Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Fine Kettle of Fish

Hey There!

This past Wednesday was my boyfriend Zach's birthday (yay!), and part of his gift was a homemade birthday dinner and dessert from your truly :) This year he requested one of his all-time favorite meals, a New-York style Fish Fry. It's interesting to note how many people seem to think of fish (fried or otherwise) as food that one would only order in a restaurant, or as take-out. This makes me sad. Fish is very easy to cook at home, and has many of the "blank-canvas" qualities of chicken, it can be as simple as salt, pepper and lemon juice, or any elaborate breading or batter you can think of. Fish also has the added advantage of cooking faster than chicken. For instance, if you are pan sauteeing fish, 2-3 minutes on each side should do it, as opposed to 6 minutes on each side for chicken.
I cannot tell you how many times I've heard "but fish is so expensive", and honestly, I don't consider that a valid excuse. Shopping for fish is like shoppingfor anything else, watch for sales, check out different markets to see who stocks what and at what kind of prices. Also, many larger farmer's markets have a fishmonger (I know for a fact that there is one at both the Rochester Public Market and the Syracuse Regional Farmer's market), and since they probably stock primarily local fish, their prices will probably be more reasonable. There are also some decent flash-frozen optons too, just peruse the fish section of your local market. Personally, I do not advocate buying farm-raised fish, for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which being that farm-raised fish have much higher levels of mercury and other toxins, but obviously, what you buy is your choice. Personally, I buy wild-caught fish whenever possible. Is fish a practical option for dinner every night of the week? Probably not, unless you can see the ocean from your house, but I definitely think that there is room in the typical grocery budget a few times a month. For example, I bought enough fish to make dinner for seven people for under $35, no lie. Dinner for seven people for under $35, that sounds pretty reasonable to me :)

So here is my recipe for Battered Fish, originally inspired by Ina Garten in her *Barefoot Contessa Family Style* Cookbook.

Battered Fish Fry

-3 1/2-4lbs fish fillets (I use haddock, but cod is great too)
-Kosher Salt
-Freshly ground black pepper
-2 cups plus four tablespoons all-purpose flour
-2 tablespoons baking powder
-2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
-4 extra large eggs
-Vegetable Oil (I use canola oil)
-2 cups of water

-Lay fillets on cutting board or large tray, Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Cut fillets in half or into thirds depending on how big they are. Try to make the fillets as uniform in size as possible.
-In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, lemon zest, cayenne pepper, one and a half tsp. salt and and 3/4 tsp. pepper. Stir together dry ingredients with whisk.
-Whisk in water, followed by eggs.
-Pour about 1//2 inch of oil into large, deep frying pan or skillet, and heat oil to about 360 degrees. If you don't have a thermometer, try this trick: Stick the tip of a wooden spoon into the oil, if small bubbles spring up quickly around the tip of the spoon, the oil is ready.
-Dip each fillet into the batter and let the excess drip back into the bowl. Place fillet very carefully into the pan. Remember not to crowd the fillets too closely in the pan, otherwise they will steam, not fry.
-Cook the fish on each side for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned and cooked through. Removed coked fillets to a platter, tray or plate lined with paper towels.
-Sprinkel with salt, serve hot with french fries and your favorite condiments.

- If, during frying, the oil begins too bubble to quickly, turn the heat down, if it is not bubbling enough, turn the heat up
- After making this fish fry a few times, the best advice I can give you about when to turn the fish is to think of the fillets like pancakes. If you slide your spatula under the fish to turn it, and the batter still feels sticky and won't yield to the spatula, the fish is not ready to be turned. If the spatula slides under the fish easily, it is ready to be turned.
-Do not be suprised if some batter falls off the fish while it's in the pan, it happens to me too and I'm in the process of figuring out how to correct it. It may because these fillets are pan-fried and not deep fried, further research is required.
-If fish isn't your thing, I see no reason why this batter wouldn't work on chicken tenders. Just make sure you've pounded them pretty thin, so that the inside will be cooked around the same time that the batter gets crispy.

And now, a bonus recipe!
Zach's Dad makes an AMAZING fish sauce, it's not quite a tartar, but has a similar taste. I don't have exact measurements for you, it's really more of a method, but try it, and I promise you'll be hooked (get it? Hooked?.........okay, moving on......)

David's Fish Sauce

-Mayonnaise (Preferably Hellmans)
-Sour Cream
-Chives (fresh, not dried)

-Mix equal parts sour cream and mayo in a medium mixing bowl
-add a few (about 4 or so) stalks of very finely chopped celery
and very finely chopped fresh chives
-add salt and pepper to taste
-Mix and chill thoroughly before serving.

Again, this sauce would taste good on chicken as well, and it would make a great all-purpose sandwich condiment.

Till next time:)

p.s. I apoligize for the lack of photos in this post, I'll remember to use my camera again next time :)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie


I apologize to my readers (*giggle* I have readers :) for the long delay between posts. Sadly, I had several family emergencies in the past few weeks, which kept me away from posting. But now, Thank God, life has returned to a more normal pace. The end of June brings the height of strawberry season. Entire flats of strawberries appear in grocery stores and farmer's markets, and recipes for jams, pies, cakes and shortcakes flood the local papers and seasonal cooking magazines. I, for one, could not be happier about this. If Strawberry Shortcake is the most popular "baked" dessert during Strawberry Season, then Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is a very close second place. Although all the women in my family make strawberry rhubarb pies, I have no distinct memory of tasting one until today, and WOW. It's like eating springtime. Enclosed is the recipe for Strawbery Rhubarb Pie that graced our table today for Father's Day. It originally came from a wonderful old cookbook called The Farm Journal's Complete Pie Cookbook and was made today by my wonderfully talented Mommy.

My mother's method for making pie crust is as follows: for a two crust pie, use 2/3 cup shortening, 2 cups of flour, and 1 tsp salt, mix together with fork or pastry cutter. Add a small amount of COLD water and continue to stir with fork until dough begins to form a ball, roll out to desired size, etc. If you have your own method, or you'd rather just buy a ready-made crust at the store, that's obviously fine too. My personal preference is to make pie-crust from scratch, because then I get to eat the pie-dough scraps, small pleasures in life and all that :)

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
-Pastry for 2-crust pie

-1 1/3 cups sugar
-1/3 cup flour

-1/2 tsp. grated orange peel

-1/8 tsp. salt

-2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

-2 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (ish)

-2 tbsp. butter

-Preheat oven to 425oF

- Combine strawberries and rhubarb in mixing bowl

-Add sugar, flour, orange peel and salt to strawberry mixture, mix to combine
- Pour mixture into pastry-lined 9" pie pan and dot with butter (a deep-dish pie pan will work best here)

-Adjust top crust over filling, seal edges by pressing with the tines of a fork or by crimping/fluting the edges with your fingers. Cut vents in top crust.

-Bake at 425oF for 40-50 minutes, or until juice begins to bubble through vents and crust is golden brown

-Allow to cool, at least partially, can be eaten alone, or with whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream on top.

WARNING: This pie has a tendency to boil over. Place the pie pan on a cookie sheet when it goes in the oven, so that any drips will end up on the sheet pan, and not baked or burned onto the floor of your oven.

Okay, this is my first attempt at uploading pictures of my culinary endeavors, any and all pointers on how to improve my food photography are most welcome!
Happy Summer Solstice!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Taco Salad Adventure

Hello Again My Friends :)

Can I just say how pleased I am that there are 12 people reading my blog? I know that in the grand scheme of things that's not very many, as there are some blogs with hundreds of followers, but since I was worried that no one would be reading it, and I'm just starting out, 12 is a BIG number, so thank you all! Today's post is about some kitchen improvisation on my part. As those of you who know me personally can attest, playing around in the kitchen and experimenting with different ingredients is one of my absolute favorite things to do. As a matter of fact, the other possible name for this blog was going to be "Kitchimprov"...but in the end I went with the current title, and I'm very happy with it :)

On the way home from the library today, I was suddenly in the mood for Mexican food, like ya do. In an effort not to totally blow all my Weight Watchers Points, I decided that instead of going out for Mexican, I would peruse what I had at home and see if anything there would satisfy my craving. On a related note, if anyone knows of a good Mexican or Tex-Mex restaurant in the greater Rochester area, toss it my way.

And so, the cupboard/fridge search began, much as it did last week when I made the soup that appeared in my first blog post. Below is the impromptu taco salad that resulted. I've given some loose measurements here, but really this is more of a method than a recipe, so don't take them too seriously, add or subtract as you like.

Impromptu Taco Salad
- 1 or 2 cups romaine lettuce
-about 1 cup black beans rinsed and drained
- 1 handful (about 1/4) cup 2% milk Taco Mix Shredded Cheese
-2 tablespoons fat free sour cream
-2 tablespoons salsa (I used mild salsa, but any salsa will work)
-2 small handfuls (about 1 serving or 12ish chips) crushed tortilla chips (I used Tostitos Scoops, but any chips would work)

-Combine lettuce, beans, and shredded cheese in large Salad bowl.
-In smaller separate bowl, mix sour cream and salsa.
-Pour salsa dressing over salad, toss to combine.
-After salad is mixed, sprinkle crushed tortilla chips over the top.

Would this win any gourmet awards? Probably not, but it was darn tasty. It was a wonderful way to get all the taco flavors without going nuts on greasy take-out. There are only two things I would do differently upon making this salad again. Firstly, I would squeeze some fresh lime juice over the salad just before tossing, becasue I think it would have added a nice brightness to the salad, and continued the Mexican theme. Sadly, I had no limes today. Second, in the original recipe I made today, I included a few jarred jalapeno slices. I probably wouldn't add them again, because they got kinda lost amid the salsa and the flavor was a little sharp and out of place. Though if you like jalapenos, go for it. I had this as a late lunch, but it would also work as a dinner salad, particularly if you added protein (beef, turkey, etc). Salads are so great to work with. The lettuce is a blank canvas for endless creative possibilities :)

Be Well :)

P.S. I will try to start posting pictures of my creations, as soon as I figure out how one might do that 0_o

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Love in Bloom

Hello All!

As we progress into June, with the *official* start of summer quickly approaching, my mind inevitably drifts to my favorite seasonal summer foods. While the list is LONG, I would definitely say that some of the first things on said list are corn and berries. I LOVE berries, I've never met a berry I didn't like. And the jump from *berries* to *dessert* is a very short one, at least in my head. So, today, in the spirit of Summer, I offer you one of my favorite simple, seasonally appropriate desserts, from the recipe files of my awesome Mommy :) This dessert is a snap to make, creamy, sweet, but not overpowering, and has one of the most beautiful names I've ever heard: Love in Bloom :)

Love in Bloom

-12-15 graham crackers, crushed (this can be done by pulsing them in a food processor for a few seconds or by placing them in a plastic bag and crushing with a rolling pin, etc)
-1/4 cup sugar
-1/4 cup butter, melted

- 1 3oz package cream cheese, softened
-1/2 cup 10x (confectioner's) sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-1 cup heavy cream, whipped
-a few cups fresh berries of your choice (strawberries, rapsberries, blueberries, cherries, etc. whatever is in season and/or looks good to you. A mix of the above is also lovely)

For the Crust:
-Preheat oven to 375oF
-combine crushed graham crackers, sugar and butter
-Press mixture into 9-inch pie plate (a tart pan of similar size would work too)
- Bake at 375oF for 8 minutes, allow crust to cool before filling

-cream sugar and cream cheese together, add vanilla
-Fold whipped cream into mixture
-pour into graham cracker crust, smooth top with spatula and top with fruit of choice.
-Refrigerate to chill thoroughly before serving

This dessert would be a lovely ending to a light summer meal, or a nice contrast to a heavier *barbeque* meal. And, I'll admit it, I have been known to eat this for breakfast if there are leftovers (don't judge me). Eat this outside on the patio or porch around sunset to achieve summer nirvana :)

Until we chat again :)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

10 Reasons to Love your Friendly Neighborhood Farmer's Market

Greetings My Friends!

If you stuck around long enough to read my second post, I sincerely thank you :) I'm thrilled that people are actually reading my blog, and I do hope that word of mouth/curiosity will eventually lead more people my way. Thank you to those of you who took the time to read/follow/comment, etc. And a HUGE thank you to the lovely and talented Brande for creating the awesome artwork that now adorns my blog title, woot!!! And, now, to the subject at hand:

On the slim but real assumption that there are people reading this blog who do not know me personally, and therefore have not heard me ramble (incessantly) on this topic, let me take a moment to mention my deep and enduring love for Farmer's Markets. Going to a Farmer's Market on a weekend morning in the warm months of the year is something that I, no joke, become palpably excited about. Growing up in the Syracuse area, I was lucky enough to have the Central New York Regional Market about ten minutes away from my house. Virtually every Saturday morning of my childhood, from April to November at least, found my mother and I at the market, visiting our favorite vendors and poking through the produce and other crafts.

I could go on and on about all the nostalgic reasons that I love the the market, because for me, the act of "going to the market" is tied very deeply to memories of childhood, family, sharing, mother/daughter bonding, etc. However, for the sake of something akin to staying on topic, I've distilled my ramblings into a Top Ten List of reasons you too should love, and regularly visit, your friendly neighborhood farmer's market. So, here ya go :)

10 Reasons to Visit a Farmer's Market: (In no particular order)

1. FRESH LOCAL PRODUCE! This one should be a no brainer, folks. Most produce that you see in the grocery store has traveled an average of 1,500 miles to get to you, and has been out of the ground for at least a few days, and in some cases, over a week. The majority of the produce you will find at a Farmer's Market has traveled less than 100 miles to get to you, and has been picked within the last 24 hours. Since I am home in Syracuse this weekend, I went to the Market this morning with my Mom. Among our purchases today were fresh baby spinach and strawberries. Both of which were grown locally in Baldwinsville, NY, a 20 minute drive from my front door. The strawberries were picked last night, and the spinach had been harvested that morning. The spinach was so fresh it still had a light film of dirt on it, and while some people may find this gross, I was pleased to see it, because it was definitely an indication of how short a period of time the spinach had been out of the ground. The strawberries, which were also pesticide free (yay!) were absolutely luscious. Strawberries will hit their peak about two weeks from now, in mid-to-late June, but even these early strawberries were ruby red, juicy, sweet with just a hint of tart, and DELICIOUS. There is absolutely no substitute for fruits and veggies grown within driving distance of your house and picked less than a day ago.

2. Fair Pricing: In virtually all of my market experiences, prices of produce in a Farmer's Market are either the same as grocery-store prices, or, more often, lower. And, in the realm of fresh food, you are getting more for your money. Your produce will be fresher, taste better, have retained more of it's nutritive qualities, it will last longer, and it is quite likely that it has not been treated with any preservatives, because it didn't have to survive a cross-country trip in a tractor trailer.

3. Exposure to different cultures. People of all ages, ethnicities and walks of life frequent farmer's markets. On any given visit, at least to the Syracuse Market, I will hear at least three other languages aside from English. Also, Farmer's Markets are wonderful places for people of different generations to bond over something familiar, good food :)

4. No Middle Man. Nine times out of ten, you are talking directly to the person who grew/cooked/baked/or otherwise crafted this item. They know their product intimately, and can tell you exactly what what went into the creation of their product. The soil it was grown in, the type of flour they prefer, how often a certain plant should be watered, etc. The vendors are eager to explain their processes, because they are proud of their product, because THEY MADE IT THEMSELVES. The vendors are by and large intelligent, friendly, ready to answer questions and always willing to strike up a conversation.

5. Keep money in your community. This should also be a no-brainer. When you buy local, you are supporting your community. You are speaking with your dollars. You are showing the "The Man", the government, the USDA, Agrbusiness, whatever you want to call it, that you feel strongly about supporting independently owned local businesses, and that efforts by agribusiness to crowd out or shut down small farms and independent growers ( because yes, this is happening, all across the U.S. at an alarming rate) are not welcome and will be met with consumer resistance. Did I just get a little political there? Ooops, sorry about that. Read *The Omnivore's Dilemma* by Michael Pollan and then you'll understand.

6. FRESH BAKED GOODS. Need I say more?

7. All kinds of artisinal crafts. Farmer's Markets, especially larger ones, often have far more than food. You can often find hand-crafted wood furniture, jewelry, clothing, homemade toiletries and beauty products, heirloom varieties of flowers, gourmet pasta, handmade toys, wines, and other household items that are one of a kind, at reasonable prices.

8. Virtually everyone there is in a good mood. Getting up early on a Saturday morning is not everyone's idea of a good time. Therefore, almost everyone you will see at a Farmer's Market is there because they WANT to be there. Everywhere I look I see people chatting with old friends or engaged in a lively conversation with a vendor. At a market, you will actually get service with a smile and be able to build a real relationship with your favorite vendors. The type of noise emanating from a busy open-air market is something I can't even attempt to desribe in print, I'm just not that gifted. Markets are happy places, just being in the atmosphere puts you in a good mood.

9. CUTE FUZZY ANIMALS. People will often bring kittens and puppies to sell at Farmer's Markets, and while this may be inconvenient for those with children in tow (Mom, can I keep him?) or those of us, who, like, me, are really just children trapped in adult's bodies, I will never turn up my nose at an opportunity to play with a kitten or puppy :)

10. A greater understanding and appreciation of your food. I don't know if I'm going to be able to explain this correctly, but I will try. Going to a grocery store has become very autopilot for many people. We get the same loaf of sandwich bread, lunch meat, breakfast cereal, whatever produce we like because stores have bascially the same thing all the time. We toss it in the cart and leave with no deep appreciation for where the food came from, beyond "it came from the store". At a market, what is available changes week to week and season to season. You become more aware of the seasonality of your food, what it took to create that food, what happened to it on it's journey to your plate. There is a connection there, one I don't sense in the confines of a

So,visit your local farmer's market. Most cities and towns, small and large, will have one, for at least May-October, and some have markets that take place all year round. If you live in New York State, here is a good place to start: or, another good resource for locating farmer's markets all across the U.S. is

Vist your local market, you'll be glad you did!!

Oh! Wait! A bonus reason!

11. Better access to organic foods. Most markets will have a fair amount of organic food, and not just produce. For instance, at the Syracuse market, there are organic/free range/ pasture raised eggs, milk, yogurt, beef, chicken, honey and sausages :) And these are all at reasonable prices :)

Till Next Time!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Here Goes Nothing!

Well Hello There Potential Readers!

My name is Lynn, and until I figure out how to set up some of the privacy functions for my Blog, we're gonna keep it to first name only for now. For some reason, I have of late become moved to start blogging. Like most who do so, I have a lot to say, on a lot of subjects, and putting all of one's thoughts somewhere is definitely therapeutic. I will probably end up writing several blogs, but in this particular blog, I will endeavor to focus mainly on all things food :)

I LOVE Food, everything about it, from growing to shopping to reading to cooking and, of course, eating. Food is Life, Food is Art, Food is Love. Am I a trained cook? No. But believe me when I say that the Kitchen is Home. I think I started this blog so that I could hopefully bring a sense of cohesion to my constant culinary rambling. I have other passions too, Theatre and Environmentalism among them, but that's another blog (or blogs). So here we will chat about Food and all that that subject entails in my world :)

So how do we begin? With a new recipe, of course!
This afternoon I found myself hungry, as I am wont to do, and a cupboard/fridge search left me with a hodgepodge of ingredients and leftovers. Though I would not call myself a strict vegetarian, I'm trying to cut down on my meat consumption, and keep it to only a few servings per week (more on that later). I had vegetable broth, canellini beans, about a half loaf of Italian bread, a small onion, a bunch of escarole....and what did all this say to me? SOUP! What resulted was a lovely cross between Pasta Fagiole and Ribollita, slightly tangy, perectly suited to a late spring or early summer lunch, though I can see it being quite tasty in the fall/winter too. Although I did not necessarily mean for this to happen, this recipe is Vegan, no meat, no dairy, no animal products at all. So, this would be a good choice to serve for those who follow a Vegan diet. Also, it's CHEAP. Beans and broth are quite inexpensive, often less than $1.00, one loaf of bread, and pantry staples, that's it! You could put this whole meal together for under $10.00!

This recipe is scaled for one person, as I was only cooking for myself, however, it could easily feed two people, or be scaled to feed more. One of the reasons I love soup so much is because soup it is one of those miracle foods wherein there always seems to be enough to feed everybody :)
Give it a try, let me know your thoughts :)

Beans and Greens Soup
-2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-1 small onion finely chopped
-One-half loaf of day old Italian or French Bread, or about 5 or 6 ounces (this recipe will work with fresh bread too, but bread that is a few days old will better absorb the liquid and add the right thickness to the soup)
-2 14oz. cans of vegetable broth
-1 can canellini beans
- a few pinches of dill (fresh or dried) to taste
- a few pinches of garlic powder, to taste
- 1 medium sized bunch of escarole, rinsed and drained, leaves separated from core.
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1. Pour two tbsp of Extra Virgin Olive Oil into medium-sized soup pot over medium high heat, when oil is rippling, add chopped onion, saute onion until lightly browned. While onion is browning, cut bread into large bite-size pieces.
2. When onion is finished browning, place bread in soup pot and stir thoroughly so bread becomes coated in the oil.
3. When bread has absorbed the remaining oil, add one can of vegetable broth. Stir, lower heat to medium.
4. Tear escarole leaves into medium-sized pieces, add to to soup pot and cover, allowing the leaves to wilt into soup mixture, stirring occasionally. (don't worry if the pot looks really full, the leaves will shrink a great deal as they wilt).
5. When leaves are wilted, add remaining can of vegetable broth and canellini beans (don't rinse them before they go in the soup pot). Add salt, dill, and garlic powder, cover and simmer on medium low-heat for 10 minutes, or until desired thickness is achieved (some people like soups and stews thicker than others).
6. When desired thickness is reached take soup off heat, add apple cider vinegar, and stir. This would be lovely topped with a spinkle of Parmesan Cheese :)

Try the recipe, let me know if you like it, or better yet, let me know if you like my blog!

Till next time :)