Tag Archives: dill

DILLED FAVA BEANS IN SOUR CREAM

Things just seem to come together at the farmers market. Vegetables and fruits that complement one another seem to ripen together. Maybe not, but there are combinations that work, like strawberries and rhubarb or squash and corn. Another great combination is dill and favas. They both peak in the spring and trail off in the summer. A while back at my favorite market stall I found some beautiful fronds of dill tied up in bundles along with a big bin of favas ready to be scooped up. I was mindful of the effort that lay ahead of me, but the  earthy taste of fresh green favas compensates for the work involved to prepare them. Although favas can be used in many ways once they are shelled, a simple preparation highlights their flavor. Nothing could be easier than this way to serve fava beans.

RECIPE

Dilled Fava Beans in Sour Cream

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds (about) unshelled fresh fava beans
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh dill fronds
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Shell the beans by pressing the seam of the pod between your fingers and popping the beans into a container.
  2. Blanch the beans by adding them to a large pot of boiling salted water. Return to the boil after adding the beans and boil for one minute. Drain and chill immediately in ice water.
  3. With your thumbnail, pop the thick bean coating open and squeeze out the bean to a waiting container.
  4. When you have finished shelling all of the beans, combine them with chopped dill, sour cream and lemon juice. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to serve.

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CHEESE BLOSSOMS THREE WAYS

Cheese straws are such a classic Southern tradition that it seems almost cliché to write about them. They are served at ladies’ luncheons, cocktail parties, and holiday festivities. I have been making them for years except that  during my early attempts I had a hard time turning the dough into “straws”. I used a cookie press, and the treats came out flowers. Never mind, my kids loved them so I have been making them that way ever since.

Cheese straws/blossoms are required at every family gathering, especially at Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I make double and triple batches and lug them in my carry-on luggage when I travel. That way they don’t get turned into cheese crumbs.  Even at that, the little gems disappear before everyone has had his or her fill. In fact, after many years, I have learned that some of the family have hidden away private stashes, not trusting the others to share gracefully.

This year, Carol and Cameron will be visiting from Los Angeles for a few days. Then my wife and I will head to the Bay Area to enjoy Thanksgiving with the others. I decided to make three batches and to try different cheese combinations. The usual version uses extra sharp Cheddar cheese. I gave Swiss (Emmentaler) and bleu (Roquefort) cheeses a try as well. The recipes are not wildly different, but because of the different moistures and consistencies of the three cheeses, a little different approach is required for each. In the end, though, I was pleased with the result.

RECIPES

Cheddar Cheese Blossoms

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces extra sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (one stick) chilled butter, cut into 8 pieces. Important: Do NOT use margarine.

Method

  1. With the grater blade in place, grate the cheese in food processor. Transfer to a plate and let come to room temperature.
  2. Change to the metal blade of the food processor. Add grated cheese, flour, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time.
  3. Add the butter and continue to process until it forms a ball.  Do not over-process or the butter will melt and separate.
  4. Turn out on a work surface, Knead until any extra crumbs of the dough are incorporated into the ball.
  5. Working in batches, use a cookie press to form flower shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake in the middle of oven preheated to 300°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Bake a few minutes longer if you want a darker color. Cool on a baking rack and store in an air-tight tin.
  7. Makes about 6 dozen.

Swiss Cheese and Dill Blossoms

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces “Swiss” (Emmentaler) cheese
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Kirsch
  • 2 tablespoons dill fronds, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (one stick) chilled butter, cut into 8 pieces. Important: Do NOT use margarine.

Method

  1. With the grater blade in place, grate the cheese in food processor. Transfer to a plate and let come to room temperature.
  2. Change to the metal blade of the food processor. Add grated cheese,flour, Kirsch, dill and salt in the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time.
  3. Add the butter and continue to process until it forms a ball.  Do not over-process or the butter will melt and separate.
  4. Turn out on a work surface, Knead until any extra crumbs of the dough are incorporated into the ball.
  5. Working in batches, use a cookie press to form flower shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart.
  6. Bake in the middle of oven preheated to 300°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Bake a few minutes longer if you want a darker color. Cool on a baking rack and store in an air-tight tin.
  7. Makes about 6 dozen

Roquefort Cheese Blossoms

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces Roquefort cheese
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (one stick) chilled butter, cut into 8 pieces. Important: Do NOT use margarine.

Method

  1. Crumble the cheese into the bowl of the food processor. Add  flour, Pernod,  and salt. Pulse until well combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time.Add the butter and continue to process until it forms a ball.  Do not over-process or the butter will melt and separate.
  2. Turn out on a work surface, Knead until any extra crumbs of the dough are incorporated into the ball.
  3. Working in batches, use a cookie press to form flower shapes on an ungreased cookie sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart.
  4. Bake in the middle of oven preheated to 300°F for 20 to 25 minutes. Bake a few minutes longer if you want a darker color. Cool on a baking rack and store in an air-tight tin.
  5. Makes about 6 dozen

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ROASTED GOLDEN BEET SOUP WITH SOUR CREAM AND DILL

Root vegetables are making their mark on the garden scene as autumn begins to blend into winter. All the vendors at the farmers market have an abundance of beets. Even though beets are not among my favorites, it seems a shame not to give them a go. Bright red borscht seems an obvious choice, and for years we have made a clear beet soup that almost gleams. An alternative seemed to be in order. The other thing about red beets is that they stain everything they touch, including your GI tract.

Golden beets seemed like a good alternative choice, and so I bought a nice bunch at a recent farmers market. Even then, there are several choices: beet salad, Harvard beets, or beets and greens. Honestly, the consistency of cooked beets is not pleasing to me, so I opted for soup.

There are a couple of classic partners to beets: dill and sour cream. The recipe below combines those ingredients.

Bunch of golden beets from the farmers market

Bunch of golden beets from the farmers market

Roasted golden beet soup with sour cream and dill

Roasted golden beet soup with sour cream and dill

RECIPE

Roasted Golden Beet Soup with Sour Cream and Dill

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch golden beets, tops removed – about 4 to 5 medium size beets
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup long-grain white rice
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • water
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup sour cream + more for garnish
  • 1/2 cup fresh dill fronds, snipped + more for garnish

Method

  1. Wash and dry the beets. Coat generously with vegetable oil and wrap individually in squares of aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil, and roast in the middle of an oven pre-heated to 350 for 30 minutes or until they are easily pierced with a kitchen fork. Remove from the oven, unwrap, and cool until they are easy to handle. The skin should slip off easily between your fingers. Cut the peeled beets into 1/2 inch cubes and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan over a medium flame, heat the oil and sweat the onions, covered, for 5 minutes until translucent and the juices have been released. Do not brown. Stir in the rice and cook for a minute or two until the grains are translucent. Ad the chicken stock, and simmer for 30 minutes or until the rice is completely cooked and soft. Add water as needed if the soup is too thick.
  3. Add the beets and simmer for another 10 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg.
  4. Remove from the heat and puree in a blender or with a stick blender until smooth. For aded smoothness, you may pass the puree through a strainer or chinois. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir in the sour cream and dill. Serve hot or cold with a dollop of sour cream and more minced dill as garnish.

 

 

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BLACK HARICOTS VERTS TURNED GREEN

Just as with everything else, there are trends and fashions at the farmers market. Year before last it was cardoons. Last year it was kohlrabis. Now those are old hat. This year one of the new items is black haricots verts. Actually they’re not black but a very deep shade of purple that looks black. The beans are very distinctive, heaped up in baskets next to the regular green pole beans. It’s very hard to resist buying some if you are looking for something a little different to try out.

Many of you experienced cooks probably already know this, but I was surprised and more than a little disappointed when I dropped the beans into boiling water to blanch them, and the purple/black color disappeared. Suddenly my haricots verts were, indeed, green.

Curious to know why that happened, I turned to the most reliable expert on kitchen science that I know, Harold McGee, author of a regular column in the New York Times and numerous books including On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen (Second edition, Scribner, New York, 2004). Sure enough, there he had a short scholarly discussion of anthocyanins (pp. 267-268, 281-281) It turns out that the red and purple colors of most flowers and vegetables are due to a group of about 300 related chemicals known as anthocyanins. They are very sensitive to alkalinity and acidity as well as some metals, which help to determine the color that the chemical gives to a flower or vegetable. They are also highly water-soluble, so when the spaces where they are stored break open during the cooking process, the coloration is rapidly diluted and dissipates. Hence, the beautiful black beans turn a beautiful chlorophyll-green. And that’s ok, too, because the blanched haricots verts can be used for whatever might be one of your favorite dishes.

I decided to use them in a chilled salad with scallions and dill, topped with a balsamic vinaigrette. The bright green chlorophyll color was terrific.

RECIPE

Haricots Verts Vinaigrette with Scallions and Dill

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh haricots verts, washed and trimmed
  • 4 scallions cut in ½ inch slices, whites and greens included
  • ¼ cup fresh dill fronds, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (not the expensive stuff)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of sugar
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff)

Method

  1. In a large pot, bring 2 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil
  2. Add the green beans in a single batch and return the water to the boil
  3. Boil the beans for no more than 4 minutes so that they remain crisp. Drain and immediately plunge into a prepared large bowl of ice and chilled water.
  4. When the beans have cooled, drain and transfer them to the refrigerator until they are ready to use. (Remove any remaining pieces of ice)
  5. Prepare the scallions and dill. Set aside.
  6. Using a whisk and a small bowl, combine the vinegar, minced garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, and sugar.
  7. Whisking continuously, slowly stir in the olive oil to make a vinaigrette. Correct the seasoning.
  8. In a large bowl, combine the haricots verts, scallions, and dill. Dress with the vinaigrette to suit your taste.  Adjust the seasoning. Chill, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for an hour to let the flavors blend.
  9. Serve alone or on lettuce leaves.

 

 

 

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DILLED-SALMON PANZANELLA – ITALIAN BREAD SALAD

It’s summer, and the perfect time for a refreshing salad. In our family, recipes for panzanella, the traditional Italian bread salad, are currently all over the place. Sarah and Evan made a version for their cooking demonstrations in Shreveport that included pork from their pig-butchering demonstration. Now they have a recipe in the July issue of Food and Wine (pages 172-173)  for a version that uses rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and fresh strawberries. Carol in Los Angeles made her recipe for us during our recent visit there. Hers was a more classic rendition that was equally delicious and went well with barbecued pork ribs.

Here is my spin. It contains Romaine lettuce and salmon, which are not included in  traditional recipes, but I think they add to the flavors.  I know, I know -salmon doesn’t even sound Italian, but Marcella Hazan has two salmon recipes and a commentary in her  Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1992). I felt justified in using salmon. Try to use wild-caught fish if you can, but farmed salmon will also work. If you don’t like salmon, then shrimp or shell fish would probably also be tasty.

As well, don’t even bother trying the recipe if you don’t have a good quality artisanal rustic loaf of bread, or the end result will be a limp dough ball. The bread in this recipe was the farm loaf from a wonderful local artisanal bakery, Sage Bakehouse.

RECIPE

Dilled-Salmon Panzanella

Ingredients

  • 4-6 ounces salmon fillet, pin bones removed
  • fish stock, enough to cover salmon
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped dill fronds
  • salt
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 3 anchovy fillets, drained
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 1 large Santa Fe Grande pepper, seeded and sliced into ¼ inch rings (any sweet yellow pepper may be substituted)
  • ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons  extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 small red onion
  • 4 cups 1-inch bread cubes (4 1-inch slices of a good artisanal rustic loaf should yield about 4 cups. Remove crusts if you like)
  • 3 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 2 small snacking cucumbers cut into ½ inch rounds
  • 1 Romaine heart washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a saucepan large enough to hold the salmon, bring the fish stock to the boil, and then reduce to simmer. Add the prepared salmon and poach for 5 minutes or until cooked through, turning once. Remove the salmon to a plate to cool
  2. Remove the skin from the cooled salmon, and with a fork, pull the fish into bite-sized pieces. Place in a covered dish, salt to taste, and add the chopped dill. Chill in the refrigerator, covered, until ready to add to the salad.
  3. Using a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic, anchovies, and capers into a coarse paste. Transfer to a small bowl and add  the pepper rings along with ¼ cup of olive oil and the vinegars. Mix well and let stand at room temperature until ready to assemble the salad.
  4. Slice the red onion into rounds, preferably suing a mandoline, and place in ice water until ready to be drained and added to the salad.
  5. On a small rimmed baking sheet, drizzle the bread cubes with the remaining olive oil, and place in the middle of an oven preheated to 350° F. Toast for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. When the bread cubes are lightly browned, remove from the oven to cool.
  6. Place the bread cubes in your serving bowl. Cut one of the tomatoes into large chunks and squeeze over the bread, using a food mill to release the juice and bits of pulp, leaving skins and seeds behind. Stir the bread cubes so they absorb the juices and let stand for 10 minutes. (Actually, I used a potato ricer, which is much easier to clean than my food mill)
  7. Blanch the remaining 2 tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds. Cool, peel, seed, and cut into ½ inch chunks.
  8. Assemble the salad by adding the  peppers and their marinade, drained red onion, tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce to the bowl of bread cubes. Gently stir in the salmon and chopped dill. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Toss and serve immediately.

 

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CREAMED PEAS, NEW POTATOES, AND PEARL ONIONS – BOUNTY FROM THE FARMERS MARKET

I went to the farmers market this weekend and was surprised to find that the fruits and vegetables usually available this time of year were missing. We live at 7,000 feet, so the growing season is usually later than in other parts of the country. We also had a late spring,  and things are just behind schedule. On top of that, I’ve recently visited farmers markets in Southern California, Texas, and Louisiana where the season is much further along.

The market did have a lot of greens and root vegetables, but not many stone fruits or tomatoes. I found a few heirloom tomatoes that had been grown under protective tents. I’m going to use those to make panzanella. I also found the first peaches of the season, and I plan to use those for my version of Strawn’s Café Famous Peach Ice Box Pie.

The big finds, though, were green shell peas and tiny new potatoes. When I was growing up, we always planted green peas by Saint Patrick’s Day to assure a good crop. Then, when they came in, my grandfather, father, and I would sit on the back step, eating them raw, fresh out of the pod. In the American South, green peas are called English peas to distinguish them from the black-eye, Crowder, purple hull, and cream peas that are so important there. I don’t know what the English call green peas. Maybe one of my blogger friends from the UK can help me out.

The freshly dug potatoes looked delicious, and at one stand they had been carefully sorted by size, so that one basket was filled with tiny potatoes no more than an inch and a half across and all practically the same size. Boiled new potatoes like those are among the luxuries of early summer.

All of that reminded me of one of my favorites of childhood: creamed peas, new potatoes, and pearl onions. So that’s what I made for supper. Even though that’s an old-timey dish, it was every bit as good as I remembered.

RECIPE

Creamed Peas, New Potatoes, and Pearl Onions

Ingredients

  • 1 pound small new potatoes, washed
  • 1 cup pearl onions, fresh or frozen
  • 1½ pounds unshelled green peas, shelled
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil or to taste
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill fronds, snipped

Method

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes, return to the boil and cook until the potatoes are pieced with a cooking fork, about 20 minutes. They should be not quite cooked through.
  2. Add the pearl onions and return to the boil for another 5 minutes. Then add the peas and boil for another 5 minutes or until the peas are done. Drain.
  3. In the meantime, in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and stir in the flour. The mixture should be foaming. Stir for a few minutes to cook the flour.
  4. Pour in the milk and stir continuously until the mixture thickens. It is alright if it begins to boil, but at that point remove from the heat.
  5. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and add sesame oil to taste. Be gingerly, as sesame oil can be overpowering. Stir in the snipped dill
  6. Pour the sauce over the drained vegetables. Mix until well combined. Serve immediately.
  7. Serves two to four as a side dish.

 

 

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DEVILED QUAIL EGGS

There is a new international grocery store in town. It is filled with some of the most interesting and amazing ingredients – octopus tentacles, duck feet, Asian fresh fruit, etc., etc. During a recent visit, I noticed sitting in the cooler were little packages of 10 quail eggs each. The eggs were so beautifully speckled and tiny that I couldn’t resist buying them even though I didn’t have any idea what to do with them. There are recipes on the internet for fried quail eggs and Scotch quail eggs, but both of those suggestions seemed like a waste of a unique ingredient. My thought was to wait until our daughter the chef came to visit and have her give me a cooking lesson. So I did. She suggested deviled eggs as being easy to do, very tasty, and insurance that the eggs would be well cooked and safe to eat. (She’s in the middle of her pregnancy.) That sounded like a plan, and I am glad that I followed her suggestion. In the end we cooked them up for the rest of the family so we didn’t worry about presentation. There was no time for that before the eggs disappeared. They were cute and delicious, and Sarah’s recipe is worth modifying for conventional deviled chicken eggs.

RECIPE

Deviled Quail Eggs

Ingredients

  • 10 fresh quail eggs
  • 1 quart water
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sour cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh dill fronds

Method

  1. Place the eggs in a strainer or steaming basket. Lower into a small pan filled with boiling water. Reduce the heat under the pan to the lowest possible level and cook the eggs in the hot, not boiling, water for 4 minutes if you are at sea level and 6 minutes if you are in Santa Fe (7,000 feet). Discard any eggs that float to the surface when you put them in the water as that indicates they may be spoiled
  2. Remove the eggs from the hot water and immediately plunge into ice water.  Cool until still slightly warm. Peeling them will be easier while they are a little warm. Crack the shells all over with the back of a teaspoon, and peel under a stream of running water.
  3. Using a cheese wire, cut the eggs in half lengthwise. You can use a knife, but it must be razor-sharp or you will be disappointed with your effort.
  4. Remove the yolks and place them in a small bowl with the mustard, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Using a dinner fork, mash the ingredients together until they form a smooth paste. Adjust the seasoning. If you wish, you can press the mixture through a tea strainer to make it even smoother.
  5. Load the mixture in a pastry bag fitted with a small point. Pipe the mixture into the empty egg white cases. Decorate with a small frond of fresh dill.

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GRAVLAX AND ELISABET’S MUSTARD AND DILL SAUCE

After lots of travels round California and more problems than I wish to recount with a new wireless router, a laptop that expired without wrning, and many days in the shop for my desktop computer, I am finally back at my desk. This post has been sitting unedited since Christmas, but the food is not just for the holidays, and it’s not just for celebrations.

Two of my children and their families visited us during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Even though they returned home before New Year’s Day, we tried to have some of the family favorites from New Year’s Eve buffets of the past. Gravlax definitely made the cut, although our pregnant daughter opted out for health reasons.

The recipe for gravlax originally came from the volume, Cooking of Scandinavia, from the Time-Life series of Foods of the World published in 1968 and subsequently made it – with revisions – into our family cookbook, Let’s Cook! Let’s Eat!

The sauce is the recipe of a very old and dear friend from Sweden. We first had it as part of a lavish spread at her house celebrating Saint Lucia Day. We had it again years later when Elisabet and her husband visited us in Louisiana. She thought the sauce  would go well with the crawfish boil we prepared in their honor. She was right, and I was lucky enough to talk her out of the recipe. It goes well with many fish dishes, and it will keep for along time in the refrigerator.

RECIPES

Gravlax

Ingredients

  • 1 salmon filet, skin on (about 1½ to 2 pounds)
  • 1 large bunch fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns, crushed
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sugar

Method

  1. Make sure scales and fine bones have been removed. Just to be sure, rub your finger lightly over the fish. If you find tiny little white bones, remove them with tweezers or fine-nosed pliers. Cut the filet into two pieces of equal length.
  2. Arrange the wider filet, skin-side down,  in the bottom of a glass or ceramic dish that will hold the fish flat. Place the bunch of fresh dill on the filet. Cover with the other half of the fish, skin-side up.
  3. Crush the pepper in a zippered plastic bag, and then combine with the salt and sugar. Sprinkle the mixture over the salmon and dill. Cover the dish tightly with plastic wrap and weight down with a heavy pan, brick or rock, or several cans of food. Place in the refrigerator
  4. Turn the fish two or three times a day for 3 days, replacing the plastic and weight each time before returning to the refrigerator.
  5. A liquid marinade will develop. Spoon over the fish each time that you turn it.
  6. When you are ready to serve, remove from dish and scrape off the dill and any remainders of the salt and peppercorns. Place the salmon on a carving board, skin-side down. With a very sharp, straight-edge knife, slice the salmon into very thin diagonal slices, detaching them from the skin.
  7. Serve with thin slices of rye bread and Elisabet’s mustard  and dill sauce.

Elisabet’s Mustard and Dill Sauce

Ingredients

  • ½ cup prepared mustard
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup salad oil
  • finely chopped dill fronds, to taste

Method

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustards, vinegar, and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved
  2. Whisk continuously while adding the oil gradually in a thin stream.
  3. Add chopped dill fronds to taste. The dill flavor will intensify as the sauce sits for a few minutes before serving.

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FERRY BUILDING FEAST: OYSTERS WITH CUCUMBER-DILL MIGNONETTE

Our trip to the Ferry Building Farmers Market coincided with the day that Sarah and Evan got the keys for their new restaurant space, so we were in a celebratory mood. Never mind that Evan had one last night at his current restaurant, Susan, Sarah, and I were going to have a party.

Selecting the best oysters

And what better way to begin the celebration than champagne and oysters on the half shell. Two dozen oysters sounded just about right for the three of us, and the oysters from Hog Island Oyster Company were fresh and just the right size. We brought home a mesh bag iced down for the short journey home.

Opening the oysters with an oyster knife

At dinner time, Sarah brought out her oyster knife and made short work of the shucking. Of course, she is a professional, so she knew what she was doing. She wrapped each shell in a kitchen towel and grabbed it firmly with one hand. Using an oyster knife, she slipped the point of the knife into the hinge of the shell, twisted the knife firmly, and popped open the innocent oyster. She cut the muscles holding the oyster in the shell, removed the top shell, and placed the fresh oyster on a bed of ice.

Opening the oysters with an oyster knife

If you have never opened an oyster on your own. There are a few important pointers. First, be sure to use a good-quality oyster knife. Regular knives can bend and break, and you can wind up plunging the blade into your hand. Serious injuries to blood vessels and tendons can result. Second, the towel is supposed to provide some protection so it should not be flimsy. If you are  a little nervous, Kevlar gloves are available and provide more safety. If you are still anxious, have your fish monger shuck the oysters before you bring them home.

Oysters on the half shell with lemon

You can eat raw oysters with no dressing. That’s the way real aficionados do it so they can taste the brine of the sea. For me, a little lemon juice brightens the taste. In Louisiana they douse with hot sauce. The classic accompaniment is a fresh mignonette sauce. The following recipe is for Sarah’s version based upon ingredients from the farmers market.

RECIPE

Cucumber-dill mignonette

Ingredients

  • ½ cup champagne vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons finely chopped shallots
  • 4 teaspoons finely diced cucumber
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced fennel fronds
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced dill weed
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
  • salt to taste

Method

  1. In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients with a wire whisk
  2. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve

Oysters, mignonette, and sparkling wine ready for the celebration

We opened a bottle of California sparkling white wine, toasted the new restaurant, and enjoyed our raw oysters with cucumber-dill mignonette.

Toasting the new restaurant

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THE FERRY BUILDING FARMERS MARKET

Susan and I have been making the Great California Loop away from a computer for over two weeks, child tending in all of our children’s houses. That doesn’t mean that we have not had some good food adventures along the way. Over the next several posts, I will describe some of those experiences.

Chefs chatting in front of the Ferry Building

And what better place to begin than San Francisco’s famous Ferry Building Farmers Market? The Saturday edition is the most popular and crowded. It is a big-city street fair with buskers a-plenty, kids on skate boards, families with babies in strollers, and lots of tourists. If you watch carefully you can see some of the best known chefs in the city shopping for their weekend menus and visiting with one another. The main reason for the market’s popularity is the amazing cornucopia of the freshest Northern California food products, and this time of the year the choices are simply amazing.

Sweet peas

Sweet Williams

We  were in a celebratory mood because Sarah and Evan finalized the contract for their new restaurant space just before we headed to the market. Sarah thought we needed to be festive so our first stop was in the bank of flower stalls at the front of the building. The fragrance of the sweet peas attracted us, and Sarah bought an armful of blossoms of all hues.

Asian pears

We passed up the Asian pears and other fresh fruits because we had already opted for fresh-churned ice cream for dessert.

Choose your asparagus

Next stop was the asparagus stall. There were bundles of thick, medium, and thin stalks arranged in orderly rows. The abundance made it hard to choose, but we finally settled on three bundles of beautiful, thick, fresh stalks before moving down the row of vendors.  Fresh dill, thyme, and oregano all made it to our shopping bag.

Beautiful vegetables

Mushrooms! Baskets filled with all varieties of the tasty fungi. Criminis, whites, Portobellos, oysters, shitakes, and my favorites – lion’s manes. There were some giant royal trumpets, but we chose a basket of the most beautiful small-size trumpets.

New potatoes

New potatoes in all colors, sizes, and shapes – a good choice for smashed potatoes.

Hog Island Oyster Company

Hog Island Oyster Company  http://www.hogislandoysters.com is one of the landmarks of the market. We often go to their restaurant for fresh oysters or clam chowder, but today we went to their food stall. They had choices of small and large local sweet oysters-in-the-shell and some crenelated beauties from British Columbia. Sarah got a dozen each of the small sweets and the BCs.

Sarah at the Prather Ranch shop

Then we went inside the Ferry Building to the Prather Ranch stall   http://www.pratherranch.com where we found some juicy lamb shanks.

Chilaquiles

A little more shopping for green garlic to braise with the lamb shanks and some baby cucumbers to turn into a salad. Then, with shopping finished we stopped off for an early lunch. There were all sorts of choices including fried chicken, porchetta sandwiches, and lots of Mexican food. We settled on plates of freshly made chilaquiles to eat al fresco on a make-do seat along a planter wall. Evan loaded up his supply for the restaurant, and Sarah and I packed ours up for what looked like a feast that evening.

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