March 29, 2013 Chervil Vinegar and a Spring Salad


The calendar tells me it’s spring but it certainly doesn’t feel like it.  The fat wet snowflakes that coated the ground several days ago moved out as quickly as they came in, but there is still a definite chill in the air. Joe planted peas last Saturday, March 23rd, two weeks later than last year when we had many days in March with temperatures in the 60s and 70s. When we had our “garden walk” on Sunday, Joe pointed out one bright spot. Under the shelter and warmth of the cold frame, last years planting of chervil had wintered over, resulting in a bushy green row.

Chervil is an annual herb that prefers the cooler temperatures of spring and fall.  It is in the same plant family as parsley and carrots with delicate curly leaves that resemble something between the two.The flavor is delicate and reminiscent of mild anise or licorice. Mature chervil plants produce a delicate white flower that is also edible and looks pretty garnishing a salad.

This is definitely an herb to grow for yourself. Although it is sold dried (I wouldn’t bother), it is most fully appreciated when picked fresh. It is easy to grow and now is the time to plant.  Plant seeds in moist soil in an area that gets partial sun. It also does well in containers.

Heat is the enemy of chervil in more ways than one. Summer’s heat will cause the plant to bolt or go to seed.  Heating chervil in the cooking process dissipates the flavor so it is always best used fresh. Chervil marries well with delicate flavors like chicken, fish and eggs. It is part of the classic French seasoning blend, fines herbes that also includes tarragon, parsley and chives.

Appropriate for this week, I learned that chervil is linked to the Easter celebration in parts of Europe. Chervil’s aroma is similar to that of myrrh, one of the gifts presented to the baby Jesus by the three wise men. Because it is one of the first plants to come up in the spring garden, it is associated with rebirth. The literal translation for Maundy Thursday in German is Green Thursday so in some parts of that country they commemorate the day with a green chervil soup.

Chervil complements the garden’s first produce, asparagus, new potatoes, and root vegetables like beets and carrots. I like to add sprigs to a green salad for a touch of anisey flavor. I often infuse it in white wine vinegar for a delicacy I wouldn’t find in any gourmet shop.Choose a mild vinegar such as white wine or rice to match the flavor of chervil.

The garden isn’t ready yet, but this salad combines some of my early spring favorites. Bibb and baby romaine lettuce, sugar snap peas, blood oranges with a double dose of anise flavor from the shaved fennel and sprigs of chervil. I topped the salad with crunchy pistachios and tossed with a simple vinaigrette of white wine vinegar, finely chopped shallots and a good quality extra virgin olive oil.

A healthy crop of chervil growing in the cold frame.

Chervil Vinegar


  • A large handful of fresh chervil, 3-4 cups loosely packed
  • 2 cups of a mild vinegar, such as white wine or Chinese rice vinegar
  • One sterilized pint jar with lid


  1. Rinse the chervil and pat dry with paper towels. Pack chervil loosely into a sterilized dry heat proof pint jar.
  2. Heat the vinegar to just simmering in a stainless steel pan. Pour it over the chervil; push any wayward stems or leaves under the surface. Allow the vinegar to cool, then cap the jar and leave at room temperature for two weeks, shaking the jar occasionally.
  3. Strain the vinegar and bottle it in sterilized dry bottles. Cap tightly and store in a cool spot or cupboard. If you like, drop a sprig of fresh chervil in the finished bottle.
Chervil vinegar will be ready in about two weeks.

DSC_9351a DSC_9367a

 Spring Salad for two



  • 1T white wine or rice vinegar
  • 1/4 Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 3T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1T finely minced shallots
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


  • About 4-5 cups Bibb and Romaine lettuce
  • Two small blood oranges, segmented
  • 1/2c thinly shaved fennel
  • 1c sugar snap peas, steamed and patted dry
  • 1/2c chervil fronds, long stems removed
  • 1/4c pistachio nuts


  1. In a small bowl combine the vinegar, mustard, sugar and shallots. Gradually whisk in the olive oil.
  2. In a large bowl, season the greens with a pinch of salt and a few grinds of the pepper and toss with enough of the vinaigrette to lightly coat 
  3. Top with blood orange segments, shaved fennel, sugar snap peas, chervil fronds and pistachio nuts.  Gently toss and serve.  Top with additional freshly ground pepper if desired.


March 24, 2013 Poached Chicken with Salsa Rustica


Chicken is a regular part of our weekly dinner rotation, whether it’s boneless breasts in a pesto sauce, chicken thighs and legs in a fragrant blend of Moroccan spices or crispy skinned roast chicken redolent of garlic and lemon.  I turn to poached chicken when I am making a broth that is going to be made into chicken stock or a chicken soup.  Recently, one too many dinners out, vacation and parties called for a few weeks of eating light. So I was interested to see an article in the latest issue of Fine Cooking, “Beyond Roast Chicken. Three new ways to cook a whole bird from three creative chefs.”

That’s what attracted me to the recipe that Lidia Bastianich offered in this article, poached chicken with salsa rustica. Lidia is a master of Italian cooking, a restaurateur, and author of many cookbooks. Her television programs on PBS are not only informative but entertaining as well. So I decided to follow Lidia’s lead and made a poached chicken for dinner.

Poaching is a technique that cooks chicken gently and slowly, submerged in a liquid that is heated to just under the boiling point, about 180F, when small bubbles begin to break the surface. The cooking process begins with a broth of herbs and spices, enhanced with dried porcini mushrooms and Parmesan rinds, providing the rich umami.  Fragrant root vegetables, fennel and celery root, along with shallots, leeks and turnips are added next to the broth. Taking a step from what we normally do with our roast chicken, she stuffs it with peppercorns, bay, crushed garlic and lemon. The chicken is double wrapped in cheesecloth which both keeps the aromatics in the bird and not in the broth and provides a way to retrieve the chicken from the pot at the end of cooking. Poaching chicken provides both a moist flavorful chicken with no additional fat and a flavorful broth to serve with the meal and later as a soup.

Don’t skip the salsa rustica that accompanies this dish. Made mostly with pantry ingredients, it’s the first salsa I’ve ever seen that includes a hard-boiled egg. It adds a pop of color to the very flavorful but pale chicken and a unique piquant flavor. I could see serving this salsa with fish and pork as well.

Be sure to use Turkish or true bay leaves, laurus nobilis. California bay leaves are not from the same family but are similar in shape. They have a strong menthol flavor that will overpower the dish. I am fortunate that we have several Turkish bay trees to pick my leaves from. The salsa rustica recipe called for dill gherkins but I picked up a jar of cornichons. So is there really that big of a difference? Gherkins can refer to both a variety of cucumber, harvested very small for the pickling process and the pickle itself. Gherkins can be either tart or sweet. French cornichons are the tart, crisp pickles made from gherkins or other cucumbers picked small. My choice was fine since the original recipe called for dill (tart) gherkins.

The broth, delicious on it’s own, can be made into a quick soup.  Bring the broth to a simmer and add a small pasta such as ditalini or orzo. Cook until al dente and serve topped with grated cheese and finely chopped parsley. We used the broth several days later to poach halibut fillets seasoned with a ginger citrus herb blend and topped with fresh lime peel.

Poached Chicken with Salsa Rustica from Fine Cooking #122

Serves 4-6, yields 3 quarts broth

Salsa Rustica


  • 1/3c extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4c red wine vinegar
  • 1/3c thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/4c finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4c finely chopped jarred roasted red pepper
  • 1/4c finely chopped cornichons
  • 1 hard boiled egg, finely chopped
  • 1T balsamic capers, drained
  • 1/8t dried mustard
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2T finely chopped flat leaved parsley
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Components for the salsa rustica.


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the olive oil and vinegar.  Add the scallions, onion, roasted red pepper, cornichons, egg, capers, mustard and a pinch of cayenne. Whisk to combine.
  2. The salsa can be made up to 5 days ahead, but you will probably consume it before the chicken is cooked so either make a double batch or make it the day of! Cover and refrigerate, let sit at room temperature for a half hour before serving. Before serving, stir in the parsley and  season to taste with salt and pepper.


Poached Whole Chicken


  • 8 sprigs flat leaved parsley
  • 1T plus 2t whole black peppercorns
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4c dried mushrooms (1/4oz), preferably porcini
  • 4 fresh Turkish bay leaves
  • 1 piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional but nice)
  • 8 large shallots, peeled
  • 2 large turnips cut into 1 inch wedges (carrots were the original choice…)
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green parts, cut crosswise into 4-inch pieces, halved lengthwise and rinsed
  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and cut through the root into 6 wedges
  • 1 medium celery root, trimmed, peeled and cut into large wedges
  • 1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 lb) my brand of choice is Bell and Evans
  • 3 large cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 lemon, halved
Root vegetables are added to the Parmesan porcini enhanced broth.


  1. Place the parsley sprigs and 1 tablespoon of the peppercorns on a six inch square of cheesecloth. Tie up with string to make a sachet.
  2. Pour 6 quarts of water to a 10-12 quart stockpot. Add the sachet, 2T salt, the dried mushrooms, 2 bay leaves and cheese rind if using.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the shallots, turnips, leeks, fennel and celery root. Return the liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover and let vegetables simmer while you prepare the chicken, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Remove the giblets from the chicken (mine didn’t have them!!), rinse them and reserve. Into the chicken cavity place 1t salt, the garlic, the remaining 2t peppercorns, 2 bay leaves, the juice of the lemon and the squeezed lemon halves. Tie the bird’s legs together and tuck the wings behind the neck.
  4. Cut a 30 inch double-layer cheesecloth square and lay it on a work surface. Put the chicken in the center, breast side up. Tie two diagonally opposite corners snugly over the bird with a simple over hand knot. Tie the other corners the same way.
  5. Cut a yard long length of string and thread one end through the cheesecloth topknots. Pull the ends even and tie in a double knot close to the cheesecloth.
  6. Lower the chicken into the broth, being careful to keep the string out of the pot. Loop the free end of the string around a handle of the stockpot so it doesn’t fall into the pot. Add giblets if using. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
  7. Cook, uncovered until the chicken is cooked through, an instant read thermometer inserted into the breast will register 158-160F. The chicken will continue to cook after you remove it from the pot, the final temperature will be 165F. Start checking at 45 minutes. If you prefer firmer vegetables, check on them sooner and remove them with a slotted spoon.
  8. Set a deep rimmed baking sheet large enough to hold the chicken near the pot. Transfer the chicken to the baking sheet, letting the excess liquid drain back into the pot. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables to a bowl and ladle a bit of the broth over them. Cover to keep warm.
  9. Unwrap the bird, remove the string and discard the ingredients from the cavity.  Pour some hot broth over the bird and cover loosely with foil to keep it warm.
  10. Set a fine strainer over a deep pot and strain the broth.
  11. Carve the chicken and serve with the vegetables, moistened with some broth and topped with salsa. Leftover broth can be refrigerated for 5 days or frozen up to 3 months.



March 16, 2013 Kale Slaw


I’ve been on a first name basis with kale for quite a few years now. Lacinato, Nero, Tuscan, Dinosaur, and Red Russian, are all varieties we have been growing the last several years. This dark leafy green has been dubbed by nutritionists as a “super food’. Low in calories and high in fiber, it is rich in manganese, and cancer fighting vitamins A, C and K. 

We grow kale in the fall, and as the first frosts come, the leaves become even sweeter.  At first, I used kale as a side dish or in an improvised stew of sausage, clams, and tomatoes. Now that kale has become the vegetable darling “du jour”, the recipe possibilities have become endless. Kale chips are easy to make and more economical than the six dollars for the one ounce package you would pay in the supermarket. All matter of fruit is being combined with kale to make healthy, fiber rich smoothies. I was looking for a healthy side dish and decided to make a kale slaw with ingredients I already had in my refrigerator.

So what makes it a salad or slaw? One definition I read said that slaw originated from the Danish word, “sla”, short for salad.  Probably the most popular explanation originated in the eighteenth century. Our word, coleslaw, is Anglicized from the Dutch, “koolsa”, or cabbage salad. Since cole slaw’s main ingredient is thinly shredded cabbage, I have chosen to bestow the name slaw to this dish. Flatter leaved kale like Lacinato would be easiest for slicing but a curly variety as I used in this recipe works as well. This slaw holds up well for several days, it doesn’t get soggy or wilt, though if you have some left over the next day you might need to drain off a little excess liquid. Beets and carrots happened to be what I had on hand but other vegetables would work as well, turnips, jicama, peppers and shredded cabbage just to name a few.  This is an opportunity to pull out the Kuhn Rikon stainless steel julienne peeler to get the fine shreds of carrot. Pomegranate balsamic brings a rich sweetness that plays nicely off the strong flavor of kale. Honey or maple syrup could substitute for the agave sweetener. Use a flavorful extra virgin olive oil since you will taste it in the final dish.  The slaw would also be good as a topper for fish or chicken tacos.

Sue’s Kale Slaw

Serves four


  • 4c thinly sliced raw kale
  • 1c thinly julienned raw carrots
  • 1c thinly julienned raw beets
  • 1/3c roughly chopped pistachios
  • 2T pomegranate balsamic vinegar
  • 1T pomegranate red wine vinegar
  • 1t agave sweetener
  • 1t Dijon mustard
  • 1 small clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4c extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper


  1. Slice out the center rib of the kale leaves and discard. Cut the kale into very thin ribbons to measure out four cups.
  2. Very finely julienne the carrot and the beets. Add to the bowl with the kale.
  3. Chop pistachios and set aside.
  4. Combine the vinegars, agave sweetener, garlic, mustard and olive oil in a small bowl. Whisk gently to combine.
  5. Pour vinaigrette over the vegetables, you may not need it all, and toss lightly.  Add pistachios and toss again. Season to taste with kosher salt and pepper.








March 12, 2013 Pork Tenderloin with Pico de Gallo


Pork tenderloin appears weekly in our dinner rotation. It’s low in fat, easy to cook and with a variation of the rub and accompanying sauce, can take on many different nationalities. This recipe has a south of the border flavor with a peppery and slightly sweet rub and black bean pico de gallo.

Pico de gallo is translated “rooster’s beak” and there are several explanations of how the name came about. One was for the way it was originally eaten, by pinching pieces of the salsa between the thumb and forefinger, which is supposed to resemble a rooster’s beak. A messy proposition at best. Another puts forth that the spicy bite of the dish is like the bite of a rooster. The one that I see as most logical is that it originates from the Spanish verb “picar” which means “to chop”, as are the minced ingredients in this salsa.

Black beans add some additional fiber to the dish. If you don’t have time to make your own from scratch, canned beans are acceptable. My brand of preference is Goya, I prefer to rinse them lightly before proceding with the recipe. There will be enough seasoning mix to flavor the pico de gallo and more for future use. The original recipe on Epicurious called for 1/2 cup of arugula, loosely packed, but the recipe never included a step that used the arugula. I just use it as a bed for the tenderloin that wilts it slightly and adds another peppery component to the dish. 

Pork Tenderloin with Black Bean Pico de Gallo

Adapted from Epicurious website/Self magazine

Serves two with leftovers


Pork rub

  • 1T sweet paprika
  • 1T smoked paprika
  • 1T kosher salt
  • 1T chili powder (I used regular)
  • 1T brown sugar
  • 1/4t cayenne pepper
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1 pork tenderloin, 14-16oz, trimmed of excess fat
  • 1 c arugula

Directions for Pork Tenderloin

  1. Mix first six ingredients for spice rub in a small bowl until well combined.
  2. Sprinkle the rub over the tenderloin, then rub the pork on all sides, pressing gently so the seasoning adheres well to the tenderloin. Cover with plastic and let sit at room temperature for an hour before cooking.
  3. Preheat oven to 350F. Heat olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. When it is hot, add the tenderloin and cook, turning every 3-5 minutes until browned on all sides.
  4. Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and roast until a meat thermometer inserted into it’s thickest part reads 140F.
  5. Using a pot holder, remove tenderloin from the oven, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.  

 Black Bean Pico de Gallo

  • 1 1/2 c cooked black beans
  • 1c diced tomato
  • 1 small yellow pepper, diced
  • 1/2c diced red onion
  • 1/3c finely chopped cilantro
  • 1t minced jalapeno
  • Juice of a fresh lime
  • 1T of the pork seasoning mix
  • Kosher salt to taste

Directions for Pico de Gallo and Final Assembly

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
  2. Line a seving platter with arugula. Top with sliced tenderloin.
Spice rub for the pork
Coat the tenderloin thoroughly on all sides.
Black bean pico de gallo


Spicy sliced tenderloin on a bed of arugula.


March 7, 2013 Dragon Fruit Salsa


I always look forward to my weekly excursions to Wegmans. It’s my one stop for food shopping, with the exception of fish and seafood that I get just a few miles down the road at Hellers Seafood. From the truffles that are kept under lock and key to the large selection of pristine fresh fruit and vegetables, I love their produce department. In the “off season” it’s the next best thing to growing your own. Sometimes I’m even introduced to something new, well at least to me. That was the case last week. I walked in, grabbed my cart and headed for my first stop, the produce section. The lady giving out samples of fresh-squeezed juice was quite busy so I happened to notice a gentleman from Melissa’s produce giving out samples of a fruit that I heard of but had never tasted before, dragon fruit. It was paired in a little sample cup with some strawberry slices. Although expensive (5.99 for one fruit!) I was feeling adventurous after a taste.  I bought two, I knew I wanted to try them on my own.

Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, is the fruit of a cactus (this east coast girl can’t relate!)  It was first grown in Central and South America and expanded to Southeast Asia through the French. It is now grown domestically in Florida, Texas and Southern California. The fruit emerges from the aptly named moon flower that blooms for one night only. Pollination by fruit bats and other insects must occur that one night or no fruit will emerge. Dragon fruit is quite interesting in appearance. the ones I purchased were about the size of a mango and fuchsia in color with soft green spikes, resembling the scales of the dragon. There are also varieties with yellow and red skin. The flesh can vary from white to red.  The taste was lightly sweet, with crunchy little seeds, reminiscent of  those in a kiwi. The texture of the flesh reminded me of a crisp pear. Dragon fruit is very easy to prepare, just cut in half and either scoop out the flesh or cut away the flesh from the skin with a sharp knife.

A current favorite of the marketing world, dragon fruit is being infused into everything from rum, vodka, a flavored Pepsi, an antioxidant tea to an air freshener and a scented candle.  Dragon fruit is low in calories, high in fiber, rich in B vitamins and antioxidants. The skin is not edible but makes a lovely serving vessel. It can be added to fruit salads, smoothies and desserts. In this salsa recipe I chose to pair the mild crisp dragon fruit to contrast with some very sweet pineapple and some heat from a jalapeno. The amount of heat you add to the salsa is up to you. My frozen jalapenos still pack quite a punch. Serve with fish or chicken.

Dragon fruit can vary from bright red to yellow, the ones I purchased were fuschia with green tips.


Dragon Fruit Salsa

Makes about 2 cups


  • 1 1/2c dragon fruit cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1c peeled and cored pineapple cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 small bell pepper, stemmed and cored, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1/2 of a whole jalapeno pepper, chopped finely
  • Juice of one medium lime
  • 1/4c finely chopped cilantro
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Combine the first six ingredients in a medium bowl and stir gently.
  2. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
The flesh of the dragon fruit can be white or pink in color. The seeds remind me of a kiwi.


The firm fruit is easily cut in half and scooped out of the skin.

March 5, 2013 Steamed Scallops with Black Beans


Chinese black beans are not to be confused with the black turtle beans used in Central and South American cooking. The Chinese black bean also known as douchi, is actually a black soy bean that has been cooked, fermented and salted. As a condiment they predate soy sauce and miso and it is believed they have been used as far back as the Han dynasty in the second century.

Once popular throughout China, they are now most associated with Cantonese cooking. The flavor of Chinese black beans has been described as sharp, salty, pungent and winy. They can be found in most Asian markets in small plastic bags, often flavored with orange peel and ginger. They have a soft pliable texture and resemble dried currants. They can stored at room temperature well wrapped in a cabinet away from light.

The cookbook authors I consulted were divided on to rinse or not to rinse the beans before using them. If you don’t rinse you must allow for their extreme saltiness and adjust the seasonings in your recipe accordingly. I choose to rinse them, especially if other ingredients in the recipe are going to bring their own saltiness. They are a condiment, so use sparingly.

In this recipe the sweet clean flavor of the scallops contrast nicely with the black beans. Always look for dry scallops, those that have not been treated with a solution that whitens them and causes them retain more water. Most scallops come with the tough “catch” muscle still attached. The scallop uses this muscle to keep it’s shell closed for long periods of time. It’s not pleasant to eat and removing it is very easy, just gently peel it off. Serve this dish with rice or noodles to soak up the juices.

Steamed Scallops with Black Beans

adapted from The Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

Serves 4-6


  • 1T fermented black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2t minced fresh ginger
  • 2T oyster sauce
  • 2t soy sauce
  • 1T Chinese rice wine vinegar
  • 2t sugar
  • 1t Kosher salt
  • 2t peanut oil
  • Pinch freshly ground white pepper
  • 1lb large fresh sea scallops, excess liquid drained


  1. Mix all the ingredients except the scallops in a large bowl
  2. Remove the adductor muscle from the scallops. Place the scallops on a steam proof plate. Pour the steaming ingredients over the scallops and marinate for 30 minutes.
  3. Bring about a quart of water to a boil in a wok. Place the steamer in the wok so that it sits above but never touching the water.
  4. Place the dish in the steamer, cover and steam for about 5 minutes or until the scallops are white and opaque. Serve in the steam proof dish.