Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Brilliant Gift!

Emma, Matt and Tom got us the greatest Christmas gift this past year. They bought us six shipments from Dominion Harvest, and we just got our first one last Thursday. The bright red box was sitting on the front porch when I came home for lunch and in it was: asparagus, oyster mushrooms, kale, broccoli, blackberry jam, baby swiss cheese, and this gorgeous butter lettuce pictured above. Every two weeks we'll get a new care package. How great is that?

Dominion Harvest purchases foods from local, sustainable farms and delivers it to your door. You can check them out at

Friday, May 13, 2011

Just What the Hell IS Cream of Tartar?

My mom had the same tin of cream of tartar for my entire childhood. It was made of actual tin, perhaps fabricated by peasants in Wales during the iron age. I remember thinking it was retro looking as a kid in the 1960's.I used to shuffle it around to get to the more popular spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Never knew what it was for, and I'm still not sure it's necessary for anything. Next time I need a wedding gift, I am going to give a tin of cream of tartar. I will attach a note saying, "I wanted to give you a gift that will stand the test of time, as I'm sure your marriage will. Think of me when you use this. I understand that will not happen very often!"

Brightening a Corner Can Be Just the Beginning

Today in Jackson Ward, where I work, there was a gigantic crew of people volunteering all around the neighborhood to pretty it up. I walked out the back door of my building to find our stairwell had been power-washed and was now being weatherproofed by the volunteers. Then I came around to the front of the building to see a team weeding, mulching and planting flowers!

This is a great neighborhood absolutely rich with black history, and I am fascinated by the stories and the characters and the architecture. But it is also still very much on it's way up, but not "there" yet. I don't exactly know what I mean when I say "there." There is a lot of gentrification happening here, and I don't always look upon that favorably, especially if it displaces poor people. But I digress...

I am just happy to see some loving care directed at anything and everything around here. I find that brightening up one corner can change the direction of a whole neighborhood. Case in point is this huge mural that's being painted at West Broad and Brook and Adams, right by Theatre IV.

This empty corner had nothing to offer but two walls, a phone booth and a bunch of garbage. Now it's going to house a work of public art that celebrates the beautiful fabric of this neighborhood--something that everybody can enjoy, young and old, rich and poor.

Perhaps this will inspire more acts of artistic sharing here in our promising gallery district. I can't wait to see it finished and to post a picture!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Loser" Curry

That is what Andy called this dish tonight.

If it's made with anything that smacks of convenience it goes into the loser pile. "Convenience" in this case just means curry powder that is bought pre-made, and not roasted and ground by Andy.

Never you mind that it looks like a hot mess in this picture. All I know is that it tasted yummy and it took about 20 minutes to knock together.

We sauteed chopped onion, red bell pepper and zucchini in a big knob of butter until it was beginning to get soft. We added leftover chicken (from last night) and added chicken broth, cream and Jamaican curry powder. In a separate saucepan, I brought some chicken broth to a boil, added some lemon zest and threw in some couscous to have with the curry.

It was very tasty and we sat on the back stoop, ate our dinner and watched birds with the cats. Andy Cleveland had 2 helpings, which puts it in "winner" curry status.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Comforting End to My Least Favorite Weekday

Monday is always my worst day of the week. I am always functioning (or malfunctioning) on a sleep deficit and cooking a complicated meal for dinner is the last thing I feel like doing. A roasted chicken is such an easy and economical thing to make, because not only do you cook Monday's dinner, but you are halfway to Tuesday's as well. Buying a whole chicken and getting 2 or 3 meals from it makes my thrifty heart sing.

If the thought of roasting a whole chicken seems daunting to you, fear not. It is one of the easiest and foolproof things you can make. It looks and smells gorgeous, and it's very homey and comforting.

I massaged this one with olive oil, then salted and peppered it. Into a dutch oven it went with a quartered fennel bulb, a quartered lemon, about 6 cloves of garlic and some sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary. I covered it and put it in a 375 degree oven. Andy and I went for a hot sweaty walk with our friend Jenny while the bird cooked. By the time we got home, which was about 90 minutes later, the house smelled incredible! I uncovered the chicken, laid a big fistful of asparagus on top, and replaced the cover for 10 minutes to steam the asparagus. Then I turned up the heat to about 450, and removed the lid to crisp up the skin and reduce the liquid.

If you really want to go all out and make this more substantial, make gravy out of the drippings and serve it with mashed taties on the side. The flavors of the herbs in the juice are divine. But you'll have to go to somebody else's blog to learn how to make gravy, because my gravy sucks. I can take the best ingredients and turn them into a gravy that you could stick up wallpaper with. Gravy is just not in my skill set at this time.

I nearly dropped the chicken on the floor when I removed it from the pan. It was so tender, it was falling off the bone. I let it rest for about 10 minutes to allow the juices to return to where they belong, then we served it up with the asparagus and fennel on the side. Mercy sakes alive, it was so good. Have you ever tasted fennel cooked in roasted chicken juices? Wow.

Tomorrow, something with leftover chicken, vegetables and couscous--not sure what, but I'll keep you posted.