Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

I knew I was in for a treat as soon as we opened the door. With a name like Copper Hen Kitchen and Bakery, I was intrigued which did not recede as followed the hostess to a table.. Walking past a bakery case under exposed beams and rough walls, the Copper Hen appeared to be a congenial spot and it was, indeed. The oversized napkins – more dish towel than napkin – added to the allure. That our daughter, Katy, had eaten there before with a friend and they thought I would like it touched me and added to my joy in the experience.

There was much on the menu that tempted me, but, the Farmhouse Salad had my name on it! I have seen many salads in my internet and cookbook wanderings of late with poached eggs atop. Poached eggs are something that you either like – or don’t (I do) and this was a perfect opportunity to try one on salad greens with roasted mushrooms, cashews, ricotta, nuts (I think they were cashews) and a light vinaigrette. I only wished I had ordered a side of toast, but, got along quite nicely as I “licked the platter clean” in this delectable farm-to-table restaurant in Minneapolis.

 

Sated, Katy and I left the Copper Hen and made the short drive to a bookstore I have been wanting to visit. I don’t remember who first suggested Birch Bark Books, but, if you are reading this, thank you, thank you. A sign on the door asked that visitors not take photographs. I will try to paint a picture in words of Birch Bark Books, a cozy, neighborhood independent establishment. Birch Bark is overflowing, in a warm and welcoming way, with a wide offering of books. From cookbooks to mysteries, outstanding children’s selections to poetry and books on nature, there is truly something for everyone at this unique shop, which also sells native artwork, jewelry, baskets, cards and much, much more. The store and is adorned with items that speak to the land and its people.

From Birch Bark’s website:

“We exist to keep real conversations between book lovers alive. We exist to nourish and build a community based on books. We are a neighborhood bookstore, and also an international presence. Our visitors come from Minneapolis-St. Paul, from every U.S. reservation and Canadian reserve, and from all over the world. We are different from all other bookstores on earth!”

Birch Bark Books is ” . . .  a locus for Indigirati — literate Indigenous people who have survived over half a millennium on this continent. We sponsor readings by Native and non-Native writers, journalists, historians.”  It is an amazing local establishment in which I felt both at home and in awe.

Birch Bark Books is owned by author Louise Erdrich. I invite you to explore Birch Bark’s website by clicking the link below to read more about the store, the interesting history of the building, an online shop and photos, which include the birch bark canoe that hangs from the ceiling of the store.

Of course, I could not leave Birch Bark Books without a book.

Have you read anything by Louise Erdrich?

 

https://birchbarkbooks.com/ourstory

http://www.copperhenkitchen.com/menu

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

(This is a long story and a bit of rambling. If you just want the recipe for Greek onion stew, please just skip down to the recipe below.”

I don’t remember the first time I climbed onto the seat of a kitchen chair, opened the cabinet above the stove and slowly edged the Imperial coffee grinder from the shelf. I was old enough to know what it was and that I was to be very careful with it. It was a chore I would be asked to do many times in my youth . Each time I reached up for the grinder, I knew what my next chore would be – grinding the spices. I would instantly savor the scent that clung to the aged wooden edges of the grinder’s drawer and anticipate the aromas that would eventually rise from the slow, bubbling pot on the stove. This humble meal of meat and onion stew that would be scooped onto our plates come suppertime. 

The coffee grinder was part of my grandmother’s dowry. It still grinds quite well, however, it is showing its age after more than a century of employment, with nicks and bruises and the signature patina of aged wood. It was, I am told, first used for grinding coffee beans, but, that is family legend to me.

The grinder moved with my grandmother, from the large family two-flat on Congress Street to our small, suburban home in Maywood, then to a north side apartment. When Yia Yia moved in with my aunt, the grinder stayed with my mom who eventually gave it to me when Tom and I bought our first home.

Like many of the dishes and delicacies of my Greek family, there were no written recipes. Yia Yia passed away before I had a chance to gather measurements, though others transcribed many that have been shared. Oddly enough, stefado never made it to a recipe card, a slip of paper, an envelope – those pieces of all of our lives that record our favorite foods.

Stefado was a favorite of mine and I was determined to make it, especially upon discovering a recipe for it in a magazine. “Women’s Day”? “Better Homes and Gardens”? “Family Circle”?   I no longer remember where it appeared, but, find it I did and it used ingredients I remembered. I conferred with my aunt, who said the ingredients were what Yia Yia used and yes, she used pickling spices. Aunt Christina reminded me of the grinder, but, I was miles and miles away and so  – I just threw the pickling spices into the stew!

Have you ever bitten into pepper corns? coriander? mustard seeds?

The stefado tasted right, but, biting into those spices was no fun at all. I called Aunt Christina, frustrated at my results and piqued at the money I’d spent on the meal. She calmly said “It happens. You are just learning. Next time, make a small sack out of cheesecloth, put the spices into it, tie it with twine and put the sack in the pot. ”  As I look back, her advice was invaluable, but it was two words she used –  “Next time” –  that were a gift. Those words gave me license and determination to try again.

TADA!

That worked and I employed that method for several years until Ma came over to our house, carrying the ancient coffee grinder in her signature shopping bag. “Here, Penny. This is now yours. You make stefado and you are your grandmother’s namesake. This is yours now.” – and so, it was and still is, a treasured possession. I still use it, though infrequently, when I make this hearty Greek stew.

A week or so ago, with onions so prevalent and sweet at the markets and a longing for flavors of my youth, I stopped at Penzey’s for a fresh jar of their pickling spice and I picked up some stew meat at the grocery store. Once home, I retrieved the coffee grinder. It sits a shelf where I keep treasured cookbooks. I set the grinder on the counter and slowly, carefully, purposefully opened the little drawer on the bottom, whereupon my childhood rushed out to greet me, as if to say “Penny, what took you so long?”

I put a spoonful of the pickling spices into the top, slowly closed the slot and began turning the grinder, pushing the seeds past the blade and into the drawer below, just as I did as a young girl, helping my Yia Yia in this simple, methodic, fragrant ritual. I ground the spices and then opened the drawer and for a brief, magical moment I was a young girl again.

The onions and meat married in the stew pot with the sprinkling of spices and other ingredients in attendance. I pottered around, monitoring the meal in anxious abeyance, peeking under the lid, stirring my senses along with the stew. A loaf of warm crusty bread – and there we were, my Antler Man and me and this savory meal – and for a brief moment my family of origin was sitting right there beside me.*

Stefado (Greek Onion Stew) 

3 pounds of cubed beef (lamb, venison, or other meat can be used – I prefer beef)

3/4 cup butter (you can substitute oil)

1 1/2 pounds small onions (or larger onions cut into chunks – you want chunks so that the onions will hold up)

Ground pickling spice to taste. I use about 1 Tablespoon ground.  Salt to taste. You can use an electric coffee grinder or even a food processor to grind the spices, or put the unground spices in a cheesecloth sack and put directly into the pot. 

1 small can tomato paste. 

1 cup water plus a little extra water in tomato paste can to scrape any tomato paste left inside.

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

Brown meat and onions in butter, then add rest of ingredients. Stir well, cover, simmer until tender – about  1 1/2 hours

Can be made day before. Flavors meld and mingle and make magic IF you can wait until the next day.  

 

 

Read Full Post »

They looked so temptingly delicious; green and orange and red and ready! I couldn’t help myself, standing at the farm stand, looking at them. 

We had just finished the stuffed peppers; a meal and then leftovers. The second act of leftovers was even better than the first act. I felt like clapping, but, really, who claps for her own cooking?

I bought more peppers. They have been so firm and flavorful this year; I simply can’t resist them. Five, big bell peppers and a bag of the smaller, snack-sized ones, which are really quite delicious and make great snacks, followed me home. A few of the bell peppers went into a stir-fry, the rest were exiled to the refrigerator as they were beginning to soften. There they languished – until yesterday afternoon. A half-dozen or so of small, new potatoes, with dirt still hanging on, were sitting on the counter, along with some sweet onions and a bunch of freshly picked oregano from the herb pot on the deck.

I love cooking, following recipes, reading food blogs, magazines and books, but, I’ve been cooking for so long now that I often find myself just making meals up from what I know, what I’ve read, and what I like. Do you do this too?

I turned the oven on, washed and cut the potatoes, leaving the skins on, and threw them in a pot of water. While they rumbled around in the pot,  my afternoon cup of tea sat brewing. I sliced the peppers into strips, tossed some olive oil and seasonings on them and put them in a large, glass baking pan. I took the teabag out, dripped some local honey into the cup, sliced one of the onions, then quartered two Italian sausage links, which followed the drained and parboiled potatoes into the pan. Lid on, pot in oven, and teacup in hand, I settled down for a late afternoon read.

Our evening’s meal slowly roasted, the flavors melding together; a peasant’s meal that turned into a candle lit feast!

When Janice commented, on my recent stuffed pepper post that she and her mother would clean and freeze a bushel’s worth of peppers, slicing some, dicing others and leaving some whole, for the long winter ahead, I imagined the scene with a smile. I think I will buy some more peppers and do the same, and promise I will stop writing about peppers.

Do you freeze or can your summer’s bounty?

Read Full Post »

Savoring

Nowhere near a peck. Definitely not pickled. The peppers languished in a large, red, hand-crafted bowl upon the kitchen counter. In shades of green and a blush of red, their caps askew, they waited. A few of the peppers were cut to savor, raw and earthy, while a familiar scent followed me past the bowl, to the sink, toward the stove, foreshadowing the aromas of a meal yet to come – stuffed peppers.

Finally, ingredients lined up in no particular order. Stuffed peppers here are a family recipe handed down and down and down again.

I could smell the meal was done before I checked the pan. Opening the oven door, the stuffed peppers came out and a loaf of French bread went in to warm. I stood a moment as I ached for my sister; to call her, or for her to call me, with the tempting tease in the greeting; “I’m making stuffed peppers“, on the tip of my tongue, silenced now, but, remembered in the doing and done so often now in time.

Ah, the meal – it was sublime. Steam rose as the foil atop the pan was slowly peeled off. The bubbling of the juices were a song of culinary praise. We gave thanks for our many blessings, then sighed as the warmed bread soaked the juices and the meaty stuffing spilled out onto our plates. The verdict was in and we were sentenced to stuffing ourselves.

 Life is good.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

. . . a Lenten Dump Cake.

That all American Girl, Kit, came to visit this week. She brought with her my “cook fantastic”,  Keziah. Actually, Keziah came and brought her doll, Kit with, but, you already figured that out.

Kez and Kit have matching aprons, crafted by a woman who turns old shirts and blouses into aprons which are as adorable as they are practical. Kezzie packed away both her apron and Kit’s. She knows her Yia Yia well and anticipated a few baking opportunities, one of which presented itself on the first morning here.

Actually, I was anxiously awaiting their arrival with the ingredients already purchased.

Earlier in the week, I saw a video with my cousin Pam demonstrating how to make a Lenten Dump Cake, which looked quite delicious. It was also something I could easily make with my granddaughter, Keziah. With most of the ingredients already in the house, the only thing I needed was a can of cherries and a can of pineapple tidbits. I managed to forget the pineapple on three separate grocery runs. Do you ever do that?

So it was, bright and early on the first morning we were together since Thanksgiving that Kezzie, Kit and Yia Yia began their baking marathon, spreading canned cherries into a large pan, followed by pineapple, dry cake mix, nuts, etc. with several liberal pinches of giggles and grins. It is such tasty fun cooking with Kezzie and it was particularly nice to have Kit in the kitchen to help.

Do you have a favorite dump cake you like to make?

Pam, if you read this, thank you for the inspiration and please know the this was a fun, and quite delicious,  cake to make my granddaughter.

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

The moment I saw them in the produce department I knew exactly what they were! I rushed over, my grocery cart making an abrupt left. My squeal of delight must have sounded like a siren as other shoppers pulled over and let me pass causing a gapers’ block in between the peaches and plums!

Olives!

If you live in a Mediterranean climate, you likely see fresh olives in season. If you live in the midwest, you probably have never seen them. Olive trees do not grow in our erratic climate with our harsh, cold winters, long, dry spells, temperature fluctuations, etc. I knew what this box was because once, just once that I can recall, they sat on the small counter of our kitchen.

My cart – and I – came to a screeching halt. I reached into the box and felt the olives, still hard, rolling them around and through my hand like marbles. Memories came flooding back to that small kitchen in Maywood where I felt the love and security of family, where everyone gathered, and where I watched and waited and learned the magic of food in my grandmother’s hands.

The story begins with Romeo, a friend of my father’s who came to our house several times a week. Romeo wore baggy pants and sweaters and shirts that had seen better days. He and Daddy would talk fishing, the news, family and such as they sat at the kitchen table, drank coffee and ate whatever sweets my Yia Yia (my grandmother) or my mother would set before them. Romeo had a kind manner and gentle laugh. If Daddy wasn’t home, Romeo would stay until he returned, helping me with homework, curious as to what I was learning, chatting with Ma or Yia Yia, comfortable at our table.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that Daddy told me that Romeo was very rich. His family owned real-estate in the city and a chain of stores. He also told me that Romeo had scars all the way down his back from wounds he suffered in WWII. Much later, long after my father passed away, when I had children of my own, that Romeo died. Many in my family went to the wake to pay respects to his wife and children, then sat and quietly talked as people tend to do at wakes. I sat reading the memorial card and was surprised at the name, which was NOT Romeo! Bewildered, we wondered aloud over how the name Romeo came about, certain there was an interesting story  that we would never know, but, I digress. This isn’t so much about Romeo as it is about olives, except that it was Romeo who brought my grandmother the fruit of the gods.

I came home one day to see a crate of  hard, green fruit sitting on the kitchen counter. I remember my grandmother’s happiness and appreciation over the contents that came all the way from California. Romeo had been on vacation there where family members lived. He brought the olives back. Did he have them shipped or did he bring them himself? I am not certain, but, I think he personally carried them on the plane!

What I do remember is the hammering as each olive was split open, revealing but not extracting the pit. What a racket that was! I remember days, or was it weeks, of the olives sitting in salty water on the countertop, then in bowls with seasonings in the refrigerator. I would sneak an olive here and there when no one was looking. I ate enough that my face broke out in hives. All that olive oil!  My thievery was exposed and my olive caper was up! They were on to me. Daddy gently but firmly said “Penny, these aren’t candy and if you eat too many you will be sick.” 

In those mere moments in the grocery store, I remembered the summer of Greek olives; the flavors, that crisp first bite followed by the tasty inner flesh and the lingering sensation that seemed to last long after the olive was consumed. I imagined the hard pit placed on the side of my plate, but only after I’d eaten every bit of olive on it, with family or friends or both gathered in that small kitchen with a large welcoming feel – and I remembered a kind man’s gift and a gifted woman’s talents.

My cart once again rolling, I checked off items on my list and then headed over to the olive bar, making a selection of green olives that would not last long in our own refrigerator.Romeo, oh Romeo . . .

 

 

Read Full Post »

Aw, shucks

The bin was new. It stood a few feet from a table filled to overflowing with freshly picked corn. A portly picker was joined by a woman with a kerchief on her head and a sleek woman in heals who was likely on her lunch break from her office nearby. A hand-lettered sign read

PLEASE SHUCK YOUR CORN HERE – THANK YOU”.

I wandered a bit, slowly pushing my squeaky cart, selecting some zucchini and a few bright vine-ripened red tomatoes, then I headed over to the corn just as another boxful was being dumped onto the table. I stowed my cart close by and started going through the corn, feeling them for soft spots and selecting a half-dozen ears of somewhat equal size. I put them, one-by-one, into my cart and shuffled over to the shucking bin.

“This is new” I said to a woman whose attention was firmly focussed on the ear of corn she was undressing. “Yes, It is. Already a lot of silk and husks in here.” I started to shuck my first cob, over the bin, tossing the corn’s coverings inside. “I wonder what they do with these?” said another. Compost? Bedding for farm animals? We shucked and talked and shucked some more, as others came to the bin with their desired dole of sweet corn.

The conversation was pleasant. “The pickles look good”, said one as another commented on the fresh blueberries and peaches inside the barn, along with some freshly drawn honey. We discussed the best way to cook corn – a dozen ways to corn-on-the-cob heaven – and agreed that it was nice to be able to toss the leavings into the bin instead of the mess in our kitchens or decks. We were an amicable group of varying ages and from different walks of life enjoying the chat and the prospect of sweet corn over dinner come suppertime.

t wondered, silently to myself, if this was what it was like to be among women at a communal oven for baking bread – or the proverbial well. There we were, on a hot midsummer’s afternoon, gleaners of the glory of sweet corn, chuckling and chattering as we shucked the corn, offering tips on cooking or serving this midwestern summertime indulgence.

That evening, the Antler Man and I had a simple supper of broiled salmon, salad and sweet corn-on-the-cob, without the usual corny mess, thanks to the shucking station at my favorite farmstand.

How about you? What have you gleaned lately?

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Dining with Donald

Donald on dining in and out

definearth

environmentally conscious and proud of it.

Poesy plus Polemics

Words of Wonder, Worry and Whimsy

Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey

Relax--

God even understands cats!

Barnstorming

Barnstorming: Seeking Sanctuary in the Seasons of a Rural Life

Mike McCurry's Daily Blog

Creative information about Real Estate and Life in the Western Suburbs of Chicago

ChicagoNatureNow!

Chicago Nature Information & News

Interrupting the Silence

An Episcopal Priest's Sermons, Prayers, and Reflections on Life, Becoming Human, and Discovering Our Divinity

The Pioneer Girl Project

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Pioneer Girl

Juliet Batten

Author, artist, speaker, teacher and psychotherapist

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

El Space--The Blog of L. Marie

Thoughts about writing and life

leaf and twig

where observation and imagination meet nature in poetry

mirandasnotebook

Your Guide to a Stylish Life

Apple Pie and Napalm

music lover, truth teller, homey philosophy. newly woke

Petals. Paper. Simple Thymes

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." William Wordsworth

My Chicago Botanic Garden

A blog for visitors to the Garden.

Living Designs

Circles of Life: My professional background in Foods and Nutrition (MS, Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist, RDN, LDN) provides the background for my personal interests in nutrition, foods and cooking; health and wellness; environment and sustainability.

Women Making Strides

Be a Leader in Your Own Life

Middlemay Farm

Katahdin Sheep, Chickens, Ducks, Dogs and Novelist Adrienne Morris live here (with humans).

Book Snob

FOR DISCERNING READERS

teacups & buttercups

An old fashioned heart

Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Begun in 2010, this blog offers analysis and reflection by Susan Bailey on the life, works and legacy of Louisa May Alcott and her family. Susan is an active member and supporter of the Louisa May Alcott Society, the Fruitlands Museum and Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House.

breathelighter

Reducing stress one exhale at a time ...exploring Southern California and beyond

Kate Shrewsday

A thousand thousand stories

Blogging from the Bog

musings from and about our cottage in the West of Ireland