Thursday, April 4, 2013

the great outdoors

I took some pictures, intended for the blog, in late summer 2012. Then, due to the kind of job that frequently ended up with me doing infinite hours of work… on a Sunday… while on vacation… it was fall and the pictures no longer seemed topical.

Then, we had a spot of shockingly temperate weather in the late fall and I said, perfect! I can now post about these lovely warm-weather experiences. Surprise surprise, didn’t happen.

And now it is April, and at last warm enough again (with my qualification for being “warm enough” being, of course, the ability to grill outdoors with comfort). So at long last I seem to be ready to publish the pictures (though of course I’m only three short paragraphs into this post as I type this, so you never know, you may be reading this in 2016).

Regardless of the time of year, I love the W&OD Trail. It is particularly atmospheric on the days it threatens to storm.


When the sky began to look decidedly ominous (albeit beautiful)…


… Steve and I decided we could be warmed and sheltered in one of our favorite spots, The Pure Pasty. If you live within, say, 200 miles of Northern Virginia I’d recommend coming just for a pasty.

1. The crust is a buttery, subtly tangy, flaky, chewy taste of heaven.
2. The fillings range from perfect executions of traditional fillings to delightful experiments, including a seasonal vegetarian one that in the past has included roasted autumn vegetable delight, Indian lentils and potatoes, and spinach and feta for summer.
3. They get local, sustainable, humane meat.
4. You can get all kinds of fun British treats like bourbon biscuits (<3<3<3) and digestives.
5. Yes it’s a lot of calories but there is a beautiful and long trail a mere block and a half away to burn ‘em off!
6. Or if you want to let your inner fat kid run free (recommended), there’s a great cupcake bakery next door and a Great Harvest a few doors down.

This time we opted to split one (meaning I wasn’t hungry but Steve is Steve so he got one and then I had to take some bites cause read the above please).


And, as has happened MULTIPLE times near closing, they offered to send us home with pasties that hadn’t sold. For free. Like four. (Note that the way to differentiate the pasties is the little shape they carve on top of the crust).


Then it looked REALLY ominous. So we went to the coffee shop next door. And, knowing us, probably also stopped in the pizza place a few doors down from that (can you tell there’s a lot of good food on Church Street?!) so Steve could get another “snack”


Remember when I grew tomatoes? Tending and then harvesting them was one of the most rewarding, fulfilling, emotionally soothing experiences of my life.

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Now that grilling season has returned, here are two things you have to do:

1. Make Martha Stewart’s grilled chicken with lemon and oregano. Butterflied whole, marinated with lemon-herb awesomeness. So amazing.


2. Grill peaches and serve them with cream (we had leftover cream from somethingorother and GOD cream is good).



Now we’ve moved up chronologically to last fall, when I made the yummiest salad.


It really had the whole shebang of flavors: dark, bitter farmer’s market salad greens; buttery roasted cauliflower; protein-rich hardboiled egg; sweet and crunchy chopped apples.

Best of all was the dressing: Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and mango chutney. I HIGHLY recommend this combination.

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And now we have reached the present day, where my family hosted our first cookout of 2013!


We knew we wanted some nice grilled fish for the party, so I picked up some beautiful steelhead trout (very similar to salmon; I would’ve gotten wild salmon but Costco didn’t have it and while steelhead is farmed sustainably, not so much for salmon, per the Monterey Bay seafood guide).

For a vegetable side dish, what was fresh and beautiful and the farmer’s market- leeks- served as inspiration.

My mom found another Martha Stewart recipe, for grilled leeks. I’ll be straight with you: cleaning leeks is a huge pain, and since the recipe recommended two leeks per person (which is completely unnecessary if you buy big leeks, as ours were) it took a good long while.

Then I blanched them til just tender..


And grilled ‘em til charred and gorgeous. I had to kind of splay out their innards so they’d get charcoal-licious all the way through.


The steelhead soaked in this tangy lime marinade for about an hour and then I grilled it whole.

Grilling fish is tricky. Keeping on the skin as long as possible is helpful for holding it together, but at some point you have to take it off to get both sides that nice grilled flavor.


It all worked out. The fish was really yummy.


And I channeled my grandmother in multiple ways with dessert; first, as my mother reminded me, my grandmother always served fish with lemon dessert.

And, this dessert was really her signature. My family goes crazy for it; we were scared it had died with her, but my aunt found the recipe and I’ve made it a few times. It’s extraordinary how tasting this dessert makes all of us feel like she’s with us.

And that recipe is… Gingersnap and Lemon Ice Cream Sandwiches.

A few things to note:

1. The gingersnaps are chewy. They’re also buttery and homemade. But I want to just emphasize, these are not dried-out store gingersnaps. They are CHEWY.


2. The lemon ice cream is just that- ice cream. Not sorbet. Creamy, lemony ICE CREAM.

Enough said.


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