Monday, May 18, 2015
Sunday, April 19, 2015
Coinciding almost exactly with the birth of my niece, the garden is starting to flower.... It's my favorite time of year.
I know! I'm an aunt!!! Can't wait to meet our newest family member.
I wonder when I can bring over some of my homegrown strawberries. Hopefully soon. I mean, you don't need teeth to eat 'em. (Squirrels, if you're reading this, back off: no taking berries from a baby!)
Thursday, April 16, 2015
It's adapted from this recipe, but with less microwaving and pointless ricotta straining.... (Oh, we did strain the ricotta for 2 hours, which yielded a total of about 4 drops of liquid. Not worth it, but it gave me a chance to slow-roast the spuds.) The irresistible brown butter, sage, and balsamic sauce remains intact, however.
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
We've had a few 60 degree days in recent weeks, at which point students and I would sprint out to the garden to plant. I suspect that the first few batches of seeds germinated and then froze to death during this past Saturday's freak snow flurry and below freezing daytime temperatures. (When I'm feeling more hopeful, I convince myself that there's a chance things never got warm enough for them to get going in the first place and they'll poke little green leaves above the surface soon. But did I mention how cold weather makes me less optimistic?)
Meanwhile, I planted yet another batch of seeds with kiddos this week: snap peas and onions, potatoes and larkspur all went into the ground. Arugula, spinach, lettuce, and radishes coming soon.... Go on Mother Nature, you keep teasing us with warm days, I'll keep planting more seeds. You may have wind and rain in your arsenal, but I've got the boundless optimism of kids on my side. We'll see who wins.
Sunday, March 22, 2015
About a cocktail and a half into our museum chat, I found myself kindly invited out to see the mill and distillery in action. So last weekend, I went. My fellow Slow Food DC board members oohed and ahhed, as I did, at local grain being ground by a giant water wheel contraption and our first president's whiskey recipe being made at the (ahem, only legal) woodfire-powered distillery. We even got to sample some of the rare rye whiskey. (Don't worry, I wasn't driving.)
I was beside myself when Sam handed me a bag of the pancake mix (that Steve had raved about), a bag of cornmeal (also roundly praised), and, my favorite, a bag of stone ground grits. I used the cornmeal to make a batch of cornbread with 5th graders this past Friday, and then whipped up another batch of cornbread for our Slow Food DC annual potluck yesterday -- both were delightedly devoured, and the slow foodies remarked on the lovely flavor and texture. But let me tell you what I've been daydreaming about for the past 36 hours: the DELICIOUS shrimp and grits I made for a dinner party with my friends Sheffy, Aimee, and Griffin on Friday night. Oh, lord, it was a good meal. For your mouth-watering pleasure, I offer you this recipe, adapted from Saveur....
- 1 cup George Washington's Gristmill grits (seriously, they're the best!)
- 4½ cups chicken broth
- Olive oil
- 2 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
- 1 lb. medium shrimp (about 30), peeled and deveined
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 TBSP butter
- 1-2 handfuls shiitake mushrooms, washed, patted dry, then thinly sliced (I like the ones from North Cove Mushrooms, at the Dupont farmers' market)
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ¾ cup grated cheddar
- ¼ cup freshly shaved parmesan
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
In a medium cast iron pot, bring 4 cups chicken stock to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and whisk in grits. Cook, whisking frequently, until grits are tender and creamy, 30–40 minutes. Open the wine....
Meanwhile, heat oil in a medium/large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel–lined plate; set aside. Reserve cooking fat in skillet.
Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, add shrimp to skillet and cook, turning once, until bright pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp with a slotted spoon to a dish that you can keep warm in a 200F oven. It's probably time to get another glass of wine....
Lower burner heat to medium, then add mushrooms to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 5 minutes), then add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute).
Raise heat to high, add remaining 1/2 cup of chicken broth, and scrape bottom of skillet with a wooden spoon. Cook until broth reduces by half (about 3 minutes).
Return shrimp to skillet along with remaining butter and cook, stirring frequently, until sauce thickens, (about 1 minute).
Stir 1 TBSP butter into grits, along with parmesan. Sprinkle cheddar on top, then use a blowtorch (if you're Griffin) or a creme brulee torch (if you're fainthearted like me) to melt the cheese. Have a fire extinguisher nearby. And make sure at least one person is sober enough to use it.
Divide grits between 4 bowls; top each with shrimp and sauce. Garnish each bowl with bacon and scallions. You can also have lemon wedges and hot sauce for garnishes, but I forgot those. (I blame the delicious wine Sheffy and his wife brought.)
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
A self-identified foodie, I hadn't realized until this talk how little I knew about Julia Child, and I was surprised to recognize myself among the younger generation of folks who had come to learn about the joyful and daring food celebrity primarily through the book (and later movie) Julia and Julia. Okay, admittedly I cannot resist Meryl Streep in anything, so of course I would love her take on Julia, but I wondered: how accurate was her portrayal? Pretty accurate, it turns out. Julia was enamored with all things food, I knew, but until last night I had no idea that this ranged from a broad range of foreign delicacies to American regional specialties to the latest kitchen gadgets. What J&J didn't show was Julia's -- and Judith's -- interest in regional home cooking and the stories behind the food. Did you know that Julia had worked on a TV series about food prepared in the original American colonies? The series never aired, but I can only imagine the history, and no doubt the hilarity, that might have come about had Thirteen Feasts for Thirteen Colonies ever transpired. (And, professionally speaking, I would have loved to use some of the recipes in my FoodPrints lessons on colonial food traditions. Alas.)
Starting in the late 1960s, it seems, food luminaries including Julia Child and her editor Judith Jones, along with James Beard and others, began to look away from Europe and toward their own country for inspiration, exploring the rich heritage of American regional cooking with a new sense of appreciation and curiosity. It was the birth of the Farm to Table movement. Who knew? Judith especially was captivated by the DIY cooking (and everything else) culture, was intrigued by regional food cultures across the U.S., and was a vehement opponent of processed foods. Sounds like my kind of lady.
After the talk itself, we were free to wander through the museum's recreation of Julia's kitchen, which was fascinating, and nibble on a variety of tasty vittles based on recipes from famous cookbooks including the oft-cited Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What a lovely -- and informative -- evening! I came away with a few additions to my goodreads list, including the Taste of Country Cookbook, which was edited by Judith Jones, and My Life in France, co-written by Alex P-H and Julia about her self-described period of the "awakening of the senses" in the early 60s. Looks like I have my summer reading list started...if summer ever gets here!
Saturday, February 21, 2015
I do like the frou-frou drinks, especially since trying to limit my gluten intake -- oh, beer, how I miss you! -- and discovering that the mixed drinks in my neighborhood are not what one would call inexpensive. Delicious, yes, and often creative, but not so gentle on the wallet.
Now, I do not purport to be a mixologist, but every so often I hit on a good experiment. This afternoon was one of those times. Inspired by the fresh mint I had leftover from yesterday's chard tabbouleh wrap making class, the blackberries in my produce drawer (see, I'm not a local, seasonal purist after all), and bourbon giving me the eye from the liquor shelf in my freshly cleaned kitchen, I was thinking about some kind of smash. Then I remembered having blackberry smashes over the summer with some teaching colleagues and a debate sparking about what, precisely, a smash was (besides delicious). According to imbibemagazine.com:
"Like many cocktails, the question of the smash’s exact definition is a question of semantics. The smash is an open-ended cocktail, freely variable and seasonally flexible. There must be ice, though you may strain it out if you prefer. There should be fruit in season, though you may use it simply as a garnish. There should be a spirit base, though you may use your spirit of choice. Mint is a classic choice, though many other herbs can work. You may want to water your smash down a little or add a spritz of seltzer. At its heart, the smash is a wonderfully forgiving and flexible drink, made for hot days, for using what’s on hand and for smashing it all together over ice for pure sipping bliss."
Sounds fairly straightforward. And open to interpretation....
Sure, it's more of a warm weather drink, but I'm getting a little tired of hot toddies. Should you be so inclined for a taste of summertime, I offer you this latest recipe:
Winter Wonderland Blackberry Smash
- 1 small handful fresh blackberries (or thawed frozen ones)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 shot bourbon
- 1/4 tsp pomegranate syrup (optional)
- 1/4-1/2 cup packed fresh snow (make sure it's white because, you know....)
- 1 sprig fresh mint
- 1 large slice of fresh lemon squeezed in at the end, if your drink is missing a little j'en est c'est quoi. (Thank you, creativeculinary,com, for that good suggestion, saving my drink from mediocrity.)
In a pint jar or sturdy glass, mash blackberries and sugar together with a fork.
Add bourbon and pomegranate syrup (if using -- I only did because I'm trying to use it up so I have a small jar for another culinary project, but it was a nice, tart addition).
While these flavors marinate for a few minutes, scamper outside to scoop up some snow. Add it to your mixture and top off the glass with cold seltzer.
Squeeze in lemon, then stir it all up with a mint sprig (or smash the mint with the blackberries in step 1).
Voila: happy summer-in-winter!