelled
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup Parmesan, grated
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Scallops, 12-16

Eyeball the zucchini and select a pan big enough to hold all of it.  Heat the pan and cook the bacon in it; set bacon aside.  Drain off all the bacon fat save 2 tbsp.  Add the diced onion to the pan and cook until softened and translucent; add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more, stirring often.  You may have lowered the heat to avoid burning the garlic;  if so, crank it back up before adding the zucchini.   Turn the zucchini in the bacon fat, onion and garlic until it begins to soften but isn’t limp.  Test a piece; it should have some give to it when you bite down, but not be noodle-y.   Add the peas and stir for one minute, or until the peas begin to deepen in color.  Crumble bacon into the pan.  Add the lemon zest and juice; stir.  Remove from the heat and add the Parmesan.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Scrape the entire zucchini mixture into a large bowl and set aside.

Wipe out your pan and put it over fairly high heat.  Add even portions of vegetable oil and butter, enough to coat the pan and then some.  Add one scallop.  If it sizzles, the pan is hot enough.  Add the remaining scallops, making sure they don’t touch to prevent steaming, and don’t move them after they hit the pan.   Cook 3 minutes on one side, 2 minutes on the other.  They should develop a nicely caramelized sear on both sides.

Mound zucchini in a shallow soup bowl, spooning the accumulated broth over it.  Top with 4-5 scallop per person, and serve with a fork, spoon and crusty bread for dipping.

Summertime, And The Return Of The CSA Share

In Food on June 24, 2010 at 5:30 am

It’s CSA season, if you hadn’t heard.  My share from Farmer Dave’s of Dracut, MA started last week.  I really must sharpen my knives before picking up today’s share; there’s a lot of chopping involved.

Here’s what I did with the loot, the sad bits first.

Snap peas: Opened the bottom vegetable bin Tuesday morning to find them sodden and rotting.  Ashamed.  I vow to either eat these immediately this week or at least get them into a Debbie Meyer green bag to prolong their life.

Beet and radish greens: Left to languish til yellowed.  Drat.  Must sauté them immediately this week, and then doctor with poached eggs for breakfast.

Three gorgeous heads of lettuce: Devoured in simple salads with balsamic vinaigrette.  I’m not sick of salads yet, but if that day comes, I’ll try Savory Kitchen’s lettuce soup.

Garlic scapes: Diced and thrown into a quick sauté with one zucchini.  Next time I’ll make pesto; everyone raves about scape pesto.  Or this white bean and scape dip as an alternate.

Beets: Food and Fiction’s pickled beets went over so well, I didn’t even get a chance to take a picture.  I’ll make them again when I have a bigger hoard in the drawer.

Bok Choy Stirfry: (Pictured above.)  In a small bowl combine 1/3 cup chicken stock or water, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch, and two dashes dried ginger or a tbsp fresh grated ginger.  Heat a wok or skillet, and add 2-3 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil.  Add two diced yellow onions; cook until translucent.  Add 12 thinly sliced garlic cloves and cook, stirring so as not to burn.  Add two heads bok choy, washed and coarsely chopped.  Cook until bok choy greens are tender and stalks wilted.  Add the reserved marinade and cook for another minute or so.  Transfer to a bowl.  Drizzle with sesame oil, toss and top with roasted sesame seeds.

Pickled Radishes, From The Kitchn: Mine turned this lovely salmon color after one day.  I hope the color continues intensifying.

3/4 cup hot water (can be from the tap)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar ( I substituted apple cider vinegar for my second batch.)
6 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 bunches red radishes, rinsed and drained

Combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt in small bowl, whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Set aside. Quarter the radishes, place them in your container of choice, cover with the brine and replace the lid.  Refrigerate for at least 3 days and up to one month.

Thyme Zucchini: Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet.  Add one diced yellow onion, two diced garlic cloves, and several tbsps fresh thyme.  Sauté over medium heat for several minutes, until onion and garlic are cooked.  Increase heat.  Add three small diced zucchinis.  Add more thyme if you like.  Cook until zucchini is tender but not mushy, stirring often.  Salt and pepper to taste.

And now for two bonus recipes, not from the CSA but still timely (okay, there’s no local watermelon in New England right now; I caved to an early summer craving at the market).

Mint Simple Syrup: A terrific way to use leftover mint.  Combine 3 cups water with one cup sugar in a saucepan.  Heat until boiling, stirring occasionally.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add several handfuls of whole mint leaves and allow to steep for one hour.  Remove leaves.  Syrup will keep for a good long while in the fridge, likely months.  We’ll add it to cocktails all summer long.

Watermelon Salad with Mint and Basil: Toss cubed watermelon and basil strips with this minty honey pepper vinaigrette.

Friday Flotsam

In Fashion, Feathering the Nest, Flotsam, Food on June 18, 2010 at 5:30 am

Get a load of this peony!

It popped up in our yard and we have only the previous owners to thank for planting such a beauty. As it aged the petal tips turned electric purple.

All right, on to an especially bountiful Friday Flotsam.  I hope you enjoy this week’s random roundup.  It’s a baker’s dozen.

P.S. I am off to pick up the first CSA share of the season, so expect recipes next week, plus an exciting before and after reveal on our den project.


1. Bowtie necklace by Baptiste Viry via Caroline of It Looks to Good to Me ‘s insanely good wish list guest post on Camp Comfort.


2. Pickled radishes via The Kitchn.

3. Erin Fetherston’s entire resort collection via Design Love Fest. Very Victor/Victoria.

4. An herb garden in tea tins via {wit + delight}http://desmitten.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/iosseliani.jpg

5. Stacked rings by Ioselliani via Desmitten (and their brilliant flea market version).

6. Ikea goes soft on us via Love. Obsess. Inspire. I love it.

Steve Madden 'Kinnetic' Flat

7. Steve Madden’s sparkle flats via Design Love Fest .

8. Slowood Studio’s table via Design*Sponge.


9. Steven Alan’s beach blankets via {frolic!}.

10. 5 plants even I can’t kill  – or so says Apartment Therapy.

11. Tops that make your old jars reusable via Shelterrific.

12. A church pew headboard via Design*Sponge.

13. Retro iphone charger (with functional handset!) via automatism.

C is for (Fish) Chowder

In Food on June 17, 2010 at 10:10 am

Photo by Amy Meier

You can’t see the fish chowder in this picture, but trust me, it’s in the mug.  And there’s a “C” on the mug, so, at least we have that.

How do you feel about clam chowder?  Personally, I’m conflicted.  Having never developed a love for clams (are they supposed to be chewier than sun-dried taffy, or are they often just overcooked?) I eat around them, which makes me feel like a chowder fraud.  After all, it is clam chowder.

Now, the creamy broth and potatoes can do no wrong, except to my health.  Eating a bowl of cream in any guise is fun right up until putting down the spoon and realizing you just ate a bowl of cream.

Thankfully my mother (and now the rest of us) makes a satisfying alternative: a barely-kissed-with-cream fish chowder.  She calls it “healthful,” and I’m inclined to agree.

Usually I’d start with a little bacon for flavor, but when cooking for non-meat eaters, fresh herbs and white wine add plenty of complexity.

The proportions are malleable.  Using my largest stockpot calls for one bag of potatoes, four or five onions, two handfuls of thyme, a whole bottle of white wine, six pounds of chowder fish, and a half a cup of heavy cream.

If I were making a small pot for four people I’d use one onion, a few tbsp of fresh  thyme,  three potatoes, a pound of fish, a cup of wine and two tbsp heavy cream.

New England Fish Chowder

  • Olive oil
  • Yellow onions, diced
  • Fresh thyme
  • Yukon gold potatoes, diced (peeling optional)
  • Water
  • Dry white wine
  • Chowder fish (halibut, cod)
  • Heavy cream (just a splash)
  • Salt and pepper

Add oil to heated stockpot, then sauté onions in oil until they begin to soften (4-5 minutes).   Add thyme and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Add diced potatoes and stir.  Pour water over the potatoes until they are barely covered, and then add wine.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are fork-tender but not falling apart.

Lay chowder fish over the potatoes, cover again and cook until fish is cooked through (white throughout, with no translucence.)  For a huge stock pot this could take 12-15 minutes; check smaller pots at 4 minutes.

When the fish is cooked, add the desired amount of heavy cream to color the broth.  Stirring the cream in will break up the fish into spoon-size chunks.   Season with salt and pepper and serve.

It’s terrific the second day.

Cookout Turned Cook-in: Feta Lamb Burgers and More

In Food on June 16, 2010 at 5:30 am

While Amy Meier‘s photo shoot at our place went off without a hitch, our celebratory BBQ encountered a couple: rolling banks of mist and the threat of thunderstorms.

Nothing to do but cook in, instead.  Light the fire, ladle the fish chowder, and get cozy (Amy’s favorite word).

We began with pesto di prosciutto, homemade hummus and skewers of mozzarella, grilled nectarines and basil.  Tip: beware of over-grilling the nectarines.   Makes for hard-to-assemble skewers.  The watermelonade went down easy, whether au naturel or doctored with spirits.

The main course:  lamb burgers stuffed with mint and feta, fish chowder (recipe to come), hot dogs, roasted asparagus and radishes, and a simple chopped Greek salad.

I had dreams of making faiselle popsicles for dessert, but left them in the “What was I thinking??  There’s no time for that!” dust, opting for ice cream sandwiches.  Amy made the toll house cookies.  All I had to do was squish a small scoop of Häagen-Dazs between each pair (which was inexplicably fun), and pop them in the freezer.

Given the Herculean efforts required to get a far-flung group of friends together these days (remember when meeting for manicures was as easy as breathing?), we weren’t about to let a little sea mist get in our way.

As much as I love – fine, need – solitude, it’s much easier to savor with a gathering or two thrown into the mix.  And vice versa.

Thanks, Ame, for having the presence of mind to take photos the day after a grueling shoot of your own, and for making two batches of cookies on that sprained ankle.

You’re the best excuse a gal could have for a cook-in.

All photos courtesy of Amy Meier.

Beacon Hill Bistro: Local Prix-Fixe for Locals, Sun-Thurs

In Food on June 15, 2010 at 10:12 am

Well, readers, you’re in for a treat.

Today and tomorrow’s posts feature photography by the illustrious Amy Meier, who came into town last week to whip the interior design work she’s done in our house into photo-shoot-shape.  (So yes, you’ll eventually see our home in her portfolio,  here.)

Somewhere in the midst of the wholesale flower market, an emergency trip to the framers, and hunting for accessories and hardware, we squeezed in lunch at Beacon Hill Bistro.

Few dining experiences are more satisfying than a bistro doing the bistro thing – and only the bistro thing – ridiculously well.  We couldn’t have been happier with our beet salad and croque madame.  The beet salad is actually my shot; it’s sullying the visual waters, I know, but the layers of beet mousse and that dollop of ricotta deserve representation.

On our way out we noticed the sign for their “Local for Locals” dinners:  farm-fresh dining with many vegetarian options Sun-Thurs. Choose two courses for $25.00, three for $32.00 or a four-course menu for $38.00.

Yes, this last one is mine, too.  More pretty Amy pictures tomorrow.