Friday, July 30, 2010

The first of Picnic Sundays

The first, and hopefully not the last.

We volunteered at a small fair in CT on Saturday, but Sunday we had no plans. So when it turned out to be a beautiful day, we decided to head up to the winery for a picnic.

J's Restaurant at Nashoba recently started having a picnic lunch menu. We had no idea how it worked, so checked out the website: and it's really convenient. You simply order your lunch online, give it an hour (they emailed when it was ready to pick up- it took about 20 minutes), and then pick it up at the winery.

Each lunch was $10, came in this adorable little box, and consists of a sandwich (smoked turkey with cranberry apple chutney for Clint, salami with pears and brie for me), apple slaw (omg yum) and a brownie. We also bought a bottle of Gewurtztraminer from the wine fridge (I didn't even know Nashoba had a Gewurtztraminer), and ate under an arbor of grape vines.
We also would have watched a wedding, if only hadn't started to rain lightly. We think they moved the ceremony into the restaurant, where the reception was supposed to take place (according to the cute signs at the parking lot entrance).

So, all in all, we had a delicious little meal, a beautiful spot, and overall, a really enjoyable afternoon, all for the cost of a little drive and about $33.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lettuce, lettuce, lettuce

As with the previous CSA batches, we've been overrun with lettuce. I'm pleased to say, however, that for the first time ever, we've actually eaten all the lettuce. The reason? Two: maple vinaigrette and Thai lettuce wraps. I love the thai lettuce wraps at the Cheesecake Factory. So, I used google to try to find that recipe (mostly for the dipping sauces), and ended up with this batch, which calls itself a copycat recipe. I can tell you they're good, because we've had them twice already. But they're not copycat recipes, not even close. For one, the thai lettuce wraps chicken from Cheesecake Factory has a yellow marinade, not brown, and doesn't taste like soy. This cashew tamarind dipping sauce tastes nothing like any of the Cheesecake Factory sauces. The cucumbers are very close, however, and even though I haven't yet made the coconut rice noodles, they look like a promising reproduction. Even so, these recipes are delicious, the lettuce wraps are filling, high in veggies, reasonably healthy (not that I've calculated any nutrional info, but I think only the coconut noodles and dipping sauces have a significant amount of fat and calories), and best of all, make a serious dent in your 5 heads of CSA lettuce. (and the chicken is great over a salad!)
Soy lime chicken, serves 6 (or 2 for 3 meals)

3lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1T grated fresh ginger
1/4 cup water

Combine soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, ginger and water in a
shallow dish, stir to combine. Cut chicken crosswise into
3/4-inch-wide strips and add to dish. Marinate for 30 minutes
(up to 2 hours), stirring mixture occasionally. Cook chicken-
grill on bamboo skewers (pre-soaked in water) (recommended
method) or stir fry (what we did) with 1T oil.

Marinated Cucumbers (not pictured, oops)

1/4 cup rice vinegar
2T sugar
2T cup water
dash salt
1/2 large cucumber, peeled and sliced into 1/8in thick
quarter slices

Combine vinegar, sugar, water and salt, cook over medium
heat til sugar dissolves liquid starts to boil. Remove
from heat, cool to room temperature. Place cucumber slices
in a bowl, pour vinegar solution over. Let marinate 30 minutes.

Tamarind-Cashew Dipping Sauce

1/4 cup cashews
1/3 cup cilantro
2 cloves garlic, quartered
2 green onions, chopped
1T sugar
1/2t black pepper
1t cumin
1/2 cup honey
4t white vinegar
1t tamarind pulp*
2T olive oil

In a food processor, combine cashews, cilantro, garlic, scallions, sugar, pepper and cumin. Pulse a few times. Set aside.
In a small saucepan, combine honey, vinegar and tamarind pulp. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, try to dissolve tamarind pulp (I couldn't get it to dissolve, but it's going in the food processor anyway). Remove from heat, let cool. When it's cool, add the liquid to the food processor and blend briefly. Drizzle in olive oil and blend until a nince sauce forms.

We also had rice noodles (cooked according to the package directions, not
flavored at all), shredded carrots, and, of course, the lettuce.

* tamarind pulp: I'm not entirely sure I did this right, but
here's what I did. I took one of my tamarind pods (purchased
at Whole Foods a while ago)
peeled away the brittle outer shell,
peeled away the veins, and scraped the sticky pulp stuck to the seeds.
And the pulp from one pod yield about 1t, just what I needed for
the cashew tamarind sauce.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

CSA #6

yay it's time for CSA #6!

CSA #6 had an exciting start- lots of lightening as I drove home to pick up Clint (neither one of us would steal the veggie excitement from the other, so we pick up our share together, unless one person can't), pouring rain as we left the house to get back in the car, a power outage 4 blocks from our house, hail, and no power when we got home. Wow!
Therefore, I had to spread out our veggies on the porch table to photograph, the only place with any real light.

We had:
fresh oregano! (Clint votes to use it for pizza sauce, I want to throw it in bread. Hopefully we can do both) Blueberries (I will not cook these, we will eat them plain. They're too good for cooking.), assorted beans, beautiful, artistic-looking heads of lettuce (the red is a bit bitter, interesting)
little tiny broccoli!!

summer squash, zucchini and a lone pickling-style cucumber

unidentified greens! (regular chard? not sure) and kale

Not pictured: a small assorted bouquet of wildflowers.

It was exciting.

And like I said, we had no power. I thought, oh fine, I can do with cooking anything! I'll just have a salad. Let me make some dressing I can just whisk it. Only.. whisking won't do much for a whole garlic clove or cilantro. Ok, fine. I'll make that garlic scape pesto a friend emailed me. Oh, I can't food process (which lead me to ponder, how in the world did people make pesto before food processors? I'm sure they must have. Was everything ground with a mortar and pestle?) So I settled down on the porch with some peaches and the newest Cooking Light. And wouldn't you know, just as I got comfy, the power came back. Ah, whatever.

So I did make my maple vinaigrette, this time, a double batch but with the 1x amount of garlic, and a total of 3/4cup of olive oil (instead of the 2 cups the recipe would have recommended for the double version). I had it over the new lettuce, the lone cucumber, a shredded carrot and 2/3 of a tomato (the leftovers of Clint's sandwich tomato). It was good.

I also had a helper, who stayed by my side through all of this cooking.

I made that garlic scape pesto I was emailed, and wow!

Garlic Scape Pesto
adapted from Dorie Greenspan
aka the "oh, I have just enough!" recipe- because I had just enough for one batch.

10 garlic scapes (I had exactly 10!)
1/3 cup slivered almonds (I had 1/2 cup!)
1/2 cup romano (she says parmesean) cheese (again, just enough!)
1/2 cup olive oil (I used more like 4-5T)
1T lemon juice (my addition)

Finely chop garlic scapes (heh, "finely". Whatever, it's going in the food processor anyway.)

Add scapes, almonds, cheese, pinch of salt, lemon juice and half the olive oil to the food processor, and whiz until it's all minced together. Drizzle in more olive oil, 1T at a time, until it's the consistency you want. Then eat, so far I love it on bread (dinner rolls bought at the end of the day from the Crown Bakery, 50 cents per dozen- I should always go to bakeries 10 minutes before closing).

Now, to be honest, I wasn't going to tell you about this recipe yet. The pesto is a beautiful light green color, and it smells heavenly (assuming you like garlic). But it's got a huge bite to it. I dumped it on half a roll and ate it, and was very surprised at how strong the flavor it. It was... a little too strong, really. So I thought I'd like to try mixing it 1:1 or 1:2 with cream cheese or hummus, and use it to flavor a spread. That might cut down the bite a little. But when it came down to it... I just can't stop eating these pesto. I put a very thin layer on a cracker or roll, and I like that. I do intend to mix it with cream cheese (we're out of hummus currently), and I'll tell you about it, assuming I don't eat the pesto all up before the cream cheese softens.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I'm working at an ice cream social this weekend, and aside from scooping ice cream (or maybe grilling hot dogs, I'm signed up for hot dogs but I'm going to try to work at the ice cream booth instead), I volunteered to bring cookies for the bake sale.

But what cookies should I bring?

I imagine they'll have 5+ batches of chocolate chip, and probably at least 2 oatmeal raisin. Several of the people coming have access to the famous Abigail Phelps snickerdoodle recipe (which is given on a strict need-to-know basis). What should I bake? What will set my fabulous cookies apart from all the other boring cookies?

I'm leaning towards a drop cookie, but I have enough time for rolled/cutter cookies. Currently I'm thinking of my fantastic Hershey's chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipe, possibly with white chocolate or peanut butter chips instead of semisweet chocolate. Or maybe maple cookies? I have no shortage of maple syrup.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CSA #3

Well, here we are, coming up on CSA #6, and I still haven't told you about CSA #3. (Unfortunately, CSAs #4 and 5 happened when we were away, so my dear cousin got all the goods).

Clint went alone to pick up CSA #3- I had to work too late for the 6pm pickup deadline. He'd already left for bridge club by the time I got home, so he spread everything out on the counter for me to see.

Week 3 was our first week of flowers!

And more herbs: curly parsley and cilantro.

We also received beautiful black raspberries, about a pint,

which I turned into whole wheat black raspberry streusel muffins (we both decided we weren't huge fans of them- something I'm a little ashamed of, because what sane person declares they don't care to eat such a beautiful fresh berry? But really, they taste great but are a little dry. We loved them as muffin-berries, so I'm very pleased with how I used them.)

We also got lots more greens: kale, beets, little white beets (or radishes?) and more lettuce (also a bag of mixed greens not shown).

Peas, as well as snap peas (not pictured), which I gave to my aunt.

And more garlic scapes! I love these, but I still don't quite know how to use them.

So it was exciting.

The only problem was.... how do you use lettuce? There's really nothing good besides salad. And how can you make salad good?

Maple balsamic dressing, that's how!

I think we both had 2 servings of salad for dinner, and we happily ate salad until we left for Washington, DC 4 days later.

(unfortunately, the only veggies we had to put on the salad aside from 25 heads of lettuce were some carrots and red onion, and the last of the croutons I'd made a while ago- but I have more frozen bread cubes to try to make more croutons- note: croutons are a good way to use up bread that you've cubed for any reason (such as a fondue party).)

Maple Balsamic Dressing
adapted from The Maple Syrup Cookbook, a wonderful cookbook, and so incredibly useful when your friend's parents own a farm in northern Vermont and make it really easy to acquire reasonably-priced gallons of maple syrup.

Have I mentioned how easy salad dressings are?

In a food processor or blender (I think I actually used a blender this time), combine
2T maple syrup
3T balsamic vinegar
1T fresh cilantro
1 clove garlic
1/2t whole grain mustard
juice of 1 lime (about 1T)
and blend/process briefly.

Then slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil (the recipe says 1 cup, but I really hate oily/greasy dressings) until it forms a nice emulsion.

And voila! Pour over your lettuce.

I thought that basil dressing from CSA #1 was my absolute favorite dressing, but this one is now. (note: it was kind of inspired by the delicious maple vinaigrette from the Publick House in Sturbridge, where we met my parents for dinner two nights before, to do a little cell phone transfer after one of us left their cell phone at my parents' house on Sunday)

Black Raspberry Whole Wheat Streusel Muffins
adapted from Sugar Baking, who got it from Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins, & More

(note: I didn't do this even though the recipe says to, but you really should: make the streusel topping first. Also, I found that I needed far less streusel than the recipe said)
Streusel Topping
4T butter 2/3 cup flour 3T sugar 1/4t cinnamon pinch of nutmeg pinch of baking powder pinch of salt

Melt the butter in a saucepan, remove from heat and stir in the other ingredients until combined. Knead a little with your fingers, and set aside while you make the muffin batter, for at least 15 minutes.

1 cup whole wheat flour 3/4 cup all purpose flour 1/2 t baking powder 1/2 t salt 1/4 t baking soda

Whisk that together, set aside.

1/2 cup buttermilk (1/2 cup milk + 1.5t white or cider vinegar, or lemon juice, let sit for 5 min, and that's buttermilk)

Set buttermilk aside.

1 and 1/3 sticks (2/3 cup) unsalted butter, halfway between cold and room temperature zest of 1 lemon 3/4 cup turbinado sugar (or white, if you don't have turbinado) 1 egg
1t vanilla

Cut the butter into chunks and beat with a mixer. Beat in lemon zest, and then add sugar in a steady stream and cream for 1-2 minutes. Beat in egg and vanilla.

Now add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, starting and ending with flour (add 1/3 of flour, beat a little, add 1/2 of buttermilk, beat a little, 1/3 of flour, beat, rest of buttermilk, beat, rest of flour. This confuses even some experienced cooks, who think "alternately" means dump in all the flour, then dump in all the buttermilk, so I want to be clear (honestly, to which I say, I know you watch Martha every day, aren't you paying attention?!)).

1 and 1/2 cup black raspberries (or whatever berry you feel like)

Gently fold in 1/2 of the berries. Leave the rest aside for now.

Now, take a well-greased or muffin wrapper-lined muffin tin, and fill each well 2/3 full with batter. (I ended up with 16 muffins). Place some of the set aside berries on top of the batter, and push them in slightly. Top with about 1T of the streusel topping, press that in slightly so it doesn't fall or blow off the muffin.

Bake for 30 or so minutes in a preheated 375F oven.

This is my new favorite muffin recipe.

Monday, July 19, 2010

My love of yogurt (and of wine)

This is another quick/filler post, before I have time to upload all my fabulous vacation pictures (some of them featuring food). But really, people, get excited, because I soon I will tell you about my new favorite winery!

In May (for my mom's birthday, actually), we were at the beach. And because it was then a tragic fact that I, wine drinker extraordinaire, had never been to a Connecticut (land of my birth!) winery, our group set out to fix this.

First we went to Bishop's Orchards in Guilford, CT, which is a winery, a nursery (for plants, not small people) and an enormous market. I'll be honest: as a nursery, it's good. As a market, it's fantastic and amazing. As a winery, it's.... meh. Their wines are quite good, I loved all I tasted. But the wine tasting bar is in the bread section of the grocery store. It's just a little weird. It's a wonderful market with a tasting bar, not a winery with a market.

But that's neither here nor there, because I obtained Goat's Milk Yogurt.

Those of you who know me personally know that I would eat goat cheese for every single meal if I could. My favorite sandwich is goat cheese and mango chutney on olive levain (yes, it sounds odd, but it's delicious- try just chevre on olive sourdough, or chevre and chutney on wheat bread or something, but it's all lovely). Any half-dead greens and sad little vegetables can be made into a 5 star salad with goat cheese (ok, maybe that's a stretch). Goats are the wonder animals of the dairy world.

I'm a big fan of yogurt, I always have been. I started eating yogurt for lunch way back in 7th grade (Dannon fruit on the bottom at first, then cherry Yoplait, then various different things, finally landing on the fat-free sugar-free Dannon (the version that came before light 'n fit) for a while, and then Stoneyfield Farms fruit on the bottom when my love affair with aspartame ended). I'd recently discovered Greek Yogurt, when I made that onion dip, and decided to try a spoonful before adding the yogurt to the dip. It was yum. I also had Skyr twice on our honeymoon in Iceland, which had been compared to Greek yogurt (also, that Siggi yogurt you can find around here seems to be essentially American Skyr). I do prefer Greek to Icelandic yogurt, however, the skyr always had some sort of odd tangy aftertaste, which at first I thought was because I had vanilla skyr, and generally dislike vanilla yogurt (my choice was vanilla skyr or no skyr, though).

Anyway, back to the goat yogurt. I got raspberry- raspberry is the flavor to get if you're trying new things (assuming you like raspberry). I think any questionable food could be made good with raspberry. So, first raspberry, second a milder flavor (which ended up being plain, purchased from the Hayes Dairy, which is owned by distant relatives who are so awesome that I always call them my cousins) and I mixed in my own jam, so far apricot or strawberry).

Will you like goat yogurt? Here are the two questions to ask yourself. 1. Do you like cow yogurt? 2. Do you like goat cheese? If the answers to both questions are yes, then yes, you will like goat yogurt. It really tastes like conventional yogurt with a little goat cheese flavor mixed in. It has the same consistency of goat yogurt, it's not thick like Greek yogurt.

Now, back to the one-day Connecticut wine tour. The market at Bishop's was simply mind-boggling. I was in absolute heaven there. I bought the goat yogurt, I bought delicious local strawberries (I'm still of the opinion that the only strawberries worth eating are from Connecticut or Massachusetts- or New Hampshire, after learning that their season is later than CT/MA, and will allow one to eat fresh strawberries for nearly a month). I bought plantains, 4 for $1! (I had big plans for those plantains, but it didn't really pan out. This working full-time thing really cuts into my cooking time). I saw produce I'd never heard of (and of course, forgot the name of). It was like the lazy Sundays mom and I spend at Whole Foods, browsing. Heaven.

After I came to after fainting from happiness there, we went to Chamard Winery in Clinton, CT. This is a beautiful winery. The tasting bar is a big U-shaped bar with big comfy bar stools, a few small high tables off to the side, where you're given a menu of what you'll be tasting. I didn't like that, being told what I'd have. And their wines are very old-school compared to what I've become used to, lots of pinots and chardonnays, when I've really just tasted various fruit wines, with a few grape wines thrown in. However, even though I was disappointed in the variety at first, their wines are excellent. Clint and I ended up purchasing a bottle of the pinot franc, a red I'd never heard of. It was a little on the bold/strong side (I don't know my wine terminology very well), but not unpleasantly strong, the way my mom thinks Shirazes are. To compare: my favorite reds are pinot noir (for summer) and shiraz (for winter). I don't care for cabernet sauvignon or most merlots. To end our tasting session, we had sangria. This sangria is the reason I've been making my own sangria all summer. They shared their recipe, but I ended up not using it. Theirs used the cabernet franc, and double that volume of ginger ale. 1. I can't bear diluting such a good (and pricey) wine with HFCS in any form, and 2. it was really, really sweet. All in all, I really enjoyed our visit to Chamard.

We also picked up the CT wine trail passport- a little booklet that you get stamped at every CT winery you visit. If you visit 16 before November, you can mail it in to be entered to win a trip to Spain (for a wine tour) or a handful of weekends at the Norwich Inn, in Norwich, CT. So far I've only been to 2 wineries, but there are a handful straight down I-395 from me, within an hour's drive. Not along 395 is Gouveia Vineyards, in Wallingford, CT, which my cousin C says is her favorite, so that one is definitely on my to-visit-soon list.

In related wine excitement, I am ecstatic to be volunteering at the CT Wine Festival, in Goshen, CT in 2 weeks. I will be selling wine slings (hang your wine glass around your neck and keep your hands free while you wander/shop/eat!) and then I plan to visit each and every booth/tent/whatever when my shift ends. I can't wait!!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Food Disasters

Hello, my lovelies! Sorry for the terrible lack of posts- I'm on the second-to-last night of a rather long road trip. I'm finally back in the eastern time zone after hanging out with family, family friends, and Old Faithful. I have some food tales from my trip to share, but today, we were watching Julie and Julia in the car (I know, finally!) and one scene reminded me that I never shared this story, from the end of May- where Julie make some sort of raspberry thing for dinner where the guest never shows, decides to bring it to work, and the bag gives way on her way to work and the dessert ends up all over the sidewalk.

I made my mom a birthday cake, as I tend to do. I make everyone a birthday cake, to be honest. Birthdays are a valid excuse to bake fancy things.

Mom said she would like something with Aunt Gertie's chocolate frosting (a fudgy chocolate buttercream, with my favorite instruction: "beat like hell"). Since I'd recently discovered dulce de leche and figured out how I could make it all by myself, I used a batch of that as the filling. The cake itself was my great grandma Anna's vanilla cake recipe (the same cake as our wedding cake). And it was lovely. I made the mistake of watching the season finale of Grey's Anatomy (you remember, where everyone got shot) while making the cake and neglected to sufficiently spray the parchment-lined cake tins, so the layers had some issues coming out of the tins, but I got everything to stick. And it frosted beautifully.

See how nice?

Then we drove it from Worcester, MA to Westbrook, CT, a 90 or so minute trip on essentially 2 highways and one country road. We got a great parking space, right at the end of the walkway towards my parents' timeshare condo, and since we were only staying with them one night, were able to bring everything in in one trip. Only...

my caketaker is apparently worthless. The bottom clips on to the top, and the handle is on the top. With 3 other bags to carry, I couldn't support the caketaker from the bottom as I would prefer to do, and one of the two clips came undone, possibly from being jostled as I walked.

Fortunately, I'd stuck 3 bamboo skewers in the cake to prevent the layers from slipping (dulce de leche is pretty runny, and I've had many problems of transporting cakes filled with something other than frosting in the car), so the cake held together after landing, the only problem was that half of it was on the sidewalk. So I picked it up, got the still-clean half, and 6 of us celebrating mom's birthday enjoyed that for dessert.

The cake was good, and 2 months later, we're still laughing about this food horror story.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Cross Country Travels, I

Monday: Day 1 in Washington, DC.

Over the weekend we were in CT and NJ, and had a variety of good food. We had dinner at Max's Burger Bar on LaSalle Rd in West Hartford, CT. Our meal was very tasty (and filling) and only a little pricey for the amount of food. Clint had the "Grateful Veg" quinoa burger, and I had the tuna burger with julienned veggies and sriracha aioli.

And we wondered, which is healthier: a veggie/quinoa burger with cheese, or a standard hamburger without cheese?

After a surprisingly easy trip (I supposed to make up for the difficulties in embarking on said trip (starting with the cat getting sick and needing to get to the vet asap (small infection, she should be fine, the worst part is not being there to verify that she's improving, and having to call up the people caring for her in our absence for daily reports) and ending with forgetting several things, including the money at home in MA), we arrived in Washington, DC at 11am and got our hotel room right away. And... proceeded to nap. And walk around in the oppressive heat, and nap some more. By the time we were finally ready to venture out for dinner, it was 7:30. Clint voted for the Brickskeller, a restaurant specializing in an impressive selection of beer that he'd been to in 2001, when he was here for a conference.

Clint said they had a lot of beer. I thought, meh, whatev. Like 20 kinds? Nice, but not impressive. I did not expect this. Scroll through that. Have fun. We
'll see you in a few hours.

At such a restaurant, which apparently has been granted a very unfair 2 stars (I guess people give stars based on the food variety? Come on, it's an American pub), I decided it would be wrong, nay, insulting, to not order a drink from their impressive menu. They had a number of mixed drinks using beer (Snakebite (lager and cider), Black Velvet (stout and champagne), Ruddy Mary (bloody Mary with beer, not vodka), and an intriguing concoction of Scottish beer, whiskey and drambuie), I ordered a Sam Adams cider- and immediately felt guilty. Yum, cider (that's not the issue), but it's Sam Adams, my local brewery. But I'd never heard of it. Fortunately, before I could decide whether to feel content or guilty, the waitress returned to say they were all out (is this why there were only 2 stars? Yes, they were out of a number of beers on the menu, but come on, if you can't find something else y
ou want, you have more problems than eating at a sub-par restaurant), so I went with a Blackthorne Cider. Yum! It's more full/bodied than Woodchuck, and just about as good as Magners.

Then... since Clint was going to get a second drink (he started with an Estonian beer, and then had the Ace of Hearts El Salvadorian beer), I had a beer.
The Pyramid (Seattle, WA) Apricot Ale. Yum. I need to get more of this.

Food: we split onion rings (delicious, and not greasy at all), and Clint had a pulled pork sandwich (he loved). I satisfied by my veggie cravings with a dressing-free cobb salad (all super fresh ingredients, so nice). The food was good (onion rings were great), but the beer was simply wow.

Also, we passed Hello, Cupcake! On the way. I will now do my cupcakerie research so we're prepared next time we leave the hotel.