Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Box
Spring CSA - First Week

The squash fuzzed white, the rhutabagas ran, local eating lay bare in the hungry months. Seasons change. Farmer Vicki grows. Green houses protect. Enable crops. We get:

Winter carrots - The only keeper crop left, four carrots the size of sex toys . Some went into yesterday's corned beef.

A head of lettuce that looks like a curly version of romaine

More lettuce in the form of mescalun mix

A kale looking like oak leaves. It took me two e-mails with Vicki to nail these down. Nibbled, they are mild enough to eat without cooking

A bag of sprouts I have no idea how to use

Brocolli raab, some with yellow flowers and some looking a lot more like arugula. I imagine they will go with pressure cooked beans

As you can see, it is enough to counter a lot of meals, but not exactly enough to make do for the entire week. So, I s'pose we'll eat out a couple of times.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

If You Do Not Have a Pressure Cooker
Buy One!

For years, the way I fantasize about owning an XKE, my wife dreamed of pressure cooking. I really do not know the origin. Well, pressure cookers being cheaper than vintage Jaguars, she got her wish sooner. Only she never used it. By the time we moved the pressure cooker was in pieces, missing pieces. So, for another four or so years, she dreamed. I still have no E-type, but she got another shot at pressure cooking. Again, however, she hesitated. Hesitated a few years, but in the winter of 2006, she decided to cook under pressure.

Like a lot of things in life, the answer is, what took her so long. The thing is darn right magical. Take tonight's dinner. Corned beef: simmered in less than an hour. Cut up vegetables: done in four minutes. That's right, four minutes. It's like something outta the Jetsons. Granted, the hiss can make for a less than peaceful interlude into family dining; still, four minutes.

I cannot say she has fully exercised her baby. She's driven it over 100, but not got close to the red line. Beef stews, black beans with ham hock, lamb shoulder with white beans, amazing stuff. And soup, put a chicken, some vegetables and within an hour it is double density. Like I say, magic.
Freak Occurance:

Actual review posted on Chicago's board.
The first taste of Spring…
…With More to Come Today

When Farmer Vicki stopped by Oak Park a week or so ago, she gave me two bunches of her first crop, some radishes. With the kidz on spring break last week, we spent the week mostly in Wisconsin and away from those radishes. I got to them this week. First, chopped on buttered bread and then just whole as veg with lunch. These are Willy Wonka radishes. The first taste in the mouth is sweet, the other radish flavors develop within a few seconds, and then about 10 seconds after biting, a pepper pow rocks the mouth. Proof that the first tastes are worth the hungry months, and proof again, that one eats best when one eats local. An appetizer, our first Spring CSA box comes today. I hear there will be some carrots, some lettuces, some greens and some green onions. I will report back later.

Here’s what life on the farm is like this time of year, from Farmer Vicki:
We are behind in greenhouse transplanting and seed starting, but will be able to catch up soon if we work hard. This season can get goofy with so many things demanding attention. Start seeds, transplant to new flats, and then start some more seeds. Then the crops need to be harvested in the greenhouses and the field needs tending. Time to clean the field, spread compost, disk, lay plastic and begin planting out those spring crops - onions first.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Time-Life Food's of the World
Any Other Collectors?

Our bungalow overflows with books about food. My wife buys the cook books; I buy the books about food. Lately, I am especially keen on the Time Life Food's of the World Series. As sez:
the semi-miraculous Time Life Foods of the World series -- legendary tomes penned by top reporters pampered with uncommon time, budget, and editing

Here's the complete set; I have starred those I own:
African Cooking
American Cooking
American Cooking : Creole and Acadian
American Cooking : The Eastern Heartland*
American Cooking : The Great West
American Cooking : The Melting Pot
American Cooking : New England
American Cooking : The Northwest
American Cooking : Southern Style
Cooking of the British Isles*
Cooking of the Caribbean Islands*
Cooking of China*
Classic French Cooking
Cooking of Provincial France*
Cooking of Germany
Cooking of India
Cooking of Italy*
Cooking of Japan*
Latin American Cooking*
Middle Eastern Cooking
Pacific-Southeast Asian Cooking
Quintet of Cuisines*
Russian Cooking
Cooking of Scandinavia*
Cooking of Spain and Portugal
Cooking of Vienna's Empire*
Wines and Spirits*

My problem from a collection standpoint, I have only one of the spiral recipe booklets, for Scandanavia. Also, I have the books in two formats, some with plain, solid harcovers, others with laminated photo covers.

Anyone else seek these out?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Maxwell Street Updates

A shooting late last month left the Maxwell Street bluesman known for boogieing behind his keyboard unable to use his legs.

Now, friends and fellow musicians are planning a benefit concert for Piano C. Red, shot in an armed robbery March 22 at a South Holland gas station.

(Full story here.)

I will try to post more on the benefit when I find out.

If the music is not rocking as much, the eating remains sublime. My previous two visits had me worried. The market is facing street construction and construction of a new shopping center. In reaction, when I was there in the fall, a lot of food vendors occupied a patch of Taylor street kinda north and around the corner from the main market. Then, when I visited on January 1, there was like no food. I was glad that last week pretty much all of the food vendors were there, with only Lencho's grilled tacos in a different (read more nothernly) location.

It was good in that it was nearly all there: the steamed cow head tacos, the fresh made masa for huitlocoche and pork in moles red/green; birra in a few forms, pupusas, churros, rico huarches, elotes, etc. It was bad in that there was pretty much no new finds. About the only thing edible I had not seen before, the vendendores who sell corn and rice pudding empanadas, had a candied plum, like a crab apple, kinda thing.
Apple Holler off da Interstate

We venture to Wisconsin a lot. Mostly to eat. Or shop for things to eat. Or buy books about eating (cf cookbook section at Downtown Books, Milwaukee). Unless Dad is pressing for extra scenery, we arrive via Interstate 94. And we always pass Apple Holler signs, then Apple Holler, something that looks like Lamb’s Farm without the social service agenda. You know, some farm animals waiting for a quarter’s worth of pellets, hay rides, corn maze, that kinda place, and the obligatory kountry kitchen kinda restaurant. Surely, not a chowhound kinda place. Yet, yet, there has been a pull to try. At least once, right? Moreover, we tend to need a place to eat right around Apple Holler, a bit north of Kenosha, too hungry to wait for Milwaukee (one reason we have made several stops at Miro’s Little Europe). You know what, we have another place to stop.

Being Wisconsin, the kitschy place off the Interstate, with big billboards and its own version of dinner theater served some very good food. Being me, I loved the fact that this breakfast buffet did issue a press release about being local; it just went a delivered actual Wisconsin food. What fruit exists in Wisconsin this time of year? Apples. Apple butter, apple fritters, apple sauce for french toast, apple cider to drink. OK, there was something besides apples. Not mango, not strawberries, not Florida blackberries, the other fruit on the spread, canned cherries. Being Wisconsin, the buffet featured potatoes and potatoes mixed with cheese. I liked the latter better. It tasted, with its heavy hand of black pepper, like a cheddary filling for pierogi. There were eggs scrambled and eggs backed in squares and called quiche. Pancakes and french toast to be topped with those aforementioned fruits. Finally, there was just really, really good bacon and sausage and apple wood smoked ham. As Gwiv would say, after eating this bacon, you burp up smoke rings.

A nice feature of eating breakfast late, we were there for the turnover to the turkey dinner. (Changes at noon.) We were invited to sample. Having just eaten rasher upon rasher of bacon and quite a few apple dumplings—keep an eye on the buffet for fresh batches—I did not have much room. Still, I tried dollops of sweet potato casserole, mac and cheese, cole slaw (especially good), and surprisingly, a new apple dish (cinnamon). I skipped the turkey (breast only), baked beans, bbq chicken, and bratwurst. The ham and cheesy potatoes stays on the buffet by the way.

This is (very) good cheap eats. The breakfast buffet was $8. Sure, it is a buffet, with all its steam, but this is the kinda food that stands up to the vapors. And, as noted, items like the fried dumplings (not on the steam table), get changed quickly. There is nothing artsy or innovative on the buffet, nor is there a lot of technique in the goods. It nearly all stands on its raw quality, ham and bacon and farm eggs that just do not seem to show up in city markets. When that did not work, the secret weapon (in Wisconsin), add liberal doses of cheese or butter or both. It is worth a stop fer sure.

Apple Holler sells a bunch of Wisconsin stuff, cheese spread and summer sausages. There are many, many more types of baked goods and sweets made from apples like apple dumplings, apple turnovers, taffy apples, and apple cider donuts. I resisted all of that but could not resist the canned goods, getting some corn relish and a spicy bread and butter pickle. Raining, we skipped the animals.


Take I-94 North. Exit Hwy KR (exit #337). Turn left at the off ramp stop sign. Go under the overpass (I-94). Turn right at the stop sign (west frontage road also known as S. Sylvania Avenue). Apple Holler is 1/4 mile down the frontage road.