farmer’s market meals

Last Saturday I actually made it to the Farmer’s Market. This was my haul:

Don’t you love how I subconsciously arranged everything in ROYGBIV order? I swear it wasn’t intentional.

I figured it might be fun to turn my Farmer’s Market trips into posts about how we eat for a week on our delicious local produce.

The cukes and the yellow squash immediately became pickles, the squash joining some zucchinis we had grown to become summer squash bread and butter pickles (seriously, such a good recipe, though I skip the whole ice bath part and they still turn out just dandy), and the cukes becoming my absolute favorite, I swear they’re as good as Claussen’s, dill refrigerator pickles.

pickles in progress

The gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and the Japanese eggplant joined some mozzarella and some home-grown basil to become a delicious margherita pizza.

Look at that tomato flesh. So red, it's almost black.

The pattypan squash was sauteed in olive oil with home-grown herbs and served alongside a red lentil salad with heirloom tomatoes, and some tilapia.

And the remainder of the squash, eggplant, and tomato were turned into a sort of ratatouille which we ate with goat cheese over pearl couscous:

This was eaten alongside some tomato and onion focaccia I made using some tomatoes we grew in our community garden:

Truly the most beautiful bread I have ever baked, and also one of the tastiest.

Finally, the blackberries were mixed with honey, lemon zest, and corn starch and topped with a few pats of butter and a cornmeal crust to become personal-pan cobblers:

All in all, a delicious week of largely local food!

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vegan pumpkin muffins

I’m not a vegan, but I’m very interested in eating less meat and animal products, for ethical, environmental, and humanitarian reasons. As I strive to eat more and more meat free meals each week, I’ve been perusing vegan cooking blogs and have been inspired to try my hand at vegan baking. I’ll probably never end up a vegan, but I can see myself going mostly vegetarian– I’ll never give up eggs or dairy completely, though. (Seriously, there is almost nothing in life that isn’t improved by cheese.)

This weekend, I decided to give the whole vegan baking thing a go, and I started with pumpkin muffins. True fact: there are a few things I hoard like the apocalypse is coming. It’s not anything practical, like toilet paper or something– no, I hoard butter, which I buy every time I go to the store, and canned pumpkin. You may remember a few years ago when there was a canned pumpkin shortage? Anyway, at that time, I wanted to make something pumpkin-y, but there was no pumpkin to be had. When I finally got my hands on a can of pumpkin, I held it to the sky like Scarlett O’Hara with her turnip and swore that as God is my witness, I’d never go without pumpkin again. Look in my pantry and you’ll find probably six cans of the stuff. I like pumpkin, and, though many think of it as just an October/November treat, I enjoy it as long as the weather is cold.

I looked at a few different pumpkin muffin recipes, and this is what I cobbled together.

Vegan Pumpkin Muffins

(This recipe was supposed to make 24 muffins. Mine made more like 28. Magic!)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2cups sugar
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 15 oz. can pureed pumpkin (Make sure it’s not pumpkin pie mix)
1 cup soy milk (almond milk would work too)
1 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup

+ a few tablespoons sugar and a bit of cinnamon (I used 3 T sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon) for sprinkling on top of the muffins

Feel free to fold 2 cups of chopped nuts into the finished batter if you’d like.

Preheat the oven to 400. Lightly spray muffin tins with cooking spray. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Whisk the pumpkin, soy milk, oil, and maple syrup together in a smaller bowl. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Fill the muffin cups 3/4 of the way full with the batter, then sprinkle each with the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Bake at 400 for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Verdict: These muffins have great flavor, and I’d totally make them again.  I took them to church on Sunday, and everyone loved them. They were a particular hit with the kids, even my friends’ kids who are extremely picky.  My only complaint is that they’re a little denser than non-vegan muffins. If I decide to fiddle around with the recipe some more, I might add a little baking soda to see if I can get more fluffiness.

best thing since sliced bread*

Image via the Google LIFE image archive.

This morning I woke up and did something I never thought I’d do: I baked a loaf of sandwich bread.

Sure, sure, I’ve written extensively about my love of No-Knead Bread, but this just might be a step too far.

See, when I was in school, I had a crazy person for a mom. She made me re-use the same brown paper bag to carry my lunch every day for a week, because it would be wasteful for me to throw a bag away every single day, when they could be re-used. She probably would have made me carry a lunchbox, but I threw a wailing hissyfit about how UNCOOL lunchboxes were and BUT ALL THE COOL KIDS CARRY THEIR LUNCHES IN BROWN PAPER BAAAAGGGGGGSSSSSS. As if the cool kids gave two shits about what my lunch was carried in, but these things strangely matter in high school. So, I carried my lunch in brown paper bags, which I carefully folded and tucked into my pocket to take home and use again the next day. Because clearly, my mom wanted me to be unpopular.

Beyond the bags, there was what I carried in them. Always, always a turkey sandwich with ranch dressing. But the bread, well… it wasn’t NORMAL. It didn’t come in a nice little sleeve all sliced up from the store. Nope. It was the uncoolest bread ever. It was made by my mom in her breadmaker, and the last slice was always wonky because it had a hole in it from the machine’s little kneading paddle. The slices were always slightly uneven and often too thick, and I was, for some bizarre reason, convinced the other kids would think I was like, poor or something because I didn’t have normal store-bought bread. Yep. I looked gift bread in the mouth and basically acted like a brat over BREAD. What can I say? I went to a “rich kid” high school where even bread and lunchbags could be status symbols.

Fast forward to today and my high school self is rolling her eyes at me as I proof dough and shape loaves. It’s possible that in the new locavore, DIY, Etsy world we live in, homemade bread is now actually more of a status symbol than I thought store-bought bread was in high school. But it’s also possible that homemade bread just tastes better, especially warm from the oven and slathered in butter. I love the way my house smells all yeasty and delicious. I love the satisfaction of making something with my own hands. I love knowing exactly what is in my food. And I love my mom for lovingly baking bread and packing lunches and taking such good care of me, even when I was such an ungrateful brat. I’ll have to bake her a loaf sometime…

*the title of this post comes from what Jon always says about my homemade bread: “It’s the best thing since sliced bread!”

kitchen catch-all

My Kitchen Catch-all posts are a roundup of what I cooked, where I ate, what I’m thinking of cooking, and what’s got my brain cooking each week.  Let me know what you think, and tell me what you’ve been cooking lately!

eating in

This isn’t everything I cooked this week, but more of a highlight reel.

  • The best dinner I made all week was this French Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart. (At the time of writing, this link was giving me “database errors” but I swear it’s where I got the recipe.)
  • The same night we ate the tomato tart, I also made us a fancy dessert: Honey Lemon Pots de Creme.  Usually, you see chocolate pots de creme, and though I love them, they’re not very summery.  This recipe makes a VERY lemony, tart, creamy dessert. Jon wasn’t crazy about them, but I was a fan. Be sure to grate the lemon zest very fine or it will make for a strange texture.
  • Berries in Meringue bowls with Orange-Scented Chocolate and Vanilla Cream: Because the pots de creme used a bunch of egg yolks, I had a bunch of whites left over.  I had seen an episode of Jamie Oliver this week where he made a big meringue with pears and chocolate and cream and decided to try something similar.  My vision was to have little bowls made of meringue, filled with summery berries and drizzled with orange-scented chocolate and sweet vanilla cream.  To make the meringue, I whipped my six egg whites until they formed firm peaks, then added about a cup and a half of sugar and a pinch of salt and whipped on high for about 8 minutes.  I formed the meringue into 6 little bowl shapes on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper and baked for about an hour at 300.  I filled each bowl with blackberries, and drizzled them with chocolate (the chocolate was bittersweet chocolate, melted with the zest of 1 orange and thinned out with a little cream) and topped them with a vanilla cream (1.5 cups heavy cream whipped with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla). SO YUMMY.

    Ok, so, you can't see the berries, the cream would look better if it had been piped on, and the chocolate wasn't thin enough for pretty drizzling. STILL. This was amazing.

eating out

Much like I did for Charleston restaurants, I plan to make a running list of places I’ve tried in Little Rock.

  • Wednesday night I joined some girlfriends from church for a girls’ night at Salut Bistro on University.  The restaurant is a little hard to find, as it’s in the first floor of what seems to be a tall office building, and the entrance isn’t clearly marked.  I had a yummy $6 glass of Kung Fu Girl riesling from Washington and enjoyed a beef brisket sandwich with a side of fries.  The sandwich was tasty, and the fries were well seasoned.  The menu was a bit scattered, but the food was good, and I think everyone I was with enjoyed their meals.  They also have a late-night menu that looked pretty good– might have to go back and see what that’s like sometime.

food for thought

  • I’ve been meaning to try my hand at making my own pitas for a while. Now I’ve got my eye on making some tzaziki sauce to go with them (Serious Eats).
  • My favorite restaurant in Charleston was the Glass Onion.  Located just around the corner from our house, the GO was a regular haunt for us. I liked things there that I wouldn’t eat anywhere else, including biscuits and gravy and meatloaf. Their delicious Southern food is also deeply local, and they served as the pickup point for our CSA. All this to say, they have a blog, and word is they’re going to be putting out a cookbook.  I was happy to see they shared their Country Captain recipe and plan to make it soon. It’s a Southern curry dish– yes, there is such a thing!
  • I’ve also been dreaming of replacing my non-stick KitchenAid cookware for a stainless steel set. Serious Eats says the Tramontina sets sold at WalMart are basically as good as 5 x’s pricier AllClad sets.
  • First cupcakes, then macarons, then whoopie pies. Apparently the next big dessert trend, according to The Kitchn, is Moon Pies.
  • From The Atlantic, a theory about why we love food TV so much.

bufflo’s boozy peach cobbler

Along with raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bourbon is one of my favorite things.  Somewhere high on the list is also peach cobbler.  So I decided to combine the two into a boozy peach cobbler, to great effect, and I thought I’d share my recipe, created after looking at several recipes and finding none I loved, with you.

You can't go wrong with Maker's Mark.
Local Arkansas peaches!

This cobbler has a rustic cornmeal crust, which I think really goes well with the peaches and adds to the Southern appeal.

Rustic Cornmeal Crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • generous pinch salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 9 T frozen or very cold butter cut into cubes
  • 3-4 T ice cold water

Pulse the flour, cornmeal, salt, and sugar together 2 or 3 times in the bowl of a food processor fitted w/ a plastic blade.  Add the cold butter and pulse another 8 or 10 times, until the mixture looks like small peas.  Drizzle the cold water through the mouth of the processor while pulsing until the mixture starts holding together (It may take you more water. That’s fine. My crust didn’t hold together very well, so I wish I had added more water).  Turn the pastry onto a lightly floured surface and form into a 2 inch thick disk.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Boozy Peach Cobbler:

  • Peaches (I had about 8 smallish peaches, another time I had 4 softball sized peaches, so you be the judge of what will fit in your dish)
  • 1/2 cup honey (or sugar, if you don’t keep that much honey around)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 T bourbon (or more, you can never have too much!)
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • Cinnamon to your taste (I like cinnamon, so I used 1 tsp)
  • 4 T butter

Preheat oven to 425. Peel and slice the peaches and mix with all ingredients except the butter.  After your crust has chilled, roll out to 1/4 inch thickness on a floured surface and transfer gently to your pie dish/cake pan/whatever you’re using, letting excess hang over the sides.  Pour in the peach mixture, placing pats of butter on top.  Fold over the overhanging crust, tearing off peaces to cover the middle if necessary. Place the cobbler in a rimmed cookie sheet to catch any overflow of the bubbling filling and bake at 425 for 40-50 minutes, until bubbling and crust is nicely browned.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Excuse the chipped bowl. We had a few years without a dishwasher, and they got chipped all to heck in the hand washing.

CSA: Charleston – ratatouille two ways and other fun

We are moving this Saturday, and will be picking up our last CSA box this afternoon.  We’ve arranged for friends to take over our boxes for the three weeks left in the season after we’re gone.  All of this means: this might be my last CSA post for a while, because who knows how long it will take us to get our internet hooked up in our new house.  Here’s what we did with last week’s goodies.  We gave away a good portion of it because we wanted to be able to eat at some of our favorite Charleston restaurants one last time, but I made some goodies with what we used!

  • 8 ears corn (gave away half)
  • 6 cucumbers
  • 4 slicing tomatoes
  • 1 bag cherry tomatoes
  • 4 bell peppers (gave away 2)
  • 3 yellow squash
  • 1 watermelon (ate at the beach)
  • 2 eggplants (gave away 1)
  • 1 bag green beans (gave away half)
  • 3 pattypan squash
  • 7 banana peppers (Jon ate 2 raw)
  • 1 bag potatoes (gave away half)

I confess I forgot to write down which days we ate what, so I’ll just write up each meal.

Meal 1: Ratatouille Pizzas

Inspired by the Smitten Kitchen’s ratatouille tart, I decided to make a ratatouille pizza.  I made a double recipe of crust before work using this recipe:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat bread flour
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt
  • 2 packets yeast
  • 1 1/3 cup warm water
  1. Mix flours in bowl with 2 T salt and the oil.
  2. Stir yeast into warm water.
  3. Using dough hooks on mixer, pour yeasty water into flour while dough hooks are moving.
  4. Let rise at least 1 hour, preferably all day.
  5. Separate into two balls and stretch each ball across a baking sheet.

Then I topped each pizza crust with some leftover tomato sauce I’d made and frozen using this super easy recipe from the Smitten Kitchen (I’m a bit of a fangirl).

Next up: time to slice these babies up!

Then I arranged the slices on top of the sauce, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, sprinkled with herbes de provence, and sprinkled with parmesan cheese.  I baked the pizzas for 20 minutes each at 450.  They came out delicious!

Meal 2: Ratatouille with poached eggs over couscous

After the pizza, I still had a gallon bag full of sliced squash, zucchini, eggplant, and peppers.  I also had half of my tomato sauce leftover.  So I decided to try a baked version of ratatouille following this Smitten Kitchen recipe for Ratatouille’s ratatouille, inspired by the Pixar film.  Mine wasn’t as pretty as Smitten’s, but I don’t have a mandoline for fancy slicing, so I think I did pretty well with just my knife!

I decided to serve my ratatouille over couscous with a poached egg on top.  Considering I’d never poached an egg before, and considering I’m still getting over an aversion to runny yolks, I think my poached eggs came out pretty darn well!  It was an absolutely delicious meal. and we still can’t decide if we liked the ratatouille pizza or the ratatouille with poached egg and couscous better!

If I were a real food blogger, I'd have a photo of the yolk oozing out of the poached egg. Lesson learned.

Meal 3: Smoky corn chowder and Greek cucumber salad

I made a smoky corn chowder with the corn using this Real Simple recipe, which I’m a big fan of.  I’m an even bigger fan of it now that I have an immersion blender– the first time I tried the recipe, I had to use a blender, which resulted in a molten corn chowder volcano.  An immersion blender is really a must-have for creamy soups, and it’s also crucial to the tomato sauce I mentioned above.

To go with the chowder, I decided to go Greek with the cucumbers and slicing tomatoes.  I chopped them into bite-size chunks and tossed them with a dressing made with the following recipe:

Whirl the following in a food processor:

  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped finely
  • 2 sprigs oregano (any herb fresh from the garden would work!)
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 dashes hot sauce

The resulting salad was delicious, and the smoky cumin in the sauce went well with the smoked paprika in the soup.

Meal 4: Nicoise salad with pesto

To use up the last of the veggies, I adapted two recipes to make a nicoise salad with a pesto dressing.  I always have good pesto on hand, because my mom makes her own with home-grown pesto, and, even if I have to pack it on ice in a cooler, I always bring home a jar or two after a visit.

I boiled four eggs and let them cool.  I chopped the potatoes and the green beans into bite-size pieces, then boiled the potatoes for 10 minutes, then added the green beans to the pot and boiled both together for 5 more minutes.  Then I drained the potatoes and green beans and rinsed with cold water to cool.  I cut the cherry tomatoes in half and tossed all the ingredients in a bowl with a can of tuna and a can of garbanzo beans (both drained) (not traditional, but I wanted to use them up before the move).  Then I dressed the salad using a mixture of pesto, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Yum!

Meal 5: Pattypan scramble

One morning when I was home alone, I fried up some bacon, sauteed the pattypan squash in the drippings, and then scrambled them with eggs, mozzarella cheese (it’s what I had), oregano (it’s what I grow in my front yard), and the bacon.  A yummy brunch!

After all those meals, you need dessert: Key Lime Coconut Cake

I’m not kidding about my Smitten Kitchen fangirldom.  I went looking for a recipe to use up some coconut before the move, and I found this Key Lime Coconut Cake recipe.  Whaddaya know? I had limes too! I was so excited about this cake, only to be devastated when It got half stuck in the pan and crumbled into a big mess.  I tried again, this time buttering and flouring the pan instead of following the instructions to butter it and place parchment paper in the bottom, and this time it came out great.  A great summer cake.  I have a feeling I’ll be experimenting with the recipe, maybe trying to turn it into cupcakes or a layer cake.

And there you have another week of fresh local eats!

Bonus: restaurant reviews

When not eating delicious food at home, we ate out a lot! One night we ate at FIG, one of our favorite Charleston restaurants (seriously, a must-visit if you come here).  Another night, we rounded up a whole gang of friends in search of a seafood feast.  We had planned to hit up our favorite, Bowen’s Island, a true experience and a must-visit if you’re in Charleston for oyster season (any month that has an “R” in it), but Bowen’s was closed for a private party.  So we ended up trying the Sand Castle, a seafood joint on Folly that we’d never visited before.  I was sold when I saw that they had fried softshell crab and $3.25 pinot grigio, and Jon got a seafood feast which featured fried flounder, shrimp, oysters, and deviled crab.  Saturday we hit up Red’s Ice House with a bunch of friends.  Red’s has miles of deck space overlooking Shem Creek, and my one goal was a giant pina colada, a goal I achieved.  We also spotted a guy paddle boarding with his DOG on board, and were amazed at the dog’s steady, calm pose aboard the surfboard.  Just another great night in Charleston! I’m going to miss this place!

kitchen catch-all

This will be the last Kitchen Catch-All for a while. We’re starting a new season with our Pinckney’s Produce CSA on Tuesday, our second season with them after the late summer/early fall season we did last year. On Tuesday, I’ll walk around the corner to the Glass Onion and pick up a ginormous box of fresh, local veggies (my husband, a sucker for the “best deal” likes to sign the two of us up for a family-sized box). I’ll lay them all out on my kitchen table, take a photo of the spread, and then get to cooking. Each week, most likely on Tuesdays, I’ll post a round up of what we got, what I did with it, and how we liked everything in a CSA: Charleston post.  It will basically be an Iron Chef battle of me versus a bunch of produce each and every week, and sometimes the veggies do win. There will be an added challenge this season because we’re moving at the end of it, so I can’t freeze things for later. I’ll have to figure out to eat it all!

eating in