March 4, 2013

Taking Tea | Afternoon at the Harrison House

I see why they do it in the south and of course, it goes without saying, in the UK.

Taking time for afternoon tea is an immeasurably nice way to spend an hour or so in the afternoon.  And if you’ve got a girlfriend to catch up on some gossip, all the better.  The Harrison House, right now, kind of has a little secret.

But the scones and tea are so nice, it won’t be secret for much longer.

If you’re looking for an exceedingly quiet place to take tea, a few scones (good ones, with the exception of how they are cut, according to a very knowledgeable British source), some savories, some fruit, and a gorgeous dessert, let me recommend them.  No hustle and bustle here, just attentive service and the charm of a Victorian Village house.

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The afternoon tea service run by Savvy Spoon Tea is a pop up of sorts, taking advantage of off time in the Harrison House kitchen and its cozy parlor in which to serve it in.  All the better for us, who get to enjoy the scones that pop out of the oven as you’re arriving and being seated.  The tea menu is varied with all good selections, I chose the rose black.  The scones were marvelous with a little lemon curd and I was completely enamored with the mushroom pasty.  The pear cake was moist and a real treat.

Continue reading

March 1, 2013

It Makes a Difference | Askinosie Chocolate Tasting

Tasting SheetIt’s sometimes the unplanned moments that work out to be the best ones in your day.

Take the morning e-mail from a thoughtful Slow Food Columbus member who types a quick joke, makes you laugh and extends an invitation to attend a chocolate tasting with Shawn Askinosie in the Jeni’s Ice Cream Kitchens.

That afternoon.

Well, you have to say yes, don’t you?

I should say yes more often.

Especially when you’re saying yes to hear what Shawn Askinosie has to talk about.  Not only is he making remarkable chocolate that’s traceable from bean to bar, but he and his family are working hard to improve the lot of the farmers who grow the beans, the neighborhood and community in which the factory is located and heck, the lives of every single person who unwraps a bar of what I am starting to think is some of the best chocolate that has ever melted on my tongue.

Shawn takes something that inherently makes people happy – chocolate – and then ups the ante by making it good for everyone along the supply chain.  Good, clean and fair indeed.

His noble work takes him all around the world to the cocoa farmers and co-ops that he trades with directly who reside in that narrow band 20 degrees to the north and to the south of the equator.  There, in far flung locales from Ecuador to Tanzania to the Phillipines, Shawn partners, pays fairly and profit-shares with growers – many of them women – to produce not the rarest beans, but the ones handled with the greatest care.  Askinosie beans are carefully raised, picked, fermented and then sun-dried in the equatorial heat.

Don’t take my word that it’s these careful steps that makes Askinosie among the best chocolate made anywhere.  Listen to David Lebovitz. Continue reading

February 14, 2013

Fast Fashion | Five-Spice Duck

This meal is simple enough for a weeknight, but also sexy enough for a date night.

Just like a good pair of skinny black pants.

Duck turns out to cost about as much as a good piece of grass-fed beef.  But somehow it seems altogether fresh and new for a weeknight meal.  Toss in some bulk wild rice and some handfuls of baby spinach and you’ve got yourself something that despite it’s cheap and cheerful cost, almost poses as downright elegant.

Think of it as the H&M of meals.  Fast fashion at the dinner table.

The duck is spiced simply with salt and pepper and a generous amount of Chinese five spice.  Now before you go writing that off with “oh I can’t find that stuff,” know that in addition to you being able to easily grab a bit a your finer spice stores, you can also pick up a jar at your local grocery store because even McCormick’s makes it.  Pan sear the duck, then drain (and save for oh so delicious potatoes) the fat that’s rendered off, then in the same pan wilt down your spinach that you douse with a bit of apple cider vinegar and a generous pinch of sugar.  The wild rice, while it takes 45 minutes to cook, can easily be made ahead of time.  Or you can unwind with some Jesse Ware and a cocktail while that simmers.

I always opt for the second.

Timing is, as it turns out – in fashion and the kitchen – is everything.

Chinese Five-Spiced Duck. Wild Rice Salad. Warm Spinach.  For Two.

For the Wild Rice Salad

8 oz wild rice blend Continue reading

December 11, 2012

Simple and Heartfelt | Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball SoupSometimes, you just want soup. When it’s rainy (no snow?) and cold and dreary and grey, you need something that says, “Bubbala, where are your mittens?”

This fantastic soup is something that anyone can make, with the most simple of ingredients.  And it’s pretty much the single most biggest bang for your buck kind of thing you can make.  People love it.  It’s funny like that.  Because you say to yourself, “Really?  This is that good?”

But it is.  You might even get a bit greedy for the leftovers.  But then, you won’t, because you know better and because this is wonderful to share.  Because the leftovers are even better.  And this, in the season of giving is a wonderful thing to give: warming, comforting and 98% love by volume.

This particular recipe/method uses every possible bit of the soup, even the fat that you skim off the top of the stock.  Because thrift is what takes this soup from ho hum to oh nom.  Yeah, I went there.

Matzo Ball Soup, Serves two for dinner, plus five for leftover lunch, so, yeah. Lots.

For the stock

1 split chicken breast, bone in, skin on

2 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on

2 chicken drumsticks, bone in, skin on

2 carrots, quartered Continue reading

August 19, 2012

Thinking Ahead | Avgolemono – Lemon Chicken Soup

I stood in this kitchen this morning knowing that I wanted a traditional Sunday dinner.  I was in the mood to let something cook, take a bit more time preparing something.  I pulled out one of my favorite books that I hadn’t looked at in a while: Heart of the Artichoke, by the wonderful David Tanis.  In it, the summer menus tugged at me and I decided to roast a spatchcocked chicken and make up a rice salad with some of the beautiful Carolina Gold rice some dear friends brought back from a summer vacation in South Carolina.

And, as luck would have it, none of this was actually time intensive.  I love it when I have the time to give to something and the fates tell me not to worry about it.

In addition to being a really nice guy, Mr. Tanis is such a clever chef and cook, in the book he offers numerous variations on many of his recipes, adding or omitting an ingredient or two and giving you a whole new way to enjoy a dish, transitioning from side dish to satisfying lunch in a short jump.  Really good stuff.  It’s a way to start thinking about what you have in the pantry and the fridge to re-purpose yesterday’s dinner into a wholly new meal.  It’s leftovers, elevated.

So tonight, after devouring half a lemony roast chicken and having just the teeny-ist bit of the herb rice salad leftover, I eyed the golden fond in the chicken roasting pan and remembered my favorite soup from Tasi: a lovely lemon chicken soup.  Continue reading

August 17, 2012

Why Haven’t I Done This Before? | Watermelon Rind Pickles

I picked up a beautiful, heavy and sweet local watermelon at my neighborhood Giant Eagle Market District.  I still can’t believe that this is my normal, everyday, hey-we’re-out-of-milk grocery store – it’s humongous.  But I have to give them props: for being as huge as they are, they do try for a couple of months to really bring in a bunch of locally grown and raised produce.  I really like that.

So back home, I was cutting it up and then slicing up all the leftover rinds so that they would break down faster in the compost pile and it hit me.  People make pickles out of this stuff.   And thankfully it’s less for the compost pile to try to digest, which is a good thing this time of year, just ask my husband, who often gets stuck with the job of carting out all the scraps.  He’s a good man.

Is that a cucumber in the foreground? No! Just a well trimmed watermelon rind.

So a quick browse around and it’s a simpler method than I even thought.  For half of a medium watermelon the brine is Continue reading

August 10, 2012

Local Foods Week | Whey Crepes with Ricotta and Zucchini

It’s the time of year where just about anything your heart desires is available fresh and local here in Ohio.  Farmer’s market tables groan under the weight of melons, zucchini, tomatoes, peaches.  Oh the loveliness.

Local Matters (whose mission is to transform the food system in central Ohio to be more secure, prosperous, just and delicious) hosts Local Foods Week every year.  This year they have so many events from tastings to picnics to special local foods week tours.   It’s kind of a party with produce all week.  Which is awesome.

Cooking with local produce is my personal favorite thing to do this week.

But it’s summer, too, and if you ask me, that means cooking should be just barely above a simmer.  If you’re in the house, lightly sauteed or not cooked at all are methods I can stand behind. Continue reading

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