Saturday, March 31, 2012

Happy shoppers in the Hampdens

So, finally. It's so exciting. Big stuff. After months and months of speculation, uncertainty and driving out of the neighborhood for a nicer option, Hampden has a nice, clean, well-stocked grocery store, Giant at Greenspring Towers. Okay, no one knows it as Greenspring Towers...we might know it as:

41st Street Shopping Center...
Where the Dunkin Donuts is...
Where there used to be a Blockbuster...
Oh! The old Super ma'Fresh...
The place where that dude would sometimes play his saxophone.

Whatever you call the location, I think most of the people who've visited the store would call it bright, clean, stocked (oh, Fresh & were so sad...) and staffed by some really happy people. I attended the soft opening this past Thursday night with a friend and it was such a scene! There was even a red carpet, hon. Apparently, they opened at 12:45pm instead of the scheduled 5:00pm start because people were lined up to get in. Lined up to get in. That is pretty funny, even for my quirkly little 'hood.

I went back on Saturday morning to shop and I have never been greeted, helped or directed at a store this much in my entire life. And I have to say, it's nice to see some of the old Super Fresh employees (I was a loyal Super Fresh shopper), as well as, of course, folks from the Rotunda Giant. I was never a fan of that Giant. To me, it was dirty and definitely cramped. And the parking - ugh. The little tiny lot in the front and then in the had to walk through the "Hall of Mirrors" to get to the grocery store. So not fun. I do hope that the developers can get back on track and bring us that "boutique" grocery store we keep hoping for...say it with me, Trader Joe's...Trader Joe's...Trader Joe's!

I also must give a shout out to the nice folks at the Baltimore Food Co-op as a great shopping option for folks looking for an excellent selection of organic and local deliciousness - I especially like the fresh (warm!) tortillas on Saturdays and the bulk foods room. Check it out when you're in the City.

Now, important stuff. Since I had a nickname for my old Super ma'Fresh, I need one for the new Giant. One of my coworkers some twenty years ago used to call the Rotunda Giant, The Big. As in, "I'm going to The Big - does anyone want anything?" I'm thinking The Big or maybe The Bigness.

Have you been to the new store yet? Like it? What would you like to see happen at the Rotunda?
Do tell...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dear rhubarb, I love you.

Rhubarb is coming soon to a market near you!

This wonderfully tart vegetable is one of those things you either love or hate. Like, say...oysters or tapioca or olives. (I love all of those things...duh.) And, I am way on the love side of rhubarb. Pies, jams, syrups, Yum.

When selecting rhubarb at the grocery store or farmers market, look for stalks that are firm and dark pink/red. Light pink stalks can also be just fine in most recipes...but for jams, etc, I try to use red stalks, as they are more visually striking. One very important detail if you grow rhubarb: the leaves are poisonous and should not be ingested. I've fallen hard for rhubarb, my friends...much like I did for figs a few years ago. Now I have rhubarb growing in the back yard right next to my fig tree. I just have to figure out how to chicken-proof it - they eat everything!

Here's a very tasty and simple recipe for strawberry rhubarb pie. Every time I make it, I'm asked for the recipe. I've even traded it with friends for home improvement projects (okay, I give them really good beer from The Wine Source sometimes, too...)

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie


1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 pound fresh rhubarb, chopped
2 pints fresh strawberries, sliced
1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees 

In a large bowl, mix flour and sugar. Add strawberries and chopped rhubarb. Toss with sugar and flour and let stand for 30 minutes.

Pour filling into pie crust. Dot top with butter, and cover with top crust. Seal edges of top and bottom crust with water.

Apply egg yolk to top of pie, using a pastry brush. Sprinkle with sugar. Cut small holes in top to let steam escape.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes, or until bubbly and brown. Cool on rack.

Serve with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream.

Here are some other great rhubarb recipes:

Rhubarb Clafouti by the kitchn


Rhubarb Vodka by Nigella Lawson
Rhubarb Salad with Goat Cheese by Martha Stewart
Rhubarb Syrup by the kitchn
Rhubarb Compote by I Made That
Rhubarb Basil Cocktail by the kitchn

Do you love rhubarb? Say yes!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Market Fresh

I love Waverly Farmers Market. It's year round and I shop there every Saturday morning, buying everything from milk and cheese to meat, bread, eggs, potatoes, greens and more.

But...when spring rolls around, it's lots more fun. Sorta like payback for being a faithful market see more familiar faces and you can tell what month it is based on what's at the farmers' booths. Here in Maryland, shortly we'll start seeing asparagus, strawberries, peas, radishes. blueberries. Then later, squash, corn, tomatoes, melons and so much more in between. Cannot wait. I can taste the fresh peas now.

In the can join a CSA, which stands for Community Supported Agriculture. That means you 'buy in' now for a share of produce each week during the main growing season, supporting a local farm. I've written about my friends at One Straw Farm before - they do the CSA thing really well and I've been member with them for years. But, you should do your research and choose whichever one seems best for you. You can find CSAs near you by searching on Local Harvest. Then, each week from June through November, you'll get fresh local produce and you will know exactly where your food comes from - it doesn't get any better or fresher than that.

Another option - if you have the time and space - is to plant a vegetable garden. Big or small, you will save money, get creative and...learn a lot along the way. It's the ultimate satisfaction - picking your food right when you're going to eat it. Kinda like how I collect eggs from my hens and then cook them for breakfast. I love it!

Here are some of the things I'm looking forward to seeing at my local farmers market - how about you?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Irish Roots

My Mom (um, hello...Peggy Fitzpatrick) is Irish. Her great-grandmother Catherine Buckley arrived in Baltimore on a ship from County Cork in 1850 at the age of 16. And...when you see my Mom, you say...yep, she's Irish.

And, while my Irish Mom is a big part of who I am (and my Dad, too...I named my dog Henry in his honor), my love of food and cooking and feeding people seems to come from my maternal grandmother, Mary Fitzpatrick. She and my grandfather Clark lived on a working farm in Harford County and I've written a little about them before. They were extremely hard working people - raising lambs, pigs, chickens and steer, churning their own butter, smoking and curing meats and so much more. Mary was a fabulous cook and if you stopped by their house, you ate. Like, really, ate. One of my Mom's most vivid food memories was her mother frying chicken in bacon fat - she said the skin was perfectly crispy. I've gotta try that.

While I don't have the time to make my own butter or keep (much less, slaughter...oy) my own animals, I do try to live a bit like my grandparents did. I grow vegetables and herbs and buy most of my food - bread, produce, meat, coffee, milk, cheese, etc - directly from the people who produced it by shopping at the Waverly Market every Saturday, year round. And...I think my decision to keep backyard chickens is a sort of nod to Clark and Mary. I just wish I could have met them.

While my grandparents loved good food, they didn't really go big on what you think of as typically Irish fare. They did eat lots of lamb and potatoes (and enjoyed the whiskey, I hear...) but they didn't really make a big deal about St. Patrick's Day, much less about being Irish. Don't get me wrong, they were proud...but they really were simple people, living a simple life.

Every year when St. Patrick's Day rolls around, I think I really should honor my ancestors and go out to drink some green beers or dance a jig or something...but I don't usually do that. I'm not one for crowded bars, but I do celebrate at home. I might make some corned beef and cabbage, maybe a potato gratin (okay, that sounds fancy, so let's call it scalloped potatoes...that sounds more like my family) and I'll definitely enjoy a nice pint o' Guinness. If you want a really nicely poured Guinness, go to James Joyce Pub - they do it right.

Maybe I'll even have an Irish car bomb? They are delicious, but trouble. A shot of Bailey's with whiskey dropped into a 1/2 pint of Guinness. Have you ever had one? Super delicious and dangerous if you overdo it. Do not have more than one. I'm warning you. Stop.

Enjoy St. Patrick's Day, lads and lassies - make my people proud!

May your troubles be less and your blessing be more,
and nothing but happiness, come through your door.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Take comfort

During this weird, weird winter, we didn't have very much cold weather...pretty much NO snow. The no snow part was particularly disappointing, since my full-time gig is working at a school. One of the very best perks of my job, aside from those two glorious weeks off during winter break, is the chance to stay home in my jammies on the gift that is a snow day. Happiness.

But, warmish weather be damned - sometimes you've gotta have comfort food. So, I went into my kitchen to see what's good. Score in the freezer! A beautiful roast from one of my faves at the Waverly Market, Liberty Delight Farms. I decided to make Pioneer Woman's Pot Roast, America's Test Kitchen's Roasted Smashed New Potatoes (a fave in my house) and Emeril's Roasted Green Beans.

Take comfort and make some good food, hon.