Thursday, January 24, 2013

Savory I'itoi Onion Tart

The i'itoi onion is not native to Arizona, having hitched a ride to the so-called new world with Jesuit missionaries in the late 17th century. Nevertheless, we have adopted it as our own, and no one more so than the folks at Crooked Sky Farms, who possess an evangelical zeal about this amazing little onion. It multiplies rapidly, from one small bulb to as many as 140 in just one season. And, it grows about 11 months out of the year here. That's a big deal in a place with an annual rainfall of about eight inches. 

So, when Frank at Crooked Sky sent me home with a huge bunch of these onions, I was eager to see whether their flavor equaled their agricultural chops. They're somewhere between shallots and scallions, however, their green tops are more fibrous than scallions'. They stood up well to a brief saute and baking in this simple supper or brunch tart. 

serves four

olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 small bunch i'itoi onions

4 large, cage-free eggs
1 pint organic half and half 
4 ounces grated hard cheese, such as asiago, romano and parmigiano reggiano 
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

prepared 10" tart shell, blind baked 

Remove the top half of the onions and split them lengthwise. Saute them for about two to four minutes in olive oil and butter. Remove them to the tart shell.

In a large measuring cup, whisk the eggs until smooth, then add the half and half and grated cheese. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. 

Pour the mixture over the onions in the tart shell and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and mostly set. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Wilted Collard Greens with Chorizo Cantimpalo

This week I interviewed Frank Martin, owner of Crooked SkyFarms in South Phoenix for a piece I’m writing on sustainable agriculture for Have I mentioned how much I love my job? I walked away from Crooked Sky with a bundle of fresh produce, including kohlrabi, collard greens, kale, chard and a bunch of i’itoi onions.

Every day since has been a culinary adventure, reminiscent of my 2010 Eat Local project. We started with diced kohlrabi, julienned chard and tofu stir fried with peanut sauce on Tuesday night. Today for lunch, I enjoyed a simple salad of wilted collard greens with chorizo cantimpalo and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Simple and delicious!

The trick with this salad is to cut a very thin chiffonade of the collard greens, which yields a lacy texture and helps avoid them clumping together when you cook them momentarily.

Serves 2 as a starter or side

Extra virgin olive oil
1 ounce chorizo cantimpalo, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2-4 leaves collard greens, tough ribs removed, fine chiffonade
Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
½ lemon, juiced

Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Typically, the quality of olive oil is lost when cooking, but the cooking time is so brief here, you still enjoy the flavor profile of your particular oil.   

Pan fry the chorizo and garlic for about 2 minutes, making sure the garlic does not burn. Toss in the collard greens and cook for about 1 minute, or until they’re bright green and wilted. Squeeze with lemon juice and season to taste with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. Be conservative with the salt initially; the chorizo has a wonderful saltiness all its own. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Chicken Noodle Soup & Hot Toddies

On Monday morning, I woke up with the slightest tickle in the back of my throat. By the evening, I began to reconsider the liberality with which I have kissed and snuggled with our sickly but adorable children.

At 7:00PM we raised our glasses and toasted the New Year in Reykjavik, five hours ahead of us, and put the babies to bed. I followed closely behind with a swig of Nyquil. Not exactly the celebration I had imagined.

Fast forward a few days, three trips to the doctor and a long line at the pharmacy. Looks like I'm not the only one who's sick around here. So, here's my idea: Let's all make chicken noodle soup and hot toddies and pop in some equally vapid but comforting movies, such as Mama Mia and Julie and Julia. Oh, I feel better already!

Chicken Noodle Soup
yields four servings 

extra virgin olive oil
2 chicken thighs, cut into 1" pieces
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stems thyme
32 ounces chicken broth
2 ounces noodles
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a medium stock pot over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on all sides. Add the carrots and celery, and cook for about four minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the garlic and thyme. Cook for about one minute, then add the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes.

Remove the thyme sprigs. Break up the noodles and toss into the pot. Cook until al dente, then season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Hot Toddy 
yields one serving

1 ounce whiskey
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup boiling water

Place the first three ingredients together in a glass, then whisk in the boiling water until dissolved.
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