Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Watcha Got In Your Box Janue 21, 2011

Guest writer Dean Neff!
Dean is a wonderful chef with us at Five & Ten and he is subbing for me this week. Much going on this week with a 15th wedding anniversary, travel planning for July and regular worky work. Ya'll enjoy.

Natens Carrots

These beautiful carrots are delicate enough to serve raw but also hold up nicely to gently browning in a pan with a little olive oil. When browning in olive oil remove the pan from the heat just after browning and try finishing with a little sherry vinegar, maple or cane syrup, and a little bit of whole butter. A common variety that we’ve seen local farmers growing in abundance is the ‘Nantes’ (think French pronouciation) which is sought after for their sweeter flavor and more tender core. When these carrots are small enough you may find it totally acceptable to use them without even peeling. Roasting these carrots gives a wonderful addition to any main course you could imagine, but don’t forget about the raw applications of salads and slaws. Toasted cumin seed, lime, olive oil, and cilantro makes a wonderful slaw that can be used on anything from tacos, to bahn mi, to grilled steak or fish topper.   

Panisse Lettuce

Panisse Lettuce has a soft delicate texture, similar in flavor to butter lettuce, with lobed leaves. This lettuce is so delicate that it often makes the most sense left in larger pieces when serving; it’s just too pretty to cut into tiny pieces. This lettuce is fantastic used as the base of a chopped salad with summer Heirloom tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, feta and bacon with a simple bistro vinaigrette. If you are feeling like stepping outside of the “box” you can also gently braise this lettuce and serve it with almost anything. The only way I can think of messing this one up is by forgetting to wash it thoroughly. Sand and dirt commonly ends up down near the core of lettuces. Wash using cold water and gently pat it dry being careful not to bruise the delicate leaves.


Cilantro is arguably one of the most polarizing herbs in the world. I do believe however that when served in the right proportions with the right harmonious flavors almost everyone (with an open mind) can appreciate this lively herb. The cilantro leaf’s fresh green flavor is best expressed alongside clean acidic and often spicy and smoky flavors.

Summer Squash

Summer Squash come in so many varieties in the summer from local growers. The smaller varieties generally tend to have less seeds and do best lightly sautéed until golden brown or shaved very thin for a raw salad or carpaccio type use. For the raw application the key is to lightly salt and then lightly dress with olive oil and lemon or just a simple vinaigrette. The larger varieties work beautifully when shaved thin and layered into a cast-iron pan with sweet onions, Parmesan, fresh thyme homemade bread crumbs, and scallion crema and baked at 350˚F to create a quick squash casserole.

Scallion Crema
2 cups heavy cream
6 cleaned scallions chopped rough
2 teaspoons cold butter
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Lightly sauté the chopped scallions in a medium sized sauce-pot with the 2 teaspoons of whole butter. Once the scallions are becoming translucent, add the 2 cups of heavy cream and kosher salt. Simmer for three minutes and remove from the heat and puree in a blender until smooth. This crema can be used for quick gratins as well.


Thankfully the blueberries are still coming and just perfect with a light toasted sabayon or in lemon soufflé pancakes. Real maple syrup please…Try grade B in the bulk section of the grocery store for less expensive and just as flavorful as the grade A.

Heirloom Tomatoes

These tomatoes are one of the best parts of summer. Don’t refrigerate! Their flavor is so perfect raw that is almost seems like a crime to cook them in most instances. Slowly dehydrating evenly sliced Heirlooms in a low heat oven can be a very cool application and a good way to extend the shelf-life of these tomatoes though. As the tomatoes slowly dehydrate the flavor becomes super concentrated and sweetly intense. I would highly recommend letting the raw tomatoes speak for themselves by serving them beautifully sliced with fresh basil, Parmesan Reggiano, tiny croutons, balsamic, olive oil, and a favorite sea salt. For dehydrating the tomatoes it is helpful to have a silicone baking pad. Cut the tomatoes into ¼ inch slices and lay out in a single layer on the silicone mat on a sheet tray. Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and place into a 200˚F oven and rotate the sheet tray as needed during the dehydration process. This will take anywhere from 2-3 hours depending on how hot your oven is. Once the tomatoes are dehydrated but still pliable remove from the oven and allow to cool. These dried Heirlooms are exceptional in all applications where the concentrated flavor is important to the use. Examples of good places for this would be in soups, dried tomato and thyme vinaigrette, oven roasted tomato-lobster salsa with grilled scallions, or lightly rehydrated for homemade ketchup.  

Dragon Langerie Beans

These are also known as Dragon tongue beans and are very similar to Romano beans by virtue of size and shape. These beans have a bright yellow color with purple splotches and are sweet and crisp. I love serving these beans blanched and frenched (cut long ways in strips) with caramelized onions and crisp bacon or poached in a beurre battu.

Italian Eggplant

Large eggplants benefit greatly by peeling, cubing, salting, rinsing and squeezing out excess moisture with a clean towel before sautéing in hot olive oil. Smaller varieties seem to be better off skipping this step for some reason.  Eggplant is a vegetable that often gets a bad rap due to its somewhat tricky characteristics with respect to cooking. What are these characteristics? First comes the thick skin issue, leave the skin on when you will be cooking the vegetable long enough to make it tender enough to eat. Freshness and size can also impact the ability of the skin to be cooked enough to be left on and become tender enough to eat enjoyably. You can also use the thick skin issue to your advantage by using it to insulate the interior flesh when grilling a whole eggplant and discarding the skin. This method leaves you with cooked flesh that can be chopped and fortified with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and herbs for a delicious and healthy condiment for toasts or even on top of fish. Second issue: The spongy properties. When sautéing eggplant it tends to soak up all of the oil in the pan and leave the pan bone dry. One way to counter act this is to use high heat, plenty of oil and to make sure that you are not overcrowding the pan (a common theme in cooking well). Taking into account this week’s produce box we should definitely consider making a summer ratatoullie.


Local summer scallions from Woodland Gardens are a versatile ingredient which can be used in both raw and cooked applications. The green tops are wonderful raw for adding a fresh green bite to soups, salads and sauces. The white ends closest to the root have an intense and deeper flavor that does well braised, poached, or in a simple gratin (use crema, Parmesan, and bread crumbs). Leave the onions whole and lightly coat in olive oil and grill to get an amazingly deep charred scallion flavor that works great with lobster, steak, burgers, or in a compound butter.

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