Tag Archives: starch

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Lima Beans . . . Yum?

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my Nana told me that she loved lima beans when she was my age.  Then she paused briefly before going on to say, “But they just don’t taste the same anymore.” 

No wonder.  The lima beans of my Nana’s adulthood — and for all of my childhood —  were either the salty canned variety or the insipid frozen kind. 

While I never turned my nose up at lima beans, I never really embraced them, either.  That is, until, I found them at my farmers market, fresh and still in their pods. 

Now I finally understand why Nana once loved lima beans.

Lima Beans . . . Yum?

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Everything Old is New Again

There seems to be a renewed interest in “ancient” grains.  Spelt, emmer (a/k/a farro), and barley are all experiencing a resurgence of popularity.  And for good reason.  Ancient grains are high in fiber and protein and, perhaps more important, they have a delicious and intense flavor that just can’t be replicated by your mother’s box of rice.

One of my favorite ancient grains is freekah, a green wheat that originated in the Middle East, and which is sun-dried and roasted during the production process.  It has a nutty flavor and a slightly chewy texture, and it’s delicious whether served hot or turned into a cold salad.  Moreover, it’s as easy to cook as that box of rice I mentioned earlier.  So give it a try and take delight in both the taste and the fact that everything old is new again.

Everything Old is New Again

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Hold the Sauce

During the cold winter months, we make homemade pizza almost every Sunday evening.  This time of year, however, the heat of summer generally keeps us from cranking up the oven to the necessary 550 degrees Fahrenheit.  Of course, there’s an exception to every rule, and the surplus of ripe, miniature tomatoes at the farmers market these days triggers the exception to our No-Homemade-Pizza-in-Summer rule.  Fresh mozzarella, sharp garlic, sweet onion, and minty basil are almost mystical compliments to the sweet and savory little tomatoes.  But, please, hold the sauce.  With tomatoes like these, sauce would only interfere with the magic.

Hold the Sauce

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A Genius in the Kitchen

When guests eat at Chez Ks, they invariably praise the pasta, polenta, and desserts.  As the chef, I would love to be able to accept their compliments.  However, I’ve been cooking long enough to know that the real genius in the kitchen is farmer Thor Oechsner, of Farmer Ground Flour in Trumansburg, New York.  He and his partners grow the most delicious organic, heirloom grains from which they mill the flours that I use to create everything from simple dinner entrées to complex desserts. 

As a farmer, Thor plays the roles of scientist, mechanic, engineer, construction contractor, and teacher, when he isn’t doing the actual plowing, planting, and harvesting.  The fruits of his labor become all-purpose flour, high extraction bread flour, whole wheat flour, rye flour, corn meal, polenta, white pastry flour, whole wheat pastry flour, whole spelt flour and — my personal favorite — whole buckwheat flour, have all played a starring role in my cooking and my diet for the past several years. 

So, the next time you see a bag of Farmer Ground Flour at your farmers market, grocery store, or specialty store, take a bag home and have a genius help you make dinner.

Farmer Ground Flour

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Will Play for Food

Cooking isn’t a game, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.  Of course, if you’re too concerned about getting perfect results every time, you won’t always enjoy yourself.  But if you keep working at it, and learn from your mistakes, I’ll be surprised if you don’t have a great time and find yourself feeling like a winner.

Will Play for Food

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Kale Stem Pesto

. . . And now, back to kale.  Not surprisingly, I had a bag full of kale stems left over after I stripped the leaves for kale salad and kale chips.  I could have composted the stems at my farmers market, which I often do, but I had so many stems this time that I decided to search the internet for a recipe for kale stem pesto. 

It’s a good thing I did. 

As instructed, I chopped and blanched the kale stems, along with a few cloves of garlic, before adding it all to my food processor with olive oil, lemon zest, parsley, red pepper flakes, sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and a big handful of organic walnuts — a gift from a dear friend with a walnut ranch in California.  I tossed the pesto together with fresh, homemade spaghetti and some spicy chicken sausage made on a local farm, then I topped it all off with grated Romano cheese from Tonjes Farm Dairy.  It was sublime. 

I doubt that I’ll ever throw my kale stems into the compost pile again.  

Kale Pesto

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Irish Soda Bread

Those of you who have asked me repeatedly to include recipes in my blog posts know that I’m a believer in experimenting — without recipes —  in the kitchen.  You also know that I believe the internet is already bursting with recipes and, if that’s not enough, the book stores and libraries are brimming with cookbooks. 

But, in honor of  — and in gratitude to —  my Irish American mother-in-law, Margaret née Nelligan, who died before I had the pleasure of meeting her, I’m publishing my recipe for Irish Soda Bread today, St. Patrick’s Day.  If Peggy were here today, I would hand her a big, warm slice soaked in farm-fresh butter and tell her what a fine job she did raising her daughter.  Then, as I watched the smile spread across her face, I would wonder whether the reason was the bread or the compliment.

Irish Soda Bread

KATE’S IRISH SODA BREAD

  • 1 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter (COLD, cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
  • 1 3/4 cups buttermilk (COLD)
  • 1 large egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1 cup dried currants, golden raisins, or combination of both
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, caraway seeds, and sea salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the butter is cut into the flour.
  3. With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg, and orange zest together in a separate bowl.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.  Combine the dried fruit with 1 tablespoon of flour and mix into the dough.  It will be quite wet.
  4. Place the dough onto a well-floured surface and gently knead just enough to shape it into a round loaf. Place the loaf on the prepared sheet pan and slice an “X” into the top of the bread with a very sharp knife. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes until the crust is a deep brown and, when you tap the loaf, it has a hollow sound.
  5. Cool on a baking rack.
  6. Share with your mother-in-law, warm or at room temperature.
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Fettuccine with Merguez

Our friends, Jody and Luisa Somers of Dancing Ewe Farm in New York, raise sheep.  They use the sheep’s milk to make the most incredible ricotta and pecorino cheeses.  They use the meat to make a spicy merguez sausage that seems to beg me to buy it every Friday at the Union Square Greenmarket.  Both the pecorino and the merguez made it into this homemade fettuccine dish.  Having friends is a gift.  Having friends who are farmers is an endowment.

Fettuccine with Merguez and Chard

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Anatomy of a Cranberry Bean

When I was a little girl, my paternal grandmother had a sewing basket that she kept in the enclosed back porch of her Chicago home.  Inexplicably, at the bottom of the basket — alongside the needles, thread, and darning egg  — were more than a dozen shiny marbles, each different from the other.  I couldn’t wait to hold each one up to the light and admire its size, shape, color, and unique design.  Each year, when cranberry beans come into season, I am reminded of the surprise I experienced when I first found the precious and beautiful little objects in such an unpredictable place.

Cranberry Beans

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Cabbage and Anchovy Pasta

After a brutally hot summer, the cool weather of autumn seems to have arrived in New York a little earlier than usual this year.  That means that favorite foods such as watermelon, corn, and peaches are already fading into memory.  Luckily, heads of crisp cabbage are abundant, and — as any frequent guest at Chez Ks will tell you — one of my favorite dishes to make is cabbage and anchovy pasta.  The cabbage is sautéed in olive oil with garlic and red chili flakes, and fresh bread crumbs are toasted with chopped anchovies and fresh sage.  Then it’s all tossed together with homemade pasta and sprinkled with freshly grated pecorino romano cheese.  If you love anchovies, I encourage you to try it.  If you hate anchovies, I encourage you to try it anyway; this may make you change your mind.

Cabbage & Anchovy Pasta

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Chick Pea, Singular

If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never given much thought to how chick peas — also known as garbanzo beans — come into the world.  For most of us, we are familiar with them only once their dried and put in a bag or cooked and put in a can.  You may be surprised, then, to learn that they come into the world the way most humans do — alone.  Unlike other legumes, most chick peas come in their own little pod.  I guess that means they don’t fight much with their siblings while they’re growing up.

Chick Pea

 

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Smoked Trout & Potato Salad

Every Wednesday, “Dave the Trout Fisherman” is at the Union Square Greenmarket.  He has the relaxed and optimistic attitude of a man who spends six days a week fishing for, and smoking, rainbow trout, so chatting with him is always a pleasure.  But eating his smoked trout is an even greater pleasure, and I’m sure he’d have it no other way.

Smoked Trout & Potato Salad

Pan-Seared Chicken with Rhubarb Agrodolce

I am told that I should eat rhubarb because it is high in Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.  That may all be true, but I eat it because I love the way it tastes.  During rhubarb season, I try to cook it in as many ways as I can dream up, veering as often as possible away from the traditional method of stewing it with sugar and water.  One of my favorite ways to use it is by making Chef Todd English’s “rhubarb agrodolce” on pan-seared chicken with golden raisin polenta.  It’s so delicious that I make extra and put it in our small apartment freezer so that we can savor the heavenly flavors even after the season ends.

Chicken with Rhubarb Agrodolce

 

Pappardelle with Beets & Greens

I love beets, but I rarely cooked them more than once a year because they can take seemingly forever to roast.  This year, however, my friend Heather asked me several times for instructions about cooking beets.  Her requests for advice made me wonder why I didn’t just boil them once in a while; after all, if boiled beets were good enough for my grandparents, why shouldn’t they be good enough for me?  To my great surprise and delight, I rediscovered that beets gently simmered in salted water until tender are absolutely delicious.  A dozen boiled baby beets ― and the sautéed beet greens ― made their way into a dish of homemade pappardelle last night, along with a bit of feta and some toasted pine nuts.  It was so wonderful that I’m sure I will make it often.  I have Heather to thank for that, and I can only hope she never stops asking me for culinary advice.

Pappardelle with Beets & Green

Shell Peas

As a child, I listened intently to the countless stories told by many adults in my life about how they shelled peas when they were growing up.  To me, the concept of shelling peas was a mystery, as the peas of my own childhood were limited to canned and frozen.  My first opportunity to shell peas didn’t come until I reached adulthood. Now I shell them every chance I get.  Their beauty and flavor are incomparable, and I don’t even mind that I had to wait decades for the experience; it’s a joy to feel like a child at my age.

Shell Peas