Cook in the Moment: Grilled Squid with Tomatoes and Basil

Grilled Squid with Tomatoes and Basil (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

This year more than any other, I’ve been reveling in summer. Time passes so quickly, it’s easy to blink your eyes and realize you’ve let a whole season go by without stopping to enjoy it. I’ve been working hard and playing hard lately. After working through the weekend trying to meet deadlines, I decided to spend an hour this afternoon lying by the pool, just to remind myself it is summer, after all. It’s important to do that, you know. To stop, to slow things down a bit and take a look around, savoring the season. Don’t take it for granted that you’re going to get another summer. Life is so fragile.

Photo above taken by photographer James Anderson

I’ve made a little list of what summer is to me, and I would love for you to share what summer is to you in the comments section.

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10 Ways Tuesday: Tomatoes

Panzanella (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

Today I join Food Bloggers for Slave Free Tomatoes in an effort to raise awareness about injustices in U.S. tomato fields and to gain support for the Fair Food Program, which asks supermarkets and restaurants to pay a small price increase for fairly harvested tomatoes. It may surprise you that slavery exists here in the United States, where Chief Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas Molloy once called Florida’s tomato fields “ground zero” for modern-day slavery. In the past 15 years, over 1,000 people have been freed from slavery in U.S. tomato fields.

Recipe for Change is a campaign led by the International Justice Mission targeting three major supermarket chains: Ahold, Publix, and Krogers. We are asking these companies to support the Fair Food Program and promise to shift purchases to the Florida tomato growers who abide by these higher standards. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have already made the pledge to sell slave-free tomatoes.

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Ingredient of the Week: Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve been waiting, worrying, pestering the farmers at the Boulder Farmer’s Market. “You ARE going to have tomatoes this year, right? Is it time yet? Maybe next week?” With our fickle weather and short growing season, you never know – some years tomatoes are abundant, other years there are none at all. Blame it on a late snowstorm in May, not enough sun, too much sun, too wet, too dry, pestilence, or even bad luck. It’s too early to know what tomato season will look like here in Colorado, but I’ve seen the first heirlooms from Red Wagon Farm with the promise of more to come from one of the workers at Cure Organic Farm, and I’m pretty darned excited about it.

Supermarket tomatoes sold year-round are nothing like the tomatoes of summer, with their juicy flesh, sun-ripened sweetness, and seductive aroma. A summer tomato is bursting with life. In Tender, Nigel Slater writes, “I find the scent of a ripe tomato, especially that of its stem, faintly erotic.” A ripe tomato is heavy for its size, voluptuous, gives slightly under the embrace of your hand… A ripe tomato brings out the greed in us, the desire to possess, and it’s all too easy to get caught up in a tomato-induced fervor, only to return home with more than we could possibly eat. Alice Waters understands human nature, and addresses this issue in Chez Panisse, advising “If you find yourself with too many ripe tomatoes at once, make them into a quick sauce.” Tomorrow is 10 Ways Tuesday, and you’ll find plenty mouthwatering recipes for cooking with tomatoes during summer.

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Cook in the Moment: Rouille with Frites

Rouille with Frites (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

Garlic week at la Domestique has certainly been, well, pungent. I poured through my cookbook collection looking for fresh and interesting recipes with the goal of truly celebrating this stinky bulb in all its glory. Each day the husband arrived home from work to be greeted at the door not by my smiling face, but by the heady aroma of garlic wafting from the kitchen as I tested recipes. This morning I woke up with the taste of garlic still lingering on my palate. You can probably smell me coming a mile away. That’s ok with me. I’ve long ago surrendered to the idea that my perfume is not Chanel No. 5, rather, it’s the story of time spent in my favorite place – the kitchen. Some days it’s garlic, others cinnamon, always memorable and unmistakably me.

It’s almost impossible to imagine NOT cooking with garlic. A crushed garlic clove seems to be the base for just about any savory recipe: soups, stews, pasta sauces, etc. We’re more hesitant to cook recipes calling for raw garlic. Is it because we’ve been turned off by the acidic, bitter flavor of perpetually available garlic in the grocery store? Is it because we’re afraid to be bold, to offend guests with the brashness of raw garlic? Our fear of using aggressive flavors in the kitchen is a metaphor for how we live our lives: trying to be normal, to fit in, to be liked by everyone. In our efforts not to upset the herd we can become blander versions of ourselves, even boring. Listening to The Avett Brothers’ album, Four Thieves Gone, I’m encouraged to live a little bolder when they sing, “Be loud, let your colors show!”

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10 Ways Tuesday: Garlic

Roasted Garlic (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with garlic during summer:

1.  Whole Roasted Garlic

Slow-roasting whole garlic bulbs in the oven draws out their inherent sweetness, caramelizing the sugars and infusing the kitchen with their heady aroma. This takes about an hour, and I like to use Ellie Krieger’s method: slice about 1/4 inch from the tops and place them in an oven safe dish, drizzle with olive oil, cover with foil for half the cooking and remove the foil during the last half hour for a bit of caramelization. To serve, allow diners to squeeze the cloves from their skins (there’s something strangely gratifying about this), and spread over grilled bread. In Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters suggests adding roasted garlic to sauces and soups. It’s also delicious worked into creamy mashed potatoes.

2.  Rouille

You might have heard of aioli, the made-from-scratch mayonnaise composed of smashed garlic cloves, egg yolks, and olive oil? Well, a rouille is aioli’s fiery cousin, a homemade mayonnaise flavored with saffron and red pepper. In France, rouille is a condiment served with the fish stew bouillabaisse, but this week on la Domestique I’ll be whipping up a batch of rouille to accompany homemade french fries. Everyone needs a killer condiment in the recipe arsenal, and a well-made rouille is guaranteed to impress.

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Ingredient of the Week: Garlic

Garlic from the Boulder Farmer's Market (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

The season for garlic has arrived, and I’m just as excited to cook with this stinky bulb as I am about the peaches and tomatoes of summer. Did you know garlic has a season? It’s an allium, like chives and onions; a bulb planted in October for harvest the following summer. Those wrinkled, acrid heads of garlic offered in grocery stores during winter are a very sad representation of glorious summer garlic, which is juicy, slightly sweet, and pleasantly pungent – never bitter or acrimonious. The best specimens of mature garlic are harvested throughout summer and early fall. As the weather cools and winter sets in, the precious sugars in the garlic plant are converted for energy, causing the bulbs to taste acidic and increasingly bitter. Enjoy summer garlic while it lasts, using it raw for fresh, piquant flavor, or roasting the heads to amplify their inherent sweetness. Tomorrow is 10 Ways Tuesday, and you’ll find plenty of creative recipes for cooking with garlic during summer here at la Domestique.

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Cook in the Moment: Shrimp Madras Curry with Raita

Shrimp Madras Curry with Raita & Naan (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

This week the husband and I celebrated our birthdays – mine on July 10th, and his on July 11th. The two birthdays meld into one big birthday, and it’s great fun to share the festivities with my best friend. He was born and raised in Ireland, and each year I go on a mission to round up his favorite treats from across the pond. The list includes HP Brown Sauce, Tayto crisps (aka potato chips), Guinness beer, blood sausage (still haven’t found a source for that one), and Madras curry powder. The husband loves curry, whether the powder is sprinkled over hot chips (potato fries) or stirred into a stew. He had barely opened his Irish gift box before I snatched the tin of Sun Brand Madras Curry Powder from his hands and headed into the kitchen.

Madras is a type of curry powder named for the city in southern India where it’s made. The aroma of this burnt mustard colored powder is so intense, I could smell it before even opening the tin. A balance of pungent, herbal, earthy, and sweet spices, Madras is one of the hotter curries. It’s a combination of coriander seed, turmeric, dried red and green chillies, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, black pepper, garlic, ginger, fenugreek, cinnamon, cloves, anise, and mustard. Take some time to get to know Madras before you go crazy with it. The spice infuses stews with a slowly building heat that may seem puny at first but will have you sweating by the time your plate is clean.

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10 Ways Tuesday: Cucumber

Chilled Cucumber Soup (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with cucumbers during summer:

1.  Chilled Cucumber Soup

Chilled Cucumber Soup makes for the perfect amuse-bouche for a party on a hot summer night. Serve this appetizer in tiny espresso cups as an elegant and refreshing start to the meal. For this no-cook recipe, I peel, seed, and chop 2 pounds of cucumbers, adding them to a blender with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons finely ground fennel seed. Puree the soup until well combined and smooth in texture, then chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Garnish each serving with a drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil (makes 6 espresso cups). I like to keep my cucumber soup dairy-free so it can be enjoyed by all.

2.  Sushi

Cucumbers chopped into sticks are often rolled into maki sushi (a sushi roll) along with avocado and seafood. The fresh, grassy taste and crisp texture of the cucumber is a nice contrast against soft and buttery salmon or meaty tuna. Asian cucumbers are small and very crisp, with less water inside than the ones we’re used to here in the U.S. Seek them out at your local Asian market. If you’ve never attempted sushi at home, check out this step-by-step guide by Morimoto. One of my favorite lunches is a light and fresh California Roll with shrimp.

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Ingredient of the Week: Cucumber

Kirby Cucumber from the Boulder Farmer's Market (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

“Cool as a cucumber” sounds pretty good right about now, as we approach the hottest days of summer. Cucumbers don’t inspire deep thoughts, which is just fine, since summer heat and an abundance of produce means we would rather be on the patio than cooking over a hot stove. Whether long and thin or short and fat, cucumbers are mostly water inside. They are crisp and grassy-flavored, adding texture and freshness to salads, sandwiches, chilled soups, pickles, and even cocktails!

According to The Produce Bible, there are many varieties of cucumbers. Everyone is friendly with the classic gherkin, a cucumber destined for the pickle jar. They are short, no more than 4 inches in length, have warty skins, and are meant to be pickled whole. The garden cucumber is also known as a slicing cucumber. This stout specimen averages about 8 inches in length, with a thick, green peel and seeds which should be removed before eating, since they are hard to digest. For this reason, many prefer the seedless English cucumber, which is long and slender with a more delicate skin that doesn’t require peeling. Occasionally, you may come across unusual cucumber varieties (like twisty Armenian cucumbers or round cucumbers) at the farmer’s market or specialty grocery store- don’t be afraid to give them a try. A good way to test a new variety out is by adding it to your standby salad.

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Summer Pantry

Summer 2011 Pantry

We’re taking a week of summer vacation here at la Domestique! We wish you a wonderful Fourth of July filled with good food and friends. While we’re gone, you can still find plenty of summer cooking inspiration in our Summer 2011 Pantry. Have some fun by picking an ingredient and finding tips and recipes for cooking with it. Click on the image below to visit the 2011 Summer Pantry. Cheers!

 

 

What are you cooking for the Fourth of July holiday? Share your menu in the comments section. Click Here.