Monday, June 29, 2009

Cabbage Conundrum Part 2

The 2nd half of the giant head of savoy cabbage was taunting me from my fridge. I already came up with one somewhat creative cabbage recipe, and come on how much cabbage can one girl eat? It was probably betting that it would sit there untouched until I was forced to throw it out.

Maybe it wasn't the most creative, but I managed to make a satisfying meal without having to go grocery shopping for a single ingredient. So here is my asian attempt at making cabbage and potatoes. (By asian attempt I am referring of course to the flavors, not myself.) I find that carrots lend themselves to the sweetness of the asian flavors and the pepper flakes give it an unexpected heat. As a bonus, it uses up local ingredients that are in season right now.

Ingredients

Handful Yukon gold or fingerling potatoes
1/2 head of savoy cabbage
1 white onion
Garlic
Carrots
Tamari
Ginger
Red Pepper flakes
Sesame oil
Vegetable Oil

Start by slicing the potatoes into fairly thin rounds and sauteeing in some vegetable oil over medium heat. Add a splash of sesame oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Let brown for maybe a couple of minutes. They don't have to be cooked all the way through yet.

Add the carrots, sliced into bite size chunks and the onion. Stir to combine everything with the oil and let it sweat out for about a minute.

Add some water, not enough to cover the carrots and potatoes but enough to cover the bottom of the pan. You want it to evaporate and steam the carrots and potatoes in the process. Along with the water add a few splashes of tamari, some red pepper flakes, and grate in some garlic and ginger.

Now add the shredded cabbage. It may be a lot and be overflowing from your pan but stir until it starts to cook down. Keep stirring, adding liquid if needed, until everything is cooked to your liking.

Cabbage Conundrum Part 1

Cooking for yourself can be nice sometimes. You can make exactly what you want however you want it. Other times, like when presented with a giant head of savoy cabbage, it's a challenge. It's also more economical to buy things in bulk, but when you're one person you get sick of eating the same thing for a week. I mulled over the cabbage from my CSA, searching every online database for something other than coleslaw or cabbage and potatoes. Well there isn't much out there but Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks had a beautiful asian cabbage salad. I have to admit I am a regular reader of her fabulous blog but I've never actually tried my hand at any of her recipes. Her pictures are always so perfect and I think I'm a little bit intimidated.

I decided to give it a shot in attempt to ease my fear of recipes and to start using flavors that I love eating but haven't cooked much with. I also wanted to experiment with my longtime vegetarian nemesis: tofu.

Ingredients

1 package extra firm tofu
1/2 head savoy or napa cabbage
Carrots
Radish
Scallions
Fresh ginger
Garlic
Peanut butter
Tamari (or good quality soy sauce)
Sesame Oil
Rice Wine Vinegar
1 lime
Sesame seeds (black or white)

Start by preparing the tofu (draining it thoroughly by squeezing it and blotting with paper towels) and cubing into bite size chunks. Marinate the chunks in a mixture of tamari, fresh grated ginger, sesame oil, and lime juice. It should sit for about an hour.

Meanwhile, shred and wash the cabbage, radishes and carrots. Make the dressing by combining peanut butter, tamari, grated garlic and ginger, and splashes of sesame oil and rice wine vinegar. Also, lightly toast some sesame seeds in a dry saute pan.

Assemble the salad by draining the tofu and tossing it with the cabbage and carrots to make sure it's all coated in the dressing. I wanted it to be nice and crunchy so I actually found that I had to drain some of the liquid off, probably because I washed the cabbage and didn't thoroughly dry it, or the tofu wasn't drained well enough. Top with sesame seeds and sliced scallions. This is great the next day, but probably not much longer after that which is a shame because it makes a ton. I would recommend finding someone to share with.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I Dream of Pizza

I normally dream about food but my recent pudding and applesauce diet made my food dreams even more intense. I had like 20 pizzas in front of me then suddenly woke up drooling and cursing the fact that it wasn't real. I tried in vain to go back to sleep so I could finish my pizza.

I'm no pizza connoisseur. I like pizza, but I grew up on Dominos and to me most pizza falls into the category of good and bad. Here in Philly I have my favorite delivery standbys and for really gourmet pizza I'll go to Mama Palmas, but few inspire the nightime fantasies I experienced the other night.

I have this romantic vision of people who give up professional jobs to open up their own pizza shop as something that only happens on the Food Network or Desparate Housewives. Now I can say that I know someone who's making it a reality! I've tasted the pizza many times (although never been there) and from what I've tasted, it's everything it should be. It tastes homemade and tastes like the person who made it truly loves pizza and uses the best ingredients possible. We order it for every occasion in my office, and even though I eat a lot of it apparently I can't get enough. I'm drooling right now as I'm typing and imagining the garlicky bruschetta with fresh tomatoes.


For all you South Jerseyites out there or if you don't mind driving, check out V & S Pizza in Barrington, NJ.

Putting the Can in Cantina

I love venturing into different neighborhoods in Philly because they all have cool neighborhood favorites where all the locals go. If you're ever in South Philly looking for some great mexican or even just a happy hour destination check out Los Caballitos Cantina. The food is a step above standard mexican fare and as a bonus its very veg friendly and has outdoor seating.

Happy hour deals include cheap beer and the very popular pitchers of margaritas. The only complaint I have is that the happy hour special only applies to the regular flavor margarita and they have lots of flavors I'd like to try. We got a pitcher for the table, but for some reason I like drinking Tecate out of a can while eating mexican food.



I was still recovering so the giant plate of nachos was taunting me with its crunchy goodness.




The rice and bean burrito was soft enough to somehow get in my mouth. I've also had the veg fajitas with tofu which were fantastic.


I don't have a lot of mole experience, but Fred's turkey mole was delicious from the few bites I stole.


The chorizo tacos looked moutwatering and extremely tempting. Maybe I can recreate them with Trader Joes soy chorizo?

Friday, June 26, 2009

A History Lesson

Part 2 of my return to blogging is another book review. Local, organic and seasonal are all the rage right now. Even restaurants in Philly are growing their own vegetable gardens. From movies like Food, Inc. to the popularity of Michael Pollan there are signs the times are changing. I'm glad to see that we are moving beyond trendy and expensive organic food only available to the upper class and seeing the big picture here.

None of this is news to you dear reader. You already know about the pleasure of a local beet and the evils of industrial food production. There are many out there who share the same values and are looking toward a future of sustainable agriculture. If we are to think about what more can be done, it is also worth learning from the past and the beginnings of this whole food revolution. While restaurants that serve local, seasonal food and small organic farms seem innovative right now, they are building on a legacy that actually started decades ago.

Anthony Bourdain has introduced me to the world of food and most notably to one chef in particular who in my mind is one of the most iconic chefs in recent history, Alice Waters. You may know of her landmark restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley as the birthplace of so called "Califronia Cuisine" and one of the first places to use local and seasonal ingredients. It has taken on an almost symbolic status to many and Alice Waters has become a leader in socially and environmentally concious eating.

I decided to learn more about her and the obvious choice was a book titled "Alice Waters and Chez Panisse." I got lucky on the first try and found it to be a very thorough and relatively objective look at Waters' personal life, the history of the restaurant, and the social and political environment that inspired her. Learning tidbits like the fact that Julia Child of all people criticized Waters' for her insistence on using the best ingredients really put things in perspective for me. She started a battle that we are maybe only just beginning to win through advocacy and education.

We still have a long ways to go but I'll take inspiration wherever I can get it.

Making a Comeback, Part 1

Now I have no excuse not to write. The pain and swelling are gone, and I've been shoving normal food through the slowly widening gap between my teeth. Not quite back to normal but from all the horror stories I've been hearing it could be a lot worse.

In the abscence of being able to cook and eat elaborate meals and with time on my hands spent recovering I've been reading. A lot. There is great food writing out there and a lot I realize that I have to learn. I've been learning from my fellow food bloggers and there is no shortage of online recipe databases, but will anything replace the joy of a good old fashioned cookbook? I have admittedly shied away from cookbooks and recipies, but in my quest this summer to eat well I'm trying to expand my relatively narrow horizons. I have made a list of cookbooks that I want to add to my small collection including some classic and many contemporary.

While browsing Barnes and Nobles looking for something to cheer myself up from 2 weeks of misery I found it. The Farm to Table Cookbook. Simple, elegant, beautiful pictures, profiles on small family farmers, organized by season...

The reason I bought it? The author lives in Portland, OR. I have a slight obsession with Portland. Betty and I visited my brother out there and it was maybe the best trip of my life. If you like food go to Portland and you'll thank me later. The ingredients in this book, however, are ingredients that can be found locally and seasonally just about everywhere as confirmed by what I've been seeing here in Philly.

So maybe I won't actually be making Seared Scallops with Creamed Ramps and Black Truffles anytime soon, and this book certainly isn't vegetarian, but it's given me the inspiration that I needed. It has tons of tips too for navigating the markets.

Verdict: I highly recommend it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Where is Wilma's Wisdom?

Readers,

I've been neglecting you lately, but I think I have a good reason. I went in for the fairly simple and very common procedure of wisdom teeth removal well over a week ago and am thoroughly convinced that my oral surgeon hates me and wants me to starve to death. Either that or he gets his kicks by secretly wiring people's jaws shut and waiting to see how long it takes them to figure it out.

So please don't talk to me about food. It's all I can think about, and if I have to eat another bite of applesauce or pudding I might cry. I broke down this weekend and shoved a burrito, steak, chicken and grilled cheese into the tiny gap between my teeth in desparation. Maybe funny to watch but not fun to swallow whole.

I've been collecting lots of ideas and pictures so no worries. Once I get back on my feet there will be plenty to talk about.

Love,
Wilma

Monday, June 15, 2009

One Local Soup

For week 2 of the One Local Summer I once again kept it as simple as possible. With lots of greens on hand from my csa and potatoes, onions, and garlic from the market I went with soup. Now in the future, I would like the broth a little thicker so I might make a roux or thicken it with more potatoes. Not bad though for a quickly thrown together weeknight meal.


Ingredients


Pint of potatoes, yukon gold or fingerling are good
1 medium onion
Garlic
Small bunch kale
Handful of savoy cabbage
Corn, fresh or frozen
1 can or box of vegetable broth
Olive oil
Seasonings of your choice

Saute onions, garlic and potatoes cut into bite size pieces in some olive oil over medium low until everything begins to brown. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, wash and prepare greens (pull the leaves away from the stalks.) Add the greens, corn, and broth and turn up the heat to medium so it comes to a simmer. Let simmer until its all warmed through and the potatoes and greens are soft. Season again and serve with bread.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Billy Mays Here...

I have a strange obsession with infomercials that I can't really explain. Let's just say I'm easily amused and also very gullible. Which is how Betty and I ended up with 2 Titan Peelers complete with the julienne slicer and mandoline attachment.

Now I know what you're thinking, but I'm not one to whip out my credit card at the drop of a hat. Believe me when I say that I gave it a lot thought before buying. I could have bought the Magic Bullet I've been eyeing for 3 easy payments of $33.33 (plus $39.98 s&h) so the Titan Peeler is a steal!

It was the hardest 4-6 weeks of my life, waiting for that package to arrive. I felt like a little kid impatiently waiting for Christmas to come. Just when I had given up hope, there it was sitting in my mailbox. I practically skipped down the hall excited to tell Betty the good news.

The good news is... I have now satisfied my curiousity for "as seen on tv" products. I learned an important lesson that day. Actually I learned it the first time I used the mandoline attachment and very nearly titan peeled the tip of my thumb off.

But maybe I'm wrong to judge all of these products based on my own clumsiness and some cheaply made piece of plastic. How about the Bacon Genie? Can't go wrong with a name like that. So many choices, so little time...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Papa Slaghoople's Mussels and Prawns!


Well, Wilma, you inspired me to share with you and your readers in Bedrock my easy to make recipe of mussels and prawns. I use the word prawn simply to emphasize that little shrimps just won't do for this recipe. Get the big ones, go ahead, everyone will be impressed. Little shrimps will get lost in this dish. Head-on with shells would be best but a little disgusting to look at. Napkins are also a must. This is finger food or close to it. Oh yes, friends are a must as this makes a lot. You can of course scale it down as needed but more friends sharing this make it even better.

You will need a few things. I already covered the BIG shrimps (remember?). Get mussels. Green farmed ones will be just fine but there are also other varieties that will work. The important point is that they must be alive and fresh. Nothing dead. Test them by running them under cold water. If they begin to close up then they are keepers. If they are already closed then it's ok as well. If the shell is broken just give it up and toss in the trash. A bad mussel will make you pretty sick so be careful! Keep them on ice until you are ready to cook.

Start by sautéing onions (2 - 4 medium to large, diced small) in a large heavy pot, both red and Vidalia's in the summer are great. Cook them until transparent with an assortment of green, red, and yellow peppers, all cut up into pretty small pieces with perhaps 1 to 2 tasty summer tomatoes (small ones). Use butter (the more the better - about a 1/4 cup = 1 stick unsalted for 4 lbs mussels and 2-3 lbs shrimp) and maybe a little olive oil. Don't cover the pot, you don't want to steam this mixture and you certainly don't want to burn it so watch the pot. Oh yes, I forgot one key ingredient: smoked bacon. Not some wimpy tofu vegi want-to-be stuff but the real thing, thick cut with a lot of taste (e.g. fat). Use as much bacon as you want (maybe 4 - 10 strips of the good thick kind) - nothing besides cheese makes food taste as good as bacon. You could also add smoked salmon instead of bacon but remember that it will get lost (disintegrate) in the mix although you will be able to taste the smokiness. Again, you just want all this stuff to be barely cooked and the onions just turning transparent. Add 2-4 cloves of diced garlic if you have it but make sure that it does not burn. It should take no longer than 5 to 10 minutes to prepare this mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a few red pepper flakes for zing.

Now you will need some kind of broth. Probably vegetable stock will do or fish stock that you might have on hand would be a good thing to use as well. The point is that you need some liquid with taste. Bullion works also. Prepare 2 cups total and add 1 cup of this to the pot. Let it all heat up to almost a boil, stirring as needed. Keep the other cup of broth aside in case you need it (more on this later).

OK. This is where you add the prawns and mussels. Just throw the prawns into the pot, stirring frequently. It will not take long for them to turn pink. Maybe 3 - 5 minutes. When all of them have begun to turn color add the mussels. Cover the pot and leave it alone for about 2 - 5 minutes on medium heat. Check the pot and stir. If the mussels are not all open then cover it again and wait a few minutes (maybe even 1 is enough). When all of them are open you know that it is almost ready.

At this point add about 1 to 2 cups of heavy cream, pre-warmed is best but cold will do - you just have to heat it longer. No light anything. The fattier the better. Stir the cream into the seafood/onion-stuff mixture. This should be close to a boil. Be careful - you don't want to curdle or burn the cream.

Add about 1/4 cup of cognac or brandy. Pernot would also be fine but in this case I would skip the smokey bacon or salmon. Simmer but not long. If it looks like there is not going to be enough liquid then you can add some more of the broth and heat. The liquid is part of the meal so you want an ample amount for the folks to sop it all up with French bread.

Add goat cheese. Yes, pull it apart in clumps and add it to the pot. This adds flavor and thickens the liquid just a little. Trust me. Again, smoked bacon, cheese, cognac make this thing special. Add to the liquid additional salt/pepper to taste.

If you want you can now pour the entire mess into a serving dish or just use the pot you cooked it in. Add clumps of goat cheese again but don't mix it in. Eventually it will melt anyways. Top the dish with a bunch of chopped fresh green herbs such as basil and cilantro.

Serve it with the bread - large loaf pulled apart or cut into slices. I'd get 1 to 2 loaves for this dish. Also, very cold Vodka or white wine is great with this. I tried out a new Russian vodka flavored with marsh berries (similar to cranberries) which was delicious. I think you know where it came from - can't buy it here in the USA.

Plates are optional. People eat out of the pot and share. You need a dish or something to throw the empty shells. Cold summer salads are a good accompaniment but in this case you need plates. Desert should be fruity. You can probably serve 4 - 8 with this recipe. Calorie count? high. Taste factor? Worth it.

A great summer dish that won't disappoint. Best to Fred.

Love,
Papa

Monday, June 8, 2009

Scallion Pancakes

You can only eat so many scallions. I learned that the hard way after buying one bunch at the farmer's market because when your cooking for one person that's a lot of scallions. Thank you chinese takeout menu for giving me the brilliant idea of scallion pancakes! Could not be simpler. (Well maybe if it didn't involve measuring it would be simpler.)

Ingredients
1 cup flour
3/4 cup water
1 tsp sesame oil
1 egg
Salt
Some scallions, sliced
Vegetable oil
Only makes about 4 pancakes so feel free to double.



Mix all ingredients except for vegetable oil until smooth.




Drop a few spoonfuls into a small nonstick pan coated with vegetable oil over medium heat. Swirl until you have a thin crepe-like pancake. Should take a couple of minutes to brown up nicely, then flip over and brown the other side.

I made a dipping sauce of:
Soy sauce
Ground ginger
Rice wine vinegar
Sesame oil


Adapted from the Food Network.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Colorful Cous Cous

Cous cous is your friend. It's the absolute easiest way to pretend like you know how to cook. Throw some chicken or shrimp over cous cous and suddenly it becomes a gourmet meal. My favorite way to use it is to mix it with fresh, raw veggies and call it a salad. Perfect to bring to a party because it serves a lot of people, is light, healthy and summery, and great for vegetarians/vegans. I usually buy green spinach cous cous which doesn't have a distinct flavor but just looks pretty. (See below.)

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked cous cous
1 stalk green onion
1 pint cherry tomatoes
Small bunch radishes (mine are white icicle from my CSA)
2 small cucumbers
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Garlic (optional)

While the cous cous cooks slice all your veggies. Toss with the cooled, cooked cous cous and voila!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Zucchini Fries

I was really in the mood for cucumber. Couldn't find any at the farmer's market so I headed on over to Maxx's Produce (20th and Locust). I saw some seedless hothouse cukes so I grabbed a pack and eagerly headed home to whip up a salad with all the nice looking organic lettuces I had.

After peeling and slicing it I realized something was very wrong with my cucumber. It was a zucchini. Now I briefly considered going back to Maxx's and complaining that my cucumber was dry, but I don't think I could pull it off with a straight face. So I just threw it in my fridge and resigned myself to a cucumberless salad.

After days of pondering the possibilities of those stupid zucchinis I just couldn't come up with a creative idea. Finally I settled on the idea of zucchini fries. I've breaded stuff and either pan fried or baked it, but never actually deep fried anything before so I figured I'd try something new.

Ingredients

2 zucchinis, peeled and sliced into fry like shapes
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup panko
1/2 cup cornmeal (optional)
Garlic powder
Chili powder
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
It doesn't look as pretty as Sam's, but here's my "mise en place." As you can see the beaten eggs go in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another.
Coat the zucchini in egg then in the breadcrumb mixture.


Heat your oil over medium heat. You'll know its hot when you touch the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and you see small bubbles. Drop your fries in a couple at a time, watching carefully. It should only take a couple of minutes for them to turn golden brown.


Drain on paper towels and salt while still warm. Next time I'll have to make a dipping sauce for them. Any ideas?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hi Mom and Dad!

I know you're pretty much the only ones who read my blog, besides the contributors of course, and I've mentioned you several times recently. I've been thinking a lot about my food philosophy and where it comes from. It's fascinating (or fascinates me) to think about how our ideas about food are shaped by our experiences.

I think I had an epiphany yesterday when I realized there are many gaps in my basic cooking skills. I usually get by in the kitchen because I'm not picky and I have a fairly good idea that when you mix some of this with some of that it will taste good. If I had a modern, clean and well stocked kitchen maybe I would be able to practice all those techniques I see on the Food Network. Oops I mean public television. But I don't. I have a sink, a stove, and an oven that doesn't work. Add to that my trusty toaster oven which I use for everything and my newly acquired mini (Wilma sized) food processor while keeping in mind that my kitchen doubles as my bedroom and living room.

I purchased some frozen premade broccoli and cheese out of desperation at the grocery store. I immediately regretted that decision. Fred informed me that he had some fresh cauliflower and I had some leftover cheddar from the farmer's market. Now yes, I could melt some cheese on the cauliflower and call it a casserole, but having this blog inspires and challenges me. Every meal is a potential post or at least an interesting anecdote, and this meal was of course no exception.

To get back to the point, I thought of my mom. Every Thanksgiving my mom makes broccoli and cheese sauce that starts with a classic bechamel sauce. I guess something that my mom taught me stuck!


I didn't measure and I don't have a whisk so it was made Wilma style. I think lumps add character.

This I learned from my dad- cheese makes everything taste good.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sam Slagheap's Soba Salad

Hey everyone, Sam Slagheap (or Slackheap as I'm called around the office) here finally stepping in and posting something already. First, commence the excuses. I couldn't figure out what I wanted for my first post. and I had a few qualifications. One, I had to find an alliterative dish in keeping with the spirit of the blog. I would be publicly shamed by my fellow posters otherwise, and rightfully so; no excuse for a lit nerd like myself not to come up with something. Two, I wanted something light since summer is fast approaching. Third, I wanted to use something from our CSA to help highlight the great produce we picked up. We had picked up a great looking bunch of white icicle radishes that reminded me of delicious Japanese daikon. So, one quick stream of consciousness later, I decided to make something from my slowly growing repertoire of Japanese cookery, a great light summer lunch dish: Soba noodle salad with a white miso dressing.

Now, despite my predilection for Japanese food, I am German and like a good borderline obsessive compulsive Kraut, I've organized the mise en place before starting to cook with everything that you'll need:
Bundle of soba noodles
Sheet of nori (a type of seaweed)*
Hijiki (yet another seaweed), soaked in water for 30 minutes and then drained*
1TBSP rice wine vinegar
1TBSP sesame oil
1-2 TBSP white miso (experiment with amount to taste)*
Green onions, sliced
White icicle radishes, cut into matchsticks
Sesame seeds for garnish, toasted
Soy sauce to taste

*You can find miso(refrigerated section), nori and hijiki in any Asian supermarket or the ethnic food aisle well stocked megamart.

I must admit, though, I was loathe to cut up this little guy since I thought he kind of looked like the mandrake root from Pan's Labyrinth, an phenomenal movie you should throw in the Netflix queue if you haven't yet seen it yet.



Finally, though certainly an optional ingredient (well, its not an ingredient at all but an absolute necessity for me), is a nice pot of French press coffee and my constant companion at home and in the office, Papa Hemingway.

While your water is boiling, a few words about nori. Seaweed is a great thing to experiment with if you're a vegetarian. Its basically a superfood loaded with iron, calcium, vitamins and everything else vegetarians should keep an eye on nutritionally speaking. Its very common in Japanese cooking and the Japanese diet is a large factor for their high life expectancy. To prepare, heat a frying pan to low heat and let it toast there a sheet at a time. Keep an eye on it though, we'll be returning later.


Add all your liquid ingredients into a meh-sized mixing bowl and whisk until completely emulsified like so...


It should look like slightly watered down peanut butter and I usually will add a little water to thin the dish both to lighten the meal itself and also to help with the mixing. A quick sidenote, this also makes a great marinade for vegetables, tofu, tempeh or, and I'm conjecturing here obviously, fish or chicken for our more carnivorously-minded friends.


Your water should be boiling at this point so go ahead and throw those soba noodles into the pot. Now, I should mention a few quick asides for those not entirely familiar with Asian noodles as they don't act like Italian pasta by and large. First and foremost, soba takes about half the time that Italian pasta does; start testing for doneness around the five minute mark.
So in the meantime...


Your nori should be finished toasting by now. How do you know its finished toasting? Well either the ever vigilant Papa Bear gives you a heads up or you see that it has changed colour from a dark, almost black green into that bright, neon green that you would recognize if you've ever munched a maki roll at your local sushi joint. Use your tongs to grab the sheets from your pan and slice into thin strips. Now that your pan is free, you still have enough time to throw in some sesame seeds to toast while you wait for the soba noodles to cook. If you've ever toasted whole cumin seeds, its the same idea; you want to toast these guys until they start to smell nutty and pop up out of the pan itself.


Once your soba noodles are finished, drain into a colander and rinse under cold water. This is another difference between soba and Italian pastas. Even though you would rinse Italian pasta after cooking if you intended to make a salad like we are her to stop the cooking, you always want to do this with soba, even if you're making a hot dish. Why? I don't know you just do. Now shut up and finish cooking so you can eat.


To finish, simply throw all your ingredients into the mixing bowl and use your tongs to combine. Garnish with the green onions and toasted sesame seeds. Oh, and if you drink coffee while cooking like I do, you might want to finish it up before you eat, soba noodles and coffee don't get along all that well. A delicious Japanese lager like Kirin Ichiban of course would be a better matching beverage wise. Enjoy.
Special Sam Slagheap Bonus Round: If anyone was paying attention to the times, the soba noodles at five minutes are the most time consuming part so if you time everything well, the whole dish comes together in about 7 or 8 minutes. This fact makes it a great summer dish since you don't have to slave over a hot stove for any prolonged period of time. It keeps really well for next day lunch too.

Guest Blogger Betty Presents:

Barney’s Bistro

Hello Fans!

I know that I have been on hiatus for a while. But, Betty is back with loads of stories, insight, tips. Barney surprised me yesterday by coming over and cooking dinner at my place. All I knew was I wanted the yellow corn we acquired from a friend and the delicious scallops we picked up on Sunday. As hard as it was for me to stay out of the kitchen, I kept myself preoccupied in the other room on my computer. Luckily, Barney can multi-task, so I was able to keep myself entertained with witty conversation about malnutrition and unequal access to food while Barney created masterpieces in the kitchen.

In precisely an hour – the time Barney promised he would be done – I walked into my transformed kitchen and dining area. The table was set and dinner was waiting for me to dig in. Barney had done it again! To my surprise, he had stir fried the scallops with the kale I received from the CSA pick-up with onion and garlic (and other things he will NOT divulge) and served this on top of rigatoni and herbs. In another pan, he created a spicy scallop dish on which he wanted to serve on a salad. I was unsure of this scallop salad and lovingly he adjusted the menu for me. To complete the meal, we had yellow corn and a simple salad with romaine lettuce, fresh tomatoes, and red onion and a mysterious creamy dressing that was heavenly.

Dinner was phenomenal! I mixed the spicy and sauté scallops with my pasta, devoured my corn, and savored every bite of my salad. I have to admit that if I had trusted Barney a little more (sad face) I would have enjoyed his scallop salad. However, what he created kept us both silent through the meal. It has always be apparent that Barney can cook; but, I have to say he outdid himself this time. He may have just made himself a more permanent fixture in the blog with his own segment………

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Follow Up

Fred's friend who has the garden in Germantown sympathized when he read about my woes. He also rents some plots of land in Roxborough and suggested I look into it. If you ever meet this guy, gardening is not the first thing that would come to mind.

I've heard about the Schuylkill Center and that's where he rents his land from. If I ever have a way of getting out there and enough time and money I will definitely join their organic community garden.

There's actually a community garden right by my house in the Schuylkill River Park but I don't believe it's open to the public. So maybe I'm not good enough to join their stupid garden (I see them in there, all smug) but the history of it is pretty cool. It was started in 1982 and is now in the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Gardens.

Well for now I'll just have to reminisce about the days when my dad and I grew flowers, herbs, and veggies on our back deck. Fresh tomatoes and basil picked from our deck is maybe my favorite memory from home. The time my mom grew some habanero peppers and I ate one whole is probably my least favorite.

Guest Blogger Betty Presents:














Betty’s Bumpin Banana Bread


2 cups flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
¾ cup sugar
½ cup butter (1 stick, room temperature)
2 eggs, beaten
2-4 bananas that are freckled or completely black

Preheat oven 325°F. Combine flour, salt, baking soda in a bowl. If you have sifter, pour ingredients through twice to eliminate clumps and incorporate more thoroughly. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until mostly combined. Add eggs and bananas to mixture. Add flour mixture to banana mixture. Mixture should look wet and have no flour visible.



Pour into a greased loaf pan (spray pan in pan until well coated) and bake in oven for 60-70 minutes. Stick a toothpick or butter knife in the middle to make sure bread is all the way cooked. It should come out clean when it is completely cooked. Let bread cool in pan for 10-15 minutes. Turn out and continue cooling on a wire rack. Bon appetite!

Keep It Simple Stupid.

The One Local Summer Challenge has officially begun and apparently I'm now a volunteer regional coordinator. The challenge is to cook a meal every week using all local ingredients with the exception of things like salt and pepper. Instead of starting with a recipe, I think the best approach is to see what's fresh and seasonal and work around those ingredients.

Maybe there will be elaborate meals and creative dishes along the way, otherwise it wouldn't be a challenge right? The beauty of good ingredients is that they taste good prepared simply or elaborately, so I will do my best to highlight the ingredients themselves. This first week is a great example.


My weekend breakfast staple of eggs and toast was made with ingredients from the Rittenhouse Farmer's Market:

Pastured eggs
Raw milk cheddar cheese
Spinach and parmesan baguette
Strawberries

Monday, June 1, 2009

Home Grown Food is Hip

I was lucky enough to be invited to a good ol' fashioned back yard BBQ thrown by Fred's friends who live in Germantown (Philly, not MD). There was delicious food aplenty - potato salad, pasta salad, beans and some of the best BBQ chicken I've ever had. I did, for the record, also try some veggie hotdogs. Not bad when smothered with a liberal amount of baked beans. What I was most excited about, however, was the food that was yet to be cooked, growing right in their own backyard!

Oh how I wish I had a yard, but a porch or an alley would do. Some little patch of outdoors to call my own that would support even a potted plant. My studio apartment barely supports me and some mice and doesn't get enough light to grow so much as a stupid basil plant.

Well anyways, I was quite impressed with the nice spread they have growing like cabbage, tomatoes and fresh herbs. They also are part of a CSA and frequent Weaver's Way Co-op. Maybe I'll move to the suburbs.

Turnip Tops: Tasty or Terrible?

I would consider myself an adventurous eater and cook. All my favorite blogs have been preaching the virtues of greens, and by greens I mean the tops of things like beets, radishes, and of course turnips. I'm completely on board with the idea of finding uses for underutilized scraps. (Scrapple anyone?) Well, that was until my CSA decided to give me some "turnip tops." So basically, here's some turnips that aren't big enough to eat but we're giving them to you anyways. Not that I know anything about turnip farming, but I'm wondering if Farmer Joe could have let them grow a little longer and given me some actual turnips.*

I stared at those suckers for a while and figured anything tastes good with enough butter, lemon juice and garlic. I was wrong. It wasn't inedible, but I might as well have gone out to the park and picked some weeds. Luckily they cooked down enough that I could enjoy the gnocchi and mushrooms with enough parmesan cheese to cover up the taste of tree.

*In case you don't understand my sense of humor, I am being completely sarcastic and have nothing but the utmost respect for farmers. I will gladly eat whatever they choose to give me every week and appreciate the hard work that goes into all the delicious food they provide.

Rittenhouse Review

So I'm lucky enough to have several different farmer's market's nearby and frequent them every week. This Saturday morning, I decided to check out Rittenhouse Square. It's definitely bigger then either Fitler's Square or Schuylkill Park but it's not exactly a Betty's Bargain. I think I bought one of everything there before realizing I had spent all my cash.


Heres what I ended up with:
Strawberries- it's definitely strawberry season!
Lettuce
Arugula
Cheddar Cheese
Eggs
Chevre with chives
Basil
Cherry tomatoes
Parmesan spinach baguette
Broccoli and cheese stromboli
Cinnamon raisin bun