Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bratwurst, Shishito, Panzanella and Pickles - the World on My Plate

I made some food to celebrate the fantastic produce at the farmers market (can I ever get enough?? Noooo!!), and only later did I realize what I had put on a plate together had roots in various nooks around the world. Struck me as funny at the time, and boy was it all delicious.

Panzanella is one of the best - and simplest! - salads around. A great way to make use of old bread (or just bread you feel like frying up, if none old is sitting around) and incredible tomatoes, this recipe originates in Tuscany and has infinite variations. I found inspiration from The Bitten Word when I was pulling mine together, and kept it simple so the star of this show - my tomatoes - could really shine.

While shopping for meat at the Greene Grape - they buy only whole and half animals, as opposed to boxed meat, and butcher the choice cuts themselves - I discovered some delightfully plump rabbit and pork belly bratwurst. I think just hearing that combination made me drool on the spot, and I took home a bunch of sausages to grill. Bratwurst originally comes from a small town in Germany (all the way back in 1313!), but is widely available at butchers and specialty shops these days. Make sure to buy highest quality from small producers, not the run-of-the-mill at a grocery store if at all possible. It will taste better and be a healthier product to feed yourself and your family, and you will have the satisfaction of supporting another family: the small farm that takes pride in what they do.

At the farmers market, the stunning beauty of what's in the stalls pretty much guides my purchasing. Occasionally there's a list to check up on, but it's usually, "what hits me?" To that end, the Japanese-origin Shishito peppers virtually leaped into my arms last week. Their firmness, their sculptural curvy shapes and glossy-green brightness all said "take me!" So I did. From a preparation enjoyed at the Chelsea Basque restaurant Txikito, I simply blistered them in a scorching-hot skillet and seasoned with sea salt. Done, and delicious.

Please let's not forget the humble pickle. Pickles come in all varieties and flavors around the world. Their (sometimes spicy-)salty-sourness stimulate our saliva glands and make for a refreshingly bright crunch, the perfect counterpoint to any food on a plate. Left often as a garnish, but not to be underestimated if done well. Bold and bright, pickles delight.

I hope you will enjoy these flavors served together as much as I did. Recipes to follow - check back once the weekend has passed, once I've gotten more market shopping out of the way. I will be bringing forth a berry dessert to go with all this yumminess.....

In other news, a couple months back I shot a feature for AARP Magazine. It was a treat to work with the photo staff there and the project was a blast. The issue is available on newsstands now. Here is the story, and below, the shot they used -

And, a couple outtakes...

One last bit:

The wonderful Fork Magazine, another sustainable resource, featured my blog as one of their recent favorites (photo from this story). Reading their magazine cover to cover, I need to book a trip to Whales, pronto. Their take on sustainable food is completely speaking-my-language and, they are really nice people, to boot. The fact that I have Welsh blood makes whole thing even more imminent. So let's see what we can cook up. Stay tuned!