Sunday, August 22, 2010

BLT salad

I went to the movies and it was a wonderful excuse to visit the New World Bistro Bar recently.  Since it was a beautiful summer night I thought their BLT salad sounded divine.  It was a lovely salad and so I have created my own version, which is a lot more muscular.

NWBB made a much more beautiful presentation of the salad I must say.  It was a lighter affair altogether, with a whisper of the mayonnaise lightly coating the lettuce leaves, a few hints of tomato and about four dime-sized pieces of bacon.  That last element was just plain stinginess if you want to know my bare knuckled opinion.  The salad was surrounded by a slice of bread that had been cut into points and had been licked by a flame just enough to make a fine black lacy char on the surface.  This was so perfectly done that it was captivating. The aroma hinted at roasted marshmallows and it added an accurate taste image of toast, even though the bread was not toasted. I loved it.

I highly recommend that you start with their version and then try your own.

My version is much heavier, but also delicious and it served as a full meal.  The salad is just summer in a bowl, and I think there is all the room for personal preference that a BLT sandwich provides.  My first attempt  started with the tomatoes, which I dressed with the mayonnaise, tossed and set aside while I quickly prepared the other ingredients.  I toasted Italian bread, the equivalent of about one and a half slices,  and cut it into bite size pieces.  Then I browned Canadian bacon to bring out more bacony flavor and avoid the fattiness of bacon strips and finally tore the lettuce.  

I gently tossed the lettuce with the tomatos and spotted my new jar of horseradish so I put a little scoop in at that point. I added salt and pepper.  It will probably be a good idea to put the horseradish in with the mayo next time to let it spread more evenly through the salad. I dropped in the toasty croutons and gently turned everything to mix them in  and chopped the Canadian bacon before piling it on top.  What it lacks in beauty it more than makes up for in flavor and heartiness. Putting all those traditional sandwich flavors into a mound of lettuce is simply a wonderful idea no matter how you portion out the various other ingredients.

I plan to explore many many more versions.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Just a note:  it's the season for perfect peaches.  I have to admit that I swiped this photo because I ate all the peaches before I thought of taking a photo!!  The weekend before last I found BEAUTIFUL peaches at both The Berry Farm, where they were white peaches, and Golden Harvest Farms, where they were beautiful regular peaches - you can always count on Golden Harvest to have several varieties, however.

Do not miss this harvest - they are some of the most perfectly sweet, delicious and beautiful peaches I have seen in several years, with perfect flesh that is not too dry nor too mealy.

I managed to absorb three quarts just out of hand, peeling and slicing them and then enjoying every fresh peachy bite.  I limited myself to no more than two each day, and I just finished the last two for supper.

This coming weekend I will be out again and will try making peach butter with my bounty.

Go and get some yourself and tell me what  you do with them.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lamb meatballs - another try...nom nom nom

I know you may be weary of looking at my iron skillet, but I'm not - especially since these meatballs seem to be a better-than-average version.

I began with a pound and a half of ground lamb from Guido's, which is becoming  one of my favorite grocery shops in the area.  In the past I've tried ground urud dal and ground rice as binders,  both of which I think made the meatballs especially heavy.  I'm trying to avoid breadcrumbs, because I may be reacting negatively to wheat these days.  Today as I was getting the lamb into the mixing bowl I noticed my new bag of whole oats and into the grinder they went, about a quarter cup of them.  I added salt and pepper and three medium eggs, then about three tablespoons of chopped fresh mint, two tablespoons of dried oregano, the juice of one lemon and four finely chopped sun dried tomato halves.

I was listening to a podcast about the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico or otherwise I would have remembered to add the garlic and chopped onion.

I heated the skillet and added some olive oil and browned them gently, then put in chopped olives, chopped garlic and sprigs of rosemary.  Since I like to put the whole lemon in with chickens, I put the rest of the lemon into the skillet before putting on the lid to simmer everything and let the flavors mingle and cook the oats.

I've now tasted four of them and they're awfully good.  I think the oats added nice things to the texture and did not make them as heavy as the ground dal or the ground rice. The lemon, tomato and olive add tartness and the mint adds a nice savory note.  I wish I had parsley, and must remember to add that next time.  I'm contemplating making a sort of onion marmelade.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Trip report: the foodie itinerary version 2

Well heck yeah we tried it again...we could hardly wait.  Karen and I were back on the road this afternoon, scouring the countryside to bring you reports on the best in Capital Region foodie finds.

We began at Dnipro on Central Avenue in Albany, just to the west of Wolf Rd and the Northway underpass.  They have recently moved to this location from Cohoes - so visit and try their wonderful offerings!

There are a few places for parking out front, but plenty of parking out back that lets you get around to a stoplight and back on Central Ave easily. The space is very open and there are neatly stocked shelves ready for browsing.  There were dense black breads and plenty of cookies and other European treats.  Then we found the wonderful jars of spreads, relishes, pickles, fruits, horseradishes, mustards... you get the picture.  I found some red cabbage salad with apple that will be a quick and tasty  side dish.

We worked our way to the back refrigerator cases and found a freezer full of little fat dumplings that look like plump tortellini  and have a variety of stuffings.  There wasn't an English translation on the case, but dumplings are the general idea - pelmeni perhaps? They sell them loose so you can fill as many bags as you like, or they sell pre-weighed packages.  We noticed there were veal and chicken, and there could be other stuffings as well.  Definitely something that you can stash in the freezer and pull out on those nights when you're weary and yet you still want to have a good hearty supper.

I drifted up to the deli case and found dozens of meats, fish and cheeses.  It was so hard to choose!  The shopkeeper offered samples and I wanted to try the veal roll with spices - a lovely savory cold cut that brought back a rush of childhood memories. While I was waiting for Karen to get her double smoked bacon I was offered a "walnut" cookie.  It was shaped like a walnut and held a lovely paste of walnut cream in the center. I swooned and groaned while her bacon was sliced and neatly wrapped.

I'm looking forward to going back to sample more and discover some new favorites.

After we stopped by Karen's to stash the dumplings in her freezer we headed up towards Route 2, east of Latham Circle to Nora's.  I only have this link but I hope it's at least enough to show you where on Rt. 2 Nora's is located.  It's in a string of about 8 or 9 storefronts on the north side of Rt. 2 across from a big cemetary.

This little space is crammed with spices, grains, confections and even costumes.

I was drawn to the back when I heard Karen exclaiming that something was better than her grandmother's - I mean, should you even ever SAY that????  But when I tasted the stuffed grape leaves I also had a sort of deep emotional experience of my own. We each got a dozen.

I cruised the spices and scored a large box of oregano, one of the more common items among the vast and (to me) exotic array of those mostly used in Armenian and other cuisines of that region.  I asked Nora for some lehmajoun and got beef this time.  Nora makes them as well as many other foods in her kitchen in the back of the store.  It's definitely worth striking up a conversation so that you don't have to scrounge through the refrigerators  to see what is in store - plus Nora and her husband are just wonderful friendly people.

Karen had a hard time choosing but got the keftedes this time, and some of Nora's cheese with black caraway seed.

 I spied some frozen basterma and decided to give it a try. There were a variety of packages, and I got the slices to see how it holds up to freezing.  The many many packages of dates all were a bit too large for me to handle this time, so I settled on a package of figs. It was hard not to grab at least one of the varieties of Turkish delight - it was too close to lunch time - but the figs promised sweet stickiness of the right kind. (hmmm....they must be around here somewhere...a perfect writing snack...)

And next up was lunch at The Jonesville Store.  We were both pretty psyched after all that looking at and procurement of food. The store was bustling with weekenders and hookey players.

One orders at the deli counter and they bring it to the table.

Karen got the perfectly prepared pannini  special with a beer and
I got the pear and walnuts salad and strawberry vinaigrette with a local boutique root beer.  Yes that's a crab cake in the upper part of the photo.  It was very good with a yogurt/dill sauce.  The staff was friendly and quick, which I think was the foundation of the cheery comfortable atmosphere.

We were ready to go home after lunch since our budgets for the day were spent.

All in all it was a great trip, so now we're planning an "Italian" itinerary for our next adventure.