Another Appetizer Strategy

Mango SauceThere is nothing like the threat of “the Babes” scrutinizing my latest recipe that inspires me to do my best to create something with a new taste and a twist, but still using what I have on hand in the frig.  (More about “the Babes” in future posts). So out comes the ground turkey, some fresh herbs I’d purchased a few days before, and a bottle of this intriguing curried mango grill sauce I had purchased on a recent trip to Wegmans.  Also, I had some coconut milk in the frig that was either going to be used or thrown away. I’d added it to something previously – a Thai soup that I made, and the remaining milk had been shelved for at least a week, and that was worrying me.  I was a little reluctant to mix the mango sauce with the coconut milk, but I gave it a try – and it was good. In fact, the sauce was too thick to use alone, and this was just what it needed.  So relying on years of making turkey meatballs with whatever variety of herbs and spices I had on hand, I measured and added and voila, a very good meatball and an easy, excellent sauce.  The recipe appears on – where else — the recipe page. mango meatballs

Marinated Shrimp Skewers Using Green Starbucks Sticks

What to do with all those green plastic Starbucks sticks that you put in your latte to keep it from spilling?  I have collected so many of them. Now I have to take an appetizer to a friend’s dinner party and voila – I have a good idea! Why not recycle them as skewers for my next food creation?  In fact, they turn out to be the perfect size.

I decide to make marinated shrimp that I adorn with a bit of color, using mozzarella balls and small cherry tomatoes that I already have in the refrigerator. I skewer these colors and flavors on to the Starbucks sticks.  They are definitely eye pleasing and will help kick off my friend’s meal, which because she is a sensational Italian cook, promises to be wonderful.  I have a heads up that she is preparing duck breast with raspberry sauce. My savory shrimp appetizer will pair well with the sweet entree being planned I think.

shrimp skewersCheck out an easy way to cook and marinate the shrimp on the recipe page!

Luxury Food in the French Quarter

GW Fins is synonymous with quality, creative seafood and unflappable service at top prices. Inside of a beautiful oval room in the middle of the French Quarter, floor to ceiling windows let in just enough of Bienville Street to keep New Orleans alive outside, but inside the ambience of the cherry colored wood surroundings keep you warm and safely tucked away from the hilarity and street noise. Perfectly cooked lobster dumplings are not to be missed. They float on a thin layer of creamy lobster butter sauce. lobster dumplingsAnd speaking of butter, when they serve you the warm biscuit as you sit down, don’t pass on the butter…it is so sweet and smooth it’s almost clotted cream.

There are probably close to 100 wines on their list, but we went for the refreshing Kim Crawford white by the glass. For entrees we had the blackened swordfish with sautéed spinach, fried shrimp, mashed potatoes, chili hollandaise and corn butter.  Flavors so intense yet all blended perfectly so that you never want the dish to end.   And then there was something called Scalibut – according to the website “Chef de Cuisine Michael Nelson created this dish that adheres delicate, thinly sliced Nantucket Sea Scallops to the outside of sweet, flaky Alaskan Halibut.”  lobster dumplingsSubtle flavors combine into a smart, memorable dish that melts in your mouth. We had only room for crème brulee, but it was just the right amount of sweet to finish the exceptional meal.

Loosiana Gumbo Then and Now

What is New Orleans? New Orleans is Creole gumbo,
filé gumbo, cowan gumbo, chicken gumbo, smoked
sausage gumbo, hot sausage gumbo, onion gumbo.~ Kermit Ruffins, New Orleans vocalist and trumpeter

There was a time when a great gumbo could be made from the foraged delights from the Pearl River not far from the outskirts of Sidell, east of New Orleans and a morning’s walk from Mississippi. The hunter-gatherers would head out in their flat-bottomed jon boats and look for what was in season as they traversed the river and made their way into the nearby swamps.  First they might see shiny dark green bushes sticking out of the shallow river water and get themselves some of these bay leaves, a good start for the stew. Skirting the river banks, it might take a little effort, but they would likely find some green shoots that packed the flavor of onions, a Louisiana spring onion.  The next part might prove a little more difficult.  Hauling a large container that would prove useful in catching wild rice, they would gently shake the little grains from the reeds.  In the swamp, navigating between cypress trees and hardwood vegetation, they could scoop up some of the fresh lightest brown water to do the cooking. If they were lucky, they would catch themselves a small gator sunning on a river branch or a bed of thick tundra and next get a yellow ear turtle or some crawfish found there as well.  The boat, now loaded with the fixins for a gumbo feast was ready to head back home.

But today most of us are far less adventurous -and who has time to catch an alligator! We have the heavenly gumbos found in just about every food establishment between Sidell and New Orleans and probably anywhere else in Louisiana. Don’t miss a wonderful gumbo at Mother’s if you’re lucky enough to get to New Orleans.  Last week, it warmed me all over. Mother’s was a place I frequented regularly over twenty years ago…and the place has not changed one bit.  The line to order was still long and stretched past the kitchen and a number of the no-frills tables and chairs, filled with patrons already doing a deep dive into their gumbo, ham or oyster po’ boy. The wait for the food was still short and the flavors it delivered were still “umami” — translated from Japanese as a “pleasant savory taste”.Gumbo at Mothers

Mother’s also helps the unititated understand what gumbo means since the long plasstic menu is informative rather than eye-catching.  But that’s the ambience of the place.  I think they should make that section of the menu into 3X5 cards that tourists can put into their pockets and take to various restaurants, saving servers time repeating the often asked question of what is the difference between gumbo and etouffee?  I think I’ll skip the alligator wrestling and dig into the spicy brown stew that awaits me.

Mothers kitchen Mothers menu Mother's on Poydras since 1938

A Day in the Life of Bethesda’s Farmers Market

Aside

We headed over to the Bethesda Farmers Market this frigid weekend only to find out that our brave attempt to get there before the crowds also resulted in getting there before most of the vendors. In the Winter, the market’s hours change to 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., even though we were told most vendors and customers are starting to leave by 1 p.m.  Except for Winter, the market opens at 9 a.m., and that’s what we were expecting. But we weren’t disappointed! In fact, we got to talk kimchi, kraut and pickles leisurely with Yi Wah, the owner of No. 1 Sons.

He and his sister run a barrel-fermented “crunch” business (and I don’t mean a gym) in Arlington, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C.  Yi Wah had years of experience in the food industry, and finally decided to open something of his own. The idea came to him one evening as he and some friends experimented with making pickles – trying the vinegar recipes many home cooks use and trying it the old fashioned way using water, spices and vegetables and eliminating oxygen. 

Yi Wah asked me if I’d ever eaten pickles from a Jewish delicatessen.  What?! My grandmother and grandfather owned Weinstein’s Deli in Pittsburgh, Pa. I practically grew up there!  For a while, I ate dinner at the restaurant at least once or twice a week.  It was where I learned to make matzo ball soup, inhaled the smell of corned beef sandwiches and found out about ancient grains like buckwheat, long before it became trendy.

Intrigued by Yi Wah’s selection of kraut, and vowing to try one new thing every time I visited a market or restaurant, I bought a container of his Acapulco kraut.  The mix of cabbage, carrots, onion, ginger, and mustard seed is just right for putting on chicken sausage or mixing into another salad.

Meanwhile, my husband headed straight to Susie Sunshine’s stand where he buys their crunchy bean sprouts every single week.  He makes sprouts into salads because 1) he recently went on a low-calorie diet and lost a lot of weight and 2) he is a fabulous salad maker and is constantly trying new vegetables and combinations.  He got tired of lettuces and now he uses sprouts mixed with lots of other veggies.  But if making your sprouts into new concoctions isn’t your thing, Susie’s, which is another family business – this one a mother and son — has these wonderful sprout salads, all of which are gluten and dairy free.  The contents are incredible – beets, broccoli, raisins, carrots, walnuts, homemade dressings and of course lots of sprouts like mung beans, radish, alfalfa, lentil, and more.

What have you found at the Bethesda Farmers Market that you love?