This dish from Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm is one of those simple recipes that really showcases great ingredients. I knew that it was what I wanted to make with this week’s pound of local farmer’s market asparagus. The asparagus was from Steve Anderson via the North Market farmers market.
The eggs were from 2 silos, via the Greener Grocer.
The three components are cooked separately, but each one is simple. First make your ‘frico’, or parmesan crisp. I made these after the Rigby’s cooking class and they are great on salads too. You need a 1/4 cup of grated parmesan for each crisp. Spread the parmesan into a 2 inch circle on a silicon mat or baking parchment and then bake for approximately 7 minutes at 350º. They should be crispy and slightly browned. Let them cool on a wire rack.
Next grill your asparagus (we used 1/4lb per person). I used my grill pan as it wasn’t worth heating up charcoal for, but if you have a gas grill that would work fine. Just make sure you don’t lose any through the grate. Toss the asparagus in olive oil and salt and pepper and grill until tender and slightly charred (about 5 minutes). In a small skillet, fry your eggs (one each), until the whites are just firm but the yolks are still soft and runny. The yolks will be your sauce. Plate the asparagus with a fried egg on top and a parmesan frico.
This is the sort of dish that makes you want to purr contentedly. The combination of tender asparagus, its flavor heightened by the slight char, topped with oozing unctuous golden egg yolk and the crisp salty parmesan. Asparagus and eggs play well together, but it really was the freshness and the quality of the ingredients that made this dish such a treat.
For other asparagus ideas – see last week’s risotto style pasta, or this recipe for asparagus soup from Earth to Table.
I’ve been a bit neglectful in not writing a full post about Captain Cream Cheese – I’ve been a big fan of this little neighborhood gem since it opened back in January. Captain Cream Cheese operates out of the same tiny parking lot hut that houses Mikey’s Late Night Slice, next to Bodega on High Street. There are tables and chairs set out in the parking lot, and now that the weather is warming up it’s a lovely spot to sit and people watch.
Captain Cream Cheese is Zach Henkel (with able assistance from his Girlfriend Lindsay) and he makes about 14 flavors of bagels ranging from plain to the big Italian, a huge bagel with cheese and peppadew peppers. The bagels are ‘hole-less’ which seems to make for a better sandwich. Perhaps not a classic bagel, they have proved popular thus far. As well as bagels and various flavors of cream cheese (of course), they offer bagel sandwiches, soups and sometimes salads. The food is all house made, tasty and most notably great value.
Currently they are offering a spring special of Hocking Hills ramps, either in your sandwich, in a potent cream cheese or with scrambled eggs. Zach is very accommodating to special requests. The sandwich above is an egg sandwich bagel with ramps and red peppers in an everything bagel.
In the evening Zach runs his other business as a pedi-cab and can often be spotted in his captain’s hat pedaling around the Arena District or Short North. For a big order, he might even deliver your bagels (in a limited radius) by pedicab.
More photos on flickr and Columbus Underground Interview with Zach. You can also follow him on twitter @captainbagels
I’m usually a purist about scones. My British upbringing is deeply ingrained and we learned how to make scones in our home economics class in school. I like English style scones – pronounced to rhyme with gone – and not too sweet. The only acceptable versions are plain or sultana (golden raisin), ideally served with clotted cream and jam, or occasionally cheese scones for picnics. These scones are small and circular. I cringe at the sugary frosted creations that pass as scones at Starbucks and copycat coffee shops. They aren’t even the right shape! Scones can be wonderfully light and flaky but badly made they can be leaden and heavy. They do not keep well and can therefore be a huge disappointment if you get one that is stale and dry . Unknown scones are risky.
I have been swayed from my purist notions by the ham and cheese scone at Northstar, which luckily, or dangerously depending on how you look at it, can be found only blocks from my house. Warm from the oven they have a siren’s call with the enticing and comforting smell of grilled cheese. My polling station is next door to Northstar which is an added incentive to vote and so this morning I exercised my right to vote and rewarded myself with a scone. I was in luck and scored the last of the batch. My scone (which came out of the oven at 8.45am) was crusty with caramelized cheese, buttery, moist and filled with chunks of ham that were particularly scrumptious where roasted at the edges. It is the crust that I love and I would be quite happy just to eat the crusts off and leave the rest, except that I would probably be tempted to pick out all the ham, and then there really wouldn’t be much left.
If you want a recipe for traditional English style scones you probably can’t go far wrong with Delia Smith. Less purist but even more British, how about some marmite and cheese scones?
Skillet‘s motto is rustic urban food. Their mission is ingredient driven comfort food – with an edge and they do it well. The food is familiar but with a creative twist. I was smitten immediately. What could be more comforting than warm vanilla and mascarpone breakfast risotto with pan-roasted peaches brûlée with bourbon molasses red eye gravy. Skillet is on Whittier Avenue in the old Banana Bean location. They have been open for weekday lunch and weekend brunch for two weeks, but as of Tuesday 3rd November they will be open for dinner until 8pm.
I waited to write about Skillet until I had been there a couple of times and by the joy of eating with friends I have sampled a large proportion of the menu. I have also established that my initial reaction was not a fluke. Everything has been at worst good and at best excellent. As the menu will be driven by the availability of seasonal ingredients (the owners are supplied directly by several farms), the menu will vary on a weekly or daily basis with some staples. The menu is available on the website and you can call orders in advance. Here’s a teaser.
A few things to know about Skillet. You order from the counter and your food will be brought to you, similar to Northstar but without the number, as the restaurant only seats twenty. It is thus hoped that a large proportion of the business will be take out. Something I loved – there is a discount for two-wheel customers. Another thing you should know in advance is that you will be torn between telling everyone you know about it, and keeping it a secret for yourself.
Pumpkin and black bean soup with roasted pepitas
Ordering at the large window not only gives you an insight into the goings on in the kitchen, but also allows you to chat to the chefs (when they aren’t too busy) and makes it easy to ask questions (and get answers) about the dishes and ingredients. The chefs certainly aren’t afraid of fat or garlic and while there are some vegetarian options, this is a small proportion of the menu.
Shredded apple and farmer's cheese pancakes with rum raisin sauce
My favorite dishes so far have been the toasted sandwiches – the porchetta (I think I was sold on the wild fennel pollen) and the braised beef short rib with smoked gouda on grilled brioche. The beef was tender and rich, the fried peppers were spicy and the cheese smoky all offset by the light crispy brioche. I added some of the apple horseradish sour cream and the effect was to make my lunch companion jealous.
Braised beef short rib and organic smoked gouda
Don’t neglect the side dishes. One of the gems of the menu is the crispy fingerling potatoes with burnt ends. Irresistible. Also at the moment they have pan roasted beets with goats cheese and almonds and they have some great breads. If you are lucky there might even be some homemade jam.
The lunch menu is sandwich focused but the dinner menu will have some specific dinner entrees. I can’t wait to see what they come up with. Skillet is a great addition to the German Village and Columbus restaurant scene.
Lancaster is to me synonymous with Pennsylvania Dutch food and a trip to Lancaster is always a great excuse to indulge in some of my favorite Amish delicacies. Although Ohio has a large Amish population and you often see Amish butter, cheese or vegetables I haven’t found anything quite like Lebanon Bologna, my all time favorite lunch meat.
There is something about the tangy flavor that I crave and makes most other summer sausages or bologna taste bland by comparison. To satisfy my craving for smoked fermented meat products I was taken to S. Clyde Weaver’s. A local institution since 1920, with an impressive selection of local meats, cheeses, pretzels and speciality foods. They also have a cafe and make a mean sub.
Pennsylvania Dutch food is well suited for road trips, with all sorts of wonderful portable foods. You can stock up on dark, hard pretzels, whoopie pies, beef jerky and root beer. A Lebanon Bologna sub made a great rest stop lunch break. Much better than having to stop at a service station.
Not so portable but hard to resist is the rich molasses flavored shoofly pie, another local delicacy and another childhood memory.
I was treated to a traditional Lancaster breakfast of fried scrapple and eggs. Scrapple is easier to find in Ohio and I believe it is similar to another Ohio delicacy goetta which I have yet to try. Scrapple reminds me of haggis, something made with left over offal, some filler and seasoning, both born from an age when no part of an animal was wasted, but while haggis is made with sheep offal and oatmeal, scrapple is made with pork offal and cornmeal.
The flavor of scrapple is similar to country sausage given the combination of pork and sage. The texture once cooked is crisp and crusty on the outside and smooth and mushy in the middle. It is one of the few things that I eat ketchup with.
At S. Clyde Weaver I also discovered my new favorite potato chips, dill pickle flavor chips from Route 11. These hand cooked chips are made by a small company based in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, but luckily they are available at Weiland’s in Columbus so I can continue to feed my addiction. They taste unnervingly pickle-like but with a little more emphasis on the dill and a little less vinegar. They are perfectly light and crunchy and a great accompaniment to a sandwich or hot dog. They have a wide range of flavors, but so far the dill pickle have not been surpassed.
I have had many variations of huevos rancheros in restaurants. It is one of my favorite breakfast things to order out. It can be risky though, especially if you are somewhere new. Variations range from amazing to awful, with some pretty indifferent versions in between. One of my favorites from Sylvester’s in Northampton MA, was served with grilled cornbread.
I haven’t found a huevos rancheros in Columbus that quite meets the mark, although I will admit that I may not have been trying hard enough. I am certainly open to suggestions.
In the meantime, having discovered Koki’s tortilleria in the course of our taco truck mission, I decided it was time to try and make my own. Here are a couple of the attempts:
Components are: Koki’s tortillas (in this case flour), home made black beans, 2silos eggs, salsa (not home made I confess), some left over hot sauce from a taco truck, sauteed onions and peppers and lime wedges.
I made the black beans using a bag of dried black beans which I soaked and then cooked with a little onion, garlic, tomato, chilli, cumin and whatever else caught my eye on the shelf. I can’t remember the exact details of my improvisation, only that I was very pleased with the result. I will admit to putting some marmite, much to AD’s horror – I quote “Marmite never ever belongs in Mexican Food”. Whilst that may be true, I often use a little instead of bouillon to add some flavor depth and salt.
I think some further experimentation is in order, but I enjoyed the results so far.