50 MPH Tomatoes-Good Year Round!

by Anne Maxfield on November 5, 2015

Accidental Locavore My 50 MPH TomatoesKnowing that these are one of my husband’s favorite appetizers at Cafe Miranda, being the proud owner of their cookbook, Adventures in Comfort Food, and having a big bowlful of tomatoes, the Accidental Locavore needed to take this recipe for a test drive. Luckily, this actually works better on less-than-perfect tomatoes, so go for it! Serves 2 as a large appetizer or side dish:

For the sauce:

  • ½ cup mayo
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper relish
  • 2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried onion or minced fresh onion
  • 2 pinches dried dill

Accidental Locavore 50 MPH SauceFor the tomatoes:

  • ½ cup cornmeal
  • Salt & pepper
  • ½ pound (1 large) tomato cut into 1” slices (horizontal)
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Scallions, sliced for garnish

Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Put the cornmeal, salt & pepper in a shallow bowl. Coat tomatoes with the cornmeal mix, pressing slightly to make sure they adhere.

In a heavy 12” frying pan (cast iron is ideal) over medium heat, heat ¼” oil until hot – don’t let it smoke. Fry the tomatoes for 5 minutes until golden brown, carefully flip and fry another 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Smear the dressing on a plate. Plate tomatoes side by side on the dressing so they stay crisp. Sprinkle with scallions, serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore 50 MPH TomatoesMy verdict: Delicious! Not as good as being at Miranda (this photo is from there), but not bad for a first attempt. The sauce is a great version of Russian dressing with a little heat! I didn’t have any hot pepper relish, so I used slightly less than 3 tablespoons of India relish (and a little squirt of Sriracha in Kerry’s honor), the juice of half a lime and fresh dill in place of dried.

Kerry says this is a good way to use less than perfect tomatoes, so remember it for when you’re a bit discouraged by the tomatoes in the market. When I made it, it was tomato season, and we used a couple of big, beautiful beefsteaks, so they just needed about 3-4 minutes a side. The cornmeal crust was nice and crunchy, we just needed more of it, so next time I’m just going to eyeball a dish full so they get a better crust. Chives made a good garnish as there were no scallions.





Grilled Eggplant and Lemon

by Anne Maxfield on July 30, 2015

Accidental Locavore Grilled Eggplant and LemonIf you’re part of a CSA, you know that there are always a couple of veggies that appear once too often to really inspire you. For the Accidental Locavore, that vegetable is eggplant. It’s not that I don’t like eggplant, I actually love the stuff; it’s just that my husband doesn’t. This, from bon appétit, looked interesting (to me anyway) and serves 4:

  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 small eggplants, sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 tablespoon za’atar 
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon, very thinly sliced
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Sherry or white wine vinegar
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • 1 cup labneh (Lebanese strained yogurt), or Greek yogurt


Accidental Locavore Soaking Red OnionPrepare a grill for medium-high heat and lightly oil grate. Soak onion in ice water 10 minutes to mellow its flavor. Drain, pat dry with paper towels, and transfer to a medium bowl.

Meanwhile, toss eggplant, za’atar, 3 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper in another medium bowl. Grill eggplant, turning often, until tender and charred in spots, 5–8 minutes; transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Halve any large rounds; set aside.

Accidental Locavore Grilled Lemon SlicesIn a small bowl, toss lemon with 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill lemon, turning often, until lightly charred in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer to cutting board and let cool slightly. Cut lemon slices in half and add to bowl with onion. Stir in mint, Sherry vinegar, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil; season with salt and pepper. In another small bowl mix garlic and labneh. Spoon labneh mixture onto a platter and arrange eggplant and onion mixture over it. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: A huge hit! This was so good that Frank, the eggplant avoider, had seconds, declaring that it was the best thing I’d made in a long time. It was delicious! The grilled eggplant was a nice contrast to the creamy labneh and the crunch of the onions. We were also lucky because the eggplant, mint and onions were all from the farm, so fresh and local. I need to remember how good grilled lemons or limes are and use them more often! I used labneh which I got at Murray’s in the city, you can often find it in better grocery stores, but if you can’t, a thick Greek yogurt would be fine. If you don’t have access to a grill, either a grill pan or roasting everything on sheet pans in about a 400° oven would probably work fine. Give this a try and see if it’s as big a hit at your house.





Magic Mushrooms

by Anne Maxfield on May 14, 2015

Accidental Locavore Magic MushroomsThe Accidental Locavore was reading a recipe on Pure Wow for crispy mushrooms and it sounded so simple and good that I had to give them a try. What better excuse than people coming for dinner, and it would be a nice change or addition to the usual cheese and charcuterie. They couldn’t be simpler, but you do have to give yourself about an hour for roasting them.Accidental Locavore Prepping Mushrooms

  • 1 ½ pounds cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and ends trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 large clove finely minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  • Flaky salt, like Maldon, for finishing

Accidental Locavore Roasting MushroomsPreheat the oven to 375°F (I used the convection setting). Grease a baking sheet with olive oil. In a large bowl, toss the mushrooms with the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, thyme, and salt and pepper to combine.

Pour the mushrooms onto the baking sheet, then spread them out evenly (don’t overcrowd or they won’t get crispy). Roast until the mushrooms are very brown and crisp, 40 to 45 minutes.

Let the mushrooms cool slightly, then garnish with parsley and flaky salt, if using. You can serve the mushrooms warm or at room temperature and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Crispy MushroomsMy verdict: When we were cleaning and prepping the mushrooms, my friend Laura and I decided that a pound wasn’t going to be enough, so we went out and got another small container and ended up with about a pound and a half. I added the fresh garlic and thyme – any fresh herbs would work as well. So, we roasted them and roasted them, tossing them occasionally, and they got beautifully dark brown and smelled great! However, after about 70 minutes in the oven, they weren’t crispy (or anywhere near that) and our guests had arrived, so we pulled them out. They were fabulous—seriously roasted, with the garlic and thyme adding to the great mushroom flavor. I would definitely make them again, but wouldn’t expect them to be crispy. Maybe if you sliced them you could achieve crispiness (which might be an experiment for the next batch). We did end up with a few leftovers which were equally delicious chopped into an omelet and sliced into salads.






Creamed Spinach With Garlic Confit

by Anne Maxfield on May 7, 2015

Accidental Locavore Creamed SpinachThe Accidental Locavore thought this version of creamed spinach would be great with a roast beef I cooked recently. I love garlic confit, it’s great for so many things (toss with broccoli or spinach, salad dressing etc), and since you just use the cloves for this recipe, I tossed some extra in the oil (my new hack for peeling a lot of garlic is at the end).There was also a taste test between fresh and frozen spinach, so check out the results at the end. Serves 4 generously. You can make all the parts ahead of time and refrigerate. Baking and resting takes about 40 minutes.

For the garlic confit:

  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled (or more for other uses)
  • 1 cup olive oil

Cream Sauce:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Kosher salt


  • Olive oil, for greasing and sautéing
  • 2 pounds spinach, stemmed
  • Kosher salt
  • ½ cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Accidental Locavore Garlic Confit PureeMake the garlic confit: Put the garlic and olive oil in a small saucepan, and cook over very low heat until the garlic is softened and golden, about 30 minutes. Drain in a sieve, reserving the oil for another use. Transfer 3 cloves of the garlic to a blender and if you added extra cloves, save them, refrigerated, for another use.

Make the cream sauce: In a small bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon of the cream with the cornstarch. In a saucepan, bring the remaining cream to a simmer. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and cook over moderate heat, whisking, until the cream is thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the nutmeg and season with salt. Add the cream sauce to the blender and puree with the garlic until smooth.

Accidental Locavore Prepped Creamed SpinacgMake the spinach and finish the dish: Preheat the oven to 350°. Lightly oil a 1 1/2-quart gratin pan. Put a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a very large sauté pan and, working in batches, sauté the spinach until just cooked. Transfer to a colander. Squeeze out as much water from the spinach as possible. Using paper towels, blot any excess water. Coarsely chop the spinach and transfer to a bowl (you should have about 3 packed cups). Add the cream sauce and mix well. Season with salt. Spread the spinach in the prepared dish and top with the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and dot with butter. Bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese is golden and the sauce is bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes, serve and enjoy!

My verdict: I love creamed spinach and this was really delicious! It was nice and thick, with the breadcrumbs giving it a nice crunch. I would definitely make it again. Frank seemed to think this was a lot of work, but I just did it in stages. First the confit, and while that was cooking I did the spinach. Later on, I made the sauce, put it all together and popped it in the oven while my roast was finishing up. You wouldn’t need to make the garlic confit and it would still be good, but as I said in the intro, it’s a great thing to have in the fridge, so why not? While this recipe calls for cooking fresh spinach, I made one dish with fresh and one with frozen. The guests didn’t know which was which. One person preferred the frozen spinach, the rest of us went for the fresh, but everyone said there wasn’t much of a difference. The next time I make this, unless there’s fresh, local spinach available (which should be a big difference in taste) I’ll definitely use the chopped frozen stuff. A large bag would be more than enough for this recipe. And the hack for peeling a lot of garlic fast? I rubbed the cloves between two of my silicone GIR lids! The garlic confit that I didn’t use for the sauce I puréed with a little of the oil and it’s in the fridge waiting for some unsuspecting broccoli.Accidental Locavore GIR Lids