Peach and Pecan Salad

July 27, 2010 § 2 Comments

As a rule, I am starving by the time I get home from the Dupont Farmer’s Market on Sundays. This past one was certainly no different, except that I was feeling slightly virtuous, and maybe a little nostalgic for my Sweetgreen free salad days.

My seemingly superfluous purchase of the Toigo peaches came into action when I remembered Sweetgreen’s recent blog post about their seasonal salad featuring peaches.  I had the romaine from New Morning Farm, found a bit of cheese and some leftover london broil from a weeknight dinner, and suddenly lunch was formed.

This uses 3 of my market purchases (romaine, basil, a peach), some pantry staples, and leftovers. Throwing out leftovers gets crazy expensive.  Find ways to reintegrate them into your meals so its not boring. Steak or chicken on salads or in pasta is an easy way to use it up.

I realize many of you will think a recipe for a salad is a total cop out, but before I worked at Sweetgreen I was a hopeless salad disaster.  I could cook and bake, sure, but when it came to constructing a simple salad, everything ended in tears and me cursing the poor decimated greens. So for all you salad disasters like me out there, this recipe is for you.

Peach and Pecan Summer Salad

1 small head romaine lettuce

1 firm yellow peach (Toigo Orchards)

3-4 oz London broil (or any kind of protein really, if using at all)

1 small handful pecans (not local, but have a huge bag in my freezer from last year. can’t let them go to waste.)

1 small knob goat cheese

4 big leaves of basil (I used the free purple basil I got from Tree and Leaf)

4-6 leaves mint (I picked this from the growing-like-a-weed mint patch at my church. super frugal.)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp white balsamic vinegar

Salt and Pepper

In a big salad bowl, whisk together the olive oil and white balsamic.  Chop the romaine, wash well and dry in a salad spinner. Add the romaine on top of the dressing in the bowl (layering it this way will keep the salad from getting soggy).  Put the pecans into a dry skillet and toast for 3 minutes, being careful not to let them burn. Roughly chop the pecans, let cool a bit, and add to salad.  Slice the peach into wedges and add to salad. Chop basil and mint together into small pieces and add to salad. If using, cut steak into bite size pieces and add to salad. Add a big pinch of salt and pepper.  Toss all together gently when ready to eat. (If you are making this in advance, keep untossed until ready to eat.)

Enjoy with a glass of cold rosé wine- like perhaps Saint Roch Les Vignes from Côtes de Provence.  Its available at my favorite wine store in DC, A.M. Wine Shoppe on 18th St and Wyoming in Adams Morgan.


Market Budget Breakdown

July 26, 2010 § 1 Comment

As a newly unemployed person who has been living in denial of a lack of income, I thought it might be about time for me to start seriously considering this thing known as a “budget”.  I never thought about it too much before because I was always pretty good about living within my means.  But now that I am living strictly off of savings until I figure out my next career move, I have to be much more careful or I’ll be out on my ass with nothing more than a fabulous collection of restaurant menus.

But while I need to watch my money (like everyone), I am not willing to compromise and start eating cheap food.  It would certainly be easier to throw in the towel and start eating off the dollar menu, but not only would I start to hate myself immediately but I also know that it is totally possible to eat local, sustainable food and still stay on budget.  You just have to put a little more thought into food shopping and meal planning.

I’ve been told by several people lately that this seems to be their stumbling block, so I’m going to take a stab at putting my weekly budget and meal plan on paper (er, screen).  I can’t say this is the most cost effective week I’ve ever had, but hopefully it will help both me and you to write it down and see what works and what doesn’t.

I forgot to order from my CSA this week, so I bought everything at the Dupont Farmer’s Market yesterday. Here’s my haul:

$10- Pork belly, EcoFriendly Foods. This is arguably the best pork belly in America. David Chang uses this belly in his famous pork buns at Momofuku in NYC.  $10 is a STEAL. It was in a broken bag, so they gave us a deal at $20 for the whole belly, which was like 10 lbs. It was so big I split it in half with my friends Hae Min and James, who apparently are cooking some Korean bbq with it (I’m trying to talk them into a guest post with recipes).  I plan on making pancetta with some, and cutting the rest into pieces to freeze and use in the coming months. This is a great way to save money.  Buy in bulk when the price is right; your freezer is your best friend.

$15- Tree and Leaf Farm. 4 heirloom tomatoes, 3 small zucchinis, 2 red onions, basket of heirloom lettuces, 1 bunch each green and purple basil.  Zac Lester is one of my favorite farmers in this area. He is the real deal.  He is passionate about growing the best possible vegetables and doing it in a way that is healthy for the earth and his customers.  They were giving away free basil with the purchase of tomatoes, and with other stands selling basil for $2.50 a bunch, this was a great deal.

$3.35- 3 Yellow Peaches, Toigo Orchards. This was a completely unnecessary purchase since I am still full of ripe plums, but they looked so good I just couldn’t help myself.

$9- New Morning Farm (Certified Organic). 1 bulb garlic, 1 cucumber, 1 Purple Cherokee tomato, 2 ears sweet corn, 1 bunch parsley, 2 heads romaine lettuce. I was there at the end of market and they were having a special on romaine- $1 for 2 heads! Shopping at the end of market is a great tip, often farmers will lower prices on delicate things they know won’t hold for resale (like lettuce).  I’ve seen New Morning do this many weeks.

$3.50- 1 quart Creamline Milk, Clear Spring Creamery. The best milk I’ve ever had. Hands down.

TOTAL: $40.85. Not bad, since my weekly market budget is $40.  I still have some food in my fridge that I didn’t finish from last week too, like eggs, yogurt, bread, beets, short ribs, and some meat in my freezer. I probably didn’t need to even buy that much, but I’ve never been good at restraint. It’s a learning process.

I’ll start posting daily meals made, but this seems like a good start.  I probably could have spent less if I had bought through my CSA, but I completely forgot to put in my order. We’ll see how the week goes. I’ll try to not do random daily shopping, that adds up so quickly!

Summer Stone Fruit Glory

July 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

So you may (or may not??) have noticed I’ve been absent for a bit.  I have been eating my way across America for the past month or so and sadly my only excuse for not updating is that, well, I just…. didn’t.  Clever girl. I’ll be adding some travel updates a bit later on with my favorite sustainable food spots in my favorite cities.

Being back in DC is great though, since I felt like I was chasing Spring across the country.  By the end of the trip I was thoroughly, though happily, worn out on cherries and asparagus and ready for some summer food, already! DC Farmers Markets, never ones to disappoint me, gave generously.  Piles of peaches, plums, corn, and the early heirloom tomatoes were waiting for me, and I’m not the sort of girl to let them slip by.  This past Sunday at the Dupont market, I saw my friend Mark Toigo of Toigo Orchards and perhaps because it was the first time I’d seen him since the weather turned warm, or perhaps because it was the end of market, or because he knows I’m unemployed, Mark filled me a shopping bag of his succulent shiro plums, yellow peaches and nectarines.  He sent me home covered in juice and pulp and a rather curious about what a person might do with this much fruit.

After a couple of Facebook and Twitter posts, the top running solutions for plums were thus: Plums in Armagnac or Plum Clafoutis (from my French friend Elodie), Pickled Plums from Carrie Anne Seaver, or “eat them all immediately” from my New Zealand companion Amy.  The idea that I might not just inhale them all raw and fresh was somewhat perplexing to her since we must have littered the highways of NZ with at least 10 lbs of plum pits each.

But I felt like I should do something a bit more creative with them, having been given this great gift. So after deciding on Plum Clafoutis as my first endeavor, I moved on to peaches.  Where I come from in Texas, there are really only 2 things you do with ripe peaches: eat them with gluttonous zeal over the kitchen sink, or put them on Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream.  Having no Blue Bell here in DC (and really there is no substitute), and being fairly sure there are ingredients in Blue Bell I don’t want to know about, I decided that homemade peach ice cream was my best course of action.  And with all this heat, what could possibly be better?

Lola and I ate the plum clafoutis with peach ice cream for dessert last night, and I was quite satisfied with my attempts! I pulled both of these recipes from other bloggers I love, so be sure to check them out as well.

Plum Clafoutis (recipe slightly adapted from Orangette)

4-6 small to medium plums (I used a mix of Toigo Shiro plums and tiny sugar plums)
3 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole, organic milk
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
½ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour ( I use Wade’s Mill)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and lightly butter a 9-inch pie dish (use a pretty one, as you’ll serve it straight from the dish). Arrange the plum wedges on their sides in a decorative pattern on the bottom of the dish.

Whisk the eggs and sugar in a medium bowl until pale yellow, about 1 minute. Add the milk, vanilla, and salt, and whisk to combine.

Sprinkle the flour over the batter, and whisk until smooth. Pour the batter gently over the plums, trying to disturb them as little as possible (though it will likely move around a bit no matter what). Bake the clafoutis until puffed and nicely golden around the edges, about 45-50 minutes. Remove the clafoutis from the oven, and allow it to cool for a half hour or so, during which time you’ll see it deflate and settle a bit. Serve it warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar or with a scoop of peach ice cream.
Yield: 6-8 servings

Toigo’s Peach and Nectarine Ice Cream (recipe adapted from Tartelette)

Makes 5 cups

2 cups ripe peaches and nectarines, skinned and pitted (about 4 pieces of fruit)
1/4 sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split in half (or 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract)

Macerate the fruit in lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar.  Let it hang out in the fridge for now. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until thick and pale. In the meantime, heat the milk, cream and vanilla bean until steam rises (DO NOT let it boil!). Very gradually add about half of the hot cream to the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent them from scrambling. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat until the cream coats the back of a spoon, 5 to 8 minutes. If using, remove vanilla bean, scrape out seeds, and add both seeds and pod back to mixture.

Strain the cream and let cool completely (this takes awhile). Put the fruit into a blender and give it a few pulses, until its just pureed (you can do it less and leave some chunks if you want).  Stir fruit puree into the ice cream base. Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions (30 mins on my Cuisinart). Transfer to a container and freeze until firm.

Eat at will to decimate all thoughts of brutal DC heat.

Will Work for Food

June 10, 2010 § 1 Comment

To catch you all up, Friday was my last day at Sweetgreen.  There’s no need to go into all the details here, but we parted on very good terms… I just felt like it wasn’t quite the right fit for me.  Though this does leave me in quite a new position… unemployed!  I decided that I’d like to take some time off to visit family and friends, and just generally clear my head for whatever is coming next.  It’s pretty exciting actually. It’s the most thrilling feeling to have no idea what comes next- every day is a pleasant surprise.  I am confident that something great awaits me, so now the fun part… waiting!

For the past week I have been doing a lot of cooking, napping, reading, and lots of writing… though clearly not in this blog.  Whoops.  After such a long hiatus it felt like I needed some grand entrance back into my posts. But then I decided to screw that and just throw something up here to get myself started again.  Eh voila! Here is my lackluster post! Bask in the glory of its mediocrity.

I realized the other day that it is JUNE already, and this means that I am rapidly nearing the 6 month mark for the year of local eating.  With so many country songs devoted to the theme, it’s amazing how I’m still surprised at how time keeps slip, slip, slippin’ away like that.  In any case, Summer has arrived and my eating habits are about to get a lot more interesting. And a lot more cost conscious (read: I’ll be broke if I keep eating at restaurants the way I have been).

I’m trying to come up with creative ideas for getting restaurants to give me free food. My latest best idea is to freelance my sustainable sourcing skills in exchange for a free-dinner pass. I feel like it’s a pretty sweet deal.

*Dear Restaurants- Want to have the most bad ass, delicious, sustainable food on the block? Give me a ring. I will work for food. Seriously. Xoxo- your own personal sourceress*

I do have money saved, so I won’t starve (I know you were worried).  But I’m trying to save as much of it as I can because I may need to transfer a rather large chunk of it into an account for grad school.  I’ve decided that I am going to finally fulfill my dream of getting my Masters degree. I used to want to get it in Critical Film Theory at USC (oh how far I’ve come…), but now I am looking at a one-year masters in… get this… Food Culture and Communications at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy.  Um, yeah. That does in fact sound like the most perfect and wonderful formal education of all time. So fingers crossed I get in! I won’t know until December though, and the program starts in March… so I need things to do until then to keep myself in sustainable food and drink (good food is non-negotiable, no matter how little money I have).  Ideas are welcome.

I have lots of other things I probably should tell you guys about… this awesome local seafood seminar I went to, the RAMMYS (Oscars of DC Restaurant scene), this bomb Shrimp and Grits I made last night… but all in good time.  More posts are coming. Double secret promise.

Strawberries and Cream

May 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

This Saturday morning, I hit up the Courthouse Market in Arlington because I received a covert message from one of my farmers for Sweetgreen, Chuck Geyer, that he would have the very first strawberries of the season at market.  So out of bed I leapt, and after the requisite cursing for getting lost in Virginia again, I got to the Westmoreland Berry Farm stand 10 minutes before the market ended.

Like a child running for an ice cream truck I skidded up to Chuck and found I was not the only one who had heard the news- Tracy O’Grady and Kate Jansen (two of my women chef heroes) were there picking up boxes of asparagus and flats of strawberries for their restaurant, Willow.  I heard Kate, the pastry chef of the duo, mention something about a rhubarb and strawberry crumble… so if you’ve been meaning to go to Willow, as I have, this would be a great week for it.

Generous as Chuck is, he sent my roommate Lola and I packing with 3 quarts of fresh strawberries, the most perfect ones I’ve ever seen.  In a moment of divine inspiration, I made a mad dash to the Trickling Springs Creamery booth and begged the guys to pull a gallon of milk back out of the truck they had just packed. Thankfully they obliged, and I trekked back to my car with a smile and a plan.  I took advantage of being in the ‘burbs and immediately hit up a Williams-Sonoma to buy  a long coveted appliance to make all my dreams come true- an ice cream maker.

There are very few things in this world that make me happier than homemade vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries.  I’ve been positively giddy at the idea since I floated out of the farmers market. I was slightly put off to realize that the bowl of the ice cream maker takes like 12 hours to freeze… but no matter.  The art of eating, like the art of seduction, revolves around one simple concept- anticipation.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

*Makes ten 1/2 cup servings

2 cups Heavy Cream

2 cups Whole Milk

1 2-in piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise

2 egg yolks 1/2 cup sugar (fair trade organic, please)

2 tbsp vanilla extract

Combine cream and milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add vanilla bean and heat until mixture lamost boils, about 5-8 minutes (Be careful- once milk starts to simmer it can boil over VERY quickly!!).  Reduce heat to low. Meawhile, beat yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract in a small bowl until light yellow and smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add 4 tbsp hot cream/milk mixture and stir until combined (fyi this is called “tempering”. You warm up the egg mixture first so it doesn’t shock and turn to scrambled eggs when you add to the hot milk).  Gradually add egg yolk mixture to warm cream mixture, stirring continuously to prevent the eggs from curdling.  Cook over low heat until slightly thickened and mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. about 3-4 minutes. Cool completely.

When cool, scrape seeds from vanilla bean and add the ice cream mixture. Discard bean shell (or stick it in a few cups of sugar for homemade vanilla sugar! Or in vodka for homemade vanilla vodka…). Stir until well combined.  Pour into freezer bowl of ice cream maker (well frozen for 6 hours or more), turn machine on, and let mix for 20-25 minutes, until it thickens. Eat immediately or put into airtight container and back in freezer until firm, about 2 hours.

Cover with sliced strawberries and immerse yourself in the glory that is springtime.

*For strawberry ice cream (which I imagine I’ll make as well) use 1.5 cups each of the milk and cream, omit the vanilla bean, and add 1.5 cups of very finely chopped (or food processor-ed) fresh local strawberries after the cream mixture has cooled completely.

** The cream may be reduced or omitted altogether for a lower-fat ice cream, but make sure you replace the cream with milk or half and half (the amount of liquid must stay the same).

Waste Not, Want Not

May 1, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve been so busy at work lately that by the time I get home I’m barely even hungry, and certainly not in the mood to cook. This has resulted in slight weight loss (hooray!) but also a fridge full of spoiling food (no hooray).

I’ve been so excited about spring food, that I’ve been stocking up on ramps, asparagus, rhubarb, spring onions, and all kinds of greens… and watching them start to go all yellow and limp is breaking my heart.  So, in an effort to use everything in my fridge in one go, I’ve come up with a few delicious solutions.

Way to use up everything in your kitchen #1: Put in on Pasta.

Fairly obvious, but pasta dishes have become my favorite way to use up bits of food lying around the house lately.  A lovely fresh, whole wheat pasta (mine are from Smith Meadows Farm in VA) is the perfect canvas for any number of flavor combinations.  It’s also a fun way to come up with new recipe, because you are forced to use everything you’ve got instead of going out and buying every ingredient you need at a moments notice (which is also super expensive).   Force yourself to put things together that you’ve never tried before. Especially if they are all in season, chances are the flavors will blend nicely.

My favorite seasonal pasta of the week- Ramps, Mushrooms, and Asparagus with Goat Cheese over Lemon Verbena Pasta.  I ate it 3 times and I still have over a pound of ramps in the fridge (I told you I got excited!).

Way to use up everything in your kitchen #2: Freeze, Pickle or Puree.

Bought too much asparagus? Cut it up and freeze it for an Asparagus Quiche later in the summer.  Caught ramp fever (like me)?  Saute the greens as a side dish, and pickle the bulbs and stems for a tangy bite in sandwiches all season long (i’m planning on doing this myself this weekend, stay tuned for a how-to.)

This afternoon I realized I still had a pound of spicy lettuces that a farmer had given me at the end of market a couple weeks ago (You know they are fresh when they hold that long! ).  I couldn’t think of a thing to do with them, since they were really too spicy to eat as salad greens, and it’s just too damn hot today to turn the stove on to saute.

And suddenly it hit me like a horseradish- Chimichurri!  Two and half  years ago, I spent 5 weeks wandering around South America by myself, and fell head over heels for the pesto-like spicy concoctions that were often served at restaurants in Argentina.  They were always slightly different, so it didn’t seem to matter which herbs or greens were used, so long as there was a good hit of garlic and oil.

So into the Cuisinart my spicy greens went, with a few cloves of garlic, a good dash of salt, and several big glugs of olive oil. Press play and presto! A pungent, peppery bright green spread just begging for a grass-fed skirt steak seared rare on the grill.  In an instant I was back in Buenos Aires feeling the heat from a smoking parilla, my mouth watering for the full-bodied malbec and plates of morcilla, the blood sausage I became so unexpectedly fond of.

Back in my kitchen in DC, the chimichurri went into the freezer for now, having no skirt steak to speak of just yet, but making a mental note to pick one up from EcoFriendly Foods at the market tomorrow.

Spring in Full Swing

April 22, 2010 § 2 Comments

Happy Earth Day!

I have received my first bunch of asparagus from Star Hollow, and this means one thing only to me- SPRING IS HERE!!

Despite the cold snaps and off and on rain and sunshine, I am fully optimistic for the coming season.  I like to think all that snow has nourished and moisturized the sleeping soil, and that it is now awake and ready to start producing all kinds of delicious bounty.

It’s still a bit early, yes… but many of the markets are open again, and the presence of lilacs at Spring Valley (Dupont) makes me positively giddy.  Strawberries should be in around Mother’s Day, and I plan on buying every single one I can find and staining my face and hands in red as I preserve, can, freeze, bake, and eat them raw and naked straight from the pint.  I’ll be getting tons into Sweetgreen and daily piling them high on top of a creamy swirl of tart Sweetflow, our signature organic frozen yogurt and my favorite daily indulgence.  I visited the beautiful farm where we get most of our local berries recently, Westmoreland Berry Farm, and was able to snap a picture (above) of strawberries in bloom.  They say once the whole field is covered in white blooms, get the buckets ready for picking!

My new Spring Salad is hitting the Sweetgreen restaurants today, and it’s chock full of raw local asparagus- my new favorite way to eat it.  I was inspired by scanning through vegetarian blogs like 101 Cookbooks, where she clearly has the same enthusiasm for Spring food that I do!

Here is a list of markets that are open now, where you can start stalking up on early spring food:

FRESHFARM Dupont Circle– 20th and Q St NW, Sundays 9am-1pm

FRESHFARM Foggy Bottom– Eye St. b/w New Hampshire and 24th St NW, Wednesdays 3-7pm

FRESHFARM Penn Quarter– 8th St. b/w D and E Sts, Thursdays 3-7pm

Eastern Market– 7th St. and North Carolina Ave SE, Sat and Sun 7am-4pm

Palisades Farmers Market– 48th Place and MacArthur Blvd NW, Sundays 9am-1pm

Coming Soon:

FRESHFARM H Street– 625 H St. NE, Saturdays 9am-noon (Opens May 1)

Mt. Pleasant– 17th and Lamont St. NW, Saturdays 9am-1pm (Opens May 1)

U Street– 14th and U St NW, Saturdays 9am-1pm (Opens May 1)

FRESHFARM By the White House– 810 Vermont Ave NW, Thursdays 3-7pm (Opens May 6)

Glover Park-Burleith– Wisconsin Ave and 34th St. NW, Saturdays 9am-1pm (Opens May 8)

Bloomingdale– 1st and R St NW, Sundays 10am-2pm (Opens May 16)

*NEW! Columbia Heights– 14th and Kenyon St. NW, Saturdays 9am-2pm (Opens June 5)

This list was complied by Amy Cavanaugh in today’s Washington Post Express. She also did a fun Q&A with me about eating local foods in DC… should you be so inclined to read it, here is the link 😉