Monday, July 23, 2012

On the Road

We were gone last week doing shows in Lewes, Delaware, and Ocean City, New Jersey. The shows went really well, but once again we were traveling during an extreme heat wave. Somehow we always manage to be gone doing shows on some of the hottest days of the summer. We arrived in Dover, Delaware, on Monday and our car thermometer registered over 100º. I managed to back the car into what was probably the absolutely only semi-shady spot in the entire parking lot—under the overhanging branches of a tree around the side of the hotel by the dumpsters. The rest of the parking lot was just a large flat stretch of empty pavement radiating heat under blazing sunshine. Our second day out, the temperature reached 107º! Despite the heat, we really enjoyed performing because we had fantastic audiences. A good audience really helps generate energy, which in turn helps make a great show. 

I booked a two room suite in a nice hotel that had a fantastic swimming pool and a hot tub and an exercise room. I kind of wish we had a few more shows in the area because we all really enjoyed the routine of going down in the morning for a great Continental breakfast, a turn through the exercise room, and then some laps in the pool. Erica convinced me we would burn our breakfast off if we managed to either do laps or at least tread water for 30 minutes without ever touching the bottom. 

Love the restaurant's name!
photo by Erica
Anyway, I don't have any fantastic recipes to share today, but I really wanted to share this photo of a restaurant that was near the venue in Lewes. I think the address was actually Rehoboth Beach. We saw the sign and thought about going there to eat, but we had food back at the hotel in the fridge and decided to save money, although I'm thinking we should have stopped just for the experience of eating their Hot Rooster Balls, Feast of Balls, Granny Dick's Cheese Plate, Hush Them Puppy Balls or, best of all, Crabby's Balls with a shot of Seaman Sauce. But I did pull into their parking lot so Erica could jump out of the car and take a picture. Wonder if their food is as interesting as the names. Maybe we'll be invited back next year. If so, we'll have to stop here for dinner after the show. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Our Garlic Harvest

Nine years or so ago, Rick brought the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival to my attention as a possible venue for us to perform at. I jumped on the idea immediately because I love garlic. We've performed there every year since (it's the last weekend in September) and I still enjoy going as much now as I did the first year. It's the Woodstock of garlic festivals. The idea of playing there excited me because there's just something about garlic. I love cooking with it. I eat it raw when I'm sick. I read books about it, both culinary and medicinal. I can make any food taste good with the addition of a little garlic. (I have to admit, though, that I have not had my garlic shot at the festival. I'm not exactly sure what that is, but there's a booth where you can have your shot of garlic and then you get a sticker to show you were tough enough to survive the experience. I also haven't had the garlic ice cream yet. But, okay, I love garlic every other way.) 

And, there's just something so comforting about harvesting your own garlic. Braids of garlic, ristras (strings of hot peppers), and drying herbs—a pretty picture, and a kind of Little House on the Prairie sense of stocking up to make it through the winter. Security. Okay, wait . . .  another thing I have to admit to is that Rick does all the work in the garden. And I mean all the work. I wander out and pick stuff when I have to, but more often than not I just give Rick my dinner list and ask him to get me something. "Rick, can you pick me some basil? Rick, can you get me some lettuce? Rick, do we have cilantro outside?" Rick enjoys the garden. I enjoy cooking. Match made in heaven. 

So, yesterday, Rick harvested the garlic. He was a little worried about it because of the overly warm winter and because some of the garlic was dying due to some sort of root rot. And if he's worried, I'm worried. I need my garlic! After he had pulled it he lined all the garlic up and took a photo. I looked at that photo and whined a little, asking—pleading really—if the photo was for me, but alas he was putting it up on his blog. All that garlic looked so darn appealing. Artistic, awesome, all lined up on the wooden bench out under the trees. But he took pity on me and took another photo today for my use. I just had to put a photo up on my blog, too. We obviously already harvested the garlic scapes a few weeks back, and had peas and radishes come and go, but this garlic really marks the beginning of this year's garden harvest for me. Soon our dehydrator will get put back into use as we stock up on all the summer's goodness for winter use.

Meanwhile, the garlic is curing in the kitchen for a few weeks, after which it will be stored in mesh bags in our basement.

It's a little too hot for soup (it's been in the 90s and is supposed to hit 100 on Saturday!), but Annalee's all time favorite soup is garlic soup. It's her comfort food. She asks for it all year 'round, even in this heat. It's fast and easy to make, is absolutely yummy, but without air conditioning in our house I probably won't make it for her until it cools down a bit. It cooks fast, so it won't heat the house, and I suppose a version might be able to be done in the solar oven if you brown the breadcrumbs inside, but eating hot soup in this sticky humid weather doesn't appeal to me and I haven't quite bought into the idea that hot foods in hot weather induce sweating, which cools you down. About the only thing I want is ice cream, which I'm trying to avoid. But here's the recipe anyway.

Some of Rick's 2012 garlic harvest.
photo by Rick

Garlic Soup
¾ cups unflavored breadcrumbs
½ cup minced onion
8–10 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
6 cups chicken broth
2 eggs

• Heat olive oil in a pan.
• Add minced onion and garlic, sauté until soft.
• Add breadcrumbs and cook until breadcrumbs are golden brown, stirring often.
• Add chicken stock. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
• In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs.
• Bring soup to a boil and slowly pour the eggs in, stirring the soup as you pour. (The eggs should separate like egg drop soup.)
• Add the chopped parsley.
• Simmer for 3 minutes and serve.

This is my take on a recipe I originally found in a Mexican cookbook. It’s a quick & easy soup to make, and also wonderful to eat when you aren’t feeling well.

Variation: Slice 1 fresh tomato very thinly, sauté with onion and garlic. If you add the tomato it might be better to brown the breadcrumbs first, set aside, then sauté the vegetables, adding the browned breadcrumbs back in before adding the chicken broth. (The tomatoes might make it too wet for the breadcrumbs to brown.) You can add more garlic also. My family generally likes 8–10 garlic cloves, but the more the merrier.

Serves 4 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Solar Cooking at the Farmers Market

Train station in the early 20th century
It has been hot hot hot the past few days—hot and sticky—and today was more of the same. And since today was Sunday, it was farmers market day. The market is held in Old Depot Park, where the train station used to be located. I wish it still was, because it would be so much nicer than having to drive 10 miles to catch a train. The railroad line was abandoned in 1939, though. Now it's really just a big parking lot.

Rick and I had been talking about bringing our Global Sun Oven up one Sunday during the market and buying some vegetables, or some of the organic free range chickens or grassfed beef some of the vendors have for sale. We figured it was the perfect spot to use the solar oven—no trees to block the sun—and we could get dinner going while we were tending our tables. I suppose I should go off on a tangent here and say the girls mind the tables while Rick wanders around playing guitar and jamming with some of the other vendors and I generally float about babbling with everyone. Which is okay. Having the music going is really nice and creates a community spirit. I have no clue what benefit my babbling has, though. Absolutely none, I suppose.

Escarole from Monarch Landing CSA, cooked in our
sun oven in the parking lot of the farmers market
But, anyway, today was the perfect day to do some solar cooking at the market, except I didn't think of it before we left home despite the fact Rick and I had discussed it last week. A conversation with Charley, who coordinated our farmers market, reminded me, and since Erica had to run home for a minute I asked her to bring back the solar oven and a pot from the house (we're only about 1/2 mile away). I wish I sold the darn things since so many people stopped to look and ask questions. By then it was 11:00 a.m., but I just had to cook something to demonstrate. I didn't think we had enough time to cook any of the meats for sale, so I dashed over to Julia and Peter's table (Monarch Landing CSA) and they gave me some escarole, garlic, a sprig of rosemary (or was it thyme? I forget) and a few sage leaves. I added a bit of water from my water bottle and put the pot in the oven. In the short time it took me to get the escarole in, the oven was already at 300º and climbing. I was hoping to share the escarole with everyone, but all the farmers sold out of produce and everyone started packing up a little earlier than expected. That was okay with me because I came home with a pot full of escarole, which I set it aside and served later on with dinner. Charley got so excited with the whole solar cooking idea, though, that next week I'm supposed to bring the solar oven back up to the farmers market and the Naturally Grass Fed folks (our neighbor vendor) will be bringing a 3 1/2 pound free range chicken for me to cook. Hopefully we'll have another beautiful sunny day and I'll have enough time to actually cook the chicken! Our other neighbor vendor, Natural Earth Farms (their 22-month old son, Anthony, is absolutely adorable and loves music and dancing!), will be supplying some corn. (I used their zucchini in my oven fried zucchini recipe. I came home with more this week, since the recipe was so yummy.)

In the meantime, Rick grabbed a plate and photographed a few of the escarole leaves for me, leaving the rest in the pot to continue cooking. Thanks Julia & Peter for such delicious goodness!