Tuesday, June 29, 2010

It's the most wonderful time of the year

I just stopped home to let my poor pup have a quick break and tried to do a little garden triage while we was playing in the yard. I won't say it was relaxing because my iPhone was glued to my side to catch work emails, but I found this lovely little collection of goodies. The raspberries and blueberries were here when we moved in - the raspberries needed (and continue to need) some love so I don't expect a huge harvest. The same can be said for the strawberries I planted, but I've gotten a handful so far. My blueberries, however, are amazing. Two of three bushes are heavy with green berries and a handful are just starting to turn lavender on their way to rich, deep blue. Alright.... back to work, but this little snack made my day.

Anti-biotics and meat

Just like it's an issue to overprescribe antibiotics to humans - especially with respect to non-bacterial infections (sorry, that Z-pack isn't going to cure your cold) - the same principle holds true with animals. Especially those we ultimately eat.

The FDA reiterated its guidance that livestock farmers shouldn't unnecessarily use antibiotics that are used to treat humans in healthy animals. The press release and link to the draft guidance is here. I haven't had a chance to read the full guidance document yet, but I certainly will. For the moment, I'll reserve comment.

I'm not one to scream for regulations to address every single problem, probably because I know a bit too much about how laborious the process is to get a strict regulatory structure to evolve with an issue, so I want to be sure I'm not misinterpreted. But... this is a good reminder for people to think about and pay attention to how things work in their food supply. And a good reminder for me to stop being wishy-washy about it myself.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Looking ahead.

I've been a very neglectful blogger as of late, but the truth of the matter is, there hasn't been much to share. Western One left for a visit to the west and I have not prepared a single meal in his absence. Not one meal. Granted it's only been four days, but I don't think I'd cooked for a good week before that. I noticed last night that my milk had a "sell by" date of May 31. If I am actually at home, I hide in my house for fear of being run out of the neighborhood with torches and pitchforks because the lawn needs some serious love. I semi-recruited a friend's son, who happens to be a neighbor to help mow, but haven't managed to follow through.

But, it's almost over and I have much to look forward to over the next month. First, I'm recording a "my Exit" hour soon. For those of you not from the Albany region, The Exit is a really cool public radio station that plays fantastic music, the kind of stuff you rarely hear on the radio. My kind of stuff. Just like I started this blog to provide a forum through which to explore and think about food, I threw my name into the hat to record an hour of music of my choosing to live out the closest thing to a music fantasy a tone deaf girl can have.

Then, later in July, we are westward bound - the long way. Wonderpup, Western One and I are setting out on a road trip to visit family in Cheyenne, WY for the weekend which just happens to be the world's largest outdoor rodeo. Dear lord, this will be an experience. I will be sure to share food and other adventures along the way. In the meantime, I'll just take things one long day at a time and hope my garden is forgiving.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fireflies and balance

The end of June is, without question, my busiest time of year. Just for a bit of perspective, I walked out of the office at 9pm tonight, called Western One and said "I'm on my way home, it was an early night." I was sitting at my desk by 8am this morning. My yard is a mess, my house is a mess (although less so thanks to my guy), I haven't seen my boyfriend or dog for more than half an hour all week, and we forgot to pick up our CSA share. (heartbreaking....)

We had company coming tonight, which, considering the above should totally stress me out, but our guest is a wonderful, low-maintenance friend and even at this hectic time it's nice to have him. However, I was still feeling a bit revved up, as was wonderpup so we set out for a walk. The poor little guy has been a tad neglected these past few weeks. I stepped out the door, leash in hand, and barely crossed our property line before a wave of relief spread over me. It was just after 9pm and the sky was this amazing blue-black - I was trying to think of the Crayola crayon name that perfectly describes the color, which I can't do, but I can absolutely picture it. It was one of my favorites as a kid. But you know what a mean - that deep, earthy blue against which the trees stand out like shadows. Midnight blue, maybe? When you push down hard enough, but not too hard.

The moon was perfect and my entire street was filled with fireflies. I've seen a handful here and there already, but this was the first time they twinkled like stars all around me. Wonderpup pranced and wiggled, clearly recognizing how special the moment was, and the past few weeks of insanity melted away for a bit. It never ceases to amaze me how a simple situation or act can make you stop and finally catch your breath. I was just walking my dog on what happened to be a perfect summer night. I often find a similar solace in the kitchen, not when I am preparing anything in particular, but simply because the stars align and there is something therapeutic in the ritual.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Dinner, GP style

I might be clinically insane because it is entirely too hot to be in the kitchen, but I set out to make Sunday dinner anyway. I had some chicken thawed out that I knew would languish in the fridge this week if I didn't make it. The chicken may represent a reasonable middle ground - naturally raised, no antibiotics or hormones, but I got eight breasts (reasonable sized breasts, not the "how the hell does the bird stand up" breasts) for just over eleven bucks. I'd like to do a bit more research on the brand, which I sadly can't share because I left the main package up at the lake, but I am hoping it serves as a reasonable transition option as we are working toward better choices. I have so much respect for the folks who are making really excellent meat choices and have limited their consumption accordingly, but we just don't seem to be quite there yet. It's just too easy to throw some breasts on the grill.

That's precisely what I did tonight - but I had to use our ind
oor cast iron grill because we don't have the propane grill set up yet. (blasphemy, right?)

I grabbed a bunch of herbs from my garden and made a quick marinade - leftover parsley from this week's CSA share, basil, rosemary and oregano. A bit of salt, pepper, and olive oil balanced out the
healthy dose of balsamic. I was going for an earthy, rustic flavor - I think it worked. I even managed to save some of this week's swiss chard (much of it had wilted) to round out the meal.

All in all, a successful plate considering my efforts to waste less, think more about my meat and manage to keep plants alive. The fact that it was tasty just made it all the better.

June Garden

I realized I haven't given any garden updates lately, and, amazingly there is actually some positive news. My raised bed, while not well organized, is chugging along. The broccoli, beans and ground cherries I started from seed, and the garlic from bulb, but I bought the other plants. Tomatoes from seed were just not working for me. We decided to open up another plot after ripping up a bunch of ugly ground cover. I knew if I waited until I got around to building another bed, there would be snow on the ground, and the soil looked pretty good, so I went the direct planting route. I have zucchini and anaheim chilies in there so far, with some room to spare. I made a zucchini carrot bread last year that was out of this world, and froze well, so I don't mind if I end up swimming in zukes.

I also finally got the herb garden to a productive place, after some false starts. Even some of my basil from seed is beginning to reanimate
The rosemary is really thriving, which is good because I'm dying to make my black pepper and rosemary roasted walnuts again. I had a potted rosemary plant that I think I overpruned a bit making the nuts around the holidays, but it's back to life in the ground and has a new friend in a second plant. Of course my picture cuts the rosemary off, but you can see I actually have living basil, oregano, cilantro and some baby baby dill.

This is by far the most successful gardening attempt of my adult life. I've had some frustrations already and have learned quite a few lessons. Right now, despite my utter zeal this winter, I'm thinking the starting from seed thing is for the birds. I've picked up a bunch of plants from the farmers markets for what I feel has been a reasonable price. I feel good that I'm buying local and I've had considerably more success with the plants as opposed to seed. We'll see what happens next year, I'm sure my impatience will get the best of me and I will play with seeds indoors again. For now, I'm just going to enjoy the progress.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


My submission for All over Albany's "what did you eat for lunch" effort today. On sad days where I inhale food at my desk, I am often thankful for Dale Miller To Go!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Equation of the day

goat cheese leftover from Sunday dinner + farmshare chives + cracked black pepper + butterfly crackers = dinner curled up under the covers

Ok. So the real story is a long day, combined with a couple beers, cocktail wieners and meatballs at some work events left me with not much of an appetite until about 10:30 at night, topped off with no groceries in the house leads to creative solutions. Plus, it's a sin to waste goat cheese, right?

Salty, fatty goodness

Western One, always a source for interesting topics to discuss here, sent me this article today from the Atlantic about Chipotle v. McDonald's. Specifically, it compares the nutritional content of a carnitas burrito (with guac) to that of a Big Mac and seems to express some shock that the Big Mac comes out on top with respect to a variety of measures.

Sharing this article with me wasn't simply a "hey, look at this" move - I'm certain it was directly connected to my unabashed Chipotle obsession and my refusal to eat McDonald's. (caveat: every now and again, after a few too many drinks the night before, there is really nothing better than a Mickey D's hashbrown to soak up the nastys). I very distinctly remember my last McDonald's meat consumption - it was in Belfast. That's memorable, right? Faced with hours of driving through the Irish countryside while hungry enough to eat, um, Irish food, or inhaling the last meal option before leaving town, I gave in and ate McDonald's. I instantly regretted it. It wasn't any sort of ethical stance at that point, I just don't like the stuff and it doesn't agree with me. The more I've thought about food issues in recent years, the more my aversion has been buoyed.

I do, however, love love love Chipotle. I got hooked on the stuff while living in Ohio and thought maybe my insatiable desire for their wares was rooted in some nostalgia once I moved back here. Once I couldn't have it whenever I wanted it, I always wanted it. But no - it's here now and I still love it. Not every day, mind you, but it is my fast food go-to of choice. In full disclosure, I ate Chipotle when I knew it was owned by McDonald's and before I really understood (or they promoted) their current product sourcing efforts. While I can't say I paid nearly as much attention to such issues then as I did not, I also can't say that if I did, I would have given up Chipotle.

A couple of comments in response to the Atlantic article. Yes, I do appreciate that, as a company, Chipotle makes an effort to serve local (where possible), sustainable and ethical food. I do not expect them to be perfect, but I appreciate the effort. Maybe I am a sucker for buying the marketing line. I am ok with that because the food is yummy. Second, and most critically, I understand that a big 'ole Chipotle burrito is not "good" for me. I recognize that I should not have have it three times a week, and if I had kids I wouldn't feed it to them on a regular basis. Appreciating a company's product sourcing efforts and choosing to vote with my wallet to support such efforts does not mean that lose the ability to understand the concept of moderation. If that were the case, I wouldn't be able to eat Jeni's ice cream, and that, my friends is a life not worth living.

There is more to making good food choices than sodium and fat content.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Dinner

We used to be really good about cooking Sunday dinners. It's a nice way to take a deep breath before the week gears up again. The habit has fallen by the wayside lately as there's hardly been time to take a breath, but Western One resurrected it tonight with one of my favorite dishes. I even cleared off and set the dining room table so we could eat like grown ups.

Ah, this dish... grape tomatoes flash sauteed with garlic, salt, olive oil and just a touch of red pepper flake. Then, fresh basil - from my garden!! (ok, to be perfectly honest, I just bought the plants a week ago at the Menands Farmers' Market, they haven't really
been in the ground long enough for me to kill them yet).

And then the magic - goat cheese. Everything is better with goat cheese, but in this particular dish, it smoothes out the heat from the red pepper and just makes for perfection. The mixture makes a great pasta, but we often serve it as a side with steak. I remember, early in our courting, bragging to my friends about this meal. Truth be told, I still brag about this meal and have on more than one occasion told Western One it's what made me fall for him. Not sure how he feels about that.

I have tried to replicate it, but it just never comes out the same as when Western One makes it. Paired with steak and you have yourself a Sunday dinner. And even better? Steak salad for lunch tomorrow!


I've been wanting to check out the newly remodeled "Ryan's Farmers Market" (aka W.F Ryan produce) for a while. I'll admit I've never been a super-regular shopper, but I've always enjoyed sticking my head in there now and again, but the minute I couldn't go, I desperately wanted to. It seemed like they were closed FOREVER. I was out that way today and slowed down as I drove by..the sign seemed to indicate they were closed on Sundays, but there were a few cars in the lot, so maybe I'd misread. When I saw a woman happily walking out with a bag of groceries, I pulled a Speed Racer move and yanked my car into the parking lot at the last second.

As I got out of the car, I saw a gentleman locking the door. I heaved a large sigh of disappointment and turned back to my car, but as I was getting in I saw the gentleman was waving me in. Mike Ryan, the owner, welcomed me in, told me they were closed for cleaning but I should feel free to shop around as long as I liked. He even said if there was anything from the back I needed to just let him know. It was like being a celebrity and having Armani closed down just for you... ok, no it wasn't, but it was super super nice of Mr. Ryan. I will absolutely make a point of visiting more often.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I have apparently shamed myself into cooking...finally. As I've mentioned, I've had a rough couple of weeks and have been really bad about making time to cook. I always seem to forget that, tired or not, cooking is like therapy. A long work day just melts away while I'm chopping onions. I snagged the chives and basil we got in this week's share (along with a little supplement from my garden), along with a few garlic scapes and set out to make a simple, light lemon basil pasta dish. This is always something that seems to be better in theory than in execution for me, both when I make it myself and when I've ordered a similar dish out.

Really I wanted an excuse to use the super cute juicer I picked up at Anthropologie the last time I was in the City. When I came home and proudly presented it, W.O. said "oh, you're going to make orange juice?" Ummmm, was thinking more fresh lime juice for margaritas, but we all have our priorities. I hadn't had a second to use it for either, so even though simply squeezing lemon juice straight into my dish would have worked fine, I just needed to play with the pretty gadget.

So back to the execution - I very slowly warmed olive oil and lemon juice loaded with my pile of green stuff to infuse the flavor and provide a light dressing for angel hair. A bit of lemon zest, salt and black pepper, and that was it. It was better than previous attempts, but still a bit blander than I was envisioning. Still, I managed light, fresh and simple and didn't let my farm share basil go to waste. This week, I'll count that as a victory

CSA week two

Thanks to our CSA last year, and the need to cook lots and lots of greens, Western One developed his own spin on greens and beans, and it has become one of our favorite meals. I find myself buying kale or chard all year. Since I never make the dish, it's my subtle way of saying "cook for me, please, and I want THIS." We put feta on our greens and beans, something I tried out once with aged feta I picked up and the farmers market, and it adds a whole new dimension.

I came home last night after a long day to one of my favorite meals simmering on the stove. This particular version included scapes and tomato. How can you ask for more?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I am not an organized person. Those of you who know me personally have just collectively laughed out loud, and I'm ok with that. But I remember that at the beginning of every school year or semester I would go through this ritual of finding a way to organize myself. Part of it was pure geekdom, I was excited about school and I liked labeling folders and notebooks. I fantasized about how this time it would be different, this new organizer I had would work, and I would stick with it, blah blah blah blah...

It's only week one of my CSA and I'm having flashbacks to my failure of good intentions back in my school days. If you recall, I proudly proclaimed that the farm share was going to get me back on track with cooking. I've even been thinking seriously about what inspired me to start writing this blog in the first place and trying to stay focused on that goal. Alas, here is part of my first CSA box...

I'll spare you the wilted chinese cabbage and lettuce. I did get one decent salad out of it last week, with my attempt at violet vinegar (thanks to the Eat Local blog) but other than that this week has been a complete culinary failure. Granted it's been especially busy, but isn't that the point... trying to find a way to stick to my goals despite a hectic schedule? I didn't even manage to save my cilantro, despite a favorite handy trick for preserving it. Ugh. Did other folks have a more successful first week or two?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Best steak ever, redux.

I am so incredibly excited. Western One's sister and brother-in-law will be visiting the City this weekend. They're up all the way from Arkansas so we simply must go down to visit, and of course dinner is in order. We are going to a restaurant at which a bunch of us celebrated New Year's this past year - the site of one of, if not THE, best meals of my adult life. It's called Quality Meats and it's this great steakhouse up on 58th - cool decor, cleavers hanging in the window, and not too pretentious. I suppose that last point is redundant, I think it might be difficult to be pretentious AND suspend cleavers as decorations. Just picturing the place gets the Deceberists song about the Shankhill butchers stuck in my head. Anyway...

I'm disappointed in myself because I recently cleaned out my old photos and deleted the fuzzy picture of the seafood tower we enjoyed on our last visit to QM. It was impressive. As for the meat, I wisely ordered precisely what the waitress told me was best, the sirloin, while Western One thought he'd be his own man and try something different. The filet, maybe? It doesn't matter, my steak was amnesia-inducing amazing. "Meat-flavored butter" is the term Western One used as he braved my threatening steak knife to steal a taste.

Now that I'm trying to think about meat a bit more, I did some poking around and found the two exclusive butchers the restaurant uses. One, Strassburger Meats makes some vague comments on their website about sustainability and trying to make their plant more green. The other, Milton Ables, details its source requirements, which I found interesting. I was especially surprised by the requirement that the cattle must be corn fed for specific lengths of time - is that meant to be a limiting factor, as in farms should ensure a longer go of grassfeeding, or is there another purpose? Is the exclusion of entirely grass-fed cattle to maintain a price point and consistency? Still much to learn, I suppose, but I do appreciate being given enough information to poke around and I still can't wait for my sirloin.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

As foretold by my giant, yellow smileyface yesterday, I picked up my CSA box this evening. The pint of amazing strawberries almost made up for my recent berry heartbreak. Almost. I can certainly handle the volume this early in the season, with one possible exception - we never can seem to stay ahead of the lettuce. I can only eat so many salads, and without tomatoes and bacon, what the hell else do you do with the stuff? (mmmmm BLTs....)

I am currently staring at a head of green leaf and a bag of mesculin telling myself I will eat it before it goes bad and ignoring the wilty head of lettuce in the fridge I bought Saturday at the farmer's market. In my defense, said lettuce was purchased primarily for complementing sandwiches at camp, and has traveled to ADK and back, but still.

Say hello to my little friends...

Despite rodent issues with my strawberries and neglect/black thumb issues with other plants, some parts of my garden are actually doing ok. The above berries pre-dated my moving into the house, so I can't take much credit for them. The blueberries are the best - the bushes produced like crazy last year and I'm hoping for a repeat. There are few better ways I can think of to start a morning than picking blueberries and dumping them straight into greek yogurt.
My peas and beans are also actually doing alright. These are the only thing I started by seed that is really thriving. Of course, my master gardener friend told me I really didn't need to start pea and bean seeds inside in April, but oh well, early peas it is. One bean plant is already almost as tall as me - and I'm not a petite girl. (I have been called a beanpole at points in my life, but that's another story altogether). Regardless, I'm encouraged.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


I get to pick up my first farm share of the year tomorrow. Can you guess how I feel about it? (ok, that smiley face posted a bit larger than I planned, but I'm too lazy to delete and start over!) I've been sucked into that black hole of working too much, cooking too little and grabbing food lately and I really need to kick the habit. Tomorrow will help - one look at a box full of veggies will reignite both my desire to cook and my Irish guilt at the thought of wasting the contents. I know the first couple of weeks are mostly greens, but we're also getting garlic scapes (one of the best things about late spring!). I often use them in a quick and light pasta sauce or a frittata on a weekend morning - any other ideas?