Category Archives: Summer

Cooking with an Idiot: Steak with Chimichurri Sauce

Daniel is a genius. It’s also a bit of a miracle that we’re still friends considering after arriving at NYU from Vermont in the fall of 2000, I thought it was okay to wear my brown corduroy overalls to orientation. Daniel, who isn’t shy about his opinions, later admitted to having “judged me harshly” for the poor fashion choice. I’ve had classmates express vague recollections of what they remember as ‘a bear costume’ when they first met me.  I cringe realizing that it was actually those beloved overalls. Thankfully Daniel isn’t shallow and his first impression quickly subsided and fourteen years of friendship continues.

Some of the many stories I want to tell about Daniel include: his unlikely and very brave day on September 11, 2001, his hilarious experience as a rebellious second grader in Santiago, Chile and his stranger-than-fiction roommate in Madrid. But these are long, precious to me (and probably him), and beside the point. So I thought we could sum it all up with a couple of lists.

Things Daniel is good at:

1. Being a best friend. I had my heart broken for the first time during my Freshman year of college. As a result, I cried while in rest pose during yoga class (If you’re in drama school at NYU, you take yoga for credit, naturally.) While the tears streamed down my face onto my mat, arms stretched down my sides in proper Savasana, I felt a hand tap the top of mine, comfortingly.  Daniel on the mat next to me remained still but had reached out his arm just enough to tell me it was all going to be okay. And it was.

2. Writing stories.

3. Making me laugh so hard I can’t breath.

4. Planning trips to the beach. One time on a drive to Malibu, Daniel seemed so unnaturally euphoric  that I became sincerely suspicious and  had to ask if he had taken something.  “No! I just LOVE the beach.”

Things Daniel isn’t good at:

1. Math. Considering his genius in all other areas, this caught me off guard once in a New York City taxi cab. When I exited the yellow vehicle and realized Daniel hadn’t gotten out, I peeked back in to see him with one hand flexed, pushing down on the top of his head in utter confusion as if the pressure on his skull would somehow work as a calculator for computing taxi cab tip amounts.

2. Cooking.  “Is there enough for a hungry Dan?” He used to ask when I offered him whatever cafeteria-alternative I had cooked up in my dorm for my roommates.  “Mmm…it’s a revelation.” He has said with wide eyes while chomping down on corn on the cob with miso butter at my house. “I’m savoring every bite.” He has explained while my husband and I notice that we’re eating embarrassingly faster than him. The compliments certainly make me love cooking for Daniel. But when it comes to his own skills…He has a thing or two to learn. So we made this video.

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Filed under Gluten-free, Heather Platt, Lunch, Main Course, Meat, Summer, Videos

The End-of-Summer Blues: Classic Blueberry Muffins

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One of my all-time favorite summer activities is berry picking. And my favorite of berries are blueberries.  In August in Vermont, they are plumb and sweet. They are also the most fun to pick because they fall off of the shrubs into your hands in large clusters. My cousins and I, with the help of several enthusiastic teenagers, managed to pick eight pints of blueberries at Knoll Farm in Waitsfield, Vermont in thirty minutes. Which probably means we picked sixteen if you count the ones we popped in our mouths while picking. They are just so irresistible.

By the time we put the giant box of berries in the car, we realized that we had picked more than we would ever be able to eat. We spent the entire car ride home rattling off appetizing blueberry-centric recipe ideas.  Blueberry cheesecake, blue berry jam, blueberry buckle, blueberry cobbler were all in the running to be made that night. But at the end of the day, the classic, simple blueberry muffin won the contest. Sometimes it’s the easiest, simplest of foods that just sound the best. I baked two dozen muffins in the late afternoon and to my delight, half of them had already disappeared before dinner was ready.   “Heather! These muffins taste like fortune cookies and they’re delicious!” My fifteen-year-old cousin Will yelled from the kitchen. I smiled, entirely self-satisfied as I watched the sunset over the green mountains. I love cooking for teenagers.

Enjoy!

Heather

blueberry muffins

 

Even teenagers like to go blueberry picking!

Even teenagers like to go blueberry picking!

 

Molly with Blueberries

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Knoll farm

Knoll farm 2

 

Blueberries. Photo Credit:  Heather Platt

Blueberries. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

blueberries

 

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Filed under Breakfast, Brunch, Heather Platt, In Season, Summer

Winner Winner Lobster Dinner: Steamed Maine Lobster 101

Steamed Lobster. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Steamed Lobster. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Despite growing up in a land-locked state, I have had the great fortune of having extended family who dwell along the seacoast in southern Maine.  Every childhood visit there involved a trip to the lobster pound to buy a dozen of the live little crustaceans followed by a casual family feast of the delicious delicacies. We sat around a table, excited with white plastic bibs tied around our necks and claw-crackers in hand. The Vermonters at the table would always ask the Mainers to show them how to efficiently extract the meat from the tail, claws, legs and torso. My cousin Ty would explain that her Aunt Wendy always ate the “green stuff” and as kids we would squeal with disgust and fascination. Now, like the legendary Aunt Wendy, I too eat the “green stuff.” This internal part of the lobster, called Tomalley, is actually the liver and pancreas of the animal. So that explains why I find it so flavorful, which it is, FYI. Aunt Wendy is a smart woman. A big bucket in the center of the table served as a sort of basket ball hoop for shells to be tossed after the precious meat had been consumed.

These lobster dinners, which were served with a 1/4 cup of drawn butter for dipping, toasted English muffins, corn on the cob and a fresh garden salad were all I ever knew of eating lobster. For many years I rolled my eyes at over-priced lobster on restaurant menus. In truth because I just couldn’t bear to eat it outside of this nostalgic familial context. And thanks to a recent tutorial from one of my favorite Mainers, I finally learned how to make it.

Enjoy!

Heather

live lobsters. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Live Lobsters. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Classic Steamed Maine Lobster Dinner

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Filed under Dinner, Fall, Fish, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Main Course, Spring, Summer, Winter

Dinner Party for One: Lonely Girl Chicken with Quick Almond-Cherry Couscous and Parsley Garlic Sauce

 lonelygirl chicken 14Cooking is easy. I believe that anyone can make a delicious meal. Like anything in life, it’s a matter of desire. Clearly, I have no problem committing an entire day to ingredient sourcing, chopping, mincing, searing and slicing. It’s fun for me. I understand that it’s not for everyone. And even I have days when I really wish that a home cooked meal would magically appear on my plate. But even though we all differ in our cooking desires and abilities, one common thread remains; we all need to eat. And as far as I know, we would all prefer what we eat to be delicious.

 

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But why does cooking have to be so polarizing? It seems that people are defined as those who cook and those who don’t. There must be some happy medium, some comfortable place halfway in between slaving over David Chang’s braised pork butt and simply running to the neighborhood ramen restaurant for takeout. My column Perfect Pantry was created to tackle this problem. How to cook when you don’t feel like going to the store. But along with ingredients, we need recipes.

The most challenging of these I-don’t-feel-like-cooking times are the nights alone. We’ve all been there. You are in your kitchen, hungry glancing back and forth from your phone to your fridge. The only thing in your freezer is gin. Because if you’re like me, you’re not a frozen-dinner kind-of-person. Is it worth making a mess if it’s just for me? Is there anything here to make? A steamed pork bun just sounds so good right now…Okay, maybe that’s just me. But recently I was in this position. My husband, a musician, has been on tour for most of the summer. So when my favorite person to cook for is away, I can’t help but feel uninspired.

But then I got to thinking about how this whole cooking obsession began in the first place. And I see a single twenty-something girl in her East Village apartment, blasting Belle and Sebastian songs on her stereo and cracking open a bottle of Pinot Noir while she comes up with a purpose for the treasures she rounded up at the Union Square Farmer’s market that day. A girl who cured her own loneliness by regularly throwing herself a one-woman dinner party and in the process, learned how to cook. So eight years later, I decided to channel that inner single girl. And on a hot summer night in Los Angeles, made myself a Bee’s Knees cocktail with the aforementioned gin and started cooking.

Enjoy,

Heather

 

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Lonely Girl Chicken with Quick Almond-Cherry Couscous and Parsley Garlic Sauce
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Filed under Dinner, Fall, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Main Course, Meat, Poultry, Spring, Summer, Winter

Summer Cocktails: Elena’s Spicy Gin Gimlet

ginlet 3I love cocktails.  I covet them.  And despite my obsession with attempting to master the art of cooking everything, for many years I simply couldn’t figure out how to make a drinkable one.  I knew from watching the talented bartenders at my place of work, that they involved alcohol,  juice and something sweet.  But every time I tried to squeeze limes, boil sugar and water into a syrup and mix it all together with whatever poison was in my freezer, it always came out terribly tart, sickly sweet, or disturbingly boozy.

“Cocktails are the next frontier for me.” I announced to my  boss Matt one day in the office. “I’m going to learn how to make delicious cocktails.” It was kind of an embarrassing thing to announce. After all, I had been watching our famous bar chef Christiaan Rollich create masterpieces for years. I knew what was in them and I knew how they tasted.

“It’s very simple.” He explained. “You should think of a cocktail as four parts.” A person with normal patience probably would have just ignored my stupidity and continued with their work. But Matt turned to me at his desk and explained in great detail the science of making a cocktail. “Take the classic gin and tonic, for example. It’s two parts gin and two parts tonic.” I hung on his every word. “A gimlet is two parts gin, one part lime juice and one part simple syrup. However, you have to be aware of  the concentration of your simple syrup.”  As he spoke I imagined myself in a mid-century modern living room, mingling with friends, laughing while sipping perfect gimlets out of vintage coupe glasses. It had finally clicked. Thanks to the most patient and knowledgeable restaurant general manager on the planet, I would finally be able to put the lovely silver bar set I had received as a wedding gift to good use.

So when my dear friend Elena came over for a Himalayan salt block pork chop dinner last week, I couldn’t wait to offer her a classic gimlet upon arrival. We sipped them as I cooked Peach and Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops with Summer Corn Salad.  But when we sat down to eat I noticed green bits floating in her drink.

“Did you add jalapeño and cilantro to your gimlet?” I asked, confused. “It’s not guacamole.” I reminded her.

“Yeah.” She said. “It’s so good.”

I had finally mastered the classic beverage and Elena added a hint of her heritage, making it even better.

Enjoy!

Heather

 

gimlet 1

 

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Adventures in Himalayan Salt Block Cooking: Peach and Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops with Summer Corn Salad

Peach and Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops with Summer Corn Salad. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Peach and Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops with Summer Corn Salad. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

A few years ago, on Christmas morning, my sister handed me a rather heavy gift. Inside was a beautiful pink slab of what looked like marble. This is embarrassing, but I had no idea what it was. “It’s a Himalayan salt block!” Naturally. My sister announced, proud of her creative yet relevant gift idea.   And as much as I loved the look and idea of this gorgeous pink block, I’m ashamed to say, it has been sitting in my pantry the ever since. Every so often she would ask, “Have you used that salt block we gave you?” Wide eyed and so excited to hear how it had worked out.  I would shamefully promise, “Not yet. But I will!”

The truth is that I have been intimidated. I consider myself well-versed on the subject of kitchen equipment. I thought from my experience in restaurants that I knew  all there is to know about what an ambitious home cook should have or covet for their own kitchen.  But sure enough, my over-achieving, brilliant, multitasking, genius-of-a-sister had to find the one cooking tool I’d never heard of. The other problem was that, at the time, there wasn’t much information on salt blocks out there. I couldn’t even find a recipe on the internet. More recently, they seem to be growing in popularity and cookbooks are being published on how to use the stunning pink blocks. Not to mention that, a few weeks ago, my sister sent me an email with dozens of links to salt block recipes. God she’s good. I no longer had an excuse. It was time to break in this beauty. I should have done it sooner because the results have been marvelous.

I started out with shrimp, which was incredible! And then moved on to the beloved pork chop. The block gave the chops a beautiful dark crust and a moist, perfectly tender middle. If you don’t have a salt block, don’t worry, you can still make the below pork recipe using a grill or cast-iron skillet. I recommend serving it with a simple summer corn salad and gin gimlets to drink!

Enjoy!

Heather

 

Peach and Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops with Summer Corn Salad. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Peach and Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops with Summer Corn Salad. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

My beautiful friend Elena capturing the moment. Photo Credit:  Heather Platt

My beautiful friend Elena capturing the moment. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Peach and Bourbon Glazed Pork Chops with Summer Corn Salad
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Filed under Dinner, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Main Course, Meat, Salad, Side, Summer

Summer Seafood: Seared Scallops with Chickpea Couscous, Warm Summer Tomatoes, Hazelnuts and Tarragon Aioli

Seared Scallops with Chickpea Couscous, Warm Summer Tomatoes, Hazelnuts and Tarragon Aioli. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

Seared Scallops with Chickpea Couscous, Warm Summer Tomatoes, Hazelnuts and Tarragon Aioli. Photo Credit: Heather Platt

I ate too many snails once. I don’t regret it. They were delicious. It was 2003. I was a young, naive étudiante américaine  living in Paris and traveling with an utterly fabulous group of cooler-than-I-will-ever-be French bohemians to a man named Nico’s  oceanfront house in Bretagne. It’s a long story. And  it’s  also called Brittany if you’re American, but I like to pretend that I’m French. America had just begun the guerre en Iraq (war) and I had spent the winter in Paris bundled in French-looking jackets and a blue beret (no joke) that matched the color of my eyes in an attempt to blend in so as to avoid the angry questioning that many Parisians had for Americans at that time.

Nico and his girlfriend Celine were the kind of people who I simultaneously did not understand and yet totally admired. They spent half of their time in Madagascar. They did not want to live in the U.S. because it was not enough of a “bordel” (translation: whorehouse) for them. When asked what she does for work replied “we work with oils,” and one time handed me a plate of the most delicious ratatouille I have ever tasted in my life which we ate while watching the sunset on the balcony of her Paris apartment. Needless to say, a weekend in Bretagne with them was a privilege. And as I quickly learned, Bretagne is like the Vermont and Maine of France, speckled with cows, delicious cheese, cider and fresh seafood all-in-one. Did I mention that Nico was a chef?

On our first morning there, he woke everyone up and insisted that we walk down to the water because the tide was low. Using the given tools we dug up  treasures from the sea. Coquilles St-Jacques (sea scallops), Les huîtres (oysters) and my favorite of all; bulots (sea snails) were caught  for lunch. Bulots are different than the escargot you’ll find at your neighborhood French restaurant. Bulots are meatier, tougher and chewier. We ate the oysters raw and Nico steamed everything else and made a simple homemade aioli for dipping. On that beautiful sunny day in Bretagne, I ate more than my fair share of bulots mayonnaise.

I haven’t eaten bulots since then, been back to Bretagne or spoken to anyone on that holiday in about ten years. It was one of those trips where the only souvenir I have of it are the memories and the occasional really strong craving for homemade aioli with my seafood. So a few nights ago while preparing to make scallops with summer tomatoes and hazelnuts, I just couldn’t stop thinking about those bulots and Nico’s delicious aioli. So this quick summer dish of pan-seared sea scallops gets a special flourish at the end. A dollop of fresh made aioli as a tribute to Bretagne.

Enjoy!

Heather

 

Seared Scallops with Chickpea Couscous, Warm Summer Tomatoes, Hazelnuts and Tarragon Aioli

Serves 4

for aioli:

  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup grape seed oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup tarragon leaves

In a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic and salt to a paste. In a cold metal bowl place the egg yolk. Gradually whisk in the oil one drop at a time whisking constantly to make the mayonnaise.  As the mayonnaise becomes thick you may whisk in the remaining oil in a slow steady stream. If the mayonnaise becomes too thick, you may add a drop of cold water. Fold in the garlic paste, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Set aside and refrigerate if necessary.

 

for couscous

  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 3 large carrots, julienned
  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • kosher salt

In a medium saucepan, bring the half of the vegetable broth to a boil. Add the chickpeas and cook until softened, about 30 minutes. Add the remaining vegetable broth and return to a bowl. Add the couscous and carrots, remove from heat and cover. Let stand while you make the scallops.

for scallops

  • 1/3 cup coarsely  skin-on hazelnuts
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • pound large sea scallops, side muscle removed, patted dry
  • 1 pint mixed colored mini heirloom tomatoes
  •   2 large shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 350°. Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and roast until fragrant and  golden brown, about  8 minutes. Remove from oven and coarsely chop. Toss them with 1 teaspoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until very hot. Season scallops with salt and pepper and, using tongs, place in the pan. Sear on until golden brown and just cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.

Add tomatoes and shallot to the pan , season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 6 minutes. Mix in the red wine vinegar.

Place a large spoonful of the chickpea couscous on the center of each plate. Spoon the tomatoes and shallots over the couscous. Place the scallops on top of the couscous, sprinkle with hazelnuts and finish with a dollop of aioli and tarragon leaves.

 

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Filed under Dinner, Eggs, Fish, Heather Platt, In Season, Lunch, Main Course, Summer