Izzy (and Mama) Eat: The Gourmand Grows up...

Tales of Empty Nesting ...The Next Chapter

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Of Kids, Tapas and A Long Beach Island Pearl: An Evening At Sweet Vidalia's

dining: it's all a blur

Another summer season, another reason to test out local Long Beach Island eats.

Last summer we managed to try out several local restaurants and this past week we came across some new ones. Sweet Vidalia's was the most memorable. I remember seeing it in passing last year but never got around to eating there. Thanks to C., it was one of our first experiments of the season. And how sweet it was!

This tapas restaurant has a menu bursting with one mouthwatering selection after another. Since we ordered a number of small plates for the table, we were able to sample several dishes. Each incredible bite had me yearning for another, which was difficult with Izzy trying to polish off everything in sight.

We clearly did not order enough for the table. Despite our server's clear warning to order at least 4 plates per person, we only ordered 11 dishes for the four of us. There were bacon wrapped dates, clams with chorizo, watermelon with fennel and mint, lamb chops, snails with puff pastry, Vidalia onion stuffed with lentil, short ribs (I must have then entire order for myself next time) and a never ending array of tender morsels.

Izzy joyously tucked into each dish, relishing every bite and as I watched him I realized that tapas might very well be the perfect way to introduce a young palate to a variety of flavors. The portions are small so everyone receives a forkful or two of a dish which is the point of the meal. Everyone is tasting and so a child could so easily get caught up in the camaraderie of it all, he/she might be more inclined to try new things.

Sweet Vidalia's 12th St. & Long Beach Blvd., Beach Haven 207-1200

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Knocking The Wind From Izzy's Snails

Considering how nonchalant my child was about eating an entire pig's foot, it shouldn't be especially shocking to learn that he didn't bat an eyelash when sampling snails the other night, and proceeded to polish off almost the entire plate of those chewy slugs.

At the time we were dining with Grandpa Joe ( an unabashed snail fan) and C. who happily kept his distance from the dish. Since they were the only witnesses to this culinary milestone I couldn't wait to share it with others, especially his papa. I gushed over Izzy's gleeful eating experience and when finished, the reply I received left me dumbfounded.

"How do you know they weren't calves' lungs? You must have heard that the French snail population is scarce and many restaurants have been using substitutions. Apparently most people can't tell the difference between snails and calves' lungs since they have the same texture."

I had to question this esoteric tidbit. From where did he glean this information? What proof did he have? I resolved to research it for myself and found that my husband must have gained access to this antiquated news story, straight from the New York Times of 1908. Yes, a century ago, those French were scarfing down snails like there was no tomorrow, leaving a dearth of snails. Nothing left to do but make the old calves' lung substitutions.

Could it be that the very same act of culinary treachery is going on today? If you have any knowledge of this, please send it along. Until then I will still kvell over Izzy's first snail sampling.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Baker In The House: More Close Encounters Of The Bread Kind

I do like to cook and bake while on vacation, but not while I am visiting my dad. The cleanliness standards are too high. So much the better that C. is doing all of the hard work and I am a sous-chef, or merely a curious on-looker.

This guy is serious. He even brought along his own banetton, creating a need where never there was one. Soon I will own my own banetton. You can see why.

C. spent nearly the entire day glued to the house. From the kneading, shaping, rising and slashing, to the actual baking, he had little time left for much else. The piece de resistance did not emerge from the oven until quite late and was not ready for consumption until after 4 p.m.

Under strict orders from the baker, it could not be sliced until completely cooled, as this might compromise the shape. I like my bread warm but there was no arguing here.

Izzy had to wait quite patiently as we photographed the final product. He tried not to be grabby.

And it still wasn't ready. A close-up shot was required, so that all could admire the fine texture.

This French Sourdough Boule was certainly worth all of the effort, crusty on the outside, chewy, slightly sour. The clincher..C. has no recipe..only promises of method and ingredients along with vague amounts.

This doesn't mean we can't replicate the bread as I have one important clue: He likes Peter Reinhart's books.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Can't Butter It Fast Enough: Izzy Encounters Home-baked Artisanal Bread

Thanks to our resident bread baker C., who also happens to be my sister's adorable boyfriend.

Aside from his knack with pies, he has been stricken with a serious bread-baking bug. According to his account, he has baked hundreds of loaves in the past six months. I have to wonder how it is that I am just learning about this now, during bikini season..How unfortunate on the one hand, yet irresistible on the other.

Izzy and I have watched in fascination, as C., in a semi-mad scientist fashion, carefully tends his pet dough mixtures. From starter to poolish, they all seem to have a place in his bread universe.

Our first taste of all his labors occurred after a busy morning of miniature golfing and bikini shopping. We arrived home to find this fine-looking 100% whole wheat loaf cooling near the stove.

Even though we had just come from eating ice cream, Izzy still had room for bread (so did we all for that matter). So C. buttered up a few slices and Izzy couldn't stop. As soon as he finished one slice, he would quickly demand another.

I had to contain myself from doing the same, otherwise I might never fit into my new bikini. The worst part, or best depending upon how you look at, is that this bread baking obsession continues and we will be reaping the benefits for the next few days. Stay-tuned for tomorrow's French Sourdough and a photo of the baker.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Stopping For Blueberries Along The Way: Journey To Long Beach Island

Not quite a tradition yet but this is our second year taking Izzy to Long Beach Island. It is not that far away but seems an eternity for those of us without a vehicle. At least we had our friends L. and T. to pick us up at the train station and drive us the bulk of the journey. They always take the back roads and find side trips to add to the scenic journey.

Yesterday, as we wound our way past horses and pick-your-own stands, L. asked, "Would you like to stop at Emery's and go blueberry picking?"

Emery's?? Could this be the same Emery's that my friend A. told me about.. "UH.......YES.. " I would have to be insane to turn down that offer.

I had no idea this place was on the way to the beach. What a wonderful coincidence since my friend A. had promised to take me for my birthday and it hadn't worked out.

As wee pulled up and emerged to stretch our legs, we were met by the intoxicating aroma of sweetened blueberries wafting out of the market building. Inside, the market was exploding with all things blueberry. There were all manner of pies, doughnuts, jams, syrups and of course fresh berries. Plenty of other things as well, too numerous to mention.

Aside from the market, there were a couple of goats to pet and blueberries ripe for the picking, not necessarily enough activity to merit a special trip from afar but definitely a fruitful side-trip.

Apparently my friends L. and T. have been stopping there for years picking up pies along the way. All we bought were berries and jam since I had heard tell that my sister's boyfriend C. was having the baking bug and all sorts of fabulous desserts were on offer there.

He ended up using the blueberries I bought to make this fabulous-looking lattice top Blueberry-Strawberry pie.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blackberries and Raspberries In Hamilton Park: The Market Comes Alive

This past Wednesday the Hamilton Park Farmers' Market was bursting with summer and fine food. Stony Hill Farm and Upper Meadows Farm brought along a veritable fruit cornucopia, including blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, sugar plums, watermelons, cantaloupes, and two varieties of peaches.

The two new farm vendors are more than making up for the disappointment of last year's market. Upper Meadows Farm not only provides unusual produce but they also have a small selection of grass-fed beef and other specialty items available. Hoboken Farms has returned with their great selection of frozen prepared foods (about which I hear many good things, I just don't buy that type of stuff), breads and cheese. The cookie baker, pickle vendor and jewelry stand only add to the allure.

This local market (or your own) is a great place to get your kids excited about summer produce. Izzy couldn't contain himself and was immediately begging for a fix of blueberry donuts and a pint of blackberries. He loves perusing the offerings and figuring out what we might buy and of course I do too.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Grass-Fed Beef: A Huge Sigh Of Relief

Our last experience with grass-fed beef left me somewhat troubled. There I sat, a huge proponent of grass-fed beef and yet I could barely finish one measly slider. I hated to admit it but it simply tasted too funky. Was it that I simply disliked the flavor or perhaps it was just that particular batch? Fingers were crossed for the latter.

In search of different sources of grass-fed beef, I encountered a neighbor, Y., who makes biannual trips to Sap Bush Hollow Farm in upstate New York. There she is able to satisfy all of her meat cravings and has been known to purchase $700 worth of meat at a time. Clearly this woman knows her cows (and her pigs).

When she informed me that she would be embarking upon one of her meat-buying trips to the farm, I jumped at the chance to get in on the action. I requested a couple of pounds of ground beef and a steak or two and she kindly obliged.

When I went to pick up the goods at her place, I even got a sneak peek of her dedicated meat freezer, where pounds of meat were stored. I felt like I was at a private market. The beef was $6.50 a pound and the steak was considerably more. Worth the price? I would soon find out.

After reading about the burgers in Paris, and hearing about J's evening of slider heaven (with grass-fed beef from yet another intriguing source) I had a craving for sliders. I couldn't wait to find out how this beef measured up.

Right away I noticed a difference. Raw from the package, it had a pleasing, meaty aroma rather than a funky smell. It was rosy pink in color with slightly darker discolorations which is normal.

I shaped several sliders from one pound of beef and grilled them for about 7 minutes. They were served medium, delicately pink on the inside. Izzy ate his while humming and giggling "trash fed beef" all the while.
The verdict: These sliders were far superior to my last batch, giving me renewed faith in all things grass-fed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Blueberry Buttermilk Brown Sugar Scones (or How Breakfast Morphed Into Dessert)

If you must know, I probably have enough food in my house to survive for weeks without emerging. Yet upon awakening this morning, it occurred to me that there was no bread in sight for breakfast, or for that matter, lunch and dinner. If it were up to me I would have jumped on my scooter and zoomed off to the bakery first thing but Izzy will never leave the house without a bit of breakfast in his belly, so I had to prepare something before venturing out. I decided on scones, meant to use up some aging buttermilk and blueberries before they turned vintage.

When they were ready, we brought our basket out to the stoop, shared some with the neighbors and were ready for our bakery mission. But I was still left with about over a half dozen scones. Good thing I didn't give them away as they came in quite handy this evening when, after an impromptu dinner, we lacked for dessert. The kids wanted gelato but we didn't feel like going out to get it.

I thought about what I could whip up quickly and remembered the scones. I concocted this shortcakey surprise. I sliced the scones down the middle, slathered them with macerated blueberries topped with honey-whipped cream and mini-chocolate chips.

As you can see, all thoughts of gelato were squelched.

Blueberry Buttermilk Brown Sugar Scones

2 cups unbleached, all purpose flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1/2 cup fresh blueberries tossed with tablespoon flour

cinnamon sugar

1. Combine dry ingredients.
2. Add butter and mix until butter
3. Mix buttermilk, egg and orange zest.
4. Add blueberries to flour mixture and stir.
5. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir to incorporate, just enough to turn into dough.
6. Turn ball of dough onto floured surface. Cut in half. Roll each half out to about an inch thick. Cut into 6 triangles.
7. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
8. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 12-15 minutes.

Monday, July 21, 2008

My Little Octopus Eater: How Soon They Forget

Izzy's mind has been immersed in all things oceanic. From the rolling waves to the creatures within, Izzy's month-long summer camp has piqued his interest in all things aquatic.

Our trip to the beach yesterday and the sight of a basketball-sized jelly fish has only added to his great interest.

So I shouldn't have been surprised to hear, "Mama, can we actually eat a real octopus?" Little did he realize how he used to yearn for that odd-looking creature.

"You have actually eaten octopus many times. In fact it used to be one of your favorite dishes"I don't think he believed me. I wonder what will happen next time he encounters it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A First For Everything: Izzy Went To McDonald's

Thank G-d it was only to use the bathroom and even that was distressing for me.

We were on our way home from a long, tiring day at the beach. We had gotten off of the New York Waterway Ferry at Pier 11, after an hour long ride from Breezy Point (Fort Tilden - Far Rockaway). I was too seasick to get into a cab so we trudged along, sand-covered and sweaty, through the Wall Street area. Just as we were nearing, WTC, Izzy announced that he needed to go. A. and I glanced around for an appropriate spot and that was the closest. We had no choice. I dispatched A. to take him and I watched them enter, fearing the worst. Would Izzy suddenly become interested in what was inside? Would he suddenly start demanding chicken nuggets? Would that awful fried smell become instantly appealing?

Thankfully I only had a brief moment to contemplate the worst as they emerged in under two minutes, seemingly unscathed. I remarked to A. that I had managed to make it to the age of 18 before ever going inside a McDs.. He seemed to think that was rare...Is it really?

Just curious if you remember your first fast food experience? What age and where?

p.s If you are looking for an NYC beach excursion, this could be the one. The ferry ride to Breezy Point is a scenic one (provided you don't feel seasick). It costs only six bucks one way and as an added bonus you get to see all of Olafur Eliasson's Waterfalls along the way (not to mention other quintessential New York scenery. Be sure to pack plenty of food and a beach umbrella as there are few amenities to be found. On the bright side, the water is clean and there are plenty of shells and sea creatures to examine.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pert As Can Be: Les Lentilles de Puy (pwee)

I always associated lentils with muddy brown soup and not much more. Then I came across Lentilles de Puy or green lentils. These lentils are cooked until they are tender but not soggy. They are best used in salads and I often serve them along side sausages or goat cheese. Served warm or cold and they can easily be prepared in advance and they pack easily for lunch.

Warm Lentil Salad (adapted from Patricia Wells, Bistro Cooking)

2 cups Lentilles de Puy or green lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 medium onion, peeled and stuck with 2 cloves
1 clove garlic peeled
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and chopped
olive oil
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

1. Place lentils, onion, garlic and bay leaf in a medium saucepan and cover with one inch of water.
2. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until tender.
Add water as necessary.
3. Drain lentils and place in a bowl. Dress with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar. Sprinkle with thyme and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6

Friday, July 18, 2008

Solving Sushi Sadness: The Vegetarian Option

Izzy and his undying love for sushi continues, unabated. He continues to beg for it and we continue to not to eat it. Tonight we had a change of heart and discovered a surprisingly agreeable solution. Vegetarian sushi for all.

We scooted on over to a nearby sushi spot, Sushi Tango, nothing spectacular, just your basic sushi stuff. We ordered two vegetarian sushi platters, seaweed salad and cold tofu. A dinner so virtuous I could justify finishing one entire chocolate chip cookie.

The sushi platter included a cucumber asparagus roll along with assorted sushi pieces like raw asparagus, cucumber matchsticks, stuffed tofu skin, mushroom roll and some assorted tasty yet mysterious offerings. Izzy wanted to try everything and was so enthralled to be eating in a sushi restaurant he didn't seem to miss the fish at all. Neither did I.. (well maybe a smidge).

The "It" Chocolate Chip Cookie: A 500 Calorie Indulgence

The New York Times called it "Perfection" and I would have to agree.
Despite the soaring temperatures, the very sight of those layers of gooey-looking cookies gracing the cover of the food section last week had me itching to bake.

I contemplated making the cookies immediately but didn't have all of the necessary ingredients (which proved to be the only problematic part of the recipe). I also knew it wouldn't be wise for me to make them for Izzy and me alone as I didn't really want to wind up eating nearly all of them. As luck would have it, an excuse to make them presented itself. Cookies would be the perfect treat for Izzy's teachers on the last day of summer camp, session one.

I started preparing two days ago, as the dough needs to sit for at least 24 hours and up to 36. Allowing the dough to rest is one of several elements that sets this recipe apart from ordinary cookies. There is also the use of two types of flour, the salt factor (more within and atop) and the type of chocolate used (bittersweet rather than semi-sweet). I tried to find the Vahlrona feves but Whole Foods did not have the right ones. Instead I settled on Ghiradelli Bittersweet chips. Oh and one major difference between these and your average chocolate chip is size. It does matter. Golf ball-sized mounds of dough are required to ensure the appropriate texture.

These cookies are enormous and as a careful reader later wrote, they also pack a walloping 500 calories each, about one quarter of a person's caloric requirements for the day.Yet don't let any of these facts deter you. This is one astonishing cookie, causing eaters to exclaim, "This is the best chocolate chip cookie I have ever eaten."

In case you were unaware, I have been a chocolate-chip cookie maven since my time spent working at Mrs. Field's. Since then I have been an avid fan of City Bakery's cookies, I was thrilled to see that this recipe, adapted from one by Jacques Torres (a fine chocolatier amongst other things) was formulated with tips from all of the best cookie bakers around, most notably Maury Rubin of City Bakery fame. With that pedigree I knew this had to be one divine cookie.

I was right. The fruits of my labor emerged from the oven in all of their gooey splendor, the picture of cookie perfection. I allowed them to cool briefly and then wrapped them up and brought them to school, without having tried one myself.

As I began to write this, I realized that I had yet to sample one, so I cut one into quarters and tried one piece. In a word, INCREDIBLE.
But don't take my word for it, bake them yourself.

Chocolate-Chip Cookie Perfection (adapted from The New York Times)

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar (I used dark)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note) (I used Ghiradelli Bittersweet)
Sea salt.
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.
3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.
4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.
Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Izzy's Mama Notes: Take the dough out about 15-20 minutes before scooping it so that it is easier to scoop. Press the mounds down slightly or the cookies might be rather puffy. I got 21 cookies from the recipe.

Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Popsicle Recipes To The Rescue

From The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, a must have cookbook of frozen delectables.

Mango Popsicles (actually sorbet but..)

2 large ripe mangoes
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
4 teaspoons freshly sqeezed lime juice
pinch of salt

1. Peel and cube mangoes. Place in blender with remaining ingredients. Puree until smooth.

2. Pour into popsicle molds and chill until firm.

Watermelon Popsicles (sorbetto once again)

3 cups pureed watermelon ( from a 3 lb. chunk of melon)
1/2 cup sgar
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

1. In a small saucepan, heat 1/2 cup watermelon puree with sugar and salt, stirring until sugar is dissolved.

2. Remove from heat and stir the sugared syrup into the remaining watermelon juice. Stir in the lime juice.

3. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze until firm.

My note for both recipes: It is likely you will have leftover purees. You can save them until the next day and refill molds as you eat them. OR use watermelon puree to make a peppermint/watermelon iced tea and Mango puree for a mango/ginger tea.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

CSA Tuesday: Broccoli Collards

In the same vein as Fava Greens, Broccoli Collards are one of those things it is unlikely you will encounter unless you are a farmer or belong to a CSA. Apparently they are edible, even if the broccoli itself fails to thrive. Which is the reason we all found a bunch of these in our giant CSA haul today.

I chose to use mine right away, rather than run the risk of them turning into refrigerator compost. I removed the stems, chopped them into ribbons and added them to some spring onions and crispy bacon. Toss with farfalle and serve..presto, dinner!

Pasta with Broccoli Collards

3 slices of bacon chopped finely
3 spring onions or 1 large sweet onion
1 bunch broccoli collards, stems removed, sliced into ribbons and washed
olive oil
hot pepper flakes
1 lb. pasta
4 ounces fresh cheese (Bianca) or goat cheese

1. Saute bacon until crisp. Reserve

2. Saute onion in bacon fat with a few tablespoons olive oil, until limp and lightly browned.

3. Add greens, a few red pepper flakes, salt and 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes or until tender.

4.Meanwhile cook pasta.

5. Toss greens and bacon with pasta. Crumble cheese on top. Serve immediately or warm.

Makes four generous servings.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fending Off The Paparazzi

And then caught off guard... The evidence on his teeth.

All I was looking for was a photo of this, which I wrenched from his clutches..

The remains of a slice of zucchini-carrot loaf, dropped off by a friend who is watching her girlish figure and would rather I consume the calories than she. Sure, pawn off your fattening baked goods on me. At least I can share mine with Izzy!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Trash-Fed Beef? Only The Finest At Our House

I have been buying organic, grass-fed beef from a couple of different purveyors for the past year or so. I have used it mainly for meatballs or meatloaf and have been quite pleased with the flavor.

Hamburgers have proven to be far more challenging. Not sure if it is the beef, the preparation or what. The first batch of burgers I made a few weeks ago from some beef I allowed to defrost on the counter. They tasted so odd I thought that perhaps the meat had become rancid. I could not finish mine and Izzy only ate a few bites of his. My husband finished his and we were all fine.

I made a second burger attempt just a few weeks later, this time with guests. I was embarrassed to discover that the meat had the same peculiar flavor. I looked over at my husband to see if he agreed. I wondered aloud why it was that this grass-fed beef simply did not appeal.

My husband, ever the comedian answered, "Trash-fed Beef..We feed our cows only the finest garbage..." INDEED!

But seriously, I don't believe that grass-fed beef should taste that way so I have bought some new beef to compare. This from Sap Bush Hollow Farm (Thank you Y!) Can't wait to see how it tastes.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Bargain In The Neighborhood: Lemonade and Cookies 50 Cents

Izzy and his friend I. set up a Lemonade and Cookie Stand today in front of I.'s house. She and her mom made two kinds of lemonade, honey and regular. Izzy and I made Salted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. In two hours, we sold out of 36 cookies and about 4 pitchers of lemonade. Business was definitely booming.

Considering that cookies go for $1 a piece at the corner cafe and lemonade is at least $2.50, passersby happened upon a real find. At first the two budding entrepreneurs sat quietly, awaiting customers but after I encouraged them to hawk their wares more loudly, I. became especially adept at luring them in. She ran down to the corner, calling buyers toward the stand.

When Izzy realized that there were only 3 cookies left, he abruptly shut the cookie tin and announced that the remainder were NOT FOR SALE. Moments later, I. poured out the last cup of lemonade and we called it a day.
Considering the great success, I am sure another stand will be up in the near future. Iced Tea and Scones anyone?

If you have a hankering for those Salted Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies,
check out this recipe. I altered it a bit, substituting 1/2 a cup of whole wheat flour (for 1/2 cup white), 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar (for the light brown) and bittersweet chocolate chips instead of white.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Chickens Of The Sea? Let's See: Preschool Fish Tasting

Summer camp at Izzy's school ("camp"), has gotten pretty fishy. Their in-depth study of the sea has permeated every aspect of their day, including the food.

Last week, parents were asked to prepare a sea-inspired snack for the campers to share. At first I was somewhat disturbed that the kids were being served fish of one kind or another for an entire week, culminating in a fish tasting extravaganza.

If my husband had gotten wind of it he would have had a conniption, ranting about the PCB's and mercury our poor Izzy would be ingesting. Normally I would have ranted myself but I held my tongue in the name of palate expansion.

This "Taste of the Sea Extravaganza" included the following: mini tuna fish sandwiches, roasted seaweed, smoked sardines on crackers, dried marinated squid, sea salt chips, California rolls, seaweed salad and salmon cakes. I was relieved to see that some parents stretched the concept of seafood to include seaweed and sea salt, thereby reducing unhealthy fish consumption.

My contribution was the sardine-spread, to be served on a triscuit-like cracker(a Prune-inspired recipe).

What did the children actually sample? If only I had been a fly on the wall. As Izzy told it, he tried everything and nobody tried the sardine spread, they only ate the crackers. Did I scare them away with the whole fish garnish?

I later found out that two of his friends actually tried the sardine spread.. and liked it. Who knows? Maybe now Izzy will have company when I send him off to school with sardines for lunch.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Homemade Ice Pops: The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of?

Izzy and I began our ice pop making tradition last summer. They really take just minutes to make and are worlds tastier and healthier than what the ice cream man is selling. This summer we have whipped up mango pops and watermelon pops. They are a great thing to have around the house and Izzy is always eager to share them with his friends.

We rarely use air conditioning so eating them is one way for us to cool down during one of our horribly humid, sticky days. Apparently eating them in the heat causes problems which weigh heavily on Izzy's mind.

Yesterday we had our first sample of the watermelon/chocolate chip pops. I wasn't sure how I would feel about the combination but it worked quite well and apparently made quite an impression on Izzy.

He awoke this morning and the first thought of the day was, "In the winter can you carry ice pops around?". I had to explain to him that we don't usually eat ice pops in the winter because doing so would make us feel colder. It seems he had something entirely different in mind. He was imagining how he could eat his ice pop outside, without having it melt all over him.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How Does My Garden Grow? Backyard Update

You may remember that this year has marked my first real foray into gardening. It began in honor of Izzy's birthday celebration. Raised beds were built. Holes were dug. Seeds were planted.

Since then we have been harvesting lettuce leaves daily. We finally had to remove all the lettuce plants which had become overgrown (note: Farmer Rich is a FARMER. Take his advice).

The most exciting part of the garden has been watching the transformation of the tomato plants, from small to tall and fruit-bearing. The tiny tomatoes seem to have magically emerged overnight. We are also closely monitoring our mystery squash. We are hoping it is a pumpkin.

The herbs have been the easiest to maintain, especially the rosemary and thyme. The basil looks like it might work out too. The jury is still out on the parsley which I just transplanted.

As for other fruits, the strawberries might be a flop. We had a total of three edible looking fruits, two of which were eaten by an unknown interloper. The plants look healthy but no new flowers in sight. At least we hold out hope for our Sugar Baby watermelon plant which is looking good.

Check back for more garden updates in a few weeks.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Day In D.U.M.BO.: In Hot Pursuit Of The Waterfalls and Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory

Always looking for an excuse to go to Brooklyn, I jumped at the chance to see Olafur Eliasson's Waterfalls. I'm not quite sure why we never go since it is so close but we haven't been back since last year's ill-fated adventure.

My favorite way to get there is to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, for it is possibly the best way to experience New York, tourist or native alike. This time we scooted across. Izzy and his Papa ended up on my scooter and I had to push or awkwardly scoot on Izzy's. Definitely a strange way to go but it worked.

The walk allowed us to preview Olafur Eliasson's Waterfalls but the close-up is better once you are actually in Brooklyn. They have a temporary cafe set up on the pier which I wish I'd have known about beforehand. It would have saved me from packing a picnic. I couldn't resist the bar where we had watermelon juice and ginger lemonade all the while gazing at the spectacular backdrop.

After the beverages and the view, we continued our exploration of the

surrounding neighborhood, looking to picnic by the water. What we encountered, aside from the picnic area, was a small rocky "beach" with diving cormorants and a great playground with water features, just north of the The River Cafe. I also discovered a Sunday Greenmarket with produce, nuts, pickles and meats.

The neighborhood boasts plenty of child-friendly eating, including Almondine Patisserie and the original Jacques Torres Chocolate Factory. We skipped those spots this time around because I was saving my appetite for my raison d'etre: The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, home of one of New York's best ice creams. Look at the dreamy look on Izzy's face as he savors his strawberry cone.

The walk and the ice cream are reason enough to start planning your trip. The art, playground and other food options only add to the appeal, making for an ideal outing.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Bread Head

This was one of the last loaves left at our favorite bakery by 10:30 a.m. (GO EARLY) on the morning of July 4th. It begs these questions: Should a loaf of bread dwarf my child's head? Who eats loaves this big on a regular basis and what do they do with them?

Kohlrabi Loses Its Bad Reputation: Kohlrabi and Apple Slaw

I will try anything once, if it is served to me. What I won't do is go out of my way to cook the unfamiliar, unless I have read or heard some compelling reason to do so. Which is why having a CSA is great because it forces me to try things that I might otherwise avoid. Take this weeks haul, which included kohlrabi, my case in point.

I have seen this light green martian-looking bulb with leaves attached, at the supermarket and elsewhere but as far as I was concerned it could just stay there. You see I associated it with a group of very old ladies who lived in my old apartment building on 54th Street. Our floor always had a rather stale cabbage like smell and in my mind, kohlrabi was the offender.

So when kohlrabi showed up last Tuesday I figured it might be destined for the compost heap. After a few members picked up their shares, I then realized that I had to do something with it since everyone was turning to me for kohlrabi advice.

I turned to the internet and discovered that kohlrabi need not be so cabbagey and unpleasant. It could be transformed into a light summer salad, which I might actually enjoy eating.

I found the recipe for Kohlrabi/Apple Slaw here. At the last moment, I decided to grate up a whole batch of it for our July 4th BBQ. I can't say that Izzy was wild about it but I thought it made a decent slaw contribution to our meal. It is definitely light and refreshing. If any more kohlrabi comes my way, I might consider making this again or venturing into the kohlrabi unknown.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Black Caps: A Berry Treat

Each week, I check to see what unusual offerings Upper Meadows Farm has on hand at the Hamilton Park Farmers' Market. Last week I came upon some tiny dark berries which they called "Black Caps" and sold for $7 per pint. The vendor urged me to sample one and told me they were wild picked. I bought the last one, with a slight suspicion that somehow I had been hoodwinked.

I was dead wrong. These were as tasty as the berries I used to pick from an errant bush in my childhood suburbia. A fleeting taste of summers past.

The berries, which turned out to be black raspberries, remained fresh for nearly a week. I doled them out judiciously, as daily embellishments to my yogurt. I was sad when we nibbled the last ones, and ever hopeful for today's market.

No berries today, which is, I suppose which made them so pricey and so special.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Kids Love To Pick Their Own

Fruit and noses (although the noses are for another blog) . After all, doesn't everyone? I figure that picking must satisfy the hunter gatherer in all of us.

Picking fruit had been on the top of my to do list for awhile now, so when I read about this "Read and Pick" program at Terhune Orchards I decided it would make for a perfect picking introduction for Izzy.

So a week or so ago, we piled into my friend H.'s car, off to Princeton, NJ which is so much further away than I thought, particularly with squabbling little ones in the back seat. Our mission was to pick our own cherries.
We arrived just in time for story time (which seemed rather superfluous for older children, probably fine for the three and under set though). The cherry orchards were the real draw. With trees with branches low enough for even two year olds to reach it is ideal activity for all ages.

After an hour or so of cherry picking, riveting fun for all, we took a break for a picnic and some pheasant and fowl chasing. When that was over we wandered over to pet some horses and check out the small market on site.

The children were smitten with the picking bug and requested more time for strawberry picking. This also proved quite satisfying, as we hunted for the perfect berries under the leaves. We had to tear them away from the strawberry fields because we needed to get back to the city (poor planning on my part). This is definitely an all day excursion and we hope to return.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

If You Just Flew In From Rome...

What would you want for dinner? A big bowl of greasy Chinese food or this?

My husband, just off the plane from Rome, texted me to say that he had a hankering for a big bowl of greasy Chinese food. Meanwhile, I had planned
this: Tortilla Espanol, Spinach salad with goat cheese, Sliced Yellow Tomatoes With Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar and New Potatoes Sauteed with Rosemary.

Should there really be a contest? I was worried for a moment there that he'd make the wrong choice. Thankfully he came to his senses and I ended up cooking and he ended up wolfing down several portions of everything. Apparently he has no time to eat while working and traveling. He was making up for days of minimal eating and believe me, he doesn't need to diet.