Peach and Pecan Salad

July 27, 2010 § 2 Comments

As a rule, I am starving by the time I get home from the Dupont Farmer’s Market on Sundays. This past one was certainly no different, except that I was feeling slightly virtuous, and maybe a little nostalgic for my Sweetgreen free salad days.

My seemingly superfluous purchase of the Toigo peaches came into action when I remembered Sweetgreen’s recent blog post about their seasonal salad featuring peaches.  I had the romaine from New Morning Farm, found a bit of cheese and some leftover london broil from a weeknight dinner, and suddenly lunch was formed.

This uses 3 of my market purchases (romaine, basil, a peach), some pantry staples, and leftovers. Throwing out leftovers gets crazy expensive.  Find ways to reintegrate them into your meals so its not boring. Steak or chicken on salads or in pasta is an easy way to use it up.

I realize many of you will think a recipe for a salad is a total cop out, but before I worked at Sweetgreen I was a hopeless salad disaster.  I could cook and bake, sure, but when it came to constructing a simple salad, everything ended in tears and me cursing the poor decimated greens. So for all you salad disasters like me out there, this recipe is for you.

Peach and Pecan Summer Salad

1 small head romaine lettuce

1 firm yellow peach (Toigo Orchards)

3-4 oz London broil (or any kind of protein really, if using at all)

1 small handful pecans (not local, but have a huge bag in my freezer from last year. can’t let them go to waste.)

1 small knob goat cheese

4 big leaves of basil (I used the free purple basil I got from Tree and Leaf)

4-6 leaves mint (I picked this from the growing-like-a-weed mint patch at my church. super frugal.)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp white balsamic vinegar

Salt and Pepper

In a big salad bowl, whisk together the olive oil and white balsamic.  Chop the romaine, wash well and dry in a salad spinner. Add the romaine on top of the dressing in the bowl (layering it this way will keep the salad from getting soggy).  Put the pecans into a dry skillet and toast for 3 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Roughly chop the pecans, let cool a bit, and add to salad.  Slice the peach into wedges and add to salad. Chop basil and mint together into small pieces and add to salad. If using, cut steak into bite size pieces and add to salad. Add a big pinch of salt and pepper.  Toss all together gently when ready to eat. (If you are making this in advance, keep untossed until ready to eat.)

Enjoy with a glass of cold rosé wine- like perhaps Saint Roch Les Vignes from Côtes de Provence.  Its available at my favorite wine store in DC, A.M. Wine Shoppe on 18th St and Wyoming in Adams Morgan.

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Dark Days: Wheatberries and Winter Vegetables

January 20, 2010 § 4 Comments

One of the things I used to love to make, before this year of local eating kicked in, was fried rice.  Add shrimp or chicken and an egg and you’ve got Local shrimp fried…wheatberries.  Well, it satiates the craving and really that’s the point!

This dish has become my favorite thing to eat after I’ve overindulged myself a bit too much (like, say, after a weekend in NYC),  and have a fridge full of rapidly deteriorating veggies.   I was in both of these situations last night,and was happy to have an excuse to make this delicious meal.  

Wheatberries and Winter Veg  (makes dinner and 2 lunches)

1 cup hard wheatberries (mine from Wade’s Mill in Raphine, VA- ordered online)

2 cups homemade chicken stock (must be high quality homemade, since this is where most of the flavor comes from)

1 cup water

Whatever peaky looking vegetables you need to use before they go bad.  I used:

2 cups chopped kale

5 button mushrooms, sliced

1 small sweet potato, cubed

2 small heads of broccoli (about 2- 2.5 cups), broken into small florets

6 small carrots, peeled and sliced

Half a small red onion

3 cloves garlic (1 grated, 2 whole)

1 small bunch of fresh thyme (or whatever herb you have around)

Salt and red pepper flakes

(The key is to get everything about the same size so it cooks quickly).

Boil the chicken stock and water with a few thyme sprigs and 2 cloves garlic.  When boiling, pour in wheatberries. Cover pot and let cook for 30 minutes, or until berries are tender but still chewy. (*Do not salt the stock and water at this point, WAIT!)

After 30 minutes, uncover pot and let it continue to boil another 10-15 minutes while you cook your veggies.  You want the water to boil out and the chicken stock to reduce to a rich brothy sauce.

On high heat, put some oil in a wok or wide deep skillet and toss in the onion and garlic (keep tossing with a wooden spoon so they don’t burn).  Then, throw in each vegetable according to their hardness (and thus cooking time).  Cook each for about 3 minutes. Mine went- carrots and sweet potato, broccoli, kale, mushrooms. (*You may want to add some water or some of the stock from the wheatberries to the pan if it seems to need liquid (especially with the kale), but remember the vegetables will release their water so only add a little at a time or it will get soupy. )

When the veggies are done, the stock should be reduced to about 1 cup of liquid or less (this is your preference if you want more or less).  You may salt them at this point.  Dump all the wheatberries and reduced stock into the veggie pan and toss all together.  Sprinkle in some more fresh thyme and red pepper flakes, and salt to taste.

Top with some hard grated cheese and enjoy!

Voila! A very easy, comforting dinner, and healthy ready-to-eat lunches for the next couple of days.  I usually make twice as much of the wheatberries and freeze half, this way the next time I want them I don’t have to wait 45 minutes for them to cook.

Traceability:

All vegetables came from my Star Hollow CSA, except mushrooms which came from the Local section at Whole Foods. Chicken stock was homemade from a stew hen (from CSA) and vegetable scraps.  Wheatberries are from Wade’s Mill (ordered online), and grated cheese is Cherry Glen’s Crottin (bought in November at farmers market, and allowed to harden).

Restaurant Review: Cafe Saint-Ex

January 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sous Chef Jesse at Cafe Saint-Ex has very recently become one of my favorite chefs in DC.  Why? Because in the middle of Sunday Brunch (a notoriously horrific shift for chefs everywhere) I waltzed in to announce that I only eat local food, in the middle of January, and would like to know where every damn thing on the menu comes from (I still have a lot of guilt about doing this all the time, and really should start calling before I go out to eat anywhere).

Our waitress was nice about it, checking with nearly every person in sight to see if they knew where various food items were from.  The advertise on the front door that they source produce from Tuscarora, but I wasn’t sure which ones. Their menu currently isn’t terribly seasonal, but they regularly source their ground meat from Smith Meadows (the same farm that produces my beloved nutmeg squash pasta), so I figured I was safe with a burger.  But what to go on it?

After incessantly pestering our poor waitress about it, I finally said “you can just put anything remotely local you have in the kitchen on a plate and I’ll eat it.”  I wasn’t expecting much, but what came out was positively beautiful.

Jesse created this gorgeous salad from pea shoots and different kinds of radishes.  The larger white ones had been roasted and showed a little caramelization on the outside, and the brunoised pink ones were soft and sweet with that signature radish bite. 

I piled half the salad onto my burger and dug in. Amazing.  I’m doubting the bread is local (though might be from a local bakery?), and I’ll admit to having some chevre on top of unknown origin (very high quality and likely sustainable from somewhere, but probably France, not Maryland. Yes, I feel very bad about this. but I was desperate. and this was the lunch after the accidentally heavy night of  drinking and non-local food.)

Saint-Ex had an overhaul several years ago when a young(er) Barton Seaver, award winning chef and sustainability advocate (and new husband to the lovely and talented owner of Anemone Design Carrie Anne) took over as executive chef and brought his local food sensability to the table.  Local and sustainable food became part of Saint-Ex’s identity (something I LOVE to see happen) and they have continued with it long after he has moved on.   They do change their menu seasonally, and I look forward to going back in more favorable seasons when they will have more options for local food for order. 

In any case… as long as I can get a burger and salad, I really don’t care what else they have on the menu right now.  They treated me like a preferred customer instead of a picky-eater freak… and that kind of service deserves to be recognized.

Delicious food, locally sourced, and front to back stellar service. Especially in January, who could ask for anything more?

**Please patronize Cafe Saint-Ex and let them know you appreciate their committment to local, sustainable food sources!**

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