Saturday, July 31, 2010

Week #10

We had to skip a couple of weeks due to the Europe trip, but I wanted to keep our CSA journey on track. It's technically only week #8 for us, but since the CSA is in week #10, we'll stick with that. As we drove to our pick-up, this week, I worried about being stuck with yet another week of beet and scallion overload. But clearly there was a birth of crops while we were away because this week yielded some new and exciting options that we can't wait to eat!

spring mix
squash blossoms
green tomatoes
heirloom tomatoes
cherry tomatoes
carrots (they are red, purple, and yellow - just like the ones we saw in Paris!)

The squash blossoms and tomatillos are in red only because I've never cooked them before. I do have some ideas for them. Green tomatoes are in yellow for the same reason, except that I DEFINITELY know what I'm going to do with those! I put cucumbers in yellow because we got alot of them and I'm not quite sure how to use them all.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wait, so it's Friday already? Yikes! I won't bore you with all the "we went here and then we went there details" from the last three days. Instead, here are the highlights:

  • Moules (muscles) at Leon de Bruxelles, which is actually a chain restaurant in and around Paris. I had the house recipe and M. had the marinated variation. Mine came swimming in an amazing broth of creme fraiche, white wine, celery, and some spices. The muscles, themselves, were big and meaty. Quite a difference from the prix fix lunch menu muscles that I had, the very next day, at one of the non-descript cafes on the Rue de St. Germain.
  • After a long, long, long walk through what amounted to about 1/4 of the Louvre, we collapsed at a table at Le Petit Machon. The name translates to "the little stab," which is what we got when the waitress poo-poo'd our selection of "Coca Cola Light" over wine. Lady, I've had enough wine and all I want is a refreshing soft drink. Anyway, our hurt feelings disappeared when the food arrived. I had an amazing chicken and crayfish dish that was accompanied by a potato gratin of some sort, and all was swimming in an amazing creamy lobster sauce. M. had the steak frites and the highlight was the unique hollandaise sauce that came with it.
  • We made our own crepes...well we put them together on our own, last night. The Monoprix had pre-made dessert crepes, to which we added sliced banana and nutella. If there is a heaven, this is being served there, 24-7. The Monprix also yielded a surprisingly delicious pre-made pizza with proscuitto and mozz.
  • Cheese, cheese, and more cheese. We've been eating breakfast at the apartment, and sometimes dinner, and it always comes with some cheese! About a block away, there is a row of stores (as is typical in Paris) that each sell a different type of food item. M. has repeatedly impressed the guys in the fromagerie with his knowledge of cheese, even if he needs a little help explaining how much of it he wants. Tonight, we dined on a delectable feast of brie, morbier, bread, roasted chicken, and fresh heirloom tomato. Each food dealer seemed happy to indulge our feeble attempts at speaking their language, and some have even shown us the utmost respect by responding to our "Au Revoir"s with "Have a good night."
As far as the sights are concerned, since my last post, we have seen the Louvre, the Forum Les Halles and surrounding shopping on Rue de Rivoli, Notre Dame, the Musee D'Orsay, St. Germain, Mirais, Bastille, Pigalle, and Montmartre (my personal favorite). Our favorite activity, both here and in Amsterdam, has been photographing street art as we find it. I hope to have post a slideshow of those pictures after the trip is over.

Tomorrow we head to the Marche de L'Ave de President Wilson. It is in our neighborhood and is apparently one of the most decadent outdoor food markets in the city. I am gearing up for some pate and fresh pasta, as well as some awesome pictures.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Big fat American babies!

Our food journey was not incredibly remarkable today, but we did have fun. It's only 7:30 pm here and we are already home in our rental apt, assed out on the couch with feet a' throbbing.

Last night's trip the Monoprix yielded a delicious, albeit interesting, breakfast spread. Apparently, I grabbed a camembert cheese, last night, when I meant to grab a brie. It was still delicious, especially with the fig jam I'd picked out, but it was a wee bit strong for a morning bite! We spread it on fresh bread with the jam, and also had fresh peaches and pain au chocolat.

We headed off to see the Eiffel Tower in the daytime, with pre-purchased lift tickets in hand. Going up a structure diagonally in a fast-moving elevator is quite an experience! After that, we walked over to the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais, and then over the Avenue du Champs D'Elysees. We strolled all the way up to the Arc de Triomphe, doing some souvenir shopping along the way (M. for himself, me for friends' "bebes" back home). The title of this post actually refers to the funny attitude I got from a saleswoman in a store when I asked her if I should size up for an American child. She said, "Well, yes, our children's clothes are sized smaller because WE are sized smaller." Ahhhh, Paris. After a while, we were hot, sweaty, and hungry, and needed to burn some time before a recommended cheese shop reopened for the afternoon. We ended up lunching at Hippopotamus, a sort of TGI Friday's-like chain in Paris. We both had burgers that were quite good and came with endless fries and salad. It felt almost...American.

Eventually, we made it to the cheese shop, where M. used his cheese expertise to select two items. We hit a patisserie for two baguettes, a produce vendor for some fruits and veggies, and grabbed some wine and fizzy watery drinks from Mono Prix. After an early evening nap we are preparing to enjoy a small spread of these items for dinner and perhaps a post-dinner stroll around the neighborhood.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vaarwel Amsterdam

I am writing this entry from our rental apartment in Paris, but figure I should finish up our tales of Amsterdam before discussing the fledgling hours of our week in the big city.

We did indeed have a fabulous dinner on Saturday night. Our guide book suggested Pastini and we were happy with the description that said the restaurant sat at the intersection of two canals. It was a bit chilly but we sat outside anyway and enjoyed a beautiful view with food to match. With our wine came the little treat in the picture above. The spread was made of some sort of sweet butter mixed with chopped olives and a green herb...maybe basil? For mains, we both ordered pasta dishes. I had the Linguini Romano - chopped brussel sprouts, bacon, creme sauce, and parmesan on the most perfectly al dente linguini pasta I've ever had. M. had the Tagliatelle Agnello which consisted of lamb, tomato, eggplant, and parmesan cheese. So good! And in true American fashion, we were amazed at how filling the European-sized portions actually were. There was dessert, too! I had the tiramisu and M. had the torta limone, which came with a scoop of house-made ice cream that was just amazing. Dessert doesn't seem so naughty when everything you eat is properly portioned.

While we were eating, we watched one of these go by. Pretty awesome.

On our last day in Amsterdam, we visited de Hortus, one of the oldest botanical gardens in Amsterdam. The greenhouses held all sorts of rare plants from around the world, maintained in their proper habitats. After that, we had lunch at a small street cafe while we waited for The Brouwerij 't Ij to open. The cafe was notable for its awful service, but also for our second helping of bitterballen. M. had a tuna melt that wasn't much, but I thoroughly enjoyed my sandwich of goat cheese, walnuts, and pear syrup...once they managed to get my order right after trying to bring me the wrong sandwich twice. The brewery brightened our spirits. We tasted a couple beers before embarking on the tour, led by a cheeky dutchman who had lots of funny stories to tell. He also gave us a bit of the history of the place. The brewery was founded by a Dutch pop star and went totally organic in 2002. In order to get hops that are organic, the brewery has to import them from New Zealand! We tried another beer before buying a few and heading back to the hotel.

Our last night was fairly low-key. We went to the Maoz around the corner, enjoying falafel sandwiches and frites, before heading out for a walk around a square we hadn't visited yet. We hit a grocery store on our way back for some Dutch chocolate treats (our faves were Choco Moments and Orange Pims) and had a mini-picnic in our room before hitting the hay.

This morning, we headed to the Centraal Station to catch a high speed train to Paris. When we arrived at our rental apartment, we picked the one restaurant in our rather shi shi neighborhood that looked reasonable. Le Petit Retro did NOT disappoint! Not only was our waiter patient with my broken french, the restaurant had a very reasonably priced version of the one dish I was determined to have while in Paris: fois gras. As I said in a facebook status shortly after the meal, I have worshiped at the altar of fois gras and it was good. M. had the rack of lamb, which was also amazing, and we shared an appetizer of country pate that was great. The entire meal with wine, sparkling water, and coffee came to 84 euro, but that included tip. We understand that's quite a steal in this part of town.

We visited the Monoprix on our way home for some breakfast items. We are now stocked with cheese, jam, bread, some fruit, and pain au chocolat. After dropping off our bounty, we took a quick walk to the Eiffel Tower to see it twinkle and are now relaxing at the apartment, getting ready for a day of sightseeing, tomorrow!

A demain!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

"Wine from Germany"

Greetings from Amsterdam!

We arrived yesterday and have spent our almost-two days wandering around, using the hotel as home base and a place to catch quick naps in order to catch up on the sleep we lost on the overnight flight. We've tried to dedicate ourselves to using the public transportation as much as possible and it's worked out rather well. The tram system here is phenomenal and a great way to see the city if you get tired of walking.

Hunger was our main concern when we got to our hotel, yesterday. It was mid-morning but we were certainly ready for a lunch. Our hotel suggested the cafe right across the street. Cafe Kale didn't disappoint! We saw bitterballen on the menu and immediately ordered it as a starter. It came to us fresh from the fryer as is evidenced by the still-tender roof of my mouth. But my goodness, was it good. M. described it as "deep fried gravy," which doesn't do it justice but does accurately describe the sinfulness of it. We followed up with some beer and a couple of sandwiches. I had a Beemster cheese and salsa sandwich which was notable for the smoky deliciousness of the flavored gouda that is popular here, and M. had a parma ham, mozz, and salsa sammy. Both filled us up so we could take a quick nap before heading out to explore.

We woke up hungry and headed off in search of a Steakhouse, which is a popular restaurant type in the city. Our Lonely Planet guidebook suggested Steakhouse Piet de Leeuw and we found it on a little side street off of a main one. It felt like a hidden gem, and proved itself to be as we appeared to be some of the few non-Dutch that came for dinner. The steaks were perfectly cooked, and came with a "salad" (more like a slaw - not really my thing due to all the mayo) and frites. When I had a little trouble with the herring app (herring is the national fish here) that we ordered, the surly-but hilarious waiter brought us two little samples of smoked eel that ended up being quite tasty! The meal ended with a shared house-made chocolate mousse that was only slightly upstaged by the homemade whipped cream that came with it. Even with the experimental side-step of the herring, the meal was awesome.

To walk off the mousse, we strolled around the central canal district, going through and around the Red Light District. We knew we "had to see it," but I doubt I will consider it the highlight of our journey. A quick drink in a brown cafe, served by the most bad-ass female bartender I think I'll ever see here, ended the night.

Our hotel has a free breakfast and we enjoyed that this morning. The spread was more extensive than the pastries and coffee we were expecting. There were plates of meats and cheeses, fresh rolls, hard-boiled eggs, tiny tubes of liverwurst (best I've ever tasted) and other assorted goodies. We ate a small meal that still felt hearty. So far, today, we have visited the Anne Frank House (sobering but very well done), walked around the shops in Jordaan (M. purchased the world cup gear he was craving), eaten the delicious frites of the Wil Graanstra Fritehuis in Westerkerk Square, and experienced the dual beauty and madness that is the Albert Cuypmarkt.

It is dinner-time here, which means I must go out and forage for more blog material, of course. My first impressions of the city are that it is beautiful; the weather is as close to perfect as one can get; that Philly could learn alot from the coexistence of public transport, bike riders, and car drivers; and that the matter-of-fact sarcasm of the wonderfully friendly locals is something I could really enjoy on a permanent basis.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Final sprint

Wow. I did it. I managed to use or preserve every portion of our CSA share over the last three days in preparation for our departure for a different continent tomorrow. This week's quiche was one of goat cheese, pureed beets (yes, beets!), and fresh sage from our backyard garden. I didn't like it so much on the first day, but this morning I found myself really enjoying the flavors. The dish pictured above was a super-combination of farm-stand tomatoes, red onion, CSA kale, CSA summer squash, and our first ripe eggplant from the backyard. It was thrown over pasta with some goat cheese crumbles. Another dish that actually tasted better the next day as leftovers.

Last night, we grilled some steak and threw it over a salad of the greens, cabbage, and scallions from the share. Easy and tasty. I made a batch of pesto with the CSA basil, as well as a couple handfuls of basil from the garden. That went into the freezer along with the green beans, to be used after we get back. The cucumbers, of course, became a second (and third) batch of quick bread and butters.

Tomorrow, we are off to foreign lands. Believe it or not, I hope to blog more while we're in Amsterdam and Paris, as I'm sure that there will be new foods to talk about at every turn. Bon voyage!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hurry up and cook

This week's challenge is to either eat, or figure out a way to freeze, all of our CSA items by Wednesday!

Salad Greens
Summer Squash
Pickling Cucumbers
String beans

I have a pasta dish that might take care of the kale, squash, and scallions. The cucumbers will become another batch of bread and butters. The greens and cabbage can easily become salads. Believe it or not, I found a quiche recipe that includes beets! The basil will become pesto and will be frozen, probably along with the string beans. Now I just have to go do it all!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

No pictures, today

I think the heat is causing my brain to only fire on half its cylinders because I've forgotten to take pictures of what we've cooked, all week long. I think about how I will want to plate the meal for picture-taking purposes, while I'm cooking it...and then remember to take the picture after I've finished eating it.

So here's a round-up of how we've used this week's share, so far:

Weekly quiche - farmers cheese with sauteed spinach. A rousing success!

The beets, fennel, and lettuce became a delicious salad. I boiled, peeled, and sliced the beets and laid them over the lettuce, along with thinly sliced fennel, and some orange pieces. (Similar to the salad I made last week.) The hubby grilled some shrimp that I marinated in olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon & lime juices. A quick dressing of dijon, OJ, white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper brought everything together.

Yesterday, I let the slow cooker take care of our protein with this awesome pulled pork recipe that I've made before. I am slowly perfecting my own version of bbq sauce based on this recipe, but the hubs remarked that this incarnation of it was the best one yet. I took care of the CSA summer squash and some of the scallions by making this for the side. Everything tasted twice as good as lunch leftovers, today.

This evening, we ate some more pulled pork, but I made this kale and green beans recipe in an effort to use up two more CSA items. This dish has the potential to become something great, but it was pretty much a failure, tonight. It made me sad since we put so much work into getting those beans! The recipe called for way too much salt, and I wondered about it as I poured the salt into the pan, but I should have followed my instincts and made it 1 tsp instead of two. Also, I only had pre-grated parmesan cheese which a) probably had a ton of salt added to it and b) did nothing but clump up and make the dish smell weird.

Tomorrow is our last CSA pick up for the next couple of weeks. We're headed to Europe for 10 days, on a long-awaited honeymoon. (We've been married for almost two years...and we've been broke for most of that time.) In Amsterdam, we will be in a hotel, but we've rented an apartment in Paris and can't wait to frequent the local "marches" for breads, cheeses, fruits and veggies so that we can cook some of our own meals. If you've ever been to Amsterdam or Paris, we welcome suggestions of good local foods, or even reasonably priced restaurants, to try.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Week #6

This entry has been delayed as we've been spending lots of time away from the computer over this holiday weekend. Our backyard fence is finally complete, so when we aren't hanging at BBQs with friends, we're putting the yard back together. I hope to have some pics of the new and improved space soon.

Our CSA pickup was a little different than usual, this week, as we actually got to go into the fields and pick some of our items! Green beans were "pick your own," which proved to be difficult since the Tuesday pick-up group had already done quite a number on the two rows of plants that we could access. It was slow-going, but we finally flipped over a couple plants to find a bounty of big, beautiful beans that quickly filled up our container. It actually felt kind of good to "harvest" part of our share, even if I spent the whole time imagining how backbreaking that work must be for the folks who do it all day long. I think the beans will be in a steak stir-fry this week. I've been envisioning lots of stir-fry meals for the nights that we don't want to grill, but where I want the stove to be hot for as little time as possible. We also got to pick our own echinacea so that we have a cute little bouquet on the dining room table - that is, when the cats are not trying to chew on them.

Here's this week's list:

Pickle cucumbers

String beans



I put the scallions in yellow because we got TEN of them. What the heck do you do with 10 scallions?!?!

I took last week's bread and butter pickles to a holiday bbq and they were such a hit that I've decided to use this week's cukes to make another batch. We have our own pickling cucumber plant in the back yard, but with only one plant, the harvests are slim. I think that these quick pickle recipes will be the best way to use the cukes that we are able to get from our plant.

The beets are in green, but we are running out of things to do with just three beets every week, so it might end up being a challenge. Everything else is pretty versatile.

Last week's quiche was a ricotta/summer squash number. It was a disaster for many reasons - a crappy pre-made crust from our scary local grocery store and my failure to sautee the squash before assembling the quiche were probably the main reasons for the disaster. This week, I have re-upped the supply of well-made whole wheat crusts and plan to use the spinach (sauteed first, of course) along with some of those scallions, and local farmer's cheese from NJ. Fingers crossed!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Do it for America

That's tonight's dinner up there. Arugula is seriously the best salad green ever. It has a little bit of crunch but without feeling watery and it's sooooo tangy. I boiled the beets, peeled and sliced them, and then placed them atop the arugula along with some orange pieces, goat cheese, chopped garlic scape, chopped scallion, and a freshly grilled chicken breast. The dressing was an easy combo of white wine vinegar, olive oil, dried mustard, salt, and pepper. Simple.

While I was waiting for beets and chicken to cook, I made this bread and butter pickles recipe with the pickling cucumbers. I halved it since I only had four cukes but it came out just fine. Okay, they were better than fine. I want to save them for a bbq we're going to this weekend, but I don't know if I'll be able to resist them for that long.

Tomorrow, I envision the rest of the CSA items (fennel, stir fry mix, and basil) in a stir fry with some shrimp or scallops, laid over some quinoa. Sounds good, eh?

And it's America's birthday, this weekend! We've been invited to two bbqs and I honestly have too many things that I want to make for our contribution to the festivities. We will definitely take ingredients for dark'n'stormies (rum from Barbados, ginger beer, and limes), as well as the pickles. But I've been jonesing for some of the slow cooker pulled pork and homemade bbq sauce that I made a couple months back, and I'd really like to use the peaches I canned last summer to make a nice crumble. But then there's the awesome double mustard potato salad recipe from "How to Cook Everything." That book was seriously the greatest gift my brother ever gave me, and the potato salad is one of its finest moments. Maybe I'll just honor our forefathers by making it all, and then I'll sit back with a dark'n'stormy while I happily watch my friends enjoy my food. I think Ben Franklin would appreciate that.