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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.

Updates

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I promised myself I would try and blog at least once a week, but life keeps getting in the way of writing. This week I finally sat down and cleaned up all my pages. Some of them hadn’t been touched in two years, but now, hopefully, no broken links and no outdated information.

What is new? I visited a new to me farm in Carroll County. Evermore Farm. According to the owner, Ginger Myers, the farm was once part of the vast Charles Carroll’s holdings, established in 1783.

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Their farm store is located on the property, which is just southwest of Baugher’s Restaurant and Market, off of Rte. 31. I went up there specifically to get Rheb’s Candy for Christmas presents.

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I saw a video of the store. I bought some eggs and lamb while there. A good source for grass fed beef, too. And Freedom Ranger chicken. Heritage pork. If you want to fill your freezer, they sell many varieties of packages. I am partial to their lamb package.

Head out Main Street in Westminster and keep going west on Uniontown Rd to Rockland, a left turn to the farm. I am seriously considering using their CSA program for meat, chicken and eggs.

As for other updates around here, I added some services and changed some restaurant information on my HoCoBiz page. I want to commend Chandler’s Collision Center in Columbia for the outstanding work they did on my car, which was a casualty of a hit and run in a parking lot. Who knew that a daytime running light assembly cost more than my first car? Yep, someone backed into my car while it was parked at Royal Farms, and left my light assembly smashed. A new assembly and a paint job on the scratched bumper, and it looks like new. Chandler fixed our old Jeep twice, after front end damage. They are absolutely the nicest people and their work is guaranteed for “life”. Right now, they are so swamped they are only taking insurance work and the backup time is at least two weeks. We were lucky that our car wasn’t damaged enough to make it undriveable, so we just waited 10 days to put it in there. They told us they are seeing a very large amount of deer-car damage. It’s one of the main causes of the body damage they are repairing. We know to be careful out here, but it is almost inevitable that an encounter will happen to most of us living here. If you need your car repaired, contact Chandler.

Other than car repairs, house painting, and bird watching, we seem to be rather settled in for winter. Anyone want to guess whether our new resident hawk will bother the cardinals in the yard?

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Oh, and as usual, I am still cooking like crazy. Just trying to make it work around all the changes in the kitchen.

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Lamb shanks with spelt berries, parsnips and carrots. It may not be pretty but it definitely tasted great.

Inspiration

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So, say HI to my chicken water pitcher. The inspiration for my kitchen.

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I have followed the Mediterranean diet for years. First inspired by a trip to the Med in 2002, where we bought our chicken while in Sicily. He is a cute rooster. His bright colors are the inspiration for our kitchen renovation.

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It is almost there. Next up, countertop, stove, sink and cabinet hardware. This is the first real cosmetic upgrade to our house. Almost everything before this was energy driven. Better insulation. Better appliances. Better windows and doors and roof. Well, besides replacing the rotting deck and crumbling patio.

I use my kitchen. Some say I could be abusing my kitchen, with all that steam and chopping and cooking. I know, I should be looking for granite and open concept and the other buzz words. Spoken by people who may have Pizza Hut on speed dial. Our decisions are based on durability and use. So, probably no to granite and yes to quartz. If I mistakenly drip olive oil on quartz, I have a much better chance of recovering.

To christen the new kitchen, a Mediterranean dinner.

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Slow baked tuna in tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Sautéed chickpeas. A nice old red wine.

Now, I need to update my HocoBiz page to thank our electrician for the great work he did to replace our old fluorescent lights.

Change is Hard

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First of all, Happy New Year! I have been fairly busy with the painting around here, and haven’t kept up the blog. At least I remembered to change the copyright notice date to the current year. Hopefully, I can remember to write the correct year on all these checks we keep writing.

As for the past, current and future, I admit, not sorry to see 2016 go away. To us, 2016 brought Medicare, Social Security and lots of other reminders of getting older. Like realization that bad weather is worse when you aren’t a spring chicken anymore. Last year’s blizzard and tornado proved to be problems for us. In minor ways, but still problems.

We learned that we had to change things. Make things more accessible. Eliminate possible accident sources. Update bathroom, kitchen and other interior spaces. All these things are disruptive. Sometimes I think even more so because we are retired and here most days. We didn’t get to run away to the office and come home to the chaos only at night. Or, have the luxury like those on-HGTV people who could stay elsewhere while their houses were under renovation. I understand why people resist doing renovations. It can literally stress you out to the point of wanting to give it up. Yes, the results are nice, but living in complete disarray gets to me.

Every item from my pantry is in bags and boxes on my family room floor. Cooking is difficult.

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Add to it, the sheer shock factor of going to a bright yellow.

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Let’s just say I really like it. My better half? He’s still adjusting to the major color change.

We at least had New Year’s Eve dinner even while working around it all. I have to say that this recipe is a keeper, and it was a simple meal served with an excellent bubbly.

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Emeril Lagasse’s Oyster Stew. Recipe from online. Oysters from the Jessup Seafood Market. A side salad. Champagne savored from beginning of cooking through to a glass just before we gave up and crashed around 11:30. Yep, we couldn’t make it until midnight.

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Here’s to a better brighter 2017! At least my kitchen will be bright and cheery.

A Very Merry

Holiday Season. Beginning and ending, and all those days between. By now, many friends and relatives have done the eating, drinking, giving, and receiving as they celebrate this weekend.

Here, I suppose I can say we are celebrating. All I wanted for Christmas was the decision, and planning, to tackle our biggest painting and updating project. Namely, my kitchen. The heart of our home. The place we spend the most time, and the room that made me want to buy this house a dozen years ago.

cookie central before

cookie central before


cookie central Friday

cookie central Friday

When I said that’s what I wanted for Christmas and my birthday, I didn’t mean it literally, but surprise, that’s how it is turning out. It seems that in order to have my favorite painter and carpenter doing our job, it was best to fit it between some major work that our general contractor has in 2017. And, of course, December and January are slow times in the construction and renovation business.

farewell, pot rack

farewell, pot rack

So, last Thursday it began. Stripping wallpaper borders. Tomorrow, and most of this week, dry wall repair, priming, and the earliest tasks. While waiting for the electrician to give me new (please non-humming) overhead lighting. Sometime later next week, ceiling painting, then final painting of all the walls.

the usual spot for the tree

the usual spot for the tree

This means that I am seriously not thinking straight. To tackle this during the holidays. That’s what I get, I suppose, for saying I don’t want presents anymore. I just want to finish all the laundry list of projects that still need to be done.

Crossing my fingers that the 30 year old stove continues to work, until I get myself ready to tackle that really large item on that list.

Everyone. Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, etc. I may not have decorated much this year, but I did get the poinsettias.

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