Monday, May 30, 2011

sailboats, salads, scary shakes

Dear Long Weekends: I love you.

On Saturday, Steve and I, inspired by a tip from my sister (more on that in a bit), headed off on a road trip to the conveniently close (about an hour from Northern VA), surprisingly quaint, peaceful, and beautiful Annapolis.

Upon our arrival, we immediately admired a boat that took us instantly back to our childhoods (slash adulthood. Who doesn’t STILL love Calvin and Hobbes?!)


While stopped at a drawbridge (!) we took in the scene, and particularly enjoyed the sight of this visibly delighted dog.


Upon reaching the center of town, we immediately bought ice cream. Isn’t it wonderful how anytime you are in a cute coastal town with even the slightest hint of tourism there are immediately a multitude of ice cream places to choose from? And on how, on this first weekend of summer, it suddenly seemed absolutely ESSENTIAL to buy some?

So we did. Peach froyo for me, cookie dough for him.

One of infinite reasons I love Steve is because he does things like give me a “taste” of his ice cream that includes the biggest hunk of cookie dough in the whole thing. LOVE!


Sitting down by the dock at the center of town, this immediately brought over some visitors, who implored us to share. Have you ever had a hungry duck look you in the eye?! It is INTENSE!


I had packed a clean-out-the-fridge sort of lunch for us to, yknow, supplement the ice cream.

We had kohlrabi for the first time the other night. Any kohlrabi fans out there? I thought it was DELISH!

For those of you who haven’t had it, it’s a root vegetable that’s sort of… gnarly looking, for lack of a better descriptor. My mom made it by chopping it up, tossing it with olive oil and TONS of garlic, roasting it at very high heat, tossing often, and sprinkling it with vinegar at the end.

Along with that (lower right), we enjoyed the kohlrabi’s greens, which were sort of like a milder collard green and entirely delicious with olive oil and lemon (what green isn’t?)


Also a lovely rice bowl: leftover brown rice, remnants of a can of black beans, grilled onions I made for burgers the other night and forgot to serve, remains of a local tomato, last of some green pea hummus I made the other day for potluck (! Dude, remind me to post about this stuff! It’s great!)


I find it hilarious that a rice bowl, a thing I make to clean out my fridge, costs like $8 at Chipotle. Baffling.

After our picnic, we started just strolling around Annapolis, popping into shops. I love coastal towns. People are so friendly!

Got caffeinated at City Dock Coffee, which had a poster saying it’d been voted Annapolis’ best coffee for seven years straight. I believe it. Man I love iced coffee in the summer.


We went into Capital Teas. I LOVE LOVE LOVE tea shops! This one gets a special shoutout for having a wonderful owner: so friendly and so knowledgeable! I went all diva and said I already knew what rooibos was: decaffeinated tea from the red bush in Africa. And then she said “But did you know it was a natural anti inflammatory?!


And just LOOK at that center flavor! Could not resist buying this.


Pumpkin cream?! Yes please! Haven’t tried it yet. Will report.

A romp around various campuses was next. We visited Saint John’s, where my friend graduated from last year. Man, it is pretty! Love schools by water.

Steve enjoyed being a monkey and climbing up its walls.


Steve took like nineteen pictures of me picking mulberries…


… til we realized they were all covered in tiny bugs. Too bad!

Next stop was the Naval Academy, which is GORGEOUS!


And unintentionally hilarious at times, like here…




Following this, we decided that exercise was obligatory for our evening plans (again, more on this later), and this is where Annapolis get a great big TIP OF THE HAT!

They have an exceptionally eco- and tourist- friendly program called Capital Bikes. As part of said program, if you go to the dock and up to the Harbor Master (best job ever?!) office, they will rent you a bike for $5!

It even has a basket!


(picture taken, on the fly, by Steve)

On the recommendation of yet more friendly nice small-town people, we headed to Quiet Waters park. We were immediately struck by the sweet smells of flowers, the happy chirping of birdies, and the fun exercise challenge equipment.

Pause for a fountain, which cruelly had a “No Wading” sign. But not a “no splashing”, fortunately. And, as (another!) friendly stranger pointed out, not a “no scuba diving”. Shame we had no air tanks.


We biked through the woods and through this gap in the greenery spied what was in essence a giant rich people yacht party in a secluded bay. Er, someday?


The final view was one of those places that is just so beautiful you don’t even bother. The river opened out to the sea, a great blue heron flew up from the trees out over the water, and we sat on a low-down bench, staring out at the water, being totally stoked to be alive. And then, adding to the ridiculousness of it all, a middle aged couple walked by, and the wife looked at us, mimed taking a picture of her hands, and said “Click!” As Steve pointed out, if random strangers think we’re cute, we must be doing something right.


And now this.

Background: one of the initial things that got me thinking about Annapolis was a suggestion of my sister. While watching the Travel Channel, she had learned of a place called Chick ‘n Ruth’s Delly.

We arrived and it was a fantastic and fun Deli! (Or delly). Menu specials on the wall named after Maryland state senators!


Complimentary (and fantastic!) pickles before your food arrived!


I opted for a build-your-own chopped salad.

Spring greens/romaine mix (I wish more places did this- love Romaine crunch, love flava of mixed greens)
artichoke hearts/cherry tomatoes/broccoli/pepperoncini
balsamic dressing on the side (to prevent sogginess for inevitable leftovers)
crab cake on top!


My feeling was, being in Maryland, being directly next to the ocean, it’d be foolish and just… unkind to myself to not order a crab cake.

It was a really, really, really, REALLY excellent decision.


Guys. Best crab cake I have ever tasted. EVER. Beautiful sweet thick chunks of fresh crab meat, devoid of any bones or weirdness, held together with… a mere WHISPER! Not even a HINT of binder!

So so so luscious.

Steve started things off with something yummy and nutritious! A wrap in a sun-dried tomato tortilla filled with eggs, veggies, and feta. It went with his Greece shirt! Lovely!


The end, right?!



Chick ‘n Ruth’s Delly has appeared on Man vs. Food. I know some people (I’m looking at you, Sarah over in The Smart Kitchen) who would get really excited about this. And I was! A brush with fame!

The thing is… my boyfriend is a dude. And he is a dude who drinks a lot. So he heard about the SIX POUND MILKSHAKES that appeared on Man vs. Food and he ordered one.


I’d show you the after picture (AFTER he drank more than 4 pounds- probably closer to 5- of what was basically solid ice cream) but I never took it because I was sort of worried he was going to die.

No more competitive eating. Ever.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

spontaneous barbecue

My friend Carolyn and one of her high school friends decided one summer to make it the Salt ‘n Pepa summer. Every day, whenever they got into a vehicle, they blasted Salt ‘n Pepa.

Inspired by this, I am declaring this summer the summer of the spontaneous barbecue. Had another last night. It was magnificent.

When work is tiring, it is oh-so soothing and contemplative to spend one’s quiet evening hours staring into smoldering charcoals, smelling the blissful aroma of foodstuffs transformed into blistering goodness.


(that odd looking thing on the foil was a spontaneous veggie burger- mashed up some leftover white beans with some leftover pesto and put ‘em on that to grill. Made a great topping for my lunch salad today!)

The protein element of the meal was from the farmer’s market- buffalo burgers! I try to keep my burgers low-fuss: I just added finely minced onion, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper.


In a frustrating moment, the grill that was WAY TOO HOT a few minutes earlier was reluctantly cool when the burgers actually went on. I always fear cooking mistakes (I judge my value as a person at how happy the most recent meal I’ve cooked has made those around me) but an overcooked burger due to an inadequately hot grill was particularly frightening because local and organic farmer’s market meat is so damn beautiful and also so damn expensive.


Anyway, I pulled through and they were great.


Also toasted up English muffins and mini pitas… because they were what we had. Spontaneity means sometimes not having burger buns.


Gorgeous local asparagus also turned out quite sublimely.


My adorable boyfriend joined us and brought a ton of food. We snacked before dinner on the mulberries he’d picked from the dish near his yard, and I grilled in a foil packet (with just salt, pepper, and olive oil) his beautiful elephant kale. And stuck that leftover tomater on the grill, for kicks.


Like a still life, eh?

My sister joined us (along with her friend) and incorporated something that tasted like Thanksgiving dinner… in May… delicious, delicious Thanksgiving dinner.

Carrots, pecans, honey, butter… don’t really know what else but it was awesome.


And my mom made the light of my life, her potato salad. She makes it Greek-style, with fresh oregano (it wintered over and is growing in profusion on our deck!), red wine vinegar, and scads of delicious olive oil.

My mom’s potato salad is one of my favorite things in the entire world ever.


And a shockingly abundant and classy Tuesday night dinner was served, al fresco, with good company and laughs.


The evening concluded, as these things always do, with the toasting of marshmallows.


And spontaneous grilled bananas!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Saturday cravings

Saturday I climbed out of bed and wanted french toast.

No, wait, I lie.

I climbed out of bed because at 8 am I heard the high-pitched, relentless, inescapable YIPPING of my neighbor’s effing dog. They “play” a “fun” “game” where he holds a ball and the dog goes insane yipping until he throws it.

Again, at 8 am. On a Saturday.

So I literally rolled out of bed, threw on my bathrobe, stormed down the stairs, opened the front door, and stood in my driveway, in my bathrobe, and said “Hey Mike. Can you play this game later?”

Him, oh-so-sweetly. “Did we wake you up?”

Me: “Yes.”

Then I went back inside but when I’m up I’m up. Lame. Anyway, so then I made some french toast.


Dear farmer’s market egg yolks,

You are so, so, so beautiful and yellow and yolky!

Love, me.

Simple batter of just those, a splash of milk and a drop of vanilla. Whole wheat bread.

Topped with messy mango.


Didn’t actually go with the eggy wheatiness of French Toast so I ate ‘em one at a time. Plus then more mango.


Then I did all my favorite Saturday things that I haven’t had time for- farmer’s market, gym BEFORE LUNCH (that is the ultimate victory for me).

Then I was driving home from the gym and it was just SO BEAUTIFUL. 75 degrees, shockingly blue sky, gentle breeze, happy people out and about, flowers, birds chirping, etc.

And I decided a spontaneous barbecue would be just… mandatory.

And made my facebook status, “Today is a day for a spontaneous barbecue”

And so began my planning frenzy (or as I inadvertently typed, plenzy); envisioning happy guests sitting on the back deck with gorgeous grilled food.

Got a little caught up in that til I realized that I’d been back from the gym for like an hour and hadn’t eaten anything and was going to be horribly ill if I didn’t, like, IMMEDIATELY.


Lunch included  a salad, the somewhat soggy remains of the somewhat overdressed spinach and goat cheese salad I’d enjoyed the night before at a celebration of my sister getting a summer job (yay!) that I perked up with some fresh spinach. Love that goat cheese.


Also, a yummy phyllo-wrapped farmer’s market tidbit (I ate these obsessively all last summer and will likely continue this one)


In theory filled with cabbage but there were moments of… eggplant… hazelnut… raisin. Anyway, whatever it was it was great.


I knew that combo wasn’t going to make me full but it was what immediately caught my eye in the fridge and then I ate it and felt scads better.51

Then my sister had torn a tiny piece off a bagel thin so I polished off the remains of it with- classic- peanut butter, thinly sliced apple, and cinnamon.


Then I finished off several handfuls of lucky charms cause agggggggggggh there are lucky charms in my house! Why!

Relaxing afternoon of more insane bbq prep and also things like showering/calling best friend/realizing I’d forgotten best friend’s birthday cause I’m a sucky person/hating self.

Powered up the grill, which was, as it always is when I grill at home, stupid and annoying and difficult because I’m perpetually using ancient charcoal that never wants to stay lit.

Eventually managed.


I’d thrown together some adorable teeny tiny baby little farmer’s market squashes with olive oil and lemon plus some dried oregano.


Then given a grillsie!


I wish foods didn’t look so awkward once you unskewered them.


Also tofu, which I pressed in advance, lightly oiled, grilled on one side, and then once I flipped them they were topped with pesto (which I made homemade and froze).


In terms of not just throwing stuff on the grill, I was expecting more people than actually showed up so I kind of just raided the fridge to see what was there and a complicated overabundance of

1. Phyllo dough and
2. Fat free ricotta (?) purchased by my sister

meant I thought about a slightly unconventional pizza.

Which to me meant caramelized onions.





Finished pizza with those caramelized beauties, leftover roasted chicken, potatoes, apples, and ricotta:


And, strikingly similar, with more caramelized onions, more apple, more ricotta, plus mushrooms.


Ended up finishing both! Did I need all those phyllo layers? Def no. Was it a pain when they all separated in the oven? Def yes. Did it taste good anyway, despite huge layers of phyllo getting wasted? I’m gonna say sure.

Annnnnnnnd for more phyllo a google search led me to all these ideas for phyllo cups of various things. So I made dessert.

Baked phyllo in muffin tins. Plus powdered sugar.


Plus chocolate truffles, back in a low oven to melt


Topped with sliced strawbs, vair elegant.


So dinner was rawther small, as it turned out the only guest was my sister’s friend Valerie. I mean, Valerie is a lovely girl.


But yknow, wine. Dinner al fresco. Good food. Craving sated.