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The weekend before last, we headed north to my home 30 minutes South of Buffalo for the First Annual Meyer Harvest Patch Bash!  And after a quick, but fun-filled couple of short days there, we headed back to DC with a car overloaded with produce from the farm… my favorite at the moment, the delicious and beautiful (they’re currently in a huge silver bowl on my coffee table) turnips that my darling husband dug up for me!  Stay tuned tomorrow for a recipe for the hit of the weekend… Caramel Apple Bourbon Butter!!!

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In Print: Clips from Food Sections

popup5. – The Chicago Tribune Stuffed Acorn Squash Makes a Hearty Entree “Acorn squash stuffed with apple-almond-cherry basmati pilaf”

4. – The Boston Globe Kids’ Menus? Oh Grow Up! “Down the street at the Japanese restaurant GinGa, Jack Broomhead, 5, is gleefully sucking down salmon sashimi and shrimp tempura. And at Dok Bua Thai Kitchen, Hannah Siegenberg, 10, and her sister Julia, 17, are drinking tea and sharing a Thai appetizer of dried shrimp, lime, chilies, and Chinese broccoli wrapped in spinach leaves. Hannah’s choice for where to celebrate her recent birthday: the Japanese restaurant Fugakyu.”

3. – The LA Times A Toast to the Caipirinha “Now that Brazil is slated to become the first South American country to host the Olympics, maybe Americans will pay more attention to one of its finest exports: cachaça. Made from fermented sugar cane juice, the clear, fiery liquor puts the defining kick in Brazil’s national cocktail, the caipirinha.”

2. – The NY Times A White House Chef Who Wears Two Hats “His name is Sam Kass. And when he’s not grilling fish for the first family or tending tomatillos in the White House garden, he is pondering the details of child nutrition legislation, funding streams for the school lunch program and the best tactics to fight childhood obesity.”

1. – The Washington Post Country Cook “Michael Psilakis needs a goat. He reserved one, but there was confusion about when the famous chef from New York would pick it up, and the village butcher sold it to someone else. Without it, Psilakis could not make the braised goat, the moussaka, the pasta with goat ragu or the traditional Cretan wedding rice, which is cooked in goat broth. Most of the menu he has planned to show me would be ruined.”

photo from The NY Times

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From the Kitchen of: Joe Raffa

joe4Through November 2nd, join in the Day of the Dead celebration at Oyamel as Head Chef Joe Raffa invites guests to experience one of the most important holidays in Mexican culture with a special menu featuring tasty tamales, specialty handcrafted cocktails and a tamal cart on the Oyamel’s patio. When you’re there be sure to check out the custom-made altar adorned with candles and marigolds, the flower that is often used to decorate gravesites in rural Mexico – it’s pretty amazing!  Click here for a coupon for a FREE Sloe Dead Fizz, one of the specialty cocktails being offered during the event.

What is your favorite kitchen gadget?
The Vita Prep XL. It’s the Godzilla of blenders, and we love it in the kitchen. One of my sous chef’s hugged it the day it arrived. It makes our moles so much easier to puree. Besides that, I have my knives. I converted to Japanese knives several years ago. A knife is the most important tool a chef has. A good Japanese knife raises that tool to the level of art. It’s inspirational to work with something that an artisan has devoted substantial time and energy to create, both in terms of food and tools.

What is the most overrated food/technique in restaurants today?
My answer is more of a philosophy. Cooks are easily excited with new tools and techniques. Take sous vide for instance. It is an amazing cooking technique when used where it makes sense for the food. Unfortunately, you find people using the technique for everything just for the sake of using the machines. The important thing is the food. Whatever techniques bring the best flavor out of the food is what you should use. Not necessarily the newest fads.

If you were to open a restaurant with a different type of cuisine than what you are cooking now, what would it be?
Food from my home!!! I’d love to open a Hawaiian restaurant and introduce people on the mainland to the flavors of the islands. One of my fellow Hawaiian chefs in ThinkFoodGroup and I cooked a luau for Jose Andres a few months ago. We had so much fun and became so homesick all at the same time.

What is your favorite local product or purveyor to work with?
Bev Eggleston from Eco-Friendly Foods. I really respect the traditions of small farmers that he is trying to promote. And his meats are just SO good.

What is your biggest customer pet peeve?
That they don’t all come in to Oyamel every day!

What do you drink/eat after work?
Rum. In a good Mai Tai. Heaven.

What is your favorite thing to cook at home?
This is the hardest question. My favorite thing depends on my mood. When I cook food from Hawaii it just pulls on my heartstrings. My wife is from Alabama, and her grandmother, aunt and mother taught me a lot about Southern cuisine, which also makes me very happy. I just can’t bear to claim a favorite thing, because there’ll be so many other things I want to eat!

Click here for Chef Raffa’s recipe for butternut squash soup…

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Grilling Up a Storm… of Vegetables

There’s often so much focus on MEAT when we talk about grilling and I thought a little primer on grilling vegetables was in order.  Here’s my general rules for prepping and cooking the good stuff over a hot fire.

grilledvegetables

Red, Yellow and Green Bell Peppers – Grill the peppers over high heat until charred all over, about 12-15 minutes. Then place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rest for ten minutes, then rub off the charred skin with a paper towel.  Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds.

Mushrooms – Begin by trimming off just the bottom of the stem and brushing them free of any loose dirt.  Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill over high heat until tender and slight wrinkly on the outside, about 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

Zucchini and Yellow Summer Squash – Cut into 1/4″ wide slices.  Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill over medium-high heat until tender and grill marks appear, about 6-8 minutes.

Scallions – Begin by trimming off the root ends.  Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill over medium-high until tender, about 4 minutes.

Eggplant – Halve lengthwise and and cut into 1″ to 1 1/2″ chunks.  Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill over medium heat, covered until soft, 5-8 minutes.

Potatoes – Cut into 1/2″ wedges and precook by steaming for 10-15 minutes or just until tender.  Let cool.  Then brush with olive oil and and season with salt and pepper.  Grill over medium heat until grill marks appear, about 8-10 minutes.

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In Print: Clips from Food Sections

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5. – The San Francisco Chronicle Posh Squash “Nature seems to have had some of her giddiest moments in the pumpkin patch, judging by the winter squash and gourds for sale at Bay Area markets these days. They have warts and bumps, ridges and furrows, stripes and speckles, and come-hither curves. Few denizens of the produce world are more alluring – or more confusing.”

4. – The Boston Globe CheapSteak “Call it the meat index. If you want to know whether times are tough, ask your butcher. “We are selling so much more hamburg,” says Charles Silva, owner of New England Meat Market.”

3. – The LA Times The Bagel: An L.A. Story “Friedman is not a stickler for a particular-size bagel and does not have a problem tweaking his recipe here and there to suit a customer, but he has been raised in a strict bagel-making tradition. Sitting in his glass-enclosed office looking out over his Brooklyn Bagel factory, the scene does not appear to have changed much in five decades.”

2. – The NY Times Eurpoe Relaxes Rules on Sale of Ugly Fruits and Vegetables “Misshapen fruit and vegetables won a reprieve on Wednesday from the European Union as it scrapped rules banning overly curved, extra knobbly or oddly shaped produce from supermarket shelves. Ending regulations on the size and shape of 26 types of fruit and vegetables, the European authorities killed off restrictions that had become synonymous with bureaucratic meddling.”

1. – The Washington Post Oolong, the Tea Lover’s Tea “Asking a wine, chocolate or coffee expert to pick a favorite is like asking a mother to choose between her children. Not so for tea connoisseurs: Oolong “is the tea that got me hooked on tea,” says importer Brian Wright.”

photo from The Boston Globe

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Sweet Corn Stuffed Summer Squash

Once the sweet corn and summer squash start appearing in the grocery store, you know it isn’t long until it’s in the garden and markets also! This is one of my favorite go-tos for dinner when running short on time and wanting to eat fresh and light.

Sweet Corn Stuffed Summer Squash

6 skinny summer squashes (zucchini works too!)
2 cups low fat ricotta cheese
1 cup fresh sweet corn, steamed and cut off the cob
1/4 cup basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wash squash then cut in half lengthwise. Using a teaspoon, gently scrape down the middle of the squash removing the seeds and a bit of flesh. You want to create a pocket to hold the filling.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then season to taste. Gently pack filling into squash. Place squash halves in 9×13 baking dish and bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes.

Enjoy!

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The State of the Pumpkin

It’s that time of the year again – pumpkin pies, squash bisque and roasted fall vegetables are gracing our tables… Only this year, the pumpkins are sparce.

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According to Joseph Meyer of Meyer Harvest Patch in Western New York, “the summer drought and scorching heat wiped out most of the crop, leaving fields quite sparse and forcing us to buy pumpkins from out of state – and even then, they are few and far between with a high price tag!”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates pumpkins to be a $100 million-a-year industry. Which is down for the second consecutive year – global warming anyone?

I noticed plenty of squash at the Dupont Farmer’s Market this weekend, but few pumpkins.  So, if you have to have those pumpkins for your pie (and canned are just not the same), or you have a five year-old getting excited for the carving – you better get on it as prices are rising and the supply is diminishing!

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