Friday, August 28, 2009

Welcome back!

Sandwich specials are Curried Parmesan Tuna Salad, Fresh Tomato and Basil Panini with Smoked Mozzarella and the Turkey BLT with Basil Mayo.

So for any of you who may have been out of Charles Village, yesterday was move-in day at JHU. Rolling bins filled with all the necessities were being wheeled up and down streets, gaggles of undergrads were loud and excited to catch up with friends, and between moving vehicles and road work, traffic is moving slowly and parking is a nightmare.

I'm heading out of town this weekend. Going to see my Mama, maybe hit the farmers market in Roanoke, visit with some friends and stop and check out Barren Ridge Vineyards on the way down. The camera is packed so you might want to check the cafes facebook page for some "on the road" photos.

Today is Day 2 of Moon & Stars pickle making, so the pot will be traveling with me as it requires some daily maintenance. I'll be actually posting the recipe when we can the pickles next week.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The sweet smell of roasting garlic

Roasted Garbanzo Bean and Garlic with Swiss Chard is making a return appearance. If you were one of the people who missed it the first time around try to make it in today. It is served on a veggie pilaf with toasted baguette.

Sandwich specials will include the Curried Parmesan Tuna Salad, Fresh Tomato and Basil Panini with Smoked Mozzarella and the Turkey BLT with Basil Mayo.

This week at the market I picked up some beautiful bunches of purple basil (also known as opal basil) with no particular purpose in mind and although we have been doing "tomato this and basil that" for a week now, the purple basil just wasn't speaking to me. The ripe red tomatoes and bright green basil nestled up against the white of mozzarella or baguette just seem right.

There are several easy ways to preserve fresh leafy herbs. My favorite is to process them with a bit of olive in the food processor, dollop that out by the tablespoon into ice cube trays and freeze them. Then pop the frozen cubes out of the tray and store in a zip lock bag in the freezer. In January when a little one ounce package of basil costs $4.95 this little bit of summer freshness will cost you all of about 25 cents.

Another very easy solution is flavored vinegar. Just put the herbs in vinegar, let sit for a month or so and voila! flavored vinegar. Toss in fruit or mix herbs for unique flavor combinations. You can vinegar buy the gallon and recycle soy sauce, salad dressing and other glass bottles to package the homemade gourmet vinegar. In the photo below, I have soaked the label off of a bottle of inexpensive white wine vinegar and saved the container for repackaging; put the white wine vinegar, fresh purple basil, several smashed cloves of garlic and a dozen peppercorns in a quart jar; and labeled the jar with the contents (especially helpful if you want to make gift tags or labels December). These make great hostess gifts.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The moon and stars....

Fresh Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Panini
Watermelon Limeade

And something from the CSA bounty that involves chard, purple basil and peppers. We'll just have to see....
• • • • •

When I went to pick up our CSA shares this week I overheard Joan talking to another patron about which melons had seeds and which were seedless and an idea sprung fully formed into my head - watermelon rind pickles. The over-engineered, inbreed watermelons of the pale seedless variety have very thin rinds. By the time the green outer skin has been removed there isn't much rind left to preserve. Thinking the seeded melons might be what I was looking for, I asked Joan if the seeded melons had thicker rinds. In two shakes she was up in the back of the One Straw Farm truck bent almost double over a huge bin muttering something about just the thing. She came out with this heirloom beauty - a Moon & Stars Watermelon which she assures me has huge seeds that will make for great spitting.

It takes a full week to make Grandma's Watermelon Rind Pickle and another four weeks until they are ready to be eaten, but the reward is a very tasty, spicy and unique pickle. Panic almost set in when the yellowing recipe card in Grandma's distinct handwriting didn't turn up right away. On the other hand, flipping through my oldest recipe cards brought back some very fond memories. Most people flip through photo albums and get teary-eyed, I end up crying in my recipe box. Anyway, the recipe did turn up and we are going to make some pickles!

I can still feel her soft, Blue Grass scented check pressed to mine and she'd whisper in my ear, "I love you more than anything on this earth; more than the moon and stars."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Still more cherry happenings!

Turkey BLT with Basil Mayo
Lettuce and Tomato on Toasted Ciabatta with Basil Mayo
BLT on Rustic White Toast

Antipasta Strata with sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, artichokes, roasted red peppers, olives, parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

Cherry season is sadly behind us, but I wanted to share another (calorie free) cherry delight. After weeks of following the cherry saga, my buddy Anne made a present of these - out of the blue - no occasion but to celebrate this small tart fruit and our friendship. Hand knitted socks are precious gift and not one that I take lightly. If you are ever on the receiving end of a pair of hand knitted socks you can be assured love is woven into every one of the myriad stitches.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Come sit in our tent and let it rain, let it rain, let it rain

Turkey BLT with Basil Mayo
Lettuce and Tomato on Toasted Ciabatta with Basil Mayo
BLT on Rustic White Toast

Antipasta Strata with mushrooms, artichokes, roasted red peppers, olives, parmesan and mozzarella cheese.

Also have Pumpkin Cranberry Scones and Cinnamon Scones.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Tomato chemistry

Turkey BLT with Basil Mayo
Lettuce and Tomato on Toasted Ciabatta with Basil Mayo
BLT on Rustic White Toast

Also have Blueberry Marmalade Coffee Cake and Nutmeg Crumb Coffee Cake just out of the oven.

In the next few weeks my personal food goal is to sample every variety of tomato to be found at local farmers markets. So far my favorite has been an orange fleshed slicing tomato that I got from the Kennilworth Market. One of the vendors (whose name I will remember to take down this week) has won my affection by offering many varieties of large tomatoes as well as Roma, cherry and pear tomatoes in every conceivable color and she has fresh shelled lima beans. Did I mention she is directly across from a bread vendor?

A few tid-bits about the selection and care of tomatoes. Use your nose! If you've never grown tomatoes the vine has a unique smell and fresh tomatoes smell like tomato and their vine. The scent will be strongest on the blossom end (the part of the fruit not attached to the vine).

Select firm, heavy fruit with a smooth, tight skin with no bruises and handle them with care. When you get home store the tomatoes on the counter or in a cubbard stem side up and out of direct sun. Do not, under any circumstances, put them in the refigerator!

A compound called Z-3 hexenel is responsible for the flavor and scent of tomatoes. The process that turns linolenic acid to the lip smacking tastiness of Z-3 is inhibited by cold temperatures resulting in mealy tomatoes that have been robbed of flavor.

If by chance in your enthusiasm to celebrate tomato season, you purchase more tomatoes than your family can eat roast them! If you haven't done this before be prepared for one of those head slapping "why didn't I know this" moments.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Farm fresh specials abound

Pork Loin with Fresh Peach Chutney Panini

local BACON, organic LETTUCE and TOMATO
on locally baked, fresh RUSTIC BREAD

Grilled Veggie Pesto Whole Wheat Pasta Salad

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What's your favorite way to eat a fresh tomato?

Roasted Pork Loin Sandwich with Fresh Peach Chutney and Swiss Cheese is on the menu today, as well as Watermelon Limeade.

Just a heads up. Today is market day and fresh tomatoes are at the top of my shopping list. Can BLTs be far behind?

Michael was saying just the other day that about one time each year he buys a loaf of squishy white bread and gorges himself on tomato mayonnaise sandwiches.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no bad way to eat a good, fresh, raw tomato. A thick slice of tomato, still warm from the vine on a hot, buttered biscuit with lots of cracked pepper is one of my favorites (and Granny's too). Of course hollowed out and stuffed with cottage cheese, chicken salad or tuna salad is also a classic summer "diet" lunch.

A fresh baguette, tomato slices, a chiffonade of basil with Mr. Mastellone's fresh mozzarella and a bit of best quality olive oil makes a first rate, dead sexy picnic (it is called the apple of love or
pomme d'amour). And although the Mastellones have retired, I believe the cheese is still made fresh daily. The "new" owners are the fine people of DiPasquale's, another venerable Baltimore family-owned grocer.

I'd like to encourage you to tuck a salt shaker in your pocket when heading to the farmers market this week. Park your rear end on a curb and sit there eatting your tomato out-of-hand just like an apple. If you are really fortunate, there might be just a hint of garden dust still clinging to the fruit.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Food/Fiber Find


Spicy Jack Panino -- turkey, grilled red onions, spicy colby jack cheese, and tiger sauce. Make it vegetarian by replacing the turkey with hummus. Yummo.


Every now and then I run across a place so unexpected it makes me giddy. Really. The initial urge is to jump up and down clapping my hands and giggling. That's some visual isn't it? Anyway, Anne and I were off an a yarn safari Saturday afternoon when, in the middle of the suburban serengeti, we found a wonderful cafe!

Nora Cafe is located at 8450 Baltimore Nation Pike in a strip mall that has seen better days, but my jaw dropped when we walked through the door. This European-style restaurant has an extensive menu, an amazing pastry case and is a delightful environment to enjoy the company of a friend, do a bit of knitting or haul out the laptop to get some work done.

We both had salads that were large and fresh. The grilled chicken on my Caesar salad was well seasoned and moist. We split a very large linzer cookie (and I had a very respectable macciato) that was that much sweeter because of the charming baker that took so much pride in his product.

If you are a knitter or crocheter, Large Marge's Yarn Shop is in the adjoining plaza and is worth the trip. She has a nice selection of yarn, some of which I haven't seen at other stores in the area. The shop is huge which makes it appear a bit sparse until you realize what a nice assortment of colors in every weight of yarn is in stock, plus some of the more boutique yarns. In the back of the store is a knitter's family room complete with couches and arm chairs where the shop holds movie night.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Saturday goodies

We have fresh from the oven....

Peach Poppyseed Muffins
Vanilla Nutmeg Coffeecake
Strawberry Coffeecake (made with homemade strawberry balsamic preserves!)
Spicy Southwestern Strata - salsa, onions, green peppers and 3 Alarm Colby Jack Cheese

As long as we are spicing things up, today's panini special is the Turkey Jack.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday's Specials

Kasey put together her wonderful guacamole which we will offer in two different sandwiches.

The Greenhouse with guacamole, cucumber slices, alfalfa sprouts, and havarti cheese served on toasted health bread.

The Turkey Guacamole with, well, turkey and guacamole, along with tomato slices and havarti served on fresh baked ciabiatta.

A personal favorite small plate special offering today is Swedish Potato Salad.

We also have Ratatouille Provencal made from farm fresh ingredients from One Straw Farm.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

To Market To Market ....

It's Wednesday which means we've just come back from the farmer's market.

Today's special plate is Ratatouille.

We have a small plate special of organic marinated peaches.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Let's Cool Off

Come in for some free watermelon.

Definately try the Spiced Chai Iced Tea (sweetener optional), very refreshing.

We're combining the Watermelon with Arugula and Feta Cheese and drizzling with balsamic vinaigrette for a nice light salad.

Today's special sandwich is Curried Tuna Parmesan.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Some special sides today:

Swedish Potato Salad made from delicious new potatoes from One Straw Farm.

I'm also cooking up a batch of vegetarian baked beans.

BBQ Chicken panino with a tangy homemade sauce, melty mozzarella, arugula, and caramelized onions.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tangy and Gooey

BBQ Chicken panino with a tangy homemade sauce, melty mozzarella, arugula, and caramelized onions.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I just poked my head in at the Cafe and it looks like Ratatouille was made from the CSA shares this week. Served with fresh baguette and shaved parmesan, it looks delicious!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monday Specials

Today's specials are Garlic Soup with Mushrooms (vegan unless you take the sour cream and chive option), Pesto Caprese Panini, and Spinach Swiss Strata. There is also Chocolate Chocolate Coffeecake and Ginger Pumpkin Muffins (my new favorite thing in the whole world. They taste just like Williamsburg smells).

I'm taking a bit of R&R this week and won't be around the Cafe much. Of course, if the weather's nice and a soft breeze is blowing, you might find me and my knitting (or a book) on the terrace pretending to be a customer. Have a good week!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hello August!

In an unusual turn of events, I'm not at the Cafe this morning but there are several Saturday morning treats including Grand Marnier French Toast Casserole, Spinach Swiss Strata and Maple Oatmeal with Nuts & Fruit. Kasey will probably make a special batch of muffins or coffee cake but you'll just have to stop by to see what she pulls out of the oven!

I own an embarrassing number of cookbooks. Like some people pick up mystery or romance novels, I pick up cookbooks. They run the gamut from the Christ Episcopal Church ECW Cookbook to the CIA's New Professional Chef. Every $4.95 publishers overrun demands at least a cursory glance; and clearly there are those volumns any serious cook couldn't do without. Crockpot cooking, preserving, brewing, every ethnicity you can imagine, fondue, ferminting, animal food/treats, candy, cocktails and wild game barely scratch the surface of subject matter covered. I even buy cookbooks just because I like their formatting! In the broaser catagory of how-to books (which cookbooks are a sub-set) I have a book about how to write a cookbook.

The dirty truth is among the hundreds of cookbooks I own (yes, I admit it) there are five or six that are really indespensible. The 1975 Joy of Cooking (don't get me started on the "new" Joy. If you don't have an old copy, try to get your hands on the 75th anniversary edition); The Silver Palate Cookbook; a little cookbook Michael's mother Kitty gave us called Afternoon Delights (the only cookbook that, without exception, every recipe has turned out perfectly); Rose's Christmas Cookies; and my handwritten cookbook that includes Mom's Bottled Hell, Granny's Angel Biscuits, Grandma's Scarlette O'Hara Salad and my own tried and true recipes come immediately to mind.

There is a new addition to the library, Great Coffee Cakes, Sticky Buns, Muffins & more by Carole Walter, that promises to be one of those go-to cookbooks. It is both academic and user-friendly, an unusual combination in my experience. From the quick muffins, breads and coffee cakes to recipes that require some forethought like brioche or stollen, each recipe features an At A Glance box which outlines what pans are needed as well as prep time, rising time, oven temp, baking time and a difficulty rating. Walter gives meticulous directions that do not make assumptions about the cook. So if you are an aspiring baker this cookbook offers education as well as a fabulous range of recipes for breakfast, brunch, and dessert treats.

More and more, a quick Google search turns up needed information but doesn't replace the time spent flipping pages, looking at beautiful pictures, gleaning inspiration and making plans for when strawberries are back in season or remembering to take advantage of the low turkey prices around Thanksgiving (there is the great smoked, stuffed turkey breast recipe in a William Sonoma grilling cookbook).

Like an armchair adventurer reads sci-fi and mystery novels, like the gardener reads seed catalogs in February, collecting cookbooks speaks to the creative, curious, thrill seeking and nurturing aspects of my personality. It also suggests some tendencies toward OCD.....