Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pie a la Mona Has Moved and Changed Names!




I've decided to take the leap and change to another blogging platform. I want to customize my site more and have you involved as much as possible. So, I've set up a new blog on Wordpress. My new name, The Houndstooth Gourmet, is inspired by my new logo which shows a waiter in houndstooth pants being trailed by an adorable pooch who is waiting for his owner inside the bistro. Gourmet, meaning a connoisseur of fine food and drink, nods at my desire to find good, hearty food to share with you.


Please visit me at http://houndstoothgourmet.com/ and look for more features in the future as I customize my new site. All of my posts and comments can now be found on The Houndstooth Gourmet, and I will continue on my mission to bring you food for thought and food for your table.
Bookmark me!

Warm Regards,
Ramona
The Houndstooth Gourmet

Market Roundup - Kingstowne and Old Town Markets


What a fantastic couple of days these have been. Once again on Friday I was at the Kingstowne farmer's markets reveling in the produce, breads, jams, artisan cheeses and ice cream. Although the temperature read 81, the air was clear and the wind threatened to raise the canopies as their ropes strained against the intermittant gusts.


To update, corn (albeit small) and tomatoes are still here! I scored a dozen ears of corn for $3.50, which is quite the bargain in this neck of the wood. Tomatoes were $1.99 a lb. and taste just as good as they did last month. I was a little disappointed that I couldn't buy cheaper seconds in bulk this week. My hope is to do this sometime soon so I can make several more quarts of tomato sauce.

Along with the perfunctory tomatoes and corn, I bought zucchini and yellow squash, and these.

Can you guess what they are (besides ugly)?


Now, a slight miscommunication with my better half last week left me without a pint of my newly rediscovered favorite ice cream flavor: mint chocolate chip(we'd bought a pint the week before and absolutely loved it). Let's see, it went something like this:
"Oh look, she (the Middleburg Creamery and Country Store) has that chocolate truffle thingy ice cream and mint chocolate chip!", I said to Frank as I pointed to the sign in the truck window.
"OK, let's head over there after Allenberg Orchards", he remarked.
OK.....so far we're on board. We lined up for the ice cream and "Oh, there's Smita at Crackpot Gourmet" I said, excited to introduce myself to her.
I visited with Smita and joined up with my husband, who was holding a cold white bag. Yes, the ice cream.
We got home and Frank put the bag on the kitchen island and unloaded the chocolate truffle thingy ice cream. I told him to put both pints in the freezer downstairs.
*blank stare* "I only got one", he remarked gingerly as if waiting for a forehead slap from yours-truly.
"OMG!! you didn't get the two I mentioned?" Huff..huff...huff.
"Ah, um....no"
"Ack! We like need, I don't know, couples counseling! We just don't communicate!" I bemoaned, as if my world were teetering on a very thin edge of mint chocolate chip ice cream-less misery.
"I'll go back", Frank offered
"It's OK" I spoke a little more softly, reigning in my insanity. "I'll buy more next week. But why oh why didn't you get the mint chocolate chip?" *whiny tantrum over*
(Men put up with a lot of hormonal garbage, admit it ladies)
Moments later, with restored sanity and steadied nerves,I saw we still had plenty of berry sorbet in our kitchen freezer. Tragedy was averted and the world was good again.

This week at the alter of delicious ice cream goodness, I got myself 3 count'em 3 pints.


French Vanilla Espresso
Mint Chocolate Chip
Pumpkin





Saturday morning started with loading Tucker and Cole into the Boobaroo and taking them to the groomer. Our groomer (Pet de Lite) is a lovely woman with whom conversing is pleasant if not a bit "lost in translation" due to English being her second language. With trepidation I told her that I wanted Tucker's hair just trimmed on his body, but to really clean up his face and legs. "No summer cut", I said hoping that ESP would have her seeing the picture of Tucker in my head if I concentrated hard enough. Not Yeti, but not like one of those Persian cats who has bad allergies and gets shaved so they wind up looking absolutely ridiculous. Don't laugh. He's been snickered at before. She intently entered all instructions into her computer. Cole could get the usual puppy cut with a snowball head. We left the dynamic duo in good hands and headed back home to pick up Daisy and spend the morning in Old Town.



Our first order of business was breakfast. Old Town seemingly has more and more breakfast options and King Street Cafe is one of them. They make a good, cheap breakfast sandwich that is all I need to fuel me up for a nice walk and visit to the market. Saturday's al fresco breakfast was enjoyable in the shady coolness.



Farmers Market- Part 2

I haven't been to the market in Old Town in forever. I've looked down on it, to be truthful. I've seen it with mostly crafts and very few true farmers and artisans. But yesterday, the market was bustling with vendors and market goers alike. What struck me most was the amount of baked goods, jams and honeys. Savory biscuits were popular as were products using Virginia ham. The produce was beautiful and I felt as though I was in sea of apples, corn, pepper and leafy greens.
With my appetite for market goods not sated with my Friday market visit, on Saturday I bought shitake mushrooms, a savory scone and small raspberry loaf from Maribeth's Bakery, and a bag of Lapsang Souchong tea (which I want to cook with).
If anyone has tried smoking and cooking with Lapsang Souchon tea, please share your experiences!


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pork Chops In A Raspberry Plum Sauce With Sage and Rosemary-Weekend Herb Blogging*

Plums had been showing up at my local farmers markets and their aubergine beauty drew me to them.



I dabbled in a plum upside down cake yet still had a handful leftover. They were beginning to look a little sad and shriveled so "what to do with them?", I thought. It's fall and I begin to think about roasts and turkey married with delicious fruits. "Ah, a sauce!".
Here's a recipe for a sauce using plums and savory herbs. The flavors compliment meats such as pork, chicken, turkey and veal.

Enjoy.

What you'll need:



For the sauce.

Ingredients:


8 prune plums or 2 black plums halved, pitted and sliced
3 Tbsp. raspberry jam
1 Tbsp. butter
1 shallot diced fine
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary chopped fine (or 2 tsp. dry)
1 Tbsp. fresh sage chopped fine (or 1 tsp. dry)
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste




Directions:

Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add herbs and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken stock and plums. Simmer in covered pan for 10 minutes, until plums are completely softened. Add jam and balsamic vinegar. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Add butter, salt and pepper. Stir to incorporate.

This sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead, or frozen and gently reheated when ready to use.

For the pork.


Turn on broiler and place rack 6-8 inches below broiler.
Pat 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick boneless pork chops dry. Salt and pepper each side. Place pork chops in a pan lined with heavy duty aluminum foil.
Place pan on rack under broiler and broil on each side for 5 minutes. Turn off broiler and set oven to 425 degrees. Allow pork chops to continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 145-150 degrees. Allow pork chops to rest for 8-10 minutes before serving with plum sauce.

For cleaning.


Ingredients:


1 dishwasher

1 Bichon Frise


* Weekend Herb Blogging is a weekly event sponsored by Kalyn's Kitchen and hosted by Ulrike at K├╝chenlatein this week.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Caldo Verde - Getting Your Fiber With Flavor!

A painter sees a flower and is inspired to paint. An architect sees a building and envisions how to build it. A poet experiences a powerful life event and takes pen to paper. I see fresh, available ingredients and think about their peak of flavor, how they work with other ingredients and what recipes make them shine.


Working with my farmers market purchases this week, the next recipe up is going to use the kale I got from the Del Ray market.

Caldo Verde, or Portuguese kale soup, is a delicious hearty dish that's high in nutrients and fiber and big on taste. Served as a first course, or main dish with hearty bread, this verdant symbol of Portuguese cuisine satisfies both cook and consumer due to the ease of preparation and accessibility of ingredients. I first discovered caldo verde when watching an episode of Emeril. The colors looked great and I happened to have a bit of Polish kielbasa on hand and thought "what the heck?". I tried it. I liked it.

Now, I've made caldo verde with chorizo and linguica with tasty results. Being Polish, and having kielbasa on hand much of the time, I've taken to making this soup with smoked Polish sausage. I find the kielbasa seasoning goes a long way in flavoring the stock. In this recipe, I use only 8 ounces of turkey kielbasa, in the name of making this soup as healthy as it is robust.


Enjoy!


Ingredients:

1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, diced into half inch squares
8 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
1 lb. kale, sliced thinly into "ribbons" after rib has been removed*
8 ounces kielbasa, chorizo or linguica, casing removed and diced fine
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a dutch oven or heavy pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and continue to cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add chicken stock and water. Place potatoes into pot and cook at a strong simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
Using a potato masher or large fork, break up about half the potatoes to release starch and thicken soup.
Add thinly sliced kale, red pepper flakes and kielbasa. Salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer partially covered over low heat an additional 20 minutes to soften kale.

Serving suggestions: Drizzle a small amount of good extra virgin olive oil over individual servings at the table.

* Chiffonade is a cutting technique which results in thin strips or ribbons. Take leaves and pile one on top of the other. Roll tightly like a cigar and cut across the roll to make ribbons. This cutting method can be used for leafy greens and herbs such as basil.


Tucker says "Good soup that's good for you!" In dog speak, of course....

At the Del Ray Farmers Market - The Autumnal Equinox





On Saturday, I packed up my Bichon Frise, Cole, and headed to Del Ray. Looking at the slide show in this post, you can see dogs are very popular in Del Ray. While not allowed in the market proper, they are welcomed on the grass nearby. Cole got to cavort with a nice black lab while his mama went shopping.



(He was way more excited to go to the market. He gets to lick babies)


Indian Summer came on cue one day before the Autumnal Equinox. Fittingly, nectarines were still available at Toigo's stand, as were Bartlett pears. I bought a handful of each and wandered over to the "cheese guy" from Apple Tree Goat Dairy. Based on my enjoyment of his mediteranean herb covered chevre, I bought a cheddar-horseradish chevre this time around.

Next, I headed over to the farmers from Reva, Va. (first stall on the left as you enter the parking lot). These folks are so nice and their prices are easy on the wallet. I picked up kale and a butternut squash. Finally, as I could hardly wait a minute longer, I bought a chicken saltena from Marcela's Bakery stand. These golden and spicy stew filled savory pastries were piping hot out of the oven just up the street. It was still good and warm when I got it home and tucked into it's goodness.



The goat cheese chevre was fantastic. At $9 for a large log, it's truly a deal and lasts for at least 2 weeks in the refrigerator, wrapped in a paper towel an sealed in a plastic bag. Here's my favorite new snack: chevre on toast with a slice of fresh field tomato.


Stay tuned for a recipe using the kale: Caldo Verde. Yum!





Play With Your Food- Meet Mr. Tomato Head


OK. So I got a little silly when making tomato sauce. What's food for if not to play with once in a while?

If you follow along with me here at Pie a la Mona, you know that I'm a big fan of farmers markets and seasonal cooking. Last week, part of my market harvest was tomato seconds which I bought to make fresh tomato sauce using Marcella Hazan's basic recipe. It's more like a method than an recipe with exact measurements.




First, I cored the tomatoes and sliced them in half. Using a heavy pan, I cooked them covered, over medium heat for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. When the tomatoes were softened, I ran them through a food mill and returned the strained tomatoes to the pan.

















Next, I added a peeled onion, cut in half, and about 5 tablespoons of butter (see Mr. Tomato Head above). This was cooked at a low simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Discard the onion before refrigerating or freezing.

I salted the tomato sauce throughout the reduction process, being careful not to load all the salt at the beginning because the sauce concentrates as it simmers away.

Nine tomatoes yielded almost 2 quarts of simple, delicious sauce.



Note: You can use canned tomatoes for this recipe, but avoid using tomatoes packed in puree. Puree tomatoes are cooked and this detracts from the fresh brightness of this tomato sauce.
Serving ideas: This sauce is great for gnocchi and pastas such as spaghetti or linguine. How about serving it with my meatballs? (good idea!) Serve with fresh shredded basil and grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese.










Saturday, September 22, 2007

At the Kingstowne Farmers Market- The Tween Season

Although yesterday had me still in shorts, the signs of fall were apparent at the market. Gone were the peaches and nectarines. Small ears of corn were a mere shadow of their robust August counterparts. But, that's OK. This is what seasons bring us: produce that burns as bright as a star, then goes to ground only to emerge again next year in full splendor.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under the sun.....a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which has been planted. There is comfort in the rhythm.
And so the apples comfort with their beautiful red and green hues and crisp white flesh. The tomatoes continue to give fruit, unwilling to concede the fall. Apple pies and tomato sauces. The crossroads of the Autumnal Equinox. That time of year ( in Virginia) when sweatshirts top shorts and promising cool clear days are tempered by Indian Summer. I am as excited to fill my basket with Honeycrisp and Empire apples as I am to snap up $1/lb tomato seconds, then run over to the Middleburg Creamery ice cream truck to pick up a pint or two for home.

At Allenberg Orchards: Pumpkin Faces, Honeycrisp apples and tomatoes


Developed in Minnesota in the 1960's as a cross between the Macoun and Honeygold apple, the Honeycrisp apple has soared in popularity since it's commercial release in 1991. The "explosively crisp" apple seems to achieve the elusive balance between sweet and tart, enabling it to be eaten plain and in salads, baked goods and savory recipes. Large cell structure gives it extra crunch and it can be stored in the refrigerator for months.
Behold the Honeycrisp:
















A mix of seconds tomatoes were still lovely specimens which will be used today in Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce recipe. I'm still too much of a coward to try canning them, so the sauce will be frozen in zip-loc baggies.



















At Crackpot Gourmet: Delicious Jams

Smita Nordwall of Crackpot Gourmet offers wonderful jams with perennial and seasonal favorites. She has been selling her jams at the Kingstowne Market for 3 years. I bought a jar of "Peachy Keen" jam, which is also made with blackberry brandy and almond. It transcends the store brands by a mile and is fragrant with fresh peaches.















Samples and good company are abundant at Smita's stall.


















Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Country Captain Chicken- an exotic and easy curry

At first glance, country captain chicken would appear to be a southern dish conjured up to delight dinner guests with it's far eastern spice. In fact, this dish is an easy East India curry probably first served at an English table by an Indian soldier in service of the United Kingdom. While in the service of the UK, Indian troops were referred to as "sepoys". In their native India, they were called the "country troops". The "Captain" likely refers to a native captain of troops.



The earliest published recipe for country captain chicken according to Cecily Brownstone, a food columnist, was in 1857 in Miss Leslie's New Cookery Book. Early in the twentieth century Alexander Filippini, the chef at Delmonico's in New York City, was famous for making this dish with dried currents and slivered almonds, as it is generally prepared today and in my version. Ms. Brownstone, being a strong proponent of properly prepared country captain chicken, had an ally in the late James Beard, who taught this recipe to his students and eventually it made it's way into "The Joy of Cooking".


My Country Captain recipe aligns itself closely with Cecily Brownstone's. It comes from a wonderful cookbook: of the "365" series of cookbooks. In particular, this is from "365 Ways to Cook Chicken".


Ingredients:


1/2 cup flower


1 chicken (3 lb.) cut up, or 3 lb. chicken thighs


3 tbsp. vegetable oil


1 cup chopped onion


1 green bell pepper, chopped


1 red bell pepper, chopped


2 tsp. curry powder


1/2 tsp. salt


1/4 tsp. ground pepper


1/4 tsp. mace (or 1/4 tsp. nutmeg)


1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes


1 tbsp. chopped parsley


1/2 cup currants (or 1/2 cup golden raisins)


1/4 cup slivered almonds


Directions:


Place flour in a shallow baking or pie dish. Dredge chicken to coat lightly.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large dutch or cast iron oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken and brown on each side, about 10 minutes. Do this in batches to not over crowd the pan. Remove chicken to paper towel and set aside.

To the same pan, add onions bell peppers, and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes. Add curry powder, salt, pepper and mace. Stir to blend. Add tomatoes, parsley and raisins.

Bring to a gentle boil and return chicken to pan. Reduce heat and simmer partly covered for 40 minutes, until chicken is tender.



Serve over rice and garnish with almonds.

Soup Ought To Be A Food Group- Polish Mushroom Soup



Soup is one of my favorite things to eat and make actually. Sometimes, I wish the bowl were bottomless! It's filling, satisfying and comforting all at the same time. Here's a recipe for a mushroom soup using Polish dried Borowik (king of mushrooms) mushrooms which I picked up here in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia has a rather large Polish population in the neighborhood of Port Richmond, were my mother grew up. Polish grocery stores carry Polish products of all sorts. These mushrooms caught my eye and made me reminisce about that earthy soup, usually served on holidays. My mother's version adds potato dumplings and prunes. Tonight, I garnished mine with sherry and a dollop of sour cream.

Ingredients:

1.4 (or there abouts )oz. dried Borowik or dried porcini mushrooms
2 pints white (button) mushrooms

8 cups beef stock

3 cups water

1 carrot

3 stalks celery with leaves

1 medium onion

1 cup half and half

1/2 cup sherry

2 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

In a sauce pan, bring 3 cups of water to a gently boil. Add dried mushrooms and reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.

In a pot (I use le creuset enameled cast iron dutch oven), saute fresh mushrooms in 1 tbsp. butter. Add a pinch of salt to allow mushrooms to release their liquid. Set aside in a bowl.

In same pot, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add shredded carrots, diced onion and diced celery. Saute gently for 10 minutes. Add beef stock and simmer gently, uncovered for 30 minutes.

Strain beef stock and discard vegetables. Return stock to pot and add sauteed mushrooms and dried mushrooms with liquid. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add half and half and sherry.

Blend in blender or use immersion blender to get desired consistency.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a shot of sherry on the side!







*Don't forget to inspire me with your soup challenge recipes!*

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Prune Plum Upside Down Cake


Prune plums were looking gorgeous at the farmers market last Friday. I bought a pint of them and said "Hmmm....what now?" I decided on an easy recipe from Epicurious which showcases their purple and red beauty.

This cake makes for a nice breakfast along with a cup of tea or coffee. It's not just for dessert!




**note** I baked the cake for an hour and it was a tad dry. I would set the timer for 50 minutes and check for doneness then.


Enjoy!