August Best Bites

Even though it was the third hottest August on record (worst one since 1980), I had a great month, culinarily speaking, with some wonderful dinners out and about, including the Wednesday prix fixe at Blue Bottle Café (five fabulous courses for $55), and a preview tasting menu at elements’ new location downtown.

I already posted about both of those, but have included token photos below to remind everyone just how lucky we are to be enjoying such wonderful food locally. Big change from the (to me) “culinary desert” when I moved back here in the mid 1980s. Dining out and grocery shopping have improved exponentially since then I’m glad to say.

I do seem to be on a baking jag and it’s not all about fruit. I attribute this to the distance from where I live in Montgomery to The Gingered Peach Bakery in Lawrenceville. As in I can’t drive down there every day. Or shouldn’t! A recent stop there resulted in my loving owner Joanne Canady-Brown’s drop biscuits and butterscotch-pecan scones so much that I just had to try making my own. I don’t usually bake either of those things, but am glad I gave it a try. The scone was fantastic (I’ll post a recipe at some point; I heavily annotated one I found online), although kind of a mess next to the bakery version, since my dough was much too sticky to pat into a circle and cut into wedges.  So I just dropped spoonfuls onto my parchment paper.

My biscuits did not get nearly as lofty as I’d hoped, although I was very careful not to overwork the dough. I patted it out after a few folds, as directed, and cut it into squares (one quick cut so as not to compress the layers), which I view as easier than cutting circles then having to re-pat the scraps which never rise as well. But they still didn’t rise much (nor did they brown), so maybe next time I’ll do drop biscuits like Canady-Brown does. Taste and texture were good, though, and heavenly with good Bobolink Dairy butter own strawberry-vanilla jam.

For both baking projects I used some King Arthur Mellow Blend flour I’d forgotten I had; it’s supposed to give a tender crumb, and flaky pie crust, so I’ll try one of those soon, too. Both scone and biscuit were light and tender, I must say, but next time I’ll try it with regular all-purpose flour and see what happens. I used Oasis grass-fed whole milk buttermilk in the biscuits; I found it at Mrs Green’s in a pint size. (Hate buying a quart, I can never use it all up.)

So, I did the opposite of Canady-Brown with these two items. I did drop scones, instead of her nice triangles, and I did a cut biscuit instead of her drop style. Go figure. Of course, when I do this at home, I am subject to much more temptation, plus I’ve deprived myself of the pleasant ambience of The Gingered Peach, which I wrote about for Packet Magazine last spring.

A note about the sliced leg of lamb in the photo below. I like that I can buy a slice of lamb at McCaffrey’s in Princeton, and marinate and broil it (or, if I had a grill….). I started off thinking French, so marinated it in herbes de Provence. But as dinner approached, I had a hankering for basmati rice (baby basmati, actually) with Indian spices. So I got out my trusty Indian spice box and sizzled a little of each of the seven seasonings (which include split black gram) in melted butter before adding rice, then water. I would do this more often if I had a stash of “pre-sizzled” spices, I realized, since cooking rice is often a last-minute inspiration for me. I may try making up some sizzled spices in ghee and keeping them in a little jar in the fridge, just to see if it makes me more likely to cook rice from scratch, rather than microwaving one of those little tubs of pre-cooked rice.

I used some of this leftover rice with shrimp cooked in garam masala and coconut milk too, alongside a “salad” of spiralized zucchini I had fun making with my newest gadget. I dressed it with olive oil, lemon juice, and mint. I’ve also enjoyed several batches of simple tomato salad, with cucumber, feta, and mint.

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2 thoughts on “August Best Bites

  1. Simply amazing, Faith. Felicitations on your energy, curiosity, and culinary talents.

    Your food-centric friend Carolyn has gone the opposite route this hot summer, oddly enough, even though I was Director of the Test Kitchen of Tested Recipe Institute at 21, (500 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan), looking down on the park behind the library. And cooking outdoors, choosing between the terrace over the Hudson or the Terrace from which we could see the East River. We tested grills on the 59th floor!

    This summer’s suppers, if you can call them that, have involved Trader Joe’s (of course) prosciutto, or smoked wild salmon, black bread, sweet butter and pale wines. They’re out of it now, but TJ’s also had a circular puff pastry that looks like a labyrinth. Greek-delicate, holding savory cheese — they call it an appetizer. I had it four different nights. My salads are Blue Moon Acres arugula, micro greens or spring mix. I’m not having luck with August tomatoes, from many farm markets.

    Yes, I confess, this is NOT cooking, yet restorative.

    Wonder when the cooking ‘bug’ will bite anew, and for what specialty…

    thanks for great kitchen adventure — amicalement, c

    • Opting for such tasteful convenience gave you more time to do what you love and to recharge. If you are referring to TJ’s brie & tomato tart with the braided-looking edge, I liked that myself!

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