Fridge Monster Spits out Cherries from Freezer

My excuse is I have a very small kitchen. That’s my excuse for just about everything. Like why when you open the fridge door does it look like a wall of food. The same with the pantry door.

My excuse is I can stand in the middle of my kitchen and touch the sink, stove, counter island, and fridge (but not the pantry).

But the truth is, if the kitchen was bigger, it would still be the same. I’d just have a bigger fridge with even more stuff in it. And a bigger pantry with more things in it.

My daughter opens the fridge door, stares at all the full shelves and declares there is nothing to eat.

Of course there’s nothing to eat because the fridge is full of fruits, vegetables, and condiments, like four kinds of mustard and a similar number of hot sauces. There are jars of green, and red curry pastes; red, and white miso; chili sauce, black bean sauce, hoisin sauce; ketchup, regular mustard, and pickle relish; red salsa, green salsa, guacamole; Worcestershire sauce, horseradish; and enough jams to host the queen’s birthday tea party.

There are multiple varieties of carrots, bok choy, Napa cabbage, lettuce, peppers, leeks, onions, cucumbers, a mango, oranges, lemons, limes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and pineapple in there.

And, of course, there is butter, creamers, coconut milk, anchovies, preserved lemons, various bouillon, waters, and lots of homemade salad dressings in various quantities.

There is no milk.

I need to get some.

The pantry has no fewer than four types of rice noodles; five kinds of rice; various pastas too numerous to list; most kinds of flour; vinegars of various countries; every kind of food coloring; golden syrup, molasses, Karo; nuts, lots of nuts; baking chips of many flavors; brownie mixes; and half a bag of chips. And a bunch of other stuff that I have to use a flashlight to find.

My daughter likes to stand in front of the cupboard and shake her head in disgust.

She does not bake.

I have all of these things because I grew up in a house with two brothers. Food barely made it into the refrigerator before it disappeared. I baked because cookies lasted a nanosecond in our house.  I baked when I went to college because it was cheaper than going to the bakery. The same with cooking. By my sophomore year, I lived in an apartment. In Boston. It is not cheap to eat out in Boston. But Boston had great markets. I would take the T (public transport) to the North End and come home with bags (also on the T) filled with fresh vegetables, bread, and meats. And shove them into an apartment-sized refrigerator. Sometimes I had more than fit into the refrigerator, which meant I would go on a cooking binge. Of course, the freezer wasn’t very large either. But it only usually had ice and ice cream.

So, clearly I have a problem. This summer, when I start Meadballs as a dinner service, I will have to use a rented commercial kitchen. The concept is fresh seasonal foods. My pantry will need to be minimal, since space will be at a premium. That won’t be too difficult since the fresh vegetables will be the star, condiments will be in supporting roles.

There are times when you can turn take fresh fruits and preserve their natural flavors to use at other times of the year. This week I made some room in my freezer by pulling out a bag of frozen local sour cherries. Instead of something sweet, I turned them into an accompaniment to a pork loin roast that I had grilled. In my case, I roasted the cherries to concentrate the natural sugars, then adapted a recipe from Laurel in Philadelphia to create a conserve by adding them to a mixture of brown sugar, vinegar, miso, mustard, garlic, and port to kick dinner’s butt. Combined with roasted broccoli, this dinner was a great.

You don’t have to have sour cherries in the freezer to make this – all you need is some sour cherry preserves, which is in most grocery stores either with the jams and jellies or in the specialty food aisle.

This will turn grilled pork chops or chicken into a special dinner on a weeknight.

It will certainly be on my menu when the cherry season arrives.

Tastefully yours,

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Sour Cherry Sauce with Mustard and Miso
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a small saucepan. Add the shallot and garlic; cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the jam, vinegar, miso, mustard, water, and Port. Bring to a simmer,k stirring until all of the water and Pork have been reduced and all you have is a thick jam - 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cool. Stir in 
a a tablepoon water if too thick.

  2. Can be stored in the fridge for about a week.
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Binging on British TV for Baking Inspiration

The progress of creating a food business have many odd twists and turns. As I gear up for a July launch of Meadballs – my farm to your table dinner service – I have different avenues to pursue for both inspiration and boredom.

Sometimes the two are intertwined.

Starting  a business, even a simple one with a sole proprietorship, requires some tedious work. It’s not all shopping, chopping, and Bakewell Tarts (more on that in a minute). It started in the fall when I took the Erie County Department of Health food safety course, and subsequent exam, to become certified. The point is not to learn the basics of the restaurant business, but to learn the basics of not harming your customers. Quite rightly, there is a lot of focus on hand washing, cooking foods to proper temperatures, and the proper heating, cooling, and refrigeration techniques.

Kudos to the Health Department because this could all have been deadly dull. But the instructor was most engaging. And you’ll be happy to hear that I passed with the high school equivalent of an A.

In the months since then, there have been papers to file with the Pennsylvania Department of State to register the business, kitchens to check out because you can’t cook food to sell in your home kitchen (some states you can get a cottage kitchen license), suppliers to check out, etc.

Some of this happens while I sit on the computer scrolling through rules, regs, and pricing of product. It’s rather dull work, so the television is often on in the background. Lately the BBC series priest-detective “Father Brown,” based on the short stories of G.K. Chesterton, has been my Netflix pick of choice. It’s set in a rural English parish in the late 1950s. Aside from the mystery in each episode, there is also a fair amount about English country life during that period, especially the church fetes, flower shows, bake sales, and the like. I’m fascinated by tea – I think it’s a right proper thing to do. I’m not into the beans-on-toast sort, but the ones with cakes.

In the summers, there are strawberry scones, fruit crisps, and the like. But during the late spring, before anything starts to produce, there are cakes make with preserves. One episode included something called a Bakewell Tart, which the “Great British Bake Off” featured on several episodes. I only know this because I had never heard of a Bakewell Tart, so I Googled it. And found several recipes on BBC.

Essentially, it is a shortbread crust, topped with a bit of jam (raspberry is the preferred, but some have gone so far as to use – gasp – cherry), and then a frangipane, which is not marzipan. Similar, in that it is almond and sugar based, but it also has butter and eggs.

So, while filling out the latest form from the state (Department of Revenue, for sales tax collection), I popped a Bakewell Tart into the oven.

And here, dear readers, is the recipe. In a couple of months, I hope to give you an actual sample instead of just this virtual one. I do have to tell you – it is divine. And I might just have to tart it up when cherry season comes!

Until then – toodle pip!

Marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Bakewell Tart
Course dessert
Cuisine American, British
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American, British
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. To make the pastry, measure the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter (and salt, if needed) with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the water, mixing to form a soft dough.
  2. Press dough into a tart pan with a removable bottom. Refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight.
  3. When ready to bake, heat oven to 400 degrees (F).
  4. Bake pastry for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Spread with jam.
  5. Melt the butter in a pan, take off the heat and then stir in the sugar. Add (salt, if using) ground almonds, egg, and almond extract. Pour over crust. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds.
  6. Bake for about 35 minutes. If the almonds brown too quickly, cover loosely with foil to prevent them burning. Remove tart from oven to cool.
  7. Put powdered sugar into a bowl. Stir in extract. If the mixture is too thick to drizzle over tart, add water, 1 teaspoon at a time.
  8. Drizzle icing over top. Or place icing into a zip-top baggie with one corner snipped off, and pipe the icing over the top.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from several recipes on http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes

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Meatless Monday Salad

Easter break means a trip to visit my parents in Florida. We’ve been heading to Indian Rocks Beach, on the Gulf Coast, since my daughter was 3 or 4 – or about a decade.

It’s always like hitting the reset button. The changing colors of the water and sky; family connections; sun; even rain. It all adds up to recharging of batteries.

It’s also a great time to reset my taste buds as well. While I have great anticipation for the bounty that will come starting in late June – I’m get stuck in a rut when it comes to food after months of seeing the same items in the grocery store visit after visit.

But in Florida, the strawberry season is just starting the close. Fresh local citrus is still available. Fish is on every menu, and in the grocery store. I see the recipes my mother has posted on her refrigerator, and stacked on my father’s desk.

I’m surrounded by inspiration.

The very act of taking a trip, of seeing things in a different (literally) light, recharges my synapses. They start firing again.

This happens whenever I have a change of scenery – and why doctors suggest taking walks outside. The very act of getting out of a rut can help change how your brain thinks. This is why I walk the dog on different routes. If I see the same thing every day, even the act of taking the walk becomes routine. Although when it’s 20 degrees outside, it is hard to find the inspiration to walk a new route.

Today – the day after Easter – as I look at the colorful hard-cooked eggs, I am seeing something different. Instead of dreading them in egg salad, I am inspired to make a blueberry and spinach salad.

This is because of what my mother clipped out of People magazine and put on the fridge. I get People, but totally missed the salad. She saw the magazine with a different eye, and, as a result, we enjoyed a delightful salad that I’m sharing today.

If you want to use strawberries instead of blueberries, go ahead. Don’t like nuts – skip them. Or try roasted pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds. The crunch is nice. You can add shrimp, chicken, or salmon if you need more protein. Do try the dressing. It is delightful.

This is what I leave you with today – a salad for a meatless Monday. It’s a snap to make. Use whatever time you save to take a walk. It’s beautiful out there.

XOXOXO

marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Spinach, Blueberry, Avocado, and Cucumber Salad
Instructions
  1. Whisk together honey, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk in lemon juice. Slowly add in olive oil in a steady stream. Whisk constantly until mixture is thick. Taste. Adjust salt and pepper as needed.
  2. In a large bowl, toss spinach, blueberries and cucumber. Drizzle dressing over the salad. Toss to combine. Top with avocado, hard-cooked egg slices, and nuts
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Friday Faves: Getting the Garden Going

Snow in April might normally put me in a funk – along with the droopy daffodils. But each morning I check in with my seedlings – tomatoes, basil, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini, chard, beets, and snapdragons sprouting under the grow lights.

The zucchini and cucumbers burst forth with such enthusiasm that I’m going to have to move them out of their seedling tray today because they are close to pressing against the plastic dome cover that traps in the moisture and heat.

Snapdragon and nasturtium seedlings.

The beets, and the chard, are also sprouting – as are the tomatoes. Those, the tomatoes, I planted in peat pots to reduce the repeated transplant trauma that can occur between now and the time they go into the outdoor containers in mid-May (depending on the temps). The chard and beets will move into the cold frame – which has lettuce, arugula, and radish seeds planted in half – later this month.

 

Tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini seedlings.

My seed-starting set up is a DIY job, with grow lights sourced from Lowes, my basement, and Amazon. I will be curious to see how the plants respond to the various lights – which range from florescent to LED, and in price from $8 to $40.

Why does this make me so happy? Because I can imagine vines loaded with ripe cucumbers, and tomatoes. I am hoping for zillions of zucchini.

And did I mention that I also buy CSA shares from Gordon Post, a farmer in North East. His CSA is the best deal going, with so much variety, more than 200, that it can be overwhelming.  I can help you out on that this summer. I am buying extra sh ares and will be cooking prepared farm to table meals using Post’s produce starting in July. The chicken, beef, and pork will come from Parable Farm, just over the border in New York state.

If you want to buy shares in the CSA, and I encourage you to do so, we can work out a deal on me picking up your share and cooking with it, returning to you the part I haven’t used.

More on that as it develops.

So I’m in love with sprouting vegetables because they are a sign of hope, of the future, and of my new business.

In the meantime, asparagus is the closest thing we have to a seasonal vegetable right now. Although it’s not sprouting locally, it does serve as a reminder of what will be coming soon enough. This chicken breast, sourced from McDonald’s Meats, on Route 20 on the east side of Girard, is wrapped in bacon or prosciutto and stuffed with asparagus. Serve it with a lemon aioli (garlic and lemon mayo) over a mixed rice pilaf for a lovely spring dinner.

XOXOXO

Marnie

marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Bacon Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Asparagus
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Course dinner
Cuisine American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings
people
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place bacon in a oven-proof skillet, roasting pan, or rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes (depends on the thickness) to render off some of the fat and partially cook. Remove from oven before it browns (you need to be able to wrap chicken with it). Transfer to paper-towel lined plate.
  3. Line baking sheet with heavy-duty foil to cook chicken.
  4. Pound out of the chicken to approximately 1/2-inch thickness. Brush chicken breasts on both sides with pesto.
  5. Trim asparagus to remove the woody ends, and so the size is about the same as the chicken roll (so only the tips of the asparagus stick out).
  6. Place a piece of prosciutto over each piece of chicken. Place 3 asparagus spears on top of prosciutto and sprinkle with some cheese, if using. Roll chicken around asparagus. Wrap each roll with 2 bacon strips.
  7. Place, seam side down, on baking pan.
  8. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until juices run clear. Check after 30 minutes.
  9. If your bacon is not crisp, place under broiler for about 5 minutes.
  10. Serve with a lemon aioli.
Recipe Notes

To make lemon aioli, follow this recipe from Martha Stewart. 

OPTIONS FOR LARGE CHICKEN BREASTS: If you really large chicken breasts, then they will be too big to roll. So cut each in half, width wise, being a little more generous to the thin end. Then pound. Or butterfly each breast, pound, then cut in half.

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