Posts Tagged ‘Cambridge Culinary’

One of the many discoveries I had during my 6 weeks at Cambridge Culinary was that I like fennel. I had wrongly assumed that I didn’t like fennel because I didn’t like licorice, and therefore didn’t like anise, WHICH I mistakenly thought was the seed from a fennel plant. Live and learn — turns out that, while similar, anise and fennel seeds are NOT the same thing. Given my love for spicy Italian sausage, this doesn’t surprise me too much.

The recipe that turned me around was one that I originally scoffed at…until I tasted it.  WOW. The Fennel Corn Chowder from the soups class at Cambridge Culinary is to die for. (I also thought that I didn’t like corn chowder up until this particular recipe made its way into my sweaty palms.) To start off, it’s got bacon in it. Score 1. Second, it has fresh roasted corn in it. By roasting the corn first, then adding the kernels to the soup at the tail end of cooking, the corn stays firm and maintains a nice snap when you bite it. Also, the process of roasting the corn and then simmering the cobs in with the broth infuses the entire soup with a smoky corn flavor reminiscent of something pulled out of a lobster bake pit. Score another point. The recipe is more or less the same as this one from Big Oven, minus the cayenne sauce (dash of cayenne pepper never hurt anyone, though). Next time I make it, I’ll post pictures, I promise.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to use Deborah Madison’s Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets cookbook as much as I can. Unfortunately, I haven’t found it to be overly helpful with the types of things I’ve been bringing home from my CSA. I’d like to try and find a cookbook that focuses on the specifics of New England crops and seasons instead (suggestions, anyone?)

Having warmed up to fennel, however, I did take it upon myself to try Deborah’s recipe for Pasta with Golden Fennel, making the fresh ricotta variation.

Blend fresh ricotta, garlic, sea salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon zest

Brown chopped fennel in oil, then braise in water and lemon juice until soft

Mix it all together, toss with pasta, then garnish with minced fennel greens and shaved parmesan

It was good — you got the hearty satisfaction of warm comfort food with the summery zip of lemon and delicate flavors of fresh ricotta. Next time around, though, I think I’d steer it more solidly into comfort food territory and reduce the lemon flavor, add some grilled chicken and perhaps mushrooms. Or bacon. Because everything’s better with bacon.


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So much going on in my world recently!  In a rare change of events, I found myself somewhat happy to wake up this morning and realize it was Monday.  Not, mind you, that I’ve had a bad weekend by any stretch of the imagination; quite the opposite in fact.  I pretty much did nothing but eat and drink for 2½ days straight, and quite frankly, my stomach simply needs to get back to routine so it has a moment to recover.

But on to the exciting news:  I’ve started my cooking class!  It’s the 6-week “Back to Basics” recreational course at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts (see link at right).  So far two classes have gone by — knife skills and eggs.  Up next week: soups and stocks. After that, we move on to moist heat cooking (braising, stewing, blanquettes & fricasees), followed by dry heat cooking (roasting, grilling, and sautéing), and end the series with sauces. So far the class has exceeded my expectations.  Too much fun.

What I would like to share with you today, my friends, is the epiphany I had last Sunday at the knife skills class. There is another way to cut a green pepper.

Now, I imagine that many of you, like myself, have traditionally attacked a green pepper in a manner something like this:

1). Take pepper and cut whole around top to pop out center

2). Cut into segments, using paring knife to cut out white inner yucky stuff (technical term) as you go.

3). Cut into misshapen curly-ended sticks

Now, presenting a NEW way to chop a pepper!  (Well, new to me, at least):

1). Start with beautiful pepper

2). Chop off both ends — enough so that you can see the insides

3). Make a vertical cut just to the left of one of the yucky white thingies inside.  Say hello to a fascinated Zoe.

4).  Turning the pepper on it’s side, run your knife along the inside of the pepper, turning the pepper as you go.  Preferably do this with a knife that is longer than the pepper, unlike the short paring knife I have in this picture. Otherwise, your teacher will correct you the following Sunday, and you will have to either retake pictures of yourself cutting the pepper with the appropriate knife, or decide to suck it up and post the picture to your blog as is so that you don’t have to go to the store and buy another green paper and therefore delay your blog entry for another week.

5).  You are left with a nice neat rectangle of pepper.  Ignore the fact that it is now upside down in photo due to poor choice of knife.

5).  Slice…

6). …and dice!

7).  Note how nice and square your dice is, meaning your peppers will cook perfectly even.  Thank Nate for humoring you and leaning over your shoulder to take pictures of you chopping a pepper.

OK, so not my best work.  I will master the pepper yet, though.

In the meantime, as I mentioned previously, I’m so excited to have discovered fava beans!  Now, fava beans aren’t exactly easy to find fresh (or frozen, for that matter), as the season is short, supplies limited, and standard supermarkets may not carry them. Luckily for me, my sister spotted fresh ones at Russo’s in Watertown and was kind enough to get me some.  While there were many recipes I wanted to try, I finally settled on a recipe for Fava Bean Purée with Oil-Cured Olives, French Feta and Crostini. They were very yummy, and I would definitely make them again, although potentially not on a weeknight next time. Tasty and filling, they were all I needed for dinner.

And in case you were wondering, I enjoyed it with a nice Cabernet.

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