Friday, May 30, 2008

Those nagging vegetarians

I'm not one to preach (much) about meat vs. no meat, but last week was World Vegetarian Week, and I missed my chance! So I'm just going to share this. Take what you will. I just have to say that it's been almost a year and a half since I've eaten meat (ok, with a few bites here and there). And it's so easy! I have enjoyed cooking AND eating more in that time than I ever had before. And this sense of moral superiority is so much fun. Oh I slay me.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Picnic Time

Ryan and Christina visited this weekend, and we had a picnic in the Azalea Garden behind the Art Museum on Sunday. The weather was absolutely perfect. We put our blanket under a big tree and enjoyed an afternoon together in this spot that really makes me feel so lucky to live where we do. I think Matt has some pics of the park somewhere, so I will try to post them.

Anyway, the food. We had some veggies and dip, some watermelon and these tiny, early strawberries that Christina picked up at Headhouse Square:

The fruit was almost a tease--it tasted reminiscent of what watermelon and strawberries should taste like, but really just got us excited for real summer fruit!

Our main course was a pasta salad, and we shared some great Garlic-Chive Cheddar, also from the Farmer's Market. We also had a pitcher of sangria, which was delicious, but which I don't recommend as most of your fluids on a hot day. Matt and I, at least, were pretty wiped!

I took inspiration for the pasta salad from this Ellie Krieger recipe, but changed it up a bit. I had a nice white Rigatoni leftover from vodka sauce we made the night before (coming soon), and at the market I picked up an inexpensive bunch of pea shoots, which I hadn't had before. They were great! A leaf that felt and cooked like baby spinach, but tasted like snap peas. So, with that ultimate spring ingredient, I adjusted the recipe a bit.

Light Spring Pasta Salad

8 ounces rigatoni or other short pasta (whole wheat would be okay, but these flavors are delicate, and the chewy white pasta worked great)
1/2 cup walnut pieces or halves
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2-3 scallions, sliced, white parts onnly
1 1/2 cups chopped baby spinach leaves, or if you're lucky enough to find them, pea shoots and leaves!
1 tablespoon walnut oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper
to taste

Boil Pasta. Place spinach or pea shoots on bottom of strainer, and strain the cooked pasta over the leaves to wilt them. Run under cold water to stop it all cooking and cool it down.

Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Toss well, and toss again before serving.

Simple and delicious! I think this would also improve in the fridge over several hours, or be good for a couple days' lunches.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eat it!

I emailed this to a few of you already, but decided, why have a blog if not to post fun things like this? Thanks to Shapely Prose for finding [this video].

Monday, May 19, 2008


For a big dinner at my sister's house Saturday night, I simmered a bunch of chopped rhubarb with a little water (enough to get the cooking started) and a lot of sugar (coating the rhubarb). Once it was broken down, I poured it over vanilla ice cream and sprinkled a honey-sesame granola over it. I love this simple use of a seasonal fruit. The sourness was just enough to be tasty (except for Mollie, who found it too sour), and it was a hit. One friend pointed out that the taste was reminiscent of a sour applesauce, and it's a great description. A few of us tried it raw, because Mike used to nibble on it as a kid. Trust me, it's better cooked!

Anyway, I had one large stalk left, a half pound--just enough for this rhubarb coffeecake. This recipe is a great introduction to one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen. Deb writes beautifully about great recipes, and takes amazing photographs of them. I'm sure I'll be mentioning her blog plenty.

This cake was delicious. All the fruit, which went in raw and cooked down in the cake, kept it super-moist, and the sourness is perfect with a sweet batter and savory crumb. And all those crumbs thrilled the hubby, who has an affection for Entenmann's-style cakes. This was so easy to make, there's really no reason to buy the packaged one. I had all the ingredients on hand, and Deb suggests trying other fruits as well.

I have another coffeecake recipe I tried last summer with blueberries; I'll have to try it again soon for comparison's sake.

Is there anybody out there?

So, I no longer am working in the food industry. Since my last post in November, after a true false start, I got and quit a job at a cafe/caterer. Food is back to being a fun hobby instead of a stressful job, and I'm very excited. So, in order to occupy my potentially idle mind and get back to cooking and baking yummy things, I am going to try again with this blog. My plans are to post about one baking and one cooking attempt per week, with other things sprinkled in as well. Maybe I'll get to a point of original recipes, but mostly it will be trying things out from other blogs and recipe sites. Keep an eye out for rhubarb coffeecake.

Meanwhile, another spring dish. I cooked Fiddleheads for the first time last spring, and I was desperate to catch them in their short, early spring growing season this year. And thanks to the Fair Food Farmstand at the Reading Terminal Market, I did! So, a couple of weeks ago, I used them in a Maggie original recipe. I cooked scallions in a combination of (a lot of) butter and olive oil, then added the fiddleheads and cooked for seven or eight minutes, then added shiitake mushrooms. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and thyme, and served it all over fresh egg fettucine, also from RTM. It was a great combination of flavors and textures, and I highly recommend trying out these yummy, unusual vegetables next year. Here are some pictures: