After this last winter here in the Boston area, summer can’t come fast enough! However we have had some pretty decent spring weather (maybe a little too hot for me, but then again a true ‘New Englander’ is really never satisfied with the current weather!)
As spring/summer comes so does my favorite comfort food…. Watermelon!
Yep Watermelon. I mean I love carb-loading on stews, mac-n-cheese, and warm bread from the oven as much as the next person. But truly watermelon is a comfort food for me. Growing up my mother would always serve this to us if we were feeling bad. “Easy to digest” she would say. Admittedly it was the perfect first food after a bout with a stomach flu, a tooth pulling or even a fight with my brother. Somehow its refreshing sweet flesh always made everything better.
My father and I would sneakily compete to see who could get to the much-desired ‘heart’ of the watermelon first. The ‘heart’ is the best part – sweet and seed free. He would wander out to the fridge at night looking for the perfect TV snack only to discover that I had already carved out the best part!
To this day, my late night snack of choice is some watermelon!
A recent business trip to Montreal had me both shivering with cold and eating a yummy classic.
“Charlevoix poutine with braised pork & Migneron cheese” to be exact.
If you are unfamiliar with “poutine” I will explain.
In the most basic form it is french fries covered in cheese curds and gravy. The gravy is usually a chicken fat gravy. The cheese curdsare the chewy, salty little pieces (milk solids) that are the beginnings of a great cheese. (like cheddar) Folks can opt to make Poutine more deluxe by adding meat, other cheeses and exotic garnishes.
This version had shredded, braised pork, an extra cheese called “Migneron de Charlevoix” and some green onion.
That extra cheese is extra special. Its made locally by Maurice Dufourand has helped bring the Quebec province into the artisanal cheese market.
This Poutine version really hit the spot that night considering the temperature was dropping rapidly into the 30’s and, yes I swear there was a few flakes of snow.
By the way… take a few minutes out of your day to remember that Memorial Day is more than grilled food and beach fun, it is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. Also a day to honor all who have served, not only in the past, but in the present.
When I considered the restaurant brunch options for Mother’s Day in my mom’s hometown I couldn’t think of any place nicer then her porch. Besides I know her likes and dislikes better than any chef and I love to cook!
We had a full day ahead of us, opening up the porch to ready it for summer, changing out storm windows for screens and getting the hoses out in the extensive yard.
So breakfast on Mother’s Day was not going to be an elaborate, leisurely affair but rather a quick, nourishing start to our busy day.
And lucky for everyone her garden chives are already up so I paired that with the “corn and tomatoes on the porch” leftovers from the night before to make tasty omelets!
So fresh and yummy – even if I do say so myself! and of course it’s never really too early for a decadent dessert made with early strawberries, warmed slightly and sweetened with just a touch of honey, served over the best vanilla ice cream! (crumbled chocolate brownies optional!)
I actually graduate tomorrow (yippee!) and I am looking forward to new and more frequent blog entries now that I can have my life back! Stay tuned….
Here in New England we have a saying… “knee-high by fourth of July!”
What we are referencing is the corn needs to be about “knee-high” in the fields in order for it to be on schedule for our typical growing season. This means local corn doesn’t really come into the stores until early august. (Maaaaybe late July if we had a warm spring and a farmer willing to take a gamble and plant early)
But if you are willing to contribute to a “carbon-footprint” you can have your “fresh” corn-on-the-cob in May, grown and flown in from Florida.
We finally hit 50 degrees around here and moods are improving everyday! Snow is still lurking in the yard but bare patches outnumber the snow patches and the crocus are making a run at growing!
As I continue to “single-handily” will spring to come sooner with my cooking, I incorporated some fresh parsley into my dish. Poor parsley doesn’t have many admirers. But I think nothing says “fresh” and “bright” like some chopped parsley added in. And not just as a garnish but as a primary player!
Pan seared steak with sautéed potatoes, red/green bell pepper, shallots, feta cheese and lots of fresh parsley!
A couple of tips:
I like to add the feta and parsley in after I cook so they retain the fresh, bright green of the parsley and the cold, salty of the feta!
Also its nice to only toss in the shallots in the last-minute or so – the rawness is removed but they are not “cooked” to death!
In general, with exception of the potatoes, I enjoy not overcooking my veggies – no pre-blanching – just throw them in the hot pan and cook till just starting to get tender!
Other posts proclaiming my love for Parsley here and here !!
Here in the metro Boston area clocks have been turned forward an hour, the Fenway Park season-opener home game is in less than a month and there is still 3 feet of snow on the ground. WAIT. (imagine sound of scratching record here) SNOW? Still on the ground? ugh.
So like everybody around here I am trying to single-handedly make spring arrive sooner by surrounding myself with spring-like things including light, bright “springy” food.
Today it was a Mediterranean inspired brunch. Roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary butter. Burger patties with oregano and Penzey’s Lamb Seasoning mixed in before cooking. (if only they had been lamb instead of beef!) A bright, tangy and sweet “tapenade” on top – chopped olives, feta and sweet red bell pepper all mixed with a lemony-oil dressing.
If my grill wasn’t still in thigh-high snow, I would have grilled the burgers – “sigh” – maybe by July.
Anybody who has been stuck in the house this winter with blizzard after snowstorm after blizzard has probably already cooked their way through the entire repertoire of soups, stews and slow cooker meals. I know I have. So last week with a “dusting” of 3-6″ expected and temperatures stuck in single digits, I decided I was tired of “cold weather food” and made some summer food instead. However with the grill drowning in 5 feet of snow out back I had to adapt summer food to indoor cookery.
Pork Spare Ribs, Broccoli slaw and roasted cauliflower ended up on the menu. Easy, fresh and bright – everything that winter is not.
I had about 3 lbs of spare ribs that I brushed with about a 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard (option here to add a Tsp of liquid smoke to the mustard) and then coated with my favorite BBQ spice rub, salt and pepper. Wrap in plastic and store 3-4 hours in the fridge or even overnight, but be sure to bring out and let the meat come up almost to room temperature before cooking. I placed the ribs on a rack on a sheet pan – cranked up my broiler – and cooked each side long enough so that they got brown and caramelized. Next I poured a little bit of apple juice under the rack and closed up the whole thing in foil, a big pouch, but not too tight. The oven got taken off broil and dropped to 300 degrees and the ribs cooked like that for about 1.5 hours. For the last 15-20 minutes I unwrapped the foil pouch and brushed on some BBQ sauce to give the ribs that tangy, saucy glaze and of course served more (warmed) on the side to pour over.
The broccoli slaw was simply a bag of shredded slaw and I added tiny shreds of raw sweet onion and a standard coleslaw dressing to it. Mix this up at least an hour (preferably longer) before serving so it has time to develop flavor and break down the raw veggies a bit.
The Cauliflower was sliced thick, drizzled with just a bit of sunflower oil, (great nutty taste – use olive oil instead if you want) salt and pepper. Roast it on a sheet pan at 425 degrees until tender and starting to brown on the edges.
Enjoy with a cold beer, plenty of napkins and a view of the snow-filled back yard.