Friday, July 24, 2009

See You In A Week!

I'm heading out to Chincoteague for the week. When I'm there I like to totally disconnect - no TV and no internet and as little outside world contact as possible.
Instead, I plan to indulge in some of this...
Some of this...
Plenty of this...

And of course, lots of this...

Have a great week everyone! I probably won't do another food post on Chincoteague like I did last year simply because there isn't likely to be much that's new food-wise on the island, however, if anything fun and new catches my eye, I'm sure to write a post about it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Don't You Hate It When Fate Stomps All Over Your Creativity?

The property upon which my barn sits is crawling with blackberry bushes. Often in the summer after a ride, I'll go around picking berries and eating them till my little heart is content.

I've always long to do more with the berries though. I thought about making a dessert, but Sir Pickypants isn't fond of blackberries and many of the berries weren't all that sweet. I had a brilliant inspiration for a savory meal that even Sir Pickypants couldn't resist.

One thing I learned about blackberries since discovering all of these bushes, is that blackberries ripen and rot very quickly. I would go to the barn one weekend and find a bushful of unripe berries only to return the following weekend to find the same bush filled with overripe and shriveled berries (one would think the bears and deer would have consumed them before they had a chance to get that way). I risked poison ivy, ticks and lots of thorn pricks for very little berry harvest. Last week the season had clearly ended with only a few bushes of unripe berries left.

I had to get my blackberries the old-fashioned way.

Wait. What did I just say?

There used to be quite a bit of fresh mint growing alongside the entrance road. There was so much of it that on a rare hot day, one could smell the fragrant plants just by standing nearby. Unfortunately, it was weed-whacked before the last competition. I did manage to find a few plants that survived the slaughter. I incorporated those into my dish too.

So now I present my dish, Cornish Hens with Blackberry-Balsamic Glaze and Fresh Mint. I decided to prepare these the same way I made my raspberry-glazed corninsh hens. I split them, browned them in a pan, then glazed them and finished them in the oven.

If you think the purple color is scary, you should have seen them when I first poured this glaze on. They looked like they were starring in the poultry version of Carrie.

At least I got what I wanted in the end. Cornish Hens with a blackberry glaze. They were pretty good. I thought the glaze wasn't sweet enough when I started, but once it came out of the oven, it was perfect. I really liked these hens in general. I bought them at Whole Foods and they came in a package of two "petite poulet". They were so incredibly juicy and flavorful.

BTW, I apologize that there was no Sweet Treat last week or this week. I have not had much time, and even worse, not much money, for baking. I just don't have the dough for chocolate and butter right now. I'm afraid you'll have to wait yet another week for the next one as I'll be away next week. (That being said, I wouldn't be averse to the idea of a guest blogger if someone wanted to post a Sweet Treat or other recipe here in my absense.)

Cornish Hens with Blackberry-Balsamic Glaze and Fresh Mint

2-4 Cornish hens, backbones cut out (You will save the backbones for stock, yes?)
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil
6 oz. blackberries
2 Tbl balsamic vinegar
1 Tbl honey
1 handful fresh mint leaves
Preheat oven to 350.

Puree berries and strain out the seeds. Heat in a small saucepan with vinegar and honey. Take it to a simmery-kind-of-boil for a few minutes until it has a nice glaze-y consistency.

Heat some oil in a large pan. Gently loosen the skin of the hends and place mint leaves underneath. Give them one good press-down to flatten them as much as possible and place them skin-side-down in the hot oil. Get them nice and brown.

Brush the glaze over the hens generously and place them skin-side-up on a baking sheet or pan. Roast for 30 minutes.

Cut in half again for ease of eating.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Perhaps I Shall Tarry Here A While

I just had a fabulous (although rather noisy) birthday dinner.

At my request, Kevin took me to Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, NY.

Tarry Lodge has quite a bit of history to it. It has been around for over 100 years and has been everyhing from a family restaurant to a speakeasy. Once upon a time it was a go-to neighborhood Italian restaurant and pizza place, but like many long-standing institutions, it's heyday was long past. Port Chester in recent years has filled with more upscale Italian restaurants and Latin American restaurants of all shapes and colors. It eventually closed its doors.

One day I began to hear whispers that Mario Batali had purchased the place. I couldn't believe it. Batali and Bastianich open restaurants in big cities. Why would they open a restaurant in a piddling little suburb? If Westchester folks want B&B food, we're supposed to suck it up and get on the train and go into the city.

Then the rumor turned out to be true. Batali and Bastianich did buy the Tarry Lodge and opened it with Andy Nusser as the chef. It seemed amazing, but it was true.

It has been open for a few months now, but I had yet to try it. Getting a reservation at Tarry Lodge isn't as hard as getting one at Babbo, but I had already been hearing the buzz about crowds and long waits. I had no desire to even try to get near the place unless it was a very special occasion. Well, what occasion could be more special than my birthday? I decided it was time to try it and see if it lived up to the hype. Last week I made the reservation.

Our night didn't start out very promising. We arrived for our 8:15 reservation and were told that they were a bit behind. The hostess said the wait would be 5 minutes. Well, the 5 minutes became 25 minutes. At one point they offered us a small table near the kitchen, but said they would rather give us a nicer table. Kevin thinks it was a ploy to seat another couple before us, as we saw another couple head toward the "bad" table not more than two minutes later. Eventually someone came along and gave us complimentary glasses of proseco for our trouble. Okay. That made things a bit better. Finally, we were seated.

Tarry Lodge is a beautiful restaurant. The building was built in 1906 and the owners have wisely retained its architectural integrity. I could not stop admiring the beautiful woodwork in the place. I don't know if it is original or not. The building is old, but people who have been to the old Tarry Lodge say it was never there before.

Here is the entryway.

I was a little afraid that in an effort to get away from the "red sauce Italian" roots of the place that they would do something drastic with the decor. In order to look more authentically Italian I feared they would try to give it that Italian Villa Courtyard look. That is a perfectly charming style of decor, but it would not be right for such a beautiful Victorian building.

Here is a shot of the bar from one side.
The bar looking down from our table, which was in an elevated area above the bar area.

Here is the area where our table was. You can see Kevin trying to hide behind his menu.

There is a second floor which I did not see. I had hoped we might be seated up there because the first floor had a really big disadvantage. It was NOISY. It was really, seriously loud in there. That's a big complaint of many Tarry Lodge diners. Kevin and I didn't have to shout to be heard, but it didn't give us much of a romantic atmosphere.

We sat down and were greeted by our waiter. He was a man of few words, but lots of big smiles. I really liked him.

Raise a glass to the birthday girl. The wine I'm drinking is a Bastianich (until last night I didn't know they had their own label) called Joe's Rosso. I thought the wine was expensive here until I realized they don't serve by the glass, but by the quartillo. This was A LOT of wine. It was so much wine that I had to hand the car keys off to Kevin at the end of the evening. He was anticipating that I would have to do this, so he drank Shirley Temples all night. (He's such a little boy.)
A lovely foccacia was our bread.

On to the starters. Here is my farro with grilled corn. Behind it is Kevin's eggplant caponata. We were both quite pleased with our choices. I even persuaded Kevin to try the farro and he really liked it.

Prosciutto di Parma. I snarfed this entire plate. It was so melt-in-your-mouth good. I told Kevin I felt as if I were holding Italy in my mouth. Yum yum yum. I wish they served the coppa that they served at Lupa though.

Kevin opted to try one of the many designer pizzas for his entree. This one was a spicy pizza with clams. He wasn't crazy about having to deal with whole clams like this, but he liked it anyway.

I had brasato al barolo. This was a cut of beef braised in red wine. There was a hint of lemon (with lemon peel garnish) in this dish that was very unexpected and took this in a different direction from your typical braised beef dish. The polenta beneth it was unbelievably creamy.

Dessert was a flourless chocolate cake with pisctachio gelato and candied orange peel on the side. I had to order it because birthdays call for chocolate cake. They were nice enough to stick a candle on it for me.

Kevin opted for a sundae of mixed gelati covered with a fresh cherry topping. I'm not sure what happened to the photo. It doesn't look like I remembered to upload it.

We both agreed at the end of the night that this is great to have around as a special occasion restaurant. Food is interesting and well-prepared and I think for the caliber of food served, pretty reasonably priced. Table service was good - friendly and prompt. The only negatives were the wait and the noise. However, I think the food was good enough to counteract those things.

I will definitely tarry here again some time.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

How's This for a Birthday Lunch?

Hi ho! Today I celebrate my 10th year as a 29-year-old.

Thanks to Facebook I have come to notice something. Many of my food blog buddies are also born in July. I know you're not supposed to put any faith in astrology, but Cancers are said to be domestically gifted. We are supposed to be fine cooks. Looking at my fellow Cancerian food bloggers, that really would seem to be true.

Anyway, I started my day by bringing a cake to work. This is not an official Sweet Treat of the Week (I'm saving that for the weekend). I bought some sour cherries the other day and decided I really prefer sweet ones for snacking. I searched the net for a nice dessert recipe that would sweeten the cherries and use things I already had in my kitchen. I found this perfect sour cherry cake at Not Quite Nigella. So on my birthday, I baked a cake for other people. This cake was incredibly easy to make (once I pitted the cherries because I refuse to make people spit pits out when eating one of my desserts) and for something so simple, was incredibly tasty. It was gone within an hour.

Onward to lunch. With all the baking I do for these people, do you think they would take me out to lunch on my birthday? You thought wrong. Cheap(expletive dleted)s! I decided to have a one-woman celebration. I headed to Mr. Frosty's!

Yes, I had ice cream for lunch. It's my birthday. I can do that. YES I CAN!
Mr. Frosty's is just a nice little roadside ice cream stand in Norwalk, CT. The ice cream isn't fancy or homemade. Still, it has a decent variety of both soft and hard ice creams. All the toppings you could want are available with lots of good sundae options. While it may not be The Bellvale Creamery, it's tasty in it's own way.

I indulged in the S'more Sundae. It's graham cracker crumbs, ice cream, hot fudge, and marshmallow sauce. How's that for a good birthday lunch?

A bonus with Mr. Frosty's is the view across the street. It's nice to just sit on the provided picnice benches with my ice cream and a book and just relax.

Of course my husband is taking me for a birthday dinner tonight. You'll just have to wait for that one.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

You Know What I Love Making?

...Chicken soup!

You know what's great about chicken soup?

You take that ugly pile of carcasses from your freezer and old veggies from your refrigerator and throw the big mess in a pot.

Yet somehow, through the magic of cooking, in the end you are rewarded with the fact that you turned all that ugliness into a beautiful bowl of soup.

Yes, that's a matzo ball. Yes, I made matzo balls three months after Passover ended. I'm the (dis)Order Cook. I am the Meshugge Shiksa. Don't expect anything I do to make any sense. Making sense is the antithesis of my blog (and my life).

There actually was a good reason to make this. The hubby was in a horse show on Sunday and during the competition, his horse suddenly spooked. She reared up a bit and hit him in the chin with her neck. He got a nasty bruise on his chin and his jaw is rather sore. Chewing is a bit painful. Chicken soup with soft noodles and matzo balls is just what the doctor ordered.

I got the ultimate compliment from him after he ate it. "Grandma would be proud." Nothing like hearing a nice Jewish boy telling you his bubbe would approve.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sweet Treat of the Week - Double Your Pleasure

I had an absolutely splended 4th of July weekend. Thursday was my company picnic. Friday night Kevin and I headed to the Fireman's Carnival and ate awesome tacos. Saturday night I went to a barbecue at my mother's boyfriend's house (which I'll never do again - waaaaayyyy too much family awkwardness in his home), and Sunday evening my good friend and riding instructor, Lynne along with her husband threw another barbecue. When I wasn't out eating, I was at the barn riding, so I haven't been online much to read your blogs or make any posts. I hope to catch up with all of you wonderful people this week and see what you all made and ate this weekend.

Anyway, my weekend was filled with parties, so what better excuse to make dessert? I bookended my weekend with this last week's Sweet Treat of the Week and this week's Sweet Treat of the Week.

So what delights were in store?

The company picnic is also the company bake off. I said in a previous post that the picnic would be the one exception this summer where I baked from a blog rather than from a book. I had found the perfect recipe, a recipe that looked like a surefire winner, in a blog many months ago.

Can you guess who's blog?

Come on. Guess!

Will this help?

The recipe of course is Emily's. These are her Oreo Cream Cheese Brownies. It goes to show you that I never forget a delicious looking recipe when I see one.

They have yet to do the voting, so I don't know if I won. They were gobbled up pretty well at the picnic. I made 32 of them and there were maybe 10 or 12 left when I went home. I had a few people tell me how good they were. However, I heard a few other people singing the praises of other desserts, so I don't know how these will fare once the votes are counted.

For Lynne's party I followed the rule for this summer and I went back to the book.
I made a chocolate chip banana tea cake this week.
I have seen so many great banana bread recipes on the blogs. I have seen them with Nutella and Dulce de Leche and all sorts of interesting ingredients. This cake was just chocolate chips (not that there's anything wrong with that). I was a little disappointed with the texture of this cake. It was almost chewy. Lynne and Kevin both told me it was great, but I thought it could have been better.

Two recipes from this book down and neither has thrilled me. They haven't been bad, but nothing I have made so far has been as good as Emily's brownies.

If you still want to try, email me for the recipe.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Come On Baby Lita My Fire*

Nutritionists are always telling us to try a new fruit or vegetable each week. I'm also growing tired of always buying the same stuff at the farmer's markets week after week. I made this week's trip with the intention of trying to find something new.

I found these. They're called lita squash. They're weird and green. They look like eggplants that spent some time in a science experiment and have become dangerous mutants. I stared at them for a while. When they didn't shoot death rays out at me, I decided to buy them.

I did an internet search for them. I found there isn't much out there on the internet about them. I did find this page. What was really funny was that the author of this blurb said her squashes came from Migliorelli Farm. Well, Migliorelli Farm is exactly where my squash came from. Migliorelli has a very large tent at the Sunday morning market.

There was a sign on the barrel they came from saying they were good for stuffing or grilling. I decided to try stuffing them. I've never made stuffed squash before. I decided the time had come to do just that. I decided to do something with a little Middle Eastern flair, but with turkey instead of the more traditional lamb. I'm not terribly fond of raisins (I'll pick them out of my desserts and my trail mix), but I sometimes like them in savory, spicy dishes, so I put them in here along with some pine nuts.

I was less than thrilled with the squashes themselves. Maybe it's because I'm not much of a squash person, but I just found these a bit blandly squashy. Hubby liked them quite a bit, although I think his affection was more for the stuffing than the sqush itself. I also think I'd add a little more spice to this the next time.

Some lemon or orange zest would also be good in this. Too bad I forgot to buy the required fruit to make the zest. I think a diced pepper would be nice in this as well.

Stuffed Lita Squash

4 Lita Squashes
1 pound ground turkey
1 onion, finely diced 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbl chopped fresh mint
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Olive oil for sauteeing onions

Put whole squashes in a saucepan of simmering water and simmer until tender. Cut in half lengthwise and scoop out some of the insides, forming a "boat". Brush with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook onion in a pan with the olive oil. Add the cumin,coriander and salt and coat well. Add the garlic. Cook until onions are soft.

Mix onions with turkey meat, pine nuts, mint and raisins.

Pour meat mixture into squash shells. Place on a baking sheet and cook for about 30 minutes or until the meat is cooked through.

*These days when I describe my blog I say it's a blog of pointless anecdotes and bad puns peppered with all sorts of geek references**. I throw a recipe in so I can still call it a food blog.

**I realize now that this post has at only of those things. I need a geek reference for the trifecta now. Um...Star Trek, Star Trek, Star Trek, Monty Python, Discworld, Star Wars and Lost! I think I'll leave my other trademark - my tendency to leave novella-length comments on other people's blogs for another day.