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Dog Days

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You learn something new every day. I never knew what dog days of summer meant. I thought it had something to do with dogs. Not astronomy.

We are officially in the dog days, since the Dog Star Sirius has done its annual rising in alignment with the Sun. The ancient Greeks thought that the hottest time of year was caused by the Sun and the brightest star (Sirius) focusing their heat on the Earth.

Well, we are certainly getting our share of hot days. Another warm week ahead. This is the time in summer when I don’t want to cook much. Lots of salads and easy meals.

The tomatoes are starting to ripen, which means I will be heating up the kitchen making sauces and roasting cherry tomatoes to put away for the winter.

I made a trip To Sprouts Market yesterday to pick up simple items to continue this pattern in meal prep. Lots of cheeses, olive mix, some prosciutto and nuts/seeds.

Some of my latest successes.

An updated fennel and orange salad, with the addition of blueberries and almonds, and on a bed of leaf lettuce.

A Greek salad using a massive heirloom pineapple tomato, from my CSA. My large tomatoes are just beginning to ripen.

Tonight though, I put together one of my absolute favorites. Peach, tomato and burrata salad.

Tomatoes and basil from my garden. CSA peaches. Burrata bought at Sprouts. Olive oil from The Breadery in Oella.

This is a restaurant quality salad. At a fraction of the cost. Worth splurging on the burrata.

I also made a simple gazpacho today which is resting in the fridge. It will be dinner tomorrow, with a side dish of prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe. Some crusty bread. A local rosé wine.

I can handle the dog days.

Springing Forward

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Let it be known, I hate DST. Always have. I call it Daylight Stupid Time.

It is just stupid to mess with the science. Should we replace “High Noon” with “High 1 PM”? The time zones pretty much align with the transit of the sun. Yes, the edges are off a bit. But, equal daylight on either side of noon is what a time zone delivers.

Plus, I hate that complete disruption of sleep that springing forward creates. If our teenagers are already sleep deprived with early school start times, why are we messing with them by making them get up in the middle of the night to go to school?

Thankfully now we are retired. We get up with the sun and ignore alarms.

Next week we pass the equinox, and enter the months of 12+ hours of daylight, whatever the clock says. We enjoyed the great weather this weekend and finally got out to celebrate the slow return to normal after vaccination.

Local, as usual. Our forays into The Common Kitchen Friday. And, Black Ankle Winery Saturday.

We did take out Friday at Anh-mazing Banh Mi.

They have a new Banh Mi. Cajun Seafood.

Banh Mi reminds me of Po’ Boys, but with serious additions. We also got a noodle bowl.

The Common Kitchen has so many options for good food. Our favorites are Namaste Indian and The Koshary, Middle Eastern. Now, we can add Banh Mi to that list.

Then, Saturday we had errands to run up towards Frederick. On the way home we decided, time to eat out for our first time in a year. Enter Black Ankle Winery.

We have been going there since they opened almost 15 years ago. Right now, over 80 tables socially distanced, where you can sit out and enjoy wine, food and sometimes music because Ed and Sarah have one incredible location catering to those of us who appreciate small businesses full of local choices.

We loved the hour spent there having lunch with a very good bottle of Albariño.

Best al fresco dining view in the area.

I am so glad we can get out and support local businesses. Making our way through the transition and springing forward.

All Hail Kale

What is it about kale? You either love it or hate it. It isn’t a lukewarm response vegetable. Lately we have been getting some sort of kale every week in our farm share. Russian. Lacinato. Red. Green. You name it. We get it.

I never heard of it until 2011 when we first saw it in a CSA box.

Now, we don’t even blink when something new like kalettes show up.

Growing up the only greens we ever saw were lettuces, cabbages and spinach. Don’t think I ever saw collards or chard. I have to admit too that getting kale on a regular basis was a challenge for me. I tried salads. Only like ones with lacinato (or dinosaur) which is the mildest for me. I wasn’t fond of massaging the greens to make them tender and those curly varieties had some real bite to them.

Fast forward to my discovery of Joshua McFadden’s book Six Seasons. Which I cook from quite often.

The kale and mushroom lasagna in this book is just amazing. It’s a staple at our house.

I mean who misses the meat in a recipe with something this satisfying. I have made this dish following the recipe in the book and I have gone off and totally improvised. As long as two things are constant. The kale. Simply sautéed in a pan with a little water to help steam it. Wilted down to limpness, losing all that bite. And the mushrooms. Sautéed in butter until absolutely lovely.

I have used the recipe’s sauce, made with butter, flour, milk and chicken stock. I have also cheated and used Paciific’s organic cream of mushroom mixed with milk and a tablespoon of flour. The other element of this dish is the ricotta/lemon zest mix. I have also played around here and used whatever I have available. Sometimes adding goat cheese or mozzarella. Face it, I just use what I have to make the four layers. Mushrooms, kale, cheese and sauce. Layered with the noodles. This pan below made six meals for us. I cut it in pieces and freeze them to be reheated in the oven for a quick meal.

Looks awesome doesn’t it?

Honestly, I bet you could easily convert someone to being a kale lover with this dish. Use really good mushrooms and fresh ricotta and it is decadent.

Thanks to Six Seasons I have many recipes that celebrate kale, without having to resort to smoothies.

 

Omnivore It

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It’s been a while since I highlighted my farm share contents. Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative is the source of most of my produce year round. 48 out of 52 weeks we get some sort of vegetable share and a few add ons.

This winter I added an option that included one cheese, one pantry item and one package of meat every week. It is called the omnivore package. For those inclined, they also offered us a veganize option, which was bread, tofu and pantry item.

This was a recent weekly selection and I want to feature it because I am so impressed with the Soom product. Locally owned in Philly. Sisters. Our co-op contracts with them. Besides their regular tahini, this week we got the chocolate version. Which is destined for a cookie recipe I found.

Other local products have shown up as pantry items. Like this garlic pickle relish.

I have been using this everywhere. In egg salad. Making a shrimp scampi last night. Mixed with some chili sauce to cover polenta which I then baked in the oven. The Sweet Farm is located in Frederick MD.

But the biggest surprise had to be the whole turkey legs last week. I kept thinking when I saw the email announcing the three items for the week that they can’t mean multiple legs. I thought “whole” turkey legs, really? Not drumsticks?

Nope, they were whole turkey legs.

Two of them. Total of 6.85 pounds. These were broad breasted black turkeys. A hybrid breed that can reach 40 pounds in weight.

When I buy a fresh turkey from Maple Lawn Farms, I get a 12-14 pound bird. These legs were humongous. I kept them in the freezer because it looks like I will be grilling them. Together they would overflow my large roasting pan. I also think I may have to figure out how to separate them while frozen and only make one at a time. They are much too large to make soup.

Thankfully, we both favor dark meat in turkeys. But even one of these legs will feed us for days. At about 4-6 ounces a serving and discarding the bones, there are easily 6 servings here. Any and all suggestions for what to make with these behemoths are welcome.

All in all, I believe we are getting our money’s worth from the omnivore add on. We paid $26 a week for this share. The combined value of the products we received definitely exceeded the amount paid. We have gotten lamb, bison, turkey, chicken, pork and beef during the winter. We have gotten honey, tahini, sauerkraut, maple syrup, chocolate tahini, herbal teas, jam, dried mushrooms, AP flour, scone mix, pasta and that awesome garlic pickle relish. We get goat, sheep and cow milk cheeses – my favorites are the aged goat cheeses.

I am about to begin my 9th summer season with the co-op. Still happy with the quality and the quantity. They also still amaze me with the occasional completely new produce item, even after all these years.

Now, I just have to conquer those turkey legs.

 

 

“Ramp” ing It Up

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It’s that spring ritual for me. If it isn’t asparagus, it’s ramps. If it isn’t ramps, it’s morel mushrooms. And, when they are done, it becomes garlic scapes. Etc. Etc.

I post every year about those fleeting specialties that grace our table in all their glory.

Ramps, last year, for example. That post also mentions the fresh morels from Jenny’s Market. Yesterday when I saw the signs on route 32 for the market, they highlighted the seasonal goodies like the mushrooms.

I have also written many posts on asparagus, and on garlic scapes, but today I want to show another simple preparation with the ramps that were still available at the Silver Spring farmer’s market.

Ramp pesto.

I found a recipe in Laurie Lundy’s amazing book on Appalachia. The book is called Victuals, pronounced viddles, according to the introduction. I also grew up hearing it pronounced at vittles. No matter, it is a very complete collection of recipes and their history in the Appalachian communities.

I ended up using her guidelines for ratios, but using what I had in the pantry.

4-5 ounces of ramp leaves. Three large bulbs. I blanched the leaves. Wrung them out after their ice water bath. Put them and the bulbs in the food processor with about 1/2 cup of pistachios. Added 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese. Poured in the olive oil while watching it emulsify. A little salt and pepper to taste. I used this pesto on pasta, and on flatbreads. Added it to an omelet with sautéed potatoes. Put a little on a freshly baked potato. I made it twice already in the past two weeks.

Ramp season is fleeting. They are wild, and not agreeable to cultivating.

An interesting fact I recently heard on the newest Parts Unknown. The West Virginia episode that premiered last week. The farmers in West Virginia are paid $2 a pound for ramps that are taken to New York City where they fetch up to $32 a pound. Talk about a markup!

We pay about $4 a bunch to the West Virginia farmers who frequent the Silver Spring market. Those bunches weigh about 5-6 ounces so they are getting around $12 a pound by selling direct to customers here. A big difference in price.

If you get the opportunity to buy from the local communities, they do far better than selling through distributors.

Now, I just need to head up to Jenny’s and get some locally sourced morels.

 

Summer in the Winter

The weather here has been crazy. Short sleeve weather. Open the windows and eat outside.

Tuesday, we just decided we needed a road trip to our favorite flea market, farmer’s market and lunch stop. Manheim PA. The Roots market and auction.

It’s a throwback to the large markets once common across the country. Not that far off from some of the best markets we found on our trip to the Mediterranean.  Lots of local stuff. Some not so local stuff. Many vendors selling goods. Used items.

Everything and anything. Even a live poultry auction in one of the buildings.

Flea markets are fun. I found a treasure trove of Time Life cookbooks of the world here a few years back. This year, wandering around we did find a book seller that had many of the westerns that my mom loves. In large books, without faded print.

We had lunch. Did a bit of shopping. I picked up some of my favorite celery. Some herbs. A couple avocados to go with the Tuscan kale in my CSA share.

A lazy day in almost perfect weather.

This celery was the real reason for the trip. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Head up to the area just west of Lancaster, on any Tuesday. Find Hodecker’s. Their celery is so sweet, and so different from that in the stores. The family sells their home grown product part of the year, and the rest of the year imports the same variety from California. It’s different. It’s awesome, and a treat for those of us who enjoy the best produce we can find.

We must be crazy. Driving for two hours just to buy celery. And have PA sausage subs. And home made cookies for dessert. Maybe pick up a shoo fly pie.

 

Just Another Tidbit Tuesday

Amazing. Two days. Two posts. I haven’t done this in ages.

Because. BREAD!

That’s right. I haven’t slacked off on making the famous NoKnead Bread and I have been modifying it left and right. Rosemary bread. Olive bread. Parmesan garlic bread. And, the latest here. Cinnamon raisin bread.

Have to use all this flour and grain I am getting in my winter CSA share.

This week, though, we just got spelt flour, which I will need to research to see how it does in a NoKnead recipe.

As for that cinnamon bread. This recipe is so easy and so forgiving. I messed up and was pouring the 360 grams of cool water into the flour and boom, the scale went from 430 to 830 before I could stop it. No problem. Eyeball it and add a couple of spoons of flour. It still worked perfectly. I use the ratio of 400 grams of flour to 360 grams of water. 1/4 teaspoon of active yeast. Teaspoon of salt.

All into the bowl on the scale. Before adding the water, I add the seasonings. Yesterday it was 20 grams of raisins and a few shakes of cinnamon and a teaspoon of sugar. Made the bread without that overly sweet taste that commercial raisin bread has.

This recipe calls for the bread to sit for a minimum of 12 hours before pouring out and shaping. Second rise of 2 hours. Baked in a 475 degree oven in the covered pot that spent 30 minutes heating before dumping the bread into it. 30 minutes baking with cover on. 15 minutes uncovered. Take out and let cool one hour on a rack. Enjoy.

What else interesting around here? Uniquely shaped sweet potatoes in the CSA box.

This one will be interesting to peel and cook.

The rest of this week’s veggies.

I am officially tired of potatoes and carrots. The Hakurei turnips on the other hand. They are destined to become a side dish for tomorrow’s Valentine’s dinner.

We never go out on Valentine’s Day. I make a nice filet mignon. I am steaming shrimp. Small bottle of bubbly for the appetizer and with dessert. Glass of good red wine with the steak. I got a tiny box of chocolates at Roots today. Dinner and the Olympics.

Some other ideas of good things for Valentines Day. Head to Clarksville Commons for ice cream from Scoop and Paddle. Indulge at the newly opened Victoria and Albert Hair Salon there. Kupcakes and Co. for a special dessert.

Tomorrow morning. I will be opening a new jar of Neat Nick Preserves to go with fresh cinnamon raisin toast.

Moroccan Meatless Monday

I have to admit that dinner tonight wasn’t intentionally meatless because we just planned to have the leftover soup from a cooking spree.  It also isn’t 100% meatless because it had chicken stock in it. So, it was almost meatless, and it could have been if I had used vegetable stock in the soup when making it.

The latest Cooks Illustrated arrived with a almost vegetarian version of harira, a traditional dried legume and pasta soup with a boatload of spices. Many versions of this soup contain lamb, which would probably elevate it to a whole new level.

These are just the dried spices. It also includes fresh ginger and garlic.

Why is all this so significant to me? Because, the soup was made by my husband who decided he wanted to start making soups this winter and picked a very unique one to begin with.

The soup begins with the onions, celery, garlic, ginger, some cilantro and parsley, the spices, the lentils and the chickpeas simmering away in a 50/50 mix of water and chicken stock. Not all that hard except for all the chopping and grating involved. Later, the container of strained tomatoes and the orzo get added with a slow simmer allowing the flavors to develop. Almost at the end, you add the greens. We didn’t have chard so we substituted collards.

The finished product gets fresh parsley and cilantro on top before serving, and a squeeze of lemon.

I admit. This would really rock with roasted lamb cubes in it. But, all by itself it is a hearty filling soup and I’m glad my husband decided he wanted to try it.

 

Cabin Fever

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So, y’all tired of ice and snow, mostly ice, yet?

I am. Not loving the weather or the way it bothers my “aging” bones. Time to find some interesting things to do while waiting for spring to get here.

This is a two-fer week at the Howard County Conservancy. Thursday night a fascinating slide slow from Ned Tillman. Ned’s hikes and lectures all over the county are always well attended, and this week he is bringing new material about the world under the soil.

Saturday, a winter “hike”, but it will be an indoors Second Saturday program. Frog calls, and bird ID, in the warmth of the Gudelsky center where the wall of windows allows you to search for, and identify birds. Getting prepared to do the backyard bird count the following weekend. Which you could then do from the comfort of your own home.

Even in the snow.

If the weather does cooperate, you could also head out this Saturday to Mardi Gras on Main Street in Old Town Ellicott City. A family friendly Mardi Gras. With a scavenger hunt throughout old town, and the free Boogaloo at the Bin, with live music all afternoon and evening. There will be libations and food for sale. Gumbo, anyone? Maybe a beignet?

I did manage to get out last week and enjoy some of the wintertime activities around here. Even one of my favorite things. Cooking and eating locally. Over at Clarksville Caterers for a Slow Food chapter event with Chef Ryan Wiest.

Focusing on fresh winter vegetables, which the attendees peeled, cut, and roasted to go with short ribs made by the local chapter board members. I enjoy our quarterly events, featuring local foods and local people.

Anything else that would tempt you to brave the wintery winds and cold?

 

Roots

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Four ways.

As in ancestors. Veggies. Stores. And markets.

Trying to tie up some loose ends and get out a post, I realized that the word roots pops up more than once.

In the winter, I tend to dig into my Ancestry tree, and try to follow the links. It’s a cozy way to spend an evening when it is brutally cold out there. It dawned on me that since so many of my ancestors immigrated from Germany (or countries surrounding it, border changes notwithstanding), I can understand my interest in cooking and baking and buying from the Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Hence, the interest in the Roots Country Market and Auction in PA. We haven’t gotten there this winter but I love poking around the market and the outside flea market. It’s where I found a treasure trove of Time Life Cookbooks last year.

As for our local Roots Market, part of Conscious Corner, I headed there last week after picking up my winter CSA (full of root vegetables). They are the closest to us in terms of distance, when it comes to looking for organic goods. I needed greens, since my life does not 100% consist of root vegetables. I wanted spinach, arugula, bibb lettuce, parsley and I needed organic citrus to zest.

All for this.

Raisin Caper Vinaigrette.

From a new cookbook that is my go-to for CSA items. Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden.

Here’s a quick way to make this. You can then dump it all over those winter root vegetables you get from your CSA. Like these.

Last week’s haul from our winter CSA. I roasted the Hakurei turnips and drizzled the vinaigrette all over them.

The vinaigrette. Simple to make. Take 1/3 cup of raisins. Marinate them for half an hour in balsamic. Enough to cover them.

Meanwhile, food process three garlic cloves and a tin of anchovies and three tablespoons of drained capers. Add the raisins. A few squirts of lemon juice and about 1/4 cup of olive oil. At least half a cup (or more) of fresh parsley.

Springtime in a bowl. To cover those root vegetables. Tonight we served it over pierogies. Later this week, over potatoes. You know, all those root vegetables out there.