Archives for posts with tag: Food

Lamb Chops, Roasted Asparagus, Bleu Cheese Mashed Potatoes with Balsamic, Rosmary & Garlic Reduction

Life is complicated and life is messy. For me, Sunday supper is a time, a day, and a place where I am able to carve out a simple and uncluttered port away from the storm. It has always been a time to reconnect with family and friends. Bringing everyone around the table affords us the opportunity to talk about the week past and plan for the next.

Unfortunately, even though 6:30 Sunday evening rolls around every week, Sunday supper can get lost. In the summer, random rounds of golf go a little long or what started out as a stroll around the neighborhood turns into a full-blown hike along the river. In the winter, it’s either a rush-hour show and big tub of buttered popcorn or the it’s-too-nasty-to-go-to-the-grocery argument that inevitably sink supper plans

Sometimes, however, I simply crave it. Yesterday was that day, and I needed the rigor and the work and planning and the escape that Sunday supper offers me.

As I mentioned, life is complicated. If you’re living a full life, how could it not be? I have a blended family, and I’m fortunate that I get along quite well with Mark’s (my husband’s) ex-wife. As a matter of fact, we spent a very pleasurable day together rooting on our son, Allen, while he competed in an equestrian event. It may not sound terribly complicated; but try writing it all out in a way that honors every relationship without overstepping boundaries. It’s complicated. And I’m not sure I did it justice.

But anyway …

It was a long day, and sometimes even routine life-management-activities leave me a bit drained and lacking focus. I left the event feeling like I needed a little comfort. When I say “comfort,” I really mean a good meal I prepare. Embarking on the nearly one-hour drive home, I started to flip through my mental recipe box to decide what Sunday supper should include.

Ah-ha! In honor of spring, lamb was the perfect choice. I took a short detour to Straub’s – a local gourmet-ish market – for lamb chops. I also picked up delicate asparagus. Things were shaping up nicely.

Once home, I prepared a lovely balsamic, rosemary, garlic marinade* for the chops, chilled a bottle of rosé, and checked in on my email. And then things got messy … emotionally.

Kathy, my step-mom, had emailed** to let me know that the new (experimental) chemotherapy treatment my dad*** is enduring is having the worst side effects of any treatment he’s had to-date. The bottoms of his feet feel like they are sunburned when he walks. He also cannot talk or eat without severe pain because of what chemo has done to the inside of his mouth.

My dad – a big, strapping, red-headed Irishman – has had sunburned feet before. (There was an unfortunate incident on a beach in Italy many years ago.) Ultimately, he can work with that. It’s rotten, but workable.

He’s never, however, ever had a problem talking or eating. That, my friends, is simply rotten.

Dad and Kathy are facing new challenges with regard to pain management and nutrition. And here I sit writing a food blog. (Irony, anyone?)

I was relieved to have the work of supper in front of me. The hustle and bustle of the kitchen allowed me to avoid talking. Rather, I simply asked Mark to read the note Kathy sent me. He did, and he granted me the space to continue to work quietly.

When everything was ready – lamb chops, roasted asparagus, bleu cheese mashed potatoes – we sat down to our Sunday supper and I was ready to talk: about my day; about my dad; about last week; about next week.

And I had a glass or two of wine.

Into every life a little wine must flow ... or something like that!

I’m thankful that my life isn’t any more complicated than it needs to be. While I hate the “messy,” I’m motivated to help Dad and Kathy find a fix for what I’m hoping is a temporary setback. And I’m glad I followed my instinct and created a proper Sunday supper.

Think about the meal you might make next Sunday and the benefits you and your family will enjoy. Perhaps you’ll create a great memory. Maybe you’ll give someone in your family the space he or she needs to talk. You just might find your own rhythm and focus that gets your week off on the right foot.

Regardless, just do it and Eat It, St. Louis!

*If you’re interested in this easy marinade recipe that works with pork and chicken, too, you can find it in Nick Stellino’s Glorious Italian Cooking, page 125, or click on the link. Until I understand all the copyright ins and outs, I’ll simply direct you to previously published recipes.

**Dad and Kathy live in Tampa, FL, so we rely heavily on email, Skype, Facebook, and texting. We are totally hip!

***Yes, my dad has cancer. No, I don’t talk too much about it. We, as a family, take it day-by-day and we are grateful for every single one. ‘Nuff said.

Foodbuzz

There certainly was no reason to stay home! On Wednesday, April 6, Maplewood Farmers’ Market kicked off the 2011 market season, and the glorious early evening provided an ideal backdrop for farmers and artisans to showcase their wares.  Encouraged by the warmth of spring and commerce in the square, people came out doors to peruse the offerings and say hello to their neighbors.

At the market’s debut, the stalls buzzed with activity as shoppers shook off the remnants of their winter cocoons and purveyors talked about their current offerings and what they are cultivating in their fields. So early in the season, the best fresh offerings were salad greens* and herbs, like the ones shown here from Deep MudRiver Farm.

Italian Parsley, Deep MudRiver Farm

For me, Beatje Farms was a favorite. Their sinfully beautiful artisan farmstead goat cheeses will be part of every cheese plate I assemble this summer. I’m thinking the gorgeous Bloomsdale, which has hints of blue cheese, will be the centerpiece of a deluxe offering that will include divine dark chocolate (check out the Kakao stand for a mind-bending selection), sweet green and red grapes, a lovely Pestalozzi baguette (Black Bear Bakery, here I come), and a big glass of cabernet.**

Baetje Farms

Another brilliant find was del Carmen Cuban style beans. Seriously … these beans bring crazy goodness to your table. Spicy and fresh, these beans deliver a complicated flavor profile with hints of cilantro, and cayenne, and all things Cuban.  I cannot do the flavor justice. You just have to trust me on this and get your container of Cuban style beans. You can thank me later.

I, myself, am wholly and unapologetically committed to getting my grubby little hands on my next dish of del Carmen beans. They add a saucy va-va-va-voom quality to any meal … or as a meal on their own.

Estie Cruz-Curoe, Queen Bean & Owner, del Carmen Cuban Style Beans

And have you heard that that Grandma’s Nuts are delicious? If not, I’ll tell you they are. These yummy bags of goodness – which Grandma Marcia dreamed up when her son decided he was going to be a vegetarian – include cranberries and cashews; raisins and soy nuts; sunflower seeds and almonds; and so much more.  You’ll never get trans fats, glutens, or peanuts.

It's Grandma Marcia, herself!

By the way: If you decide to mix Grandma’s Nuts into your pancake or cookie batter, don’t forget who may have given you that idea … I’m open to baked-good themed thank-you gifts.

There were many vendors I didn’t even get a chance to learn about, like Farrar Out Farms, the Farm-to-School program, Mangia Italiano, El Chico Bakery, and Claverach Farms. I’m really looking forward to my next trip to the market.

The Maplewood Farmers’ Market is a solid recommendation, my foodie friends, and I can prove it. I had a celebrity chef sighting! When Chef Gerard Craft is shopping the market, even beginners know they should Eat It, St. Louis!

I’m on my way to get more beans now …

Maplewood Farmers’ Market
@ Schlafly Bottleworks
7260 Southwest Avenue (at Manchester)
Wednesdays, 4pm – 7pm
 

*My intrepid husband — who stunt doubles as my photographer — and I had the most amazing dinner using most of what we purchased at the market.  Yes, the beans, but also salad greens from Deep MudRiver Farm. These were wonderful side dishes that added just the right zip to gorgeously grilled bratwurst and Schlafly Summer Lager. It was a great start to the grilling season!

** I do love a European dinner that is shopped for in European fashion. All that fresh air, leg stretching, and market chat always inspires me to approach my next meal a little differently!

Foodbuzz

This is a slogan that Penzys Spices makes available on a bumper sticker. The pithy little saying speaks to the way love translates itself through food.

Last Saturday night, a fashionista and an architect made a room full of people feel very loved. My husband, a gardener, two teachers, a non-profit executive director, a senior-housing specialist, an IT guy, and I – your humble blogger – gathered around a dinner table to share tasty food, engaging conversation, and a lot of laughter.

When we received the invitation to Supper @ Six from Jennifer and Peter Marks, we were – of course – delighted. I’ve known Jennifer mostly professionally for years. In recent months, our professional acquaintanceship has extended itself to a lovely personal friendship. I was looking forward to bringing our husbands together, too. Both men are smart, funny, and talented; if they had nothing else in common, they could talk about their adoring wives.

This was more than two couples getting together for dinner, however; this was a full-fledged dinner party. The intrigue of new names, new faces, new stories, and new perspectives danced in front of Mark and me all week. We really looked forward to the evening.

Finally, Supper @ Six was upon us, we arrived (bottle of wine in hand), and Jennifer greeted us warmly. Uncharacteristically, we were running late, so we managed quick introductions and slid seamlessly into comfortable conversations. Wine was flowing and delicious bruschetta and fresh crudité whetted everyone’s appetite.

The aromas emanating from Jennifer’s kitchen were magnificent. Her preparations of roasted vegetables (which included my absolute favorite: Brussels sprouts) and butternut squash risotto, were soulful and rich. As she opened lids and stirred pots, each of us eagerly anticipated the meal to come. The dishes she was preparing also gave us – her guests – an immediate conversation point that allowed us to connect with each other. The symphony of voices was fluid, graceful, and genuine.

Peter presented the evening’s centerpiece: a gorgeous platter of barbequed chicken. Yes, it was skin-on, bone-in and cooked to flavorful perfection. There wasn’t one of us who wanted to delay getting dinner underway. You’ve never seen so many people jump to get the table set!

As our group assembled around the table, we established a sense of community. We raved openly about the fabulous dinner that brought us together. We shared stories of our kids; compared notes on the challenges we face in our quickly changing world; talked about literature, and music, and art; and laughed about the crazy situations we find ourselves in from time to time.

Before we knew it, it was 11:30 and time to leave.

Jennifer and Peter planned, prepared, and gave us a tasty meal. And we felt warm and cared for and – well – loved. Thank you for providing a wonderful total experience for each of us.

I urge everyone to do the same thing for the people who decorate your life. Plan a simple but tasty menu, extend a warm invitation, and Eat It, St. Louis!

* Thank you, Tony Havlin, for telling me about a bumper sticker that led to a most appropriate title.

(Because I am a terrible photographer, I didn’t do justice to the dinner party. Sorry for the lack of photojournalism. Bear with me, folks.)

Foodbuzz

Over the past couple of weeks, the idea of community has taken on new gravitas. With broadcasts that provide us with immediacy and social media connectivity that link us intimately, we have watched the world take new shape. The fast-pace of change, and our ability to witness change as it happens, has (in my opinion) helped define and refine our collective humanitarian role and purpose.

Inevitable natural forces have taken our collective breath away. We were paralyzed as earthquakes rocked New Zealand and Japan, then we cried as we watched the fierce wall of water sweep across the already ravaged island nation. Those left in the wake of disasters find themselves deprived of basic amenities: clean water, power, and … yes … food.

The American Red Cross has made it amazingly simple to donate aid to the people – our global neighbors – who need assistance. You can even choose where you’d like your donation to be applied. The American Red Cross serves not just victims of natural disaster, they comfort and care for military families; people in war torn regions, like Northern Africa and the Middle East; and millions of others who find themselves in crisis.

While global events rivet and compel us to open our hearts and wallets to people far away, I ask that we remember our fellow St. Louisans who need help and support every day. Families struggle to buy groceries and are turning to food pantries for assistance. The elderly and infirm frequently face having to decide which of their basic needs will be met day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month.

My challenge to myself, and everyone, is this: If you can donate $10 to the American Red Cross, won’t you please consider donating $10 or volunteering your time to a local food pantry or meal provider? You’ll be helping your immediate neighbors, your co-workers, and your community. It is amazing what just a little bit can do for so many.

Giving in our own community binds us closer and can give each of us a renewed sense of purpose. In the long run, we’ll fuel our collective success and strength. We’ll groom and encourage the next generation of humanitarians.

Here is a short list of (and links to) local organizations that can use our help:

Food Outreach

Operation Food Search

St. Louis Area Food Bank

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Food Pantry

Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry

American Red Cross, St. Louis Chapter

The object of my affection at Trattoria Marcella is but a humble thistle elevated. May I introduce you to the Stuffed Artichoke? Masterful and unique, its full-globe presentation makes me swoon. It’s simple and gorgeous. How Chef Steve Komorak turns out a perfectly executed full artichoke every time is part of its mystique.

But he does, and for that I am inspired.

In their raw form, artichokes are tough and fibrous. There is a furry little heart in the center that needs to be removed before you dive in. Sometimes there are thorns. It makes me wonder if the same person who peeled the first banana and cracked the first coconut is the same person who decided he’d try to eat an artichoke. Seriously … this would seem like the stuff of dares.

Thankfully, someone accepted the dare and the artichoke was cultivated, finessed, and served.

When you order the Stuffed Artichoke, be prepared. What arrives at your table is breathtaking. The gorgeous green globe is stuffed with cous cous and toasted pine nuts. You can smell the herbs and parmigiano marry up with the peppery olive oil, which Chef Komorak procures specifically from Italy’s Umbria region.

As you peel back the leaves, layer by layer, your experience will change. The first layer or two are hearty and they stand up to help you get the flavorful stuffing to your mouth. It would seem that the leaves were made to be spoons, but not so fast. There is meat in those leaves! And oh my, it is delicious.

(Hint #1: Use your fingers and don’t be shy about pulling the leaves through your teeth to get every bit of artichoke meat you can. Leaving behind any morsel of goodness is a crime!)

Eventually, you’ll realize that you’ve come to very tender, very meaty leaves that seem to melt when they hit the edge of your lips. You’ll also notice that your hands are a mess and you might blush slightly to realize you’re licking your fingers. Let’s face it: It is a sexy, intimate thing, eating an artichoke in public.

And then, just when you think your experience could not improve … you see a lovely bed of cous cous and cheese on top of the artichoke bottom. This, my friends, is the little bit of heaven you’ve been craving. If you have to, Rochambeau* with your companion – best two out of three – to take full possession of bottom and don’t look back. It’s that good.

(Hint #2: Squirrel away a piece of the crusty bread ingot that comes when you’re seated. It is perfect for mopping up all of the yummy goodness left in the bottom of your dish.)

Take it from me, stuffing an artichoke and making it edible can break even the most dedicated home cook. I’ve tried and it takes hours, and hours, and hours of steaming and boiling. I’ve also scraped my hands on the tough raw exterior and pouted in frustration when none of it worked.

Now there is no reason to fret or pout. There is a restaurant where it works. So, I say, “Cheers to the magic Chef Komorek works in his kitchen!” Make your reservations, ask for the Stuffed Artichoke, and Eat It, St. Louis! You’ll be happy you did.

*Rock, paper, scissors

Trattoria Marcella
3600 Watson Rd
St. Louis, MO 63109
(314) 352-7706

Trattoria Marcella on Urbanspoon

Foodbuzz
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