Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I'm Not Ready to Have Fall Yet!

There are apples in the store now.  And not just a few.  Nooooo!

Yes, I do like apples.  As a matter of fact, I had a Honeycrisp at the store this afternoon.  And it was delicious.  The problem is, when the first apples start coming in, it's a harbinger of the end of summer fruits.  Soon the berries will end.  And the peaches.  And plums.  And my favorite, nectarines.  Waaaaah!!!

Well, I'm just not ready yet.  As I've said before, I'm not a baker but I'm trying to learn.  And I've got a long checklist of things to make before the fruit is gone.  Let me give you a peek at my list.

Photo via Epicurious

This is something I've been comfortable baking since, well, Cooking Merit Badge from eons ago.  Cobbler is essentially pie filling with biscuits on top.  There are options as to what kinds of biscuits, though.  This one most closely resembles what we used to do at Scout Camp back in the day.  This one has a sweeter biscuit that's really divine.  Of course, any cobbler is much better when made in a cast iron Dutch oven with decades of seasoning on it, and baked in the embers of your campfire.

Photo via Oprah.com
Simple Tarts
I think what makes me shy from baking is the detailed decorating involved.  And when some intricate design is required on a couple of dozen cupcakes or something, well, I guess I don't have the patience for it.  But one level more difficult than cobbler would be rustic tarts, no fancy-pants decorating involved.  Here's a simple fruit tart.  It's just a simple pastry dough, formed into a rough circle-ish shape, with fruit piled on and the edges rolled up.  Right up my alley.  Here's another one with a slightly different crust.

Photo via Smitten Kitchen
It's All in the Bundt
Now we have to go up to the level of a real cake.  Uh-oh.  I think bundt cakes are probably the easiest, as there's little to no decorating, or lining up layers straight.  It's the one-pot stew of the cake world.  Just remember to let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes or so prior to trying to invert it onto the plate.  This one I've made before and it's really amazing.  The buttermilk gives it such a rich flavor.  This one is way yummy too.  I know, you normally don't think of strawberries and carrots in the same, well, in the same anything.  But trust me, you won't be able to argue with the results.

For-Real Cakes
Before we get super-serious, this pound cake sorta straddles the line between a bundt cake and a real layer cake.  The lemon really highlights the blueberries, and the ricotta makes it SO rich.  Speaking of ricotta, have you looked in the dairy case lately?  You'll find local ricotta there now!

And lastly, that brings us to a layer cake.  I haven't worked up the courage to try yet, but I've sworn to myself I'm going to try before the blueberries are gone.  I'm thinking that the lemon-blueberry combo should be fantastic once again.

Photo via Sally's Baking Addiction
So, what are you planning to bake before the berries are gone?

Friday, August 22, 2014

More Than Cucumbers

So, are your pickles ready?  Mine are just to that nice, sour point and they're going in the fridge today.  (When they get to the right sour level for you, then they need to go in the fridge.  Otherwise you get pickle mush.  Blech.)

So last time we talked about classic pickles.  You can put these in jars and process in a water bath, and they're shelf stable for about a year.  That makes them, "canned pickles."  There are two other types, "refrigerator pickles" and "quick pickles."  Quick pickles are ones you cook in the brine for a brief period, chill, and eat right away.  Refrigerator pickles use a higher vinegar content, and ferment in the fridge.

But all of these methods can be used on any firm vegetable.  Below are some pickled vegetable recipes I've used – and enjoyed – in the past.

Photo via Food and Wine
Here's a recipe for general pickled vegetables.  It calls for a collection of beans, etc., but you can really use just about anything with a solid texture.  I use this recipe when I'm giving away preserves as gifts.  Choose a variety of vegetables with an assortment of colors and shapes.  Take your time and arrange them in the jar carefully and artistically, and it makes a nice gift.

Photo via handjobsforthehome.com
Cauliflower should be in season in just a couple more weeks, and these curried pickled cauliflower florets are amazing.  Probably the most common pickle I make, other than cukes.

Photo via rosemarried.com
The herb-y sourness of these green beans is really divine.  Be advised, a little bit of lemon peel goes a looooong way, particularly if you make enough of these that some will be on the shelf for a few months.    I usually cut the lemon peel by a third.

Photo via Serious Eats
Finally, let's talk carrots.  There's classic dilly carrots, which are a great way to remember summer come wintertime, but these spicy carrots have a lot of character.  Again, a word of caution.  It calls for slightly more than a tablespoon of red pepper flakes per jar.  I use a scant teaspoon, and they'll still really curl your toenails.

Anyone have any other pickled veggie recipes you like?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Guest Post: Crustless Corn Quiche

This is a guest post from KRvW.  Thank you!  We welcome crop share members to pen guest posts.  If you have something to share, please email me at burt@nallsproduce.com.  Without further adieu:

                    Crustless Corn Quiche

Here's a fun one for pulling together several summer favorites into one savory dish that is sure to please.

A long time ago, my mom shared with me an old recipe for a "crustless corn quiche". It was pretty good, but it lacked something for me. So, I decided to bump it up a notch.

For starters, it needed a bit of salty goodness from the addition of a bit of meat. Next, I felt it could use a bit of spicing to make it a bit more interesting.

After quite some experimenting, I arrived at one of my favorite summer dishes. It marries fresh summer corn with poblano peppers, onions, and one of my favorite Tex-Mex flavorings - chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I really think the chipotles are one of the unsung heroes of the kitchen. A can of them goes for about a buck at most supermarkets, and they can last in the fridge nearly forever. Chipotles are smoked jalapeño peppers, and the adobo sauce is a great spicy sauce that packages them perfectly.

Recently, it occurred to me that most of the ingredients of this recipe are available right up the road from us at Nalls Produce. I love the addition of the cream and cheese from Trickling Springs along with the fresh organic eggs from Pennsylvania -- all available at Nalls.

Talk about a dish with all local, fresh, and natural ingredients!

Now, combine that with the fact that this entire meal can be cooked in a single pan. I like to use my trusty 12" cast iron skillet for making the dish, but you can also make it in just about any similarly sized dish. The only other dish used is a mixing bowl. 

It is easy to make and tastes fabulous. If you want to notch up your game a level or two, grill the ears of corn on your grill and use heavy cream in lieu of the half-and-half I generally use. The smokiness of the corn will be a fabulous complement to the dish, and the heavy cream is a wonderful treat for those special occasion dishes.

Enjoy! Oh, and if you make improvements to my recipe, I'd love to hear from you. I'm always open to cool new ideas.



Crustless Corn Quiche
4 ears fresh corn, cooked, husked and kernels cut off (about 3 cups) N
1 medium onion, finely chopped N
1/2 to 1 lb. bacon, chopped
1 poblano pepper, finely chopped N
2 chipotle chile pepper in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Madam Pele's Heat or Emeril's Essence
1 tablespoon butter N
3 eggs N
2 cups light cream (half and half is great, or even heavy cream if you want to step it up a bit) N
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon chile powder
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, dried, or 1/4 cup fresh N
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese N

1. Cook the corn. Steamed, boiled, or grilled is great. This can be done in advance. It's also a great use for leftover ears of corn after a big meal.

2. Preheat oven 375F degrees.

3. Sauté the bacon (Virginia country ham also works great here), browning it well, and then mix in the onions, poblano, and chopped chipotle. Continue to sauté on medium to medium-high, until the onions are well caramelized, about 15-20 minutes.  If the meat is lean, you may want to add a bit of butter or olive oil when adding the onions.  Otherwise, use the pan drippings from the meat. When the mix is well caramelized, set the cast iron skillet aside to cool. Add in the Madam Pele's Heat or Emeril's Essence to the mixture, if desired.

4. Meanwhile, in large mixing bowl beat eggs until fluffy, then add cream, chile powder, and flour and mix together.

5. Add the corn, salt, pepper, parsley, and 1-1/2 cups of cheddar cheese.  Mix (or even blend) well.

6. Pour the mix into the cast iron skillet with the meat/onion mix. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the cheddar cheese. Optionally put a bit of paprika in the cheese on top as well.

7. Bake at 375F degrees for about 35 - 40 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for about 10 minutes. Cut and serve.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pucker up!

I have quite a bit of canning to catch up on.  Seems like this year, other aspects of life have been continually cropping up. But now it seems like I'll be in the eye of the storm a bit, so I'm resolving to catch up.  Or at least reduce the backlog.  Hence, you'll see the next few weeks bring a group of pickling posts.  Not that this is a bad thing, as August is high canning season.

I'm the only one in my house who eats pickles.  At least so far, as I'm trying to acclimate the little guy to them.  In France they say children will like anything if they try it enough.  I hope they're right.

Nalls has pickling cukes right now. For any pickles you make, you'll want to use the same guidelines for choosing the good ones.  Look for small, very firm ones, with prominent bumps.  Like this one:

I make two kinds of pickles.  The first is a classic Kosher dill, and the second ones are sweet and spicy.

The dill pickles are the easiest.  I have a large Fado jar which starts being used when the cukes first appear and stays in use until the last pickle of the year is eaten.  Start off putting 2-3 sprigs of fresh dill in the bottom of a dishwasher-sanitized jar.  Take 2 or so (to taste) garlic cloves, halve, and toss in with 2-3 black peppercorns.  Cut the tips off the cukes, wash them thoroughly, and pack the jar halfway.  You can leave small cukes whole, cut them into spears, or slice disks, whatever your preference.  Add more dill, garlic and peppercorns, the rest of the cukes, and a final round of dill, garlic, and peppercorns.

Photo via about.com
Make the brine.  I use distilled water just to be sure about the salt level.  For each cup of water, add a teaspoon of Kosher salt and a tablespoon of white vinegar.  Microwave the water a bit if necessary to get the salt to dissolve.  Cover the cukes completely with brine, and leave the jar on the counter at room temperature.  You'll see bubbles form, that's the fermentation taking place.  Remember to "burp" the jar a couple of times a day.  After a couple of days, taste one.  When they're as sour as you like, put the jar in the fridge.

When my jar is half empty, I fill the bottom with more cukes.  When the brine starts getting cloudy, I change out the jar's contents.

Photo via Food Network
The sweet and spicy pickles are made with this recipe.  A word of caution on this.  I usually like spicy, the recipe as-is makes WAY HOT pickles.  I usually use about a third of the peppers.  I haven't had a lot of luck getting those peppers at stores around Alexandria, but Penzey's in Falls Church is a reliable source.

As other veggies come into season, we'll talk about more creative pickling.  Meanwhile, pucker up and enjoy!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Get the Scoop!

Join us this Saturday for our Ice Cream Social!
You're invited to
Get The Scoop!
Ice Cream Social with
 Trickling Springs Creamery
Please join us for our annual ice cream social with everyone's favorite dairy, Trickling Springs Creamery.  They'll be on hand to serve up FREE samples of their delicious, all-natural ice cream!  So come on over and get the scoop!

Hey Nice Neighbors, this is your chance to stock up on your favorite flavors because you're getting double points
on your ice cream purchases! Not a Nalls Nice Neighbor yet? Click here to fill out a form or ask us about it when you check out, we'll get you set up!
August 16, 2013
From 10am to 2pm

Alexandria, VA 22315

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Just the Tools at Hand

Today is the first time I've been camping in a long, long, long time.  It's my little guy's first experience.  His enthusiasm was... effervescent.  Of course, this involved campfire cooking.  Other than forgetting how long everything takes (coffee might be done by lunch), it went well.

My Boy Scout days taught me the utility of cooking in foil.  But let's just say that my palate has progressed past a hunk of ground beef with onion and potato slices.  The art form, however, can still be beautiful.

You also don't have to wait for a camp out to do this.  The coals in the barbecue grill work just fine too.

Campfire potatoes are simply sliced Yukon golds, fresh rosemary and thyme, generous salt & pepper, and some fat (olive oil works, and so does leftover duck fat).

Dessert (well, pre-s'mores anyway) was this delicious stone fruit concoction.  Ginger snaps, sliced fruit, lime zest and juice, and I substituted dark rum for brandy and maple syrup for sugar, and WOW.

The true stroke of genius, though, was using leftover ginger snaps for the s'mores.  OH YEAH.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

It's Not Just For Baking Anymore

Whenever someone brings fruit into the kitchen, the first thought is always towards the oven and baking it.  Why?  It's summer, right?  You're going to light the grill to make dinner anyway, right?  And the oven's just going to make the house uncomfortably warm, so leave it off.

See all these beautiful melons?

Any of them, any at all, would be quite comfortable on the grill.  Think about it this way.  When you heat some butter and sugar, what's it turn into?  That's right, caramel.  Lovely, sweet, delicious caramel.  Sugar caramelizes with heat.  Like on the grill.  So take some fruit, any fruit, and slice it.  Dab with just a little olive oil (a little), put it on the grill over direct heat, and leave it until you see nice brown (not black) grill marks.  Flip, repeat.  Ta da!  Beautiful!

Photo via Brooklyn Supper
I tried a recipe yesterday that included donut peaches, watermelon, along with some grilled onions and balsamic reduction.  Trust me, there's nothing on this planet that's not delicious with balsamic reduction.  Try me in the comments section.  lol

I'll admit it, I'm kind of a food TV fanatic.  These grilled peaches make for a great dessert.  Or peaches can be a great side to a steak, or a glaze for chicken.  Want more than peaches?  Any stone fruits are awesome grilled.  One of my absolute favorite desserts involves grilled fruit.  I'm going camping next weekend, which means cooking in foil.  And it doesn't have to suck!

So pick up a melon and some peaches, light the grill, and bon appetit!