Day 151: Experimentation

It is always risky experimenting in the kitchen, when the results of said experiment are meant to be dinner.
I finally got my hands on some leaf lard, the best form of animal fat for baking.  Leaf lard is prized for its lack of porky flavor, and is found around the kidneys and the loin.  

Lard is slowly coming back in to fashion.  Marginalized for decades after the production of vegetable shortenings and oils, it is enjoying a comeback in the culinary world.  And for good reason.  It works beautifully as a shortening in pastry, creating a very flaky crust, is fairly inexpensive (of course that will change once it becomes more popular with hipster foodies), and as a naturally occurring fat, can be argued to be better for your body than those nasty hydrogenated vegetable shortenings.

So... back to dinner.  This week I made my first pie dough using leaf lard.  I keep it frozen, which makes it easy to cube, and it proved no more difficult to utilize than butter. 

Instead of a dessert pie, I decided to experiment with a savory one, putting it together for tonight's dinner.  I had a decent amount of roasted pork belly left over, which I combined with sauteed onions and rhubarb, seasonings, and the leftover caramel-vinegar glaze from dinner earlier in the week.  

This may be hands-down the ugliest pie I have ever made.  I was in a hurry; I needed to get outside before the skies opened up and get some more garden planting done.

Thank goodness appearances aren't everything.  While it lacked in aesthetic appeal, it actually proved to be quite tasty.

So, all in all, a decent success.  I will definitely be using leaf lard again.  You'll probably see the results on this blog.  Stay tuned...

Day 150

Stop!  Do not ever throw out bananas that look like this away!  They could even be darker than this, black even!  These are perfect baking bananas.  I throw these in a ziploc bag and put them in the freezer; I don't even peel them.  Once I get a full bag of them, I take them out and make all sorts of tasty things: bread, cookies, etc.  Don't freak out when you see they've turned like, completely black and oozy.  It's almost like they've caramelized.  Trust me, they will add amazing flavor to your banana-laden baked goods.


Day 149

These crazy looking little berries are Alpine Strawberries, akin to wild strawberries and those amazing little strawberries you get in France and Italy.  They are quite small and pointy, and as you can see, have very prominent seeds.  Our plant is quite large now, producing berries nearly all summer.  Their taste is quite floral, a nice change from the bland hard things at the grocery.  


Day 148: On the Menu Tonight

Roasted bone-in pork belly from Bluescreek Meats, baby bok choy, jasmine rice, caramel vinegar glaze.  Delish.

Day 147

Hello little pea!  This pea is growing on one of our Tom Thumb pea plants, so named because they only grow to about 8" high, making them ideal for container planting.


Day 146: Thank You Fergus Henderson

Roasted marrow bones from Bluescreek Farm Meats.  Chile and cherry jam, parlsey salad, pickles, toasts.  A glass of sangria.  A contented sigh.  


Day 145: It's Gettin' Hot in Hurr

All four burners going at the same time.  I'm glad it's cool out today.

Day 144: Hooray Beer!

Goose Island Urban 312.  For the jam-making.


Day 143

Rhubarb (And churries.) (Seriously, watch the first bit and you will understand. Ha!)!
Canning has begun!


Day 142: "Off the Cuff" Cooking

We watched the final episode of Mind of a Chef today, and D. Chang was referring to his fellow chef's "off the cuff" cooking.  It seemed so obvious a "style" to me, because that is really what home cooks do all the time.  We open the fridge or freezer, see what's on the counter, figure how much time we have to put something together.  Today, I had a pound of breakfast sausage in the fridge and a couple of sweet potatoes on the counter which were rapidly slipping into decline.  So, I made biscuits and gravy:

"Off the Cuff": Roasted sweet potato drop biscuits, sausage gravy.


Day 141

Smoked porter braised brisket tacos, rainbow chard slaw, pickled jalapenos.

Day 140: First Harvests:

 Home-grown spring greens.

Here topped with a tuna and sea bean salad.


Day 139

Swiss chard nachos.  Yep.  Eatin' my dark leafy greens.

Day 138: Inspiration

This guy is great.  His intensity, perfectionism, and innovation are inspiring, filling my head with all sorts of crazy ideas and hope.  This is a series I will watch again and again.

Day 137: It's Not All Food

Please indulge me as I break from my usual foodiness and focus on another passion in my life: music:

This weekend marked the end of the Dayton Philharmonic season, capped off by, in my opinion, one of the most demanding pieces for chorus: Brahms German Requiem.  After enduring three grueling rehearsals earlier in the week, we had our first performance Friday night.  I have to be honest with you, it was rough. The entire performance was on the razor's edge of disaster.  Thankfully, experience and musicianship saved us, and we muddled through.
I left the stage that night with my mind swirling.  I have rarely felt so disconcerted after a performance, and had no idea how we were going to pull off another one the following night.  I had a difficult time sleeping, knowing that I personally had sung timidly, out of fear and lack of confidence, and really beating myself up over my own lackluster contribution. 

I will, however, never ceased to be amazed at what a difference a day can make.  Going into warm-up Saturday was a different experience entirely.  The tenor of the entire chorus had changed, as if we had all suddenly remembered how good we could be, the talent that we possessed.  The shift in attitude was palpable, the air relaxed.  As we stood to sing the opening movement, I felt the fatigue of a long week and lack of sleep, but I also felt the confidence return, knowing tonight would be different.

As the final notes were played and we closed our scores, I knew we had nailed it.  On a personal level, I was so relieved.  Relieved and content with the effort I had given, and with the effort the entire chorus had dug so deep to give, resulting in a beautiful performance that I will not soon forget.  And that is why I sing.


Day 136: Sea Beans!

I'm kinda proud of this one: it's pretty and involved many steps, but the result was totally worth it.  Plus, I got to play with a new ingredient: sea beans!

 Chilled soba noodles with blanched sea beans, local asparagus, and edamame, garnished with bacon pieces, scallions, and sesame seeds, topped with a soft boiled egg, all tossed with a black vinegar and bacon dripping vinaigrette.  Served cold.  Yep, it's pretty dang good.


Day 135

Breakfast, as of late: Halved avocado with lime and salt, coffee.  Simple and satisfying.


Day 134

Cucumberette!  Here's hoping for great pickles this year!


Day 133

First night of track practice for Hannah, late dinner at Ha Ha Pizza:

Hannah's pepperoni and broccoli pizza.

My "bean burrito" calzone with whole wheat crust.

BTW, they are hiring!  Saw the sign and witnessed the reason: they only had two people working the whole place!  The girl that waited on us was also washing dishes, manning the cash register, and making pizza, all while waiting on every table in the place.  

Day 132: Birthday Goodies

After driving like a million miles in like a billion years, we finally got home from our trip to FL very early Sunday morning.  There was no rest for this weary one, however, as I had treats to finish as birthday presents for my younger brother and dad.  Our whole family was getting together at our house to celebrate spring birthdays and Mother's Day, and I had only a few short, sleep-deprived hours to finish my treats and get cleaned up.

My sister-in-law and I had decided to recreate some very popular snack cakes for my brother and dad, who both carry a fondness for these little treats.  So, she made "fudge rounds" (Little KT's!) and I made "oatmeal creme pies (Little Jenny's!).  They turned out waaay better than I expected, especially since I wasn't  on functioning anywhere near full capacity, and the recipe involved sugar and a candy thermometer.  That's an ugh combination for me on the best of days.  All, in all, I'm pretty pleased with the results, and I'm glad I froze extra cookies, because these will definitely need to happen again soon!

Days 125-131: Florida

So...I've been gone for a week, and had little access to the internets (Meaning all I had was a smartphone; fine for checking email and the Facebooks, but not so much for blogging.).  I now give you the food and drink related pics I snapped while enjoying lots of sand and water:

Hannah with her beautiful hot chocolate from The Little Tart in ATL.  We stopped here for lunch and copious amounts of caffeine for the adults: two Americanos with four shots each.  

 Foodstuffs from The Little Tart: here a gougère and a BLT on focaccia with tomato pesto.

Cinnamon streusel coffe cake I made for our breakfasts.

 Hannah with her basket of fried shrimp and scallops.

Shrimp po' boy.  It was meh.  I was hoping if I ate it, we might magically be transported to New Orleans, where I would be eating a real po' boy.  It didn't happen.  Sigh.

The result of impulse buying at the package store.  Scary stuff, I tell you.

Using up bits that survived cooler transport across 5 states.  Favas, asparagus, red onion, chicken, and bacon.

Livi eating chips and Sarah showing the queso fundido who's boss.  Her Tidy-bowl hued margarita contributed to later gastronomic distress.  Ugh for icky unnatural things.

Aforementioned queso fundido con hongos.

This iced substance was sold as frozen yogurt, but was a sad representation.  I dubbed it "faux-yurt).  It also contributed to later gastronomic distress.  Lesson learned: never trust a toppings bar which includes Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Ugh.  I should have just walked to the gas station and bought a Snickers.

Friday night shots of Sweet Revenge out of cheesy souvenir shot glasses.  Nothing good came of this decision.

The poor quality of this photo is due entirely to the fact that the bottle is empty.  And in us.

 During our marathon drive home, we stopped for restorative barbecue and Jim and Nick's in Montgomery.  Much needed fuel for the 10 million miles we had left to go.


Day 124

 Cornmeal dusted, pan-fried monkfish medallions (later smeared with a raspberry honey mustard sauce, different, but tasty), local salad greens with blueberries.  



Day 122: How to Make a Meal Out of Leftover Bits

Local rainbow chard

 Beautiful rainbow chard stalks

Combined with Innisfree eggs, half an onion, garlic, two leftover chopped hot dogs (really good hot dogs, but hot dogs nonetheless), panko, and Pecorino Romano, and baked.  Served with homemade peach and ginger cornbread muffins.  Dinner.  


Day 121

We went to MoMBA today to watch my younger brother race "fast laps" on his big 3-0 birthday,  a kick-off to the mountain bike season.  A food truck was supposed to show, but never did, so we were left scrambling for dinner.  So, gyros it was: