Half A Salad with a Full Garden

Last summer I was getting all fancy with the gardening and the fresh stuff and piles and piles of lettuce to show for all my hard work. Thanks to my appaent inability to withold memories I went and planted flowers and herbs on top of where the end of last year’s crop went to seed. So what happened? Rogue lettuce. EVERYWHERE. It was growing out of the drainpipe hole at the end of the garden bed. It was springing up from between the cracks in the sidewalk. It was sort of grow up and through a rock?? And that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that even with all that crazy ninja lettuce popping up everywhere and messing up my carefully planned out herb garden I’ve gotten about 10 good leaves from the lot of them.

On the bright side (in the back where we get more sun) I’ve had so many tomatoes that the only thing I could think of after a while was to cut them in hlf and throw them in the oven so I could at least have something that still tasted like tomato and would turn to black goo on the countertop. I really hate it when tomatoes go bad. It’s super gross.

But all those poor tomatoes I just didn’t rescue in time aside, I was left with only half a salad since I was strangely without any other ingredients to help make any salad I made be more than just chopped tomatoes with salt. It takes a special tomato to be delicious without some sort of additional lubricant with taste.

Here is a picture of tomatoes.

Here is a picture of tomatoes.

But between work and more work and my entire fammily deserting me for the island homelands I have had very little to eat except vegetables for the last month. It all happened because my dear mother finished her radiation treatments (yay!) and it ended with a really really big last minute party where I tried to grill outside. Thinking I’d try something new for a big crowd I attempted making burgers. Like real burgers. The kind with meat cooked on an open flame. Well over charcoal.

For those of you who don’t know: I was raised vegetarian. At some point the family became pescatarian but even fish is a rare occurence at Chez Tobing. I have left behind those meatless way for almost a decade now but even today I don’t cook meat. So me deciding to try cooking burgers for a party was probably the worst idea. They didn’t turn out awful. Just not great. The black bean burgers I mixed up, however, turned out amazing and I’ve even made this receipe since. I usually make my own aioli with vegenaise, fresh crushed garlic, lime, and sriracha. I had also posted the burger recipe last year in “Keeping it Veggie“:

Black Bean Burgers with a Smoky Red Pepper Spread

Black Bean Burgers with a Smoky Red Pepper Spread

But alongside the semi-successful burger project I grilled about 5 billion pounds of fresh stuff: Eggplane, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, OKRA!, bell peppers, asparagus, baby bell peppers, portabello mushrooms, sweet potatoes, corn… You put the grilled veggies on a toasted bun with the aioli and a still cripsy-on-the-outside black bean burger (or a marinated and grilled portabellow mushroom if you prefer) and that makes for a good party! In the future, though, I think I’ll leave the regular burgers to a professional. The afterparty of this whole affair was me sitting on the sofa eating nothing but roasted vegetable sandwiches for the next week while watching “Chuck” and drinking the remains of my homemade “Make Your Own Juice Bar”. My favorite was the sparkling  Persian Lime with an extra shot of sweetness from the ginger simple syrup.

In honor of the vegetables (and “fruit”. That’s right, I’m looking at you tomatoes!) that kept me alive while living alone for the last month I’m dedicating the next series of posts with all the wonderful ways to eat them!

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burgers (from SkinnyTaste)

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burgers

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Muffin Week: “Whole Wheat Blackberry Muffin with Fresh Mint” (Day 3)

I’m thinking to go steal a bag blueberries  we froze from our harvest this summer at my Gma’s house and try to make these with them. Blackberries aren’t the hardest thing to find around here during the year but it can be a tricky ingredient to use properly. Often they’re too sour or they’re just plain expensive.

Since we have our own little patch and spend hours in the blazing hot sun every summer (you can read more in previous posts about this) I think it only right to use the poor little berries in a variety of recipes. Usually they end up in some sour super healthy pie my Gma makes with them and it makes me so sad…

So blueberries it is!

Whole Wheat Blackberry Muffins with Fresh Mint

“Whole Wheat Blackberry Muffins with Fresh Mint” from Eat the Love

GastroPorn Menu: June.2013

GastroPorn Menu: June.2013

It’s getting warm and slightly uncomfortable weather wise but things are also growing in the garden and we’re planning to get an umbrella for our back yard so we can actually enjoy our outdoor furniture. Now if only my back yard looked a little something like this:

Santorini-blue-and-white-paradise

This month’s menu is inspired by a little Mediterranean Island sun. Meant to be enjoyed outside with with lots of loud friends and family.

Goat Cheese with Olives, Lemon, and Thyme

“Goat Cheese with Olives, Lemon, and Thyme” From Leite’s Culinaria

Beefsteak Tomato Salad

“Beefsteak Tomato Salad” from Martha Stewart

Eggplant Salad with Chickpeas and Feta

“Eggplant Salad with Chickpeas and Feta” from Martha Stewart

Mini Spiced Chicken Burgers with Mint Greek Yogurt

“Mini Spiced Chicken Burgers with Mint Greek Yogurt” from Applemint

Zucchini Patty Sandwiches

“Zucchini Patty Sandwiches” from Whole Living

Lamb

“Lamb” from Joseph De Leo Photography

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Honey-Lime Dip

“Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Honey-Lime Dip” from Our Best Bites

Lime, Yoghurt and Olive Oil Cake

“Lime, Yoghurt and Olive Oil Cake” from Simple Provisions

Honey-Ricotta Turnovers

“Honey-Ricotta Turnovers” from Martha Stewart

French Toast Heaven Has Been Found!

Founding Farmers - Rockville

Founding Farmers – Rockville: Also known fondly as, that place where the food is amazing and yes we can definitely go back there. (Follow link to restaurant website)

Ranting about good food is just a built in part of my nature at this point. And I’m sure I’ve ranted about Founding Farmers before because I’ve been there several times and taken people there from out of town because, well, it’s impressive and I like making sure that visitors to DC remember it fondly, especially as a foodie capitol (which it most definitely is in my book).

Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that my parents aren’t big fans of going out to eat. Why? Because they are sure to tell me every time I go out that they think it’s a waste. Although, usually it’s my dad saying that and my mom wonders out loud why she doesn’t ever get to go out somewhere nice… And I feel bad sometimes because they don’t do stuff like that mostly because they’re busy paying for our house and (yes we only have one) car. Oh, and have I mentioned that my little brother is rather expensive on the upkeep costs? He’s still young enough that being supported is acceptable but still. Children are expensive.

But with my dad gone and my mom pulling all-nighters to get this work done for Yemen she hasn’t been in much of a mood to cook so if we’re at home I’ve been doing it or we’ve been eating up leftovers. And on Sunday we had to do a bit of driving to get my brother to a competition and my mom decided that we would be eating out that day. So we arranged to stop at Founding Farmers at their Rockville location (near my Gma’s house) on the way back home.

Can I hear a “Best Idea EVER!”, please? I had, as of Sunday, never actually made it to any Founding Farmers (or sister restaurants) before  for brunch. I had tried twice before but due to some flooding–or inclement weather or some such nonsense out of their control–they had always ended up closing and so no brunch for me. Until Sunday…

Having been to their DC restaurant several times before I new the majority of the regular menu and was glad that one of the few times I’d managed to get a parent to one of my favorite restaurants that they had a really good vegetarian selection. We also had another friend with us for the weekend who happened to be vegetarian as well so that worked out nicely. And I don’t eat a lot of meat and if I do rarely for brunch because I like waffles and stuff and meat and waffles is a line I’m not really ready to cross and I doubt I ever will. Eggs, sure. But that’s about it. My brother on the other hand, has completely gone off the deep end and embraced his caveman roots and does eat rather a lot more meat than the rest of us.

We started with the basics, their lovely bread with various dips and “smears” and fried green tomatoes (because those are one of the key arguments I had used to get my mom to go there in the first place. If you think I like fried green tomatoes… Guess who taught me to like them…? Actually it was my Gpa but it’s my mom’s dad and it’s all flows down the generations nicely like that).

I’m not going to go into all sorts of details about what everyone ordered because that would be annoying. I am, however, going to discuss what I ordered because I’ve become hyper aware that I’ve just been eating sub-par french toast for an incredibly long time and now I feel the need to right this wrong.

I ordered this:

Stuffed New Orleans Style French Toast

Vanilla Pastry Cream

  • Original – 8
  • Lillian’s Blueberry Compote- 10 {<– with this}
  • Bananas Foster – 10

and I’m pretty sure I will never again be able to eat regular plain french toast ever again. For those of you who don’t know, vanilla pastry cream is very similar to what they fill eclairs with. In fact I think it is what they fill eclairs with in theory but this was even better. It was very similar to a homemade custard with vanilla bean (as opposed to that smooth gelatin-y stuff you find in a Boston Cream doughnut).

Now, I know I won’t be able to properly recreate this without some serious time and effort and possible some kitchen equipment that I don’t yet own. But progress is still possible. For instance I just looked up a compote recipe and this is the only one with a decent pictures. It is on pancakes which makes me sad because… well they are pancakes, but not sad enough to prevent me from sharing.

Blueberry Pancakes with Blueberry Compote

“Blueberry Pancakes with Blueberry Compote” from KitchenDaily

And here’s a video for making a pastry cream that I think looks about right: Pastry Cream Recipe from Joy the Baker.

So we’re working towards something similar at least. Now to figure out how to make the bread (which is really more like fluffy cake) into the  right shape and get the cream inside…. That will take more work but I’m sure a combination in the right quantities and some creative eating can get me close enough to say that I’m on the right track.

 

Eat More Lunches!

Asaltado Vegetariano (Sitr-Fried Vegetable Sandwich)

“Asaltado Vegetariano (Sitr-Fried Vegetable Sandwich)” from Saveur

With school out for the summer and me being the only one that still has to come to campus I’m pretty much on my own for lunches. Usually it’s a much more communal effort to get everyone a packed lunch in the morning but now it’s just me and that means I’m so much less willing to put forth a lot of effort. But food is important and lunch is especially so in my book. After trying to get students through final exams, worrying about the next batch of students on the way in the fall, and only recently getting over the horrible illness of doom that had me practically strapping a box of tissues and a bag of cough drops to my hips for easy access… Well I let a few things get away from me and I gained a few pounds so it’s back to the routine and restarting the fencing training and hopefully the swimming circuit for the rest of the summer to make sure I don’t let the situation get the better of me. And, since having recently eaten and what I do behind closed doors with my earphones on isn’t exactly conducive, I can’t eat dinner until afterwards so lunch is important. I’m sure there are rules about all this stuff but since when have I ever followed the rules knowingly? So sandwiches and salads are on the menu along with my homemade bottles of chilled karkadé(which I talk more about in my previous post “Bug Juice“).

Noodles Make Me Happy

Dan Dan Mien

“Dan Dan Mien” from The Daily Meal

My dad left for Indonesia this morning and it’s been crazy trying to get him packed (because he really does a horrible job when left on his own) and out the door. Then my mom cried and it was sad. But now I’m thinking of noodles and that makes me happy so yay! Noodles!

Now my favorite version of this dish is made with the wide noodles because those are the best kind of noodles. Ever. And it just so happens that I am close to nearly operational with the whole noodle making capacity at home so that means I can make noodles in almost any shape I want and that’s uber exciting. This recipe calls for the dried noodles and we have literally boxes of every kind of Asian noodle known to man stacked in my pantry because we’re cool like that. I might give it a try one night this week. It looks like I’ll be doing a lot more of the common cooking with my mom recently hired for a new contract, my dad gone, and my baby brother… well he’s seventeen and the only thing he ever seems to crave is pizza and macaroni and cheese.