Thursday, May 28, 2009

Orange Glazed Rhubarb Tart

This one is going to be short and sweet – and tart.

One of the many joys of this season is rhubarb. We love it in my family and I buy it every chance I can because it’s only around for a little while. Usually I pair it with strawberries because they are also coming into season and the combined flavors are just perfect.

My go-to recipes are strawberry rhubarb pie or strawberry rhubarb crisp, but a pretty picture in the April issue of Gourmet magazine that combined rhubarb and oranges caught my eye, and I just had to try it. The Gourmet recipe called for puff pastry, but I had some phyllo dough in the freezer so I decided to use that instead.

It made a lovely and light dessert that everyone raved about at a recent family dinner party.

I also made an apple tart for the kids just in case they didn’t like rhubarb without strawberries. I used the same basic recipe, but substituted thinly sliced apples for the rhubarb and cinnamon for the citrus.

I need not have worried. They loved the rhubarb tart, but were especially enthusiastic about having two different desserts to try. Add some vanilla ice cream (one scoop for each flavor of tart of course) and what kid wouldn’t have fun with that?

Orange Glazed Rhubarb Tart
Adapted from recipe in Gourmet Magazine April 2009 issue

1 large orange
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
4 long rhubarb stalks, thinly sliced on the diagonal (1/8 inch)
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 half package phyllo dough, thawed (The Athens Brand I used comes with two separate rolls, so I used one)

Juice the orange and grate 1 teaspoon of zest from the rind. Mix orange juice, lime juice, sugar, orange zest and rhubarb and let flavors meld at least 10 minutes.

In the meantime prepare pastry. On a cook sheet covered with parchment paper, place one sheet of phyllo dough. Brush with melted butter using a pastry brush. Continue in this manner for 6 layers. Top pastry with half of the rhubarb slices, overlapping slightly and leaving 1/2 to 1 inch “crust” around the edges.

Repeat with six more butter basted phyllo layers and one more rhubarb layer. Bake pastry at 400 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes. While it is baking, pour marinade juice into a small saucepan and simmer over low heat to form a glaze. When pastry is finished, brush the top with the glaze. Serve with vanilla ice cream drizzled with extra glaze.

For a printable recipe click here

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Clamming Success! First Recipe: Stuffed Clams

Yesterday I went to the seafood market and was appalled that two dozen clams cost $18. For clams! On Cape Cod, where they are free for the taking.

As soon as I left the market, I headed right over to Town Hall and got a shellfish permit. We’ve wanted to dig our own clams for years, but just never got around to it. We even have the equipment, which is fairly basic. All you need is a clam rake, a wire bucket and a gauge to make sure your clams are big enough.

Even though I already had the two dozen clams that I bought in the fridge, I couldn’t wait to get started. We headed down to Linnell Landing Beach on Cape Cod Bay as soon as the Kitchen Genius got home from work. After about an hour of very hard work, we had one clam each.

Not such a great start, but we came home, opened those suckers and ate them raw with a bit of cocktail sauce and Tabasco. There was something really thrilling about eating a clam that had been in the ocean just a half an hour earlier.

This morning at the Orleans Farmers Market, I asked a shell-fisherman friend for some tips, because we obviously needed them. I learned that the best time to go clamming is an hour before low tide and the farther out onto the flats you walk, the better. I also learned that you don’t have to dig six inch holes like we did yesterday (whew!) because clams are only about two inches down.

If you’re in the right spot at the right time, you really do just rake them up. And that’s just what happened when we went clamming again this afternoon. We hit a payload and FILLED our basket in an hour. It was like a treasure hunt – and highly addictive. KG had to drag me away.

We had a bounty of clams, but there was already pot of chili simmering on the stove for dinner. (After yesterday, I wasn’t taking any chances.) But those gorgeous clams were just calling, so tonight KG decided to make stuffed clams for an appetizer.

He adapted a recipe from Howard Mitcham, who for years was considered to be Cape Cod’s master seafood chef. Even Anthony Bourdain tipped his hat to Mitcham in his memoir, Kitchen Confidential, declaring Provincetown Seafood Cookbook the best seafood cookbook EVER. That shout out has made the out of print cookbook a collectible that sells anywhere from $100 - $500 dollars.

If this recipe is any indication, Mitcham’s reputation is well deserved. No exaggeration, these were the best stuffed clams I’ve ever tasted. They were light in texture, but bursting with briny clam flavor. I’ve actually never been a big fan of stuffed clams because the ones I’ve ever tried were in restaurants. The restaurant versions tend to be as dense as hockey pucks and the only hint there is a clam involved is the shell the stuffing is packed in.

These are a whole other creation and so tasty we plan to fill our freezer with them.

The Recipe:

Stuffed Clams
Adapted from “Clams, Mussels, Oysters, Scallops & Snails” by Howard Mitcham

1 dozen large sea clams
4 cups bread crumbs (made from day old French bread in food processor)
1 stick butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1 rib celery, diced finely
3 slices bacon, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Pinch thyme
Pinch ground cumin
1/4 cup white wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons sherry

Wash clams thoroughly. Pour one cup water in a large pot, add clams, cover and steam the clams until they are open (about 15 minutes). Save the liquor (juice from clams). Remove the clams from their shells, chop and rinse thoroughly to remove any sand. Place in food processor and pulse four times.

Melt butter in a large skillet and sauté the onions, pepper, celery, garlic and bacon until vegetables are soft. Add wine and sherry and cook for three minutes. Add clams and herbs and spices and cook for 2 more minutes until heated.

Meanwhile, strain clam liquor through coffee filter to remove any sand. Mix clam mixture, bread crumbs and 1 cup clam liquor. Stir until well combined. Stuff the mixture into empty half shells if eating immediately. (If freezing or making ahead, stuff one half shell and top with other half shell. Place rubber band around the shells to hold them together.)

Dot with butter and bake at 375 degrees for 10 – 15 minutes until golden brown on top. If cold, bake at 350 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes until heated through and golden on top.

For a printable recipe click here

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Backyard Chickens

Guess what! We’ve got new babies at our house and we’re loving them silly. I’m sure the photo above gives you a big hint. Yes, we got chickens. Baby chicks to be exact.

I caught chicken fever last fall, but apparently they are a spring thing. Once spring finally arrived, the Kitchen Genius balked (chicken pun intended!). Undeterred, I checked out every book about chickens that I could find at my local libraries and left them laying (ha!) all over the house.

The kids got in on the action too. They were enthusiast supporters of this idea and many dinner conversations centered on the subject. Finally about 10 days ago, KG called and asked, “Do you really want chickens?”

Uh, let’s think about this for a few minutes – or six months...YES! I can’t go into all the details here, because I wrote about our experience for the Cape Cod Times, but if you’re interested you can read the story I wrote here.

Even though I had all those books, I had only been dipping into them here and there. Once I knew my chicklets were coming home, I was an anxious as a pregnant woman expecting her first baby, reading every baby book she can find. Seriously, I ploughed through four books in as many days.

Due date came ten days ago, and the whole family headed to Falmouth to pick up our chicks. Here's what we had to choose from:

Of course everyone had to pick out their own (and name her). This is our son Tommy's little Dumpling. We think she is a Blue Andalusian, which means she could be black or white when she grows up.

We got a chick for our daughter’s boyfriend Gary because he eats dinner at our house every night, so he needs eggs too. Plus, he just really wanted one. Here he is with Piper, who we think is a Silver Laced Wyandotte.

There was no way our granddaughter Skylar was going to be left out of this fun. Her chick is named Tinkerbell and she is a Blue Andalusian too.

The kids spend alot of time watching them. They are more entertaining than TV.

Right now the little ladies live in their coop in our basement, but we’ll be moving them outside in a couple of weeks when the weather gets warmer and KG finishes building a run for them.

I’m so enamored with them that I check on them about ten times a day. We're trying to socialize our chicks because we want them to love us. It seems to be working.

They not only eat out of my hand, but climb into it now. Here's my favorite chicken, Sassy (hopefully a Black Australorp). She and the little yellow Buttercup (a White Rock) are the friendliest ones.

I already plan to get six more next year. Our chicks won’t lay eggs for about five months, but everyone we know already wants our eggs. My hairdresser said she would trade her services for eggs and the guy who owns the local package store has offered to barter wine for eggs. Five other people have offered to buy them from us.

They really are quite entertaining, so I’m including a video of them so you can see for yourself. I sound like a dork in the video, but that’s why I’m a writer and not a newscaster.

In other news, our garden is almost planted and it’s even bigger than last year. So far I’ve planted potatoes, radishes, lettuce, kale, peas, beans, beets, broccoli rabe and winter squash. I’m planning to plant tomatoes, cukes and fava beans this weekend.

Thanks for still stopping by even though I’ve been away creating a farmyard in my backyard. I’ll get back to sharing my cooking and recipes again real soon.