The Lechon Party

by Anne Maxfield on July 25, 2016

Accidental Locavore A Plate of LechonPossibly lechon is as traditional a July 4th dish as a hotdog.

After all, the Philippines, where lechon, or roast suckling pig is the national dish, celebrated their independence (from the US) on July 4th.

Our friend Zhu Zhu decided that a dinner featuring lechon, or roast suckling pig, would be the perfect way to celebrate the holiday weekend.

We met at the Purple Yam in Brooklyn where a large table had been set up in the back garden. It was an eclectic, fun and hungry group as is usual with Zhu Zhu’s gatherings.

Once everyone arrived, out came a beautifully golden brown pig.

Accidental Locavore LechonThe chef/owner of Purple Yam, Romy Dorotan presided over the careful carving of the pig. He encouraged everyone to dig in while the pieces of skin were still crisp.

There was a big bowl of yellow rice and two sauces for the lechon.  One was a liver sauce which uses the pig’s liver and bread crumbs. It’s rather like a thinned down pâte and went well with the pork. The other choice (and my preference) was a soy sauce with ginger and chiles.

Accidental Locavore Lechon SaucesThe skin was paper thin and crispy like a delicious potato chip. If you got a piece that had a little fat attached, it was heaven! I ended up with one of the ears, and feeling just a little guilty (it’s my dog’s favorite treat), gave it a try. All I can say was that it was great-more crunchy skin!

The Accidental Locavore has never had lechon before, so I have nothing to compare it to, but this pig was perfectly spiced, the meat had great flavor and was so tender it melted in your mouth. A high standard for future lechon and definitely worth a trip to Brooklyn!

As I was writing this, I wondered–lechon is the national dish of the Philippines, then what is the national dish of the US?

Google it and you’ll find it’s…nothing. What would be your choice for our national dish?

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Chinese Broccoli: What Is it?

by Anne Maxfield on July 21, 2016

Accidental Locavore Chinese BroccoliHave you ever had Chinese broccoli?

Me neither.

Also known as gai lan, it was one of the choices at my CSA recently and feeling brave, the Accidental Locavore tried it. It looks like just the leaves of broccoli, but bigger, with a little bud in the center.

Since it was Chinese, something Asian seemed to be appropriate.

Because I was trying to get Frank to like it, a recipe from the NY Times with anchovies seemed like it might work and conveniently this serves 2:Accidental Locavore Cooking Chinese Broccoli

  • 1 pound Chinese broccoli, rinsed and trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 8 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons Vietnamese fish sauce (more or less to taste)

Split the large stalks of broccoli in half lengthwise. Add the oil to a large sauté pan on high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the garlic and anchovies and cook, pressing on the anchovies with a wooden spoon until they dissolve and the garlic lightly browns.

Add the Chinese broccoli and toss in the sauce to coat. Pour in the rice wine and let it reduce for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and fish sauce, bring to a boil, cover and steam until almost tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Uncover and cook at a lively simmer until the broccoli is tender and the sauce has evaporated slightly. Serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Chinese Broccoli With ChickenMy verdict: This would have been really good if the Chinese broccoli had been cooked through. What was weird was that it didn’t seem to matter what size the stalks were, some of them were perfectly cooked and others were way too crunchy. Even time in the microwave for the leftovers, didn’t seem to make a difference. Odd.

However, the parts that were cooked until tender were delicious (and yes, Frank liked the cooked parts, too). I’ve been using Red Boat fish sauce which happens to be Vietnamese, but I’m sure Thai fish sauce would work just fine. Go easy with the fish sauce and taste before you add all of it in. Broccoli rabe and regular broccoli would work also. For more acid, I did add another splash of  rice wine vinegar. Serve it like I did with some jasmine rice and grilled chicken thighs.

So, if you see Chinese broccoli, grab it and try this and let me know what you think.

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My Nice

by Anne Maxfield on July 15, 2016

I cried myself to sleep Thursday night.

I cried because my happy place will never be the same.

Nice, with its endless stretch of azure water– a view unbroken, unspoiled.

Soon to be marred by security devices.

Which will be deemed necessary, but will protect nothing.

Accidental Locavore My Nice Pebble

The sound of the famous Nice pebbles (one of which sits in front of me now) tumbling in the sea.

Muted.

A view that I would close my eyes and picture when I needed to sleep after a tough day.

Changed.

Shadowed by the spirits of the dead.

Accidental Locavore Green and White Tulips

Suddenly, I understood what makes people leave flowers.

I want to go and leave flowers.

I want to leave flowers, not at the site of the massacre, but by the American Consulate where on September 12, 2001 the French had placed flowers and a sign that read “Aujourd’hui nous sommes tous Américains” (today we are all Americans).

Tears ran down our faces and we’ll never forget it.

I want to go to Nice and comfort the people who have always been so kind to me.

Accidental Locavore Nice Building

I’m crying for a place I’ve wanted to make my home since the first time my feet hit the pavement of the vielle ville.

Since I first laid eyes on the incredible colors….  Of the buildings – that yellow with a touch of ochre (never duplicated here). The amazing azure of both sea and sky. The brilliance of red peppers and deep purple artichokes. I’ve needed to live there.

Accidental Locavore Red Peppers in Nice Market

Is it hate that drives someone to mow down hundreds?

Or a testosterone-driven need to leave in the ugliest way possible?

Kill indiscriminately.

And leave a legacy that will last.

If we let it.

Accidental Locavore Promenade des Anglais NiceI’ll be back in Nice.

Will I stay another month or longer?

Will I live there someday soon?

How long will it take before I can close my eyes and see the long stretch of beach without seeing horror?

And most importantly, will it still be my happy place?

 

 

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Smashed Cucumber Salad Recipe

by Anne Maxfield on July 14, 2016

Accidental Locavore Smashed Cucumber SaladWhat do you do with cucumbers?

Like zucchini, cucumbers are a CSA staple.

However, there seem to be a lot fewer things to do with cucumbers.

Toss them in salads.

Make cold cucumber soup (here’s a delicious recipe). Gazpacho.

And then?

The Accidental Locavore found this smashed cucumber salad recipe on the NY Times Cooking site and has been saving it for the reappearance of cucumbers. It’s easy and serves 4-6 as a side dish.

  • About 2 pounds thin-skinned cucumbers like English or Persian (8 to 10 mini cucumbers, 4 medium-size or 2 large greenhouse), washed and patted dry.
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for cucumbers
  • 2 teaspoons sugar, plus more for cucumbers
  • 1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced or put through a press
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Small handful whole cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons toasted white sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)

Accidental Locavore Smashed CucumbersTo make the smashed cucumber salad:

Cut the cucumbers crosswise into pieces about 4” long. Cut each piece in half lengthwise.

On a work surface, place a piece of cucumber (or several) cut side down. Lay the blade of a large knife flat on top of the cucumber and smash down lightly with your other hand. The skin will begin to crack, the flesh will break down and the seeds will separate. Repeat until all the cucumbers are smashed. Break or slice diagonally into bite-size pieces, leaving the seeds behind.

Place the cucumber pieces in a strainer and toss with a big pinch of salt and a big pinch of sugar. Place a Ziploc bag filled with ice on top of the cucumbers to serve as a weight and place the strainer over a bowl. Let drain 15 to 30 minutes on the counter, or in the refrigerator until ready to serve, up to 4 hours.

Accidental Locavore Sauce for Smashed CucumbersMake the dressing: In a small bowl, combine salt, sugar and rice vinegar. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Stir in sesame oil and soy sauce.

When ready to serve, shake cucumbers well to drain off any remaining liquid and transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss. Add half the dressing, half the garlic and the red pepper flakes to taste, and toss. Keep adding dressing until cucumbers are well coated but not drowned. Taste and add more pepper flakes and garlic if needed. Serve garnished with cilantro and sesame seeds and enjoy!

My verdict: Who wouldn’t have fun smashing cucumbers for a salad? Until you find that there are cucumber seeds all over the kitchen (and the dog won’t have anything to do with them).

This was really good and a perfect summer side dish. If you don’t have thin-skinned cucumbers, cut the smashed pieces into small bits. After tasting it a few times, I just tossed all the garlic (only one large clove) and dressing into the salad. Just go easy with the red pepper flakes, until you find a good balance.

Next time I make this, I might smash some Sichuan peppercorns in place of the red pepper flakes and bash the cucumbers in the sink (since I hate cleaning floors). Even toasted, the sesame seeds got lost in the salad, but the cilantro was a nice touch.

Do you think this is something you’d try?

 

 

 

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