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The Tidbit Tuesday Post

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Yes, I promised to post on Tuesdays. About something. Anything. Maybe food. Maybe events. Maybe activities. Maybe the weather. Who knows.

Let’s start with tomatoes. We have tomatoes.

Lovely little cherry tomatoes. Ripening on the windowsill. I still pick them just about when they are ready, to avoid bug damage.

The crazy little ones on the left are called tomatoberry garden. They look like strawberries, with a pointy end.

I did get one Scarlet Red tomato the other day. Other than that, lots of green tomatoes on the main plants. I put in 30 plants this year. I know that is obsessive, but I still try to achieve that blue ribbon for heirlooms at the county fair.

Changing the subject.

Why doesn’t grocery store celery look like this?

Why do they cut away the leaves, which add so much flavor to soup? I will quickly blanch, then rinse and freeze these beauties in order to make chicken stock this winter.

The final tidbit? Cauliflower cake.

An Ottolenghi creation. From his book, Plenty More. One of the highlights of a month long cooking spree using any of his books. The recipe is here.

It’s a show stopping recipe that will impress anyone when you serve it.

The Grain Train

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Great name for a bread. Maybe even an interesting name for a rock band (psst Mickey, this is for you).

I haven’t been writing about the two new sources of bread that my Community Supported Agriculture share has been delivering.

This week we received a very dense lovely loaf of bread.

Green Lion Bakery in Phoenixville PA.

Our share alternates between this source, and one from Sherman Dale PA. They are Talking Breads.

Talking Breads also sells at two DC area markets. Silver Spring and DuPont Circle.

At the moment, Talking Breads is winning our home bread battle, over who provides the best bread for our morning toast, and for sopping up sauce from my dinners.

The winner.

Semolina Loaf, from Talking Breads.

I wish you could get the scent of this bread. I can’t even describe what the sesame seeds do when it comes to adding flavor that is far beyond what a simple wheat bread would contain.

What I love most about the breads we get. The lack of overly refined flours. The minimal, if even used, presence of sugars.

The vegan breads keep longer. No dairy to spoil. They have a rich nutty taste. I mean, who had heard of einkorn, for instance. And, redeemer wheat?

I am so impressed by these young bakers. Stepping up and giving us substantive choices. Every week we are surprised with the choices.

Like this pumpernickel.

Yes, there are coffee grounds in this bread. And, the taste is so complex, you can’t imagine it.

If you live in the DC area and can get to the markets in Silver Spring or DuPont, you must try their breads. If you live up here around me, you could buy a bread share from our CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, and pick up fresh bread every Tuesday. We have members who only do fruit, eggs, bread, herbs, and don’t do vegetables. You can pick what you want.

Bread is one of the highlights every week.

 

 

“Meat” Me in Westminster

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I really miss having a weekly food delivery service, that provides me with locally sourced pasture raised meats. When we lost Friends and Farms, and the reasonably priced option of meats from Wayne Nell in PA, I scrambled while looking for an alternative that gave us something that flavorful, without costing a large amount of money.

Simply put, excellent quality in pasture raised meats isn’t inexpensive.

I discovered Evermore Farm in a roundabout way. I saw their post before Christmas featuring Rheb’s chocolates. They were located not far from one of my favorite year round farm stands, Baugher’s in Westminster. We took a trip out there, met the owner, and became a fan of their products. Their beef, pork and lamb were competively priced, and they were an outstanding product. Love their lamb merguez sausage.

Fast forward to the announcement of their CSA, a four month program, with small, medium and large shares. An option to buy chicken, and eggs. Delivery or farm pick up. I signed up too late for delivery, so we headed out to the farm for our first small share pickup. A good size for two people. 8-9 pounds of meat a month. Roughly $8-9 a pound, with much of what you are getting the more expensive cuts of meat, so it is worth the cost.

Not long after joining this meat CSA, we see that another favorite source, albeit almost as far away from us, Copper Penny Farm, is now offering a meat CSA. Two sizes. Small is 12 pounds and large is 25 pounds a month. A bit more than we would likely use, but a very good value for a family. They also have an egg option.

For us, we did add the poultry and egg option from Evermore.

We could have chosen three dozen a month, but two dozen is perfect for the two of us.

I have already planned my monthly trips. Next month, pick up CSA and hit Baugher’s for vegetable plants for my community garden. June, pick up CSA and head to Old Westminster Winery for my quarterly wine club pick up. July? Head over to Baugher’s orchards to pick peaches. Between the insulated bags, and my various ice packs, we can do this.

 

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.

Too Many Vegetables?

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I am still trying to wrap my head around that statement.

My CSA site host went to a conference last week, to meet with CSA management and talk with the dozens of local site hosts in the DC metropolitan area. Our CSA, Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, has thousands of members in seven states and the District. Using over a hundred local small farmers to offer us vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, eggs, flowers, herbs, bread, “farm”aceuticals. You name it. Mix and match. Customize the size. Everything but home delivery and choose your own, like you would at a market.

They brought back the small share. Four items. Because people thought 7-8 items for $23 a week was too much produce. Really? Are we still putting 8-12 ounces of meat on a plate and saying we only want a couple of ounces of vegetables on that plate? I thought we were getting away from meat-centric meals.

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Obviously, we aren’t. Many of my local farming friends are seeing a decline in membership, and in purchases at markets. Companies like Blue Apron are replacing CSA shares. According to the CSA management, briefing the site hosts, people want recipes. They don’t know what to do with the vegetables they get.

Never mind the fact that our CSA has a huge web site devoted to providing that information. We seem to have created a generation of people who want to be spoon fed. Tell me every week what to do with corn. With cauliflower. With fennel. With leeks. Etcetera. Etcetera.

I know. I am whining here. I just really don’t get it. We have so many choices around here, and yet, people aren’t staying on as members, with many of our local farm CSA options. Membership is declining. Friends and Farms folded. The Glenwood Market isn’t opening this year.

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I hope we have our CSA again this summer. We can’t seem to find 30 people in a town as big as Columbia who want inexpensive very fresh organic food. From people who care about what we eat.

Crossing my fingers and hoping our local sources remain.

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.