Because You Never Know When You’ll Need to Julienne

by Anne Maxfield on March 2, 2015

Accidental Locavore Peelers to TestFor a long time now, the Accidental Locavore has been wanting to put a pack of peelers through their paces, but for some unknown (unseasonal?) reason, hasn’t remembered to buy an eggplant or two to really put the peelers to the test. In the meantime, a few peelers that reputedly julienne have appeared in my kitchen. Since I needed some carrots peeled and julienned to pickle for some future banh mi, it seemed to be a perfect opportunity to see if any of them performed as promised.Accidental Locavore MOMA Peeler

  1. The “artsy” one: I picked this set up at the Museum of Modern Art. It’s a set of three, beautifully packaged, two peelers and a julienne. According to the package “These are the three best stainless steel vegetable peelers in the world!” so I needed to try them out. The julienne one was easy to use and made great strips of carrot. Two minor drawbacks: you need the pink (carrot) peeler to actually peel the carrot, and washing it was a little tricky as bits of carrot got stuck in it.Accidental Locavore Uberchef Peeler
  2. The Uberchef: This was a Christmas gift from my cousin (a good cook and fabulous jam maker). It has dual blades so you can peel and julienne with the same tool. It’s nice and sharp with a really comfortable (ergonomic) handle. It easily peeled the carrots, but took a little practice to get the julienne working well. When it did, it made nice long strips, similar to the “artsy” one. Cleaning it was pretty simple. Now, had I actually gone to the website and read the instructions, it might have worked (and cleaned) a little easier, but who reads instructions?Accidental Locavore The Cheapie Peeler
  3. The cheapie: In Saveur there was a blurb about this 20 cent Vietnamese peeler that did everything. Intrigued, I went on eBay and found one for about $4. It peels, slices, juliennes, grates ginger and makes ripple cuts—probably more than that, but it’s all in Chinese or Vietnamese, so who knows? It peeled the carrots easily and julienned them perfectly. This was the only one to make slightly round julienne, which is what I think of when I think of the carrots in a banh mi and it was the easiest to clean.

My verdict: The cheapie. If you come from a culture where there’s a lot of shredding of carrots, you’ll come up with a simple tool to do it with. This one made the nicest shaped julienne and was by far the easiest to use. I like the fact that it was multi-purposed and look forward to trying out all the other features. The runner-up would be the Uberchef, because of its dual purpose, and comfortable handle (and something tells me it would be really good for shaving chocolate or Parmesan). And the artsy set? I’ll probably keep around mostly because I like the packaging.

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Pasta With Chorizo and Chickpeas

by Anne Maxfield on February 26, 2015

Accidental Locavore Pasta With ChickpeasWhen the Accidental Locavore saw this recipe on epicurious, I was curious enough to see how chickpeas and pasta would work together to give it a shot. Having all the ingredients on hand was an added impetus. This serves 6:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 small shallots, chopped
  • 3/4 pound fresh Mexican chorizo or hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 12 ounces small dried pasta (like gemelli, or orecchiette)
  • Salt
  • Finely grated Parmesan and lemon zest (for serving)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat for the pasta. While the pasta water is heating, warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots and cook 3 minutes until they begin to brown, stirring occasionally. Add chorizo and cook, breaking into large chunks with a spoon, until browned and cooked through, 5-7 minutes.

Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes to skillet and cook, stirring, until paste darkens, about 1 minute. Add broth; bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is thickened, 15-20 minutes. Add chickpeas and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

While the sauce is thickening, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid.

Add pasta and 1/2 cup pasta cooking liquid to the skillet. Cook, stirring and adding more cooking liquid as needed, until sauce thickens and coats pasta, about 3 minutes.

Sprinkle pasta with lemon zest, Parmesan and parsley, serve and enjoy!

My verdict: If I didn’t have everything on hand (except the parsley), I probably never would have made this. That being said, this was a pretty good dish! The lemon zest is the key ingredient—taking it from being only ok to being really good. My biggest complaint with it was that the chorizo I was using ended up in very tiny pieces. The next time I make it, I’ll try not to break it up so much (however, this might not be an issue with other types of sausage). Any type of fresh sausage would probably work well. I’d give it a try with merguez (maybe substitute cilantro for the parsley), or any kind of Italian sausage – I have some with broccoli rabe in it, that would be good!

 

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Making vs. Buying: When is it Worth it?

by Anne Maxfield on February 23, 2015

Accidental Locavore Gin and VermouthThere are so many things you can make yourself these days (what a surprise—how did we get food before there were supermarkets?), but the Accidental Locavore was wondering when it was worth it to make something and when it was just easier to pop into a store. I’ve made my own granola, yogurt, and bacon for a long time now, mostly for taste, but in the case of granola, because it is very difficult to find nut-free granola. Yogurt is simple enough to find, but it’s one of the easiest things to make. Homemade bacon will just spoil you for anything else, and you can make a lot of it and freeze it.

I’ve made butter, both regular and cultured, and while it’s certainly easy, it can be messy and for me, it falls into the better bought category. It’s also one of the few items that isn’t less expensive to make. Cheese too—there are just so many people who make great cheese, that it would take me a long time (and a closer source of raw milk) to make it worthwhile.

Accidental Locavore SansaireThis all came up because I read an article about making your own gin sous-vide and sent it to my friend Ivan. After having a couple of laughs about buying a $300 sous-vide machine to use for 90 seconds (yes, 90 seconds) to infuse your gin, Ivan sent me the following…

For making one’s own gin:

Walk to car in driveway. Enter car, insert key and start engine. After fastening seat belt, drive 6 1/2 blocks to liquor store.

Exit vehicle (sans seatbelt) and enter store.

Proceed to aisle three on your right and walk approx 7 feet.

Select blue-tinted glass vessel labeled “Bombay Sapphire”.

Present vessel to store clerk with $20.00 bill. Receive a small amount of change.

Exit store and re-enter vehicle with vessel in tow.

Re-fasten seat belt, re-start ignition and follow reverse pattern of earlier route to home.

Release seat belt, kill ignition, exit vehicle and enter home.

Accidental Locavore MartiniLocate one glass, several ice cubes, glance at the vermouth bottle, place two olives in glass with ice cubes.

Pour reasonable amount of clear liquid into prepared glass.

Consume contents of glass slowly, while forgetting all of those details about plastic bags and 172 degrees.

Refill glass.

Now then. Isn’t that a whole lot easier?

 

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Chicken Roasted With Bread and Lemon

by Anne Maxfield on February 19, 2015

Accidental Locavore Lemons and BreadEvery now and then the Accidental Locavore needs an undemanding dinner idea. This one with chicken, lemons, bread and caper berries looked interesting. The fact that you just tossed everything on a cookie sheet and popped it in the oven made it even more appealing. Serves 4:

  • 1/2 pound sourdough bread, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup drained caperberries
  • 2 lemons, washed and quartered lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 chicken thighs (with skin and bones)

Preheat oven to 400°. On a large baking sheet, toss the bread, shallots, caperberries and lemons in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Brush the chicken thighs with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Arrange the chicken on the bread and roast for about 40 minutes until the thighs reach 160 with an instant-read thermometer. Serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Chicken Thighs With BreadMy verdict: I thought these were great, but Frank wasn’t as enthusiastic. Could be because I took the roasted lemon quarters and squeezed it over the chicken and he didn’t. Could be because he’s not a caperberry fan. Could be _____. If you’re like Frank and not a fan of caperberries (or don’t have them taking up room in the fridge), you could use capers (I would sprinkle them in about 10 minutes before the chicken was done or else they might end up singed), or a nice mix of olives. One of the things I liked was that the bread under the chicken was soft, like stuffing, where the rest of the bread was crunchy. We managed to get a great loaf of Peasant French bread from Berkshire Mountain Bakery at the Millerton Farmers’ Market, which added to the taste. This is a recipe that you could easily play with to suit your taste, and the contents of your fridge. I used chicken thighs, the original recipe from Food and Wine called for whole legs, but Frank is not a leg man (where poultry is concerned). If you use whole legs or breasts, just increase the cooking time accordingly. A technical note – my baking sheets are the classic aluminum ones, which reacted with the lemon. Next time I’ll probably toss everything in a bowl with the olive oil and line the pan with parchment, it’ll be easier cleanup, too.

Accidental Locavore Chicken With Lemon and BreadMade this a second time and threw some broccoli in the mix. Tossed everything in a bowl and then on a parchment-lined pan. Again delicious! This time I didn’t use the convection setting on the oven and the skin of the chicken wasn’t as crispy, so if you have a convection setting, use it.

 

 

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