August 31, 2011

Glad Rags For Diners - Part One

There's nothing like spending the day with friends browsing stores and eating great food. Recently, I went to Bay City, Michigan with a couple of friends to visit a store that doesn't sell food, but is surely a feast for the eyes. And then we had dinner.

The day started with a quick trip into Espresso Milano to pick up refreshments. This indie, one-location only coffee house in downtown Midland, Michigan opened in 1993 and has been going strong ever since. They're located at 137 Ashman, and are open from very early to very late. I had the summer special Ginger-Mango Spritzer, and loved it. I also loved the courteous service, but didn't like that back entry door. While conveniently located next to parking, there's a step down, and I wish it had been better marked...nearly twisted my ankle.

The half hour drive to Bay City passed quickly as we talked about our lives, and in no time at all we parked in front of Glad Rags 814 Columbus Avenue. Owned and operated by super-stylish Mary Bush, the store has had many permutations and locations over the years. If you're looking for a vertible explosion of color, fabric, and style, this is a store you want to visit.

Glad Rags specializes in Resale clothing, so expect the unexpected, and plan to spend a good hour or longer looking through the two floors of mostly women's clothing. Be on the lookout for designer duds, too. I spotted (and nearly fainted) at the sight of a Christian Dior black wool dress and coat set from the 1950's; the dress still had original petticoats.

A peek at the ground floor of Glad Rags.

Hats, Scarves, Purses, Jewelry - Accessories of All Kinds (but nothing edible.)

A small portion of the shoe selection at Glad Rags.

I ended up walking away with an original Jean Paul Gaultier alpaca and silk turtleneck sweater for under $100 (plus a few other things as well.)

One of the most delightful things about Glad Rags is owner Mary Bush. Don't hesitate to ask her for fashion advice as she has a knack for finding just the right accessory or helping you find the styles that work best for you. Be sure to bring plenty of cash or a local check as credit cards are not accepted.

And then we had dinner (See Part Two.)

Glad Rags Resale (no website)
814 Columbus Avenue, Bay City, Michigan 48706
Wednesday through Saturday 12p-6p

Food Lover's Note: Glad Rags is located just down the street from the Bay County Market where area farmers offer produce to the retail and wholesale markets.

August 18, 2011

Captivated by Cappelini Caprese

Caprese salads are typically composed of fresh tomato, buffalo mozzarella, julienned basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper. This recipe adds pasta into the mix, and is great for the lazy, hazy days of summer that we're in now.

This recipe comes from a magazine. I have no idea what magazine, though I'm sure I found the recipe sometime in the mid-90s, and have been preparing it every summer since then. It's so simple, and so celebrates the season that you'll add it to your summer repetoire in a heartbeat, too.

The pictures show a recent version of this salad that uses the last bits of cooked and cooled macaroni, red onion, and leftover chicken breast. The recipe is easily adapted in that way. Don't have parsley? Don't worry about it. I'm sure the salad will be delicious anyway you make it today. And - if there are any leftovers - it will be even better tomorrow.

Cappelini With Tomato

Serves four or more

12 oz cappelini, cooked, tossed with 2 T olive oil, and cooled to room temperature

4 large tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup scallion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz mozzarella, shredded - be sure to use FRESH mozzarella.
Salt and Pepper to taste
Walnuts (optional) for garnish

Combine the tomatoes, scallion, basil, galric, mozzarella, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and let stand, at room temperature, for at least thirty minutes. Toss with pasta and walnuts and serve.

This recipe is great for potlucks and picnics. On top of my worn out recipe card I wrote "A summer classic" - indeed.

August 13, 2011

Kohlrabi, Potatoes, Bok Choy

I gotta say, cooking from a Community Shared Agriculture (CSA) share is a challenge for me. I feel like I've been thrown completely off my cookbook rhythm and still haven't found the beat yet. It's out there, somewhere...

Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on VegetablesEarlier this year I picked up a copy of Farmer John's Cookbook: The Real Dirt on Vegetables (subtitled: Seasonal Stories and Recipes from a Community Supported Farm - by Farmer John Peterson and Angelic Organics.) How's that for a mouthful?

John Peterson is an iconoclast, grounded -literally- in the history of farming in the Midwest. He was raised in farming, nearly lost his farm, and then raised the farm up to be a shining beacon in the CSA community. Currently, the Angelic Organics farm supplies more than 1200 shareholders in the Chicago area. This video gives you a sneak preview of the full documentary regarding John and his farm:

The cookbook is indispensable for any CSA member. It's chocked full of vegetables, herbs, recipes, stories, and more. This year I've received more kohlrabi than I have ever fact, I'd never tried kohlrabi before this summer. It's in the cabbage family, so think of that taste. First, start by nibbling the kohlrabi raw. Move on to Koleslaw.

I peeled then chunked the kohlrabi and placed in my food processor. I added in a few carrots for color. Then I pulsed the food processor a few times until I had a lovely slawy mix. I added a classic coleslaw dressing of mayonnaise, cider vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, then stirred and tasted. Yummy!

Kohlrabi Koleslaw

Once you've mastered raw kohlrabi, head straight for mashed kohlrabi. Combine with potatoes for a fabulous alternative to mashed potatoes. Keep 2 to 1 ratio of kohlrabi to potatoes, and you'll do just fine. Be sure to boil separately, the combine with butter, milk, salt, and pepper. There's a delightful recipe on page 203 of Uncle John's Cookbook.

Mashed Kohlrabi and Potatoes
Bok Choy is one of those vegetables that stymies many. It's also a member of the cabbage family, and can be used like both like celery (the white stalks) and like leafy greens (the dark green part.) Uncle John's suggested sauteeing the choy with butter, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. I wasn't disappointed with the recipe on page 80.

Gingered Bok Choy
This is a cookbook for vegetable lovers everywhere. I find that I'm referring to it over and over again to figure out what to do with that vegetable I just learned about. I'll often try the vegetable raw, then experiment with cooking and see what transpires.

CSA cooking? It's an adventure!

KOHLRABI KOLESLAW with Klassic Kreamy Koleslaw Dressing

1 kohlrabi, roughly chopped (or more – you decide)

Whir the kohlrabi chunks in your food processor until it resembles your favorite Koleslaw size…sliced, shredded, or little bitty bites.

Klassic Creamy Koleslaw Dressing
(from Joy of Cooking)
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup cider or rice vinegar
1-2 tablespoons sugar
Stir until well blended. Makes about 1 cup, which slathers the one kohlrabi; store for use on other unsuspecting kohlrabi’s. Pour over shredded Kohlrabi and mix it up.

Suggested Additions:
carrot, pineapple, fresh herbs, bacon, bell pepper, onion – the sky’s the limit!

August 6, 2011

Favorite Summer Salad

Everyone could use a no-stress, no mess summer salad. Mine is a variation of the ubiquitous three-bean salad that leaves ample room for spontaneous ingredient meandering based on what's on hand.

The base ingredient is three cans of beans. In this mixture I used kidney, black, and pinto beans but honestly, virtually any mixture of three beans would do the trick. If you're feeling daring - only use two, or throw all caution to the wind and try one kind of bean. Three different colored beans, however, have a little magic cooking moxie.

Magic Moxie Bean Mix

Next up is an assortment of farm fresh vegetables, and this is where your creativity and local availability really take shape. If you're at the farmer's market, pick up red and orange peppers, sweet corn, red onions, tomatoes, and broccoli. Here I used much of what was in this week's Swier Family Farm CSA box.

Another addition is the freshly chopped herb (or herbs) of your choice. In this salad, I used dill exclusively; the salad works equally well with only cilantro.

The finally, add some of your favorite dressing. I used the final drops from a bottled dressing, and it was just enough to coat the salad, but not enough to overpower the dill. I also added some freshly cracked black pepper, and stirred to combine. I plan to let it sit in the fridge overnight and share at a potluck tomorrow. By then the flavors will have had time to marinate and become all kinds of crazy yumminess.

Favorite Summer Salad
My favorite summer salad is healthy, easy, crowd-pleasing and incredibly forgiving to the cook. What's your favorite summer salad?

Favorite Summer Salad
3 cans cooked beans - black, pinto, kidney
1 cup green, red, yellow, or orange bell pepper
2 ears fresh corn, shucked
1 cup (?) chopped red onion (I didn't write down how much I used)
1 pint grape tomatoes, at least halved, chopped if you're up to it
2 tablespoons or more fresh dill, chopped
1/4 to 1/3 cup bottled dressing of your choice (or mix your own)
Salt and pepper to taste

Place everything into a large bowl and mix well. Feel free to experiment with all of the ingredients: in the photographed version, I used a little broccoli, too. I've also made this salad adding in a cup or so of cooked, cooled brown rice or quinoa.