Two farmers’ markets in two weekends

Color me happy.

The German Coast Farmers’ Market in St. Charles Parish, LA, has really taken off since its inception four years ago. Despite the nearly unbearable heat last weekend, the turnout was good for the anniversary celebration, and spirits were high. The growing season is much farther along down there than it is here in New Jersey, so I was really happy to get some juicy Creole tomatoes fresh from the Zeringue farm. Ponchatoula strawberries were already out of season, but I managed to get along knowing fresh berries will be along soon out here. I’d say the highlight of the GCFM was the jumbo crab-stuffed artichoke I bought at Betty D.’s booth. The artichoke really was enormous, but she’d stuffed it so full of seasoned crab meat, you could barely see the artichoke at all. Gil, my dad, and I had that for dinner one night and felt completely satisfied.

But even more exciting than visiting such a faraway market is knowing that WE HAVE OUR VERY OWN FARMERS’ MARKET RIGHT HERE IN RINGWOOD!! Yes, that’s right, from June to October, I’ll be at the local bus stop every Saturday morning to buy some of the freshest produce our farmers have to offer. I picked up some kohlrabi, garlic scapes, radishes, komatsuna, raw milk pepper colby cheese, and fresh herb plants — oregano, rosemary, and spearmint — which the vendor potted together for me free of charge.

Since komatsuna and garlic scapes were new to me, I had to dive right in and cook them for dinner last night. I used Floyd Cardoz’s ramps recipe (from his incredible One Spice, Two Spice cookbook) as a starting point and was really happy with the results. Unlike the ramps I made a month ago, this dish wasn’t as greasy and the greens were much more tender. We’d had a pretty big lunch already, so a light dinner of stir-fried greens really hit the spot.

Next weekend, I plan to branch out to try the kosher dills, grass-fed beef, and get a bunch more garlic scapes for pickling.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Two farmers’ markets in two weekends”

This is May?

We spent Saturday morning keeping an eye on the weather and vacillating about going to the Yankees-Mets game at Shea. On the one hand, we both love the Yankees, but on the other hand 1) the game would probably be rained out, 2) if the game wasn’t rained out the Yankees were going to lose anyway, and 3) no sense getting wet, miserable, and possibly sick if those lousy rassafrassin’ so-and-so’s weren’t going to bring a little metaphorical sunshine into our lives.

Can you guess what we decided to do?

Skipping the game meant no kosher dogs in their natural setting, so I had to scramble for something to take their place. Comfort food seemed to be the way to go and that usually spells bread pudding or grilled cheese, but I wanted less bread and more … stuff. Hmmm, how about open-faced sandwiches?

What we ended up with was a little like a cheesy spinach dip, but I didn’t hear any complaints. I heated some leftover bacon fat and olive oil and added brown mustard seeds and cumin seeds, stirring them until they started to pop like fragrant tiny popcorn. It’s something I picked up from One Spice, Two Spice, and it really made a difference here. It gave the concoction a faintly citrusy bite, which cut through all of the cheese I added later. The hearty side of the dish was taken care of with onions, spinach, and mushrooms, while cheese and a little bechamel sauce added at the last second took care of the comforting creamy element.

I served it on oven-toasted challah brushed with butter and it didn’t last an inning. It was just what we needed on a gray, miserable day.

recipe after the jump
Continue reading “This is May?”

Pan’s Landscaping Services

bigtree.jpg

We’ve been meaning to take the tree down anyway, but this was a close call — it missed the house by a foot or so. For details, see here and here. And the full set of pics is here.

I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping through storms since I moved to Ringwood, but now that the threat of a tree falling through the bedroom is a real one, I’ll be reading in the basement whenever the wind picks up.

Well, gal bee!

Clockwise, from left: si gum chi na mul, shredded carrots, ho bak na mul, sook ju na mul, gal bee

There’s no greater treat (or easier meal) than grilled food when company comes calling. Slap some meat over a fire, serve it with a few simple side dishes and copious amounts of alcohol, and you’re guaranteed a good time and satisfaction all around.

But sometimes the burger/hot dog/steak axis wears thin, even early in the grilling season. I’ve had great great burgers/dogs/steaks, but only rarely are they memorable on their own. A kosher dog at Yankee stadium, when Gil and I were dating and he surprised me with a ticket to a Sunday game … totally memorable, but for the company. Steak cooked to perfection by R, my longtime boyfriend in St. Louis … again memorable, but for the secret family marinade I weaseled out of him (and which you won’t get here, dear reader — I made a promise and intend to keep it.).

But I did learn a lot of other things with R during our years together. Apart from the many cautionary lessons (which I choose not to dwell on), he taught me to shoot, something I still love to do whenever I make it out to the sporting clays range. I learned the most basic lessons of fly fishing, but haven’t gone back for years. And I learned a lot about Korean food.

See, R was a Korean cowboy-type from Tulsa, a good ol’ boy and gourmand in equal measure. His family loved entertaining with amazing home-cooked meals, so he learned quite a bit from them. Over the years after we parted ways, I cooked the few dishes I remembered and added my own spin to them, but I wanted more. Sure, I could live the rest of my life without eating the same version of Ja Jang Myun (noodles with soybean paste sauce) ever again, but did I really want to? Nuh-uh.

A few months ago, I finally managed to track down the out-of-print cookbook R had — Korean Cooking for You by Moon Ja Yoon — and have made old favorites many times since. But I can also turn to this cookbook for magnificent grilling recipes and produce something other than the typical cookout fare with minimal effort. So that’s what I did Saturday afternoon.

With the gal bee (short ribs), we had si gum chi na mul (spinach), ho bak na mul (zucchini), sook ju na mul (mung bean sprouts), and some awesomely pungent and fresh kim chi Gil picked up at the market Friday. And to make things super-simple, all of the na muls used the same seasoning ingredients, so it’s easy enough to mix up a big batch and just douse the different dishes at once.

Our weekend guest (Deb, Gil’s ex from college) is a smart girl who knows you can pick up wine anywhere, but a chocolate mousse cake from S&S Cheesecake … I … just … there are no words:

So that was dessert. And yes, we made short work of it:

recipes after the jump

Continue reading “Well, gal bee!”

Art from a snapshot

Our home improvement projects continued this weekend as we reassembled the guest bedroom for an honest-to-goodness overnight guest! We still need to paint the trim, but it looks pretty good anyway, now that the curtains are hung and the bed is put together. Pictures to come.

Our dining room looks about a bazillion times better, too. One of my oldest friends is a very talented artist who wanted to give us a painting as a wedding present. We took a long time to decide what the subject should be, but when Riece saw my photos from Paris, he zeroed in on this image of the chapel at Les Invalides, and we all agreed it would be perfect:

The painting was delivered Tuesday while we were in the city, but because we rarely seem to be home at the same time as our neighbors (who hold onto our deliveries when we’re away), we only got it yesterday afternoon.

I’d say it was worth the wait.

Now our dining room/living room have a focus beyond our obscenely large television.

A real suburban weekend

collage.jpg

We welcomed the return of our prodigal Spring last weekend with open windows and grilled meats and vegetables. Winter stamped around a bit throwing a tantrum that it had NEVER left and why don’t we appreciate it the same WAY, but you can’t encourage a hissy fit, so we ignored it.

In a burst of spring cleaning energy and optimism, I thought it was time to do something about the state of the guest bedroom, where the dingy walls and half-finished look have been depressing me for so long I could not stand it one more minute. Did you know Home Depot opens at 6am? Ahem, not being completely batshit crazy, we didn’t make it there quite so early, but at around 7:30am (does that make us partially batshit?) we hit the local Despot for a window consultation (new windows! less dust!) and paint supplies. After our brief foray into the world, we went home and got busy with the redecorating.

Moving furniture and cleaning and taping and edging really take it out of a person, so between coats we thought it better to watch sports and grill instead of cleaning the rest of the house or watching paint dry. (The less said about the Yankees, the better, but gooooo Weber Q!) Having the windows open during the games felt like such a luxury after the past few weeks of grayishly brooding about better weather to come. Aaaaahhh…

The only non-grilled dinner we had all weekend involved testing a new recipe for Chinese Chicken and Mushroom Lettuce Cups from Cooking Light for dinner Saturday; it was such a success it’s already moved into the go-to pile for weeknight dinners. (It was really very simple to make, though mincing the mushrooms took longer than expected. I’ll use our trusty food processor in the future when I’m more pressed for time. I only changed the recipe a little — increasing the amount of mushrooms to use the whole container, using regular soy sauce instead of low-sodium, and adding a handful of slivered almonds because we had them.) The dish is light but has an earthy mushroom flavor and tastes remarkably like the wraps we get at Baumgart’s, a New Jersey diner/pan-Asian restaurant institution.

For dessert, we moved over to Thailand for bananas stewed with coconut milk (or Gluay Buat Chee) from Real Thai by Nancie McDermott. As the recipe notes,

When women in Thailand become Buddhist nuns, they wear white robes. This sweet dish of bananas in coconut milk is white as well, giving rise to its charming Thai name, “bananas ordained as nuns.”

Sunday, I grilled instead of heating up the house after painting. Marinated skirt steak (a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, hot smoky paprika, garlic, cumin, chile powder, salt, and pepper) got a quick turn on the grill and paired well with caramelized onions spritzed with lime juice and a dollop of fresh guacamole. Inspired by the abundant sunshine and cool breeze, we even broke out our patio set and ate overlooking the woods behind our house.

God, I’m so ready for summer.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood

We lucked out in a sense, and only got about 10 inches of snow Friday — not a piddling amount, but so much better than the 18 inches we feared. Instead of holing up Saturday morning, I did my wifely duty and helped Gil shovel the driveway to the best of my ability. We didn’t make much headway, but did get it cleared enough for his Element to take us out for the day.

When we returned, I started dinner and heard a strange, lawnmower-like sound in our driveway. It was our amazing neighbor bailing us out once again with his snowblower. Seriously, this guy saves our lives every time we have a heavy snowfall. I feel guilty, while Gil just doesn’t know what to do, so I decided to send him a token of our appreciation.

As luck would have it, we had several overly ripe bananas in our fruit bowl, so why not bake two loaves of banana bread, one “thank you” loaf for Rich, and one for us? My favorite recipe comes from Cooking Light, but I noodle around with it from time to time. Adding walnuts and chocolate chips seemed like the neighborly thing to do, elevating the basic recipe to something a little more fitting. We’ll send over a bottle of muscat, too, in case the banana bread doesn’t ring his bell, but I think he’ll enjoy it.

And even if he doesn’t, at least we’ve enjoyed our bread enough for all of us.

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood”