It’s Been Over a Year

I don’t know why I stopped with the Blog Posts, but now, in this age of Covid-19 and all the eating at home, it seems like time to get back to it.  If nothing else, it will serve as a food journal while I wait for what else gets thrown at us.

I have never liked the term “the New Normal”, ever since it began to become a part of our vernacular years ago.  How can something that is “new” be “normal”?  Isn’t that a contradiction in terms??  But now I get it.  Now I know what it means.  Because eating at home every night of the week is it, the new normal.  And as most of you know, if you have read any of the previous posts on this Blog, Barbara doesn’t do much cooking.  But, never fear, she does live with a Chef, who loves to cook.  Thank goodness for that.

IMG_20200403_131902_466

Does that picture make you want a focaccia sandwich?

Since the shut-down, with all restaurants shuttered, our credit card company has taken a noticeable hit, since we are not using it to dine-out, which granted, had already slowed up but now was completely kaput.  (Okay, is that a silver lining I see – less credit card debt??)  However, of course that means more money spent at the Grocery Store.

Well, maybe not everything is available, but our pantry is pretty good on dry goods and condiments.  And luckily, we recently received an order from Rancho Gordo for 6 pounds of dried beans.  Lucky,  because they too are running low on supplies.  And also lucky – well, maybe luck isn’t the right word – we have a food business which means we can order from our purveyors the things that may have not yet made their way through the supply chain to the local grocer, like flour and yeast.  ((While our dinners for the month of April (at the least) are cancelled, we still have the Market to provide for and, well, a cook’s gotta cook, so when the Market re-opened this week after our well-timed seasonal shut-down, we were stocked and ready.  We sold out of everything Kevin made.))  So, cooking at home, every night, with a Chef, seems to be the New Normal.

Each morning, while we are drinking our tea and discussing the approaching day, we muse about what we will have for dinner.  We might have to take something out of the freezer – is everyone pretty much emptying their freezers recently?  another silver lining maybe? – or maybe we have some produce in our “cooler” that needs to be used.  I say cooler in quotation marks, but it really is a cooler, on the porch, where we’ve been storing our winter produce.  It keeps things very well, we don’t have to store things in the unusually crowed refrigerator and the produce seems to last a lot longer at that not-so-cold temperature.

IMG_20200401_084937084_HDR

It’s not a Yeti guys, but it’s a pretty good knock-off.  And who doesn’t have plenty of ice packs in the freezer, taking up valuable space?  There used to be a lot more stuff in there, but I think Kevin robbed it to use at work…  Anyway, we start talking about food – dinner mostly – before we finish our tea.  Maybe everyone does this already, but our life has not involved dinner at home every night for about 47 years, so it is a sort of new routine for us.

One of the best things Kevin has made so far is a fresh pasta that we learned about on the wonderful PBS show, “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having”.  Last weekend they had a marathon on MPT2 (our main source of screen entertainment, being without internet at home, which is maybe kind of a drag right now??), which, during the Italian Episode, had a segment on this cool looking pasta called “umbricelli“.  It looked like something we would like to eat, so, Kevin went to work:

It was delicious!  Maybe next time roll it out a hair thinner, since it really did swell in size a bit.  We used a pint of our HM tomato sauce from the freezer (yay!) and had a little Caesar salad (my contribution to the meal) on the side.

The other dish we’ve had a few times lately is a vegetable gratin, made with any vegetables we can find, mostly root, cooked together with a tiny bit of cream and some stock and topped off with a Parmesan cheese and bread crumble.  Eat half for dinner and save the other half for the morning repast.

This version consisted of parsnips, potatoes, cabbage, carrots, celery and onion, with a couple leftover burger buns for the crisp topping.  Oh, and lima beans, from, you guessed it, the freezer!

Avocados are generally a staple in our house, and last night were what’s for dinner: the Comegys Road tostada bar.  Take two avocados and make your usual guacamole recipe; set out your favorite nacho condiments like pickled onions, cilantro, sour cream, maybe some queso fresco, Cowgirl Candy and what ever else you like.  Put a couple tostadas out, some broken, some not, it doesn’t matter in this case, and make yourself a custom tostada.  A little Maldon sea salt on the whole kabang does no harm.

Of course dinner isn’t the only meal of the day.  We generally eat a sort of “brunch”, too late to be considered ‘breakfast’ and too early for lunch.  This usually consists of leftovers from the night before, as previously mentioned, or something scraped together from leftovers.  For instance, a sandwich with day old focaccia, trimmings from the rib eye Kevin broke down for the Market and a couple of slices of cheese.  Or beans!  Beans are a great start to the day; they hold you for quite a while, they are very satisfying to eat and you can do so much with them.  You can make basic brothy bean soup, with your carrots and onion and celery, maybe a little bacon or ham, and once you’ve enjoyed them as soup, you can take a cup or so and mash them up in the frying pan with some garlic and maybe hot pepper, spread them on a tortilla or tostada and breakfast is ready!

One thing I can make is Fried Chicken, which is what we had for Kevin’s 65th birthday on day 10 of Isolation:

More limas!  And the biscuits were a riff on a food magazine recipe that called for buttermilk and onions – we traded that partly with some tarragon butter that we had made a bunch of and stored in the you-know-what until needed.  Like now.  Making that tarragon butter from our quite healthy tarragon plant last fall was one of the best things we put in that freezer last year!

I don’t know about you, but I am feeling quite overwhelmed by recent events.  Physical distancing, ultra hand-washing, even masks, I can do all that, and I will until it’s over.  But to not get together with people at a table over a meal and wine and conversation, that is still really hard to take.  My whole life as an adult has revolved around feeding people as a social event.  I guess writing this stuff about food and eating is a sort of panacea for me right now.  Sharing somehow.  A cook’s gotta cook and a share-er’s got to share?  Anyway, enough for now.  Thanks for listening.  Now I gotta go walk a couple miles to work off all this food!

 

 

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.

mexicantoday_web3

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:

img_20180731_175154996_hdr

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.

IMG_20180428_110318172_HDR

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.

IMG_20180428_110325669

IMG_20180428_110545677

IMG_20180428_111204012

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!

IMG_20180428_121529128

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

IMG_20180330_145905192

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.

IMG_20180330_120016422

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.

IMG_20180330_120056591

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:

IMG_20180330_120154232

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!