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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Feeling a Little Fruity

Even though we're in the last day of August--and are heading into fall--fruit still abounds.  Melons are a little harder to come across these days (I found some nice ones at Bolton's Farm Market in Silverdale--as well as some of the most delicious blackberries I've ever had).  Peaches are still available for a while and, of course, local pears and apples are starting to grace our markets.

On Sunday, I did an appetizer party and 3 of the dishes I did were using fruit.  I thought I'd put the recipes out here so you can try them before fresh fruit isn't available.  They're incredibly easy and even more incredibly tasty.

Melon with Prosciutto (or Parmigiano-Reggiano) and Balsamic Reduction

1 medium cantaloupe, seeded and cut into bite-sized chunks
8-10 slices of Prosciutto de Parma
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh mint, minced

• Heat vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Set aside to cool slightly.
• Meanwhile, wrap melon chunks in pieces of prosciutto torn by hand. For non-meat eaters, grate cheese over melon chunks.
• Using a spoon, drizzle balsamic reduction over melon to taste. Garnish with mint.

Pears and Gorgonzola

Pears, sliced to desired size
Gorgonzola cheese
Fresh thyme leaves, slightly chopped
Ground black pepper

• Preheat oven to 350.
• Place pear slices on sheet pan and top each with a small portion of the cheese.
• Place pan in oven until cheese just starts to melt—only a few minutes.
• Move pears to serving platter and garnish with thyme and pepper.

Grilled Peaches with Bourbon Honey

6 peaches (ripe, but not too soft), halved & pitted
Vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup honey
¼ cup bourbon

• Brush the cut side of the peaches with veg oil. Season with nutmeg and pepper. Set aside.
• In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the honey and bourbon, stirring to blend.
• Grill peaches, 3-4 minutes, cut side down. Turn, baste with honey/bourbon mixtures and grill, skin side down, for another 5 minutes or just until soft on the outside.
• To serve, cut in wedges or cubes. Or keep halves intact and serve with a scoop of good ice cream on top. Also makes a great accompaniment to grilled fish or meat.

Monday, August 30, 2010

This Place is Crapitto!

Here's an article chronicling the "worst restaurant" names in the country.  I don't know all of them are that terrible--just a little strange and unfortunate.  My favorite: Crapitto's Cuccina Italiana in Houston.  Even if it is a family name, do you really want to have a restaurant called "Crapitto's"? 

Do you know of any other restaurants with lousy names?  Hooters comes to mind--although it makes sense.  There's a billboard in Rehoboth Beach for Hooters with the requisite busty gals on it and a big notice that "Kids eat free on Tuesdays!".  Just kind of cracks me up.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Everything But the Oink

I don't eat hot dogs.  Never have, never will.  As a huge baseball fan, it's hard sometimes--being at the ballpark and not eating a tube steak.  I almost feel like I should shove one down just to feel a part of the action.

Although the reason I don't like hot dogs is the taste, many people think I don't eat hot dogs because of what goes into making them.  To prove that this is not the reason, I mention my love of scrapple.

Most of you reading this are from Eastern PA, so you probably know what scrapple is.  But for those of you who don't, scrapple is a traditional Pennsylvania Dutch food where basically all the scraps of the pig that aren't used for other things is boiled down to make a broth.  Then cornmeal is added to create a pork "mush" that is then formed into bricks.  The scrapple is usually sliced and pan fried, although I've known it to be deep fried (mmmm....).

To many, scrapple is, well, disgusting.  And I've eaten my share of disgusting scrapples.  In college, we used to go out to local diners for breakfast on weekends and I'd order scrapple--more to yuck out my friends than for the taste.  At some of those places, there was some nasty, gray, soggy slabs of gunk served to me.  Good scrapple is not like that.

Good scrapple--the best I've had is from Blooming Glen Pork--is meaty-tasting, spicy (black pepper and sage often the prevailing flavors) and crispy on the outside.  It's usually eaten as a breakfast food, although I had some for lunch today (it was left over--not my usual lunch choice).  Many enjoy ketchup as their condiment of choice, but I love it with a little drizzle of real maple syrup.  Yum.  Try a slice of it with a scrambled eggs on a bagel as a breakfast sandwich. 

So next time you have the chance, give scrapple a try--even if just to gross out your friends.  If you have some well made scrapple, you'll find that it's quite the opposite of what you may expect. 

Maybe I'll take some the next time I go to the ballpark.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hold the Ketchup

We have good friends who live in Wisconsin and we've been there to visit a couple of times (although it's been too long since our last trip).  Like most places, Wisconsin seems to have a number of interesting and, dare I say, strange, places to visit.

We've been to a great aviation center and museum in Oshkosh--worth the visit even if you aren't too much into flying.  And we were treated to a part interesting, part creepy trip to the Clown Hall of Fame and Research Center in Delavan.  (I'm not quite sure what kind of research is going on there--how to make trick flowers squirt water farther?)

          National Mustard Museum
But next time we're there, we'll have to take a drive to Middleton.  Here you'll find the National Mustard Museum, founded by former attorney, Barry Levenson.  Yellow and brown, spicy and mild, foreign and domestic--you name the mustard and you'll find it here.  The museum also houses famed mustard college, Poupon U (yes, that's a joke). 

Read more about Levenson and what drove him to create the museum in a feature by NPR in honor of National Mustard Day (Aug. 7). 

For some reason, I have a hankerin' for a soft pretzel....

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rest & Relaxation (and Eating)

Jake...with lunch?
Each year for quite a while, we take a week of vacation with my parents, sister & her kids in Primehook Beach, DE.  We rent a house owned by some friends of ours and it's great--the Delaware Bay is right out the back door and the kids love spending the day in the water and sand. 

As is usually the case with vacations, we eat way more than we usually do.  Each of us takes turns making a big breakfast (we had waffles, sausage, scrapple, fruit, French toast, egg bake, danish, cinnamon buns, eggs, milk, juice, coffee...and that was just the first day [kidding]).  Then, after a hard day on the beach, it's time for lunch--sandwiches and more. 

We each take turn with a dinner, too.  We had veggie lasagna, chicken and biscuits, tacos, etc.  We usually buy seafood and I cook up a feast, but we decided to go out this year.  We visited Big Fish Grille in Rehoboth Beach.  We recommend it if you're in those parts--a HUGE menu with something for everyone.  We shared tender and tasty fried calamari as an app.  I had red snapper with wild mushrooms and lobster sauce over mashed potatoes.  Delish.  MB got salmon (surprise, surprise) with some sort of sweet glaze.  Also very good.  My parents got a grilled combo--beef fillet, scallops, shrimp, crab cake & 2 sides.  Jake got fish fingers (fried, but tasty) and fries, as did one nephew.  The other got chicken fingers.  I forget what my sister got.  A good place to go for a good, but casual meal in a very relaxed atmosphere.

We hit the Rehoboth boardwalk one night as we usually do and grabbed some dinner at Grotto Pizza.  Grottos on the boardwalk are kind of like CVS around here--there seems to be one every 10 yards.  Expensive, as you would expect, but good food.  Frozen custard, Boardwalk fries (wonderfully greasy and salty) and mango water ice slid down our throats at some point during the night. 

Oh, I also made a ground cherry pie while there.  If you've read my posts about these little fruits, you know that I wasn't sure how it would turn out.  My dad and MB liked it.  I think I did.  Not something I'd want all the time, but I like the ground cherries better in a pie than raw.  This version was turned out sort of like a pecan pie-type of thing--goopy with lots of brown sugar.

So now we're back and trying to regain our normal eating habits.  At least until we head to Maine in about 3 weeks!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I'm Back!

Hi.  In case you've wondered where I've been, we just got back from 5 days in Primehook Beach, DE for some rest and relaxation with my parents & sister and her kids.  We ate ourselves silly, but more about that in a later post.

I thought I'd direct you to a post I wrote for Bucks County Taste about a relatively new restaurant on Rt. 563 across from Nockamixon State Park.  Becker's Corner has opened where Cappie's had been for years.  We've had 2 very good lunches there (one of them was free!--read the post to find out why).  It's worth checking out!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Quite a Guy

I don't watch "reality" TV.  Never have seen Survivor or American Idol.  There is one exception--The Next Food Network Star.  Being a foodie, I do enjoy watching that--even though it sometimes gets me so frustrated by some of the contestants' incompetence or ignorance. 

The finale of this season is on Sunday night and the 3 remaining contestants are all pretty decent--even if I'm not sure I'd watch any of their shows.  This is the 6th season of NFNS and only the last 3 winners still have shows on the network.  Only the winner of Season 2, however, can be called a true star.

                                                    Marc Steiner for The New York Times
Guy Fieri before his cooking demo at Circus Maximus
in Caesars Atlantic City.

Guy Fieri--the bleach blond wearin', tattoo sportin', Camaro drivin' bad-boy chef--is what The Food Network dreamed of when they came up with this competition.  Fieri has become one of the faces of the network--for good reason.

On the surface, Fieri is not the type of chef that I'm into--in fact, I don't really care for his cooking show, Guy's Big Bite.  The "man's man" persona is just a little too much for my taste.  That being said, though, I really like this guy.  He's true to himself, genuine and clearly loves what he's doing.

I've said many times that the one show on The Food Network that truly makes my mouth water--makes me long for a rack of ribs at 10:00 at night or makes me want to travel to some tiny town in Arkansas for a taste of their fried chicken--is Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives, which Fieri hosts. 

In the show, he travels all over the country visiting small diners, family-owned eateries and unusual places that serve honest, homemade, delicious food.  Fieri does a great job with it--he's funny, encouraging and makes the people he visits feel really good about themselves and the food they serve.  You can just tell that he loves good food and the people who work so hard to provide it to others. 

Will this year's NFNS winner be another Guy Fieri?  The network sure hopes so, but I doubt it. 

Want to learn more about Fieri?  Check out this interesting article from The New York Times.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Little Tomatoes

You've heard about our tomatoes and ground cherries from our garden.  Now let's talk about their relative, the tomatillo (literally "little tomato").

Tomatillos, like their relatives, are at the peak of their season right now.  You'll find these natives of Mexico in many farmers' markets--both the green and purple varieties.  They have a sort of sweet and sour flavor and are full of Vitamin C, potassium and fiber.

When choosing a tomatillo, look for a nice green or yellow-green color.  Smaller ones are often sweeter than larger ones, but both are fine to use.  They should be firm and the husk should be a light brown color--not shriveled and dry.  Once you get them home, remove the husks and store them in a plastic bag in the fridge.  They'll last for about 3 weeks that way.

Tomatillos can be eaten raw--they have a tangy citrus-like flavor--or cooked, which mellows the flavor.  Here's a delicious green salsa from Mexican food guru, Rick Bayless.  It's a little involved, but worth it.  It's spicy and tangy--great to eat with chips or as a braising agent for pork or chicken. 

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa with Serranos, Roasted Onions and Cilantro (makes 2 cups)

1 pound (about 7 medium) tomatillos, husked and rinsed
4-5 fresh serrano chiles, stemmed (you can use other fresh chiles as well)
1 small white onion, sliced 1/4" thick
3 garlic cloves, peeled
About 1/2 cup water
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, loosely packed
About 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • Heat the broiler.  Lay the whole tomatillos and serranos on a broiler pan or baking sheet.  Set the pan 4 inches below the broiler and let roast until the tomatillos are softened and splotchy black in places (the skins will split), about 5 minutes; your goal is to cook the tomatillos through while they roast, which means they'll change from light bright green to olive green on the top side.  With a pair of tongs, flip over the tomatillos and chiles and roast the other side for another 4-5 minutes or so.  Set aside to cool.
  • Turn the oven down to 425 degrees.  Separate the onion into rings and, on a similar pan or baking sheet, combine them with the garlic.  Place in the oven.  Stir carefully every couple of minutes, until the onions are beautifully browned.  (They're going to look wilted and translucent, even have a touch of char on some of the edges.)  The garlic should feel soft and be browned in spots.  The total roasting time will be about 15 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.
  • In a food processor, place the onion-garlic mixture and the serranos, and pulse until moderately finely chopped, scraping everything down with a spatula as needed to keep it all moving.  Scoop the mixture into a large bowl.  Without washing the processor, coarsely puree the tomatillos with their juice--no need to peel off their darkened skin or cut out their cores.  Stir them into the chiles.  Stir in enough water to give the salsa an easily spoonable consistency.  Stir in the cilantro.
  • Taste and season highly with salt.  Taste again and, if you like, add just enough sugar to take the edge off the bright tanginess of the tomatillos.  The salsa is ready to use or store in the fridge, covered, and use within 5 days.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In Case You Missed It...

The August 4 issue of the Intelligencer/Record featured a big article about local farmers' markets by Food Editor Betty Cichy.  I was fortunate to be featured in her visit to the Indian Valley Farmers' Market.  A photo and blurb about me was included in addition to the recipes of the dishes I made that day. 

It wasn't posted on line by the newspaper, but if you didn't see it in the paper, you can read it here: Page 1 and Page 2

It's a great article to learn about all the many markets that are at their peak these days.  Check it out go visit some of them!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Frozen Watermelon

Somehow we got more watermelon than we can eat at one time. And we haven't even tried the ones from our garden yet.

Anyway, I decided to make a Watermelon Sorbet. Haven't tasted it yet, but it can't be bad--or more easy.

Watermelon Sorbet

Watermelon Sorbet base ready to
be chilled.
4 cups watermelon, cubed
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor.
  • Chill mixture for at least an hour in the fridge.
  • Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • If you don't have an ice cream maker, you could make a granita by pouring mixture in a rimmed baking dish. Put in freezer for about an hour, then scrape with a fork to break up ice crystals. Return to freezer. Before serving, let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving. Scrape again with a fork, then spoon into serving dishes.

I also decided to try to freeze watermelon chunks--essentially turning them into watermelon ice cubes. Cube the melon and set the cubes on a sheet pan (don't let the chunks touch). Freeze. Then, when totally frozen, put chunks in a zipper bag for storage. I don't know if they'll be too hard to eat straight from the freezer (I think so), but you could let them thaw slightly and eat them as a slushy melon. Or buzz them in the blender and add to lemonade or iced tea.

On another topic, here's yet another bowl full of garden bounty. Got a bunch more ground cherries, too. The purple pepper was really a cool color--of course it looses the color when cooked.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Smart Carnivores

I just read a fascinating article from NPR: Food for Thought: Meat-Based Diet Made us Smarter.  In it, the author talks about theories that say that when our ancestors started eating meat, the evolution of our species changed.
That period is when cut marks on animal bones appeared — not a predator's tooth marks, but incisions that could have been made only by a sharp tool. That's one sign of our carnivorous conversion.
By eating meat, our brain, which uses about 20 times as much energy as the same size muscle, thrived.  Calories and fat from meat allowed our bodies to put more energy into brain development.  Our brains grew, we started using tools and cooking and the rest is, well, history.

There are plenty of detractors to these theories--see the comments after the article, but to me, it makes sense.  What do you think?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Wild Maine Blues

I've written before about the joy of climbing a mountain on a summer hike in Maine and taking a break to pick the tiny, sweet wild blueberries off of the bushes.  They're so good.

I just found an article from The Atlantic with more about them.  The writing is a bit convoluted in places, but it gives you some interesting info about these little blue pearls. 

By the way, you can buy wild blueberries in many grocery stores--either canned or (better yet) frozen.  Wyman's is the brand you should look for.  Wyman's jelly is mentioned in the article.

On another subject, I hope to see you at the Ottsville Farmers' Market on Friday from 3-7 or at the Plumsteadville Grange Farmers' Market on Saturday from 9-noon.  I'll be both places whipping up sample of tasty treats made from market goodies! 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


It's peach time once again!  Really, is there much better than biting into a juicy, ripe, sweet peach for the first time each summer?  Conversely, is there much worse than being psyched up to eat a juicy, ripe, sweet peach and biting into a dry, bland, mealy one? 

Well, check out my Bucks County Taste post called A Circus in Your Mouth (a Seinfeld reference).  In it you'll find out about tips to picking the perfect peach, how to store your peaches and a great peach cobbler recipe.  Plus, find out where you can get fresh peaches at markets in our area.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bounty of the Garden

Here's another shot of just some of the veggies I picked from our garden on Sunday, including some really cool yellow and orange striped heirloom tomatoes.  Yes, the squash continues to come.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Still Trendy?

I've written much about the positive trends of local food and sustainable farming--trends in the food world that revert us back to the days of yore--and give us better, healthier and community-friendly food.  Trends (whether regarding food or some other area) will always be there.  Who knows how they start and, in many cases, how they perpetuate themselves?  For the most part, though, at some point, these trends end--usually when another trend takes their place.

I just read an article called Cupcakes and 6 Other Food Trends That Have Lost Their Cool where the writer talks about 7 trends in the food world that she thinks have passed their prime.  As is usually the case with articles like this, I'm not in complete agreement with her, but find it interesting nonetheless.
In no apparent order, here are the trends she sees as being over:

1-Cupcakes: I see nothing wrong here, as long as they're tasty and moist.  I hate dry, overbaked cupcakes.  Portable and cute.  Like me.  (I don't know what that means).

2-Tuna Tartare: I must admit that I've never had this dish.  I'm not a big raw fish guy.  You be the judge.

3-Bubble Tea: I see this as a real trend--something out of the ordinary from a different culture (this one from Asia) that bursts on the scene and is huge for a while.  I've never had it and don't really see the appeal of it.

4-Truffle Salt: Another item I've not used.  I don't see why not, though.  Overuse is where something like this runs into trouble.

5-The Communal Table: If this is on the way out, I'm glad.  If I'm going out for a nice dinner, I want to make sure I'm not sitting with someone who is going to ruin it for me.  That's what blind dates are for.

6-Chipotle: It sure shows up in a lot of stuff, but I like it.  Smoky and spicy. 

7-Lava Cake: I made some of these for MB's birthday and they were really good.  See my previous post with the recipe.

What do you think?  Do you agree?  Are there any other food trends that you think (or hope) will be ending soon?  Let me know!