April 2007 Roundup

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Eating Local, Farmer's Market, Monthly Roundup

April was a whirlwind month, with my travels and everything else that went on. So this month I’m giving you an abbreviated roundup – mostly links to recipes and posts by other bloggers that I don’t want to lose track of.

Lisa the Restaurant Widow put together a list with detailed info (including opening dates and vendors to check out) on the local farmer’s markets. Personally, I went to the North Market yesterday, and there were some veggies (leafy greens, greenhouse tomatoes, asparagus) out and about, but mostly plants – this is a good thing, mind you; I picked up a Brandywine and Black Prince tomato plant. I’ve had such good success growing tomatoes, and look foward to doing some heirloom varieties this year.

So it’s a nice slow start, but week to week there will be more and more vendors coming out, and more and more choices as the growing season progresses. I’m afraid that I completely missed the ramp season again this year. :(

After this writeup at Sorry Fugu, I’m bound and determined to hit the Findlay Market in Cincinnati the next time I make a Jungle Jim’s road trip. Good lord, I’m drooling. I think I’m going to make it my life’s mission to hit the public market in every town I visit.

Speaking of visiting towns, my husband an I will be going on a roadtrip in July, hitting Lancaster, Allentown, and the Poconos in Pennsylvania, and Poughkeepsie in New York. Any suggestions on places I shouldn’t miss in any of these cities or anywhere along the way? Since it’s a driving vacation, we have a little more time for diversions.

Savory recipes I’ve bookmarked this month are Perfect Bangers and Mash from Book The Cook, Leftover Chicken Pesto Salad from Kalyn’s Kitchen, Turkey Picadillo, Southwestern Corn Chowder and Gnocchi from the Columbus Dispatch, Ricotta Dumplings with Orecchiette, Peas and Proscuitto from Vicious Ange, Greek Seasoned Chicken with Orzo from The Cookbook Junkie, Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls from The Culinary Chase, Tatyana’s Polish Bigos from Apartment Therapy, Persian Rice from A Good American Wife, Quick Cuban Bread from Andrea’s Recipes, Dad’s Baked Beans from Confections of a Foodie Bride, Gnocchi Sardi with Asparagus and Saffron from Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once, Pancake Soup from Delicious: Days, Italian-American Gravy from Food “Blogga”, Cheddar and Sun-Dried Tomato Muffins from French Kitchen in America, Baked Shell Pasta with Zucchini, Onion, Salami and Fontina from Kitchen Unplugged, Spring Pea Soup with Chive Oil and Peppered Creme Fraiche from Leite’s Culinaria, Soft Pretzels from Lily’s Wai Sek Hong, Gourmet BLTs with Green Garlic Aioli from Love and Olive Oil, Catalina Taco Salad from ramblings from a gypsy soul, Yakitori Chicken Meat Balls from Rasa Malaysia, Lardon and Spring Pea Quiffle from sourdough monkey wrangler, Spring Salad with Fried Duck Egg and Caramelized Ramps from Restaurant Widow, Turkey Burger Stuffed with Crispy Bacon and Caraway Havarti from What We’re Eating, Risotto with Bolognese Meat Sauce from What Did You Eat?, Springtime Panzanella from Well Fed, and Wild Garlic Risotto from thepassionatecook.

In sweet recipes, there’s Italian Ricotta Pie with Pineapple from Food “Blogga”, Goat Cheese Truffles from Cloudberry Quark, Apple Crumble from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once, Strawberry Cream Tart from Andrea’s Recipes, Monkey Bread from Dine and Dish, Apfelstrudel from Dinner for One, Salted Cashew Nut Caramel Layered Chocolate Chip Brownies from EAT DRINK LIVE, Egg Pie from English Patis, Brown Sugar Brownies with French Sea Salt from FamilyStyle Food, Fig Mini Basket from Kitchen Unplugged, and Almond Apple Bars and Baklava Muffins from Precious Moments.

In instructive posts, Aidan Brooks shows us how to cut up a whole chicken into parts, learn how to choose and prepare a mango with Coconut & Lime, get an overview of oatmeal at Couteau Bonswan, and let Kalyn’s Kitchen show you how to make perfect hard-boiled eggs. In addition, learn how to separate eggs at Simply Recipes, and how to store vegetables at Vital Information.

When Lisa, Rosie, and I had brunch a couple of weekends ago, we threw around the idea of a picnic where local food bloggers could get together and spend the day getting to know each other and eating. Any initial feedback on the idea, guys? Like places, dates, etc?

Until next month…

Review: Wendell’s

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Columbus, Restaurant Review

A lot of our restaurant choices are determined by what’s in the Entertainment book or the Prestige Dining Club book – we get both every year, and usually make up the cost of it in just a couple of outings. One of the restaurants in this year’s Prestige Book was Wendell’s – however, the discount was only valid at the Lane Avenue location and not the Westerville one.

We took a look at both menus, and our original plan was to go to the Westerville location despite the lack of discount, because they offer a brunch menu on the weekends that looks tasty. We figured that it would be an easy jaunt across town after hitting the North Market in the morning, and our expectations of the meal were reasonable, given the low prices, we figured we couldn’t go wrong.

After a very difficult time finding the place (it’s tucked away in the rear of one of the strip malls by the Meijer at the corner of Polaris Parkway and OH-3), we got settled in and after looking at the menu again, decided to go with sandwiches instead of brunch. We should have stuck with brunch.

It’s not that the food is bad, per se – it’s just relatively uninspired. It’s the same pub grub that you can get at any pub in town; the food is prepared competently and is definitely edible, but nothing stood out as especially good. And with a check totalling almost $50 for the pair of us, we could have done much better as far as quality and quantity of food elsewhere.

We started with two appetizers. The first, an order of Macaroni Cheese Balls ($6.95), was a good combination of hot gooey interior, crunchy fried exterior, and a good marinara that made an otherwise bland dish distinct.

wendellsmac

The other appetizer, and order of Crab Cakes ($9.95), had good flavor but were mostly filler. The whole grain mustard sauce was delicious and a good pairing with the seasoning of the crab cake, but I wish they would have put it on the side to allow each person to add as little as much as they need individually. I could have saved a ton of calories (and the flavor wouldn’t have changed dramatically) if I had half as much sauce on there. Overall, though – this appetizer is definitely overpriced. At this price point, I expect a little more crab in my crab cakes. Perhaps I’m just spoiled by my recent experiences in New Jersey.

wendellscrab

Since we were both going with sandwiches, we decided to each get an order of soup as well.

I went with the Chili ($3.75 for a cup), which I was very disappointed with. The spice balance was off, and the taste was comparable to what you get at Giant Eagle or on the buffet at Golden Corral. It was very soupy, and light on meat, beans, or any bulk – I needed to add oyster crackers (something I usually forego) to make it edible. The included cheese and onions were very stingy, I could barely find a trace of either.

wendellschili

My husband went with the Steak Stew in a Bread Bowl ($6.95), which for all intents and purposes, reminded both of us of Chunky Soup. The reason my husband gets soup in a bread bowl is so that it will moisten from the soup and add texture to the soup – this bread never moistened, and ended up being inedible and a waste of the additional dollar to upgrade from a regular bowl.

wendellssteak

For my sandwich, I chose my standby, and got the Wendell’s Reuben ($7.95). I asked them to substitute cole slaw for sauerkraut, which they ended up serving on the side. As far as reubens go, it was decent – comparable to what I get at other bars/pubs around town. At least they grilled it rather than toasted it, which is what most places around here do with a “grilled” sandwich.

wendellsreuben

My husband chose one of his guilty pleasures, the Bermuda Bologna ($6.95), expecting it to be fried. This one was really strange, because it wasn’t hot, and it wasn’t cold. These types of bologna sandwiches are only good if the bologna is fried enough for it to be crispy on the outside. This ended up just being a warm bologna sandwich, which we both agreed was kind of gross. It was much better later on in the evening, once it was fully cold. The fries served with both sandwiches were straight from a bag of frozen, and were fairly bland.

wendellsbologna

Overall, we were bored with the food here. This would be an ideal place for those with “beige” food tastes, but if you’re looking for somewhere that will awaken your taste buds, look elsewhere.

If you’d like to go: Wendell’s, 925 N. State St, Westerville, 614.818.0400.

Wendell's Pub on Urbanspoon

Mock Beef Stroganoff

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Copycat, Recipes

With all of the discussion about eating on a limited budget (with the governor of Oregon eating on a food stamp budget, and the Eat Local Challenge focusing on eating within a certain budget), I did a lot of thinking back to those times where I was young and poor and had to feed 2 people on a monthly budget of $105.

Eating on a very low budget can get very boring for a while. There’s only so many times you can eat hot dog and macaroni and cheese, or boxed mashed potatoes and gravy, or ramen, or spaghetti with sauce before it gets real boring, real fast. So early on, I experimented with different things, trying to replicate the taste of more expensive dishes on a limited budget.

mockstroganoff

Hence, the invention of the “mock beef stroganoff”. For all intents and purposes, it tastes just like the real thing. It’s beefy, creamy, and has a mushroomy vibe going on. And it’s super easy to make. And cheap, too. Simply prepare 2 boxes of beef Rice a Roni, toss it with a pound of browned ground beef, and one prepared packed of McCormick Hollandaise sauce. Back in the early 90′s, this meal cost $2.79 to prepare (.99/lb for ground beef, Rice a Roni on sale 2/$1, and .79 for the sauce packet), and fed us for 2-3 days. These days, it’s a bit more expensive to prepare ($2.99/lb for 90% lean ground beef, $1 per box of Rice a Roni, and $1.39 for the sauce packet, along with about .70 worth of butter), but at around $6 for 8 or more servings, it’s still very economical. I still make it from time to time (even though I can afford to make the real thing now) because of the comfort factor associated with this combination.

When money is tight, what kinds of things do you whip up from ordinary grocery items that most people don’t give a second glance to? I’d love to know!

Open Sesame

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Life, Meme

Inspired by a look into Sam’s fridge this morning and a challenge to show our own, I’m going to give you a glimpse into my everyday life: a look into my fridge, completely unedited and messy. ;) In any case, it will give you a good idea of what the interior of my fridge looks like at any given time.

fridge

On the top shelf is a bag of spinach from the farmer’s market this past weekend (which I’ll be making tonight), some leftover yellow rice from this past weekend, a package of corn tortillas, sea salt butter from igourmet.com (in the basket with the blue and white paper). In the two stryofoam containers are creamcorn cakes from Tensuke Market (which they use to make Idaho rolls, which they unfortunately were out of, so I got the cakes so I could make them at home). Under the creamcorn cakes is a bowl of leftover wedding soup froM Carfagna’s, and above them is a container with leftover goat cheese, upon which a container of Giant Eagle’s Swiss Appetizer spread is sitting. On the far right is leftover juices from the pernil this past weekend, a mostly gone container of grated Parmesan, and behind that is the ubiquitous orange juice.

The second shelf is pretty messy, but items you’ll find on that shelf is a container of cheap Parmesan, some jelly, a can of cinnamon rolls, some leftover vinaigrette that came with the salads we had the other day from Carfagna’s, a can of lump crab, truffle butter, flatbread, a container of potato salad from City BBQ, British mustard, balsamic dressing, and some sliced provolone cheese.

On the third shelf? A jar of canola mayo from Whole Foods, a container of masago for sushi making, the better part of a pint of banana pudding from City BBQ, leftover rice and beans and lots and lots of eggs. I always have lots and lots of eggs.

On the bottom shelf, a half eaten bag of baby greens/spinach salad mix, a couple of containers of homemade kheer, more rice and beans, and a container of vindaloo from last night’s batch.

In the drawer is a ton of cheese and smoked bacon. Out of the picture completely are a produce drawer, which is filled to the brim, and another overflow door, which is currently storing some cheese, and the fridge door, which has diet pop, milk, more mustard and hot sauce than is necessary, and tons of other condiments.

So fess up, what’s in YOUR fridge?

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Food Porn, Recipes

There are some dishes you make, not so much because you’re having a craving for that particular food, but because you need to use up produce and freezer and pantry stores.

With that in mind, we made a batch of this soup – not exactly expecting it to be inspiring or even worthy of a blog post. This soup was excellent! More of a “stoup” than a soup, it was very filling. We served it with some crusty bread and a salad.

sausagesoup

The original recipe is here. The only modifications we made were using Italian chicken sausage instead of pork, canned tomatoes instead of chopped, and fresh herbs instead of dried.

Vindaloo

Author: swampkitty05  //  Category: Ethnic, Food Porn, Recipes

We had houseguests this past weekend, and knowing that one of them (along with my husband) is a big fan of spicy Indian food, I suggested vindaloo. With both men enthusiastically on board with that, it came time to decide on what kind of protein to include – our houseguest was having a craving for paneer, while my husband couldn’t decide at all – so we ended up with a mix of paneer, beef, and pork.

vindaloo

Our other houseguest (the wife of the aforementioned spicy Indian food lover) is his polar opposite foodwise – when trying to decide on a menu for this weekend, he advised me “even Taco Bell meat is too spicy for her” – while I lucked out on the Puerto Rican food on Saturday, even the smell of the vindaloo cooking was almost too much for her. Ooops, sorry guys… Originally I had planned on joining her in the “it’s far too spicy for me” camp (and eating Saturday’s leftovers), but surprisingly enough, after one taste, I loved it! Couldn’t get enough, actually. Yes, it was hot. Much hotter than I usually eat my food – but it was a good kind of hot; not the kind that smacks you in the face and obliterates your taste buds – it was the kind of hot that is mixed with flavor and slowly builds to a crescendo on your tongue.

But then again, I’ve never had a bad experience with Penzey’s spices. I’m going out later for another bag of Penzey’s Vindaloo seasoning. Yes, it’s that good. I’m ready for another batch, this time with the full amount of potatoes (we halved it last time to displace some of the paneer), double the amount of paneer, and chicken and pork instead of beef and pork. And who needs rice? This was good, even without it. The recipe below is for exactly how we made it, and it’s based on the instructions on the package, which I’ll include as well.

Penzey’s Vindaloo Seasoning package instructions: Mix 2-5 TB spices in 2-5 TB water. Heat 5 TB oil in a frying pan, brown 4 cubed peeled potatoes and set aside. Brown 1 1/2 lbs. pork or beef cubes, and remove to soup pot. Brown 1 large minced onion. Add vindaloo paste to onion, stir, add 1 cup water, 6 TB vinegar and 1 tsp salt. Pour liquid over meat, cover and cook 30 min over low heat. Add potato, turn heat to medium, cook 20-30 min until potatoes are done.

Vindaloo

10 TB Penzey’s Vindaloo Seasoning
2 cups plus 10 TB water
10 TB oil
4 cubed peeled potatoes
1 1/2 lbs. beef cubes
1 1/2 lbs. pork cubes
1 extra large onion, minced
3/4 c. vinegar
2 tsp. salt
14 oz. paneer, cubed

Mix 10 TB spices in 10 TB water to make paste. Heat 10 TB oil in frying pan, and brown potatoes and set aside. Brown beef and pork cubes, and remove to soup pot. Brown onion, and then add vindaloo paste to onion, stir, and add 2 cups water, vinegar, and salt. Pour liquid over meat, cover and cook 1 1/2 hours over low heat. Add potato, turn heat to medium, and cook 20 minutes. Add paneer, and cook an additional 20 minutes until potatoes are done. Serve with basmati rice.