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Category Archives: Real Food

Ramps aka Wild Leeks

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It is ramp season. Hit the farmer’s market in Silver Spring and find at least three farms from West Virginia selling them. Vastly different prices, too. So, shop carefully.

We hit the market early Saturday morning and scored a couple bunches along with an excellent ramp mustard from Spring Valley Farm and Orchard. I buy many items from them when I make my infrequent pilgrimages to the year round Saturday market there.

Some other goodies. Smoked duck breast from the Urban Butcher. And, absolutely awesome scallions, red and white, also from Spring Valley.

Forgot to get morels. The other early spring delicacy, but never fear. Jenny’s Market is open right down the road from us, and she had a cooler full of morels. Perfect to make a ramp and morel scrambled egg dish.

The picture of the eggs isn’t so great, but they were incredibly good. Served with a petit filet covered with creamed baby spinach, also bought in Silver Spring.

Decadent, isn’t it? First course, the eggs. Second, the steak. Served with bread and a nice cabernet.

Beats fighting the crowds on a Saturday night out.

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.

Well, Kiss My Grits

Channeling old movies on Oscar Night. Who remembers “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”? I got another bag of grits a few weeks ago from our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) delivery and it reminded me I still have half a bag from December.

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The yellow grits from December. Now, in addition.

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A brand new bag of heirloom Bloody Butcher Red grits. Not your ordinary grits. I want to make these soon but need to finish that bag of yellow grits from December. Tonight, I made another large pot to serve with shrimp.

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Grits are definitely not fast food. But they certainly starred in tonight’s dinner, even if they took 40 minutes to cook. This was a truly simple meal, yet time consuming to make. A pound of Gulf Shrimp. Steamed after marinating in Old Bay, Secolari flavored vinegar, and sesame oil. Roasted radishes from the CSA, that were made earlier this week and heated in a very hot oven, after drizzling in honey and sprinkling with Old Bay.

The grits. Half milk, half water. Salt. Pepper. Boiled. Add grits. Three to one ratio of liquid to grits.

Cook forever. Stir almost that much. Add parmesan and butter. Stir again. Serve.

Craft-y

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Ever noticed how many places we use the word craft? Like in beer. Or maybe distillers. Or chocolate. Or, how about the word artisan? Like in cheese. Or bread. Or vinegars, oils. Or jams and jellies. The list goes on.

I have been seeking new sources for foods and beverages. Looking for those small local producers. I considered the post title “Growlers, Bottles and Bars, OH MY!” but thought shorter was the way to go.

Somewhere in our youth we believed bigger was better. Now, not so much. For me, better is better. We spent a bit of time lately seeking artisan sources for foods and beverages.

Like our visit to Lost Ark Distillery. Newly opened right across from my car repair place. And right next to an about to open craft beer brewery. We took the tour. Sampled the rums. Brought home some of them to use in cocktails.

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Dark and stormies, maybe? Or rum punch?

We also joined the growler community. Buying our first one at The Wine Bin. Roy Pitz “Mind Your P’s and Q’s”. A triple Belgian ale, brewed in Chambersburg PA. P’s and Q’s in the beer world translate to pints and quarts. As in keeping track at the pub of how many pints and quarts of ale were being consumed by customers.

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Interesting to say the least.

Finally, what about bars? For us, that would mean Salazon chocolate. Locally produced right up the road.

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Looking for people who are passionate about their craft. That’s what makes being a locavore such a great thing. Now, I may head off to watch some recorded shows while sipping a glass of red wine, and sharing a chocolate bar.

Parts Unknown

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OK, I admit it. I am an Anthony Bourdain fan. Love the series of travel/food shows. We tend to record and watch TV shows of interest, in the winter, when we can’t spend time outdoors in the evening.

I record all the past episodes and watch them when we finally collapse after a day of putting our house back together. Last night, one of my favorite countries, France, was highlighted, or should I say, a city we once passed through on our travels.

Marseilles.

Our gateway to a week in Provence. The part of the world that influenced my cooking for the past 15 years. We flew into Marseilles (no customs at arrival, that was something) and boarded a bus to travel to Arles.

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Followed by Avignon.

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Nice after a night in Monte Carlo, to board a sailboat.

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A week sailing the Med. This was a major vacation. One to celebrate my 50th birthday. A life changing trip. Which hooked me on markets. Fresh food. Good wine.

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Bourdain’s shows get deeply into culture. Not just a surface look. They make me dig deeper into cuisines. Look for restaurants. Like now, when my husband wants to try the Ethiopian restaurant in Burtonsville.

I didn’t really make any resolutions this year, but maybe I should have. To resolve to travel a bit more. To try to find authentic ethnic fare. To expand my cooking capabilities. After all, I certainly am not getting any younger.

Where do you want to go? What foods inspire you? What cuisines would you like to try, if you could?

Me, I just would love to find a market that features spices, like Arles.

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A Winter CSA

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Community Supported Agriculture. In the dead of winter. Believe it or not, many farms here in the MidAtlantic have crops in high tunnels and greenhouses, all year long.

Recent comments on local blogs and Facebook lament the condition of produce in our grocery stores. Yes, even the higher end stores have slimy produce. We all miss that fresh from the ground delivered produce, ours is only one day from the field.

Here, where we live, there are two winter CSAs. Zahradka and Lancaster Farm Fresh. There are other delivery services, but not all their produce is local. And yes, Zahradka and LFFC bring in regional vegetables to augment the harvests. After all, who would complain about a chance for citrus, or maybe greens from the Carolinas.

Here is our first delivery from LFFC, yesterday.

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Looks good to me, for roughly $26 a share. All organic. About 10 pounds total. A couple of pounds of carrots. 12 ounces of tatsoi. Turnips. Chard. Red beets with their greens attached. Onions. Two absolutely lovely watermelon radishes.

I added many specialty items. Pantry item. Yogurt. Cheese. Bread. I could have added meat or chicken, eggs, milk, tofu, grain and flour, fermented beverages.

It is nice to have a source of fresh food when the farmer’s markets are closed. There are just a handful of us this winter. Thanks to our CSA for keeping us going, even when we didn’t meet the minimum. I suppose we should all be thankful for Roots and David’s and MOM’s, the local organic markets where our driver drops off produce on the same run as our CSA pick up. It’s really nice for us, since our cost is lower than buying the produce there.

I missed having fresh veggies on our four week break. So happy they are back.