Two recipes for friends.


For all the private and circumspect person that he is, my husband loves Instagram.

I can’t keep him off it. It’s become part of the rhythm of his daily life. A quick means to communicate what he’s feeling, thinking about, or simply experiencing. His favorite hashtag? #thereisbeautyeverywhere.

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For him, posting a picture on Instagram has become as intimate and integral to his sharing of himself as a warm hug with a friend chance-met on a street or an invitation to join our family for a home cooked dinner. It’s a gift of his vision, his perspective, his point of view — all finely honed, I must admit, after years of seeing the world through the keen eyes of an ad guy. No filter, indeed.

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So all those photos you see of our nightly dinners? His, not mine. “That looks really tasty,” he’ll say appeasingly, as he grabs my iPhone to snap the photo, part of his strategy to make the minutes this process takes more palatable while the whole family is waiting for him to sit down. “Let me just post a picture.”

I’m at odds with this nightly ritual. On the one hand, it’s wonderful that he loves my cooking, appreciates the effort I put into the flavors, colors, and textures that dress our family table. Or maybe, he simply likes to celebrate that we have a still have family table, a dinner together each night.

In response to my scowl and narrowed eyes, not to mention the wooden spoon I am brandishing, he reminds me that posting is good for my ‘brand.’ Hmmm. That’s true, I admit grudgingly.

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The proof is in the pudding. His quick posts of our dinners get lots of likes, and even some requests for recipes.

Herein lies the rub. I don’t cook from recipes. I’m a ‘look in the fridge and make it up as you go based on what you’ve got’ kinda girl. I stock the pantry and take it from there. Writing those recipes, especially free of errors? Takes some time.

But you all are worth it.

So, here you go. For Leslie, the risotto and for Susan, the lobster pasta.

And for Jonathan, my humble thanks. I guess there is beauty everywhere.

If you want to follow Jonathan on Instagram you can find him at @jplazonja.

Risotto with Chicken and Preserved Lemon

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Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, trimmed, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • white flour for dredging
  • 3 tbs. butter
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 tbs. chopped preserved lemon, pith and pulp removed
  • 1 tbs. preserved lemon liquid
  • juice of half of a lemon
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 3/4 white wine
  • 3/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 3 tbs. chopped flat Italian parsley leaves, stems removed
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • kosher salt and ground white pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the chicken stock until simmering in a large stock pot.
  2. Meanwhile, dredge the chicken cubes in the flour until well coated. Shake off any excess.
  3. Melt 3 tbs. butter in a large heavy bottom pan over medium high heat. When bubbling, add the garlic and sauté until you can smell the aroma.
  4. Cook the chicken in batches in a single layer, until the cubes are golden brown. Remove and reserve.
  5. Add the remaining butter to the pot. When it is bubbling, add the shallot and sauté over medium heat until it is translucent, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add the arborio rice, stirring often, until the grains become opaque and smell somewhat nutty. Don’t let them brown.
  7. Add the white wine, simmering gently and stirring often until the wine is reduced and all the good bits are scraped from the sides and bottom of the pan.
  8. Add the preserved lemon and preserved lemon liquid.
  9. Add the warm chicken stock, stirring constantly over medium high heat. As it absorbs into the rice, continue to add more stock until the stock is all incorporated. This should take about 20 minutes.
  10. Add the lemon juice, the reserved chicken and the nutmeg.
  11. Add the cheese, stirring until fully incorporated.
  12. Add the parsley, and season to taste with salt and white pepper.
  13. The risotto will take on a creamy consistency, this is fine. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Serves four.

Egg Fettuccine with Lobster, Preserved Lemon and Baby Spinach

Lobster, baby spinach and preserved lemon fettuccine

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces lobster meat, cooked, cleaned and coarsely chopped
  • 1 lb. egg fettuccine, linguine, or other broad egg noodle
  • 2 shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • I carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, pith and pulp removed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tbs. preserved lemon liquid
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 12 ounces  baby spinach leaves, cleaned and dried
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1/4 cup flat Italian parsley leaves, chopped
  • salt and ground white pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove on high heat.
  2. In a large, heavy bottomed sauté pan, heat the olive oil and the butter until bubbling.
  3. Add the shallot, celery, carrot and pepper flakes. Sauté over medium high heat until softened, about 5 – 7 minutes. Stir often.
  4. Add the preserved lemon, white wine and preserved lemon liquid.
  5. Add the spinach leaves, and cover, allowing the spinach to wilt.
  6. When the water is boiling, salt the water and add the pasta and cook until just before al dente.
  7. Reserve 2 cups of pasta water in a shatter-proof glass container.
  8. Drain the pasta, and add it and the lobster to the spinach mixture in the sauté pan.
  9. Increase heat to medium high, add reserved pasta water as needed to keep the pasta from sticking, stirring to combine ingredients.
  10. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Serve immediately with a garnish of fresh parsley.

Serves four.

It’s Strawberry time in New England!

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It's Strawberry time in New England!

The first reddest, ripest strawberries arrived at the Brookline Winter Farmer’s Market on June 9. And they’ve only gotten better since.

We’ll be visiting Lineage, Harvest, Oleana and the Fireplace this week on behalf of the Federation of MA Farmers Markets’ 6th annual Strawberry Fest!

Check back soon to learn how some of Boston’s best pastry chefs are using fresh, local berries in awesome desserts.

The Brookline All-Season Farmer’s Market

posterinb-linevillageI can’t believe this Sunday is the last week of the Brookline Winter Farmer’s Market.

And they said it couldn’t be done. “The Arcade can’t accommodate an indoor market,” they said. “There aren’t enough year-round vendors to participate,” they lamented. “Apart from potatoes and beets, farmers can’t sell veggies 52 weeks a year,” they complained.

Wrong, wrong, and wronger, still. Continue reading

The Groundhog lied.

New England Farmer's Market  Cassoulet Damn that groundhog. Punxsutawney Phil is a prevaricator.

On February 2nd he got our hopes up for an abbreviated winter. On February 9th our hopes were buried under 30 inches of snow. By February 10, our shoulders and backs ached from too much shoveling, our nerves as brittle as the two-foot icicles that dangle like ganglia from rooftops, ready to shatter with the briefest provocation. Now, on February 17th, it’s snowing again.

In my house, at least, we are desperate for succor. Fast. And in my house, comfort comes from a pot.

Cassoulet on the stovetop 3 Continue reading

Don’t hate me because I’m ugly.

celery root on white

“What is it about Brookline? You guys sure like your celeriac.”

So stated my friend Andrew, the gregarious Silverbrook Farms frontman at last Sunday’s Brookline Winter Farmer’s Market. That morning, the crew at the barn had given Andrew a pre-dawn double take when he asked them to pack two bushels of celeriac, not one, for the long ride from South Dartmouth, on Massachusetts’ South Coast to Brookline, which borders Boston. “You know,” Andrew says with some modicum of personal pride, “at other markets, we barely sell a half bushel. Here, I’ll go through both of these just today.”

Celeriac, or celery root for the uninitiated, is not attractive. It has none of the vibrant allure of magenta beets, say, or the deep orange crispness of carrots. None of the enticing geometric perfection of conical broccoli Romanesco. None of the sturdy pretense of wholesome Yankee goodness found in parsnips or turnips. And definitely none of the majesty of Brussel sprouts on the stalk.

No. Celeriac is an anemic ecru wizened ball, with haggard roots cropped haphazardly on one end, and mottled, dirty-looking skin. And if that’s not enough to make you turn away, it makes only a half-hearted attempt at spherical uniformity, completely disinterested in its own appearance. I guess that’s what living underground will do to you. Continue reading

Once Upon a Farmer’s Market

garlicLet’s face it. I have a pretty fabulous job.

On Sundays and Mondays I’m the official greeter at the Brookline Winter Farmer’s Market. I get to sit back and watch (mostly) very happy people shopping for fresh and local produce and products from 16 of the greatest farms and producers in Massachusetts.

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I’m living my happily ever after. I’m surrounded by passionate farmers and entrepreneurs and equally committed customers buying and selling gorgeous products in a lively urban market in the historic Arcade Building.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m in a dream. Yesterday, I felt like I was in a fairy tale. Continue reading

Whew. Glad that’s over.

Call me hardhearted, but this morning, even before I get of of bed, I let loose a huge sigh of relief that the holidays are over. Truly. In my mind, this is not a cynical or Scrooge-like response, just a practical and pragmatic reaction to an excess of excess. And I, for one, am glad it’s over. And if you were honest, you’d say so, too.

It’s all just too much. Too much food. Way too much drink. Too much forced merriment in a much too sad world.

Champagne New Year's Eve 2013 1 Continue reading

Paperwhites at the BWFM

Brookline Winter Farmer's Market Rooster

*That’s the Brookline Winter Farmer’s Market, for the uninitiated. Beautiful Paperwhite kits are for sale at the Brookline Winter Farmer’s Market every Sunday, noon to 5 pm at the Arcade in Coolidge Corner.

Brookline Winter Farmer's Market Logo

If you like someone a lot, you’ll give them the gift of springtime blossoms and scents this holiday season. Snowy white, deliciously fragrant flowers top long, slender green stems. And they’re simple to grow.

Everything about paperwhites make them the perfect antidote to short, grey winter days.

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Bulbs nestle in sea-foam green, clear or rust-colored seaglass in 10 inch tall clear glass cylinders. Because we know you’ll love them so much, we’ll give you an extra bulb to extend the life of your gift.

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Follow these easy steps to care for your Paperwhites. Then, use the extra narcissus bulb to start all over again, and get you six weeks closer to Springtime.

  1. Unwrap your Paperwhite Kit, remove and store the extra bulb. Remove and discard the white tissue paper.
  2. Add water so that the level just reaches the base of the bulb. Allowing the bottom of the bulb to sit in water will stimulate growth. Covering the entire bulb with water could cause it to rot.
  3. Bulbs don’t need light at this point and they prefer to be kept on the cool side, at about 65 degrees F (18 degrees C.)
  4. Check your bulb daily to see if they need more water.
  5. When you see roots developing, move the container to a sunny window. The sunnier the better, but try not to let them get too warm or they’ll grow leggy.
  6. Once the plants flower, they will last longer if moved out of direct sunlight, to a cool spot with indirect or diffused light.

Wrapped and ready to give, this perfectly self-contained gift garden is $20.

Enjoy.

Farmer’s Market 101

Overheard too many times to count at last week’s launch of the Brookline Winter Farmer’s Market:

“Wow, that’s beautiful. But what do I do with it?”

Fair question. If you’re used to getting your veggies, fish, or meat pre-packaged, pre-fab, or simply just prepared, than a Romanesco like this one will at once entice you and scare your pants off. Fear not, intrepid Farmer’s Market shopper. This blog’s for you.

Continue reading

Day Three: The Orto at Sapori di Campagna.

Is there a garden anywhere worth the trouble of a 7 am wake-up call? Before today, even an invitation to rendezvous at 7 am in the Garden of Eden would’ve gotten a big fat, no thanks, Adam, from me. Too many snakes, don’t like apples.

But today? Today the answer is yes.

If I had any doubt this whole Agriturismo thing, for all its romantic illusion of a simple return to a simpler time, is really incredibly hard work, it is put to rest when Louise drops me off at the Sapori for a farm tour.

Before the car door slams shut behind me, I feel like a sloth. By the time I arrive, the entire family is hard at work, checking guests out, cooking, cleaning. The same family I left last night at 10 pm, when they were clearing the dinner dishes from my table, the dining room still full, is back at it a scant few hours later.

After a boisterous ‘salve‘ and the welcome offer an espresso macchiato and a light-as-a-cloud slice of ricotta lemon cake, Livia introduces me to her father, the farmer of the operation. He and I pile into his car, and immediately go off-road into one of the many fields that create the velvety, tapestry-like landscape of Abruzzo. The car smells curiously of sheep’s milk cheese, a not unwelcome aroma to me.

‘Oh,’ he says, ‘I forgot to drop off the cheese.’ I turn around, and sure enough, a dozen wheels of sheep’s milk pecorino, the Cannestrato del Castel del Monte, are tucked into the trunk. He smiles sheepishly. (Sorry, I couldn’t help it.)

He’s all business. I don’t even learn his name. He’s very serious about his farm, and perhaps a little put out that he’s taking up valuable time showing me around. He reminds me that it’s late in the season, the fields are almost farmed out. Not much left to see. Don’t expect too much.

As we move deeper into the countryside, across wide, grassy expanses of early Fall fields, we talk about the Slow Food Movement, about the Presidi of his region. He is able to rattle them off in short order, and I learn he will represent the region at the Salone Del Gusto in Turin later this month, something he has done for the past several years. Hmmm. A farmer with the soul of an advocate and activist. Things are getting interesting.

The frostiness in the air abates. We’re finding common ground. He’s speaking slower, I’m understanding more. The fluency of food talk is again working it’s magic.

More than three hours later, after touring field after field, crop after crop, stables, animal pens, olive groves, fruit and nut trees, I am in awe. I am going to take a page from the Farmer’s book and set expectations. The pictures will not do this enterprise the justice it deserves. But I can try, and try, I will.

What you will see is evidence of the fall growing season. At this time of year, the Farmer and one helper work the land themselves. During high season, the season of tomatoes, zucchini, celery, lettuces, peppers, peas (I could go on and on) he hires up to five helpers.

In addition to what he cultivates, he is quick to forage for wild herbs and vegetables, including wild asparagus, thyme, mint, lettuces, persimmon, wild fennel, mushrooms, quince. Nothing will go to waste.

Enjoy. And think about your own garden. If you like to get dirty, this post’s for you. And my friend, the Farmer? His name is Signore Costantini, and I am in his debt.

Remember, you can click on any image to begin a slide-show tour.