Monday, June 25, 2012

CSA Chard Sauteed with Garlic & Soy Sauce

Well, I thought I might turn my 6 year old lad onto greens with this one. He loves pork and salmon prepared with the same basic sauce, with garlic and soy sauce as the main ingredients. Alas, after making this I'm still searching for ways to get him to eat greens, but I did come up with another nice side dish for the grownups using chard from our CSA!

big bunch chard, rinsed, thick stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 lg garlic, minced
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp white wine
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp brown rice vinegar
tbsp cilantro
1 tbsp olive oil

Prep the chard, removing the thick stems and coarsely chopping it. Set aside in a large bowl. Combine the soy sauce, wine, honey and rice vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or walk, on medium high. Add the garlic, saute for a minute. Gradually add the chard in bunches, stirring to combine with the olive oil and expose to the heat. You can really pile it into the pan, it will cook down pretty quickly. Once you've got all the chard in the pan, stir in the soy sauce mixture and cilantro. Reduce heat to medium, stir occasionally, and cook for about 5 more minutes until the greens are tender. Serve immediately or cover and remove from heat to keep warm while finishing other dishes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Taste of Something New at Lucia Ristorante

I had been curious about Lucia Ristorante for awhile, as I pass it fairly often in Winchester Center. So I quickly accepted the invitation to sample their new menu at a recent event, focusing on seafood dishes based on family recipes from Abruzzo, Italy. I was glad I did, for it was a fun evening full of great food, lively conversation and warm hospitality.

We started by mingling while enjoying some passed brushcette. I might have resisted trying all three types--wild mushroom (my favorite), artichoke, and broccoli rapi--had I know how much food was to follow...oh well, let's say I did it as a service to Cooking Chat readers! I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed the fried Duxbury oysters. I'm not usually a big oyster fan, but they way they were prepared with peach and roasted garlic aioli made them very tasty indeed.

During the the pre-dinner socializing, I had a chance to chat with members of the Frattaroli family. The third generation of the family to be involved in the business is bringing some new ideas to the menu, while retaining Italian roots and flavors on the menu. Then owner Donato Frattaroli gave us a warm welcome to the restaurant, and it was time for some serious eating!

I joined a table comprised of fellow food bloggers and some long-time patrons of the restaurant. The primi course featured three seafood dishes. I especially liked the fried soft shell crab with heirloom tomato salad and the tuna crudo. I was impressed when Rob Merlino, a.k.a. Hot Dog Man, picked up fennel on the tuna dish, I didn't notice at first but saw what he meant when I re-tasted it. The chef came out and explained that it was fennel pollen used in the dish.

I was especially impressed with the light touch given to the seafood risotto (shown above) that came out for the pasta course. A lot of restaurant risotto gets rather gummy, presumably from sitting around too long. This risotto was cooked just right, showcasing the nutty grain, cheese and chock full with a variety of fresh seafood.

After pasta, there was still more to try. I found the pork tenderloin cooked cacciatore to be an interesting preparation. I've only had this dish with chicken, but the pork version of it was hearty yet tender. I'd look for this new menu item if you like pork. Oh yes, as if that wasn't enough, there was also seared salmon with Italian white bean salad and pesto oil!

Clearly highlighting the good food on the new menu was the point of this dinner. But given my interests I do need to say a word or two about the wine. I started with a glass of pinot grigio with the appetizers, which was refreshing and pleasant, if unremarkable. I was quite surprised though when I saw a California cab served with meal. Though it was a good quality wine, Italy has so many good options to pick up the acidity in the tomatoes found in several dishes. I mentioned this to the server and she quickly brought me a glass of Chianti. That was more like it!

In addition to the good food, it was fun spending an evening chatting with some fellow food bloggers, unabashedly snapping dozens of photos of each course. Much sympathy was shared about the challenges of taking good photos in dimly lit restaurants, though I noted my colleagues had some interesting solutions for that. Two of my fellow bloggers were quicker to press than I was, check out Boston Food Fan and Hot Dog Stories for more info and great photos.

The fun evening was capped off with one of the guests booming out several Italian classics as we nibbled on some dessert that no one had room for! He performs there each Friday night. For some good Italian food with some creative twists, Lucia Ristorante is worth a visit!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Burgers topped with Garlicky Arugula

One of the many things I enjoy about doing a CSA (consumer supported agriculture) is that it pushes you to try new things. Though I enjoy seeing creative burger ideas in food magazines or on menus, when I'm making burgers at home it tends to be a very simple preparation. But with a number of greens still in the fridge from our CSA box earlier in the week, I needed to figure out new ways to deploy them.

I was planning a burger night to inaugurate our new grill. Making a salad would put a dent in the greens on hand, but there was still the arugula. I thought I'd give it a try as a burger topping, and wasn't disappointed!

1 bunch arugula, washed and coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb ground beef, I used grass fed
burger buns
2 slices cheese, optional.
salt and ketchup to taste

Get the arugula prepped before cooking the burgers. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the garlic, saute for a minute or so until it starts to become golden. Stir in the arugula, getting it well coated with the oil and garlic. Add a bit of salt, and cover. Cook briefly, about 3-4 minutes until just wilted. Keep covered on very low heat while you cook the burgers. I grill them about 5 minutes per side. Add cheese to melt, if using, then place on a bun. Top with the arugula, and I still also used a bit of ketchup. Enjoy!

Wine Pairing: Cab might be the default choice for burgers, but the garlic and pepperiness of the arugula topping seemed to call for something with a bit of spice to match. Syrah could probably work, but zin seemed like a natural. We had the 2007 Chatom Vineyard Zinfandel ($19) from Calaveras County, California. This zin has some refinement as opposed to being a fruit bomb, but still had the heft to work with the burger, and some spice to pick up the topping.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Olivia's by the Sea

Looking for a good place to eat next time you're making a trip to the beach in Gloucester? Give Olivia's by the Sea a try! The restaurant has just recently been opened by local businessman and philanthropist John Flaherty. He's done an amazing job quickly transforming what had been a simple sub shop for many years into a tastefully decorated, comfortable family style restaurant. I'd been admiring the gorgeous black and white photos  of scenes from around Gloucester, and during the conversation they had been taken by John's daughter. A good example of the personal touch that has gone into creating a good atmosphere.

We'd actually been due to meet up with John for Social Capital Inc. business (what I do when I'm not cooking or blogging about it!). When he mentioned he'd been busy with this new restaurant, we eagerly suggested we'd come up and meet there.

Olivia's offers the traditional fried seafood you expect to find by the beach. I wasn't in beach mode, though, and wanted something lighter. I was pleased to see plenty of options in that department, and ordered the swordfish kabobs. The fish was tasty, and served with a side of rice pilaf and grilled asparagus--a nice seasonal touch. My colleague Karen had the scallops, which she also enjoyed. In addition to the seafood option, there are a variety of pasta dishes and subs offered.

As we nibbled on a side of onion rings, we heard about the cook that arrives in the wee hours of the morning to prepare the batter and chop onions for them...and the results are evident in the good taste! Similar effort is put into making the tartar sauce from scratch.

The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For now, it is BYOB (a nice way to save on wine!), though there are plans for a liquor license. They plan to stay open year-round, unlike many spots on Cape Ann. Thus, it should be a good option for locals as well as those heading to the area for the beach or to explore.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rigatoni with Sausage and Kale

Careful readers of this blog might note that this dish sounds quite a bit like Ballpark Pasta. In fact, I'd originally planned to make that dish with a side dish of braised kale, following this recipe. Instead, I decided to do a recipe mashup to create this new dish. Very flavorful and healthy, and worthy of it's own blog post!
1 large, good quality sausage (I used D'Artagnan Andouille)
1 Vidalia onion, diced
1/2 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup white wine
bunch kale, coarsely chopped after removing thick stems
1/2 tsp fennel seed
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 lb short pasta (I used rigatoni)
2 handfuls of Parmesan or Romano cheese, extra to serve
The sausage was pre-cooked, so I started by just browning it a bit in a large pan that I'd sprayed with cooking oil. After it was well-browned, about 5 minutes, remove the sausage and set aside to cool. When cool enough, slice the sausage first in half lengthwise, then cross-wise to create semi-circles. 

Add 1 tbsp of the olive oil in the skillet, heat on medium. Add the onion, saute until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper and garlic, continue to saute.  This is a good time to start boiling water for the pasta, and cook according to package directions.
Stir the chopped kale into the pan with the onions along with a pinch of salt. Cook for a couple minutes on medium high heat until the kale starts to wilt. Stir in the cooking wine, balsamic vinegar and fennel seed. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer covered for about 10 minutes, until the kale has softened. Add the sausage back into the pan to re-heat and let the flavors meld.
Drain the pasta when it's cooked, and toss it with the sausage and kale mixture. Add the extra tbsp of olive oil and the cheese. You are ready to eat!
Wine: I noted that I had liked the red Rhone blend I served with Ballpark pasta, so thought I'd opt for a "Rhone Ranger" blend from California. I opted for Bonny Doon Vineyards Contra, a blend comprised primarily of Carignan, Grenache and Mourvedre. Jason's Wine Blog has more on the 2009 version of the bottle if you're interested in more details (I was more focused on the food prep than wine notes!). The pairing worked well, with the wine having the substance and a touch of spice to stand up nicely to the sausage.