soup

Six Tips For an Easy Thanksgiving

by Anne Maxfield on November 21, 2016

Accidental Locavore Thanksgiving Wild TurkeyYou may find it surprising that Thanksgiving is not the Accidental Locavore’s favorite holiday.

It’s not.

If I can avoid cooking turkey, I do.

How about a slow roast duck instead?

Accidental Locavore Thanksgivng DuckHowever, someone usually counts on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

Here are my six tips for an easy Thanksgiving:

  1. Buy an instant read thermometer. You’ll never worry about cooking a big piece of meat, again. It’s a must-have. They’re inexpensive, under $10 and worth every penny. You don’t want to ruin the main course, do you? Accidental Locavore Thanksgiving Instant Read Thermometer
  2. Delegate. Everyone brings something. If you don’t trust their cooking skills, rolls, wine, soda, ice cream or salad are options that are hard to mess up. And there are very few people (although I’m probably related to all of them) who will turn up their noses at canned cranberry sauce. This is a great strategy if you’ve got vegetarians, or fussy eaters, ask them to bring their favorite dish. Just make a list of what you’ve assigned so you know where you have to fill in. I’ve actually given dinner parties where I haven’t cooked anything, but please don’t tell anyone!
  3. Forget the appetizers and serve soup as a first course. No one needs to fill up on finger food before the main event. I bet they won’t even notice it’s not there (and if they do, they’d better be too polite to mention it). The reason everyone tells you to drink a lot of water when you’re on a diet, is because it fills you up. Soup does the same thing. Here’s a recipe for winter squash soup that’s not too sweet. It’s easy, you can do it ahead of time and it’s inexpensive. While there’s a little cream in it, it’s only ¼ cup added in at the end to give it richness. If you want to make it vegan, use vegetable stock and olive oil and forget the croutons.Accidental Locavore Squash Soup
  4. My mother insists on creamed onions or it’s not Thanksgiving. However, she’s the only one who likes them. I have a great recipe for Brussels sprouts and pearl onions with a horseradish sauce that everyone loves and the veggies can be cooked ahead, then tossed in the sauce until warmed through. Think about other vegetables you can combine so you’re not cooking 400 side dishes.
  5. Stick to one, max two, desserts. No one has room for multiple pies. Add ice cream if you want but keep it simple. And without a lot of leftover desserts, you won’t be tempted to nibble every time you walk by them.
  6. Give everyone some leftovers to take home. If it’s not around, you won’t eat it. Use the turkey carcass to make soup. When you’re tired of sandwiches, how about a shepherd’s pie using the leftover turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes?

What are your best holiday tips?

Happy Thanksgiving! Since I’m going to be cooking something, no post on Thursday.

Share

{ 2 comments }

The Best Burger in America

by Anne Maxfield on October 24, 2016

accidental-locavore-best-burgerYou know you’d better watch it before you start tossing out superlatives like “the best burger in America.”

But, according to Forbes (and reaching my desk via Rural Intelligence) the best burger in America is in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

Kismet.

The Accidental Locavore was heading there for lunch with a friend who is always interested in a good burger, so we quickly changed plans and met at Camp Fire.

Everyone has their own criteria for best burger – well, best anything.

A best burger to me has to have great fries.

There are a lot of good burgers out there that would be great with better fries.

And both the fries and the burger have to be hot.

There needs to be good pickles.

A toasted bun.

That’s my line in the sand(wich).

As for condiments, lettuce, tomato, even cheese–a really good burger should just be enhanced by them, not need them.

Back to Camp Fire and the best burger in America.

It’s a big open farm/rural looking restaurant. Nothing fancy, just clean looking with a lot of hard surfaces.

There’s a lot of interesting looking stuff on the menu, but we were there on a mission.

We got distracted.

By the mushroom soup.

A rich blend of wild mushrooms with a small dollop of sour cream and just enough truffle oil, it was the perfect starter on a raw afternoon.

accidental-locavore-best-burger-soupThen, the burgers.

Because we were afraid it would be too much food after the soup, we both opted for the Mini Meat, a quarter pound burger (the regular one is a half-pound) which comes on a potato roll with cheddar, pickles, aioli and fries

The verdict?

Great fries! Twice-fried (always a good thing), hand-cut and good-sized, piping hot, maybe a slight hint of rosemary.

I think I ate half of them before turning to the burger.

The burger was good.

Not the best burger in America.

What I didn’t like about it was that it was a thin patty that didn’t seem to have been hand-made. It was cooked the way I like it (rare) but it wasn’t very juicy.

The pickles were good, but the cheese and the aioli didn’t have a lot of flavor. The bun was fine, warm and I don’t remember whether it was toasted or not.

Here’s why I think Camp Fire could still have the best burger in America.

We ordered the wrong one.

Our waitress told us that both versions (mini and regular) were the “best burger” but everything that I was finding fault with may have just been because it was the mini version.

So, we’ll have to go back.

Share

{ 4 comments }

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?

 

 

 

Share

{ 0 comments }

Frozen in France

by Anne Maxfield on February 8, 2016

Accidental Locavore Frozen FoodWell, it’s not what you think. Yes, the Accidental Locavore was in the South of France, and no, there was no snow there (sunny and warm). Out of curiosity, I wandered into a store I’ve always seen here and never gone in—Picard. It’s well know all over France, selling nothing but frozen food. It’s so far beyond anything you’ve ever seen in any grocery store in the US, I thought it would make an interesting story.

Accidental Locavore Picard InteriorWhen you walk in, it’s glacial (looking, not temperature). Shiny white walls and endless rows of white freezers. There are categories for every type of international foods, with an emphasis (might be just seasonal) on Asian dishes. All I can say is that you’ll wish it was a shorter flight home and you could pack a freezer bag (they sell all different sizes) full of goodies.

Accidental Locavore Frozen Dog FoodOne of the things I would have brought back in a flash was a big bag full of trimmed, ready to stuff, artichoke bottoms – extremely reasonable at about $8 for a kilo. There were eight kinds of mashed potatoes, from straight-up ones, to purple, truffled and more. Leeks come whole or sliced (because you know how hard it is to slice up a leek…). Dog food makes an appearance as well as that old party staple–pigs in a blanket.

Accidental Locavore Pigs in a BlanketI settled on a dozen escargots and some beef carpaccio. It was too warm for soup, but it would have been great when I was sick and craving soup. Even though the photo of the saumon en croûte was beautiful, but too much food and maybe a little risky for a first attempt. The other issue was that while there’s an oven here, it’s extremely complex and just getting it to microwave took me a couple of days to figure out, so if the escargots (which need a hot oven) didn’t work out, it wasn’t going to be a huge loss.

Accidental Locavore CarpaccioThe carpaccio was pretty good and certainly easy enough to prepare. You just unwrap it, plate it and pop in in the fridge for 3 hours until its thawed. The basil olive oil sauce that came with it was fine, a little shaved Parmesan would have been lovely with it, but someone forgot and was too lazy to go get some.

Accidental Locavore EscargotsThe escargots were another story. I did figure out the oven and managed to cook them until they were properly bubbly and hot. The butter sauce wasn’t garlicy enough and the escargot were sort of flaccid. I ate a few, dunked a piece of baguette in the sauce and dumped most of them. Probably the soups and other less adventurous dishes are fine and if you don’t want frozen food, there are stores popping up that sell nothing but canned fish…Accidental Locavore Canned Fish

Share

{ 5 comments }