Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Come on over to the sour side...

I'm very excited about today's extra special panini - Roasted Pork Loin with Sour Cherry Chutney. We also have the Pesto Caprese Panini.

After two quarts of pie filling, six pints of jam and chutney for today's special, I still have about five pounds of the precious ruby fruit. Next up is a Sour Cherry Marmalade and a Cherry Cordial.

Plans are afoot for another cherry picking and then a staff field trip to the farm. I promise news will be of a non-cherry nature in the very near future. It's just that they're so delicious and available for such a short period of time. Unlike asparagus imported from Brazil, strawberries from Argentina or leeks from Holland, sour cherries are only readily available from local farms. And at $1.99 pound (for 10 pounds or more) they are a tasty bargain. The big black bing cherries are delicious to eat out of hand, but for baking and preserving sour cherries are the way to go.

There are several more cherry projects in the works but when I've had enough my housemate will be bribed to sit down behind the pitter and I'll freeze the extra berries in 4 cup containers. In the cold of winter a hot cherry buckle will be just the thing.

"But Carma, you have a restaurant. What could I possibly do with 20 pounds of cherries?" Go ahead, Google "sour cherry recipes". I double dare you. And I'll see you in the orchard.

PS: Bring your cherries to the cafe, grab something to drink and a table on the terrace, and I'll loan you my cherry pitter.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A cherry Monday

At the cafe today we have the Pesto Caprese Panini and a Honey Dew Salad with Mint and Fresh Mozzarella.

Michael an I went sour cherry picking at Larriland Farm on Sunday and in less than thirty minutes we had picked 15 pounds of cherries! The trees were practically bent double with the weight of fruit. Interesting fact about sour cherries, they ripen all at one time. So last night I made Sour Cherry Jam and two quarts of pie filling. Today it's chutney.

Look for some cherry specials on Tuesday and Wednesday!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Treats abound!

Fresh out of the oven this morning we have Honey Cherry Scones and Cinnamon Muffins. For lunch I am putting together a Gnosh Tray featuring hummus, white bean with rosemary spread, corn chips with flaxseeds, cheese, homemade pickles, fresh rice cakes, toast points and who knows what else. It's one of my favorite meals and great for sharing. I'm also making Pastrami and Swiss Panini with zebra sauce.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pennsylvania Dutch Market Field Trip

Today's specials are Curried Tuna Salad Sandwich, a Beet Kale Salad with Walnuts from our CSA produce, Oatmeal Whoopie Pies and Coconut Custard Pie from Aunt Erma's Bakery.

Just a few minutes up I-83 and around the corner from Wegman's is the Pennsylvania Dutch Market. Let me start with a warning; the market is only open Thursday 9am-6pm, Friday 9am-8pm and Saturday 8am-4pm. This weekend (June 25-27) they are having a Pig Roast and Sidewalk Sale (I saw homemade ice cream!). And the first Friday of every month from 4:00pm - 7:30pm the BBQ Pit serves an all-you-can-eat buffet of BBQ chicken, potatoes, macaroni salad, cole slaw, roll, beverage and dessert.

But the reasons to make the trip are Welsh Mountain Deli's cheese case and locally produced milk and cream (in glass bottles); Aunt Erma's Bakery's homemade cakes and pies; the Pickle Patch's homemade donuts, fresh popped grain cakes ("rice cakes") and fresh potato chips; the gorgeous meats and sausages from Amish Country Meats; and the amazing selection of candies (including old fashion favorites like Walnettos, Sky Bars and Squirrel Nut Zippers) and nuts from Lydia Ann's Candies (who offers 10% off on Saturdays from 8am-10am).

In addition there is also a few craft vendors that sell furniture, braised rugs/mats, pottery and jewelry. Several prepared food vendors offer sandwiches, fried chicken, barbecue and desserts.

I hope you enjoy the slide show and my very first video production. It says a lot about fresh rice cakes that their smell is as enticing as the sweet goodness wafting over from the bakery!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Flavors Added

We have Kasey's great Turkey Guacamole sandwich and The Greenhouse - our Powerhouse sandwich plus quacamole (when you've got good guacamole spread it around, right?). And the Spicy Jack Panino with turkey, very spicy pepper cheese, grilled red onion and zebra sauce is also available.

Just wanted to mention we've added a few new Monin flavors - Pomegranate, O'Free Strawberry and O'Free Peach. The O'Free syrups are made with Spenda® and, like all the flavored syrups, are great for sweetening and adding flavor to iced tea. You can also add a shot of flavor to lemonade (Strawberry Lemonade has been very popular), a San Pelligrino or any other drink we serve. To make things more interesting, consider combining flavors for a unique thirst quincher.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We're Roasting!

Your weekly food porn, complements of One Straw Farm.

It's going to be a scorcher and I'm making a Roasted Garlic Garbonzo Chard Salad with Cous Cous (try sayi ng that three times fast!). The garbonzos, garlic, shallots and fresh bay leaves are in the oven roasting and they will be tossed with braised swiss chard, served around a little pile of cous cous and top with a light sprinkle of feta cheese. The kitchen smells outrageous!

We also still have a great Turkey Guacamole sandwich and The Greenhouse - our Powerhouse sandwich plus quacamole.

Last night I made a pint of Blackberry Raspberry Jam. Actually, one pint and and a little extra that the staff is enjoying this morning. It took about 20 minutes, used one pot, and a potato masher and was done with no special equipment. (By the way, thanks for "inspiring" me to clean the cook top!) After the jar cooled to room temperature I put it in the refrigerator where it will store safely for a long, long time (provided I don't go on a crepe, ice cream, toast, biscuit, scone binge and eat it all!).

The secret to small batch jam is treating pectin like a condiment. Until a few years ago it never occured to me that pectin could be used by the spoonful. Growing up we had a room of homemade preserves so a "batch" always used the full package. I have never seen a recipe that stated the amount of pectin needed for a quantity of fruit; it is always the quantity of fruit needed for a package of pectin. But we're going to change that today.

Here's how it's done.

Blackberry Raspberry Jam
1 pint fruit, washed and drained
1 3/4 cups white sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon pectin

Get one pint of fresh raspberries, blackberries or a combination. These are two half-pint containers.

Wash and drain the berries. Combine in a pot with the sugar and slightly mash to get the juices flowing.

Stirring frequently, bring to a rolling boil that can not be stirred down. Be careful not to let the mixture boil over.

Sprinkle the pectin on the fruit and stir in. I mixed it with a bite of cassis, but this is not necessary. Bring the mixture back to a boil and boil for exactly one minute stirring constantly.

Pour into container. Cover and allow to come to room temperature. Store under refrigeration.

That little bite extra? It's the instant gratification.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More alike than different...

Kasey's making a Turkey Guacamole Sandwich today - roasted turkey, fresh guacamole, dill havarti cheese, tomato and a bit of red onion and The Greenhouse - our Powerhouse plus guacamole!

A number of years ago I spent some time in the mountains of northern Portugal working with a group of women's cooperatives who raised sheep for fleece to produce wool garments and grew flax which they spun into linen. It was the first time I had traveled outside of the United States but, in the oddest way, I felt perfectly at home. Having grown up in a rural community in the Blue Ridge mountains half a world away, there were some remarkable similarities that put me right at ease.

The people were warm, self-sufficient and pragmatic - very much like my mother's family. And the men were not above baiting the foreign girl drinking aquadente (a wicked brandy made from grape skins. The best ports are made by fortifying wine with aquadente distilled from the skin of grapes crushed for that specific wine) and lighting her cigarettes with kitchen matches. It was the sort of playful sparring Paw-Paw and I had enjoyed (and which put poor Granny's nerves on edge).

I was struck by the similarities in food. There was a delicious cornbread that we bought from a truck that drove through the village every other day. This cornbread was dense and rich and sour. I think they must have slightly fermented cornmeal mash before baking the bread, maybe even collecting wild yeast in the processes for leavening. There was some type of dark green leafy vegetable that grew on a stalk and was cut as needed. Even in February there were stalks that had grown to three or four feet, covered with the scars of harvest and still a few leaves ready to be cut. It might have been collards or at least a distant European cousin. Even the big planks of bacalhau (salted cod) was stored and used very much like the precious country ham I grew up eating.

On my next trip I took a small old-timey Appalachian cookbook and a set of measuring cups and spoons as a hostess gift. We sat together and went through the recipes translating things like "oleo" and "a dash". She was as surpised as I had been in the similarities of our tradional cuisines.

Which brings me to polenta, that sublime, rich northern Italian staple. That versatile grain which can be prepared savory or sweet, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The golden base upon which the most sophisticated sauces are ladled in five star restaurants.

It's grits, people. It's coursely ground cornmeal. The same stuff that has been produced in water mills all across the southern United States since colonial times. The ubiqitious dollop of hot grainy mash served with a knob of butter on every breakfast plate south of the Mason Dixon line. There is white corn and yellow corn. Grits are generally made from white degerminated corn, polenta from yellow degerminated corn.

I'm gobsmacked.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rosemary is for memory

Definitely try to come in for lunch if you have a chance! Michael made a delicious Swiss Chard Lasagne. We also have Broccoli Vegetable Soup and Pimento Cheese Crustini which make a great lunch combo.

Saturday when I left the cafe I ran out to Valley View Farms to pick up some herbs. The Waverly Market had long since closed, I was feeling restless and it's been a long time since I just ambled around VVF. The place is filled with great smells. You would expect the sweet smell of flowers, the clean bracing scent of evergreens and pungent herbs, but there's also the smell of moist dirt, dusty terra cotta pots, the decomposing of compost and in the background, the slightly chemical scent of soil additives, fertilizers and the poisons for "pest management".

I picked up a pepper plant, a couple of pickling cucumber plants that are particularly suited to container gardening and a pot each of basil and rosemary.

Rosemary is the first fresh herb I remember using and the "recipe" involved chicken breasts, a can of cream of mushroon soup, a bag of dry stuffing cubes and a handfull of minced fresh rosemary and I'm pretty sure we can blame that concoction on my father who, in all fairness, probably got it off the side of a box, bag or can.

Truth is, I'd eat my weight in that goopy white mess just to have another hour with him. Bob died in May of 2000, about two years before Michael and I started down the road to opening Carma's Cafe. In the early days, while we were building, sometimes the smell of gardenias would fill the small space and I'd remember bowls of floating flowers given to my mother and me. It was an anxious time, as you can imagine, but the ghostly perfume was reassuring. Sentimental projections or not, two thing are for certain. I would have been a very different woman if Bob had never come into my life and you would not be reading this blog.

So in celebration of my father's life, fresh vegetables and herbs, I offer you one of his favorite recipes. I hope you will try this very simple, but very satifying, soup (and it freezes beautifully!).

Bob's Italian Garden Soup
1 large onion, diced
1 large clove garlic (or 2), crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 quart chicken stock
1 pound Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
(or 16 oz can Italian style tomatoes, diced)
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano (1 tablespoon minced fresh)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil (1 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh)

Note: you can add any other vegetable available including potatoes, peas, spinach, parsnips, etc. just remember to dice/slice/cut to a size that will fit nicely in a soup spoon!

Croutons and parmesan cheese

In a large kettle, saute onions and garlic in oilive oil/butter for about five minutes or until onions are translucient, stirring often. Add remaining ingredients, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Serve topped with croutons and cheese.

"There's rosemary; that's for remembrance.
Pray, love, remember."
• Shakespeare, Hamlet

Saturday, June 20, 2009

We have Saturday Specials!

Good Morning Baltimore! If you stop by this morning you will find the tent is set up and you can enjoy the rain with a cup of coffee and your favorite breakfast.

We have Savory Vegetable Spoonbread in the oven. And the Chocolate to the Max Muffins - chocolate, chocolate chip with chocolate ganache and Cinnamon Praline Scones have just come out of the oven. I'm also working on a Broccoli Vegetable Soup that I really can't tell you nay more about because it is still in the creation process!

If you are looking for something fun to do while staying dry, stop by the Charm City Craft Mafia's Pile of Craft sale at St. John's Church on 27th and St. Paul. Shop local, support artists and craftspeople and come away with a bunch of cool apparel, jewelry, accessories, ceramics, paper goods, fine art and so much more!

As my favorite button says, The revolution is being handmade!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rainy Day Thursday Specials

From local farms we have a fresh organic special of Red Leaf Lettuce Salad with Roasted Baby Carrots, radishes, red onion and Creamy Sage Goat Cheese Parmesan Dressing while it lasts.

Kasey is making Roasted Butternut Soup (vegetarian).

We also have Crostini with Homemade Pimento Cheese.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Welcome home!

UPDATE: The salad special is a Red Leaf Lettuce Salad with Roasted Baby Carrots, radishes, red onion and Creamy Sage Goat Cheese Parmesan Dressing.

Yea, Michael's back and I'm certain he will be coming up with a garden salad special with all the veggies from One Straw Farm. This week I picked up leaf lettuce, more garlic scamps (my new favorite ingredient), precious multi-colored radishes and some red swiss chard. Doesn't Creamy Tomato Basil Soup and a Fresh Garden Salad sound nice? (Of course, our Gazpacho is really just a wet, chopped salad so you could go for a salad and salad lunch if you're feeling particularly righteous.) We also still have the Pimento Cheese Salad Sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes.

From another local organic farmer at the market, Calverts Gift Farm from Sparks, Maryland, I got fresh baby carrots and fresh garlic. I overheard the farmer talking to another customer and explaining that garlic that is currently being sold in the supermarket is as much as a year old. Individual cloves of new garlic don't even need to be peeled; the layers and layers of paperthin skin develop as the garlic ages.

So here are this weeks pics.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Confessions of a lapsed southerner...

Forgive me Father for I have sinned.....

Okay, so the Presbyterian Grandmother would not approve of the confessional humor but she'd definitely understand the motivation.

My Grandmother often made a sandwich spread that includes cheddar cheese, pickle relish, and some mayonnaise and mustard. I just couldn't think what to call it - if it were tuna or chicken it would be a salad, right? But cheese salad just sounds weird. So Trish (she's one of the new faces) speaks up and says, "I grew up eating something like that. At home we call it pimento cheese". Well, duh! The Grand Dames are going to take away my hoop skirt privileges; I've clearly been away from home for too long.

Pimento cheese is a southern staple. It's tasty, relatively inexpensive, easy to prepare and very satisfying. And almost unheard of outside the southern United States (unless your a golf efficiando - the pimento cheese sandwiches are very popular at Augusta).

Granted, most pimento cheese these days comes in a plastic tub and has a tahitian sunset orange/pink color, but what I've got for you is the real deal. Pimento Cheese Salad Sandwich served in a hollowed ciabatta sub roll with tomatoes and lettuce. And to celebrate the cool breeze, Joe and I are making Creamy Tomato Basil Soup. We also have Gazpacho.

I've got tomorrow off and the plan is to come up with something special for the CSA veggies to share with you on Thursday. Someone asked why I pick-up from Kennilworth in Towson instead of the farmers market. The Kennilworth market is on Tuesdays - early in the week so the Cafe can use the produce at its freshist and I can give you a "heads up" on what will be coming to the Waverly Market on Saturday.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Better late.....

Sorry I forgot to post, but our special today is the Spicy Jack Panini with turkey, very spicy pepper cheese, grilled red onions and zebra sauce. Gazpacho is the "summer soup". Although we do occasionally toss in a hot soup or a different cold soup, it's a sure thing that Gazpacho will be on the menu at least through August.

With back-to-back catering events today and tomorrow I don't really have time to chat, but I would like to remind you that tomorrow is another CSA pick-up. And I'll leave you with a pretty picture and a birthday shout out to Cassidy who now requires 2 boxes of candles to set her birthday cake aflame.

Lemon Cake with Fresh Raspberry Coulis

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Getting Pickled...the old fashion way.

Happy Saturday! You going to Hon Fest? Today and tomorrow on the Avenue in Hamden, hon.

We have Berry Scones with a dollop of yogurt and homemade strawberry jam. I also made a Stir Fry-style Strata with broccoli, water chestnuts, peppers, mushrooms and parmesan cheese, as well as a Denver Frittata with ham, red onion and green pepper. And I may very well stir up some more muffins when this post is made - probably chocolate ones.

The pointed cabbage is left from this weeks CSA and although it would hold, I'm going to pickle it. I haven't decided if it will be a pickle from the German tradition, the Korean tradition or to go freestyle. Cabbage-based pickles and relishes make a great accompaniment to meat dishes, epecially pork. A number of years ago I made a relish that included cabbage, red onion, beets and apples and loved it. My only hope of recreating it is to find a stained page in one of my many (many, many) cookbooks.

This weekend time will be spent going through some of those recipes and picking out the ones to make, share and/or adapt. Any requests?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Welcoming a new neighbor

We have White Bean and Kale Soup, Gazpacho and the Curried Tuna Salad Parmesan Sandwich today.

Not much to report except my trip to the new Ace Hardware store in Waverly. Truth is, this is about the fourth or fifth time I've "stopped in". How handy is it to have such a well stocked store so close?! If you haven't been in - do. It's in that great old municipal building on the 32nd Street side of Giant - formerly the Blockbuster Video store.

They carry a nice selection of housewares, as well as a bit of gardening, grilling, plumbing, electrical, fasteners/hooks, tools, paint....... and the list goes on. There is a lot of good stuff tucked into a relatively small place (remind you of anywhere else in the neighborhood?).

Yesterday I went in to find eye hooks to repair a chair and noticed they have a very respectable little canning/freezing supplies section. The only thing missing was my favorite freezer jars and the staff was so helpful (and very friendly and polite too) I'm encouraging the store manager to get them. What I was really excited to find was this great little set of tools, very reasonably priced at $20.99. It is really all you need to get started provided you own a pot that is at least 8 inches deep and have some canning jars.

So if you are tempted to join me in preserving summer's bounty get yourself over to Ace Hardware and pick up the Presto 7 Function Canning Kit. They also have a larger set that includes a canning pot and rack which is really necessary if you are going to be putting up larger quantities of food and using quart size or larger jars.

Oh yes, and they also have the bright yellow recycling bins in both sizes.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Balsamic Strawberry Jam

It turned out lovely!

Balsamic Strawberry Jam
4 pints strawberries, smallish and some under ripe
7 cups white sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 package liquid pectin

Hull and rinse off berries quickly in cool water. Allow to drain for a few minutes in a strainer or colander. Combine all ingredients except pectin in a non-reactive (glass, ceramic, plastic) bowl. Cover tightly and let sit at least 8 hours (or up to 24) at room temperature. This step insures some nice whole berries in your jam so don't skip it!

Transfer berry/sugar mixture into a stainless steel pot. Over medium high heat bring fruit to a boil then lower to a simmer for about one hour. Skim off heavy foam as necessary (about a teaspoon of butter added to the pot will help reduce the foam). Turn heat back to medium high and once the fruit returns to a rolling boil slowly stir in pectin. Boil and stir constantly for exactly one minute (really. Do the one Mississippi, two Mississippi thing or set a timer).

Remove from heat. At this point you can either process in glass canning jars or distribute in freezer containers. Allow the freezer jars of jam to sit at room temperature to cool, them move into the freezer.

Makes 6 pints (or about 12 jam jars)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

We're Jammin' in the kitchen!

At Aaron's request, our sandwich special is the Curried Tuna Salad Parmesan. It's a traditional, cold, mayonnaise-based tuna salad that is lightly seasoned and has an appealing "crunch". We have Gazpacho and I'm making a Hearty Kale and White Bean Soup (vegan) that probably will not be ready until 12:30 or 1:00 p.m.

I'm also putting up some Balsamic Strawberry Jam today. I picked up the berries from Three Springs Fruit Farm of Wenksville, Pennsylvania at the Kennilworth Farmers Market (Tuesdays from 4-8 pm). The recipe will be up as soon as I make sure it's a good one! In the mean time, here is the prep procedure using one of my favorite kitchen hand tools - the Shark.

My trusty little strawberry huller (aka The Shark)

Position huller at the edge of the leaf cap.....

One little half-twist toward your thumb....

Neat little cleaned berry.

Quick, easy, minimum fruit loss, about $2.95. Great for coring tomatoes, de-seeding pears and a host of other food prep items. Processing four pounds of small, delicate strawberries took me less than 15 minutes.

Fresh from the farm to you....

I made a Warm Lentil and Rainbow Chard Salad today from the bounty of produce I picked up from the CSA yesterday. The salad, made with french green lentils; brown & red rice with wheat berries; rainbow chard and garlic scapes, is full of taste and texture, as well as vitamins and fiber.

We also have Gazpacho and the Spicy Jack Panino - turkey, very spicy pepper cheese, grilled onions and zebra sauce.

Sorry about the poor photo quality. Left to right: Rainbow Chard,Garlic Scamps, Kale, Strawberries, Pointed Cabbage and Arugula.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

While the cat's away....

Today we have Carma's Potato Leek (non-vegetarian) and Gazpacho for soup. Our sandwiches are the Pesto Caprese and a Pesto Turkey.

This afternoon is my first CSA pick up and I'm very excited about the prospect. According to the harvest chart my choices will include a large selection of green leaf vegetables as well as herbs, sweetpeas, radishes and probably yellow squash. While I was out shopping yesterday I picked up some pearl mozzarella for a salad special later this week.

During the course of the season, Wednesday's blog post will include recipes, preserving tips and other suggestions for how to maximize your investment and minimize loss. If there is anything specific you like to see addressed please drop me a line at carmascafe at verixon dot net or leave a comment here.

By the way, Michael is taking a few days to visit his family in California. I sincerely hope they send him back in one piece. There were mutterings of skydiving, bungee jumping or other such nonsense. Boys (insert eye roll here).....

Monday, June 8, 2009

Don't forget your sunscreen!

Yes folks, that bright, hot orb is the sun actually shinning on Baltimore! Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend. Beautiful weather for the Charles Village Festival.

Today we have Carma's Potato Leek Soup (non-vegetarian) and Gazpacho as well as the Spicy Jack Panino.

Off to do the shopping and fix coffee hour for the JHU grad students. It's why Monday is my second favorite day of the week.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Festival Weekend

We have Potato Leek Soup (not vegetarian, btw) and Gazpacho today. We also have the Spinach and Strawberry Salad with goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and a poppy seed dressing.

Today's special sandwich is Pesto Caprese.

Thinking that a lot of our regulars may be grabbing a coffee and heading to the Charles Village Festival, I made some very tasty Strawberry Banana Muffins and Chocolate Pecan Scones. One member of the staff has declared the Strawberry Banana Muffin the best muffin he's ever eaten and "I've eaten some good muffins."

Friday, June 5, 2009


What a wet spring!

We're planning wonderful salad specials this summer. Today we have a Spinach and Strawberry Salad with goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and a poppy seed dressing. YUMMO!

We also have our perennial summer soup, Gazpacho, and African Peanut Soup.

Today's special sandwich is Pesto Caprese.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday Specials

Spicy Jack Panino with turkey, spicy pepper cheese, grilled red onion and zebra sauce, the very popular African Peanut Soup and Gazpacho (both vegan) are on the menu.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tuesday Specials

Spicy Jack Panino with turkey, very spicy pepper cheese, grilled red onion and zebra sauce, Michael's homemade Chicken Noodle Soup and Gazpacho are on the menu for today.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Welcome to the summer groove

Spicy Jack Panino with turkey, very spicy pepper cheese, grilled red onion and zebra sauce, Michael's homemade Chicken Noodle Soup and Gazpacho are on the menu for today.

It's also the first week after Memorial Day and that signals summer has actually arrived. Don't forget your sunscreen, find a swimming hole and spend some day soon soaking up Vitamin D. Stop by the cafe and I'll pack you a picnic to take along.