Thursday, June 30, 2011

CSA #12 - Squash Blossoms!

We pick up our CSA box every Wednesday and this past Wednesday we devoured 3 of our CSA goodies right away. Before I get to what we made (squash blossoms!), here's what we got this week:

~ red radish bunch, Nu Way Farm, CF
~ pint strawberries~ green onion bunch, Nu Way Farm, CF
~ pint sugar snap peas, Blue Goose Farm, CNG~ 1 zucchini, Weeping Willow Farm, CF
~ 1 patty pan squash, Clarion River Organics, OG~ Jericho Romaine lettuce head, Goose Creek Gardens, CNG
~ squash blossoms, Clarion River Organics, OG~ flat parsley, Goose Creek Gardens, CNG
~ Red Dazzler lettuce head, Clarion River Organics, OG
**(OG-Certified Organic/CNG-Certified Natural Grown/CF-Chemical Free)

We gave the radishes, parsley, green onions, and zucchini to our CSA sharer. We took the patty pan squash and all the squash blossoms. Everything else was split. Let's get to the squash blossoms!When we first received these a couple of years ago in the CSA, we were sort of mystified. They're flowery, and kind of fuzzy, and kind of delicate. The ones we have received in the past were larger, more yellow, and more 'open' than these blossoms. Thanks to some internet research, we found several ways to prepare these. Usually we receive only 3-4 a year and we've always stuffed them with ricotta and basil, dredged them in a beaten egg & then in flour, and fried them in olive oil. This year, we did something similar.The July 2011 issue of Bon Appetit had a page called "Flower Power" on which they offered a basic recipe and 2 variations for what they call "summer's crispiest, most delicious starter." We planned to try variation #2 but discovered our ricotta was moldy, so we improvised and created our own variation.We chopped the remainder of our fresh mozzarella and some feta cheese, added chopped fresh mint, pepper, and some lemon zest, and stuffed the blossoms with that mixture. We mixed the flour and kosher salt with club soda instead of beer. After dipping the blossoms in the flour-soda mixture, we fried them in a bit of olive oil. And then enjoyed! Yum! I actually like the mozzarella-feta-mint-lemon filling much more than ricotta-fresh basil. These are a little bit of work, not difficult, they just take a bit of time, but they are definitely very tasty. We now really look forward to squash blossoms every year.

We don't have a set recipe. If we have filling left over after stuffing the blossoms, we just eat it. I think a general guideline is a tablespoon of filling for each blossom, so I guess you could figure out 1 tablespoon of cheese for each blossom plus whatever seasonings you want (lemon, mint, basil, parsley, whatever).We ate the snap peas right away, too. We sauteed them in olive oil and seasoned them with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Yum!

It should be no surprise that we also ate the strawberries right away, too!

The squash will keep for a while, so really all we have left is the lettuce. The CSA goodies vanished so quickly it's as if we never even got any!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sunday Cooking

Sunday afternoon, I wanted a cocktail. I needed a cocktail. It was that kind of day. That kind of weekend. Heck, it has been that kind of month. SP was busy starting a load of laundry, so I started grabbing bottles out of our booze cabinet. Limoncello, vodka, triple sec, peach schnappes. When he came back upstairs, he took one look, laughed, and starting measuring liquor into the cocktail shaker. Moments later, I had an orange martini in a chilled martini glass (I put the glass in the refrigerator for a bit).

Then we set about making dinner. It was a nice day and we were excited to grill and then to dine out on the deck. We made Honey, Mustard, and Rosemary Pork Roast (Bon Appetit July 1994) which we cooked on the grill rotisserie.We made Creamy Thyme Potato Gratin (inside, in the oven, not outside on the grill):And we made a salad with homemade balsamic dressing:We marinated our pork roast for 7-8 hours in a marinade of beer, Dijon mustard, honey, olive oil, and fresh rosemary (omitted the garlic, of course) and then grilled (rotisseried) it for about an hour.The marinade is saved, poured into a saucepan, some cream is added (we used milk) and then it is boiled and reduced to a sauce.The pork and sauce were tasty, but not tasty enough to make me really, really want to make this again because we have other pork recipes that I like a lot more than this one. But it was definitely worth trying, especially since I really like the taste of honey & mustard. It was a nice change from the marinades to which we usually turn for pork. These potatoes are so good, but we only make them maybe once a year. Butter, cream cheese, whipping cream - not exactly healthy foods! This time the potatoes were yummy, but not quite as yummy as usual, and I'm not sure why. They didn't seem quite as creamy. They were much tastier when reheated the next day. Even if these weren't quite up to par, they're still one of our favorite potato dishes, especially with fresh thyme this time (instead of our usual dried thyme).The salad was quite tasty. We used part of the lettuce head from the CSA, added chopped tomatoes and cucumber from Simmons Farm, and tossed in some goat cheese from the CSA. We made a balsamic dressing and instead of dried basil we used fresh basil in the dressing. It was a really tasty salad. I felt very 'local' when I ate it!!! All the ingredients were from the CSA/Simmons Farm.

The best part of the meal was hanging out on the deck until the sun set. It was a lovely, cool evening, and so nice to be enjoying good food. I always feel so wonderfully secluded when we're out on the deck since it's surrounded by trees and I enjoy smelling our herbs and flowers. Plus, sometimes, we'll get a visit from Otis the Groundhog. Not on the deck, but below on the grass, and we peer over the railing at him as he munches his way across our yard and the neighbor's yard. I'm not sure how we'd react if he ever started climbing the stairs to visit us! But the chances of that happening are pretty slim. Usually if he hears us move or whisper, he darts back down the hill.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Recently

I haven't blogged much this week and in a way, it's been kind of nice. I've been spending less time on the computer and more time on other hobbies. Plus, I just haven't felt all that great this past week and I've been napping a lot.

I started a new cross-stitch. It's a large one, so it likely will not be finished for another year, but it's always kind of fun to embark on a new cross-stitch.

I've been reading new issues of Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, and National Geographic. I have a pile of 4-5 library books I'm slowly making my way through. The one I am currently reading is by Brad Thor, who writes thrillers. The books are usually about secret agents and international intrigue, etc. The Athena Project is about an all female Delta team trying to stop a terrorist attack.

SP & I got hooked on Big Bang Theory this past TV season so almost every evening we've been watching episodes from seasons 1-3 on DVD. We've finished season 1 & 2 and are 4 episodes into season 3. I'm surprised I am enjoying the 'geek humor' as much as I am!

We haven't done anything too exciting in the kitchen. There hasn't been much time for cooking. Sunday morning we roasted a chicken and we've been eating that with CSA veggies and some leftover pita for dinner every night this week. We stuffed the chicken with rosemary, sage, and thyme from our herbs on the deck. We also used up some CSA potatoes, roasting them with our fresh chives & rosemary.

Last weekend we decided to use a gift card for Cheesecake Factory. We tried the fried zucchini:I really enjoyed the fried zucchini. I liked the chunky strips instead of the usual skinny planks. There was definitely zucchini taste, it wasn't overshadowed by breading. SP ordered miso glazed salmon.I was surprised he ordered this because it came with white rice and usually he doesn't like white rice. Plus, there wasn't much veggie in the dish and it looked like a cream sauce and usually he doesn't order creamy dishes. He said the fish was good and the rest just OK.

I ordered my usual shrimp, bacon, tomato, lettuce sandwich with salad.The salad was very tasty and I shared with SP so that he could have more veggie. My sandwich was a little disappointing. It just didn't taste as yummy as usual. We got 2 pieces of cheesecake to go: tiramisu and lemon raspberry. Both seemed different though we couldn't really pinpoint why and they were just OK.

Last weekend we also went to Z's birthday dinner at Mitchell's Fish Market at the Waterfront. It's not really a place I enjoy since I don't really like fish and the seafood I do like (shrimp, crab) is either fried, too expensive for what you get, or not really that tasty (I've tried all the shrimp/crab dishes there). I also wasn't all that hungry because the family met at 4:30pm, and while we weren't actually served any food (bread/appetizers) until 5:15~5:30pm, even that is still 2 hours earlier than we usually eat, plus my Cheesecake Factory Shrimp BLT had upset my stomach a bit (I ate half for dinner on Saturday then half for lunch on Sunday). I felt pretty queasy and attacked the bread basket quickly, hoping the plain bread would settle my stomach.

I ended up ordering a cup of Lobster Bisque, which was disappointing (not very lobster-y and not very bisque-y, more tomato-y) and a Spinach Salad with bacon, goat cheese, and pecans, which was pretty tasty. SP ordered a blackened trout, which he said was just OK.

Tonight is chicken. Again. For the 5th day in a row. I don't know if we've been eating less or if this a huge chicken, but it sure is lasting a long time! We still haven't decided what we're going to cook for next week, but we do have a HUGE head of lettuce from the CSA, so I'm pretty sure we'll be eating salad for 5 days in a row next week!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

CSA #11

It's Week #11 of our CSA and here's what was in the box:

~ 1 quart strawberries, Sunny Meadow & Weeping Willow Farm, CF
~ 4 ounces chevre, River View Dairy ~ green cripshead lettuce, Clarion River Organics, OG
~ Romaine lettuce head, Clarion River Organics, OG
~ green onion bunch, Nu Way Farm, CF
~ Swiss Chard, Goose Creek Gardens, CNG
~ cut cilantro, Nu Way Farm, CF
~ garlic scapes, Clubhouse Gardens, CF
~ squash blossoms, Clarion River Organics, OG

Our newsletter listed squash blossoms, but I don't recall seeing any, and neither does SP, so I guess we didn't actually get any. The strawberries were again consumed immediately and were very tasty.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tastes Like Summer

The first of many tomato~fresh mozzarella~fresh basil~balsamic syrup platters we will devour this summer. The Soergel's tomatoes were just OK, not really ripe enough, but this flavor combination is one of our favorite summer dishes.

Friday, June 17, 2011

CSA #10

I think I'm getting lazy with my blogging. This week, I copied & pasted the list of CSA goodies directly from the CSA newsletter and into this post because I was too lazy to re-type everything. Thus, this week, there is also the local farm name next to the food and a note as to if it's organic or chemical free, etc. Also, as you may have noticed in weeks past, I got tired of photographing every item. Greens look like greens and after the first 2-3 photos of greens... well, it's just not that exciting.

This week's goodies:

~ red dazzler romaine, Clarion River Organics, OG
~ 1 quart strawberries, Sunny Meadow & Nu Way Farm, CF
~ 1 lb garlic parsley rotini fresh pasta, Fontana Pasta
~ 1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, Wild Purveyors~ green butterhead or oakleaf lettuce, Clarion River Organics, OG
~ collard microgreens, Crighton Farm, CNG
~ pineapple sage, Pucker Brush Farm, CNG or Crighton Farm~ white icicle radishes, Nu Way Farm, CF ~ green garlic, or green onions or garlic scapes, Goose Creek Gardens, CNG
and Clubhouse Gardens, CF

*** OG- Certified Organic; CNG- Certified Natural Grown; CF- Chemical Free

We gave our CSA partner all of the pasta. SP said he could smell the garlic through the bag, so he figured I wouldn't even want to try it, especially after last weekend when I lapped up that amazingly tasty dipping oil at Osteria 2350 because we didn't smell or taste garlic, then we found out they make their own pesto, which probably means garlic, and then later that night after we got home I had an upset stomach of the kind of upset stomach I get when I eat garlic. At least the dipping oil was worth it!

This week I looked up pineapple sage and learned that it is mostly grown in Mexico & Guatemala and that it is used extensively in Mexican traditional medicine. I was wondering how best to use it and came across these recipes. I'm not really sure how we'll use it and I wonder if it can be used interchangeably with the regular sage we're growing on the deck, so we'll see what inspires us this weekend!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

The past few weeks I have been so darn anxious to break out the ice cream maker and make the year's first homemade ice cream. It certainly was hot enough! Finally, this past weekend, we made ice cream. Ice cream requires a bit of planning. We had to remember to put the ice cream bowl in the freezer for 24 hours. The prepared custard needs to chill in the refrigerator, preferably overnight. And, since we chose Mint Chocolate Chip, making the custard required quite a bit of time since the mint needs to steep in the cream.We cut off a lot of our mint plant to get the three cups of mint leaves for this Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream recipe from Simply Recipes. Of course, mint is such a 'weed' that our pot of it had recovered nicely after just 2 days.The custard turns a lovely shade of light green after the mint steeps in it:For our chocolate chips, we chopped a bar of Hershey's Special Dark chocolate and we put the chopped chocolate in the freezer overnight, too. The latest issue of Cook's Illustrated has an article about making ice cream, the best vanilla ice cream, I think, and what I remember most is that the author had a hard time at first getting homemade ice cream to be creamy and not icy. The 'secret' seems to be the speed of freezing. The more quickly it freezes, the better for a smooth and creamy texture as opposed to icy texture. Freezing the chips before adding them to the custard means less likelihood of the chips lowering the temperature of the custard.We made the custard Saturday evening, churned it Sunday night, and enjoyed it Monday night. So minty! Wow! Mint chocolate chip is one of my favorite ice cream flavors, and this homemade version is definitely a hit!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lamb Burgers & Mint Yogurt Sauce

The weather has been so nice lately! I'm so glad we have the new floor in the sunroom, and the new French doors, and a lovely TV area (thanks Googer!). I have been spending most of my day in the sunroom, enjoying the breeze and all the outdoor smells that waft in - fresh cut grass, our petunias, our herbs. Mostly, I like settling back in 'my' chair (doesn't everyone have a favorite seat in their home, one that is 'theirs'?!), propping my feet up on the ottoman, and reading. This past weekend I read The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry, which was quite good. A mish-mash of action & adventure, government intrigue, pirates and privateers, ciphers, conspiracy, presidential assassination, and documents written/hidden by the first presidents of our nation.

Next to the sunroom is the deck, on which sits the grill, and who wants to be in the kitchen cooking when they could be outside grilling?! Our choice for this week's grilled meal: lamb burgers. Specifically, Open-Face Lamb Burgers with Mint Yogurt Sauce from the July 2003 issue of Gourmet. We very loosely followed this recipe.I made the yogurt sauce, minus the garlic, and probably with a bit more mint than called for. I'm so glad we are growing mint - there's something so refreshing about it. While I made the yogurt sauce, SP made the lamb patties. We added chopped chives (we didn't have any onions) & parsley from our herbs on the deck plus the allspice, salt, and pepper to the ground lamb. Then he headed outside to grill. He started with trying again to grill some kale from our CSA, and this time had much more success:Coated with kosher salt and olive oil and this time, monitored very closely! I tried a few kale chips and they were pretty tasty, just crunchy messy as I got kale chip bits all over my plate & shirt!

While he monitored his kale, I washed and chopped some lettuce from the CSA and tomato & cucumber from Soergel's:SP grilled a pita for me and a whole wheat tortilla for him:This was a pretty quick dinner to cook. We sat outside Monday evening, intending to enjoy a lovely evening. Unfortunately, since we eat late, it turned out that our dinner time is our neighbors' lawn care time so it wasn't too pleasant when everyone around us was mowing & weed whacking! Noisy! We couldn't hear each other talk! Also, it was pretty breezy, so it was chilly, and I actually got goose bumps! But we were all set up outside and we'd cleaned the deck table, so we went ahead and ate dinner outside.

This is SP's plate:He crunched his tortilla into quarters and piled on his burger, sauce, and veggies.

Here's my plate:I had four 'areas' on my plate: pita, burger, sauce, and veggie. I'd jab a bite of burger with my fork and then jab a piece of lettuce, tomato, and lettuce onto the fork, dip the pita in the sauce, and then take a bite of sauced pita followed by the forkful of jabbed food so that I had a mouthful of all the flavors. Yum! We really, really liked the yogurt sauce. The lamb burgers were wonderfully juicy but I think they could have used a bit more allspice or maybe next time use the onion instead of chives.

It was a very tasty meal, one I'd make again, and really, there's no need for a recipe. I wanted to get the proportions of lemon juice/yogurt/and mint correct, but otherwise, any bread would work, and season the lamb any way you'd like, and use any toppings you'd like. But much like I find gyro sauce addicting and super yummy, this yogurt sauce was that yummy and addicting!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Osteria 2350

Saturday evening, we decided to try a new place for dinner: Osteria 2350. I've been wanting to try this place for quite some time but we were so busy for a few months with the house project and then family stuff that we never seemed to have any time for a proper 'date night' or to even take the time to drive somewhere besides Robinson for dinner. Even our anniversary dinner felt crammed in and I seem to remember sitting at that dinner thinking of everything we still had to do and wondering why were at dinner when we should be out doing errands or home doing chores! Fortunately, we seem to have more free time these days and we have been able to have some very nice 'dates' the past 2 weeks.

We arrived at Osteria 2350 a bit before 6 pm. It’s on Railroad Street, next to the restaurant Cioppino, and across from The Cork Factory apartments. There's a parking garage right there – and the restaurant will validate your parking ticket. We parked in that garage, took the elevator down, turned right, walked a couple of steps and reached the front door. It wasn't too crowded yet, maybe 3 other tables filled with diners. There is a sign in the entrance way telling diners to please seat themselves. so we chose a table and settled in. A server quickly came over and filled our water glasses, leaving a bottle of water on the table for refills. There is a wine list, but SP & I opted for iced teas.When you walk in, there's a long glass counter along the back wall, and it gives off a deli feel to me. At first, I thought that you ordered at the counter and they brought your food to you, but that's not the case. In addition to some chalkboard menus posted around the restaurant, the menu is printed on the paper placemats, one side for food, the other for beverages. I thought the place felt comfortable and inviting in a no frills but not sterile way. Soon enough our server brought a bread basket: There were 2 pieces of a baguette and 2 pieces of another kind of bread which I really, really enjoyed. Our server also brought some dipping oil:The dipping oil was delicious! I asked about the dipping oil. She said they buy the olive oil in The Strip and make their own pesto which they then add to the olive oil. The bread soaking up the olive oil was so tasty - I could have eaten two bread baskets and been happy and full!

SP ordered the Pickled Vegetables to start:He said they were very tasty, but also very vinegary. I think it was cauliflower and squash and a bit of red pepper. I didn’t try any.

I opted for the Arugula Salad (arugula, roasted red pepper, gorgonzola, balsamic vinaigrette):It was very good. I like that the arugula was small. The balsamic was definitely there, but it was barely noticeable, which is nice with a salad dressing.

We originally intended to share two dishes for our entrees, but in the end we ended up just tasting each other’s meals. SP ended up with the Riccolina Pasta (fede pasta, caramelized mushrooms, arugula, truffle oil, parmiagiano reggiano):I liked this pasta but didn’t love it. SP really liked it. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him enjoy a pasta dish as much as he enjoyed this one! I have a sort of like-dislike relationship with truffle oil. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I don't, and it's not really a quality or quantity of truffle oil issue but more of just my mood. Sometimes I'm just not in the mood for that truffle oil taste, and I think that was the case Saturday evening. I also thought I detected garlic taste, which SP didn't really notice, but... I enjoyed my 3-4 bites, I just couldn't eat half of the dish. But the pasta was addictive, as were the mushrooms. I think it was the broth like sauce I didn't especially enjoy.

The other meal choice, the one that ended up being 'mine,' was the Prosciutto Sandwich (prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, roasted red pepper, balsamic):This was very tasty and huge! I ate only half (SP had a few bites) and took the rest of it home. It’s simple, but the ingredients are so fresh and tasty that it seems extra tasty and special, a kind of magic to making this simple sandwich.Of course we ordered dessert! No way was I going to pass up Tiramisu:I thought this was a very good tiramisu. Soft, light, creamy, all those delicious tiramisu flavors. Yum!SP opted for the Cannoli:The filling had orange zest in it, something I really enjoy, and one end was covered in chocolate shavings while the other end was covered in chopped pistachios. I'm not a fan of pistachios, so SP ate that end and I ate the chocolate end! We enjoyed the cannoli so much that we ordered another one to go for later in the evening!

We both really enjoyed Osteria 2350. For 3 desserts, 2 iced teas, pickled vegetables, salad, sandwich, and pasta plus tax + tip, I think our total bill was around $47 and change. Not too bad for all that tasty food. We’d definitely go there again.

Our server was very friendly, made some recommendations, promptly refilled beverages. All of the tables and the bar area were filled when we left around 7 pm and there was maybe 1 group waiting for a table. We definitely didn't feel rushed. It felt a bit off the beaten path, and that was a nice feeling. I'm looking forward to our next visit.
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