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Category Archives: cookbooks

Down Home Cooking

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Maryland. My home state. Not really north or south. Depending on where you live, we can be dismissed as being the opposite.

New Englanders call us Southern, for being south of the Mason Dixon Line. Those from the deep south call us Yankees.

For me, I think it means we can embrace the best of the cuisines from both sides of that imaginary line.

My family is German. We can do the whole scrapple, sauerbraten, head cheese, wurst thing, no problem. Still, we also love distinctly Southern tastes. Smithfield ham. Hominy (not far from grits). Biscuits. Fried chicken. Oysters. Shrimp. Blue crab.

Finding a cookbook that celebrates the South. In a good way. No, beyond that. In a celebratory way. That would be a great thing to add to my capabilities. I am truly enjoying cooking from Deep Run Roots. My kind of Southern cooking and more. Not drowning in butter, but using those fresh ingredients that grow so well in the temperate climate.

I am also discovering just how much my Amish (Pennsylvania Dutch) CSA has embraced and delivered the better heirlooms from the Southern food world. Things like collards, sweet potatoes, grits, cornmeal, okra, turnips.

I have made some interesting meals from this book. Mostly using what I get from my CSA. North meeting South.

Garlic confit to use in many meals. Sweet potato yogurt (OK, this stuff is awesome, I could put it on cardboard and eat it). Squash and onions that ended up as a hummus substitute.

I have also learned how to perfect my grits. Using a double boiler method.

A few other things, too. More on those in the future. If you want to try something new with your spring CSA, you might want to download Deep Run Roots. I can highly recommend it. And nobody is paying me to say that.

If you want to make something awesome, try the sweet potato yogurt.

Roast a few sweet potatoes. Scrape them out of their skins. Equal part of a Greek style yogurt. Honey, lemon juice and salt, to taste. Whirl it all together. Slather it on anything. Sprinkle a little cayenne on it to spice it up. Vivian’s recipe puts it under Collard Green dolmades, made with homemade sausage. I will probably make the dolmades some day, using Boarman’s sausage, but that picture above, with the Merguez sausage from Evermore Farm, that shows you how this base of taste can tame the spice and bring intense flavor to your dinner.

CookBook Club

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Did you ever belong to a book club? You know. Where you read a book and then get together to drink wine and discuss the book.

I have done a few book clubs in my life, but never a cookbook club. One where you cook from a book. There are real life cooking clubs where people meet and eat from a chosen book, or a chosen cuisine. Food52 talks about how to do that.

For me, though, I am talking about virtual clubs. On line clubs. Facebook, actually. I stumbled upon the Food52 club page and became a member recently. Why? Because I miss the on line challenges to make me cook outside my normal rotation of recipes and ingredients.

An on line challenge that keeps me interested in expanding my capabilities. So, I found myself downloading a brand new eBook last week.

Deep Run Roots. The massive (600 page) cookbook from Public TV chef star Vivian Howard. Southern food. Simple to complex. Traditional to fusion. I am really enjoying the challenge. To cook outside my comfort zone. Like trying this pork in curried watermelon.

I haven’t tried this one yet. I will in watermelon season.

Now, I just began. With lamb and beet tzatziki.

To make it local, I used lamb from Evermore Farms in Westminster (I used ground lamb and made meatballs instead of kebabs). Chiogga beets from my CSA, which meant my tzatziki wasn’t neon pink.

What is fun about this on line cookbook club. Seeing what everyone else is making from the cookbook this month, and getting ideas for cooking.

Me, I want to try her shrimp and grits, using the grits from my CSA.

Heirloom grits. Cornmeal. Heavily featured in her book. Today, I stopped at Boarman’s to get shrimp. Such a good deal on big, Gulf Shrimp.

This week, shrimp. Next week, oysters. Can’t wait to try all these new ideas.

Great Grains

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I have been slacking off. Forgetting to write about some of the really fantastic additives to my fall Community Supported Agriculture basket from the farmers’ cooperative at Lancaster Farm Fresh.

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My flour and grain share. Two pounds each. Every other week. This past week was the pastry flour and the spelt berries.

Two weeks ago.

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Bread flour and rye berries.

The first delivery last month.

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All purpose flour and cornmeal.

The flours are all from Daisy. They aren’t easy to find. I used to get mine at Atwaters in Catonsville. The Anson Mills which produce Daisy flour are located in Pennsylvania. Atwaters sold bags of their wonderful flour. I am loving the quality of the bread flour for those holiday breads like my chocolate zucchini bread or my pumpkin bread.

The grains, all come from Castle Valley Mill in Bucks County Pennsylvania. Other than wheat berries, which we got from Friends and Farms a few years back, I hadn’t been a big grain cooker. I purposely ordered this add on to my CSA share to remedy that lapse.

I am loving the berries. I found the perfect way to cook them, in my rice cooker. Simple. One cup berries. Three cups liquid. I have used all water. All veggie broth. A mix of chicken stock and water. Turkey stock and water. Add some seasonings. Set on the brown rice setting and let it do its thing. Makes absolutely perfectly cooked berries.

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Served here with a wilted arugula salad. Cranberries, pistachios, a drizzle of Secolari’s lime olive oil. A squirt of lemon juice.

I also downloaded an iBook, called Grain Mains. So many interesting ideas, including a take on a “gazpacho salad” using berries.

Who knows what will come in my final biweekly basket on the 13th of December. I do know that I am loving this addition and will be adding it to my winter subscription.

The Dirt List

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Just up the road a bit, in Philly, there is an amazing restaurant called Vedge. I’m not sure when I first heard about it, maybe one of my magazines, or Chopped, or a random blog post somewhere.

I do know I love their recipes in their book. Like this one. I stumbled across this article recently and ended up buying the book online. For $9.99, it now resides on my iPad to inspire me when my CSA box comes.

Why? Because our Amish food cooperative CSA supplies restaurants, hospitals, schools and grocery stores within a 150 mile radius of the 100+ Amish farms who are members of this organic cooperative. I viewed, a while back, the Penske video by the general manager of Lancaster Farm Fresh, Casey Spacht. Casey had this vision, and worked with a small number, at the start, of Amish farmers to make it come true.

I also found, while reading my cookbook that the “dirt list” at the restaurant is inspired by those same vegetables that come in my weekly CSA. Baby Hakurei turnips. Chinese broccoli. Salsify (I am bummed, we haven’t gotten salsify in ages, it all must go to the restaurants).

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Other local restaurants use the coop too. Like Woodberry Kitchen, in Baltimore. And, probably Great Sage, since the coop delivers to Roots. We are lucky that our CSA is supported year round, even when we don’t get the minimum 30 members in the winter. Why? Because the truck also delivers to Roots, MOM’s, Friends and Farms, to name a few of their local wholesale customers.

I do love this CSA for its uniqueness. They offer some really off the wall vegetables. It isn’t a CSA for the carrot, corn, romaine crowd. You have to want escarole, watercress, purple kohlrabi, bitter fruit, and other exotic things. You have to learn to be creative. You have to have a passion for discovery, and you have to love vegetables enough to want to use large amounts of them in your cooking. Even the smaller shares give you a great variety. You certainly get your money’s worth.

a medium summer share

a medium summer share

I just signed up for my sixth spring/summer share. I dropped back to a medium share, as the large was giving us as much as 25-30 pounds of organic vegetables weekly. The variety was great. And, at $31 a share, it was an immense bargain. The medium share is about $22 a share and will give us 7-9 different items, and about 15 or so pounds a week. Sure beats grocery store pricing for organics.

There are lots of choices for CSAs around here. I just happen to be committed to this small, focused, adventurous group of people who are willing to take on these and more.

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And, it all comes down to that dirt list on the Vedge menu. Named because of the freshness, the seasonality, the joy of eating food that was just harvested. The typical turn around time from ground to table for this cooperative is two days.

Check out the book from Vedge. And check out our CSA. If you really love cooking and want a challenge, this is the place to find it. Great vegetables. A book of amazing recipes for inspiration.

Cookie Central

I miss Gourmet.

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For twenty five years, I subscribed. Not just for the cooking, but for the writing.

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The seasonal articles. The travelogues. I can’t just get recipes from Epicurious. I have kept my back issues, preserved in a bookcase. Archived by month. Every December I pick a few years to read and relish.

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This year’s trip went back twenty years.

I am baking most of my cookies this year from past issues.

A few new ones.

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Like the lemon butter cookies, which taste just like those you can buy from the local Otterbein bakery. Which I sometimes pick up in Boarman’s while standing in line to check out.

A simple recipe. Cream together 1 1/2 sticks of butter and 1 cup of sugar. Add an egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Meanwhile whisk together 2 cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Slowly add to butter mixture in a stand mixer. Add 1 heaping tablespoon of lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Make a log of the dough. Refrigerate. The longer the better. Mine was put in two days before baking. These cookies will get soft quickly, so I cut the log in half before slicing and kept the rest refrigerated until ready to do two more sheets. I got six dozen small cookies from this recipe.

In a preheated oven, I use convection bake at 350 degrees F, but the recipe  calls for 375. I have learned that my convection bake setting cooks faster and you can lower the heat making it easier to get good cookies without burning the bottoms.

I baked these for 14 minutes. The recipe calls for regular baking of about 15 minutes on that higher temperature.

I also made the chocolate version of these butter cookies.

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These were more difficult to work. They tended to crumble. They were drier in handling. The difference. Add 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa, 10 1/2 ounces bittersweet melted chocolate and 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the mixer after adding the flour mixture. Don’t add the lemon like I did to make the cookies above. This mixture was very stiff and much drier. They taste intensely chocolate. Not that sweet. I sprinkled demerara and sparkly sugar on them before baking.

I am still doing cookies today. There will be sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies and maybe gingerbread. This year there will be boxes given to many of the family and friends who celebrate with us.

I love it when the house smells of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Here For The Food

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An old favorite cookbook that made the turkey easy. A simple brine. A simple technique. Whenever people think it’s too hard to cook or bake they should pull out this book.

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If you want a turkey this good, they should google orange juice brown sugar brine. It will take them to Amazon where this recipe was featured.

The turkey was perfect. The brining took 15 hours for my 13 pound turkey from Maple Lawn. Their web site will be updated on December 7th for those who want to try turkey for Christmas.

For us, the small hen was easy to handle and fit into the dorm sized refrigerator for brining.

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I put a platter out for our Thanksgiving dinner. I made soup with the wings and the one drumstick my husband didn’t eat.

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I also made 5 quarts of turkey broth with the innards, skin and bones after making the Thanksgiving meal.

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Three jars went into the freezer, and two quarts went into that soup. I will be making sandwiches for a few days, and a turkey casserole this weekend. All told, that bird will yield at least a half dozen meals. Not bad for $33.

And, I gave my mom about a half pound of perfectly cooked moist breast meat to make sandwiches and a dinner.

Local food. Easy to make. Worth the time it took. If you haven’t tried making a turkey, you should get over to Maple Lawn and buy a small 10-12 pound hen. You really don’t need to brine it. But, it really improves the taste.

Bean Eaters

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Tuscan inspired cooking. Using cannellini beans. In the fall, we crave heartier foods and a week ago, our CSA gave us one of my favorite bitter greens, broccoli rabe.

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I knew that my Tuscan cook book had a great recipe using broccoli rabe and beans.

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I made a few changes. Resulting in this.

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I added some sweet pepper, and some scallions to the simple recipe. That called for beans to be cooked, then broccoli rabe added. A little garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Just the thing to counter the chilly weather. Stick to your ribs dinner. Served with baby back ribs from my Friends and Farms basket.

I love cooking with cannellini beans. I have done the soup thing, and made my simple tuna and bean salad countless times.

Check out the Williams-Sonoma Tuscan cook book.

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And go look for broccoli rabe in the farmers markets.