Summertime in Annapolis means food fresh from the farm

Bounty of a Tuesday morning Farmers' Market
Bounty of a Tuesday morning Farmers’ Market

If you want to avoid the crowds, try farm shopping Tuesday mornings at the Riva Road Farmers Market, open from 7:00 a.m. to noon. I arrived around 7:30 a.m. and there were plenty of delicious items and very few customers. Yes, fewer farmers come to set up booths when compared to a Saturday morning, but Tuesday can sometimes be more convenient, especially if you are away over the weekend. Just out are the blackberries… delicious… and then there are all those different kinds of tomatoes to choose from.  Avoid the standard supermarkets (unless you need lettuces) and shop local.  Keep your dollars in our county! Thanks for reading and if you are wondering what happened to Baltimore Girl Cooks by the Bay postings… well it’s just been too hot to want to cook. Grilling and salads, however, are great.

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Annapolis signs of springtime

RobinLooking  at the tree just outside my window, I see a Robin Red Breast preening herself as she rearranges herself on her nest. It;s spring. I hear plenty of bird calls as I walk across the dewy grass first thing in the morning to fetch my paper. Yes, we still read our newspapers printed on newsprint. I’ve tried doing without and reading online, but it’s just not the same as spreading out newsprint all over the table. I just have to remember to keep gathering up all those papers to recycle. It’s part of the routine. Today is bicycle to work day  and it is a perfect day for bicycling. This weekend families will start arriving into town to celebrateCommissioning Week and this year to economize there will be no Blue Angels.  I know my sentiment is not popular, but I will not miss them. I do not like the noise and neither does my dog. If you would like some inspiration for creating a salad or what to buy this weekend at the Farmers’ Markets check out my latest posting on Baltimore Girl Cooks by the Bay. Happy Weekend.

Annapolis Restaurant Week and Miss. Shirley’s Cafe Review

Annapolis Restaurant Week Begins
Annapolis Restaurant Week Begins

Annapolis Restaurant Week has started, as of this morning you can get some “deals” on an array of breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, being served this week only by Annapolis area eating establishments.  Two course lunches are being offered for $15.95 and  three course dinners for $32.95 or start the day with a two course breakfast for $12.95,  The last week of February is generally a slow time of year for restaurants, so by offering special menus at reduced prices, restauranteurs seek to entice more diners to come out and fill their tables. The majority of the participating restaurants are located in the downtown area, which is great for me, as this means I can walk to the restaurants and burn off some of those calories I will inevitably be adding to my plate.

If you take a look at the various menus, what you see is not always so much as a reduced price as it is more food offered for the money you’d normally spend at a particular restaurant, although this really individually varies. So my advice is to go to the Annapolis Restaurant Week website, see who is participating, and closely read their menus. What I noticed is that restaurants that already offer a lower price menu are not as enticing. But if you have been saving some of those  higher priced establishments for a special occasion, this may be the week to indulge.  Some are really going all out to offer you a large selection of their premium dishes. Since I already made my Saturday night reservations, I will reveal that The Rockfish in Eastport, for example gives you appetizer choices that include Oyster Rockefeller and entrees that include Rockfish (but of course given the restaurant’s name) as well as tempting desserts, while some other restaurants offer one single fixed menu choice.
One restaurant which has quickly grown in popularity but is not participating over the weekend (because they already have long waiting lines) is Miss Shirley’s Cafe.  They are offering a two-course breakfast and a two-course lunch special to be part of Annapolis Restaurant Week, but I would suggest unless you wanted to order what is on that menu, just order what you want. In fact maybe you want to order what Peter and I had last Saturday.
RW2It was a raw rainy day, a good day for indulgences.  Plus part of the fun of dining at Miss Shirley’s is studying the menu. There are so many choices and unusual combinations of food items, with a heavy emphasis on cheese, bacon, eggs,and butter because this is a brunch kind of place, that you find yourself having fun just imagining what you might be eating before it arrives.  This was my fifth visit, while it was Peter’s first time. Usually what I do when I go with my daughter Alex is to unofficially share a meal by encouraging her to order something big such as the trio of breakfast sliders or trio of lunch sliders, and then order something small like grits or oatmeal. For us it works perfectly because if you take half of your meal home and it was something oozing with grease and butter, while it tastes marvelous when freshly prepared it loses its appeal when reheated the next morning. If you ask to share, there is a plate sharing fee for the added plate.
Peter and I ordered two very delicious sandwiches :  Cloak & Dagger Shirley’s Way for $12.99 and Cuban Huevos Sandwich for $14.95. These are both in the same price range as Restaurant Week offerings without an additional course, but since we could barely finish our plates, we certainly did not need any more food! Our waitress was very enthusiastic about the Cuban Huevos Sandwich, telling me she orders it all the time and I could easily taste why. It is a delicious combination of Smoked ham, slow roasted pork, Swiss cheese, fried egg, pickles and mustard on Ciabatta bread.  I chose savory grits, creamy in texture and flavored with diced bacon, as the accompaniment.  Peter’s sandwich consisted of  hot corned beef, coleslaw with toasted almonds and Swiss cheese on a slice of pumpernickel and a slice of 7 grain toasted bread served with Russian remoulade (a mayonaise based sauce ie a fancy name of Russian salad dressing). He also chose the grits.   We traded half a sandwich and I immediately took a bite of the corned beef sandwich which was exceedingly rich. To my palate it tasted as if the bread had been grilled in butter, but maybe that was the flavor of the mayo. I had to take another bite. Thus my photo shows a bitten into sandwich.  Ah well.

For my long term preference between the two sandwiches I found the Cuban Huevos sandwich to be more satisfying,  I enjoyed it to the very last bite and did not grow tired of it, so I can understand why the waitress was so enthusiastic. I’d order it again or better yet, try to make it at home although I’ll need to prepare some slow roasted pork first. However, the corned beef sandwich is really tasty as well but I would suggest you definitely need to split it with someone else and then mix it up with a salad, soup, or another sandwich.  RW!

In my experience Restaurant Week can mean some restaurants fill up quickly and you need to make your reservations in advance, so as not to be disappointed. Remember to read the fine print. Not every restaurant is serving every day at every meal and taxes and gratuities are not included.  Do you have a favorite place? I’d like to hear about it.

Gluten-free recipe and photos for veal parmigiana comfort meal

Veal parmigiana with spaghetti al burro  It’s when you actually do the cooking that you are reminded of some important tips when formulating a recipe.  Last night I made the veal parmigiana mentioned in yesterday’s post and I forgot to mention that the fool-proof way to make certain your coating of cracker or bread crumbs sticks to the veal cutlets is to chill them for two hours in the refrigerator after they are coated. This technique works for fish, shrimp, and chicken as well as for veal.

Now if you are wondering why my spaghetti looks so yellow, it is because I used quinoa-corn blend pasta. Quinoa, a tiny grain which has been growing in popularity, was called the “Mother Grain” by the Incas who once ruled a great empire in South America. It has a rich, nutty, flavor. I’ve been experimenting with alternate grains to reduce the amount of gluten in my family’s diet.  If you like your pasta al dente (firm) style, this is a good substitute for semolina pasta. And if you want your meal completely gluten-free, use gluten -free flour (such as flax seed meal), bread, or crackers to create your breading.

For more details about making this recipe, read the previous post.

Veal parmigiana after mundane chores

What is worst.? Doing taxes, paying bills, or filing an insurance claim? These are all on my “to do” list this week.  Oh yes and there is buying a new car to replace the mini that was totaled.   So I’ve got to get the insurance claim going or no check to purchase the new car. And so that’s how my life goes forward.

I reward myself by planning on doing something I enjoy such as preparing veal parmigiana and enjoying it with my worthy husband for dinner
The secret to delicious veal parmigiana is to first pound the veal cutlets so that they are thin and tenderized.  For this task I use a wooden mallet and a wooden chopping board.
After which I dust each cutlet  with salt, pepper, flour, and dried basil. Dip the individual cutlets in a wash of beaten egg and milk, and then dip each one in bread crumbs or cracker crumbs (depending on your preference).

Heat olive oil in a heavy pan over medium heat and fry the cutlets until golden brown.
Figure on one to two cutlets  approximately weighing 4 ounces each, per person.
Drain the fried cutlets on paper towels or brown paper.

Create a sauce by sautéing garlic, onions, green peppers, and mushrooms with tomato sauce and chopped tomatoes. Season with oregano, and more basil. If you have any fresh basil, now is the time to use it.
Feeling lazy? Use a favorite jar of pasta sauce.

I first enjoyed this dish at Ciro and Sal”s Restaurant in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  A long time ago, before heading to college I worked there briefly as a hostess.  On the shelf with my cookbook collection is  the Ciro and Sal Cookbook published in 1987.  In Ciro’s recipe for Veal Parmigiana he uses his Ragu sauce, made with salt pork or pancetta it relies on veal and beef bones or ground pork for flavor, along with carrots, onions, garlic, and celery.  I prefer creating sauces with as many available  seasonal vegetables as possible, but  whatever your preference, if you have the time make a large batch of sauce, freeze  the extra for future use.

Spread just enough sauce to cover the bottom of a flat rectangular baking pan. Lay the cutlets on top and cover with slices of fresh mozzarella  and freshly grated parmesan. Good cheese is important so use the fresh varieties for the best flavor.
Cook approximately 30 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce bubbling at 350 degrees.
Serve with pasta tossed with melted butter, garlic, basil, and grated parmesan cheese and a crisp fresh salad.  Add a glass of dry red wine and you are ready to have a relaxing dinner. Enjoy! Photographs will be posted later.

The size of Labradoodles and importance of comfort food

Full-grown Chloe

The importance of relativity came across to me physically and mentally, on my many levels this past week.  On a physical level, this new wisdom manifested itself in the size of dogs. That’s right. Dogs.

Last night, having not seen Halo and Leopold, dogs belonging to my son Chris and his fiancée Laura in some time, these previously substantial dogs suddenly appeared small and I had always thought of them as fairly large dogs. They certainly had taken up plenty of space in our home when they had been guests on more than one occasion and we had taken care of them for a weekend.  But compared to my Labradoodle Chloe, they now seem to be “smaller dogs”.  Fourteen-month-old Chloe has kept growing larger and larger. She is now 70 pounds and a tall dog. Twenty-eight inches off the ground, she comes midway up my thigh.  Halo and Leopold have stayed the same in size during the previous year. They now seem much smaller and easier to control when compared to large rambunctious and bouncy Chloe.

My husband Peter and I had been invited to dinner at Chris and Laura’s apartment, and they served us some excellent comfort food that included a winter root mash made from red beets, rutabaga, celery root, and turnips served with a pork loin slowly baked with apples. So where did that term “comfort food” come from anyway? Its first documented use was in the Webster’s Dictionary in 1977 to describe food that evokes nostalgia and relieves emotional stress.  Typical American foods on the list are chicken soup, mashed potatoes, and meatloaf.  Obviously different people have different tastes, so that while one person might find tuna casserole a comfort (I’m not a fan) another person may feel comforted by a dish of Banana pudding (another item I do not relate to at all). Slow cooked meats such as chicken, brisket, and tenderloin, I do find comforting. Just the other week I tried out a roast chicken recipe that required dousing the chicken repeatedly in a rich onion stock repeatedly for several hours, while cooking the bird at 300 degrees and it was quite delicious.

A winter root mash can consist of any root vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, turnips, etc. that grow underground, that are roasted, boiled, or steamed and then mashed. Add a little salt and pepper and butter and you have a delicious and slightly different side dish. Use red beets or purple potatoes and you’ll get a dish that’s really colorful.

root mashpork