Thursday, July 31, 2008

Another shot from North Carolina

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Out to Eat: Provision Company

Provision Company
130 Yacht Basin Drive
Southport NC

We recently spent four days in Holden Beach, North Carolina (it was supposed to be five -- thanks, American Airlines!). While we were there, I wanted to check out a local farmer's market; since we live in a mountainous area of New Hampshire, I expected a very different assortment of produce, and I was not disappointed. I'll write more about what we found and what we did with it soon. In the meantime, I wanted to write about a wonderful little seafood shack on the waterfront in Southport.

Yacht Basin Provision Company (or Provision Co., for short) was an absolute delight. Upon entering, you find a cramped space with a chalkboard menu, a couple of self-serve beverage coolers, and a small counter in front of an open grill. Place your order, grab yourself a beer, and head out back to the deck - pay later on the honor system. The deck, which is about three times the size of the building itself, juts right out over the water and presents spectacular views.

As you might expect, the menu leans heavily toward seafood. Beyond the expected fried dishes, offerings include a grouper salad sandwich and a yellowfin tuna BLT. Between the three of us, we split a half pound of steamed shrimp, three crab cakes, an order of fries, and conch fritters. All of the food was excellent, but the fritters were definitely my favorite: they were perfectly crisp, not heavy, and pleasantly chewy without veering into rubber territory. With a cold Corona to wash it down, it was one of the finest lunches I've had in a long time.

The wait staff were fabulous - loud, friendly, and clearly having a good time, while quick to deliver the food and lend a hand. It seemed like a very fun place to work. They laughed and made fun of me when I whipped out my camera; when I told them why I was taking pictures, they said, "Don't forget to say how excellent we are!" And they really were.

If you are ever near the southern coast of North Carolina, I would highly recommend a trip to Southport and the Yacht Basin Provision Co. While it's a beautiful lunch spot, the fun-loving staff and the presence of a well-stocked bar on the deck suggest that this could be quite a great nighttime spot as well. I definitely intend to return.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Blech. Is there anything more disgusting than tomato innards? So slimy and goopy and gross. I'm not a huge fan of raw tomatoes. I'd much rather have them cooked in a sauce, stuffed and baked, or lightly grilled. But with tomatoes and fresh basil in the box this week, only one thing made sense: caprese. It's one of the few ways I will eat raw tomatoes. So I bought some fresh mozzarella and powered through the gross part to get to the goodness. Chopped tomatoes, chunks of mozz, fresh basil, and a little olive oil on top, served with a side of focaccia bread. Dan, my hubby, loves raw tomatoes, and both the tomatoes and cheese were soft and small enough for his post-surgery self to swallow. It's not exactly the healthiest salad on earth, but after the week we've had, we deserve some cheese.

Confetti Salad

For my first meal from this week's amazing bounty, I decided to try The New Moosewood Cookbook's raw vegetable salad. Basically, the idea is that any vegetable can be eaten raw if you chop it small enough, so grab whatever you have -- the more different kinds and colors, the better -- and mince or grate them all. I picked squash, zucchini, scallions, and purple pepper from our CSA box, as well as carrots and celery that we had on hand. (A cucumber is pictured, but I didn't end up using it.) The celery was the only thing I minced manually; I used the kitchen shears on the scallions and threw everything else in to my trusty salad shooter. Consequently, this salad took about five minutes to prepare.

See how pretty it looks with all the different colors? Like confetti. Once everything is chopped or grated, just stir it up and add the salad dressing of your choice.

I decided to take another page from Moosewood and use their green salad dressing. It's a slightly odd mix of fresh herbs, spinach (or kale, in my case, since we didn't have spinach), lemon juice, and buttermilk. It was fresh and tangy and worked well with the raw veggies. The overall effect was very light and tasty; there's something about this salad that reminds me of fresh salsa, even though it's not spicy. It would make an incredible burrito filling -- I'm thinking with mashed pink pintos and a little queso blanco in a whole wheat tortilla. Yum!

Out of the Box, Week 7

Aren't these colors glorious? We're clearly at the height of summer. It's really nice to be back home and get another huge box of veggies.

It was recently brought to my attention that some readers might be wondering just how it is we get a nice box of veggies every week. We participate in a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program. It's sort of like a subscription service for produce. We paid in advance for a full year's worth of vegetables. From June to October, we pick up a box once a week; November through May, we'll pick up a somewhat larger assortment once a month.

It's a nice deal for all involved: the farmer gets money in advance to help pay for seeds and planting, and we end up getting fresh, local, organic vegetables and herbs at a lower price than we would pay in stores or at the farmers market. Our share works out to about $10 per week over the course of the year.

Clearly, we're getting more than $10 worth of vegetables here: we've got a large head of romaine, some kale, a bunch of basil, a huge bunch of scallions, summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, a green bell pepper, a purple pepper, and two kohlrabi.

We signed up for the CSA at Luna Bleu Farm in South Royalton, Vermont. To find a CSA in your area, go here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

more to come soon

What a crazy couple of weeks! We had a great time on our ten-day trip. I'll have a few posts about it soon. As soon as we got back, though, my husband got sick, and what we thought was strep throat turned out to be something much more complicated that led to an emergency tonsillectomy yesterday (who knew there was such a thing?!). So Dan is home now and stuck eating pudding, mashed potatoes, and ice cream for the next week. It's hard enough to cook for just two people sometimes, let alone one, so I've been relying on convenience foods and cereal. Tomorrow I'll pick up another box of veggies; hopefully that will inspire me to branch out beyond dim sum and Cheerios.

Because of the craziness, I'm a little behind on work, so it might take me a few days to catch up, but check back soon for a restaurant review, a recap of a North Carolina farmers' market and the ensuing meal, and a travel post about the oldest town on Cape Cod.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Out of the Box, Week 4

We were in such a rush last Thursday to catch the last bus down to Boston that I didn't photograph the produce before we split it up. We took some zucchini, garlic scapes, parsley, and lettuce to Boston for Zach and Maria, and left some zucchini, a summer squash, garlic scapes, turnip greens, and kohlrabi here. I know Maria made zucchini bread with her zucchini. We used our zucchini, along with some sugar snap peas left over from week 3, to make a green risotto.

Last night, we had a friend over for dinner, but we also faced the challenge of trying to use up everything in our fridge, since we're leaving today on a ten-day trip. I sauteed the turnip greens with the garlic scapes in a little olive oil and steamed the remaining zucchini and summer squash. For the main course, I made lentils and brown rice, using Rebecca Blood's recipe, but I added a generous amount of garam masala spice mix. I also served the lentils with thinly sliced onions fried in a little butter and a scoop of plain nonfat yogurt. It might sound strange but the addition of those two condiments takes the meal from something simple, solid, and hearty to a complex and irresistible treat. The sweetness of the onions and the tang of the yogurt against the earthiness of the lentils makes for a surprising luxurious flavor.

For weeks five and six, we'll be out of town, so we've offered our box of veggies to the house that we belonged to in college. I've asked them to let me know what they used them for and to take pictures if possible, so hopefully I'll have an update when I get back. In the meantime, I'm spending the next ten days in New York, North Carolina, and Cape Cod, for a family reunion bookended by two weddings!

I won't be doing much cooking, although at the family reunion, I will be cooking one night. Hopefully that will be preceded by a visit to a coastal North Carolina farmer's market. I'm hoping for peaches. I will also be eating out a lot, so I'll post pictures and reviews in the last week of July, once I'm back here.

Out to Eat: La Verdad Taqueria

La Verdad Taqueria
1 Lansdowne Street

I had read about La Verdad Taqueria in Food & Wine magazine, and what struck me, besides how good the food sounded, was that the prices were actually in my realm of possibility (unlike the vast majority of the restaurants that they write about). Right across from Fenway Park and just down the street from the legendary Avalon Ballroom, La Verdad has smartly positioned itself as both a grab-and-go fast food window and a sit-down restaurant. We chose to sit down and at 10:00pm on a Thursday night had no problem getting a table. There were probably fewer than a dozen people there (including waitstaff and bartender), which was surprising, given how good the food was.

We ordered Oaxacan wings to start; they were delicious. I feel like I might need my thesaurus for this entry because that word describes everything we got. Delicious, delicious, delicious. Maria opted for a burrito, which was huge, and came with wonderfully thin and crisp plantain chips on the side. Zach went for the carne asada tacos, which he happily wolfed down. Dan selected turkey pastor tacos and I chose the chorizo y papas tacos, and we traded one of each. The turkey pastor, which came with mole sauce and a red chile sauce, was very good and very spicy. My chorizo- and potato-filled tacos were so good that I ate them all before I remembered to take a picture. I would definitely order them again, although there are so many other tasty-sounding options that it may be a while before I do. If you are either very adventurous or very old-fashioned, you might also enjoy the tripe tacos, tongue tacos, or the tripe, tongue, and chorizo tacos.

Turkey pastor tacos - mmmm!

The four of us split an order of churros with chocolate and dulce de leche for dessert. Without question, these were the best churros I have ever had (and, having spent three months in Spain, I have had A LOT of churros). They were perfectly crisp but not weighed down by excess grease.

The only minor disappointment was the drinks; I got a grapefruit soda-orange juice-tequila concoction and Dan got a watermelon margarita. Both were good, but not $10 good when you're paying $9.50 for a plate of three tacos and sides. (Which reminds me - the tacos came with queso blanco, refried beans, and "Yucatan slaw" - all so tasty that I could have happily made a full meal out of them). If you are a real tequila nut, you'll certainly be satisfied with the vast array that they offer. Next time, I'll probably stick to the fresh-squeezed juices for $2.50. And yes, there will definitely be a next time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

big plans for Boston

We spent the holiday weekend in Boston with my little brother Zach and his girlfriend Maria (Hi Maria! Thanks for reading!). Generally, when we go down there, we just hang out in their apartment, watch movies, and relax. Occasionally we'll hit up the MFA or some fun attraction like Tomb. We had big plans for this weekend, including visiting Cambridge, going to the Garment District for dollar-a-pound vintage clothing, heading to some cool bookstores, eating at a few restaurants (including Flat Patties, their favorite burger joint), and enjoying Maria's home-cooked dirty rice.

Unfortunately, I went and thwarted all those plans by getting sick. Really sick. Three-days-glued-to-the-futon sick. So it ended up being a chill weekend after all, with a few movies and a lot of downtime. I did manage to pull it together to watch the fireworks over the Charles from the unbelievably-crowded Mass Ave Bridge. It was an excellent show.

Before I got sick, we had one dinner out at the tasty and affordable La Verdad Taqueria. Pictures and a review to come in the next post.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Breakfast for Dinner at the Fort

Yesterday, after my two-hour workout in the morning and Dan's ten-mile run after work, we were both exhausted and ravenously hungry. Of course the proper response was to sabotage all our hard work by ditching the salads in favor of diner food. Sometimes you just need it.

We went to the Fort, everyone's favorite Upper Valley truck stop, for some fabulous breakfast-for-dinner. After bantering with a cute elderly couple that arrived around the same time as us, we took our booth and perused the menus. I almost always order the poached eggs on hash, as the Fort offers the best homemade hash anywhere (no dog food from a can here). Last night was no exception. Dan went for the hungryman special - three eggs, three slices of bacon, three sausage patties, homefries, and toast.

As it turns out, the cute elderly couple was seated in the booth right next us. One of them ordered something with mashed potatoes, and when Dan heard that, he perked up but then immediately looked disappointed - we had already placed our orders and there would be no mashed potatoes for him, much to his regret. However, that got us thinking - what about mashed potatoes for breakfast? People eat homefries or hash browns. We started brainstorming ideas and we will carry out some experiments at some point in the future (probably closer to fall, once it cools down a bit).

Today we're off to Boston to spend the holiday weekend with my little brother and his girlfriend. We still have chard and zucchini left from last week's box, plus we're due to pick up another one today. We're going to bring most of the produce with us so we can share the bounty with our hosts. I'll post what we got and what we did with it after we return next week.

(The picture is an old one, from a visit to the Fort when I was still in college. Note the decor: framed photographs of eighteen-wheelers.)

walnut-lemon sauce for pasta

On Tuesday night, I made a very simple pasta sauce that is one of our favorites. I found it in Real Simple magazine last fall and have made it several times since. All it requires is olive oil, walnuts, parsley, and lemon juice. We had fresh parsley from the CSA box and we almost always have the other ingredients on hand.

My tip for chopping fresh herbs such as parsley or basil is to place the leaves in a small bowl and, holding the kitchen shears vertically, snip them into little pieces. It's much easier than chopping the herbs with a knife and only takes a few seconds.

The little bowl pictured is one of these Williams-Sonoma stainless steel prep bowls. They come in sets of four with plastic lids. I have eight of these bowls altogether and they are in constant rotation. We use them for everything - salad dressing, cinnamon sugar, storage of small amounts of leftovers - and they are particular useful for dishes with many ingredients, like stir fry.

For the sauce, which only takes a few minutes, you just need to heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over medium heat and then add the walnuts (one small handful per serving), stirring frequently until they are nicely toasted. Follow your nose for this - when you can smell a nice strong walnut smell, they are done. Quickly add the parsley, stir, remove from heat, and add a dash of lemon juice (most of the liquid will instantly steam off, but the lemony flavor will remain).

After the lemon juice, add the cooked pasta of your choice to the pan, stir to toss, and serve. I always use ravioli with this sauce. In this case, I used plain cheese ravioli from the freezer. This sauce is particularly excellent with homemade pumpkin ravioli, but that's another recipe for another post.

We ate this ravioli with a simple salad (romaine from week 2, curly lettuce from week 3, carrots, and green grapes). I always eat my salad first so if I get full, at least I got my veggies in.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Using leftover rice

Even after eating leftover stir fry for lunch Sunday and packing some in Dan's bento for Monday, we still had some jasmine rice left over. The New Moosewood Cookbook's very simple rice pudding recipe is a great way to use up leftovers. Basically, you put two cups of cooked rice with one cup of milk in a saucepan, bring almost to a boil, then simmer for about twenty minutes, or until all the milk is absorbed and the rice is creamy. Then you remove from heat and stir in the seasonings of your choice. I usually use a small squirt of lemon juice, some vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, and either maple syrup or sugar. It doesn't need much sweetening, and it's a nice, satisfying dessert that is low-fat (at least until you put whipped cream on it, like we usually do).