WEEKLY SUNDRIES + RADISH CUCUMBER SALAD

27th July 2015

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sundries, n.

Pronunciation: /ˈsʌndrɪz/
Etymology: plural of sundry adj. used subst.: compare odds n.
Definition: Small articles of a miscellaneous kind; esp. small items lumped together in an account as not needing individual mention.

Though its definition can be a little misleading, I really enjoy the term sundries. It fits well within the Southern vernacular and seems to be a word that is slowly coming back into style. It has an assortment of applications and more or less means a collection of bits and pieces. Which is exactly what this post entails. Bits and pieces from around the world, web, and my frame of reference that I thought might be good to share. I’ve always been fond of little collections – stamps, vintage books, bottle caps, ticket stubs – this is just another one of many (albeit a much less cluttered curation). This week’s sundries are all fairly recent pieces of news, but sometimes an old standby might slip through. The term weekly is also subject to change because weekly is sometimes just too aspirational.


Summer is supposed to be slow, but it seems to be anything but. Any and everything is happening.

Evidently tea sommeliers are a thing now and NPR has all the steamy details about the seemingly new profession. It makes sense, there are, after all, just as many teas in the world as there are wines or even beers. The training for becoming a true tea sommelier includes lots of tea of course, but doesn’t have the same strict guidelines as its alcoholic counterparts…at least for now. One way to start, or so I’m told, is to study this aroma wheel created by the International Tea Masters Association. Have a go.

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My good friend and fellow food scholar Emily Contois recently attended a local food conference on “Culinary Culture: The Politics of American Foodways, 1765-1900″ at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA. And I was and remain incredibly jealous. I tried to live vicariously through her lovely tweets and instagrams, but her wrap-up blog post, entitled “An Insane Asylum, on a Dinner Plate? Learnings from the CHAVIC 2015 Summer Seminar”, is the perfect way to get a taste for the conference.

image from Bon Appetit July 2015

image from Bon Appetit July 2015

This month I fell in love with Bon Appetit all over again thanks to their new July 2015 issue. Not that they need my props, but the whole masthead deserves a big pat on the back and an extra scoop of ice cream for this summery, campy (but in a good way) issue. My favorite article was their multi-page fold on “Awesome Camping Food” complete with diagrams, tip lists, and lots of wonderful recipes that frankly just made me miss my Dad a lot. Especially, this recipe for Peach-Blackberry Camp Cake made in a Dutch oven just like my Dad makes his.

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Shari’s Berries made this pretty nifty literary dessert visual to help you plan your next book club meeting or maybe just to amaze those of us who would love to delve deeper into our favorite fictional landscapes. Sipping butterbeer while flying through the pages of Harry Potter is an obvious, but delicious choice, but other classical texts are paired with some rather unique sweets.

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And lastly, I wanted to share my latest Boston Globe recipe for radish and cucumber salad with avocado-buttermilk dressing. A super simple and summery dish that really isn’t a recipe at all with a dressing that combines the taste of Southern tangy buttermilk with that loveable green avocado.

Also, it’s almost August…and that means tomato season. More to come on that front.

SALIDA, CO

23rd July 2015

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Craft beers. Impromptu day-long hikes and watery Chaco walks along the bubbling river. Enough granola to fuel a small commune. Year round snow-capped 14ers with air so pure you gasp because your lungs simply aren’t used to that level of clean. Good ol’ Colorado, the third state, after Texas and Massachusetts, I consider home. Ever since my husband and I were young and in high school we would drive up to the Rocky Mountains with his family, his Dad belting a John Denver medley of his own making the entire way. A few years ago, they decided to finally settle seasonally in Salida, the little Colorado village they had grown to love, and bought a little fixer-upper to mend and make their own. And though we didn’t put in much effort – unless you count not complaining on the numerous 15-hour drives to and from Texas – my husband and I get to reap the rewards of this little mountain getaway.

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Over the years I’ve realized that I’m not a skier or a snowboarder or anything that involves speed, going downhill, and frozen water. It’s not that I can’t ski, it’s more that I more enjoy hiking through the snow knowing that the reward of a hot cinnamon latte or a local brew waits at the end of the street. So as my family goes up the mountain for the day, I sneak off to a new local haunt each day finding the little nooks of Salida that still have the best views of the mountains above. And I’ve found quite a few.

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We recently ventured back down to Salida for the Fourth of July – no snow! – and managed to pack in quite a few of our favorite spots in a single long weekend. I always like to start my stays at the little market and farmstand Ploughboy’s to pick up locally made granola, seeded crackers, a bit of produce, and a loaf of the best damn cinnamon swirl bread in the entire world. On this most recent trip, I learned that The Little Red Hen, the bakery who makes this heavenly bread, only brings it into the shop on Sundays now, but also pitches a stand at the local farmer’s market in the nearby park every Saturday. This stand also comes stocked with their larger-than-life cinnamon rolls as well as loaves of sticky sweet cranberry spice bread, too.

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Just down the road – well to be honest, everything in Salida is just down the road – is Cafe Dawn, a community favorite where complete strangers will engage you in conversation about any and everything, so don’t go there expecting to get any work done. The owner is curmudgeonly pretentious about coffee, but won’t give you a hard time so long as you have cash to pay for it. A few blocks over is my preferred coffee stop, the Brown Dog Café that features a dimly lit interior, quiet spaces for penning notes and reading, a simple, but quality coffee selection and a small case of local ice cream offerings to reward yourself after a morning of hard Facebooking work. They also sell dog bones and keep a water bowl outside for the frequent Salida canine customer.

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Across the street is Sweetie’s Sandwich Shop, the hipster take-away darling of downtown Salida. A very large chalkboard lists several dozen sandwiches each with their own name, my favorite is interestingly enough called “the hipster” and comes stuffed with plenty of fresh mozzarella, thick tomato slices, and a basil pesto aioli. The tables and chairs are a kitschy retro mismatch and the glass-front bakery counter is filled with a mix of modernized sweets and things your grandma probably makes during the holidays. And, yes, there are plenty of Mason jars.

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My in-laws and husband, who have spent enough years growing up in Colorado, remind me that pizza is a big deal here. Every time we go out in Salida, they always reminisce about their favorite pizza joint in this town or that. I’ve only ever known the slices that Salida has to offer, but they definitely do not disappoint. There are two clear favorites that don’t necessarily fill the same subcategory of pizza cravings. Moonlight Pizza offers granola-inspired pies as well as traditional standbys like meat lovers and Hawaiian with a standard chewy, but not too thick crust. Amicas also offers a slew of clearly Colorado flavor profiles alongside traditional combinations, but on thinner, almost Neapolitan style crispy crust. Both brew their own beer and serve it on rotation throughout the year. Both cater to vegans, meat lovers, and everything else in between. It really just depends what you want to eat and whichever has the shorter line. P.S. it’s usually Moonlight.

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Colorado has built quite a reputation for itself with craft brewing (and not-so-craft brewing, you know who I mean) and Salida is no exception. Designed with the nearby Monarch Ski Lodge in mind, Elevation Beer Co. has crafted a line of brews built around the mountain. This little old-timey ski resort was once reserved for locals and those in-the-know and still stays relatively quiet in comparison to the large runs at Vale and the like. With a lodge renovation and this string of bespoke beers – aptly categorized in ski runs: green, blue, and black diamond – Elevation Beer Co. and Monarch have grown together to create quite a name for themselves. Now the brewery, located just at the foot of the mountains in sistertown Buena Vista, is open to the public with a teensy beer garden and a rustic indoor bar featuring all their beers and flights of the lot. And I guess I should mention that beer doesn’t get all the attention, at least not in Salida, thanks to the relatively new Wood’s High Mountain Distillery located in the middle of downtown.

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I should also mention a few of my in-laws favorite local joints, including the something-for-everyone Boat House, which is located right on the Arkansas River and equipped with a slew of big screens for watching college football (arguably their favorite past time). My little (or rather gigantic) brother-in-law swears by the cheap eats at Mama D’s. When dining on his own dime, he’s a two dry hotdogs for $1.50 kind of guy, but he’s 16 so take his food preferences with a grain of thrifty salt. And then there’s the family favorite, Benson’s Tavern, with a small, but quality menu of burgers, sandwiches, famous Colorado Green Chile chili, and all the best beers around. On the outside, it seems like the kind of place old men go to meet their buddies and waste away an afternoon (well, it is), but you’ll also find plenty of younger groups, families, and the occasional welcome dog on the patio. It’s the perfect place to wile away a scary summer afternoon thunderstorm. Then go across the street to Here’s the Scoop for more ice cream, says the not-so-little brother-in-law.

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POPSICLE WEEK LISTICLE

16th July 2015

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Excuses, excuses, baby bump fatigue, traveling, impatience, excuses, well I have about a half dozen more reasons to explain why I didn’t get my rear in gear to participate in Wit & Vinegars‘s Popsicle Week this year. And really why would I even bother doing all the creative forethought when all my fellow online food friends have done all the work already? Thanks buddies. Just check out all these wonderful recipes – a small handful of the hundred or so created especially for this week – and you will agree.

Images from the top left, counterclockwise: Probably This French 75 Cocktail Pops | Kale and Caramel Nectarine Olive Oil Froyo Pops | le jus d’orange Dragonfruit Coconut Popsicles | My Name is Yeh Bloody Mary Popsicles | Coco Cakeland Earl Grey Milky Tea Popsicles with Grass Jelly | She Eats Summer Blackberry Nectarine Margarita Pops | Top with Cinnamon Green Smoothie Detox Pops


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And here are a couple of my own past popsicle recipes – Pimm’s Cup Pops and Horchata Paletas – pulled from the archives. Hope they’ll do the trick until I can up my freezer game later this summer.

Stay cool, y’all.

CARROT TOP PESTO + CARROT RIBBONS

9th July 2015

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Currently craving: Tex-Mex, iced tea blended into a sort of frappachino thing but without the sugar, an obscene amount of watermelon, and those flimsy hamburger dill pickle chips dyed with Yellow-5 (no others will do).

Currently eating: toddler style tapas (carrot sticks, hummus, cheese and crackers, and any fruit or veg that can be cut up and served raw). Way too much fast food.

I’m traveling this week and torn between eating at my favorite Texas spots and trying to be satisfied with a piece of avocado toast (when that avocado would taste much better on a breakfast taco). My constitution was never very good with travel and seems doubly worse thanks to the little one. While we aren’t stopping at your typical fast food joints (can’t seem to go near the smell of fried foods with a 10-foot pole), eating out over and over is taking a toll. Maybe it’s the lack of working for my food? We all bemoan the time and effort it takes to cook (even if it’s our job), but when you are away from your kitchen too long, having idle hands seems almost worse. I made a pan of Smitten Kitchen’s brownies last night for the family, but that didn’t seem to do the trick (and the little cousins didn’t take to my “fancy” non-boxed baked goods too well). And I have a feeling that they really wouldn’t like this carrot overdose I concocted last week before I left my own kitchen.

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Scrolling through my friend Jo Rodger’s soft and lovely instagram feed a while back, I fell for a snap of a hand-chopped walnut pesto she whipped up one day while on vacation. Her photos are something from a book-filled dream and this not-recipe a lesson in patience, knife skills, and frugality. I wanted to make my own hand-chopped pesto with things I already had around my kitchen, and what I always seem to have is carrots (and, more importantly, carrot tops).

People forget that carrot tops are both a) edible and b) very deliciously carroty and really shouldn’t be thrown away (except, maybe, to feed hungry rabbits). So unless you have a rabbit (or maybe a compost pile), you have no excuse to not make this pesto.

Carrot Top Pesto + Carrot Ribbons

serves 2-3 or one very hungry rabbit

1 small bunch carrots with tops
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
splash of red wine vinegar

1. Remove the carrot tops and soak in a bowl of cold water to clean. Rinse and clean carrots and set aside. Drain the carrot tops and pat dry with a paper towel.

2. Finely chop the carrot tops and add to a small bowl. Add the finely chopped garlic, walnuts, and olive oil and stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

3. Using a sharp paring knife or a vegetable peeler, peel the carrots into thin ribbons and transfer to a bowl of cold water. Discard tough carrot cores and the remaining tops. Let the ribbons soak for a minute or two (this helps them stay crisp and bright). Drain the ribbons and gently pat dry with a paper towel. Return to bowl and top with carrot top pesto, tossing to combine. Add a splash of red wine vinegar and toss again. Serve immediately.

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A SOUTHERN FOURTH OF JULY

28th June 2015

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Other than Halloween – which is, without contest, the best day of the year – I tend to rank all other holidays based on their food and dining possibilities. For the big three – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter – I feel like my Dad and I are compelled to one-up each others’ holiday menu, even when we’re thousands of miles apart and wont even be sitting at the same dinner table. I’ve recently decided to add the Fourth of July to that list, a day that is usually dominated by an area of my dad’s expertise: the grill.

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Since we’ll be traveling on the Fourth to a kitchen-unknown (read: an airbnb in Colorado), I had to act before the big holiday. So we planned an impromptu southern inspired cook-out in our back lot this weekend. The smell of freshly lit charcoal lured our upstairs neighbors down and the promise of homemade lemonade is what probably ensured that they stay. Inside I stuffed peppers with crumbled queso fresco and wrapped them tightly in bacon – trying again to one up my Dad’s own pecan-stuffed jalapeno poppers – and squeezed lemons till my palms hurt.

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We lit two grills: our small portable one – perfect for small sides and things that require quick stints over the coals, and our larger one that we covered with brats, sausages, and buttered rolls. A small army of various mustards stood at the ready. A butcher-paper covered table held a massive pitcher of homemade Blueberry Lemonade sweetened with smokey sorghum syrup and crushed blueberries and the nearby tray of fresh peaches impatiently waited to be grilled for dessert. The buttermilk biscuits baked the day before had already fallen victim to nibbling.

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The sun began to set and cast a perfect glow over the dying coals on the grills and I quickly brushed the peaches with a melted mix of butter-honey-and-salt. They took a quick turn on the grate and then were sandwiched between two halves of a biscuit and topped with vanilla bean ice cream to form the most American shortcake I could ever dream up. Their summery sweetness was tempered only by the slow, lingering burn from one-too-many jalapeno poppers. Not that anyone is keeping track, but I think I may have won Fourth of July this year.

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Blueberry Sorghum Lemonade
makes about 1 gallon

2 1/2 cups lemon juice
1 gallon cold water
1 cup sorghum or cane sugar
1 ½ cups blueberries
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additional lemon slices and fresh blueberries for garnish

1. In a large pitcher, combine the lemon juice, water, and sorghum and stir until thoroughly combined.

2. Add 1/2 cup of the blueberries to a wide bowl. Using the bottom of a heavy glass, or the back of a large wooden spoon, gently smash the berries to release some of their juices.

FAMILY STYLE: If serving the lemonade in a large clear drink dispenser or pitcher, add the smashed blueberries and the whole ones to the bottom of the container. Top with the lemonade to mix. Serve with additional blueberries and lemon slices for garnish.

COCKTAIL STYLE: If serving the lemonade by the glass, add a teaspoon or so of the smashed blueberries to the bottom of a glass. Top with ice cubes and a few more whole berries. Carefully pour the lemonade over the cubes so that the drink slowly fades from dark blue to lightly purple at the top. Garnish with a lemon slice and serve.


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Grilled Peach Buttermilk Shortcakes with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Serves 6 to 8 (depending upon how big you cut the biscuits)

FOR THE BISCUITS:
1 1/2 cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons butter, chilled
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
½ cup buttermilk

1. Set the oven to 425 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and sugar. Using two forks or your fingertips, cut in the cold butter until the mixture is crumbly with only pea-sized pieces of butter remaining.

3. In another small bowl, whisk together the vanilla, egg, and milk. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until just combined. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it just comes together. Pat or roll out the dough until it’s about ½-inch thick. Using a round biscuit cutter (I used a 2.5”) or a thin-lipped glass, cut the dough into circles. Transfer dough circles onto a baking sheet, brush the tops with a bit of leftover milk or egg, and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tops just begin to turn a golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool on the counter slightly before serving.

FOR THE SHORTCAKES:
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon tablespoon honey
pinch of salt
peaches (firm, but ripe), washed, halved, pits removed (one half per person)
vanilla bean ice cream

1. In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, honey, and salt. Brush each peach half (cut side only) with a thin layer of the honey butter.

2. When the grill is heated and the coals have died down slightly, place the peach halves cut-side down on the grill. Continue to grill for 3 to 5, until the bottoms just begin to caramelize. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly.

3. To assemble a shortcake: cut a biscuit in two and place the bottom half in the bottom of a bowl or plate. Add one grilled peach half and top with the top half of the biscuit. Finish with a scoop (or two!) of ice cream. Repeat with remaining biscuits and peaches. Drizzle any juices that accumulated after grilling the peaches over the bowls (or any leftover honey-butter) and serve.


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Grilled Jalapeno Poppers stuffed with Queso Fresco
makes one dozen

¼ cup cream cheese, room temperature
4 ounces (about 6 tablespoons) queso fresco, crumbled
black pepper to taste
6 jalapenos, washed and patted dry
6 strips of uncooked bacon, cut in half crosswise
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1. In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese, queso fresco, and black pepper. Set aside.

2. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the peppers in half, lengthwise. Leaving the stems intact, scoop or cut out the seeds and ribs and discard. Fill each pepper half with the cheese mixture. Wrap a half piece of bacon around the middle of each jalapeno and secure with a toothpick.

3. When the grill is heated and the flames have died down, carefully place each jalapeno half on the grate, cut side up. Grill the peppers for 15 to 20 – turning or moving as necessary – until the cheese is bubbly and the bacon is cooked through.

NOTE: if the peppers are too small, place a piece over heavy-duty aluminum foil over the grate to keep them from falling through.


This post was sponsored by and in collaboration with the lovely folks over at Birch Lane. Per usual, I would never put anything on this blog that wasn’t already something I used or was proud to associate with, so you can trust me when I say that Birch Lane has some of the swellest – and lets be honest, most photogenic – bits and pieces for your kitchen and table. All the pieces I used in this post can be found through the links below.

pictured: red gingham napkins | blue flower napkins | blue glasses | glass + galvanized drink dispenser | galvanized tray | portable grill | gold painted wooden forks