Sunday, July 8, 2012

When You Can’t Stand the Heat but Want to be in The Kitchen…

WatercressIf you’re anything like me when it comes to feeding yourself, you feel off balance if its been a while since you made a full blown meal, baked a batch of cookies for loved ones, or simply tried making something new. With this heat wave that’s been riding through Manhattan I’ve had a hard time mustering up energy to cook much of anything. Today I resolved to spend sometime at the counter making some recipes I’ve had on my mind for a while- neither of which required heat. I also noticed that many of my favorite cookbooks have a blurb from Ms. Alice Waters on their covers today while cooking from my library. First I made a trip to Fairway to gather supplies. I stocked up on things for making lunch during the week, lots of green things, ice cream, and a whole pound of coffee with the hope that I’ll find the nerve to let the beans cold-brew for 15 hours according to the recipe in this month’s Bon Appetit.

loaded food processor watercress butterA few weeks ago I purchased watercress for the first time with the very good intention of trying out Cheryl Sternman Rule’s recipe from Ripe for watercress butter. Time passed, the greens wilted, tired and dried and no butter was made. The super green compound didn’t leave my mind when the first bunch went in the trash, though. I decided this would be a perfect hot-weather recipe to make and have on hand. Corn keeps showing up on my dinner plate demanding something more enticing than regular butter and salt so it seemed excellent timing to try Rule’s butter.

I softened my butter, cleaned then plucked away the thick stems of the watercress, peeled and roughly chopped some garlic, delicately measured out just enough honey, zested a lemon and whizzed it all together in my dear food processor. Some salt and pepper and a little tasting and recipe number one was done. I am happy to report the butter is as good as I imagined. I had a few done as the recipe calls for—on crackers, using Carr’s water crackers. These do indeed make for elegant appetizers I will gladly serve at parties in the future. I also tried it out on some toasted mini bagels I picked up at Fairway- so very delicious. If I swap this in for my regular salty French butter in the morning, will I be starting out my day healthier? I hope so! Cheryl also recommends tossing the leftover butter with hot pasta, potatoes or on bread. I’m thinking of combining it with my other recent love—soft-centered boiled eggs. So many possibilities! Just a note: when used with something hot the butter in the spread melts and heats up the watercress and turns the mixture dark green. The recipe can be found on page 226 of Ripe.
finished watercress butter watercress butter crackers watercress butter bagel

marinated goat cheese mise Next up was a recipe I meant to make two weeks ago but once again time escaped me and I didn’t get to until today. In Tamar Adler’s book, An Everlasting Meal, she has a recipe in the How to Have Balance chapter for Marinated Goat Cheese. Two weeks ago I went to visit my friend Hali in Boston for the weekend and bought goat cheese a day or two before I left with a plan to let my cheese marinate while I was gone for the weekend. Never happened. Luckily, I resisted opening the little crottin before my trip and was able to save it until today when it finally took its olive oil and herb bath.

marinated goat cheese in mason jarLike the watercress butter the marinated goat cheese requires little more than a few minutes of assembly—however this is followed by an instruction to wait 4 days before eating. We’ll see if I make it. To firm up the soft cheese a bit I let it be in the freezer for about ten minutes while I prepped my herbs and marinating jar. I used one of the adorable Mason jars that my Bananappeal cakes came in at Christmas time. Instead of slicing the cheese as Tamar instructs I instead made little boccaccini-like balls. She uses thyme and fennel seeds, I opt for parsley, tarragon and chives. So the cheese was set up today but I will have to report back on flavor after Thursday. This recipe is on page 91 of Tamar’s book (hardcover).

My afternoon was nearly heat-free but I decided to cook up a little chicken to go on a big salad. Yesterday’s breakfast included half of a perfectly ripe avocado on those same mini bagels so I couldn’t let the other half of it go to waste. I ripped up some Boston lettuce and topped it with sections of sliced avocado, sliced red pepper, shaved parmigiano, and then pieces of sauteed whole-grain mustard-coated chicken breast. Along with the watercress butter crackers and bagels this made for a green and great late lunch/early dinner. Thankfully I’m feeling accomplished and no hotter than before I got in the kitchen.

I hope you all are staying cool but getting your kitchen kicks as well. What are you making to keep cool and keep culinary, too?

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