Saturday, April 12, 2008

Foodie update (long but delicious)

Two weeks' worth, or rather, two weekends. During the week I barely cook. There's no time for it. But hey, if it tastes good and the nutrition is balanced, a cold meal is fine -- or a combo heated leftovers and something new. Sundays are church days, but Saturdays I am at home a lot, being quiet, and sometimes I go to the market.


Last Saturday:

No Farmers' Market. I hadn't been since the day before Easter. I often wake up too late to go. The downtown Farmers' Market is at the uncivilized hour of Saturday 6 a.m. to 12 noon, and woe to those who get there after 9 a.m., a lot of the good stuff is gone by then. But sleep is more important especially since all the other days of the week require at least two alarm clocks. Last Saturday there was an additional reason for not going, which was that I was driving to Burlington, NC to chair a diocesan anti-racism committee meeting and thus had to leave home at 9 a.m. Nine a.m. on a Saturday! That's the middle of the night as far as I am concerned. But Jesus calls and we follow. So off I went, and a good meeting it was, thanks be to Godde.

So then I get back from Burlington, do house things, have a nap, and on and off I'm thinking, gee, it has been more than two years since I heard about this place called Jerusalem Market and I still haven't been to it. Greensboro, you see, is not my kind of transportation town and though I have a good sense of direction (genetic, from Daddy, and also acquired, from seven years of girl scouts) I find the whole Southern sprawl-and-mall thing utterly disorienting and somewhat depressing. So I have my little patterns and periodically I add another route to someplace interesting. Jerusalem Market is interesting. There are two Palestinian foodie families in town. One is the family that owns Zaytoon restaurant, which has long been on the blogroll to the right. They are Palestinian Muslims, very involved in the local Slow Food movement, using as many organic products as possible, and their kids go to the Quaker school next to our campus. They also have a booth at the downtown farmers' market so I met them early on; we also have had them cater a lot of department and private functions. Then there are the Palestinian Christian family, and they own Jerusalem Market (no website), which is a combination shop and deli, and not heavily involved in the local-and-organic movement as far as I know, but for imported food, they are the greatest. And both families, as it turns out, make fresh Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. So there is also local food at Jerusalem market.

I found out on the Web how to get to Jerusalem Market and off I went. It isn't as far as I thought. It is naturally, in a mall, but a little one, on the edge of town, and I overshot it and had to make a U-turn because despite the mall sign with store names, it is easy not to see the name while you are also trying to figure out where you are going and watching for street numbers. If you can call this a street. It's a flippin' highway. Once you get in the store, though, you are back in a real city store. There is a deli counter at the back, there are bins in the front, and there are shelves and shelves stacked with goodies from Greece, Bosnia, Lebanon, Croatia (yes, I checked labels and bottoms of boxes), Italy, Sweden, and many other countries, goodies savory and sweet. Jars of grape leaves, capers, vegetable spreads, and roasted peppers, boxes of crackers and pasta, roasted and unroasted nuts in bulk, boxes of lokoum (Turkish Delight) and chocolate and marzipan, bags of chick peas, fava beans, lentils, spices, cornmeal, oh my.

The deli counter in the back is apparently known for its sandwiches, but sandwich-making stops at 6 p.m on Saturdays. Who cares, the place was open till 8 p.m., it was 7 p.m., payday was just a few days before, and I was in heaven. At the deli counter I asked about the feta cheese. (I'd had some at the home of my foodie friends who first told me about the place.) The young man of the house (probably the son of the owner) told me about two kinds, both properly made from sheep's milk, one Bulgarian and stronger, the other French and milder. Reader, I bought some of both. The feta comes in bulk and it is fresh, or as fresh as it gets when it has traveled in a big tub with its milky briny liquid across the ocean. Then there were the other cheeses. Peccorino Romano! Misto Classico Stagionato! (I got some of both.) Asiago! Cheese from Spain and Italy and France!

(Note: I later discovered there are massive feta cheese disputes in Europe. But I digress.)

There was also baklava at the deli counter, homemade, some with walnuts, some with pistachios. I resisted. The Ph.D. Pounds are still clinging to my body and it is time they left and jumped off the cliff with a herd of pigs.

Then I met the owner. He found out where I teach, at the local Quaker-founded college. There is a Quaker-Palestinian connection in town. The Friends School in Ramallah, West Bank, always sends us a few of its alumns; our Quaker head of campus ministry also did his alternative service as a C.O. there during the Vietnam war. (How did he manage that one, I once asked. Friendly draft board in Indiana, said he. Place was full of Quakers and Mennonites so the draft board was used to them.) The Jerusalem Market owner, as it turns out, attended this same Ramallah Friends School. The headmistress at the time was my campus minister colleague's aunt, the shop owner told me, and a fearsome Quaker lady she was.

We chatted at the front of the store, where I had stacked my purchases on the counter: the feta, a jar of capers from Greece, a red pepper spread (Ajvar) from Macedonia, a jar of marinated kosher herring made for Denmark in Germany (?!) and marked "Product of the European Community," a huge round package (at least one foot in diameter) of knäckebröd (Swedish flatbread or hardtack -- this one had a bilingual label in Swedish and Finnish and the names of both countries on it; after doing some research I have discovered the Finns have this as their national cracker-bread too and it's pure rye -- but this was much much lighter and crispier than the rectangular flatbread you buy in little packages), a packet of dark German whole grain rye bread, and a small jar of taramosalata. Back to the deli counter we went. It was after sandwich time, but I read the board on the wall and realized there were still all kinds of homemade things. The deli was out of ful medames (a.k.a. fool), but they did have baba ghanoush, so I got a container of that (the owner sprinkled fresh parsley, pine nuts, and a bit of paprika on the top and drizzled a bit of olive oil on it after asking me whether I wanted some) and also a container of yogurt-cucumber-garlic dip. That dip goes very well on the side of various Middle Eastern dishes, especially to spice up a simple lentil and rice dish, but it will go with just about anything Mediterranean. It has a little bite to it and the yogurt has been strained and is quite thick. And olives, they have olives, in big bins with brine. You want calamata olives? The owner asked. Yes, I wanted some of those. And then I asked whether he had Moroccan oil-cured olives. He looked at me with new appreciation. Those are the real olives. They are intense, salty, and dark. I got some of those also. The owner walked me to the car with the bags and gave me a hug.

I went home and ate half the baba ghanoush with some of the Swedish cracker bread (in the interests of North-South understanding, eh Paul?) and the cucumber-yogurt dip. It was delicious. It also involved no cooking at all. And I ate olives, of course, on the side. Voilà. Supper.

Last Sunday: (I am adding this note about last Sunday a day after writing the rest of the post. How could I forget? I am going to have to start keeping a "blog: to do" list.)

Lynne Rossetto Kasper of radio deliciousness fame has two special editions of The Splendid Table. Instead of the usual features, last Sunday's show and today's (I am writing this paragraph on Sunday) are about the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, the foodiest of foodie regions. They are reruns of shows I had missed in 2006. Missed the show? Go listen on the Web. And it's not only about food. (Food is never only about food.) Technology, economics, health, agriculture, travel, culture, and history. With the sounds of the beautiful Italian language. And food, glorious food. Enjoy.

A week later, today:

Made it to the Farmers' Market. Late: it was 10 a.m. by the time I got there (not quite the middle of the night). But the mostly-organic farmers had baby lettuce left and some Italian arugula, and also shiitake mushrooms. Mmm. Later this week we are going to do something with garlic and ginger and a touch of tamari and those mushrooms. Besides being delicious, they are good for the immune system. The egg people were also at the market, or rather one of the sets of egg people (there are two), so I got a dozen eggs from allegedly happy chickens (the egg people advertise the chickens as free-range and happy; since this is the South, the chickens are doubtless spinning loquacious tales of their family's lives in love and war, chicken-style). Stopped by the other organic people, who had fresh cilantro, and I got a bunch. Wasn't sure what I would make with it, but it was cheap and fresh and pretty, so into the bag it went.

Off to the Shrimp Man I went. He wasn't there last week. He wasn't there this week either, technically speaking. His Shrimp Man sign with the newspaper story was there, but the person there was Shrimp Woman who may or may not be related to him. I splurged. I am mostly a vegetarian at home but sometimes the circumstances demand brain food, and believe me, I have circumstances these days. Also, serious protein is in order. (See above under "not gonna eat that baklava.") I got salmon (yes, wild caught), tilapia (cheaper), and big fat shrimp. I think the last time I bought shrimp was two New Year's Days ago. I hardly ever eat out, not even those lattes that make me an NPR liberal (I make 'em at home these days, or rarely, get 'em at the student co-op coffeehouse), so I figure the expense evens out.

Then there is my current favorite florist. The other one was either not there or gone already. This one is a lady of many years, white, with fine wrinkles and a serious North Carolina accent. Her flowers look like they are straight out of the garden. This is not commercial production and I am happy to pay the price --which is not that different from the imported whatevers in the supermarket. I bought two kinds of bright yellow flowers: one bunch of daffodils and one bunch of something else, some kind of jonquils, which the flower lady said would last longer than the daffodils. And the first lilacs are out! In Boston, Lilac Sunday isn't until well into May and in Vermont the lilacs are out even later. So I bought a small, fragrant bunch of lilac-colored lilacs.

We have goat cheese in this part of North Carolina. The farm has been on my blogroll since the beginning. It is called Goat Lady Dairy (there really is a goat lady) and it is located an hour or two from here in, are you ready, Climax, North Carolina. There is a Baptist church in Climax and one passes it on the way to the farm. I don't think it is called Climax Baptist. The farm has an "open farm" twice a year including one at the very end of April, which is at the end of term here (classes end the last of April or the first of May and then we have Reading Days and Finals) and a couple of years ago a bunch of faculty piled into my colleague Shelini's car to get away from our tall stacks of papers and exams and went off to goat-land. You haven't lived till you've hugged baby goats. Shelini took photos but has yet to get them to me. If she does before leaving (she is our department member who is leaving and for whose replacement we had the search this year) I will post one. There is also a sheep farm nearby by the name of Rising Meadow Farm. It sells fleece, wool, and meat. Yes, meat from the darling lambies. Mostly vegetarian though I may be, I have broken down and had some of this meat once in a long while, because it is sustainably raised. At any rate, back to the goat farm. I bought fresh soft spreadable goat cheese (just plain -- they also sell it doctored up with all manner of flavors: pimientos, horseradish, figs and honey, fresh herbs, et al., but I like the plain stuff) and a little round ash-covered slightly aged goat cheese; that one needs to age a bit more and I am keeping it out of the fridge.

I also bought Ohio Amish raw milk cheddar cheese (one mild, one sharp) from one of the Amish families who have a booth at the market.

Then I went to the beekeeping man, who knows me and greeted me (the cheese people know me too, this is part of the fun of frequenting farmers' markets, you get to enjoy the people and the interdependence of city and country) and from whom I hadn't gotten anything in a while. I bought a jar of honey and a tall pair of beeswax candles for my fabulous teaching assistant whose birthday was two days ago (Ima, I hope you're not reading this, it's supposed to be a surprise) -- the candles are for her and her boyfriend's next romantic evening. (Yes, I know the boyfriend, and he's a romantic.) I also bought some shea butter from Ghana, 99% pure shea butter and 1% lavender fragrance, that's it. Great for skin.

When I got home, there was the matter of all the fresh fish. Best to cook some of it soon since cooked it will live in the fridge a day or two longer. I have now given all or most of the tilapia to my adopted nephew (not officially adopted and not my blood nephew, I just have become Auntie Jane over the past couple of years), who is a student from Rwanda and likes cooking with it, and to his beloved, who is one of our alumnae. I made a salad with the baby lettuces and with a decidedly non-organic but heavenly avocado from the supermarket, because I have been craving avocado. (Are there perimenopausal cravings the way there are pregnancy cravings?) While I was eating the salad, the salmon was baking. I made a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, capers (from the jar I bought a week ago), and crushed fresh garlic, put it on the salmon, wrapped it all up in parchment paper and put it in the oven for a little over 20 minutes (it was a thick piece of salmon) at about 400 degrees. (Can be lower -- recipes vary, I took a quick look at oven temps for salmon in parchment and they go all the way from 325 to 475 degrees, go figure.) Since I am mostly a vegetarian at home and not all that expert at non-veggie dishes and since I am also an absent-minded professor and daydreamy mystical type, burning and overcooking food has become a problem unless I stay in the kitchen the whole time, and with this crazy job I can't always stay in the kitchen. So parchment-wrapped fish is a great solution, because the fish stays moist and if you go a couple of minutes over it's not a disaster. Yes, I have a kitchen timer, but even with a timer I've been known to mess up.

The salmon was delicious. I added a little bit of salt and pepper when I took it out of the parchment, but for those of you who are watching your salt intake, this recipe works fine without since the citrus and garlic and capers add quite a bit of zip. I rinsed the capers before putting them into the marinade so they wouldn't be too salty or vinegar-y.

And then I was full and didn't crave anything sweet. Which was part of the idea.

For supper I had yet more bounty from the sea. It is a rarity for such fishyness to happen twice a day, but I had to cook the shrimp while it was fresh. I skimmed a few recipes for "shrimp scampi" (a misnomer if there ever was one, scampi means "shrimp"!) which I had around to check on cooking times and then scanned my brain and my refrigerator for ingredients that would match the food. In a pan I put Umbrian olive oil (from the supermarket, no less -- they have started a new line of regional Italian olive oils), lime juice (I keep bottles of organic lemon juice and lime juice in the fridge), fresh crushed garlic (yes, again; you can't have too much garlic in your diet), and a dash of vodka for fun and because I had no wine in the house and there was vodka in the freezer left over from the Christmas/New Year's season (shows you how much I drink). Then the shrimp. A bit of coarse sea salt and then a handful of the fresh cilantro, chopped. Sauté a few minutes and voilà. Not much sauce, light, and very good. Serve over rice if you need a carb. I just had the shrimp "as is" and it was very satisfying. First course was Very Veggie juice. (Which, if you decide to go on the South Beach Diet, is very nice as your vegetable course if you don't have time to cook or if you are figuring out how in the world you are going to have vegetables with breakfast or brunch. It's like V8, only better.)

Sorry, no photos of the cooked dishes, I don't own a digital camera. Use your imagination. :-)


johnieb said...

Ooh, dis one's all over da place!

Is Taramosalata Carp Roe? I was gonna have some on my bagel yesterday, but it had spoiled; my local (walking distance) Middle East store, deli, and lunch counter only carries bigger jars than I can go through. It sounds like a real find, though.

The Friends' School in Ramallah was a really good link. We had cocktails in Ramallah in '97 with our tour company's owners; She's a Brit, but he's Palestinian, and therefore couldn't travel at that time because he had no nation to give papers that would be accepted. We didn't get to see any more of the city than was necessary for that.

If there must be international dispute, cheese seems to me to be a better excuse than is most often the case. My current favorite "Feta" or "White" is Sheep's milk (all my favorite cheeses are sheep's milk) from France, which the link says doesn't exist. The funny thing, the cheese manager is a Greek, and is a passionately opinionated foodie; I'm surprised he sells it!

The Cunning Runt said...

Gurrrl, you just made me very, very hungry.

johnieb said...

OMG! TCR is moving; let the culinary blogosphere beware! I'm worried as to what ya might egg me inta doin' next, ya rascal.

Tonight, a simple salad of Duck Giblets and greens, with a mustardy vinaigrette.

Jane R said...

TCR, heh heh heh... ;-) Drool away, bro.

JohnieB, yes, taramosalata is that mixture made with carp roe. I like it better fresh than in the jar, which includes soy oil as a major ingredient -- so it's a kind of caviar mayonnaise and I am pretty sure that the kind they make in restaurants is not made with soy oil. I think the classic recipe has the carp roe and then mashed potato (sometimes breadcrumbs instead of mashed potato) and a little lemon juice and olive oil, maybe a bit of vinegar. I wonder how long that stuff will last in the fridge now that I have opened the jar. It wasn't my best purchase in the store but I decided to try it 'cause I like fish roe.

What I really need is to go to the local sushi place (we have one good sushi restaurant downtown; there are others but this is the only one I trust) or rather, to find someone to take me there, since I have splurged on all this stuff for home cooking.

I made the rest of the salmon, by the way. I had bought a big slab of it so there was a whole bunch more raw salmon to bake today. I used exactly the same marinade, since I'd made enough marinade for two meals, but I added what was left of the feta cheese (just little bits -- good way to use them up) to the fish and marinade in the parchment. It worked very nicely.

Tomorrow I have to cook the tilapia that I didn't give away to my adoptive nephew and I think it is going to involve some onion and fresh turmeric and ginger root, 'cause they had some of both roots when I stopped by the food co-op today to buy milk and yogurt.

It has been a very fishy few days.

Thanks for visiting, foodie friends.

Jane R said...

P.S. JohnieB, that link does say that the French don't make their feta with sheep milk, but the French feta I got was indeed sheep's milk feta. So the internet does lie sometimes, ya know.

Fran said...

I thought I had left a comment here, but then I was lost in culinary dreams by time I got to the end of the post.

And that link you sent to me...

I have been summoned to appear at unemployment next week to defend my ongoing... unemployment. However, the office is located right near an amazing Chinese restaurant described on that blog you shared with me... I see a benefit to having to drive there!

Taromasalata reminds me of trips to London in the early 90's and fun meals in Turkish restaurants with good friends.

Jane R said...

The blog to which Fran refers is a link I sent to her privately. A foodie blog in Albany! Here it is. Lots of deliciousness and yummy pictures.

Another New York State foodie blog, which I have mentioned a couple of times before and have on the blogroll (which desperately needs updating, by the way), is Jennifer Baskerville-Burroughs's Cookin' in the 'Cuse, from Syracuse. Great focus on sustainable food.