Food Friday: Eat Your Vegetables!

FF_Eat Your Vegetables

Roasting and Grilling Farmers’ Market Vegetable Mélanges

Have you felt the weather starting to change? It’s just a little cooler in the evenings. I take Luke out back to toss the ball just before dinner, and we have been stopping to linger for a few minutes – the furnace of summer is cooling down. I sit in the Adirondack chair with a glass of wine and a section of the paper, he lolls in the grass, happily smelling all he surveys. The osprey pair has been doing a lot of fishing, and commentating raucously throughout the day. The geese are beginning to move through. And wasn’t that Harvest Moon a sight to behold?

There are still lots of veggies available at the various farmers’ markets around us. And while I think we have flipped the last burger of summer, there are some flavorful grilled and roasted vegetable meals ahead of us. I like the comic strip Mutts and its advocacy of meatless Mondays (although I slip up sometimes and do a spaghetti carbonara with bacon some weeks…) and any of these flavorful vegetable dishes would qualify. This weekend we’ll grill the veggies, and on Monday I will roast some more in the oven.

For grilling the vegetables outdoors there are some easy peasy rules to follow:

1. Grease them up: vegetables will dry out when they are heated without a little oil. Before grilling, toss them lightly with smackeral of oil.
2. Know your vegetables: some cook in the wink of an eye and others will take longer. Dense vegetables such as potatoes require the longest cooking times. To prevent burning, sear vegetables first over a high heat, then move them to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking. Or parboil them first and just give them a few minutes on the grill to get some color and those yummy grill marks on the outside
3. Use a skewer or a basket: cherry tomatoes are great grilled, but they’re a little unruly. It is best to skewer roly poly tomatoes or tiny little red potatoes, or use a basket: fewer vegetables falling onto the coals, or off the grill into Luke’s eagerly awaiting maw.
4. Yes, size does matter. If you want the vegetables to cook quickly, chop and slice accordingly. Thin rounds of onion, with more surface area, will cook more quickly than fat wedges.
5. Try cooking in foil: if you don’t feel like babysitting your vegetables cook them in foil packets instead. This method works great for the dense vegetables and ears of corn. Unfurl a large piece of aluminum foil, lightly spray the surface with cooking oil and arrange sliced vegetables a single layer, slightly overlapping. Fold up into a nice neat little foil envelope and then place on the grill. Cover the grill and cook until the vegetables are tender (about 12 to 15 minutes, for potatoes). This way you can toss the ball for Luke for a few minutes and he will be forever grateful.

That was outside grilling – now for roasting inside: one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables is roasting. I hate vegetables that have been boiled into oblivion. Roasting at a high heat converts a plain vegetable into a delicious caramelized treat.

You can roast any type of vegetable you want with this basic recipe. Adjust the amount of oil you use accordingly. We’ve roasted asparagus, garlic, squash, broccoli, potatoes, cauliflower, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, corn, carrots, zucchini, you name it.

Roasted Veggie Mélange

1.Preheat oven to 450° F.
2.Toss all the vegetables together in a large bowl with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
3.Divide the vegetables among two cookie sheets – mine have sides, for less spillage. Put fast cooking vegetables together, and group the slow cookers likewise. Few headaches!
4.Roast vegetables for 35-40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

The vegetables cook quickly — some vegetables may take only 15 to 20 minutes — but they still have a chance to brown nicely on the outside by the time they become tender inside. So keep an eye on them. Carmelized onions are one thing, blackened and incinerated are another.

It’s very important that you cut the vegetables in pieces of about the same size. Unevenly sized pieces won’t roast and brown in the same amount of time, and you’ll end up with both over roasted and under roasted vegetables. And if you have any fussy eaters, you won’t be able to persuade them to enjoy the rich roasted flavors of fall.

And here is some more inspiration for you – this week Mark Bittman of the New York Times wrote about some new restaurants in London where he has had some exquisite meals: “If you can get past all the glitter, you will find vegetables treated as respectfully as animals. Planks of sweetly caramelized roasted celeriac are served with walnuts, onions and greens, and though one would hardly argue that these are as killer as the wood-grilled rib-eye (served with chimichurri, which is the new pesto, I guess), they are plenty satisfying. Chargrilled Ibérico pork with collards and roasted garlic is difficult to write about without my mouth watering. A starter of roasted cauliflower in mayonnaise is sadly no longer on the menu. Grilled octopus with eggplant is, however, and I would grab that.” Now I am starving! How about you?

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/10/dining/restaurant-story-chiltern-firehouse-gymkhana-and-barnyard.html?_r=0

“An onion can make people cry but there’s never been a vegetable that can make people laugh.”
Will Rogers

Food Friday: After School Snackums

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Is everyone getting into the swing of back-to-school? Are you the very model of efficiency and good nutrition, whipping up tasty lunches with oodles of hidden kale? Are you using your leftovers wisely? Did you get cute little Bento lunch boxes for everyone? More importantly, are you an after school superhero?

Yes, you should prep and cube up some watermelon (which is really sweet and delish right now), and have it in the fridge next to the yogurt and the carrot sticks and hummus dip. But if you really want to make an impression on those malleable little minds, every once in a while throw caution to the autumn winds, and bake some homemade Ding Dongs.

We called them Ring Dings in Connecticut, where I grew up, but apparently the rest of the world knows them as Ding Dongs. I don’t know which is sillier…

I grew up in a house where, embarrassingly, my mother insisted on giving out tiny little boxes of raisins at Halloween. I had no street cred in a kid world where full size candy bars, distributed with the UNICEF pennies, were the norm. After a couple of years of raisin dispersal, our house was given wide berth at Halloween. There were probably invisible plague markings over our front door: Avoid this house, there be raisins here, and not the chocolate covered ones, either! (We also received new toothbrushes in our Easter baskets. The Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy were in cahoots with my mother.)

Luckily, my brother and I grew up without too many other psychic scars. We went on to college, jobs and marriage. While in college I discovered that one of my friends had the best sort of mother – one who appreciated the value of a good treat. Whenever we descended on her house, whatever the season or time of night, we could be assured of finding a pristine, still-wrapped-in-cellophane box of Ring Dings in their refrigerator, and being good and thoughtful house guests, we would devour them all with tall, cold glasses of whole milk. Remember whole milk? The Ring Dings had developed a crisp chocolate carapace from being chilled in the refrigerator, which yielded to the soft cake interior, and the creamy goodness at the center. (Twinkies, we later discovered, also benefitted from being refrigerated…)

You can tell that this eating experience made a lasting impression upon me. I vowed with all the fervor of Scarlett O’Hara that I would take a page from this family’s book, and in the future I would make Ring Dings freely available whenever we had were young house guests. And sometimes even for an ordinary after school snack. Yumsters!

But this is even better: baking your own. Forget the falafel. Overlook the granola. Dismiss the dried apricots. Consider the sweet chocolate coating, the crumbly cake, and the delicious cream filling, which will be oh so tasty when you make it yourself. Sweet memories are made of this.

http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/desserts/deliciously-dandy-ding-dongs/

And here is a vegan approach, though you might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb: http://thetolerantvegan.com/2011/04/homemade-ding-dongs/

You will of course be doing your baking with this oven – not my middle-of-the-line Kenmore electric range: “THE “ULTIMATE” // La Cornue Château Series: These ranges would be equally at home at Downton Abbey and the world’s greatest restaurants. Grand Palais 180 in stainless steel with polished copper trim, $54,700, Purcell Murray, 800-457-1356”. As seen in Wall Street Journal.

http://online.wsj.com/articles/culinary-cult-objects-worth-the-price-1409268010?KEYWORDS=best+ovens&cb=logged0.12614128203131258

(Here is a very handy dandy column from the New York Times in case you can’t be as devil-may-care about lunches as some of us are: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/29/dining/no-pbj-allowed-put-dips-into-lunchboxes.html?ref=dining&_r=0 )

“Your hand and your mouth agreed many years ago that, as far as chocolate is concerned, there is no need to involve your brain.”
― Dave Barry

Food Friday: End-of-the-Summer Grilling

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It’s the end of summer, and sadly, we are not jetting to the Hamptons or the Vineyard, (though no one else is either because of the President!) but are having a little three day stay-cation at home. It is still plenty hot, so we will not be waxing nostalgic about the summer weather, but we will be standing around the grill, wearing white, twirling kebabs, and hoping that the high temps cool down sometime soon.

I just love this quotation from Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal: “Protein prices are just so visible to people because they build their meals around it,” says Stacie Rabinowitz, a senior analyst with research firm Consumer Edge Research. “All incomes feel it.”

http://online.wsj.com/articles/high-food-prices-lead-to-trade-offs-even-in-upper-income-households-1409094494?tesla=y&mg=reno64-wsj

Prices are soaring, so we need to analyze the best way to deliver protein to our families. Yikes. Beef prices are up, but so is everything else. We were planning on grilling chicken this weekend, eating economically and eating “more better”, to quote Dan Pashman from The Sporkful podcast.

We didn’t feel as if we were scrimping when we whipped up these kababs last weekend: skewered chicken, Vidalia onions and red, green and yellow peppers, served with grilled ears of corn, a nice green salad and the usual accompaniment of cheap white wine. Beer was available for the non-bon vivants.

Best Beloved’s favorite chicken strategy is to allow the chicken to marinate in one of his concoctions for about an hour. First he chunked the boneless chicken breasts (bought on sale) and let the large cubes steep in a bowl of white Worchestershire sauce, with a handful of capers, some good quality olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. And then he threads the ingredients onto metal skewers. Then he wrapped shucked corn in aluminum foil, with a big pat of butter. He tossed skewers and the ears of corn onto the grill, drank a beer, threw the ball for the dog and then walked inside to sit down to eat. In the interim, I managed to boil up a pot of rice, wash a bowl of salad, lighted some candles and poured the wine. Phew! It is had work being a weekend sous chef!

Now, if you want to get fancy, like our friends at the Wall Street Journal did, then you could add a couple of hundred people, vats of potato salad, fancy drinks, and a band, and then wonder why hamburger prices have gone through the roof. We aimed for a more modest production. We listened to jazz on Pandora, lighted the candles and ate dinner. Enough is as good as a feast, as Laura Ingalls Wilder often wrote.

We also returned to childhood and had a Famous Wafer refrigerator cake. The recipe and the informative photo are right on the side of the box, in case you have forgotten how to whip cream and stack layers of cookies. Food52 gussied it up a little bit, as is their wont, although they did say, “The best summer dessert is also the easiest.” How right they are! https://food52.com/blog/7061-how-to-make-any-icebox-cake-in-5-steps

This “Chicken Under a Brick” recipe from Bon Appétit sounds first rate: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/chicken-under-a-brick

But if you want to stick to skewers, this is far more exotic than ours: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/sambal-chicken-skewers

Martha weighs in with her fancier-than-thou chicken skewers: http://www.marthastewart.com/341224/cajun-kebabs-with-chicken-and-andouille#Grilled%20Chicken%20Recipes|/275423/grilled-chicken-recipes/@center/276943/grilling-recipes|341224

Here is another podcast I enjoy: The Sporkful. (http://www.sporkful.com/) Dan Pashman gets to the root of many a food conundrum: Is a hot dog a sandwich? What is that gizmo in the Guinness can? What is the best weather-themed dessert? So many concerns you had never before reflected upon! It is a highly amusing and informative podcast, which often brings a smile to my face. Give it a try!

Enjoy the end of summer. It’s hard to believe it is really here, though the children are back at school already, and it is still stinking hot out there. But have you noticed the light is changing? Most nights Luke-the-wonder-dog and I walk out to the end of the street to get a good view of the sunset, and last night we dawdled a minute or two sniffing some most fascinating leaves of a bush, so we were too late for that golden moment. The pinks were fading to grays and the cardinals had started singing their nighttime songs. Revel in your long weekend!

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
― John Steinbeck

Food Friday: Let’s Do Lunch!

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It is time to Go Back to School! Hooray!

This is a list to keep on the fridge door – so you don’t lose heart at night when making lunches to send off to school, or to take to the office, or just to get a jump on the week. Start with Column A, move through the alphabet, and embellish at will.

I work from home, consequently I have no excuse to have sad little meals of peanut butter on Saltines. I should have a well-stocked fridge, packed to the gills with tasty amuse bouche and nutritious luncheon ingredients. And here, at the beginning of the school year, so should you.

Get out the tiny little Tupperwear containers, find all the maddeningly elusive lids, and start chopping. Make yourself little Bento boxes of luncheon-y delights for every day. Shake up your routine, and experiment. Try chopped cornichons. Swipe on some chutney. Dust a sandwich with a handful of sprouts. Give up the Pepperidge Farm white bread and try Naan bread. And don’t forget leftovers! The Tall One made some interesting combinations with leftovers from Thanksgiving, theorizing that everything tastes delicious on a crescent roll, especially when daubed judiciously with cranberry sauce…

Here is your list of school supplies:

Column A
Let’s start with bread:
Ciabatta bread
Rye bread
Whole grain breads
Hard rolls
Portuguese rolls
French baguette
Italian bread
Brioche
Flour tortillas
Croissants
Bagels
Challah bread
Crostini
Cornbread
Naan bread
Focaccia bread
Pita bread

If storing overnight, top bread with lettuce first, then the spreads, to keep sandwich from getting soggy.

Column B
Next, the spread:
Mayo
Sriracha sauce
Ketchup
Dijon mustard
Honey mustard
Italian dressing
Russian dressing
Cranberry sauce
Pesto sauce
Hummus
Tapenade
Sour cream
Mango chutney
Butter
Hot sauce
Salsa

Column C
Cheeses:
Swiss cheese
American cheese
Mozzarella
Blue cheese
Cream cheese
Havarti cheese
Ricotta cheese
Cheddar cheese
Provolone cheese
Brie cheese
Cottage cheese
Goat cheese

Column D
The main ingredient:
Meatloaf
Turkey
Chicken
Corned beef
Bacon
Crumbled hard boiled eggs
Scrambled eggs
Corned beef
Salami
Italian sausage
Ham
Roast beef
Egg salad
Tuna salad
Ham salad
Crab salad
Chicken salad
Turkey salad
Lobster salad
Tofu

Column E
The decorative (and tasty) elements:
Tomatoes
Lettuce
Basil
Onion
Avocado
Cucumber
Cilantro
Shredded carrots
Jalapenos
Cole slaw
Sliced apples
Sliced red peppers
Arugula
Sprouts
Radicchio
Watercress
Sliced pears
Apricots
Pickles
Spinach
Artichoke hearts
Grapes
Strawberries
Figs

Column F
Finger foods:
Cherries
Carrots
Strawberries
Green Beans
Broccoli
Celery
Edemame
Granola
Rice cakes
Apples
Bananas
Oranges
Melon balls
Raisins
Broccoli

Nobody will ever complain about lunch again if you can remember to jazz it up a little. My son, who lived for at least an entire year on (requested) white bread, bologna and yellow mustard sandwiches, is now a strapping 6 feet 4 inches tall. Imagine how far into the clouds he would stretch if we had thought to make him fig, goat cheese and carmelized onion sandwiches…

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/13/magazine/how-to-create-an-artful-sandwich.html?ref=dining&_r=0

http://www.laptoplunches.com/bento-menus/

http://www.marthastewart.com/853321/brown-bag-sandwich-recipes/@center/856055/lunch-recipes

http://www.thenibble.com/reviews/main/breadstuffs/sandwich-types.asp

“I always tell my kids to cut a sandwich in half right when you get it, and the first thought you should have is somebody else. You only ever need half a burger.”
― Louis C.K.

Food Friday: Mason Jar Salads

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We all have a friend like this. Mine is quite adorable and enjoyable, witty and smart. She reads good books, enjoys a good beer, she tells great jokes. She has wonderful fashion sense, has smart children and drives a hybrid car. But she does have a smug flaw: for years, she has been very cheerfully efficient about doing household chores. She does not groan or hide herself away in the bedroom with her book (the way I do). She smilingly cleans bathrooms and remembers to vacuum at least twice a week. Her husband is equally loathsome. Imagine the audible nature of their eye rolls when a tumbleweed of dust and dog fur comes flying from behind our sofa. Ghastly!

She also makes meal plans. Imagine that. If you call her on a Sunday afternoon she will be roasting a chicken for dinner that night, and she will proceed to get two more meals out of it during the week. And she’ll pick the little bits of meat off the bones to feed to her ancient, fussy cat. Later she will probably start rolling out meatballs for a huge homemade spaghetti sauce. She might even make her own fresh pasta, but I haven’t asked, for fear that it might be true. And she finds time to exercise.

When her kids were little she made healthy, colorful lunches with tempting comestibles for them to eat with gusto for their school lunches. Mine probably traded the bologna-on-Pepperidge-Farm-white-bread-with-yellow-mustard sandwiches for Twinkies. (Note: The Tall One ASKED for bologna sandwiches – for years!)

My children have grown up and moved on without too many psychic scars, so at least I don’t have that school lunch panic clawing at my being on Sunday afternoons any more, but there is still the week of dinners that really should be planned. Perhaps I will reform one day, but I suppose I am still wandering around waiting for Good Witch Glinda to fly in and grant me a few wishes, and if dinner planning is going to use up one of them, then I am indeed a sorry sad sack.

Imagine my delight when I started reading about a new food trend: Mason jar salads. It was probably hatched up in Park Slope, Brooklyn where some hipster was confronted by a collection of vintage Mason jars and wondered how to monetize them. That’s OK. I am using my own decidedly un-hip jars from grocery store spaghetti sauce, recycled. (That’s our little secret – doctor the sauce up with a couple of cloves of garlic, lots of good olive oil and a handful of basil and you have a last minute meal that is quite palatable. My speciality.)

What I like best about the Mason jar salad approach is that with just a little effort, and not too much because I cannot change my stripes overnight, I can wash some Romaine lettuce, tear some more greens, rips leaves from the basil plant, cube some Mozzarella, wash some tomatoes and whip up an improvised pesto. And it is easy to stick with one theme or to go wild with different veggies and ingredients. In about half an hour I have salads for a week. And then I have no excuses not to have a fresh salad every night or for my own lunch. Yesterday I dragged my starving self out of the studio for some lunch and was reduced to eating peanut butter on Ritz crackers. Not very inspired for someone who writes a food blog…

There are a few things to keep in mind to be sure the salads last for five days. Layer wisely. Put your salad dressing in first, to coat the bottom of the jar. Tear your lettuce and greens because cutting them, besides being aesthetically unpleasing, will cause brown edges. Ick. Don’t cut tomatoes – use small cherry tomatoes or those tiny, jewel-like Marzanos whole. Then things won’t get soggy. If you are bringing your salads to the office, please watch out how much garlic and onion you use. You do not want to alienate anyone. Shake, don’t stir. Enjoy. Repeat.

So take heart, fellow procrastinators. This is not a step that will have you competing in the marketplace with Martha, but it will give you a sense of well-deserved smugness. Look at the facts: you are recycling and re-using Mason-like jars and you will be eating salad five days a week. Additionally, you can grill some chicken or steak or fish or serve with some garlic bread. You have planned ahead. And when Glinda comes a calling you can use your wishes for something important, like new ruby slippers.

Caprese Pasta Salad
2 tablespoons basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 ½ ounce fresh mozzarella, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 ounces cooked penne pasta
½ cup fresh Romaine lettuce
½ cup fresh basil, torn with verve

“To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomat – the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know how much oil to mix in with one’s vinegar.”
–Oscar Wilde

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/06/mason-jar-salads_n_5452313.html

https://www.themuse.com/advice/the-best-new-way-to-bring-your-lunch

http://www.phillymag.com/be-well-philly/2014/02/12/instagramable-lunch-ever-14-healthy-mason-jar-salad-recipes/

Food Friday: Blessedly Cool Gazpacho

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Get out of the kitchen! Walk out onto the front porch with a book and relax. Oh, some unexpected company has come walking by, and you have just invited them to sit with you in the warm shade, to enjoy the breeze, and watch the other neighbors doing their mundane chores. What are you going to serve? Do not panic! You are going to whip up a batch of gazpacho, my dear. Because at this time of the year you have got all the fixings in you fridge and right there on your kitchen windowsill. You do NOT need to go to the grocery store, I promise you. This is not a tricky damn woo Martha recipe, where you need walnut oil freshly pressed by Trappist monks. Even I have all this stuff, and usually I am only good for stale Triscuits, hard bits of Cheddar cheese and cheap white wine. (This summer there is a bottle of vodka stashed in the freezer. Shhh.)

Stick your head in the fridge. What do you see? I see Vidalia onions, half of a cucumber, limes, green peppers, radishes, V-8 juice and Tobasco sauce. There is an assortment of ripening tomatoes, a basil plant, and a poor, sad, wilting parsley plant on the kitchen windowsill. On the back porch the last few tiny heads of lettuce are struggling valiantly in the heat. And bread! The bread collection in the freezer yields a goodish loaf of last week’s ciabatta bread. Perfecto! In the cupboard I find olive oil and a big old can of Marzano tomatoes – in case we need to stretch the recipe once news of this impromptu party goes viral through our active social media accounts. This beauteous gazpacho should be quite Instagramable!

Gazpacho can be very versatile. It can be a soup, a dip or a cocktail. I am opting for the cocktail, because it is Friday, after all. And after last week’s experience in the hot Vulcan-like kitchen, I plan to kick back and find some coolth. (And if no one walks by, Luke, the wonder dog and I will curl up with Gabriel Allon and discover the mastermind of The Heist, my latest Kindle read from Daniel Silva.)

Grab a bag of Doritos (ours might be a little stale, sorry) and pour some in a bowl and drop it on the table next to the porch swing. Excuse yourself for a few minutes. Luke is good for entertaining people because he always wants to chase the ball. Hours (and hours) of endless amusement for him…

Thaw and soak the bread, peel, chop, slice and dice your vegetables, and then whip them up in the blender, or with your food processor. Chunky – great for dip. Slurpy – good for soup. Smooth – get out the straws and the vodka.

Gazpacho Soup: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/gazpacho-recipe.html

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2010/jun/24/how-to-make-perfect-gazpacho

Gazpacho Dip: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/gazpacho-dip-10000001733020/Gazpacho

Gazpacho Bloody Marys: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Gazpacho-Bloody-Marys-236770

Gazpacho without a Recipe:
https://food52.com/blog/10925-how-to-make-gazpacho-without-a-recipe

“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.”
-Lewis Grizzard

Food Friday: Hot Summer? Hot Biscuits!

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It’s been a hot, stinky summer, and I should be thinking about all the cool and abundant foods that can be eaten without cooking – tomatoes, watermelon, peaches, strawberries, blackberries, any berries, radishes, celery, cucumbers… Instead I am beginning to think about baking some biscuits, and really ratcheting up the heat index the kitchen for the morning. There is nothing is better than a warm home baked biscuit, schmeared with sweet butter. Unless it is a scone, lathered with cream and jam. Or whipped cream and some of those berries. Mmmm.

And why I was suddenly compelled to bake biscuits you might wonder? I did an illo recently for my podcast friends at The Dinner Party Download – which is such a great podcast and you really should listen to it: http://www.dinnerpartydownload.org/ Rico Galliano and Brendan Francis Newnam engage in much banter, hilarity, booze, music, storytelling and generate a lot of pleasurable listening for me when I am walking the dog, or folding napkins. They weren’t able to use my design after all, but being good sports and gentlemen, they thanked me with the gift of a fabulous cookbook, which spurred me on to ridiculous temperatures. Rico and Brendan sent me the Tupelo Honey: New Southern Flavors From the Blue Ridge Mountains cookbook, which is packed to the rafters with photos and ideas and recipes for Southern cooking for the twenty-first century. The Tupelo Honey Café has cafes in Asheville, Greenville, Chattanooga, Charlotte and Johnson City. My bucket list just got longer.

The Dinner Party Download starts each episode with an icebreaker joke, and then some small talk, which leads to cocktail chatter. Appropriately the Tupelo Honey Café cookbook starts with “Moonshine, ‘Thunder Road’ and Mountain Elixirs”. Not that I will be hitting the moonshine before breakfast, but it’s good to know that these cookbook editors have their priorities straight, with their tongues firmly planted in their cheeks.

I moseyed past “Ode to Muddy Pond” and “Tupelo Honey-Molasses Eggnog”, made note of “Summertime Tomato Salad” which looked easy peasy and blessedly cool: cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, a red onion and some vinaigrette. I thumbed past the “Cheese, Cheese, Cheese Mac and Cheese, Please” and the “Smoked Hog Jowl – Creamed with Lima Beans with Tarragon” to reach the “Tupelo Honey Buttermilk Biscuits”.

Tupelo Honey Buttermilk Biscuits
• 2 cups White Lily Self-Rising Flour
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ⅓ cup chilled shortening, cut into pieces
• ½ cup heavy cream
• 1 cup buttermilk
• Melted butter
Preheat oven to 425˚ and position oven rack slightly below center of oven. Lightly butter a round cake pan or cast-iron skillet. In a large mixing bowl, whisk flour, sugar, and salt. Snap pieces of shortening with your fingers until they’re no larger than peas. Make a well in the mixture and pour in cream and ⅔ cup of buttermilk. Using your hands, sweep in the flour and turn dough until dry ingredients are moistened and dough resembles cottage cheese, adding just enough of remaining ⅓ cup buttermilk to reach this consistency. Sprinkle rolling surface with flour. Turn dough out onto the surface and sprinkle top with flour. With floured hands, fold dough in half and pat it into a ⅓- to ½-inch-thick round, using additional flour as needed. Flour again if necessary and fold dough in half a second time. If dough is still clumpy, repeat folding process for a third time. Pat dough into a 1-inch-thick round. Dip a 2-inch biscuit cutter into the flour and cut out biscuits, ensuring you don’t twist the cutter. Place biscuits in pan, sides slightly touching. Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter and bake for 15-20 minutes, until light golden brown, rotating pan 180 degrees after 6 minutes. Remove from oven and brush biscuits again with melted butter. Yields 10 biscuits.
https://tupelohoneycafe.com/recipes

No more Bisquick for us!

If you would like to continue enjoying Southern recipes, here’s one from Southern Living for scones – which are just gussied up biscuits. But they are more acceptable for afternoons, particularly if you trowel on the clotted (or whipped) cream.: http://www.southernliving.com/food/entertaining/easy-scone-recipes

One blog I like to follow, indeed it is my fantasy life, is The Little Observationist. http://www.littleobservationist.com/ Steph is an ex-pat American living in London, who blogs (and photographs very nicely) about food and drink and London sights, smells and tastes. Recently she baked scones for the first time, which I found rather shocking as she has lived there for quite a while. But I suppose if I could have tea and cakes with regularity from the Paul Patisserie or The Drawing Rooms at the Ampersand Hotel, I wouldn’t be baking at home either: http://joythebaker.com/2014/04/tiny-strawberry-cream-scones/

Two more sites with lots of good ideas – Garden & Gun Magazine and Food52:

http://gardenandgun.com/article/comfort-southern-food

https://food52.com/blog/10906-how-to-handle-dough-in-a-hot-kitchen

“Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.”
-Carl Sandburg

Food Friday: Summer Tomatoes are Upon Us!

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Cake is the perfect food. Really. You can eat cake for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You might get a wee bit roly-poly, but nonetheless, a nice slice of pound cake can be eaten at any time of the day or night. You can toast it for breakfast, eat with your fingers while reading the newspaper at lunch, and serve it with an amusing wine and perhaps a salad for supper. It is the Spackle of the kitchen – it covers up for your shopping and food preparation flaws.

Tomatoes are the perfect fruit. Once again, you can have them for any meal. The British fry up breakfast, long touted as the best thing about British cuisine, always includes eggs, cold toast, fried bread, sausages, bacon, grilled mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. At lunch the tomato is the vital ingredient for BLTs, which as we all know, are the pinnacle of all lunch experiences. And for dinner, the tomato is the most versatile item on your windowsill.

So far, this week for dinner, we have had gem-like tomatoes grilled in a pan with a little oil and garlic, and then tossed them into a mixed green salad, with bacon, some extra basil, homemade croutons and chunks of fresh mozzarella. Tuesday night we boiled up a pot of fresh (though, admittedly, store-bought) pasta and sautéed some tomatoes, broccoli, asparagus tips, garlic and shrimp, and threw everything into a couple of bowls. We also had garlic bread, in case there wasn’t enough garlic in the sauté… We also had some delightfully cheap Chardonnay.

Wednesday night we had big beefsteak tomatoes, sliced with more fresh mozzarella, garnished with lots of basil from the container garden, oil and balsamic vinegar. And more garlic bread. Oh, and some wine.

Thursday night we grilled a couple of small steaks, sliced the heirloom Ugly tomato generously and drizzled them with brown butter, and also had some mixed greens. And wine.

https://food52.com/recipes/18779-brown-butter-tomatoes

Friday night is Pizza Night, and we will be making some Big Love Pizza; cooking small pizzas on the grill, adding handfuls of squeezed and drained Marzano tomatoes, grated mozzarella, sliced of pepperoni and at the very last minute a handful of fresh basil. Dare I add some wine?

Perhaps we are in a tomato/basil/mozzarella rut? What a delirious place to be! Perfect for the summer, when the humidity makes us limp, and the afternoon thunderstorms induce longing for coma-like naps.

Grilled Tomato Salad – for two

12 or so small tomatoes that you picked from the back yard, or bought at the Farmers’ Market
4 slices of bacon
2 slices thick, day old bread, cubed
1 ball of fresh Mozzarella cheese, cubed
1 garlic clove, peeled, please
1 salad bowl filled with mixed salad greens and some basil leaves
snatched from the garden

Fry bacon. Drain on paper towels. Crumble.

Cut the bread into cubes, and fry in the hot bacon fat until golden brown. (Pescatarians – use oil, you poor suffering souls) I sprinkle the croutons with garlic powder, Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and a little dried oregano while draining on paper towels.

Add a little oil to the still hot pan, and carefully deposit the tomatoes and the garlic, roll everything around with a couple of wooden spoons, until the tomatoes start to blacken and blister and the garlic becomes overwhelmingly and seductively fragrant.

Fill your salad plates with the greens, top with tomatoes, mozzarella and crumbled bacon. Bliss!

How about a slice of pound cake for dessert?

Here is a link to my blog and the original recipe for Big Love Pizzas: http://jeandsanders.blogspot.com/2011/06/june-4-2010-its-food-friday-big-love.html

“A thin grey fog hung over the city, and the streets were very cold; for summer was in England.”
― Rudyard Kipling

“Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”
― Miles Kington

Food Friday: Fresh Picked Daily

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Our Pacific Northwest family vacation broke us out of our hamster wheel routine here at home, and plunged us into all sorts of new experiences, food and eating being tantamount among them. We trolled new grocery stores, strolled farmers’ markets and stalked the miles of corridors and underground passages in Seattle’s Pike Place Market in our quest for the Next Meal.

There was something new to be seen around every corner. Imagine – carrots that come in colors other than orange! We saw artful displays of asparagus that ranged in size from pencil thin to baobab-tree-trunk-thick. Pink radishes gleamed. Red raspberries twinkled. Blueberries were silvered and glistening. One rather imagined romantic interludes, sitting by the water, watching the sunset, tossing back Prosecco and nibbling on the day’s gathered goodies. It was our vacation, after all.

We spent a week on San Juan Island, in a house in Friday Harbor. There were all of the usual family squabbles but there was also lots of easy laughter. We were using a strange kitchen, searching the cabinets for salt and pepper and colanders, while preparing lovely fresh produce and washing buckets o’berries. We had the leisure to pause and carefully compose Instagrams of our meals. We also huddled silently together a couple of times to watch a delicate deer tippy toe her way up the verdant lawn, pausing to nibble along her leisurely way. We are such tourists. Never mind that the owners of the house would probably have been out on the porch raising the dead and pounding on pots with wooden spoons to spook the deer (and undoubtedly, her Lyme disease ticks) off the property. We were content to absorb the quiet and enjoy the novelty of wildlife .

One day we went on a hike that had us circling around through some fields down to the water, through fresh smelling, waving grasses. We kept sniffing an aroma that somehow reminded us of Thanksgiving while we trotted. We puzzled about this as we walked along and tried to identify songbirds, observing crop circles (seemingly) and we photographed a fox, unselfconsciously posing on a little mound. It wasn’t until we attended the San Juan Island Green Market the next day, with all of its thoughtfully labeled goods and wares, that we learned we had been striding through sage, which would explain our Thanksgiving fixation.

One plant booth at the market had clearly tagged plants, which informed this ignorant traveller some of what what we had been viewing: sage, wild ginger, Siberian iris, Alaskan yellow cedar, Asiatic lily and blue fountain iris.

Also carefully labeled, which I didn’t grasp at first, at a bakery booth, was a big fat “GF Brownie”. Luckily, the Pouting Pescatarian rescued me, and steered me to the other end of the baked goods table, and supervised my purchase of a good, old-fashioned, riddled with sugar, eggs, chocolate and gluten: a real, honest-to-goodness brownie. That could have been a good morning walk spoiled! Instead, it was a pleasant, warm and gooey event.

In addition to the brownie, we also bought a fresh, warm baguette from the Café Demeter Bakery, some heirloom tomatoes, fat radishes, plump strawberries, and heads of rich, dark green buttery lettuce, plus a few sausage rolls to keep the Tall One’s calorie count up, at least until lunch. The village was feeding our family, and very nicely, too.

We didn’t have the same sort of shopping experience once we got back to Seattle and its busy market. We were not hunting and gathering for dinner in the big city. We were touring the sights and sounds and smells without needing to do daily food shopping. We snacked quite liberally, though, which could explain why our clothes are a wee bit snug now. We visited museums and galleries and the aquarium, but kept returning to the market in Pike Place, which had the tantalizing allure of foreign movies, with bright colors and exotic people. It was truly an amazing spectacle.

Now we are home, and I say, “Get thee to a farm stand, a U-PICK-IT, the local farmers’ market and take a big bite out of summer!”

You can never go wrong with a nice sun-warm tomato, eaten like Harriet M. Welsch, sliced up into a good juicy sandwich with a little mayonnaise, but here are a few summer tomato recipes from our friends at Food52 and Bon Appétit. You’ll even get ideas for using up that leftover corn!

https://food52.com/blog/7782-9-summer-tomato-recipes

http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/grilled-flatiron-steak-with-toasted-spice-vinaigrette

“The next morning Mrs. Welsch asked, ‘Wouldn’t you like to try a ham sandwich, or egg salad, or peanut butter?’ Her mother looked quizzically at Harriet while the cook stood next to the table looking enraged.
‘Tomato,’ said Harriet, not even bothering to look up from the book she was reading.”

~from Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Food Friday: Endless Possibilities!

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An embarrassment of riches barely describes what an extravagantly glorious place the Pike Place Market is! We crawled all over this 9-acre historic district for several days on our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, and I feel like we could have spent another few of days of exploration there. It is huge, sprawling, varied, multi-cultural, multi-leveled, colorful, loud and bustling with myriad folks of every variety. People watching here was a unique pleasure. Sometimes we forgot to keep up our end of the conversation as we gawped with abandon. We stared a lot. More importantly, we ate a lot, and often.

On our first morning in Seattle, jet-lagged and creaky, we stumbled over to the Market and posed for the obligatory tourist selfies in front of the large red neon sign “PUBLIC MARKET CENTER” that towers over the brick street. As it was quite early we did not annoy too many of Seattle’s patient drivers when we were striking poses in the middle of the Pike Street and First Avenue intersection. Later in the day it might have been a different story, although we never saw a single traffic casualty for all the frenetic driving.

For the record – I could never drive in Seattle – at least not in a car with a standard transmission. The roads are San Francisco hilly, and I shudder to imagine stopping at a red light, at night, the road slick with wet, fallen leaves. The mind boggles and the spirit shrinks. Cars must yield to pedestrians in Seattle, and jaywalking is frowned upon. Seattle is not like New York City where gonzo pedestrians dive into the rivers of traffic with center-of-the-universe impunity. In Seattle, as long as you are within the safety zone of the cross walk, you are well and truly blessed. And then you can explain to me how Seattle drivers can back into diagonal parking spaces, on inclines!

After indulging our tourist egos we had that enormous breakfast I nattered on about a few weeks ago at the Athenian, with its broad swathe view of Elliott Bay. It is only one of dozens, DOZENS I say, of restaurants at Pike Place Market. There are sit down fancy places, sit down casual spots, and you can sit down on Tom Hank’s stool at the Athenian. There are market stalls with take away food. There are strolling musicians of varying degrees of professionalism and skill. There are cafés and stands and storefront bakeries. There is a Starbucks whenever you hear the siren song. I am amazed that we were even able to roll onto our plane for the return flight.

There are Korean, French, Persian, Italian, Japanese, Thai, Kastoori, Irish, Mediterranean, Turkish, German and Chinese as well as standard American foods represented here. In no particular order, we visited many of the eateries:

I had an excellent buttery salty shortbread cookie at Le Panier. Le cookie était délicieux! http://www.lepanier.com/

We watched cheese being made at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. It explained once and for all the notion of “curds and whey”. Amazing! www.beecherscheese.com

We toured the Pike Brewery, had burgers and Dungeness crabs and revisited the Naughty Nelly. http://www.pikebrewing.com/
At the Shy Giant we had some locally made Snoqualmie gourmet ice cream. Not everyone can boast about that!

One of our best meals in Seattle was at the Virginia Inn: www.virginiainnseattle.com
I had an excellent bar burger. Good beer. Great wait staff. And a fab neon sign. Neon is something they do very well in Seattle. They are all very proud of the glassworks done by the artist Dale Chihuly and his workshop, but you’ve got to appreciate the abundance of great neon designs, which are cheerful beacons in the dark – when the sun finally goes down on these long summer evenings.

We queued up for Pike Place Chowder: http://www.pikeplacechowder.com/ A busker played his violin while we ate, with the sweetest saddest baroque piece I have ever heard, while we were watching the crowds swell and the line lengthen.
One memorable breakfast, later in our trip, was at Caffe Lieto, where we experienced the Biscuit Bitch. I stuck to my usual timid sausage biscuit, the Pescatarian had something healthy with veggies and eggs, but the Tall One out-ate us, as usual with his order for a Smokin’ Hot Bitch – biscuit and gravy smothered in cheese and topped with a grilled Louisiana Hot Link & jalapenos. You have to go there. The competition for an outdoor table with dueling mommies with double strollers was highly amusing. I guess the locals eat there, too! http://biscuitbitch.com/

We only had one grumpy indifferent meal in the Pike Place Market, when we were all surly, and feeling end-of-the-vacation-y with each other. It was not a reflection on the restaurant. But a few hot French fries and a Diet Coke later, I was my sweet middle-aged self again. You are never more than a step away from palliative food therapy here.

There is much to explore at Pike Place Market, and the prepared foods are just the beginning. I haven’t even mentioned the incredible displays of flowers, fruits, vegetables, Dungeness crabs and the amazing flying fish! Next week…

http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/

Here is a biscuit recipe from Food52 in case you want to make a nice big fat Seattle breakfast this weekend: https://food52.com/blog/7641-rosie-s-buttermilk-biscuits

“May I recommend three Maryland beaten biscuits, with water, for your breakfast? They are hard as a haul-seiner’s conscience and dry as a dredger’s tongue, and they sit for hours in your morning stomach like ballast on a tender ship’s keel. They cost little, are easily and crumblessly carried in your pockets, and if forgotten and gone stale, are neither harder nor less palatable than when fresh. What’s more, eaten first thing in the morning and followed by a cigar, they put a crabberman’s thirst on you, such that all the water in a deep neap tide can’t quench — and none, I think, denies the charms of water on the bowels of morning? ”
― John Barth, The Floating Opera