Sunday, October 18, 2009

A critique of Baltimore eggs

We love eggs. I like mine sunny-side up, steamed lightly, with the cover on and the edges just starting to brown. He likes his "pleated", the yolk broken and stirred once or twice (not scrambled) and quickly flipped over in a hot pan. Both of us like them cooked in a combination of olive oil and butter to give it just the right consistency. Luckily we are blessed this week with the beautiful eggs from Tam's farm in Vermont. Breakfast was delicious.

The problem with Baltimore eggs is they seem to lack je ne sais quoi compared with the farm raised eggs that we've eaten on both the Ranch in Wyoming and Tam's eggs from Vermont. We have tried eggs from three different vendors at the farmer's market in Waverly and they are all sadly lacking. Renee brought us some lovely eggs from a secret farm near Frederick, but those are not easy to get either.

I think the secret must be compost. The local farms are commercial where as, at the ranch and the farm in VT, they don't have a lot of birds thus they can feed them a very diverse diet of kitchen scraps, feed and their free range bugs. I've heard rumors of people in Baltimore starting to raise their own chickens, one is the neighbor of a friend of ours. I just have to wonder, with a yard that is 30x30, how well the birds are getting along with my friend's dog. And do they have a rooster?

At any rate, I think I'm going back to Trader Joe after this as the ones at the market are pretty much comparable for twice the price.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chicken Corn Chowder

It was so cold and rainy last night that I decided to say no to the leftover gyros that I had made Wednesday night and make soup instead. Since I didn't want to go to the store I gave some long thought to what I had in the house and came up with the idea to make chicken corn chowder. I had some leftover butternut squash so I wanted to add that. Spinning off of an Epicurious recipe, I cut it down and used frozen chicken breast instead of the already been cooked chicken. I also pureed the squash seperately, lifting it out and blending it and then adding it back in. This made for a very creamy soup without having to add cream or more than the 2 tbsp bacon fat that I started with. I finally used the beautiful red chili pepper Chris gave me last month (yes it was still good) and pulled out some of that Singleton's store bacon.


3 slices bacon
1 medium onion
1 fresh chili
4 c chicken broth
2 medium potatoes 3/4 in cubes
1.5 cups butternut squash 3/4 in cubes
2 c. milk (I used 1%)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
3 c frozen corn
1 chicken breast, 1/2 frozen, very thinly sliced

Cook bacon until crisp and remove from pan, let cool and chop into bits (reserve). Leaving 2 tbsp bacon grease, saute onion and chili until onion is almost translucent, add butternut squash and potatoes and saute 2-3 minutes more. Add broth and milk, thyme and bay leaf. Cook until squash is soft. Carefully remove squash and some liquid from the soup and puree in blender. If you do not want potato chunks you can use an immersion blender and puree everything. Return squash to pan, bring to a simmer and add corn. Simmer 5 minutes. Add chicken and cook until chicken is cooked through. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve with bacon sprinkled over the top. You can also top with cilantro. Warm and comforting on a rainy, cold night.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Vermont Bacon-off

Each year we pack up enough beer (Brewers Art Resurrection) for four people for four days and head to the mountains of Vermont to stuff our faces and sit on the sofa of our friends on their little hill farm in Stowe. Below is Tadcaster the ATV pup sporting his doggles on a run to the mailbox.

We were warned this year to expect a new addition to the household, as besides the sheep, chickens, dogs and cats , we now have angora fur bunnies and a house bunny that hangs out next to the wood stove eating raisins (5, no more, no less).

The foliage was beautiful, just past peak so it was raining golden leaves. My sweetie and I took a lovely ride over Smuggler's Notch to go in search of the 2 gallons of maple syrup that we need to get us through the winter. While investigating the possibilities in Jeffersonville, we came across a sign for smoked meat at Hanley's Market. We went in to take a look and bacon looked and smelled glorious!! Asking them what they smoked it over resulted in the correct answer.... cob smoked, bingo.

Now, it must be said that most years we get our bacon from Singleton's Store in Proctorsville, VT. We have an arrangement with friends that anyone in the vicinity must pick up bacon. This is a 2.5 hour ride each way from Stowe. After the 9 hour drive, we were not in the mood for more driving, so finding a cob-smoked bacon 1/2 hour from Stowe was quite exciting and required a taste test. Our friends were definitely not opposed.

Luckily our friends had some of the Singleton's bacon in the freezer, so we popped that open, popped open the Hanley's bacon and proceeded to have a bacon-off. I cooked them up in separate pans as you can see so I didn't "sully" the taste of one with the other. They all believe that bacon should be cooked until it is dead, I, for one, believe it should be slightly undercooked. They go their way, very dark bacon. On the left, the bacon from Singleton's, on the right, bacon from Hanleys.
I wasn't up to eating bacon all by itself so I whipped up some pancakes, Tam made pumpkin muffins in her new leaf muffin pan and we sat down to our taste test.

The verdict.... Delicious! Both brands of bacon were tasty, but you could tell the Singletons had been frozen as it was slightly acidic and a bit more dry than the other. The Hanley's store bacon was crispy and smoky and altogether a VERY acceptable substitute for the Singleton's store bacon. Next year we shall stock up, as of right now, Josh just stocked us up with Singletons so we have four pounds in the freezer. Brunch anyone?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cookbook Club Moved

Renee hosted Charm City Cookbook Club Friday night with Patrick O'Connell's Inn at Little Washington cookbooks. We've decided to move the blog to Wordpress from blogger so check out the posts from Friday's CBC by clicking on the link above. P.S. I stole Elizabeth's beautiful picture of her appetizer.

Monday, October 5, 2009

OMG October Tomatoes

Saturday night after Cookbook Club on Friday we just needed a chill out dinner menu. I've been picking 2 tomatoes per day and the yellow one finally was ripe so we decided on burgers and a caprese salad.

We pulled out a couple of Roseda burgers and I ran to Cerellio for some of their fresh mozzerella. They make it fresh every day and it's soooo good. The picture turned out so good with the cornichons and picholine olives in the middle I had to blog it.

Oh by the way. Cookbook club has changed it's blog as you can see from the link above.

Friday, September 18, 2009

October Daring Cooks Challenge - Vietnamese Pho

This is my first Daring Cook's challenge. I decided to sign up because Elizabeth was so excited about the Daring Baker's challenge and I thought it would get me out of my cooking rut more than for my once a month Cookbook Club.

The challenge sign-up process is a bit confusing. I actually signed up in August but too late for the September challenge so I had to wait for the October challenge. At first I thought I was going to be cooking Vegan Indian (not my thing at all) but it turns out that was September's challenge. (confusing as I said) and I opened up the new challenge to find Vietnamese Pho.

I love Vietnamese food, especally Pho. I went through a Southeast Asian phase a few years back after we got back from Thailand. We cooked everything we could get our hands on. We have a number of Pho places in Baltimore and not having made Pho before I thought it would be fun to give this one a try.

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook. The recipe for Jaden's Vietnamese Pho: Beef Noodle Soup can be found here

I started by gathering all of the ingredients. It turned out the only things I needed to buy were the ginger and the bean sprouts. I have a fetish for the H-Mart asian market which is about 1/2 hour from my house. They have so many neat things there that I usually end up picking up many of them. We get our beef from a local producer called Roseda so I used the beef from there. And yes, I even had the rock sugar tucked away in the back of the cabinet.

Broiling the onions and ginger took longer than the 10 minutes and my rack was a bit higher than Steamy Kitchen's so the skins fried, but I felt that the broiling and burnt parts gave it a great flavor.

I boiled the bones for 10 minutes first like she suggested, I'm thinking this made my broth much clearer, as much of the foam was already boiled off when I drained and refilled the pot for the cooking of the stock.

The seasoning packet was lovely, and sent wonderful smells coursing through the house all morning. I prepared the vegetable tray, adding fresh cucumber and completely forgetting to pick the cinnamon basil I had meant to put on the tray. The pho was lovely and the combination of the rare and well done meats along with the crunch of the bean sprouts and the cucumbers made it delightful.

So my sweetie was at the neighborhood party and was telling people I was making Pho and Carol and Ben from across the street said "oh we know the best Pho!!" Sure enough, the next day they showed up with pho from Pho Heip Hoa in Wheaton, MD.

Renee and I did a taste test.
We found the pho from the restaurant to be a lighter clearer, more citrusy broth (yes I strained mine), while mine had a meatier and more anisette flavor. They were both delicious and the pork that Carol's pho had in it helped as well. I didn't want to deviate from the recipe or mine would have had pork too. I think it could have used it.
I froze the rest of the pho so we should have tasty dinner one night when I really don't feel like cooking in the near future. All in all a very successful first Daring Cooks Challenge.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

If you're not going camping...

Four couples, 3 children and one dog were scheduled to go camping this weekend. We wimped out due to busy schedules, rain, and health care demonstrations, but decided that instead we would all get together for an island themed dinner.

Jake, being the person who spends the most time in the islands, was put in charge of "island drinks" and mixed us up a beautiful punch bowl full of hurricanes to start the night. Each couple was assigned courses and my sweetie and I provided the PIG!

This was our first foray into suckling pig. We purchased him from Treuths in Catonsville and boy was he beautiful. Since this was island themed we decided that a lime mojo marinade was in order. We soaked Mr. Pig in vinegar and water (2/3 cup vinegar and water to cover) for 3 hours and then made up the marinade.

Lime Oregano Mojo

1 pig (ours was 21 lbs)
Juice of 12 limes
2/3 cup orange juice
juice of 2 lemons (I ran out of limes)
1/2 cup chopped cuban oregano (also called spanish thyme)
6 tbsp kosher salt
lots of grated pepper
2 heads (not cloves) heads of garlic, chopped.

We mixed the marinade together and poured into a trash bag. We marinated him overnight flipping twice. Our pig just fit in the oven. We preheated the oven to 425 and put him in for 15 minutes. Then we reduced the temp to 300 and cooked him for another 5 hours or so, basting with the marinade every 1/2 hour. The last hour was on convection and we slathered him in butter to crisp the skin.

Along with the pig Josh and Joanie made an island pumpkin casserole that was delish and a lovely green salad with papaya and avocado. Mandi made sweet potato and black bean cakes with a lime sour cream dipping sauce that I just finished for dinner now, tasty!! We also made an adobo sauce and garlic rice to go with.

Chris came through with the beautiful 6 foot banana leaves from his garden and we ate right on the leaves. Clean up was a cinch (Thanks Pam).

Chris also made mangos and sticky rice for dessert. Two types of sticky rice, black and white made for a fetching background to the orange mangos with the white coconut sauce. Sorry to say, I had one too many hurricanes at that point so we did not get a good picture but you can see the sticky rice waiting to be cut.

I do have a picture of Jake mixing up the rum cream/vanilla vodka drinks that were part of the dessert mix. As you can see, they contained many types of delicious island liqueurs.

All in all a delicious substitute for camping.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

First Charm City CBC Post

Just posted my first post to the Charm City Cookbook Club blog. We're really jazzed to have a communal blog for our CBC posts after almost 2 years. Strawberries is almost done with her post as well.
Here we are cooking away in my kitchen. In light of the shrimp and sangria levels, this was very early in the evening...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Really bored with yellow

I got tired of the same old yellow blog so I changed it over to green. Back from vacation and hope to be posting again soon. I've joined the Daring Kitchen cooking (not the baking the new cooking) challenge which should start midway though next month and won't be posted until October 14th, ah well. Strawberries in Paris motivated me. The rules are quite strict, you must cook 8 out of 12 a year and you have to let them know that you're not posting the months that you don't. So my challenge to me is, can I keep it up for a year. Did Charm City Cookbook Club without breaking for a year so why not? Let's hope I post before October 14th now......

Friday, July 17, 2009

Kitchen Garden - Broiled Fish and Pasta with Summer Vegetables

My garden is growing! (the thumbnail is blurry, click on the photo to see the garden) The first tomato is ripe and the herbs are going crazy. I needed to use some swiss chard as it was getting big so my sweetie and I decided to make dinner together. First let me say that my S/O came home with a gift for me. I'd been wanting one for a while but look what I got!!!
My S/O as Guest Blogger:

This called for fish. We have Renee's copy of Fish without a Doubt at home. Apart from some delicious recipes, the book featured a very simple but, as it turned out, very effective way of cooking fish. A cast iron griddle is heated under a broiler (top level for a thin fillet, 2nd level for a thicker piece) for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the fish. We used 1" thick mahi-mahi fillets. They were dipped in melted butter, and coated on one side with a mixture of garden herbs - basil, parsley, rosemary, and oregano - salt and white pepper, and lime zest. Panko was sprinkled over the herbs and a drizzle of melted butter finished the preparation. The fillets were slipped on top of the griddle and cooked for about 3 minutes under the broiler. Depending on thickness, the element can be turned off and the fish can finish cooking if slightly underdone. What this technique achieves is beautiful carmelization of the underside of the fish, intensifying its flavours. A dash of lime juice gave contrast, and, more importantly, allowed Joanne to use her new press.

Back to me:

I wanted to use swiss chard from the garden so I found a pasta and kale recipe online. I modified it to fit with my swiss chard, reducing the peppers and adding onion. It was beautifully colorful.

Pasta Shells with Swiss Chard, Peppers and Feta

1 (8 ounce) package uncooked large pasta shells
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion chopped
1 cup roughly chopped swiss chard
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4-5 leaves fresh basil
1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
salt and ground black pepper to taste
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente; drain. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in pepper, onion, swiss chard and garlic. Season with basil, salt and black pepper. Cook until vegetables are tender. In a large bowl, toss cooked pasta with skillet mixture. Sprinkle with feta cheese to serve.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thinks to do with many many raspberries

Having 10 quarts of raspberries in your refrigerator can be a major motivator for making dessert. As you can see, Chris and I did some good work. Chris started off by making a beautiful raspberry pie. He uses a vodka crust that is just wonderful and he remembered to put holes in it to let the steam out, unlike the cherry pie we made last month.

I made a chocolate/Almond souffle tart that I didn't take a picture of for Tiffany's birthday. Topped it with a layer of raspberries, a layer of pastry cream and then another layer of raspberries. Tasty!!!

I was debating whether to make sorbet or Ice Cream with raspberries and I settled on something in between. Gelato. It turned out really well made with some tuiles and a chocolate ganache sauce. H&D seemed to like it. Recipe at the bottom.

This morning I used up the last of the berries making small tarts. I sprinkled the berries with sugar and a bit of nutmeg and put them in the premade crust (unfortunately, not Chris's crust) and baked them at 400 for about 40 minutes. I was surprised at how long it took.

Raspberry Gelato

1lb 12 oz of fresh raspberries (this made 2 cups raspberry juice)
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup simple syrup

Blend raspberries in blender, strain off seeds through a food mill or a chinoise. You should have ~2 cups raspberry liquid. Combine that with the simple syrup and the heavy whipping cream. Chill well. Put in ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer directions.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Raspberry Season

It is raspberry season in Baltimore as you can clearly see. We went picking this week and between the 4 of us (with Aveline contributing by eating) we picked about 20 quarts in less than 2 hours in our secret spot. sshhhhhh.

Now we have to figure out what to do with them.

I'm going to start by making a chocolate tart with raspberries, then maybe a sorbet and my sweetie is talking about making his scones. I'll try and post what else I make. I've been a slacker on blogging lately.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Maine Event

Got back from Maine & New Hampshire last Sunday and am finally catching up on my blogging. I was amazed to find that after coming back I've had almost no desire to cook for a bit. Maybe going out to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner is habit forming.

In any case, we had 4 lovely days of backpacking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Tam, I must say, it goes UP there!!

After emerging from the wild and showering, we went out for Clam Chowdah in Camden and then on to the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland. It is a superb testament to Andrew Wyeth's work, as well as having quite a few nice works from other contemporary artists.

We stayed three nights at a B&B in Boothbay Harbor, taking in the local color at the Opera House where we watched a charming open mic event. Boothbay before the season is really quite lovely as there are no crowds and it really is a beautiful little town.

We hit two different crab houses while there and also took advantage of the Glidden Point Oyster Farm being right down the road. Paired with a Seal Cove mixed sheep and cow milk Olga, they made for a wonderful lunch by the sea in the fog.

I highly recommend the Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. Be prepared to walk a lot, but they just opened 2 years ago and they are already gorgeous. The café at the Botanical Gardens serves local food whenever possible and the food is quite tasty.

It was fiddlehead season as you can see, so we bought a bunch and sauteed them with a bit of garlic butter. Turns out you are supposed to cook fiddleheads for more than just a couple of minutes. Tasty things fiddleheads, but boy did we get sick.

Anyway, the trip was fantastic, now let's just hope I get inspired to cook again.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Summertime and a New Camera

In preparation for our trip to Maine next week I got a new camera. I had to try it out, and since CBC is this Friday, I wanted to try it out on food. I got a Cannon PowerShot A1000IS. I chose it because it was cute and only weighs 7oz (important in backpack world). Turns out that it is rated number one on many levels thus my sweetie was excited as well. Played with it for a few days, nice night photo of my Japanese maple.

In order to try out a camera one must cook. Hitting the Trader Joe, I came across some brats. Now being from WI, I'm pretty picky about my brats (think Usinger's, maybe Johnsonville...), but they were pink (and sitting there) so I decided to give them a try. I boiled them in beer and we grilled them up. Note to self, do not get Trader Joe brats again, they were not so good.

Tuesday night we decided to have warm weather food. I managed to pull a few radishes from my garden, (need to work on garden) and made grilled kofte meatballs, tequila lime shrimp, tomato cucumber salad and some hors d'oeuvers. Paired with a Efes, a Turkish beer, it was a lovely meal.

For dessert I made coffee ice cream with chocolate espresso beans chopped up in it and paired it with a chocolate sauce. Last time I made ice cream I managed to do it wrong, this time I decided not to make a custard and managed to put the plastic thing in the maker correctly. Here's the recipe I made up.

Chocolate Covered Espresso Bean Coffee Ice Cream

3 c heavy whipping cream
1 c whole milk
3 tbsp instant espresso
1/2 vanilla bean sliced in 2 lengthwise scraped and the scrapings and bean put into small saucepan
3/4 c sugar
1/4 c chopped chocolate covered espresso beans

Take 1 cup heavy cream and put into saucepan with vanilla bean and sugar. Slowly bring to a simmer and turn off. Whisk in instant espresso and let sit 5 minutes. Take out vanilla bean and
combine with 2 cups whipping cram and 1 cup milk. Let chill and put in ice cream maker following manufacturer's directions. Add espresso beans 5 minutes before the end.

Chocolate sauce
1 cup half & half
8 oz 72% dark chocolate (or bittersweet)

Heat 1/2 and 1/2 in the pan you heated the last milk in. When hot, turn off and add chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute and whisk until smooth.