I Cooked Dinner Last Night!

Probably in most households, this would not be headline news, but at our house, it is.  Particularly since I performed this duty all by myself.  All. By.  Myself!  And it took me about 90 minutes to do it…

I made Pati Jinich’s Macaroni and Cheese, Mexican style.  This is the second time and it is still a keeper.  Here’s the link to the recipe.  I made very few changes – I halved it, I didn’t use the optional bacon, and I used asparagus instead of zucchini.  Oh, and we had no whole milk so I had to use 2%.  Next time I would use whole, but otherwise, not a bad job Barbara!

For those who don’t look at the recipe, it’s green because you puree poblano peppers with the milk before you make the bechamel.  Bechamel!  For the second time in my life, I made a roux and then a white sauce!  I was a little puzzled by the roux’s behavior, since I really don’t have a lot of experience with that, but it seemed okay in the end.

Tuesday night Kevin grilled chicken for us, over a live fire, which we ate with the neighbor’s green leaf lettuce.  Grilling chicken is very difficult, in my opinion, often yielding chicken that is black on the outside and pink in the middle.  Or worse yet, sawdust on the inside.  This week Kevin got it just right.

As far as the promised pix of Staycation Meals, here are a few that made the way to the camera:

Food.  It’s really what we are all about.  I mean, in some ways, it’s ridiculous – just this morning, while I am reheating Mac&Cheese for our breakfast, I ask Kevin “What are we having for dinner tonight?”!!  Really?  Can you not even make it through breakfast before you start thinking about dinner??

No.

StayCation Dining

We were on “Seasonal Shut-down” for the Month of March this year, which is another name for “Retirement Practice”.  Or “Vacation”, in reality I guess, since retirement is a bit in the Future.  Food, as usual, was a major focus.  … Continue reading

Cooking at Home: Photos

So we have succeeded in cooking two great meals at home this week – and it’s only Thursday!  Our refrigerator is stocked with lots of vegetables – peppers and carrots, onions and Brussels sprouts, romaine and avocados.  We have three menus scheduled.

First, Tuesday night.  We were gifted a freshly killed wild duck on Saturday, which was extremely generous and most appreciated by us!  It hung in the walk-in over the weekend and Tuesday Kevin cleaned it and broke it down.  He cooked the legs in the pressure cooker, and then crisped them up in the frying pan.  The breasts were cooked medium rare, and the whole thing came with sweet potatoes and spinach.

Last night we made another recipe from Pati’s book – Miner’s Enchiladas, page 149 – with one major variation: we baked the enchiladas, rather than serve them at room temperature.

This is a delicious dish, lots going on and very satisfying.  I would say, “Try it!”.  You can click through the pics to see my descriptions if you’d like. Kevin did make  the chile salsa at work, since he has the chiles and the big blender there.  We really liked this enchilada dish a lot, making only the one change.  I can see eating it at room temperature in the summer, but last night was not quite summer…

And leftovers are our friend!

Cooking at Home

It seems as though we have been eating at home a lot more often lately than was our routine back in the day.  Part of it, I think, is we are finally losing our old restaurant life-style of eating.  In our past life – at least 40 years of it – our dinner hour was spent at work.  I’d have “dinner” early, just before service in the restaurant began.  And that meal was often a mug of soup stolen out of the soup warmer or a hastily put together salad from the salad station with some leftover chicken that was going to get tossed out before too much longer. Kevin’s dinner would consist of all the tasting he had to do all day long. When we were off and at home, sometimes a meal was cooked in our own kitchen (or, more likely, over the Fire-pit), but frequently the Chef was not really interested in cooking another meal and his wife was unprepared to do so. Dinner would then be out at another restaurant, this time cooked by another professional.  Years of this sort of meal-time life shapes a person I guess, and it has taken awhile (!!! ya think??) to get used to the idea of “home cooking”.

Since we’ve had the K-B Market, we’ve been at work less and at home more.  Especially me; Kevin continues to put in some pretty hearty hours, but I am not as tied to the stove as he is.  Thank god.  (and also thank the gods that he loves to cook!)  So it would make sense maybe that I could be the one to maybe make dinner now and then, you wonder?  But I don’t like to cook.  I’d rather go out.  Needless to say, reality check! not only is eating out somewhat expensive on our limited income, but restaurant choices are limited as well, with menus we know all too well.  Time for a change.

We don’t, however, have what you might call a good track record at working companionably together on this cooking thing.  You can probably imagine why.  I learned early on in our relationship that if I chopped the parsley incorrectly, I wouldn’t ever have to chop it again!  Not that I would want to anyway.  It was easier to let Kevin do it the “right” way; I was content to be the dishwasher if it meant I would be fed Kevin’s results.  Occasionally I would/will make the entire meal – I do have a few things I can concoct with some degree of success – but this has always been a pretty rare event.  Fried chicken on a birthday or fajitas for Sunday dinner.  Mostly cooking at home has been Kevin’s domain, just like at work.  But that is about to change.

I am exceedingly amazed by people who cook dinner for their families every night.  The NYT food section regularly shares “weeknight” recipes, designed for the working parent who comes home at 6, just in time to whip up a delicious meal of Mediterranean sheet-pan chicken with couscous for the hungry brood.  Why can’t we do that?  I think I had an epiphany last night, while pondering this dilemma.  It’s because we really don’t keep much food in our house!  We could “whip up” a meal of spaghetti with butter and cheese (well, maybe just butter) or a tortilla with re-fried beans (if we remembered to restock the pantry with a can of black beans after the last time we “whipped” that up for a desperate dinner), but certainly not a meal that you might actually look forward to eating, let alone a healthy one. (Vegetables are particularly lacking in our larder on a day-to-day basis.)  Time.  To.  Change.

Perhaps I should back-track a bit.  Part of the reason for the thought process that preceded this post stems from the fact that we’ve come home from work many days this winter thinking we would go out to eat that night, and each night we’ve decided it was too rainy, too late, too something to bother and ended up with cheese and crackers for the evening’s repast. Because there was not much else to chose from within our poorly stocked home kitchen.  It’s sort of ridiculous.  And gets annoying.   And since we have had some positive experiences a few times lately, cooking together, I’ve become convinced that it is a new trend we need to explore.

A lot of words just to say we need to get to the grocery store more often!

First off, we have to plan ahead.  And that means – for me – recipes.  Kevin is one of those intuitive cooks, not to mention a very experienced one, who doesn’t really need a specific recipe to make a dish.  Give him your stocked pantry and the contents of a well thought out refrigerator and he can make a meal to satisfy, without once opening a cookbook.  But he does get inspiration from cookbooks, while I get recipes.  One of the new favorites on our book shelf is “Mexican Today”, from Pati Jinich.  If you are not familiar with this PBS cooking star, you need to locate her show schedule on your local station and stay tuned.  She is terribly good at what she does, both the TV cooking show personality part, as well as the demonstrating of the actual cooking.  She is also a very enthusiastic eater.

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We have made a few meals out of this book, most recently the Rice Casserole on page 193.  I cannot find that exact recipe online for you, but here is a very similar variation that would do just fine.  The only difference I can see between the two recipes is that the one in Mexican Today included a cup of chicken or vegetable stock, added with the cream and cheese to the vegetables at the end of their cooking time plus a half cup more crema.  (Maybe these are improvements Pati added later?)  We also made the Tomatillo Avocado Salsa Verde on page 101 as a garnish/sauce for the casserole – not necessary but very tasty!  We split the chores – I grated the cheese and cut up the tomatoes for the casserole, and made the salsa; Kevin did everything else.  I cleaned up?  It was fun and turned out great, no changes needed.

So, next week we are going to plan ahead, get the ingredients we need for more than just one weeknight meal at home and have at it.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.  Or not.  In that case, there’s always cheese and crackers.  Or at least crackers.

 

 

 

The Rumor Mill

I know, I know, I have been very slack about sharing our Adventures with Food on the K-B Market Blog, and I have missed it, so yesterday I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get our (relatively) new website to host a Blog Page.  (And also to make it so when you clicked on the Calendar of Events page, it sent you to just that, the calendar…  Believe me, it took for ever to make this happen.)

We spent last week in a city with 24,000 restaurants to choose from, according to the NYC Health Department.  We left armed with a list of about 40 that we wanted to visit in our five-day stay.  Ha!  You barely have to leave your block in Manhattan and you will come across more restaurants than you can find in your entire ride around Kent County.  Of course I would no sooner give up life in Kent County in exchange for a pile of dining choices, but one thing most everyone agrees on (except perhaps some restaurant owners) is that there are not enough independent dining choices here, at least not within the 15 minute drive time most people prefer.  This is not a new issue; it has been around since we’ve been working in the area, but right now Chestertown is particularly singing the dearth-of-dining-venue blues. The rumors are flying that the FishWhistle is being sold and will soon close; whoa! not another one!  The fate of the FW is likely to be the first thing many people want to talk about when they come into the Market these days.

The restaurant scene in Kent County is always a popular topic of conversation, no matter which side of the bar you occupy.  Ever since we came to Chestertown, in 1986, we’ve heard the rumors about comings and goings, including plenty regarding our own businesses.  This was how we learned to never use the word “closed” in any public advertising, because that is all the public sees, the word “closed”.  Small town living at its finest, no?   But restaurants are more than just places to get a meal, at least the good ones are.  They are places where you see your friends and neighbors, where you can relax and let someone take care of you for a change, where you can feel at home without being at home.  Many come to be known as the “third” place, and you are very fortunate if you have one.  I think that’s why people who aren’t actually financially invested in a restaurant feel that they are, and why they take such an interest in those rumors that follow the actual players.  They need that “third” place in their lives.

Here’s our – okay, my – opinion on the matter.  If the FishWhistle building is sold to new owners, and the current tenant, restaurateur Jeff Carroll – probably the most experienced Chef-owner-operator out there – is offered the opportunity to put his spin on some other local restaurant icon, so be it.  He would breathe new life into that venerable queen of venues in Georgetown. IMHO, Jeff is one of the few people who could successfully pull off managing such a large, busy dining and bar establishment – those two sides should grab hold of each other.  Meanwhile, the FW gets a long overdue refurbishment, and a new operator to bring their own twist to C’town’s waterfront dining.  Of course, we can only hope that whoever takes Jeff’s place at the FW listens to their dining public and refrains from that notorious “Sysco to Table” sourcing technique.  Certainly the area can attract a serious Professional, someone with a successful track record, who would grab the chance to take the helm of such an historic, popular and most likely profitable business on Chestertown’s waterfront, without resorting to “House Recipe” brands.  Especially in this “Eat/Shop Local” era,  when it is so much more convenient to stock your walk-in with local produce and carefully raised meat than it ever has been before.

We can dream can’t we?

Long Time No Write

I seem to have gotten out of the Blog Posting Habit.  I am going to reform.   Soon.  Keep your eyes peeled.  There is always some news coming out of Kennedyville, Centrally Located as it is…

Meanwhile, a picture is worth many words:

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Remember these?  Fresh vegetables!!  Something to live for!

Pizza Time with Kids

I think there is a reason – beyond simple biology – why people have children while they are young.  We entertained two children in the K-B Kitchen last week – ages 5 and 7 – and I swear to you, those two NEVER. STOPPED. MOVING.  If they weren’t engaged in the project at hand, they were twirling, jumping, waving their arms or colliding with each other.  Keeping up with them was a monumental task – and we only had to do it for two or so hours!!!  Parents are amazing!

Dorsey and Eleanor came to Kitchen Camp last Saturday for a couple of hours of Cooking with Kevin.  It was more fun than pretty much anything else we’ve done lately, and I mean for Kevin and me.  I hope the kids had fun too…

The goal was to make pizza – the crust, the sauce, the cheese, the works.

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After hand-washing and apron-tying, the first task was to flour the board at their pint-sized table to prepare the dough for shaping.

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Making the sauce was really fun – you got to use your hands to crush the tomatoes.  Neither cook wanted to taste the tomatoes, but Kevin insisted they do it so they could know how it needed to taste when the seasonings were added.  And then of course it was much easier to get them to try their finished sauce.

Okay, do you get the idea?  We’ll look at the rest of the pictures via a “slide-show”, with captions.

And then it’s time to eat!

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We all had so much fun!  And as I told their Mom, I don’t think Kevin and I  looked at the clock more than twice…

 

 

Porter Road Tri-tip

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So, the verdict is in.  Porter Road seems to be delivering in all areas of mail-order beef.  The tri-tip, pictured above salted and drying, was roasted over a live fire to  medium rare, sliced against the grain as recommended and served over arepas and spinach salad to four hungry adults last night, to much acclaim.

I would go for it again.  The flavor of the meat was undeniably “beefy”, something which, amazingly enough, is often lacking in the routinely available commodity meat.  It was tender and juicy – of course that was more to the credit of the Chef of course! – and totally satisfying.  The leftovers – and there were plenty from this 3 pound roast – made a delicious cold sandwich for breakfast this morning, the beef seeming to be even more tender after being refrigerated.

I’m sold.  Goodbye D’Artaganan!

 

Food From Away

I know, I know – eat local eat local eat local is the mantra we hear all around us – but sometimes you have to do a little Out of the County shopping.  And in this area, that often means mail order.

I love mail order food. As a kid there was nothing I wanted more than the salted nut and chocolate Gift Towers I would see in the Figi’s catalogue, or any number of the candies I coveted with the arrival of the Christmas catalogue from Vermont Country Store.  With the advantage of the WildWorldWeb, I can now diligently check out food websites featured in magazines or linked to from online reading material; the internet is a wealth of food shopping opportunity without ever having to leave the office.  I’ve discovered the joys of Ohio’s Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream for birthday presents, learned to crave those regional confections known as modjeskas from Bauer’s Candies in Kentucky, found finger limes at Melissa’s Produce from California.  It is a wonderful shopping opportunity that takes you to foreign lands for foods you might never experience otherwise.

For Christmas Kevin often gets a stocking full of off-beat condiments from igourmet.com.  They carry a huge variety of foodstuffs, from TurDucken to croissants, sea salt to marzipan, and everything in between. You can spend hours perusing their website, and find all sorts of great stuff under one web address, at fair prices with reasonable shipping.  It’s my go-to Gift Shop for the Chef in my life.

Probably the most frequented mail-order site in our life is Nuts.Com.  Yes, it’s about nuts, but this is also a great source for dried fruit (the fruit for the annual FreeRange Fruitcake comes from here), all sorts of sweets and a terrific assortment of rice crackers, which seem to be a staple in our pantry.  Shipping is free at a reasonable level and your order will be on your doorstep the next day.  Customer service is excellent as well.  I’m not too excited about their spices – Penzy’s is the go-to for those – but just about everything else we’ve ordered has been great.

A source for all things Spanish would be La Tienda.  We’re talking Jamon here – Spanish prosciutto – in all its forms and quantities plus accessories, but also there’s Marcona almonds, Iberico chorizo, Mahon cheese and piquillo peppers.  Everything you need for your paella can be sourced here, from the rice to the rabbit, as well as the pan, and you don’t even have to leave the couch.

We used to occasionally shop at D’Artagnan, particularly during their “Freezer Sale”, but their shipping is pretty outrageous.  They carry beautiful poultry – squab, muscovy ducks, Scottish game hens – and hard-to-find things like Scottish hare and wild boar.  Their selection of foie gras is legendary.  But, as I mentioned, it’s very pricey unless you shop the sales and then they still get you with the shipping.  Worth the investment for high quality products you really cannot get anywhere else, for a very special occassion maybe, but not our daily meal.

Okay, so there’s a reason this topic emerged – a new online purveyor has appeared on my desktop.  This time I have the NYT to blame credit.  I’m here to report to you my experience with Porter Road, a Nashville butchers’ new-ish online meat shop.  What alerted me to this company was primarily the fact that they offer cuts of meat you just don’t see so often, not in your average grocery case certainly, and not even in too many butcher shops, virtual or brick.  Pieces like beef “teres major” and “tri-tip” or lamb ribs.  Here they were, priced to move.  I got out the credit card and shopped.

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We got three cuts of beef – the aforementioned tri-tip roast ($21/3 pounds), a pair of chuck eye steaks ($12/11-13 ounces) and another of sirloin cap steaks ($15/20 ounces).  My $48 order was placed on Thursday afternoon, with the addition of  $5 for two-day shipping. I was amazed at the cost for shipping – overnight is only $12.

So, imagine our additional surprise when the UPS truck delivered our order the next day.  Early Friday afternoon we were opening the box from Tennessee.

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The box was insulated with something called “Green Cell Foam“, which the boys from Porter Road insist you can burn in your fire pit or dissolve down the drain.  Really?  That’s pretty cool – almost as cool as Jeni’s letting you mail back her Styrofoam container postage free.  It also was shippped with four ice packs, which I guess there is no avoiding, but the compostable insulation almost made up for that.

And here’s what was inside:

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Nicely vacuum sealed packaging,  good looking fresh meat, not frozen!  The sirloin cap steaks are thinner than I would wish – hard to cook a thin steak rare enough for me – but that’s a small issue, one that steak tacos will take care of.  I will report on the quality in the next post – we’re going to have the tri-tip tonight – to see if this market is the place for beef.

(One tip I can already pass along – when I ordered yesterday most of the cuts offered were available (except for the teres major, which was one I had particularly wanted), but today many cuts were out of stock.  My guess is earlier in the week is better for optimum selection?)

Eating Local is still very important, but so is supporting small businesses, right?  And if they are doing it “right”, even better.

Let’s Eat!

Eating the Farmer’s Market #6 Plus Some Random Thoughts

IMG_20180127_084611066_HDRJanuary at the Chestertown Farmer’s Market is challenging for all, I think.  Perhaps more challenging for the vendors to find customers!  The crowds are gone, but there are still a surprising number of vendors out on the chilly brick – lettuce and mushrooms, baked goods and turnips, this is all we farmers can offer you.

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Cedar Run has their premo spot for the winter months – and I wonder, when summer comes, do they have to relinquish this location and be banished to the other side of the street when Arnold and Anchor return?  Seems like if they are there during the harsh – and slow – months of January and February, they should have staked out some sort of claim for the rest of the year?  No?

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Oksana produce is there, with bags of assorted greens, the aforementioned turnips and a nice selection of fermented condiments, which Kevin loves.  And, good news, it looks as though they will be participating in a CSA program, which is especially good news for the Colchester Farm contingent.

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Certainly not the view from six months ago, eh?

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Lockbrier, Lapp and King are steadfast in holding up their end of the Market, along with Chesapeake GreenHouse.  So, things aren’t too bad – you can get a variety of vegetables, mostly locally grown, and as long as you aren’t craving zucchini or tomatoes, all is well.  Many we speak to agree that even as the purveyors and their produce dwindle at the Local Farmer’s Market, it’s important to continue to support those who persevere, and to keep your diet as close to home as you can this time of year.  Mushroom risotto with a Caesar salad anyone?

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It looks so bleak…even Carl was taking a (much deserved) break this weekend, and as you can see, no one stepped into his spot!

In other news:

  • The K-B Market – primarily Chef Kevin – is participating in a fund-raiser for the Kent Center in April.  This will be Kent Center’s second annual benefit dinner to help educate the community and raise funds during Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.  (DDAM is actually March, but they graciously postponed part of their celebration until April, when Kevin and I were available to contribute.)  Kevin will be the Guest Chef for the event, with the support of various members of the Kent Center Community and beyond.  The menu will feature as much locally sourced food as possible (see above…) as well as wine from Clovelly Vineyards in Chestertown and Crow Winery in Kennedyville. The Menu will be a collaborative effort between Chef Kevin and Kent Center’s Chef Merry Guben, starting with the hors d’oeuvres at the door and proceeding through desserts on the buffet.  Tickets will become available March 1st, and they will be limited, so don’t miss this opportunity to support an agency that does so much good for your community and get a delicious meal with your neighbors in the process!
  • Have you been to the Lidl grocery in Middletown?  I understand many of you might have a reluctance to head into that part of the world, seeing as Middletown is probably the epitome of development gone wild – I mean, when is the last time you went there when something new wasn’t under construction?  And all of those new buildings look just the same?  That being said, we are a 20 minute ride away (which in itself is a bit scary, because that means “they” are 20 minutes away from us, and getting closer all the time, with all the new road work underway.  But, still, a new grocery store???  Come on!)  Anyway, it is an interesting grocery concept, with that sort of warehouse style set-up that is reminiscent of a Sam’s Club or Shoppers Warehouse. Lidl’s main competition is Aldi, which is of course right across the street from their Middletown store.  Our personal take between the two: we did not get the charm of the Aldi store.  It seemed sort of cold and the layout was semi-confusing.  We’ve only been in there once, so maybe we should revisit, but the first time in the Lidl market was enough to entice us to return.  Produce was of fine quality and very competitively priced (and for those of us wishing we still had a wholesale outlet for produce besides Produce Junction, this was key.)  We really don’t have any interest in the non-food items, which stretch mostly down the middle two aisles in the store, but we’ve been very happy with produce, coffee, dairy.  Meat looks interesting, and the labels read well. Many of the the house brands hilariously mimic many of your favorite national brands, from Pepperidge Farms iconic Milano to the chocolate syrup that looks a lot like Hershey’s.  But isn’t.  The only thing we’ve tried in that arena is their Seltzer – 35 cents for a liter bottle!!! – but it was quite disappointing in that it had a “flavored” overtone, when what we purchased was supposed to be “plain”.  We wouldn’t risk that again.  Check-out is fun – you get to push the little button to move the conveyor belt along!  As you pack your own groceries back into the cart.  Unless you remembered to BYOB.  But at least you don’t need a quarter to unlock a shopping cart…
  • Note to dinersBarbara’s On The Bay has some very good oyster stew.  We were there for the first time in ages last week – and yes, we got some teasing about that – and accepted the oyster stew Challenge. Oyster stew is one of my favorite local seasonal treats, and as you may know, we are big fans of the version at Fisherman’s Inn. When we saw it on the specials at BotB, we knew we had to give it a try.  It was delicious – not in the same way that the Challenger’s is – but it definitely fits the glove, with the additional harmony of celery and onion to add some tasty texture.  The oysters were beautifully plumped and the soup itself was rich with oyster flavor.  Fist bump Barbara and Crew!
  • Today we were fortunate enough to attend the open house and dairy tour at Fair Hill Farm, celebrating their state of the art fifty-stall rotary milking parlor, built by Madero Dairy Systems.   It is an utterly (ha!) amazing set-up, milking over 500 cows twice a day in three hour shifts with three people at the controls.  Really?  It took my Dad and one or two helpers two hours to milk 60 cows twice a day 30 years ago.  He would have looked at this mass of stainless steel and computers with simple awe.  We could only stay briefly – missed the lunch! and the actual milking – but left with a feeling that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.  Not even in Kent County.
  • One final note – most of you know we have a little tri-pod dog named Ruby.  Well, Ruby, at 13 YO, has been very depressed this winter. It being too cold to spend the day outside, she has had little exercise the past few months and consequently has suffered in the appetite department. Nothing seemed to tease her into eating; she barely would eat a quarter of her normal fill and the weight loss has become frighteningly apparent, even under her fleece coat. Well, Chef Kevin to the rescue!  Yesterday he made her a big pot of bone broth, which we put on her morning chow and yes!  she gobbled it down like it was a plate of beef carpaccio.  Kevin is our hero, once again!

Here’s to Winter and all of it’s challenges!

Cheers!