Thursday, October 29, 2009

La Tropicana Market in South St. Louis

I love carbohydrates. Bread, tortillas, pitas, crostini, croutons, crackers, biscuits. You name it, and if its carb, I want to eat it. And some carbs are infinitely better than others. Which brings me to La Tropicana Market in South St. Louis.

I came across La Tropicana while on a hunt for Mexican Coke (they do carry it!) It is tucked back in a quiet, typically south side looking neighborhood near Kingshwighway and Chippewa. While I was there, I checked out the rest of the store. La Tropicana carries great looking raw ingredients as well as prepared food. You need plantains? They have them. And chiles. And bags of frozen mangoes, papayas, guavas, and tamarind. There are spices you have never heard of and gritty (that's a good thing) Mexican style chocolates. Bags of homemade tamales. A cooler filled with cold Mexican fruit sodas.

Equally cool is that La Tropicana's prepared foods counter is the only place in town where I have ever seen Cuban food.

Anyway, in order to satiate my undying need for carbs, when I eat salads (all the time), I like to wrap them in a flour tortilla and eat them like a burrito. Seriously, its a problem like that. La Tropicana has a refrigerator filled with flour and corn tortillas in a variety of sizes, including tortillas that are big enough to easily wrap a salad. They are tender and not at all doughy or chewy. I like to imagine that a nice abuelita rolled them out especially for me. Way better than grocery store tortillas.

La Tropicana Market is located at 5001 Lindenwood in beautiful South St. Louis.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kale with Bucatini

Kale is an interesting vegetable, but one it seems you never hear about. I don't think I knew it was even edible until I got some in the farm share a few weeks back. The only time I'd ever seen it used was as a garnish at Grandma's house at Easter. Here's the 411 on kale.

Kale is actually a cabbage and related to broccoli and cauliflower. Its been around since ancient times. During World War II, the British were encourage to grow it in their Victory Gardens to counter rationing because it was easy to grow and loaded with nutrients. Kale is off the charts when it comes to vitamins A, C, and K. It is also a good source of calcium and fiber.

That said, this recipe is really most likely suited for people who really like their greens. Kale is not a delicate vegetable. But I love vegetables and I am always looking for vegetarian dishes (I'm not a vegetarian, though) where we won't notice that we are not eating meat or feel like something is missing. This was was definitely hearty. Additionally, it was cheap. I was thinking about it after we ate and I don't think I spent more than $4 to put together dinner that would have easily fed four people.

So I cleaned and dried a bunch of kale. Then I removed the tough stems. I don't want to eat those. Then I gave it a rough chop.

Here's the pasta that I have chosen to go along with my kale. Its bucatini, a wide, but hollow spaghetti. I love bucatini. Its one of my favorites when it comes to pasta.

I sliced and onion and diced up some habenero and a few cloves of garlic.

Then I got my tomatoes ready. These are how I like them when I buy them canned. Whole. I pick though them, removing the stems with my fingers and kind of squish them up.

Here's what that looks like. I guess they are packaging tomatoes in smaller cans now. I initially prepped one can, but when I got into cooking realized I was gonna need two.

Then I sauteed the onion with a little bit of olive oil in a pan until they were soft. I added the kale and covered it.

It takes a little while for the kale to wilt because it is a sturdy vegetable.

When it has wilted a bit, I add the garlic, habenero and the tomatoes.

Stir, salt and pepper.

Let it simmer while the pasta cooks.

When the pasta is nearly done, I take a couple of ladles full of the starchy water and put it into the sauce. Then I drain the pasta, and mix the sauce and pasta together with some parmigiano reggiano.

Bowl it up, and top with more cheese.

Not terribly gorgeous, but easy to throw together and (except for the kale) all of the ingredients are things that I always have around the house. This is probably not something that I would make for company or special occasions or anything, but I would definitely make it for us again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Peach Crumble

I needed a little bit of sunshine in this rainy week, so I decided to bust out some of the peaches I froze over the summer. The Captain and I both looked at the date on this bag and both decided that we clearly labeled the bag wrong. It must have been 8/29 because we weren't freezing peaches less than a month ago. No way. No how. Anyway, I decided a nice crumble would make us feel less schmoopy.

This is about as simple as dessert gets. Take one defrosted bag of peaches. I think there were 3 peaches in here. (Yay me and my precise methods of freezing in quantity!)

Dump contents of bag into bowl. Squeeze a half of a lemon. (Well, I would have used a lemon if I had one, but I didn't. So I used a lime.)

Add some freshly grated nutmeg, some cinnamon, and a little tiny bit of flour. Stir until incorporated. Butter 4 ramekins. Use real butter.

Divide contents of bowl evenly between 4 ramekins. Don't get excited and overload them or they will make a mess of the oven. Squeeze a little bit of honey over the top of the fruit mixture.

For the topping, I take a 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup of AP flour, 1/2 of oats (I use 1 minute), 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter cut into pieces. Easy to remember. A half cup of everything. Oh and a pinch of salt.

Work it with your fingers until it gets a crumbly consistency. If you are rich and have a food processor, I guess you could use that too. :)

Cover the fruit with the topping, keeping it loose, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.


Disclaimer: I had enough topping for about 4 more of these guys, but hadn't defrosted enough fruit. (And frankly, didn't need 8 of these around the house - they don't keep that well.) So I packaged up half topping in a container and put it in the freezer for future use. I've got a freezer full of blueberries, blackberries, black raspberries and raspberries so I am sure I'll use it up soon.
Disclaimer #2: These are much better with vanilla ice cream (I recommend Haagen Daz Five -drool-) but as good of a cook as I am, I am a horrible organizer and we were out of ice cream when I went to the freezer. The Horror!

Check These Out!

These were green tomatoes that I picked forever ago and let ripen on the windowsill. Not as good as vine ripened, but I'll take homegrown tomatoes during the last week of October!

Charleville Vineyard

We went to our friends' farm this weekend with the intent of doing a winery tour on Saturday. The weather has been absolutely crappy the last few days and Friday night was no exception. Things weren't looking good for Saturday. Somehow, miraculously, we had the most gorgeous day on Saturday, and as I sit here watching the rain fall outside the window, I thought I would share some of the pictures from that sunny-around-64-degree day.

We actually went to 4 places on Saturday, but my favorite was a relatively new winery. A place called Charleville Vineyard. I'm not a huge winery person (sorry, MO wine just isn't my thing), but, unbeknownst to me, this place was also a brewery.

Here's the greeter that met us when we got out of the car. She walked right up to us, I said "hi kitty" and she flipped over on her belly for me to scratch. I'm thinking I'm gonna like this place.

Right next to the parking area is the building where they sell beer, wine, snacks and gifts.

This is a closer look at the right side of the building where a cat was snoozing in the sunshine. Too adorable, really.

Hey, I recognize some of those beers! They sell Charleville at The Stable in St. Louis. I have consumed at least a couple of these beers already.

I decided upon the seasonal beer the Witches Brew'mm. They gave me a sample first (which I wasn't expecting. Also, Charleville was the only winery that didn't charge us to sample. But, I don't really need to sample good draft beer. I pretty much like it all. Still, that was nice.)

It was less pumpkin-y than OFallon, and not as spicy as Schlafly. I liked it. Come to find out, I was not the only one. I set my beer down at our table and went exploring. This is the bed and breakfast located at the vineyard. I love the front porch with all the rocking chairs. They were nice enough to let us take a self guided tour. The upstairs is two bedrooms and a bath, and the downstairs is a breakfast/siting area. The whole place smelled like maple syrup. Yum.

When I returned to my beer, I found this guy in it. I still drank it anyway; bees don't gross me out. Then I went off adventuring again.

Butterflies were out en masse on Saturday. I thought this one was particularly cool.

When I returned to my beer, this lady beetle was floating around in my beer, so I fished her out. That was enough buggy guys in one drink, so I dumped it and went to get another.

This time, the Hoptimistic IPA, which was hoppy and delightful. Perfect on a mild fall day.

Anyhoo, out of all the places we went, Charleville was hands down my favorite. The scenery was great. The people hanging out there weren't freaks. The music (one acoustic guy with a guitar, a harmonica, and a tambourine rigged to his foot) was the most appropriate for the laid back setting, and the staff was the most friendly.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes)

Sorry its been a while, but I was out of town, and didn't think the little cooking that I have been doing was worthy of writing about. Today, I am back on track, and I made the sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes) that were in the farm share last week. They are a root vegetable (well, more specifically the tuber of a sunflower plant) that kind of resemble ginger. They are a good source of potassium and iron. I think the term sunchoke is becoming the preferred way of referring to these guys. Here's what they look like out of the farm share box.

It seemed like there were two popular ways to cook them. Roasting or pureeing. Initially I was gonna puree until I figured I wouldn't have to peel em if I roasted em. Here's what they look like scrubbed down with a potato brush.

I then cut them into small pieces and put them in a bowl of water as they were oxidizing quickly on me. After they were cut, I scrubbed them again, as the smaller pieces exposed more dirt that I couldn't reach in the initial scrub down.

Once cleaned, I dried them thoroughly with a towel and placed them in a roasting pan with salt & pepper and some olive oil. I mixed them around to make sure they were all covered, then roasted in a 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes. (All of the recipes said 5-7 minutes, but they were not ready for me until 25.)

They didn't look so hot when they came out of the oven. The skins got darker and almost burnt looking. They were good though. Crusty on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. Kind of like a roasted potato but not as starchy. And I get the artichoke nickname. They did have kind of a delicate artichoke flavor. The Captain really liked them.

That said, I kind of didn't tell him the whole story about these guys. Apparently the carbohydrate in them isn't digested well by everyone. Here's a fun quote that I took from wikipedia, "which way soever they be dressed and eaten, they stir and cause a filthy loathsome stinking wind within the body, thereby causing the belly to be pained and tormented, and are a meat more fit for swine than men." English planter John Goodyer said that back in 1621. We will see how that works out tonight I guess.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blueberry Muffins

My adorable and charming niece and nephew (Hello Caitlin and William!) and I enjoy a fine cupcake every now and again. So, a couple of weeks ago when we met for dinner, my sister and her kids gave me some cute cupcake wrappers. I was really trying to figure out a way to use them that would do them justice. Today, I made some delicious blueberry muffins in some of the bright blue wrappers. I used a Martha recipe, naturally.
The nicest part about these wrappers is that they allowed me to skip the "butter and flour the pan" step.

Here are the blueberries I am using. I bought them at the farmers market from a farm called Ozark Mountain Orchard back in July. I IQF'd em, bagged em, and sucked all the air out of em. They have been waiting patiently in the downstairs freezer.

Instead of using 2 cups of AP flour, I used a cup of AP and a cup of whole wheat. That makes me feel less bad about scarfing down a bunch of these muffins. Then I whisked all the dry ingredients together (flour, baking powder, and salt).

I get everything ready, so that once I start, I don't have to stop. I put a stick of room temperature butter and a cup of sugar in a big bowl.

I mixed my eggs and vanilla together.

When I open the bag, the frozen berries look fantastic. Almost fresh looking. Well, fresh with some ice attached.

I put some of the flour mixture on the berries so that they "float" in the batter better.

Shake em around until they are all lightly coated.

And get started. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time. Add flour mixture and milk. Mix until just moistened.

Fold in blueberries and some lemon zest.

Resist the temptation to overmix.

Combine a 1/4 of a cup of sugar and some freshly ground nutmeg.

Scoop the batter into muffin tins and top with sugar mixture. The recipe says it will make 12 muffins, but I ended up with about 20. Seriously. That's got to be a misprint.


I took one while it was still super hot from the oven and cracked it open so everyone could see the quantity of blueberries in these. The Captain recommended against using this picture, he thought it made the muffins look like they fall apart. I think it makes the muffins look delicious.