Sunday, June 27, 2010

Buttermilk Waffles with Raspberry Sauce

It was a beautiful morning this morning. Perfect for lounging around on the deck, lingering over coffee and staying in our PJs longer than is probably right for grown adults. But sometimes, you just need those kinds of days. When you do, these buttermilk waffles with raspberry sauce are the perfect addition to that vacation-without-leaving-home feeling. (And the best part is, they're super easy!)

Buttermilk Waffles with Raspberry Sauce
(Makes 5 8" waffles)

Sauce Ingredients
1/2 c. seedless raspberry jam
2 Tbsp. water

Waffle Ingredients
1 1/4 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
3 Tbsp. oil
1 1/4 c. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar

To make the sauce, combine jam and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until water and jam form a smooth, uniform sauce. Set aside.

For the waffles, combine the buttermilk, baking soda and baking powder in a medium bowl. Let sit 5 minutes until bubbly. Whisk in egg and oil. Add flour and sugar and beat until there are no lumps. Heat waffle iron. Laddle 1/2 c. batter onto iron. Close the iron and cook 2-3 minutes until waffle is golden brown and slightly crispy. Drizzle with raspberry sauce and serve. (Top with a dollop of whipped cream if you're feeling extra indulgent!)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Visit to the Land of the Locavore

I spent the weekend in northern Vermont visiting the Leftover Queen (Jenn) and her husband Roberto on their new homestead - Thistlemoon Meadows:

They took me on a tour of their town and surrounding area - and being the good foodies that we are, it turned into a bit of a food tour. But being foodies isn't the only reason for that. It's also because local food is EVERYWHERE. On every other street it seems, there's a sign for fresh eggs, VT produce, maple syrup - or some other necessity or yummy food item. Farmers' markets, farms, roadside stands - they are in abundance here. Even the restaurants I visited - from small ice cream shop to full-service sit-down dinner spot - highlight their local food sources.

We have a little bit of this in the Pioneer Valley. Certainly, we have our farmers' markets and roadside stands. But meat farms are a little further out in the country and restaurants don't seem big on posting their producers, which only leads me to believe (in most cases) they're probably not local.
So, what's the big deal with eating local? Well, that's a whole other post (or series of posts). There's economical and environmental issues up the whazoo that I couldn't begin to do justice to. But even if you can't wrap your head around all that - there's 1 undenial benefit of eating local. It's amazingly fresh & yummy! I often come home from trips feeling like I need days to recover - in large part due to not-so-great eating - but that's not the case this time.

Of course, this foodie tour lead to a *few* purchases along the way. This trip was solo, so when I came home with a big bag of food, Mr. ValleyWriter was a little surprised (though not too much - he knows me well).

I've got Rock Art beer, Nutty Vermonter maple & cinnamon nut butter, Clare's wild blueberry jam, Vermont Pepper Works chocolate chipotle hot sauce and Fat Toad Farm goat's milk caramel. Not to mention the tomato plants and potato seedlings Jenn & Robert sent home with me. I should be cooking up a storm in no time! (I see ice cream with caramel sauce in my very, very near future... like, as soon as I finish this post. Gotta run!).

Monday, June 7, 2010

Basil Chili Lettuce Wraps

With all this farmers' market talk, I imagine someone is wondering "what the heck does she do with all those greens? Salad every night?!?" (that's what I'd wonder if I saw someone with as much lettuce as I bought the other day...) No, we don't have salad every night (some, but not every). I do have it most days for lunch, though, so that takes up some of the haul. The rest of it? Well, I like to try new things - like the basil chili lettuce wraps we had tonight.

If you've never had lettuce wraps, it's almost like fajitas, where there's a bunch of components you can put together in the middle of a tortilla to make the version you like. In the case of lettuce wraps, large Boston lettuce leaves take the place of tortillas. They're good for hot nights when you want a light meal. They're also a hit with kids (and kids at heart) - 'cause you get to eat with your hands!

For this version, I had some basil chili grilled chicken, curry rice noodles, gingered carrots and sweet chili sauce for our fillings. It was spicy, but very good. And I'm proud to say the basil was from my very own garden - my first time having success with herbs - yay!
Basil Chili Lettuce Wraps
(Serves 2-3 for dinner; 4-5 for appetizers)
3 boneless chicken thighs
1/4 c. fresh basil
3 Tbsp. sriracha chili sauce, divided
1 tsp. oyster sauce
2 Tbsp. pineapple preserves
1 large head Boston lettuce, leaves rinsed and kept whole (I got about 12 large, useable leaves - the small or broken ones can be kept for salads)
3 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1" ginger, grated
1 tsp. rice wine vinegar
1 package curry rice noodle soup (these are like ramen noodles, only the Thai version)
1 cup water
soy sauce, if desired

Several hours before dinner, roughly chop basil and mix with 2 Tbsp. sriracha sauce and 1 tsp. oyster sauce. Spread evenly over chicken thighs. Place in a glass dish and refrigerate at least 3-4 hours before dinner.
About 20 minutes before dinner, mix grated ginger with rice wine vinegar. Let sit 5 minutes, drain any leftover vinegar off the ginger and add the ginger to the carrots carrots.
Cook chicken on grill over medium high heat for about 15 minutes or until fully cooked, turning half-way through.
While chicken is cooking, bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add the rice noodles and seasoning from the rice noodle soup package to the boil water. Cook for 3-4 minutes until noodles are soft and most of the water is absorbed.
In a small bowl, combine pineapple preserves and remaining sriracha sauce to make a sauce for wraps.
Cut cooked chicken into strips and place on serving dish along with lettuce leaves, gingered carrots, curry noodles, and sweet chili sauce and soy sauce, if desired. 
To prepare a wrap, place a lettuce leaf in the palm of your hand and top with a few pieces of chicken, some carrots and noodles, drizzle with chili and/or soy sauce, fold the lettuce inward like a fajita and enjoy!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Amherst Farmers' Market

The 2nd stop on my farmers market tour of the pioneer valley was the Amherst Farmers' Market.

The Amherst market runs late April through mid-November and is always hopping. I'd been to this one before, so I knew to expect a bigger crowd - and more choices - than last week's Tuesday Northampton market. The downside of this market is that it's a little more rushed because there are so many people there, but for the convenience of a Saturday, I suppose it's to be expected.

This week at the market, we found lots of greens again - lettuce, arugula, spinach, kale and so on. There were also some early tomatoes, some of the first strawberries of the season, lots of flowers, and a few options for grass-fed meat, goat cheese, fresh eggs, and homemade breads and pastries.

Mr. ValleyWriter and I found a lot of what we wanted at the Atlas Farm stand. Atlas is a certified organic farm from nearby Deerfield, MA. We got several pounds of greens and some tomatoes there. We also hit up Round Hill Orchard, from Southampton, MA, for some freshly picked strawberries (beautifully ripe and sweet - yum!!) and Sanjha Farm again for their goat cheese (roasted red pepper this time).

All in all it was a good haul, which Mr. VW dutifully carried back to the car and unwittingly posed for his usual parting shot...

As a P.S., while I didn't need any meat this week, I was excited to see several farm stands selling a variety of cuts - from grass-fed ground beef to dry aged steaks to pork tenderloins. One of the farms, Austin Brothers, even has a meat CSA - which is a new one on me, but sounds like a great idea. Basically, you commit to buying a certain number of pounds a month and they deliver a variety of cuts to you at a pick up location. Even the smallest package is only $9/lb., which is a pretty fair price for grass-fed and dry aged beef (around the valley, anyway). The prices get even better the more you buy (though I'm not sure how much my side-by-side freezer could hold - or how creative I could get with potentially unfamiliar cuts of meat). Anyone out there try a meat CSA yet? What were your thoughts?