Over the winter, we got a "lamb share" CSA from one of the vendors (Cabin Creek Heritage Farm) at the Takoma Park Farmers Market. We liked it, but they don't have lamb over the summer. The Mr. is particular about his beef and doesn't want it to have been frozen, so we went for "mini pork share" this time.( Cut for CSA details and cooking description/rough recipe )
We have had beautiful weather this weekend, but I haven't taken that much advantage of it. We did walk out for gelato (the Mr.: dark chocolate and hazelnut) and sorbet (me: grapefruit) yesterday afternoon at the neighborhood place (Dolci Gelati), and today we walked to Busboys & Poets for brunch (which has become a near-weekly habit).
I have just finished making 6 quarts of chicken stock. I think this is the best I've made. I used more or less this recipe, which I have bookmarked for later. The main difference between this and what I have made previously is far more carrots (6 instead of 2 or 3) and peppercorns (2 teaspoons); also, leaving the skin on the halved onion, which has an effect on the color. And darn I should have known that (it's one of the common natural fabric dye ingredients, for a golden yellow), and in fact, I remember my late mother doing the same.
The chicken stock is for matzoh ball soup for second seder at my sister's place this coming Saturday. I am the official Matzoh Ball Maker on our side of the family. The first seder will be at our friends Michael and Sharon's. They have asked me to bring a fruit platter, which should be easy, except that I will be working most of Friday. I will try to pick up fresh fruit the night before, I think.
And the Mr. is upstairs doing the taxes, because yes, it's spring. *sigh*
The family are all a bit hungover today after our annual pilgrimage to the Mr.'s sister's place in western Maryland for a late Christmas celebration. It's a trip of 154 miles (248 km), which GoogleMaps thinks should take 2½ hours, but it took more like 3, with backups caused by roadwork outside of Frederick and a stop for restrooms and coffee near Sharpsburg (site of a famous Civil War battle, Antietam). We left home at 10:00 a.m. and were back around 12 hours later.
The weather was great for traveling, as clear and dry and open as I can remember its ever being for this trip. It can get very snowy in western Maryland, and there are ski resorts, despite the mountains' modest heights. Of those on the list at the link, we drove over Meadow Mountain, Big Savage Mountain, and others, including the titular Sideling Hill (site of a dramatic road cut that displays the local geology in a striking fashion). Savage Mountain is also the site of part of the Eastern Continental Divide: the watershed on one side drains into the Chesapeake Bay and thence to the Atlantic Ocean, while on the other side, it drains into the Mississippi River and down into the Gulf of Mexico.
We actually spent only about four or so hours hanging with the relatives, eating home-cooked (for the most part) food (roast lamb and ham, baked salmon, and lots of sides and desserts) and exchanging gifts. On the way back, the sky was so clear and the stars very bright, even from inside the car. We made an unplanned stop in Frederick and had a late supper at Dutch's Daughter, which was pretty good "traditional American" food (heavy on beef and seafood).
Today we are all stiff and spaced-out: too much driving and sitting.
After blowing off our accustomed gourmet New Year's Eve experience (for very good reason, I might add), the Mr. felt well enough to go to Kat & Andrew's New Year's Day brunch, another two-decades+ fixture in our lives.
I wanted to make something to bring, and the main thing we had in the house besides pantry staples was apples. Several different kinds of apples. I found this recipe on Epicurious, which recommends using at least 4 different types of apples, so I made it. But it was intended for an 8-inch springform pan, and we have only a 10-inch one.
In a moment of rare mathematical thought, I realized that this is a volume problem, and that the shape involved is a (short, squat) cylinder. I found a handy calculator via Google and discovered that the volume ratios were 1 to 1.5. Well! The original recipe calls for 2 eggs, so this was easy-peasy. I did find some additional adjustments needed (our eggs were likely extra large rather than just large, so I needed to add more flour, and I had to extend the baking time, which I did in 10-minute increments, checking the cake for done-ness each cycle), and I also added a bit of cinnamon, because I like cinnamon.
The apples I used were a mixture of Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Gold Rush, and Gala.( Cut for recipe, with my notes where I made changes )
The cake had competition at the brunch: this was a big year for homemade cakes. Those I could identify include a chocolate swiss cake roll as a buche de Noel, my late mother's sour cream coffee cake (made by my sister, in this case), what appeared to be a pumpkin bread with currants, and our hosts' daughter's blueberry tea cake. We left about 1/3 of our cake when we departed the party, but there was still a group of 10 college- and grad-school-age party-goers playing Cards Against Humanity in the front parlor, so we may never see the remaining cake again!
... Thank God!
On the other hand, now it is pouring rain and will continue to do so until Monday, when we will have wind instead. At least all the previously impacted spring flowers seems to appreciate the rain and milder temps, and are busting out all over.
Today we had the mass birthday party for the Mr. and his siblings and others (February-March is the big birthday season for that side of the family). The Young Lady and I made spring holiday/Easter-ish bags for everyone, with cosmetic stuff and little hardware store gadgets (eyeglass mending kits, mini flashlights and tape measures, etc.) and chocolate goodies. They looked delightful and went over very well with the recipients. We had a pot luck mid-day dinner: spaghetti with sauce, roast chicken, baked sweet potatoes, and a massive salad (my contribution) followed by chocolate cake, pumpkin ice cream pie, and fruit salad. A lot of it was store-bought because everyone has had a cruddy couple of weeks (one abdominal surgery, one oral surgery, one case of a very elderly parent who lives nearly 1000 miles away and had a fall, and horribly busy work and school schedules all around). But we all made it, and exchanged gifts, and talked.
Various surpluses in the fridge and elsewhere in the kitchen – milk (a couple of small skim milks past pull date and part of an open carton of shelf-stable lowfat milk), 16 eggs, leftover mashed potatoes, bananas becoming over-ripe – got me to cooking this morning.
We've already eaten the mashed potato pancakes (I added chopped fresh parsley and scallion, then fried them in a bit of the bacon fat left over from the Mr.'s bacon and eggs). The banana bran muffins (I used part whole wheat flour) are just done, and cooling, and the maple cup custards (I messed with this a bit .. I usually make cup custard just from memory) are baking.
My only excuses are that I hadn't been for more than a month, and Waterpenny Farm is in the middle of their main tomato season:
Clockwise from upper left: Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, baby bok choy, struan and caraway rye breads, assorted tomatoes (including some heirloom types), mixed cherry tomatoes, green beans, small cucumbers, peaches and nectarines, satina potatoes, and assorted apples (Gala, Buckeye Gala, Ginger Gold, Jonamac).
(The piece of Vermeer cheese didn't make it into the picture, as i forgot it was in the bottom of the basket.)
Clockwise from upper left: country white bread, eggs, fresh basil, new yellow potatoes, blueberries, two kinds of tomatoes (still greenhouse-grown: local field tomatoes are only just setting their first fruit now), blackberries, sweet cherries, strawberries, more blueberries, and a miniature struan bread loaf.
There likely would have been a couple more things, but it started raining. So we decamped to Mark's Kitchen, where we were joined by our daughter for brunch.
(An odd thing: the icon here is displayed less effectively than it is on LJ. I've never noticed this phenomenon before, but that typeface, Pristina, has very distinct "thicks and thins," and the white-on-dark seems to have made the issue easier to spot as well. The type looks fuzzier here. WTF?)
The review of the Peruvian place will have to wait, because right now I want to talk about the awesome Chinese meal we had last night.
Washingtonian magazine does two big sets of restaurant listings every year: 100 Best and Cheap Eats. The 100 Best just came out, One of the places they mentioned was Sichuan Jin River (formerly called Sichuan Pavilion). Szechuan is not generally our favorite (neither the Mr. nor I care for really spicy food, and I simply can't eat bell peppers), but the review this time was so enticing (and we usually agree about 85% of the time with these writeups) that we decided to give it a try.
Really, the only problem that we had was that the review's recommendations weren't necessarily easy to match up with items on the menu once we got there. But with the things that did match up, the waitress' advice about the specials, and smillaraaq's suggestions, we did really well.
We started off with lotus root salad. I had been wanting to try lotus roots for a while. The salad was light, tangy, and slightly spicy; the slices of lotus root are crunchy and a bit crisper than water chestnuts. There were some bell peppers (red and green) in it, but they were easy for me to avoid. Then we had a scallion pancake, something we also get at A&J: this one was even better, a little lighter and with more scallions.
The first main dish was flounder with black bean sauce, one of the specials. It came in a huge, shallow dish, with scallions, some minced fresh hot peppers, and the black beans scattered on top. The fish was excellent, bits of fillet that were very fresh in flavor, with a great texture, and not at all overcooked. The sauce was spicy but not too hot for me and the Mr. As we started to work our way through it, we discovered a treasure trove of beautifully cooked vegetables underneath the fish: snow peas, fresh bamboo shoots, and carrots. Then we had a beef hotpot with young taro: tender, moist, lightly flavored with five-spice and soy. I didn't know what to expect from the young taro chunks, but they were like fluffy mashed potato balls. Our vegetable dish was snow pea leaves with garlic: one of my favorites anytime and very well made here. It was tender, flavorful, and a beautiful bright green.
We packed up most of it (we had overordered, of course, with all those tempting dishes on the menu), and then we had dessert! They actually have a range of desserts: eight choices. We had hot sweet tofu in rice wine and then eight-treasure rice: molded steamed sticky rice with red bean jam filling, jujube chunks scattered throughout, and hot rosewater-scented syrup with sesame seeds poured over it. This was a complete sugar overload, obviously, but we loved it (and took home more leftovers).
We're going to have to go back with more people sometime soon, and we may also try using Sichuan Jin River as the carryout for dinner at our next tabletop RPG session.
We had our usual New Year's Eve date, a luxurious gourmet dinner at my friend Michael's. He loves to cook, and his wife Sharon makes the sweets. We had:
- Ceviche of grouper and scallops
- Salad of beets and goat cheese mousse with coffee (powdered, sprinkled on the mousse) and microgreens
- Squash mezzaluna (filled pasta crescents) with hazelnut butter
- "Duck, Duck, Goose" - roast duck breast, duck sous vide with the skin crisped, and goose liver pate, with Hoisin sauce and "Asian slaw" of vegetables, apples, and pears
- Cheeses with salty biscuits and gingersnaps: petit Basque ewe's milk, red Leicestershire, Le Fromager des Clarines, Long Clawson Limited Edition Stilton (only 100 of these were made)
- Black Forest Boule de Neige (dense chocolate cake with kirsch and cherries, covered with whipped cream); lemon bars with Chambourg cream; chocolate peanut butter pretzel bites and pecan turtles
Each course had wines, most of which I did not touch (not so good with the meds).
Today we had our usual New Year's Day date, a brunch at my friend Kat's that starts with a core of bagels and lox and then spins out to encompass whatever people bring. The Young Lady made pumpkin streusal muffins, smillaraaq made soft rolls, and I brought a bag of clementines (hey, the kitchen was all busy and I was doing paperwork!).
And I lost a crown on one of my back molars. That will teach me not to eat fleur-de-sel caramels.
Fortuitously, the host had some over-the-counter dental adhesive, so it's stuck back in for now. I'm trying not to chew on that side.
Just a few flurries, but it was very seasonal for the Winter Solstice today.
We'll have a late Hanukkah celebration with my sister Amy's family and our stepmother tomorrow. There will be cheese (goat brie, lemon Stilton, mustardseed gouda, and cordobes) and crackers with fig jam and red grapes; latkes (shredded potato pancakes) with applesauce and sour cream; beef brisket made with beer; fresh spinach cooked with scallions and parsley; cucumber sunomono (made by smillaraaq); chocolate Hanukkah gelt (coins); and iced gingerbread cookies (made by The Young Lady) ... .( Cut for cookie picture )
We had some errands to run in Rockville, so we took the opportunity to visit A & J. We've eaten here several times, but this time we brought smillaraaq along too.
A & J, which has one location in Maryland and one in Virginia, is a northern Chinese dim sum restaurant with minimal decor and piles of awesome, inexpensive food. (Inexpensive for DC, anyway.) The selection of small plates is decidedly different from the Cantonese or Hong Kong-style dim sum restaurants that are typical in the DC area.
Today we started with shredded bean curd with carrot and celery salad (light and savory), pickled cabbage (very crunchy, strongly flavored, and not at all sweet), and bean curd roll with mushrooms. Then we had a massive bowl of dan dan mian (spicy peanut noodles, which smilla said tasted much more like the real thing than usual, and which used A & J's wonderful homemade noodles), moist and tasty pan-fried pork dumplings (which come stuck together in a two-layer, four-wide block), and a solid but flavorful scallion pancake. We finished up with delicious tea-smoked chicken (sliced right through the bone, which I've heard is the traditional way), a big pickled radish bun (odd to my taste, but the Mr. likes it), shredded beef on sesame biscuits (meh, a little dry), and a lovely bowl of more home-made noodles in chicken broth with baby bok choy.
This mountain of food set us back $42 before tip. It wouldn't be good for me to eat at A & J every day, but wow, is it worth it every so often.
We had some apples left over from the stock-up I did before Hurricane Sandy, so I made an apple cake (adapted from the 1975 Joy of Cooking - Apple Cake Cockaigne; mostly I made it a little leaner by using skim milk and the smaller amount of butter specified, and I added some oat to the batter for a little more fiber).( Click for pix )
I did a poll over on LJ last week (I can't do polls here on the free account) about what I should use as my icon there (where I have lots of spare icon space) for talking about sweet stuff. The winner was "chocolate mousse," but there was enthusiasm for a wide ranges of delectables. So i ended up doing icons for just about everything that got a vote. And here they are, free for the taking!
Please don't hotlink to my icon dump site and please credit. The sources I can remember are: berries and sabayon, The Examiner (Australia), chocolate cupcake, Freakgirl on Flickr, eclair from Randommealoftheday, the mousse with the raspberries from The Age online, the panna cotta from Muy Yum on Flickr, and the pumpkin bread from the site Freecoconutrecipes. The other mousse and the napoleon, I forgot to keep the site info. :-(
It's simply not that cold out - it's 55°F. But yesterday hit a high of 78°, with sunny skies: today it's rainy, and it hasn't been this cold for almost 6 months.
Yesterday I was wearing capris, a tank, and sandals. Today I just came in from spending 2 hours at the Takoma Street Festival, wearing jeans, a tee, a rainjacket, and (again) sandals. And I'm cold, and slightly damp.
At the festival, I had a vegetarian platter (felafel, green beans in tomato sauce, and rice with lentils), a couple of bites of the grilled chicken skewer and crabcake that the Mr. had, hot cider, and a yogurt. The yogurt was free: Quaker Co. (they of the oatmeal) is launching a new line here in Maryland, and they were giving the stuff out.
From several people:
Bold the ones you have and use at least once a year, italicize the ones you have and don't use, strike through the ones you have had but got rid of.
I wonder how many pasta machines, breadmakers, juicers, blenders, deep fat fryers, egg boilers, melon ballers, sandwich makers, pastry brushes, cheese knives, electric woks, miniature salad spinners, griddle pans, jam funnels, meat thermometers, filleting knives, egg poachers, cake stands, garlic presses, margarita glasses, tea strainers, bamboo steamers, pizza stones, coffee grinders, milk frothers, piping bags, banana stands, fluted pastry wheels, tagine dishes, conical strainers,
rice cookers, steam cookers, pressure cookers, slow cookers, spaetzle makers, cookie presses, gravy strainers, double boilers (bains marie), sukiyaki stoves, food processors, ice cream makers, takoyaki makers, fondue sets, mandolines, and stand mixers languish dustily at the back of the nation's cupboards.
telophase added the mandoline, so I added the stand mixer. We have one (a lucky estate sale find), and I know people say they're marvelous, but somehow I never use mine. In fact, I barely use my hand-held mixer, even when I bake. I keep thinking I ought to have more gadgets I don't use, but really, my kitchen needs are pretty basic and I don't tend to buy a lot of stuff except for knives. And more knives.
And my juicer is a manual one, and my steamer is a metal insert for my double boiler pan. And a melon baller is superb for coring apples for baked apples.
Hmmm, waffle irons aren't listed. Ours hasn't come to play recently. And the Young Lady (inadvertently) destroyed the rice cooker before we got rid of it.