kitchen scribble

June 18, 2015

summer CSA, week 2

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 1:09 pm

This is a chromatically pleasing pickup! Perfectly sweet blueberries; kale, green leaf lettuce, green beans, cucumber, and an extra bunch of parsley; a huge stack of yellow squash; red-skinned potatoes; orange (brown) eggs, and a loaf of soft golden challah.

summer CSA, week 2

Kale, lettuce, and green beans disappear fairly quickly in our house, but not so much the yellow squash. I’ve got my eye on smitten kitchen’s squash and potato torte recipe. It looks kind of fiddly* to prepare, what with all the slicing and arranging and so on, but I think I can find time this weekend. As a bonus, I can fold in some of the green onions and thyme that are going gangbusters in our container garden.

*as a salary mom with an infant and a preschooler, who can only really cook on evenings and weekends, I now evaluate recipes on the basis of “how easy is this to prepare while the kids are awake?” So anything that needs lots of fine knife work, or constant stirring on the stovetop, has to be tabled until after the kids go to bed. This torte, for instance, looks like a great contender for a prepare-the-night-before, bake-up-the-next-day type of approach.

June 15, 2015

Got upsold at Mrs. K’s Toll House

Filed under: local, peevishness — kat @ 2:56 pm

Say you ordered a vegetarian dish, and got an add-on of meat; of course you’re willing to pay a little extra for the add-on, but how much is acceptable? If your dish is an $18 risotto, would you accept an extra $5 for some shrimp? How about $8?

How about $16?

This past Friday, I met up with a few friends at Mrs. K’s Toll House Restaurant. It’s in an old converted toll house, just north of downtown Silver Spring. It’s surrounded by green, manicured gardens, and the location itself is a beautiful building full of antique furniture. I loved it. Great ambiance. The service was wonderful, too, very attentive and courteous, and the food was delicious.

I even remembered to take a picture of my dinner, the mushroom risotto:

mushroom risotto from Mrs K's

Yes, that’s more than just mushrooms. When I ordered, the waitress asked if I would like to add on some shrimp. And I said, sure! I didn’t mind paying a little extra for protein. The shrimp, blackened and just a hint spicy, was a delicious counterpoint to the rich, creamy risotto. It was an great pairing – kind of like an amped-up shrimp and grits.

Really, everything was going swimmingly until we got the bill, which showed that I had spent $18 for my mushroom risotto, and $16 for the add-on of shrimp.

I called the waitress over, just to make sure there wasn’t some mistake, and she verified that yes, I had paid $16 – almost 90% of the cost of my entire entree – for five pieces of shrimp.

That’s $3.20 a shrimp.

I mean, it was good shrimp, but not that good.

This meant that my shrimp-and-mushroom risotto came to a grand total of $34, which, I believe, made it more expensive than anything on the menu except the crab cakes and the filet mignon.

Sure, I could have (and should have) asked what the charge would have been for the shrimp add-on. But, you know, if adding on a protein effectively doubled the price of someone’s dish, you’d think it would be polite to mention it, right?

I thought briefly about stiffing the waitstaff on the tip, but the service really had been exceptional otherwise, and besides, our party of five had an automatic service charge on the bill. So I let it go.

But I’m definitely not going there to get upsold again.

June 11, 2015

summer/fall CSA, week 1

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 3:14 pm

The CSA is back! *throws confetti* I’ve managed to get by with the farmer’s markets, but there’s no substitute for picking up a week’s worth of vegetables that I, uh, had no say in selecting. (Well, technically I can select my beets from a pile of other beets. But I still can only get beets. Especially since there were nothing but beets at the trade table. Fellow CSA members, can you truly be soured on beets already?)

First week of the summer CSA brought us a ton of leafy greens to eat: green leaf lettuce, rainbow chard, spinach, and the greens from the aforementioned beets meant that it was a very leafy pickup. Also in the pickup: spring onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and the usual eggs and bread (Breadery 3-seed).

summer/fall CSA, 2015 week 1

I cut up and washed the green leaf lettuce right away. Lettuces don’t hold up well in the fridge. We had it alongside white rice and a frittata of kielbasa, spinach, and cheddar cheese. The Little Prince actually ate his entire serving of “egg pie”, much to my delight.

No fancy plans for the rest of the pickup; I might end up just sauteeing the beet greens together with the chard, let the thick-stemmed greens hang out together. Zucchini is fantastic tossed with a bit of olive oil and spice, and baked on a sheet pan or quickly sauteed on the stovetop. Spring onion greens might go in another frittata with the mushrooms (there are oh so many eggs in the house right now), and I’ll save the spring onion bulbs to throw on the grill next time it’s fired up (they turn sweet and smoky and fantastic; I highly recommend it). Beets, I’ll probably try some sort of pickle. Or puree into soup with a little garlic and cream.

The weather yesterday was beautiful and I was absolutely loving being at the farm. It was nice to see the llamas again, too. Hi, llamas!

llamas say hi

May 28, 2015

spring CSA, final week

Filed under: CSA, local — kat @ 2:42 pm

For the final week of this year’s spring CSA, we had: beets, apples, asparagus, Vidalia onions, cucumbers, green leaf lettuce, kale, green beans, eggs, and bread (Breadery sourdough).

spring CSA, week 11

Saying goodbye to the spring CSA is nowhere near as bittersweet as saying goodbye to the summer/fall CSA. The spring CSA ends at a great time; the farmer’s markets are just starting up, strawberry picking is beginning in the fields, my little container garden is providing herbs for our meals, and I can already see the beginnings of baby hot peppers on our plants. And the summer/fall CSA starts up in just two weeks, so it’s hardly a period of privation.

Yesterday afternoon I went to the farmer’s market at Miller Library, just to stock up on eggs. The guy at the TLV tree farm promptly talked me into buying more. Like he said, they’ll be fine for weeks in the fridge… and at under $4/dozen if you buy three, these fresh brown eggs from cage-free hens are comparable to supermarket prices. He also talked me into buying twice the strawberries I came for (picked that very morning). Dude is smooth.

farmer's market haul

While I was there, I also picked up a bag of mixed greens from Love Dove, challah from The Breadery, and zucchini from the stand next to the Stone House Bakery.

The strawberries came in handy right away; I used them to bribe the Little Prince into finishing his salad greens. The kid will do anything for strawberries. They were juicy, sweet, and perfect. I’m already itching to make strawberry jam.

strawberries!

I’ve said this before, but: I really love spring in Maryland.

May 14, 2015

spring CSA, week 10

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 2:33 pm

The haul: 5 Stayman apples, 8 Fuji apples, rainbow carrots, asparagus, radishes (though the overhead shot really shows more radish green than radish root), a pound of spinach, a head of (really sandy) romaine lettuce, Brussels sprouts, eggs, and bread (Breadery honey whole wheat).

spring CSA, week 10

We ate the asparagus immediately; it was so fresh that some of the ends didn’t even snap. I love asparagus for its ease of preparation: snap the ends, rinse the spears, tumble them into a pan with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast them until they start to look a little shriveled. Done! They get all tender and delicious. Even the Little Prince loves them.

The apples are really piling up; we are drowning a bit in apples here. Since the Little Princess is just starting solid foods (she seemed to like her puree of CSA spinach last night), I think I’ll be making applesauce this weekend. And apple cobbler for us older folks, too.

I also dropped by the Miller Library farmer’s market yesterday. It was great to see all the farm stands again! Not much in the way of fresh produce yet but if you want to stock up on little baby herb and tomato plants, now is the time. I picked up two little cherry tomato plugs from Love Dove Farm; really looking forward to fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes this summer, assuming I can get to them before all the back yard wildlife.

Breezy Willow’s spring CSA runs for just one more week, and then it’s a two-week break until the summer one starts up. I’m looking forward to doing a lot of farmer’s market shopping over the hiatus.

May 11, 2015

spring CSA, week 9

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 4:21 pm

Week 9 of the CSA: red potatoes, Vidalia onions, apples (Fuji, definitely looking a little past their prime as we near the end of cold season storage), spinach, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, mushrooms, asparagus, eggs, and bread (Breadery sourdough).

spring CSA, week 9

Progress report: So far we’ve already eaten the mushrooms (sauteed in butter, served alongside steak), asparagus (seasoned and broiled, served alongside stir-fried beef and eggplant), spinach (wilted, seasoned, and served as a side, with some pureed for the Little Princess), and cucumbers (refrigerator-pickled).

The romaine lettuce is going to get brushed with a vinagrette and thrown on the grill. I sliced up onions last night after the kids went to bed, and they (the onions, not the kids) are going to get sauteed up with some sliced peppers tonight (busy mom tip: prep as much as possible the night before). Potatoes will be quartered, folded into a foil packet with some oil and herbs, and left on the grill to roast in the carryover heat; ditto the beets from last week. So happy that grilling season is back again!

Our patio garden is also coming back to life with some thyme, basil and habanero peppers (from the Thursday farmer’s market at East Columbia library) as well as parsley, rosemary, poblano, and ghost peppers (from the Sunday market at Oakland Mills). Looking forward to adding some tomato plants too, and probably more peppers. Someday we’ll graduate to a proper plot of land in our backyard, but for now, the patio container garden is about all I can handle.

The guy at the TLV Tree Farm stand said that his strawberries were looking good, and would be available in a couple more weeks. I’m really looking forward to taking the Little Prince berry picking again this year.

May 4, 2015

spring CSA, weeks 7 and 8

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 3:54 pm

Week 7 of the CSA: spinach (top left) is covering the green beans; there’s also romaine lettuce, mushrooms, apples (Fuji, I think), cucumbers, Vidalia onions, red potatoes, eggs, and bread (Breadery Kid’s Delight).

spring CSA, week 7

And here’s the bounty from week 8: green beans, spinach, rainbow carrots, beets with luxuriant greens, more romaine lettuce, eggplant, apples, radishes, eggs, bread (Breadery ciabatta), and a bonus item of cheese (I picked cheddar).

spring CSA, week 8

I thought the radishes at the farm were particularly beautiful last week:

radishes on display

I love eating radish greens. The first time I tried them I was a bit taken aback by the sharp, peppery flavor, but now I absolutely love them, especially sauteed in butter.

It’s also the first week of May, which means that the Howard County Farmers Markets are starting back up. I’m so excited. I love my CSA share, but I also like shopping for myself too.

April 20, 2015

spring CSA, week 6

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 4:15 pm

This week in the CSA: spinach, oranges, red potatoes, apples, mushrooms, brussels sprouts, rainbow carrots, beets, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest challah, again).

spring CSA, week 6

The plan, already half-implemented: oranges and apples eaten as is; spinach and mushrooms sauteed and incorporated with eggs into frittata; brussels sprouts roasted with garlic; beet greens wilted and baked into something involving pasta and cheese; beets boiled and pureed into soup; potatoes diced into hash; carrots sliced into split pea soup, to be served with grilled cheese sandwiches featuring the challah.

We don’t eat fancy in our house, but we do eat well. The NYT has an article out titled Simple Rules for Healthy Eating, which basically calls for eating more foods prepared from scratch, being conscious of your caloric intake, and eating with other people whenever you can.

As a full-time working mom in a dual-income household, my free time is precious, and I do sink a lot of said precious “free” time into the rituals of food preparation: washing, storing, chopping, cooking, and the endless dishes that follow. And after all that, it’s often disheartening to watch the Little Prince refuse vegetables that I’ve painstakingly prepared for him (though I’ve recently had a lot of success burying greens in pasta and cheese).

That said, though, I find it personally rewarding to be able to take a mixed bag of vegetables every week, and using nothing more than a knife and some pots and pans, turn it into meals. It’s like magic. And it’s very satisfying.

April 13, 2015

I want to go to Tous les Jours every day

Filed under: local — kat @ 3:51 pm

Tous les Jours is a beautiful new Korean bakery lighting up Route 40. I’ve been there several times now, because I love it, but it does have two negatives. One is that they are so popular that it’s sometimes hard to find a place to sit, and as for the other, well, I’ll get to it later.

Tous les Jours is apparently an outpost of a well-established chain, a bakery/coffeehouse hybrid like Shilla, Bon Appetit, etc. The bakery area is very approachable, always very well-stocked with (delicious!) tasting samples; the drinks I’ve had so far have been delightful, although the ordering process has been somewhat complicated by the fact that I seem to get a newbie cashier almost every single time.

The first I heard of them was when K came back from running errands, toting a big bag of bakery goods. I was impressed with how good the food looked. I was even more impressed by how good it tasted.

baked goods from Tous les Jours

Living close to Rt 40 as we do, I’ve tried a lot of Korean bakery items, and I think Tous les Jours is my favorite bakery so far. I particularly loved the one bun that was completely round, with a crispy shell and a chewy filling; it reminded me of dim sum sesame balls, but bigger (and without sesame). The croquettes were warm and toasty when K brought them back, too, because hot items are kept inside a little warmer oven. Very thoughtful.

They also bake their bread fresh. I’ve been there first thing in the morning (they open at 8, which is not the friendliest time for commuters), and saw several trays of bakery items heading out of the kitchen; the place smelled heavenly.

The picture below is from an evening when we headed over for dessert, and enjoyed a mango bubble tea (K) and a mocha (me). K chose an item that we both agreed was pretty much a twisty, bent churro. I picked my pale green “melon” bun in an effort to try new things, and because I loved how it looked: like it was baring its teeth at me. Its tasty, pointy, cute little strawberry teeth. It was soft in texture, with an almost cream-cheese-like quality, and an interesting light tangy taste from the melon.

drinks and dessert from Tous les Jours

Besides being beautiful, my mocha was also quite satisfying, with good flavors of coffee and chocolate. K’s bubble tea was nothing to write home about, unfortunately; the flavor was good, but the tea shares the same weakness as most of the bubble teas I’ve had at other local establishments. The tapioca pearls were inconsistent in texture, some hard and pebbly, some soft and almost too goopy: the mark of bubbles that are not fresh. You want bubbles that are chewy but not hard, sweet but not sugary. These felt like they had been improperly prepared, or were sitting around too long. Anyway. Not going to knock Tous les Jours on their bubble tea, since apparently my standards are higher than what’s available anywhere in the area, but you can be sure I’ll be sticking with the non-bubble drinks in the future.

(Sidebar: good bubble tea is not hard, people; if you want really decent bubble tea, go to Rockville. Check out Jumbo Jumbo Cafe, and while you’re there, get yourself an order of the fried chicken appetizer with spiced salt and basil; trust me on this, it’s an epiphany. Bubble Tea Cafe on Rollins is also good. Or Ten Ren in Wintergreen Plaza. I’ve also had perfectly decent bubble tea from Rockville joints that aren’t bubble-tea-centric, like from the ramen joint Ki No Spoon, or from Maria’s Bakery, etc, etc… anyway, HoCo really needs to up its bubble tea game. I’ve tried the bubble teas at Honey Pig, La Boulangerie, Bon Appetit, and even Ichiban Cafe down in Columbia, and they all have the same goopy/pebbly tapioca ball issue; if you know where to find a good one in the area, definitely let me know.)

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I had a second negative thing to say about Tous les Jours. I’ll present it verbatim:

“I have good news and bad news,” K said, returning to our table. “Which do you want first?”

“The bad news,” I said, because I like things to end on a high note.

“OK. The bathroom had one of those checklist cleaning lists posted, right, when someone initials the time that they last cleaned it? Well, it’s set up for every three hours, and it was last cleaned at 5pm. That means no one cleaned it at 8pm.”

“That’s not… so bad,” I said. It was about 10pm.

“And the other bad news is that the date on the cleaning schedule was March 26th.”

“Oh,” I said. It was March 28th. “So, um, what’s the good news?”

“There’s hand sanitizer outside,” K said brightly, “for when you leave the bathroom that hasn’t been cleaned for two days!”

I mean, we ate there anyway. The food and drinks were delicious. But, yeah, bit of a sour note there.

In sum: I know I said some negative things about Tous les Jours, but honestly, I’m actually really in love with the place. The bakery items are all fantastic, the coffee drinks are wonderful, there’s plenty of seating and the decor is calm and comfortable. I’d recommend it to anyone.

Tous les Jours is on Rt 40, across from Shilla Bakery, behind Lighthouse Tofu.

April 9, 2015

spring CSA, week 5

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 2:50 pm

I love that Breezy Willow’s spring CSA co-op reaches all the way down to Florida; these ruby red grapefruits are amazing.

This week in the CSA: kale, romaine lettuce, green beans, Granny Smith apples, yellow onions, ruby red grapefruit, gold potatoes, mushrooms, eggs, and bread (Great Harvest challah, again).

spring CSA, week 5

I think tonight will be a good night for one of my favorite simple dinner salads: crisp romaine lettuce, with shredded cheese and a fried egg. I like cooking the egg just over easy, so that the yolk flows out and dresses the salad leaves.

The Little Prince is a big fan of over easy eggs as well, often demanding plenty of “egg sauce”. He loves shredded cheese, too. If only he would accept the salad part of the meal with equal enthusiasm.

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