Counting Days to Meadballs Delivery

Just as the agricultural season is getting into full swing, so is construction on the new Meadballs kitchen. Indeed, just a week until the Erie County Department of Health inspection, and Meadballs will be open for business.

This week has been a flurry … but – and I find this hard to imagine – the most exciting thing is the concrete floor. Yes, I am excited about a concrete floor.

The kitchen space is a former playroom, which had Berber carpeting to keep the tiny knees from getting skinned. The the small noggins from bouncing off concrete. The carpeting added a bit of cushion.

The carpet has been gone for a couple of weeks, but today Advanced Concrete Floor put the design/paint/finish on. It looks spectacular. You may have seen the company’s work at Twig in the Colony Plaza.

Let me tell you, I had no idea concrete could be so beautiful. The final polyurethane finish comes tomorrow, but this is what it looks like now. It’s like Lake Erie met my basement in a good way.

There are bubbles, and waves, and sand … and it’s really cool.

On Monday, the equipment will be delivered. And then it is all about the plumbing and electrical. And I get to go shopping for things like spatulas, immersion blenders, and mixers. I expect to be moving in on Wednesday and Thursday in order to be ready on Friday.

That’s not all that’s going on. I’m still sampling in the market. Thank you to this week’s volunteers Karen Ducato and Jill Starr. Their input is appreciated. The logo bags should be arriving early next week to finish my look. Then, it’s time to start cooking for real.

This week at Post Apples CSA, the bags contained bok choy, collard greens, kale, zucchini, corn, Chinese cabbage, green beans, peppers, cucumber, and kohlrabi. I will be making more stuffed collard greens this week, along with some zoodles and meatballs, and some salads that I am still pondering. Nothing like a deadline to figure things out.

Speaking of which, my goal will be to post the week’s upcoming meals on Friday mornings. My goal is to have you contact me if you want in that week or be a subscriber. I’m working on a contact form that generates a notification to me – but the fastest and easiest way is to message me at 814.470.8688, e-mail marnie@meadballs.com, or contact me on the Meadballs Facebook page.

One of the highlights this week – other than the floor – was picking blueberries in North East at Conn’s Blueberry Farm. Took me about 90 minutes to pick 10 quarts. And 10 quarts of blueberries means pies, pies, and more pies.

 

I like this recipe because it isn’t all flour as a thickener. I am partial to tapioca starch or minute mini tapioca instead of all flour as a thickener. I also am a fan of the lattice top, so here’s an easy YouTube video that shows a hack on how to do it by making the lattice on parchment and then putting on the pie. Don’t forget to brush with egg and sprinkle with some turbinado sugar for a lovely finish.

My blueberries this year were a tad tart, which was fine with me. I don’t like an overly sweet pie. If you like your pies a little sweeter, I would suggest adding another tablespoon or 2 of sugar. But if you are going to serve your pie with ice cream, which is what I adore, then don’t add too much sugar or the combination with be more sweet than blueberry.

Happy eating

Marnie

Marnie@meadballs.com

Print Recipe
Blueberry Pie
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
slices
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees (400 if you have a convection oven). Take one crust out of the fridge. Give it about 10 minutes before you try to roll it out, or unroll it if it is a premade rolled crust.
  2. Place the crust into bottom of 9-inch pan. Trim any excess hanging over the edge. Place in the refrigerator while you complete the rest of the steps. If you have a premade crust, then take the second one out of the fridge to get the chill off so you can easily place it over the blueberries to top the pie, or cut into a lattice if you desire.
  3. In a large bowl, mix blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, thickener, sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Gently mix to combine. Pour into pie panand evenly distribute.
  4. In a small bowl, mix egg and water.
  5. Place second crust on top (or follow the YouTube instructions above to make a lattice crust). Crimp edges. Cut 2-4 slits in the top if crust covers the entire top. Brush all exposed pastry with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar.
  6. Place on a baking sheet covered with foil.
  7. Bake at 425 or 400 for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake another 30 to 40 minutes (or longer) until the blueberries are bubbling. If the crust begins to brown too quickly, cover with foil part way through baking.
  8. Sometimes I start with the pie covered - very loosely with foil - and then take the foil off for the last 30 minutes.
  9. Remove from oven. Allow to cool before serving.
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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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Fall Pairs well with Pears

The circle drive in my neighborhood looked like someone had found buried treasure and was tossing gold coins in the air this weekend. In reality, it was the small stand of birch trees that was shedding its leaves. The sun, the wind, the fall, all combined to make it look like a pirate party.

 

Each day of this fall seems more spectacular than the last. We’ve been blessed with flaming red maples that literally glow when the setting sun sets them ablaze in late afternoon. Lake Erie, one day a muddy mess of rolling whitecaps, then turns perfectly calm, allowing me to kayak on a November morning.

Mother Nature provided an escape from the ill winds that have been blowing steadily during this election season. Oh how easy it is to turn off the television or put aside the newspaper when the sky is blue and the outdoors promise one more beautiful walk. The dry crunch of the leaves soothe my nerves made raw by the shrill comments from media and politicians.

There’s nothing like coming home again to smell a house that is alive with cinnamon, cardamom and star anise, which is what was bubbling on my stovetop this weekend. It’s a delicious combination with which to poach pears.

Pears – yes I’ve heard the comments. Lots of people don’t care for the texture, which can alternately be mealy or too firm. And poached pears? As a kid, poached pears did not count as dessert. Indeed, I preferred to skip it altogether.

I still don’t get excited by a poached pear alone on a dish at the conclusion of my meal. If it is atop of a perfect creme Anglaise. Creme Anglaise is a fancy custard – basically eggs, cream, sugar, and vanilla (think really good melted French vanilla ice cream).

So what if the poached pear could go to the next level? Combine the poached pears with an almond cream, and a pastry. Pears and almonds complement each other perfectly (although you could make a plain pastry cream for those with nut allergies). Adding the pastry – in this case purchased puff pastry – adds a little crunch for a delightful textural component.

A tip about puff pastry. Traditionally, it is made with butter. This, however, is not the key ingredient in Pepperidge Farms’ puff pastry. A taste test by Serious Eats found that Pepperidge Farms works just fine if as a base for other ingredients. Dufour is the preferred puff pastry for serious enthusiasts, but you would have to mail order it. I used Wegmans’ brand, which listed butter in the ingredients. I found it a little thicker than Pepperidge Farms. It is a little pricier than PR brand, but about half that of Dufour.

There are four basic steps here. None are particularly difficult. Poaching the pears is just a matter of peeling them and then using a melon baller or grapefruit spoon to scoop out the seeds. That’s the hard part. Making the almond cream, or Creme D’amandes, is no harder than mixing cake batter. The puff pastry must be defrosted, and then you need to cut either 2 circles or into smaller circles if you are making individual tarts. Finally, you brush a little apricot jam on when the tart comes out of the oven to make it shiny and pretty.

When you finished, you will feel like you have just walked out of a fine French boulangerie.

Print Recipe
Pear Tart with Almond Cream and Puff Pastry
This will make 2 9-inch tarts.
Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
tarts
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings
tarts
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. To make the almond cream: Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg, almond flour, rum, vanilla, flour, and salt. Beat until creamy. Can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
  2. To poach the pears: Peel pears and cut in half. Use a grapefruit spoon or melon baller to seed and core. In a large pot, have water, sugar and spices at a simmer. Add pear halves and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until soft, but still holding their shape. Remove from heat and store in cooking liquid until ready to use.
  3. Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry on a floured surface. Use your tart pan to cut out a circle. Remove excess puff pastry and roll out so it is about 2 inches larger. Place in tart pan, carefully pressing edges into fluted sides of pan. Repeat with second piece of pastry.
  4. Dock bottom by piercing with a fork all over. Freeze for about 10 minutes. Bake in a 350 degree oven until light brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  5. In the meantime, cut pears into about 1/8-inch slice. You can leave the halves whole or break apart. I like to leave whole and use a spatula to transfer to the tart.
  6. Fill each tart with half of the almond cream. Top with pears. Sprinkle each tart with half of the sliced almonds. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from oven to cool on a rack.
  7. Heat almond preserves until liquid enough to brush on the tops of the tarts.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from

http://www.marthastewart.com/317920/almond-cream

http://letthebakingbeginblog.com/2014/11/french-almond-cream-pear-tart/

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Add Heat to Cool Days with Soup

Cold and rainy days call for soup. As a kid that meant the kind with the red and white label, preferably served with a grilled cheese sandwich.

My brother Kevin liked tomato. I was a chicken noodle or chicken and stars girl. My father, as we got older, made soup for Sunday night dinners. He would slave over a perfect French onion or a Manhattan (tomato-based) clam chowder. It was an all-day affair that typically involved making the stock and then the soup. Which is great if you have the time because the taste can’t be topped. French onion soup out of a can or an envelope just isn’t real – even if you do try to put the lovely cheesy crouton on top, which is doing nothing more than hiding a bowl of sodium pretending to be flavor.

I will get off my stockpot now. Sometimes you have neither the time nor inclination to spend all day making soup. In that case, this Thai Coconut Squash/Sweet Potato Soup is for you. I made it with a roasted sweet potato and acorn squash. You can do canned pumpkin (not pie mix), roasted butternut squash, or all roasted sweet potato.

I started by cutting an acorn squash in half, removing the seeds, and placing it in a nonstick roasting pan along with a large sweet potato, pierced, and placing it in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. If you are making sweet potatoes or squash for another dish, just throw a couple of extras in so you have leftovers to make this soup.

The soup requires no broth, just water. You will need a can of coconut milk – I prefer the full fat kind. The Thai red curry paste is essential. You can find the paste in the Asian food aisle at most supermarkets. I started with just 1 1/2 tablespoons, but eventually added another tablespoon. Err on the side of less because you can always add more.

Print Recipe
Thai Coconut Squash/Sweet Potato Soup
Course soup
Cuisine American, Asian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
Ingredients
Course soup
Cuisine American, Asian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a nonstick roasting pan, place large sweet potato and halved acorn squash, cut side down. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  2. In the same baking pan, deglaze any drippings from the squash with about 1/2 cup of water over medium heat until almost evaporated. If the drippings are too burned to be tasty, skip this and just rinse the pan out and go to the next step.
  3. Add coconut oil to the pan or a large saucepan over medium heat. When melted, add the onions and cook until soft and tender, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add Thai curry paste and stir in until totally incorporated (about 30 seconds).
  4. Scoop out sweet potato and squash into the onion mixture and mash together (use a potato masher if you need to). This will be thick. Add 1 quart of water and stir to combine. If really thick (like mashed potatoes thick), then add remaining water. If the mixture is still very thick (this will depend on the size of your potato and squash), then add more water about 1/2 cup at a time. Bring the mixture to a simmer.
  5. Remove from heat. Stir in coconut milk and lime juice. Use an immersion blender, or, work in batches in a blender, to puree the soup until smooth. Garnish with coconut flakes.
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