Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Garden recipes: Swiss Chard Tart

I have swiss and rainbow chard growing in my garden right now, and have been cooking it every way I can think of - sauteed, baked into crispy chips, fresh in salads, atop grilled pizza - you name it, I've tried it. Here's my chard tart, my latest recipe for a delicious way to enjoy these greens:

1) Start with a simple pie crust, either store-bought or from scratch if you prefer. Fit into a 9-inch round pan.

2) Saute chard in a pan with onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper to taste.

3) Mix eggs, milk, grated gouda, and blue cheese (if desired.) The ratio is 3 eggs to a cup of milk and 1/2 cup cheese, roughly. Our next door neighbors have chickens so we get our eggs fresh, and it really does make a difference in flavor. Whisk together.

4) Add sauteed vegetables to the egg-cheese mixture. Pour into the pie crust:

(Note I placed the blue cheese on one side; you can also top with grated parmesan.)

5) Bake at 425 for 15 minutes and then reduce to 350 for 10 minutes or until golden brown like this:

Enjoy hot or cold, best served alongside (you guessed it) more salad from the garden!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Spring Salads

I've started a vegetable garden here in Louisiana, and the lettuce is growing up a storm!

Fresh lettuce in abundance calls for lots of creative salad ideas. Here are a few I came up with:

A little tart: fresh salad greens with radishes, shaved parmesan, lemon vinaigrette 

 A little sweet: mesclun mix with local Ponchatoula strawberries, goat cheese, pecans, black pepper

Very hearty: salad topped with lentils, root vegetables, clementines, and fresh herbs

A nice savory salad: greens with roasted butternut squash, white beans, and shallots

A bit of everything: wilted greens with quinoa, onions, crispy tofu, and avocado

And the simple: nothing but lettuce, tomatoes, good olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. These baby greens are so buttery soft they really don't need anything else!

Monday, March 23, 2015

How To: Crawfish Boil

Crawfish season in Louisiana means fresh crawfish to eat in every way possible, but the simplest and classic preparation is a crawfish boil. All you need is a giant pot, burner, Cajun seasoning, and of course crawfish, though you can get as creative with the extra ingredients as you want. Here's how to do it:

1) Get fresh crawfish (spring is the season) and keep them in water:

2) Simmer Cajun seasoning, andouille sausage, potatoes, corn, and vegetables in boiling water. (Stand around and drink beer while it's cooking.) When the water has taken on a red color and the sausages are cooked through, add half the crawfish and boil:

3.) Pour on to a table covered in newspaper and eat! Then repeat with the rest of the crawfish; the water will get spicier over time as the seasoning simmers, so the second batch of crawfish will have stronger flavor. You can get real creative with the other ingredients, from the basic green beans, asparagus, and onions, to pineapple or mushrooms. These will soak up the flavors as well, and accent the crawfish nicely. Enjoy y'all!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What to Eat in Louisiana

Louisiana is famous for delicious food, and there's no shortage of options between its Cajun, Creole, and Southern styles. Here are a few must-have dishes when in the state:

Fried catfish, preferably covered in etouffee:

I had this at Parrain's in Baton Rouge, a no-frills restaurant with some of the best seafood in town. Another classic Cajun dish is gumbo, made with andouille sausage and spices:

As famous as Louisiana is for its seafood, it's also known for these sweet treats:

Beignets and chicory coffee - found of course at the famous Cafe Dumonde in New Orlean's French Quarter, but also made fresh at off-the-beaten-track cafes throughout the state, if you know where to look. I love how these fluffy hot pastries cut through the bitter, rich coffee (and it must be noted that it's virtually impossible to eat these gracefully - there will be powdered sugar all over the table, and probably your face.) These beignets pictured are from Coffee Call in Baton Rouge.

And for the more adventurous eaters, one has to try fried alligator, if purely just to say you did:

It tastes like slightly gamey chicken, much milder than I expected. Though of course I'd probably eat an old shoe if it was battered and fried ...

Just be sure to get it fresh, and not from can.

Oh, Louisiana.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Cooking in Cajun Country

Well, after over nine great (cold!) years in Boston, I packed up my kitchen and moved down south. My new home - and our first house, pretty exciting - is in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is not New England, to say the least. So far the people here have been incredibly friendly, and the food is fantastic, of course. So I'm making it my mission to learn how to cook real Cajun food, (healthier) Southern food, and eat my way around the South as I go.

First things first, the new kitchen:

It is soo much bigger than the old kitchen, which was, sadly to say, about the size of my closet now. Note the vintage copper teakettle, which I found at a nearby antique shop and am overly excited about. (I'm obsessed with copper.)

And onto the cooking. One of the first classic Lousiana dishes I've made since moving here was jambalaya, and the recipe is too simple. I got some andouille sausage (in my case local, but you can find it all over the States) and sliced into medium rounds, browning them up in the pan to crisp the edges and release those flavored oils. Then I diced onion and green bell pepper and cooked them in the sausage grease, adding a jambalaya rice package, and Cajun seasoning.

As for which rice I chose, this is what the grocery store looks like here, so I had many options ...

(It goes on like that for half an aisle. I never knew there were so many kinds of rice.) Which reminds me of the king cake display that was up, for the record, the first week of January:

 Gotta be ready for Mardis Gras.

Anyways, back to the jambalaya. Cook the rice and seasoning in water or chicken broth according to the package instructions or until the liquid is absorbed, and serve:

Such an easy weeknight meal to serve up with salad or cole slaw. (Note: the sausage can be substituted for diced chicken if you prefer, I just love the flavor the real andouille adds to it.)

Next classic Cajun dish I've been working on: shrimp etouffee. This is one of my all time favorites. I've tried many variations of this recipe but mine is closest to this.

More recipes to come!