kitchen scribble

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.

April 7, 2015

spring CSA, week 4

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 1:45 pm

Every four weeks, along with the delicious vegetables, fruits, eggs, and bread, Breezy Willow throws in a locally-sourced “bonus” item. This week, it was Wild Pea hummous.

The full share: kale, beets, red potatoes, rainbow carrots, Brussels sprouts, apples (7 Fuji, 5 York), Minneolas, eggs, and bread (I picked Great Harvest challah).

spring CSA, week 4

And, of course, the hummous. I may have held up the line for a teensy bit while I dithered over which hummous to take home. (For the record, the choices were curry, “vampire slayer” garlic, Old Bay, or “Asian fire” chili. I eventually decided to go local and went with the Old Bay.)

hummous spread

I also had to get another shot of all those gorgeous rainbow carrots.

rainbow carrots

I think the rainbow carrots are always so pretty – not just the colors, but the unique shapes. I read an article recently (NPR: Think Nobody Wants to Buy Ugly Fruits and Veggies? Think Again) about how “ugly” produce is saved from waste bins, and when I looked at the pictures of the ugly produce, I was shocked. They looked perfectly good!

Then I remembered that whenever I go back to produce-shopping in the winter, after the CSA has ended and the farmer’s market has closed, I’m always a little put off by the shiny perfection of the vegetables. All the carrots are straight, all the apples are round and shiny, the greenery gleams with freshly-sprayed water droplets; if something is bruised, crooked, or dirty, it looks out of place. It’s like shopping out of a catalog: unreal, almost plastic.

Poor lumpy, dirty vegetables; in that context, I can understand why stores wouldn’t stock them. But they’re just as tasty, and I really do feel closer to the source of my food when I peel a crooked carrot, or flick a little green worm off the tip of my corn cob. It’s good to know where your food comes from, and all the different shapes in which it can present itself. And imperfections can actually be good indicators of quality. My dad used to say, whenever I found an apple with a hole pecked out of it: good choice; the birds know which apples are the tastiest.

April 1, 2015

spring CSA, week 3

Filed under: CSA, weeknight cooking — kat @ 11:53 am

week 3 of the spring CSA: gold potatoes, carrots, ruby red grapefruit (3), minneolas (6), spinach, green beans, bean sprouts, mushrooms (in the brown paper bag), eggs, and bread (Breadery cinnamon raisin walnut).

spring CSA, week 3

Already cooked (though not yet eaten): all of it! This past Saturday I decided that I was sick of all the uncooked produce in the refrigerator, and in a frenzy of industry, I stirfried the bean sprouts, wilted the spinach, and sauteed the mushrooms, wiping out the Dutch oven between batches (fewer dishes). The carrots and potatoes went into K’s slow-cooker chicken curry, and the eggs into a big breakfast scramble with some shredded cheese and leftover barbecue meat. The fridge is now full of easily microwaveable side dishes, instead of produce that demands cleaning and chopping before it can be consumed. In a household with two working parents and kids that need to be fed immediately after coming home in the evenings, this sort of prep is key to retaining sanity.

I am a little disappointed with the bread, though; it crumbled a bit too easily and fell into pieces in the toaster oven. Too dry, I think, even though we carefully kept it twist-tied in its paper bag. Guess I’ll avoid it the next time around.

The bean sprouts were not clearly not a hit with the CSA crowd:

bean sprouts on the trade table

The major pitfall of the bean sprouts is that they go bad really quickly; turn your back for a few days and they’ve gone all brown and slimy, and before you know it you’re throwing away food and feeling horrible about it. Just wash them and eat them raw as a snack or in salads, or stirfry them and eat them alongside, well, practically anything. Their taste is clean, bland, and inoffensive; mix them into your cooking and I guarantee you’ll barely notice their presence.

(…unless you’re a three-year-old. Little Prince has x-ray vision and, if he’s in a mood, he’ll object to even the smallest shred of vegetation in his meals. Except, oddly, broccoli.)

March 25, 2015

Chocolate chip cookies in a hurry (and CSA week 2)

Filed under: CSA, quick eats — kat @ 12:28 pm

This past Saturday, spring finally came stumbling in; when we woke up, there was still a layer of snow coating the ground, but by afternoon everything was balmy and sunny and we could finally see all of our (brown) grass again.

Although we had fresh CSA goodies, not many of them got cooked; we had Pi Day and St Patrick’s Day to contend with, and we have traditions to uphold. I made hand pies and an apple pie for Pi Day, and good old corned beef and cabbage (with potatoes and rainbow carrots) for St Pat’s.

The goodies from week 2 of the CSA (most of them still waiting in the fridge): oranges, sweet potatoes, tangerines, Granny Smith apples, onions, brussels sprouts, beets, kale, garlic, eggs, and bread (Breadery sourdough).

The baby is posing next to the vegetables. For scale.

We used up the kale in a massaged kale salad (with tangerines and apples), and the beet greens got cooked up in some fat that I skimmed off our delicious short ribs (from Carroll Farm to Table; I’ll talk about them some other time), but otherwise most of the pickup is still sitting in the fridge.

The other reason I’m behind on dealing with the CSA bounty is that it’s been a rough couple of weeks; we’ve all been fighting runny noses and sore throats for some time now, but last week the baby got a fever… and then the Little Prince got a fever… and then the baby got a fever again. On top of the nasal congestion and coughing, too. Poor kids. Hopefully we’re near the end of this round of illnesses.

When you’re a worn-down, tired parent, sometimes you just want a homemade chocolate chip cookie. This is how you get one within fifteen minutes, warm from the oven, with minimal effort:

1) go back in time and make a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough. I used smitten kitchen’s recipe. Heck, double the batch; you never know when a cookie emergency will strike.

2) scoop the cookie dough into balls and pack the balls on a cookie tray, lined with a silicone baking mat (or parchment paper, if you don’t have one). You can crowd the dough balls pretty tightly; just make sure they’re not touching. I use a cookie scoop for minimal fuss.

3) the next morning, put your frozen cookie dough balls into a freezer bag. They won’t stick together because they’re frozen.

4) time travel back to the present. When you’re feeling downtrodden and tired, take two or three (or more, I won’t judge) dough balls out of the bag and put them on your oven tray. Pop them in the preheated oven and wait 15 min, or until they’re baked. (Cooking time varies with oven but when the cookies are flat and a little brown around the edges, I call them done.)

5) make yourself a hot chocolate and sit down with a handful of freshly-baked, perfect little cookies, crispy on the outside but still gooey on the inside. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Life is good.

This technique will work for almost any cookie recipe, not just chocolate chip; it’s also how I managed to execute some pretty impressive cookie platters this past holiday season. Our neighbors were impressed by how I managed a variety of freshly-baked cookies, with two young kids at home. I merely smiled and mumbled something about good time management. Now all I need is more freezer space.

March 13, 2015

spring CSA, week 1

Filed under: CSA — kat @ 4:27 pm

We had great weather for the first day of the 2015 spring CSA; it was positively balmy, the sun was out, and the ground was only a bit muddy from all the melting snow. It was really nice to see all of the working shares at the farm again.

For the first week, we got three Ruby Red grapefruits (citrus from Breezy Willow’s partner farms in FL), rainbow carrots, white potatoes and apples (York and Stayman) from cold storage, spinach and green beans (greenhouse or high tunnel grown), and a generous pound of mushrooms. We also got eggs and bread (Breadery raspberry chocolate, can’t wait).

spring CSA, week 1

The rainbow carrots were especially beautiful to look at.

rainbow carrots at the farm

With St Pat’s coming up next week, the carrots and potatoes will probably get boiled up to go with our corned beef. We’ve already had the green beans with last night’s spaghetti and meatballs (quickly blanched in the pasta water, since it was already heated). The apples will be part of our lunches to go to school and work. That just leaves the mushrooms, which, honestly, go with anything when sliced and sauteed. Or I could turn them into a quiche with the eggs. Anyway, it’s great to get back into the swing of the CSA.

March 6, 2015

winter bread and bones

Filed under: local meats, weekend cooking — kat @ 1:47 pm

With the snow piled up high and thick outside, it’s hard to believe that Breezy Willow’s spring CSA starts up next week. It really feels like I need the CSA to prod me into posting. Every year I promise myself that I’m going to post during the winter break, talk about Thanksgiving frenzy and Christmas cookies, not to mention the soups and scones and winter braises that are filling my kitchen… and yet I never seem to get myself together enough to even log onto the site. Too easy to put it off, I guess.

The biggest news: over this past winter — just about a week after the last time I posted on this blog, actually — our household expanded by one new member. With the new little girl, we have now returned to gender parity. Since there’s now more than one kid, I’m promoting the boy formerly known as “the kid” to his new title, “Little Prince.” He kind of behaves like one anyway…

His new baby sister (little princess?) is a good eater so far. I look forward to introducing her to purees in just a couple more months; too early for the new spring/summer fruits, but there should have plenty of cold storage apples and carrots to mush up for her.

Everyone’s sick of winter by now but I confess I still love it. I still love wrapping up in scarves and soft knits to go outside, and I love looking out the window into a winter wonderland, all the trees and branches outlined, a simple palette of brown and pine and gorgeous, fluffy white.

Since daycare was closed for yesterday’s snowstorm, we all stayed home. We had some marrow bones from our Wagon Wheel Ranch cow in the freezer, so we roasted those up for a nice post-shoveling treat. Roasting marrow is so easy: set the bones cut-side-up on a pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, put them in a 450 degree oven until the marrow starts to bubble – 20 minutes or so. Once it’s cooked you can just scoop it out with a spoon… or a piece of bread.

We went with the Speedy No-Knead Bread. Easy as anything, and perfect for a snow day: mix flour, water, yeast, and salt in the morning, let it rise 4 hours, dump it onto an oiled pan and fold it over, let the dough sit half an hour more, dump it into a preheated pot (the pot has to be fiery hot, or your bread will stick) and bake for about an hour, uncovering the pot halfway through. It creates a rustic, round loaf with a toasted crunchy exterior and a chewy, bubbly interior, and we ate the entire loaf in a day. Four common ingredients and a heated pot, barely any work, and out of that you get a wonderful loaf of artisan bread. Baking is like magic.

After scraping out the marrow bones with bread, we dumped the empty bones into a stockpot full of water to extract a rich, fragrant stock. It simmered late into the night, and then I just put the entire covered pot outside on the patio to cool down. Winter: nature’s freezer. We’ll bring in the pot tonight, skim off the fat, strain out the solids, and pack the resulting stock into the freezer for later.

And as a bonus, the hot oven (450 F, for both bones and bread) heated up the inside of our house quite nicely, and the simmering bone stock on the stove filled every room with a delicious beefy scent. Really, winter is the best.

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