Intimidation (or Tabouli for Chefs)

by Anne Maxfield on August 14, 2017

Accidental Locavore Tabouli for ChefsIt’s surprising when people say they’re intimidated to cook for me.

I guess it’s because I’m around food all the time.

What they don’t understand is that a night of not having to think about “what’s for dinner” is generally a good night.

I never much worry about cooking for other people. If they’re friends and something turns out less-than-stellar, there’s always take-out and they’ll forgive me.

This all came to me in the middle of making some tabouli. Chopping the first tomatoes from the farm, it hit me. This batch of tabbouleh was for a meeting of Slow Food Hudson Valley.

There would be chefs there.

Chef-instructors from the Culinary Institute of America.

Accidental Locavore Chef KowalskiFunnily, I wasn’t particularly worried about what they would think of my tabbouleh. It’s not authentic, nor does it want to be. It’s just the way I make it. If you want to join the social media, food-shaming route that says Nigella Lawson’s carbonara isn’t authentic because there is (gasp) cream in it, be my guest.

My tabouli has lots of mint, little, often no parsley. There’s a lot more bulgur than herbs and a big toss of allspice. It’s the way I like it.

Funnily, what I was worried about was the potential scrutiny of my cuts. My knife skills.

Were my tomatoes and onions properly diced? Parsley and mint evenly chopped? No pits from the lemons (my husband’s pet peeve)?

In the midst of thinking about intimidation, what I forgot was the key ingredient.


Confidence that it would taste great and no one would care about anything else.

And then I tasted it.


Accidental Locavore Parsley for TabouliRemembered why I seldom put parsley in it.  Whether you believe it or not, parsley has a distinctive taste. This parsley was straight from the farm where I had picked it an hour earlier. Boy, did it have a taste and it wasn’t good.

Because you can overlook improperly chiffonaded mint, but a bad flavor profile is a whole other thing.

Fast fix…more lemon, more tomato, a little more olive oil and some salt seemed to get it to a better level.

The verdict from the chefs?

“What we really care about is the flavor profile,” and that was fine (if not my best).

So the next time you might be intimidated cooking for someone, remember it’s all about the flavor.



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!




Tartines With Ricotta and Porcini Mushrooms

by Anne Maxfield on December 12, 2013

Accidental Locavore TartinesTartines are the French equivalent of bruschetta, usually made with leftover baguettes and most often served for breakfast. The Accidental Locavore’s husband saw this recipe and thought it looked interesting so I made it for lunch the other day. It’s pretty easy and easily adaptable. This fed 2.

Accidental Locavore Ricotta Pesto


For the pesto:

  • 1 medium garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 tablespoons ricotta

Accidental Locavore Cremini Mushrooms

For the tartines:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup porcini or cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ baguette
  • Nutmeg
  • 1 ounce (about ½ cup) grated Gruyere

To make the pesto, put the garlic, parsley, lemon zest, salt and pine nuts in the work bowl of a small food processor. Process into a coarse paste. Slowly add the oil and process until combined. Stir in the ricotta.

Preheat the broiler. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown.

Cut the baguette in half the long way and toast until lightly toasted. Put on a small baking sheet (or piece of aluminum foil). Spread with the pesto. Top with the mushrooms and grate some fresh nutmeg over them. Add the cheese. Put them under the broiler and cook until the cheese melts. Serve and enjoy!

My verdict: This was a really good fall lunch. Not that it was terribly difficult, but to make it easier, I would just use some pesto from the fridge and stir in some ricotta. Any kind of mushrooms would be good and I would probably add a little garlic to them when I cooked them. The original recipe called for cheddar, but I thought Gruyere might be a better match. As I said in the intro, it’s easily adaptable for what you have on hand.


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Even in the dead of winter, fresh herbs will add tons of flavor to what ever you’re cooking. For a locavore touch, you can grow them on a sunny windowsill, or when the weather is better, outside in your garden. Here are some of the Accidental Locavore’s favorite herbs, and what to look for:

Accidental Locavore RosemaryRosemary: Rosemary has silvery-green leaves, and looks a little like pine, but it’s part of the mint family. Rosemary should be healthy looking, green, with a distinct scent. Avoid brown tipped leaves, dry or wilted looking rosemary. Strip the leaves off the stem and it works wonderfully with lamb, potatoes, chicken and veal and is often paired with garlic. If you have big stalks of it, you can use them as skewers for grilling.

Accidental Locavore SpearmintMint: Mint is in the same family as oregano, sage and basil. There are more than 30 different varieties of mint, the best known being peppermint and spearmint. Mint leaves should be brightly colored with no signs of deterioration (like slimy black leaves). When cutting mint or basil, you need a really sharp knife, otherwise you just bruise the leaves. The best way to cut mint is to strip the leaves from the stem, stack them up, roll them into a tight cylinder, and thinly slice them (a chiffonade). I love it in salads, especially tabbouleh, and it’s one of the secret ingredients that make albondigas or Mexican meatballs taste so good.

Accidental Locavore CilantroCilantro: Cilantro looks a lot like Italian flat leaf parsley, but one sniff of it, and you know it’s not parsley! Cilantro is one of those love it or hate it herbs, and since the first time the Accidental Locavore tasted it, I’ve loved cilantro! It’s the key to my amazing guacamole, and salsa verde. If you don’t like it, you probably think it tastes like soap, right? Cilantro will slime quickly so choose it carefully and look for fresh looking bunches, with no wilted or slimy stems. You will often find it sold with the roots on, as Thai and other cultures use the entire plant. If you get a bunch with roots, you can leave them on or cut them off, just make sure to really clean it well, as it tends to be gritty. Storing it in a damp paper towel will help it keep longer.

Accidental Locavore DillDill: Dill is most commonly used as the flavoring in pickles. It’s a light, feathery herb with a distinctive smell. Dill is great with fish, especially salmon, and it also works well with lamb. Dill should be light and feathery, with no signs of wilting. Wrapping it in damp paper towels will help preserve it’s life. Dill can be chopped like parsley. It’s great in these little meatballs and egg-lemon soup.

Accidental Locavore Flat Leaf ParsleyParsley: Parsley comes both curly and flat leaf. While it’s often dismissed as a garnish, parsley, especially the flat leaf variety has a nice green subtle flavor. It’s great in salads, and as a critical component of a bouquet garni, used to season soups and other hearty dishes. Look for firm, dark green leaves in both varieties, and avoid any wilted looking parsley. Wash it well too, as it may be gritty.

Accidental Locavore ThymeThyme: Thyme has small almost round leaves on a delicate stem. The aroma should be assertive and bright. There are different varieties of thyme, such as lemon, orange or creeping which is used as a ground cover. For most recipes, the leaves are removed from the stem, however for some soups and bouquet garni, the whole stem is used and removed before serving. Thyme goes well with chicken, fish, and vegetables.



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