Tuesday, September 28, 2010

River Dreams

Those of you that have had the pleasure of taking a train from points north to New York City understand what a spectacular ride it is. Our flagship river eases its way through a lush valley toward the City, wide, gentle and proud. In the past year of so I’ve seen bald eagles hunting in the early morning, a truly spectacular sight. Yesterday morning I was taking the ride through a grey and dreary fog. Focused on work and irritated that the train was late, I was hardly taking advantage of my window seat and ignoring the view that so often makes me almost happy to get up at 5:30 to catch an early train. Then I turned to look at West Point standing tall at the banks of the river and could hardly turn away until we hit Yonkers. Two sailboats sat silently in the fog while ducks and even a few swans fished with the first touches of fall colors providing the perfect backdrop. Although the weather channel app on my phone told me it was a balmy 60-something, I imagined a crisp chill in the air and longed for the smell of fall.

I wanted to get off the train right that second and go make soup. And risotto. And applesauce. And squash loaded with brown sugar and maple syrup. (real syrup of course, there is no room in my life for any imitation). I love summer and the bright, fresh flavors it brings, I really do, but I am ready to spend chilly Sundays filling my house with the rich, comforting smells of the kind of food you just don’t make in the summer. It’s time.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I'm not one to say I told you so...

... but I TOTALLY told you so!!! Way to go Jeni's (once again...) Here's a not so great shot of my one scoop goat cheese and roasted cherries, one scoop salty caramel from my recent Columbus visit!

Garden saves the day!

I've never been so proud to have Montana roots! I also wish I handn't let my zucchini die... (thanks to my tomato king for the tip!)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The "I'm starving" challenge

The coolest thing about getting joy from cooking, or food in general, is having friends that share the sentiment. Better yet, having friends that give you cool stuff. My friend, colleague and garden mentor JC arrived at my office door the other day with a present - a lovely little mason jar filled with oven-dried tomatoes packed in oil. He also came bearing the recipe. I'm guilty of getting mired down in culinary ruts and always excited to break out with anew idea. As I've never really managed to have a successful garden (this year was a big step in the right direction) and my first experience with a CSA was last year during the tomato blight, I haven't had occasion to oven roast the juicy little buggers. I still haven't, of course, but now I know how, and better yet I got to make a fantastic meal with the fruits of someone else's roasting labor!

I came home one night last week ready to kill I was so hungry. Thanks to the jar of tomatoes, some CSA spinach and a handful of feta (plus some other flavors of course) I was able to construct a fantastic pasta dish in the time it took me to boil water and cool the pasta. Actually, I even had time to play a few turns of scrabble on my iPhone (super, super addicting...do.not.start.playing. But if you do, track me down and you can beat me like Western One does). See, I have proof. (and before you look at the clock and think I'm being a drama queen for the murderous hunger at 8pm, we never "sprung" our kitchen clock ahead, so it was really almost 9.) Take that you semi-fake/30 minute crap food celeb cooks - real, local fantastic dinner in 27 minutes!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Return of Sunday Dinner

I can't take much credit for this meal, although I did make one heck of a sous chef if I do say so myself. And the gremolata was all me - as you can see, that's some serious chopping. Early this week Western One took some osso bucco out of the freezer, proclaiming he'd have time to prepare the labor intensive dish mid-week. I didn't actually utter the words "you're full of shit" but I think my face betrayed the sentiment. Needless to say, we prepared the meat Sunday night. I'm not one to gloat when I'm right, but I'm just saying... Still, I'm glad it worked out that way.

Once upon a time we were pretty good about cooking a nice Sunday dinner, just the two of us. We both like to be in the kitchen and it's a really great way to wind down the weekend andease into Monday. I'm not quite sure when the ritual fell by the wayside, but the busy summer, time at camp, etc. has kept it at bay for quite a while.

This dinner fit perfectly into an ideal Sunday afternoon. We did some prep, tossed the dutch oven into the oven and headed to the bar to enjoy some autumn patio time. The meat was lightly coated in flour, browned, then surrounded by carrots, onion, garlic, lemon zest, kalamata olives and fresh tomatoes. A bit of bouquet garni and it's off to the races. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but like I said, this was the boy's project.

The white beans in the stew were an afterthought based on a comment one of our bar buddies made when we mentioned we had osso bucco in the oven. They absolutely made the dish, so I'm extra glad we went out for a beer while dinner cooked. We came back to a house that smelled like home and settled in for a great meal. I even decided to crack open the bottle of wine I'd bought myself for my 30th birthday.

As you can tell, the meal was just awful.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Food coma

I had lofty intentions of chatting about my productive weekend (by productive I mean full of good friends, good beer and good food) and the resurrection of Sunday dinner, but alas, Sunday dinner has had its way with me. I'm under the covers with a pup softly snorting at my feet, enjoying the afterglow of a great meal and a great bottle of wine. Really, what more can a girl ask for? We brought Sunday dinner back with style, in the form of osso bucco and I promise pics and details soon. But for now, my friends, I hope everyone is enjoying the waning hours of the weekend - I know I am!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Less junky junk?

As I was wandering around our new Fresh Market* the other day with a grin on my face ususally reserved for munchkins on a certain day in December, I stumbled across portable little mac and cheese cups that weren't loaded with garbage. I won't say they're the healthiest thing in the world (they have a lot of sodium and, c'mon, it's mac and cheese), but they're quick, easy and desk drawer-worthy so that's enough to make me a happy camper. I have to say it was pretty good - tasty in that boxed mac and cheese sort of way, with a reasonable portion size to get me through the afternoon munchies and home to a real dinner. I've come a long way from the day-glo orange stuff with hot dogs cut up in it, but sometimes you just need crappy comfort food!
*I kind of have a thing for grocery stores, especially fun, pretty, unconventional grocery stores that carry an abundance of products I will actually eat. Hi, my name is Green Peccadilloes, I'm addicted to food shopping...

Monday, September 13, 2010

The joy of cooking (...and eating)

A good friend sent me a Ruth Reichl post about the joy that she gets from cooking, and it got me to thinking. Yes, I really love being in the kitchen, even when I have to drag myself there. Sometimes it’s those nights, like tonight, when I’m dead tired that cooking is most powerful – while a quick meal out may seem like the easiest way to satiate myself, I rarely feel as good about scarfing down take out as I do after I’ve eased into the evening with a chef’s knife in my hand.

But more importantly, I’ve realized that food and cooking has brought me much more. Just like how people are drawn to the kitchen during a party, food brings people together in a broader sense. One of my dearest friends is exactly that because of our mutual love for all things yummy.We met in the kind of environment where it’s easy to stick with folks like yourself, but the fact that we come from different parts of the country and sometimes have very different perspectives on the world (things I truly value about her, but also factors that I recognize sometimes inhibit the kind of friendship we have from forming) didn’t matter while we were searching suburban Columbus for what the Food Network called the best brownies in the country. (frankly, I disagreed and I can’t even remember the name of the company anymore!)I’m richer for having a friend like this, and it’s food’s fault.

I have other friends who likely would have ended up in that category anyway, but we still connect over food. Whether it’s sharing tips and techniques, a meal or a drink, food brings us together. It can be a dinner in a fantastic steak house in New York, or steak and brownies consumed in a crappy college apartment during a snowstorm – it doesn’t matter. I started this blog as a way to examine and celebrate the ways food and drink make life better. For me, that often means finding ways to make time for the good things in life. (the good things in life, of course, include puppies and beer, and making time to enjoy both!) Sometimes it’s a stumble, or even failure, on the way to that goal, but that makes the journey all the more interesting.

What I didn’t expect was to become part of a community – all of these people whom I will likely never meet in person but who are teaching me things and challenging me to be more creative. I've pushed myself to play with flavor in new ways, sometimes just so I can write about it. (case in point below...quick and easy Indian) It’s amazing that the act of growing, preparing and consuming a food can provide both individual solace and an amazing sense of community, all in one shot.

As you can see by the banner that’s been gracing Green Peccadilloes lately, I’m participating in something called Project Food Blog. The first task was to describe what defines me as a food blogger and why I should be the next star. I’m honestly not really sure about either. I can’t tout my genius recipes because I’m rarely organized enough to follow a recipe, and frankly don’t often enjoy it anyway. It’s certainly not my gardening tips. What I do know, however, is I’m having so much fun conversing with old friends and new and as a result Green Peccadilloes has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thanks so much to all who have been coming along for the ride.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Oh come let's sing Ohio's praise

I’m headed for a quick visit to Columbus, Ohio soon and while I’m excited to see old friends and catch up over a libation or two, I am nearly beside myself with excitement to revisit some of my foodie favorites. Here is a selection of what has me giggling:

1. My chocolate guy. Yes, I have a chocolate guy, and while he’s gone all Hollywood and stuff now I like to say I knew Daniel “when.” My friend Amy and I discovered this gem early in law school and became regulars. We got the tour behind the counter, got to know every variety and learned that a little chatting and occasional hug led to free chocolate. Go ahead, call me a candy whore, I don’t care.

2. . Dear, sweet Jeni. This is not the first time I’ve raved about Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream here, and it won’t be the last. This stuff is truly special and folks, they ship. You get the coolest package loaded with dry ice and it is worth every, single cent. Salty caramel, I’m coming for you…

Pumpkin Love. There’s a great little bar in Columbus’ arts district known as Betty’s. It might have changed in the past few years, but when I lived there is was a bit of a hipster place. You know, the kind of joint that sold PBR tall boys next to Fin du Monde. Ah, but pumpkin love. This is a messy pile of custardy, cakey goodness. We once tried to replicate it and got close, I’ll have to take good notes and try when I get home.

This isn’t even including the fried pickles, Greater’s ice cream (with giant chunks of chocolate) or other goodies I miss, but I’m only there for 36 hours. A girl can only take so much.

A North Country Feast

There's nothing better than some quality time in the woods with quality folks. Toss in some good food and plentiful drink, and you have yourself a holiday weekend. We had some friends come hang with us at the lake over Labor Day weekend, so there was lots of fun in the woods, on the water and playing with fire. And meat. Lots of meat. Our friend A, an avid hunter, took care of the carne on Saturday night and grilled up some fantastic venison steaks. Let me tell you, venison done right is some good stuff. (the bite sized pieces were for the munchkin, I wasn't drinking THAT much... well, at least not by dinner)

I love to cook things in open fire, and have become pretty adept at doing so (except for freggin potatoes, I have no idea why...I've tried everything and always time them wrong. anyway...).

I roasted up some corn, a weekend standard, but A's wife H took the cake by roasting red onions. She just wrapped them in foil, skin and all, and tossed them in the coals until they were a sweet, roasted surprise. We also occupied the four-year old by giving him garlic on a stick and set him to roasting. Kids'll do anything if you give them a stick and point them to fire! Here's little Max's garlic-roasting contraption. It could've worked if only we could have taught him some patience! Alas, a perfect plan foiled... tee hee hee. Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Part of the Problem

This post isn't entirely about food, but the lessons translate well. News broke this week that a really cool local music joint and coffee shop known as the Bread and Jam Cafe is closing its doors tomorrow. The Bread and Jam is the kind of place that has it all - great atmosphere, amazing support for local music and a location in a city that's "this close" to renaissance. For those of us who like local, this place was it.

Now is the time for me to admit my hypocrisy. We only made it over to the B&J a few times - each time exclaiming its virtues and swearing we'd make the trek more often (it's about a 15 min trip for us, which in a world where we can walk to most of our haunts, is a trek). This is utterly ridiculous. I have a number of local musician friends who played there regularly, one band - the Tern Rounders - even hosted a monthly event. There was always an excuse... "we'll be at camp" or "it's a work night" blah blah blah. So here, even as I felt great disappointment upon hearing of the Cafe's closing I know that I am part of the problem. Even as I write this there is one last open mic night under way, but it's hot, and I'm tired, and my Buckeyes are playing their first game of the season.

Would my presence there four or five more times have saved the place? Certainly not (I mean, I like my coffee and cakes, but not THAT much). But how many out there are like me, saying they should get to some great place more often, but never quite following through? How many local places in all of our communities, who are doing great work, be it by supporting local music, sourcing local produce or just generally trying to make their little part of the world a bit better fall victim to the sloth and excuses of folks like me? This has been a good, if sad, reminder that I should be better.