Love and other drugs…like sea salt…
September 6, 2011

Chirpy-chirpy....a hot mama cardinal is in the house!!

You may remember when I came upon the body of a female cardinal in  my yard earlier this summer….killed by Muffy the ca,t is my guess, though I didn’t catch her in the act. But all summer long, I have heard and watched her mate call for her in the trees…and he never gave up. “Chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp“…all summer…it’s been heartbreaking.

But this morning, I heard a weird chirping( not sure how to describe it but it caught my attention) in the front yard. I peeked out…and there was a female cardinal, clearly showing off for someone…and  on the other side of the walk, acting all cool, was my male cardinal, pecking at the ground, as though he didn’t notice. I think they are in some kind of mating dance. And while I don’t know the male is my heartbroken friend…and I don’t know for sure this is a new female, that’s what I hope has happened..that he has found a new lady love. Wouldn’t that be the best??

This weekend was spent cleaning up after the storm, so when someone asks, “How was your holiday weekend?”….I worked Labor Day, and the rest of the weekend, didn’t feel that ….weekendesque, if you know what I mean. But we didn’t lose power, a tree didn’t fall on the house, and the basement stayed dry…so all is good.

Love, love, love roasted red peppers!!

Did venture out to the Farmer’s Market Sunday morning…fearful of traffic…because of the road race downtown. Misplaced fears though…no traffic and I would say foot traffic was off by at least 30 % at the market, probably because others were scared off by traffic too.  But I bought some great, end of season red and yellow peppers….sliced them up and tossed with olive oil and sea salt, and roasted them.

Morton's gets in on the sea salt craze...

And speaking of sea salt, even Morton’s caught onto the sea salt craze….though theirs isn’t little chunks of salt, but looks like the regular stuff.

The lovely Jennifer emailed me the other day about a new place that has opened in the West Village called The Meadow-here….it is completely devoted to…yep, salt of every description.

Mark Bitterman...salt guru...

And the place looks very cool….it’s the brain child of chef Mark Bitterman(whom you may have seen on The Today Show) …one reviewer gushes “It will change the way you cook“….doubtful. Doubtful. But you can buy slabs of Himalayan sea salt, on which you actually cook food! Or in their words..” a 500 million year old slab of luminous pink salt quarried from a primordial salt deposit in Pakistan “…..ok. The Meadow also offers cooking classes for the oh so very few of us who do NOT know how to cook on a salt slab(or why).

Maldon sea salt....of course.

For my money though, Maldon is the best sea salt…beautiful flakes that you can crush between your fingers….. as Dan Crane from  Slate magazine said about Maldon…It’s half the price of a movie ticket in New York City. Shut up and buy this salt.” And fyi, at a website called Saltworks, you can buy a 8.5 oz box of Maldon for $6.49 and free shipping(and tons of other salts as well)…while that same amount at The Meadow will run you $11.50. I guess it’s the location….West Village real estate ain’t cheap.

Pomme frites, clafoutis and tournesols….Say What??
July 11, 2011

Roast poulet and French Fri....I mean..pomme frites

This weekend was my favorite type of weekend…where I have NOTHING planned, nothing I HAVE to do….no committments, no obligations….so anything goes. Most Friday nights we meet our daughter for dinner somewhere close to all of us, which usually means Hampden, but this Friday we went to Petite Louis in Roland Park…we shared a chicken and french fries for two(Frenchified it’s poulet with pomme frites). Whatever, it was delish….and we even brought some home!

Best buy in Harbor East?? Great vegetarian dinner....

Saturday night went down to Harbor East…had a quick dinner at Vino Rosina, which is a terrific wine bar right around the corner from Bagby’s Pizza….they have some lovely small plates…like the grilled polenta with squash, topped with a soft poached egg. Some people on FB seemed to think that was a little weird, but poached eggs on top of a savory dish….is yummy. And this was only $8….and really would have made a lovely dinner all in itself.

Cupcakes with a smile...

The intention after dinner was to see Horrible Bosses, but the 7:30 show was sold out….:(     My spirits lifted considerably though, when I spiedCaroline’s Cupcakes, which has opened a little stand inside the Hagen Daz store. Black bottom with cream cheese icing, cures all ills…seriously, it does.

Market tournesols(sunflowers)!

Made it to the downtown farmers’ market under the JFX Sunday morning…made it in time for tomato seconds(if you have never availed yourself of the bargain that is tomato seconds…well, more for me). These are ‘maters that may have split a tiny split or have a spot or bruise. They’re still fabulous…and a great buy. Picked up some sunflowers, bread, and eggs too….and you see some of the cutest kids there. And they are decked out…I wished I dressed as well for the market(I don’t.)…check out this little girl

Clafoutis, ready to go into the oven....

That night we grilled some lamb, sliced some of those tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil, sautéed yellow squash, and I made a cherry clafoutis, from a recipe in one of my oldest and most beloved French cookbooks, French Country Cooking.

The finished clafoutis

It’s a snap to make really, the only messy part is pitting the cherries. Then it’s just eggs, flour, sugar and milk. And one of my favorites. Here’s an Emeril Lagasse recipe that is close to mine….but I would ditch the brandy and vanilla bean(just use extract)…and my recipe calls for 1/2 cup each of sugar and flour..not one cup, and only one cup of flour…..but, whatever. Let me know how yours turns out! And send pictures! You won’t be sorry you tried it…claloutis is a classic….for a reason.

Flat tires, flowers and fish tacos….and goodbye to Mr. Baltimore
April 19, 2011

My daughters flat....

The weekend started with a flattie…. my son and the lovely Jennifer had taken the train into town from NYC….my daughter generously picked them up and we all met for dinner at Gertrude’s at the BMA….but there was an issue(isn’t there always with families?).  Three exasperated faces showed at the restaurant….and her tire that had a slow leak-that we had been begging our daughter to have fixed-“just take it to a service station and they’ll either fix it or replace it“-was now flat, and no resuscitation was gonna work. Yeah. Long story short….the car limped to her apartment, and AAA-bless them-changed it first thing next morning. I must add there were a few tense moments that can only exist among family members, with the tiniest bit of finger pointing and only a whiff of recrimination….you know what I’m sayin’.

a riot of color....geraniums, lettuce, pansies....

Made it to the Farmer’s Market Sunday morning, which has re-opened under the JFX…I love that place. Just love it. It was a sea of colors, with flat after flat of pansies and geraniums and lilies…and veges of course. We got cilantro and stopped at the seafood stand and chose some cod(instead of haddock which $20 a pound!) for the fish tacos, about which you will read more in a minute….and then stumbled across an old friend of my son’s.  Will Phillips, who heads up Under Armour’s Green program, is also a partner in Sandtown Millworks…..

Will Phillips with Sandtown Millworks media center.......

He is also a stunt double for my son…OK, not really, but they resemble each other a lot, enough so that back in their college days…there was some ID borrowing going on. Don’t ask, don’t tell is all I have to say about that. They make the most GORGEOUS rustic, hand-crafted pieces of furniture and frames, from reclaimed wood from buildings being demolished in Baltimore. I love the old sawmarks you can see on the piece above….

The Admirals Console....from old building joists...

..like the piece above.   The Admiral’s Cup, a historic Baltimore pub at 1645 Thames St., was recently gutted. They salvaged the joists to use as tabletops in pieces like this, The Admiral’s Console Table. So beautiful. And the table has a metal emblem on the front(can you see it?) with the address of where the piece came from. You can find out more about their stuff on Facebook… 

The makings of fish tacos in cilantro sauce….

And we made the most fabulous fish tacos from Gwyneth Paltrow’s blog GOOP(recipe here)….they were really pretty easy…if you have a blender or food processor. And a caveat here…if you don’t like cilantro, you won’t like this recipe. I adore it, but every once in a while I come across someone who is almost embarrassed to admit they just don’t like it. And this recipe is cilantro heavy, with the food tossed in a bright green cilantro/onion/garlic/cumin puree. But it’s amazing…we all agreed they were possibly the best fish tacos we had ever had…thanks Gwyneth.

And I would be remiss if I did not add my thoughts about William Donald Schaefer….a complicated, cantankerous, and unique man if there ever was one. He said what he thought, didn’t pull punches, and insisted everyone care as much as he did. Which was a lot. Thanks Mr. Baltimore. You will be missed…and Godspeed.

Gumbo ya-ya, hon….and tales of corned beef hash…
November 8, 2010

Have I ever confessed my love for corned beef hash?

 OK, let’s just  say it out loud….I LOVE corned beef hash…all stemming from a childhood trip I made to California many years ago. My parents threw us three girls into the family Chevy station wagon, and off we went on a road trip see visit relatives in L.A. Oh, the glamour of living in California, to 3 southern girls from ‘bama. One of them even had a pool in their backyard…ourlittle  jaws must have hit the ground. Anyway, as we saw the USA from our Chevrolet… once we entered Oklahoma and parts west, weird things started showing up on breakfast menus, like corned beef hash(and other familiar things, like grits, disappeared). It was shocking to me, having had nothing more adventurous for breakfast than pancakes or scrambled eggs(with cheese when Mom felt like it). Corned beef hash with a crisp hot crust on top, seemed like…a culinary revelation. I ordered in Flagstaff Arizona, and have loved it ever since.

And since Cafe Hon in Hampden makes their own corned beef hash(though it must be said, I’d still order it if it came from a can)…I enjoyed the real deal this weekend for breakfast, with two gloriously poached eggs on top. Simply delicious. I want some right now.

It was a little chillier than this, on Sunday...

Hadn’t been down to the farmer’s market under the JFX for a month or so, and was surprised to see that lots of veges and fruits are still available..even tomatoes. I went down to score 5 jars of Maryland honey for a friend( I still don’t know why she needs 5 jars of honey but hey, who am I to judge)…which we found, no problem. One loaf of French bread, 5 tomatoes, a bunch of tiny potatoes, one blooming Amaryllis, and 3 pounds of shelled fresh black beans and field peas later…we left.

Classic gumbo, a la Emeril....

My afternoon project was sausage and shrimp gumbo….with a homemade roux, which I’ve never done before.  I used an Emeril Lagasse recipe-here, for classic seafood gumbo and proceeded to change it, of course. But making  the roux is a labor of love…and one involving a couple of burns on your hands if you aren’t careful….which I was, but still.

The roux is a pale tan...still has a way to go...

A roux is oil and flour, mixed and then cooked until it reaches the desired color…in this case, a milk chocolate color. It gives the gumbo body and consistancy…and flavor. Some people use okra instead….I actually use both. I love okra in almost anything(except my corned beef hash, and actually it might be pretty good in that). But you have to stir the stuff, and it’s thin and splashy, for about 25 minutes…easy does it.

A little Dixie chic....grilled pimento cheese...

But the gumbo kicked off a little cooking frenzy…I made a big batch of  pimento cheese, and a pot of black bean soup. The pimento cheese was inspired by a recipe I saw from a high falutin’ restaurant in Atlanta, where they make grilled pimento cheese sandwiches-recipe here. That sounds amazing…I have the pimento cheese made(complete with smoked Spanish paprika-my new fave spice), can the grilled cheese be far behind? Doubtful….

ALL THOSE TOMATOES…what to do, what to do…
August 20, 2010

gorgeous, glorious heirlooms....

I can only imagine what it’s like for those of you who grow more than a couple of tomato plants….you must be knee deep in ‘maters(like my Daddy when I was growing up), and no matter how luscious they are….really, what do you do with them all(besides give me some).  OK, here’s my problem, when I go to the Farmer’s Market, I get greedy. It’s true… I see a sizeable basket full of heirloom tomato “seconds”…in other words, they have a small blemish or bruise of some sort and you can get a bunch for not much money….and I just get all… carried…away.

And seconds are usually tomatoes that need to be used pretty darn soon…if one is bruised, you now officially entering  the racing decay countdown sequence…..5…..4….3….2…..ok, it’s rotten. You catch my drift.

Anyone can roast tomatoes...

So one thing I like to do with tomatoes right off the bat(before the coundown has begun) is roast them. If you’ve never done this, get with the program.  Simple…easy…delicious. My daughter is in love with these…warm from the oven, and placed on a thin slice of  French Bread drizzled with oilive oil….it’s a little bit of heaven. 

Here’s what you do….wash and slice your tomatoes into slices, and put them on oiled piece of aluminum foil on a cookie sheet or baking pan.Drizzle with olive oil and whatever spices you like…basil, oregano, sea salt, pepper…all good. And then put them in the oven at 350 degrees for maybe 45 minutes or so(maybe longer), until they start to carmelize  and shrivel a little…this intensifies their flavor. You can keep them in a jar with more olive oil, or even freeze them until later if you like, and they can be used in countless dishes…soups, pastas, almost anything tastes better if you throw some in, and again on bread…they’re a great appetizer.

Tomato risotto...I'm gonna make it!

And I discovered another recipe that I’m gonna try this weekend that calls for roasted tomatoes….Tomato Risotto.  How good does that sounds? It’s just a basic risotto made with chicken broth and wine, garlic and onion and a little cheese thrown in, but add some roasted tomatoes during the process….and then chop some raw tomatoes, toss with basil and put on the top when you serve it….like the picture….pretty and I’ll bet it’s gonna be fabulous!! Have a great weekend everyone…play nice, don’t throw rocks and come home safe…’cause we miss you!