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Archive for September, 2009

Don’t forget, in one week it’s the sequel to the very successful DC Food Blogger Happy Hour.  This time it’ll be at CommonWealth Gastropub in Columbia Heights, October 7, 6pm. Happy hour specials until 7pm!

FBHH_10-7-09

But if you simply can’t wait that long to get your drink on with DC’s finest food bloggers, TONIGHT is the planning meeting for the Blogtoberfest celebration of beer that Orr Shtuhl (aka Washington City Paper’s very own Beerspotter) has brilliantly instigated.  Tonight’s shindig is at Axis Bar and Grill on U Street, 6:30pm.

blogtoberfest

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Locavore Inspiration: Todd Gray

This past weekend I was invited to a little expo put on by Cadillac. For whatever reason, Cadillac decided they would celebrate their new crossover by inviting Chef Todd Gray of Equinox to do a cooking demo. Equinox happens to be my favorite fancy restaurant in DC, so I was thrilled to attend. Equinox has been featuring local foods since before it was a movement. I was very excited to get to interview Chef Gray after the show.

Todd Grey (Large)

We had a lovely conversation about local and seasonal foods. Alas, my iPhone has decided to choke when I try to play back the audio recording I made of the interview, so I am sans transcript. But I can say that Chef Gray is as personable and knowledgeable as his food is exquisite.

I asked him about the foods he thinks are the real highlights of the Mid-Atlantic region. He said that it’s true that this area may not be identified with a particular food in the way that, say, Maine is identified with lobsters, but there are still a lot of great regional foods that he loves to showcase in his restaurant. Local sweet corn, Maryland blue crab, Surrey ham, and Chincoteague oysters were among his favorite local foods. He also said that some enterprising growers in North Carolina and Tennessee have begun to cultivate black truffles domestically (though he also said that Italian truffles, especially the whites, are in a class of their own). When I asked about what ingredients he was most looking forward to this autumn, he raved about chestnuts and kabocha squash. Despite the difficulty in getting chestnuts out of their shells, he said chestnut soup would be totally worth it. Now I have a new culinary project for fall.

Locavores, make sure you get to Equinox sometime. And say hi to the chef!

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BLT Salad

BLT Salad (Large)

I love BLT sandwiches, but it’s not exactly the healthiest thing one can make for dinner. So I like to make a BLT salad, which cuts down on the carbs and greatly increases the leafy greens. And oddly enough, that adjusted ratio is perfect for what’s coming out of my garden right now. I’ve got tender fall lettuces and spicy arugula and mizuna starting to come up in appreciable quantities. And though I no longer have the big slicing tomatoes that work so well on a sandwich, I’m still getting a few late Romas and cherry tomatoes from my garden. These are more than sufficient to give a BLT salad some good tomatoey flavor.

The strategy is very simple. I put a dollop of mayonnaise and some salt and pepper in a large bowl and cut it with some vinegar or lemon juice. I add the chopped tomato and any juice from the cutting board to further thin the dressing. Then I toss the lettuce in the dressing and add a couple slices of bacon that I’ve fried and crushed into pieces. Finally, I add cubes of freshly toasted bread on top (from one slice, rather than the two I’d use in a sandwich). Sometimes I’ll actually fry the bread on one side in the leftover bacon fat, though I suppose that makes the salad a little less healthy. Whatever. A little fat makes salad awesome.

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As we bid adieu to summer, I thought I’d post some of my favorite photos that for whatever reason didn’t make their way into a blog post these past several months.  Not much of a theme, I admit.  Just good summer memories.

One of my neighbors at the community garden harvested a lot of garlic in early July and left it out for a long time to cure.

One of my neighbors at the community garden harvested a lot of garlic in early July. I learned that you have to leave garlic out to cure for several weeks before it's ready to eat.

Sour pie cherries on the tree, back in Olympia.

Sour pie cherries on the tree. Mmm, pie.

A rainbow of summer tomatoes.

A rainbow of summer tomatoes.

Red, black, and golden raspberries.

Red, black, and golden raspberries.

A goat!  On a farm near Olympia.

A goat! On a farm near Olympia that I visited with my mom.

Queen Elizabeth roses.

Queen Elizabeth roses.

Pastries from Bakery Nouveau in Seattle.

Pastries from Bakery Nouveau in Seattle. The award-winning almond croissants are to die for.

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Fast Plants

Arugula Bed (Large)At the beginning of the month I threw a lot of seeds into my empty beds, and a great many of them sprouted. But I’ve been truly amazed by the arugula. In the space of only three weeks, I have been able to harvest baby arugula. It’s an extremely peppery variety (I use the Even’ Star Winter Arugula variety available from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange), so I’ve been pairing it in salads with some succulent and mild deer tongue lettuce I grew from starts I bought from the market about five weeks ago. That lettuce is a little further along, obviously.

I remember in middle school biology class we did some kind of experiment with “fast plants” – which I now recall as being rapeseed plants, also known as canola. These plants were good for selective breeding experiments because they would grow up and go to seed within a matter of weeks, which appealed to our pre-adolescent attention spans. It’s only now that I have enough knowledge of horticulture to recognize that those canola oil plants were from the same family – brassica – as my current crop of arugula. So maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised that they’re coming along so quickly!

Arugula Growing (Large)

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I mostly like to post my recipe successes on this blog, as I’ve done this week with my series on using up excess vegetables.  It’s fun to share my innovations that turn out to be good and tasty.  But I suppose it might be just as useful to post my failures, so nobody will repeat my silly mistakes.

Last week, for instance, I had a lot of extra milk that had gone a little sour (still fine for cooking, but I didn’t want to use it on cereal).  So I decided to make rice pudding.  More to the point, I decided to make chocolate rice pudding.  And then I remembered that I had gotten some fancy, exotic-looking “forbidden rice” in bulk at a health food store, so I decided to use that instead of arborio or jasmine whatever other variety one typically puts into rice pudding.  Forbidden rice, if you’re not aware, is a Chinese grain that is jet black.  Not just jet black, in fact, but downright inky.  If you boil forbidden rice, it will turn the water purple.

I’d never cooked forbidden rice, but I thought the little black grains would be perfect in a deep, dark chocolate pudding.  It would look like little cocoa nibs floating around in there!  So I cooked the rice, along with milk and sugar and a vanilla bean, at a low simmer for a good long while.  The milk turned a ghastly gray-purple color, but that was okay.  As soon as I added the chocolate and cocoa powder, the color was a rich brown.  The pudding thickened up nicely.

Forbidden Rice Pudding (Large)

Looks good, right?  Well, here’s what I didn’t know about forbidden rice.  It never gets very soft.  It’s more like wheatberries or other grains that you would use in a chewy grain salad.  So I’m eating this delicious, creamy, chocolately pudding and at the same time having to chew really hard on the rice floating around in it.  Not a delight.

On the plus side, all that chewing encourages slower eating.  Also, I’d imagine it provides a lot more fiber than your typical rice pudding.  But as much as I like the idea of dark grains in a dark pudding, I have to call this recipe a failure.  Don’t try this at home!!

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What do you do at the end of the season when you have a bunch of green tomatoes that aren’t going to ripen on the vine?  Well, according to a recent New York Times article, “there’s only so much you can do with a green tomato.”  They suggest a green tomato soup, but I decided to make a green tomato chutney.

Chutney Ingredients (Large)

I was making some more fig jam, and I had about a quarter cup of it left in the saucepan after canning the rest.  To this sweet and sticky fig mixture I added about a cup of chopped green cherry tomatoes and several small shallots that I had peeled and chopped.  Salt, a chopped jalapeno, cinnamon, cumin, and white wine rounded out the mixture.  I simmered it until the tomatoes got good and soft, but the mixture was still somewhat chunky.  Then I canned it up and stuck it in the cupboard for some future use.  Maybe I’ll serve it over a winter pork roast or something.

Chutney (Large)

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