Post #540 Updates on Life

July 26, 2017 at 2:49 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Well, the virus that hit me last week was more stringent than I thought at first.  I’m fine now, but it took longer to recover than I thought it would.  This is standard stuff for Partner/Spouse and I.  It takes anywhere from 6-8 months to acclimate to any new hospital system’s germs.  So we spend that time getting sick and getting better until all the antibodies for all the local ills are set in place and we can move forward.  This is the first real illness to befall us, and certainly won’t be the last.  So, we’ve had some “fun” stuff going on.

You may recall our sojourn to this great place.  We had movers come in and load up our already packed boxes and take them to their warehouse in another state to store until we had moved into a place.  The hospital booked the movers and advanced the funds to pay them off.  However, they never delivered, and kept giving excuses instead of furniture and belongings.  The hospital got involved with their legal team since they felt responsible.  Back and forth, back and forth, and just when we thought it was all resolved, the moving company came back with a bombshell.  According to them, and providing photographic proof, the warehouse was the victim of a weather related catastrophe.  Total loss.  We are not getting our stuff.  And it’s likely to take several weeks to resolve the insurance claims.  So, we have the few bits we brought with us (computers, luckily), but that’s all.  One of those, WTF moments.  Also kind of an “It can only happen to Joe” kind of moment, too.  The hospital lawyers are still representing us pro bono, and Partner/Spouse thinks they may advance us the settlement.  In the meantime, we’re working on lists of things we need to replace, and prioritizing the order of replacing the stuff.  But it’s all okay.  It’s stuff, that’s all.  Some of it had high emotional value and can’t be replaced, but whaddaya gonna do?  We can’t live backwards, only forwards.  Plus there’s always chocolate.

Last week, while I was still sick and not entirely in my proper frame of mind, I decided to try to pull myself out of the doldrums and make bread.  I didn’t have a stand mixer, but I did have a hand mixer with a power/low speed setting and dough hooks!  Anyone who’s read this blog over time knows that my holy grail is the perfect bread recipe and I think I’ve come close to finding it.  I’m the time testing part of the quest.  And thanks to my good buddy at Food Interactive on FB, I have a recipe that I love!  And so far, it’s standing the test of repetition.  I won’t put the recipe here because it’s published in a couple of previous posts.  Search “best bread”  and you’ll find it.

So I pulled all the ingredients together and got out a bowl.  Out came the mixer and the dough hooks, and into the bowl with the ingredients.  Power on and there I go!  I knew that I wanted to knead this mix for about ten minutes, so I didn’t want to leave in the bowl for too long, but I also knew that I wanted it to be fully mixed and in one cohesive ball.  I’ve never mixed bread with a hand mixer before and I was fascinated by watching the dough come together.  Always before it had been in a bread machine or a stand mixer, both of which I could walk away from and come back later to a mound of bread dough.  This was kind of fun.  I could make adjustment to the dough immediately because I was watching it closely.  When it finished up and became a single wad of dough, I felt like I had accomplished something on my own.  So I turned it out on the granite counter which I’d floured and went to work on kneading.  I don’t know if it was because of the hand mixer, or the fact that I wasn’t 100%, but the dough felt different, and kneading it was easier than normal.  It was slightly sticky, which would be normal given the difference in mixing methods, but the flour on the surface took care of that.

Have you ever watched The Great British Bake Off on PBS?  It’s a cooking competition from Great Britain where non-professional home cooks enter a contest that’s several weeks long.  Each week highlights a baking technique and each week someone is eliminated until three contestants face the final bake off.  It’s a lot of fun and I’m totally addicted to it.  We even bought the DVDs for each season that’s available.  There are some standard competitions through the seasons, and one of those is bread week.  And I learned a way to determine if you’ve kneaded the dough enough.  When you think it’s ready, you break off a small chunk of dough and hold it to the light and stretch it gently.  If you can stretch it think enough to see through, a window pane, without it breaking or tearing, it’s kneaded properly.  So I did that.  The key to good bread is having enough gluten to hold it together and give a good chew, but not have so much that it become tough and hard to chew.  The window pane test works.

So I went through all the other steps, proofing, shaping, proofing again, then baking.  It smelled wonderful.  Fresh baked bread always smells wonderful.  Since I had two loaves, I decided to make one loaf a cinnamon swirl to have for breakfast toast.  So when I had the bread rolled out to a 9×14 rectangle, I spread a mixture of brown sugar, white sugar, and cinnamon on the top, a pretty thick layer.  Then I rolled up tightly so there would be a decent swirl inside.  Cinnamon retards yeast activity so it needs to rise longer.  Both loaves came out looking and smelling great.

We had some for with dinner that night and the bread was a little disappointing, but Partner/Spouse said it tasted good, so put it down to not feeling well.  The next morning, I made toast out of the cinnamon swirl.  I had to throw it away.  It tasted too salty.  But I wasn’t feeling well, and my taste buds were off.  I mentioned it to Partner/Spouse and we discussed it, but not deeply or for long.  A few days later, he tried the cinnamon swirl, pronounced it disgusting, so I tossed it.  The white loaf was in the fridge, a big no-no with bread, but since there were no preservatives in it, I didn’t want it to get moldy.  So last night, I wanted to make cottage eggs.  Those are eggs cooked inside a ring cut of a piece of bread so the bread toasts in the pan while the eggs cooks.  I cut four thick slices and used a biscuit cutter to cut out the rings.  Since I was feeling much better, I decided to test the bread again.  It wasn’t too salty, but it was certainly salty.  Uncomfortably so.  Into the trash it went, and back to the recipe I went.  And discovered the mistake.  One tablespoon of salt, not two.  Lesson learned:  do not bake when you can’t pay attention.  And I will never again make fun of a competitor who forgets an ingredient during a bake.

So, overall, things are looking up.  Despite bad bread, no more stuff, and illness, we’re still moving forward in a place we still enjoy the heck out of, and the dogs are fat and happy.  Life is good.  And the soup is on the stove.

Post #539 A Weekend Full of Diners

July 17, 2017 at 3:39 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #539 A Weekend Full of Diners

The was a dinerful weekend.  We visited three different diners on three different days and had three different experiences.  One thing we’re discovering about our new home is that independent, hole-in-the-wall style diners are not in short supply.  If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll find one in the most out of the way place.  Back where I grew up, many little restaurants that specialized in local cuisine could be found in someone’s house, or tucked way in the back of a mom-and-pop grocery store.  It’s similar here.  I’m going to leave out names since I don’t want to piss anyone off.

On Friday night, “date night” for us, we went to a small, locally owned bar and grill.  The are literally across the street on the side of us.  Takes all of five minutes walking time, or less.  We’d been talking about going there ever since we first saw the apartment building.  We were pretty jazzed by the hominess of having a local eating spot so close.  So easy to nip into on those evenings when we didn’t feel like cooking!  So with high expectations, we wandered over and found our way inside.

To a wall of noise.  I literally had a headache within five minutes.  As with most diners, it was a seat yourself atmosphere, so we chose a table near a window.  The service was good.  The waitress showed up within seconds with menus.  We both ordered sodas.

“Don’t you want a glass of wine?” he asked.

I shook my head.  “I don’t see a wine list, and it’s far too loud to try to have a conversation.  I’ve got wine at home.”

We ordered fairly quickly, but even in that time, the place got busier and much much louder.  I had fish and chips, and Partner/Spouse had a Delmonico steak sandwich.  I got a huge plank of scrod, and a sizeable portion of fries along with a small bowl of cole slaw.  I don’t eat that stuff so it went immediately to the other side of the table.  I gotta say, though, the fish was cooked perfectly.  I wasn’t frozen first; you can tell when that happens.  And there was about twice as much as I could ever eat.  The Delmonico sandwich was a bust, though.  He said it wasn’t a real Delmonico steak.  For those who don’t know, the Delmonico cut is basically just a ribeye made famous by the New York City restaurant of the same name.  And this wasn’t.  But overall, it was a bust.  Even before we left, we had already agreed that it wasn’t a place we were going back to.  Despite its close proximity, it wasn’t enjoyable enough to warrant a return.  I mean, one large fellow was so loud, his 8 year old nephew had to remind him twice to use his inside voice.  He didn’t quiet down until his food was served.  Oh, and going back to the food for a moment, we ordered an appetizer of “nachos”.  She asked if we wanted cheese on that?  Melted cheese sort of defines what a nacho is.  Just to see what we’d get, we said no, and we got a basket of heated round tortilla chips from a bag, and a side of Pace salsa.  Mild salsa.  I enjoyed the salsa because I’ve always liked Pace brand salsa, but it wasn’t nachos.

So the next morning, we were discussing our morning errands.  We had a lot of ground to cover to get everything on our list done and home by noon.  Partner/Spouse had some work to do, and we like to have our weekend afternoons free to relax and listen to music and read.  So we stopped at a small diner we’ve passed a bazillion times and have always said, “We gotta try that some day.”  So Saturday was “the day”.  Again, we sat ourselves, and I immediately liked the place.  It was small, cozy, and the menu was typical diner fare, but also had things not usually found.  Again, we ordered sodas (neither of us enjoy coffee, cocoa, or juice) and perused the menu.  I got an egg, cheese, and bacon sandwich on an English muffin.  Partner/Spouse ordered a plain waffle with home fries and bacon.  I received an egg, cheese, and bacon sandwich on an English muffin, while Partner/Spouse received French toast with whipped cream, chocolate syrup swirls, and strawberries; and an argument when he said that wasn’t what he ordered.  Rather than wait, he chose to eat it.  He’s okay with French toast, but he really wanted a waffle.  And he’s like me; can’t stand strawberries.  I even tried one to see if I still dislike them.  I do.  But overall, I thought it was an enjoyable experience.  Partner/Spouse didn’t have a good time, but was willing to give it another shot.  Part of what I liked about it was it lived up to it’s name as a family business.   Momma was cleaning and serving.  Poppa was cooking (I think) and heavily pregnant daughter was waiting tables and cooking as well.  There was a small gang of men at the counter near the ordering window.  From the friendly banter and relaxed attitude, I assumed they were either old friends, or family not employed by the diner.  I liked it.

Sunday morning, Partner/Spouse wanted to go to a diner for the express purpose of eating at a place called Snoopy’s.

It was another 50’s style diner, small and close quarters.  We sat ourselves at a booth and immediately regretted it.  I’m not super thin, but I’m not overly bulky either.  I could barely breathe after squeezing in.  I couldn’t even draw a full breath to cough.  The waitress explained that the benches moved a bit and after the people in the booth behind me left, we were able to make ourselves a tad more comfortable.  They had one of those flip-style juke boxes at each table, so we punched a number in.  We were pleasantly surprised when our selection started playing a few minutes later.  We couldn’t get it to work after that, but the music was good enough.  Apparently, it was good enough for most of the patrons, because there was more than one singing along.  One guy was fairly loud, but not obnoxiously so.  And his rendition of whatever he was singing was funny enough that we all just laughed at him.  I wondered if they had a karaoke night, but we decided probably not since it was such close quarters.  I got a cheese and bacon omelet with a side of sausage, and Partner/Spouse finally got his plain waffle with home fries and a side of bacon.  Everything was superlative.  Funny thing, though, our waitress looked like Olive Oyl; the cook looked like Popeye; and the other waitress/cleanup looked like Momma Oyl.  They all looked like they’d stepped out of the movie “Popeye” starring Robin Williams.  But it was fun, cheap, and good.  We decided we’d be back.  But we’d sit at the counter next time.

So that was our dinerful weekend.  Hope your weekend was fun and adventurous, too.

Post #538 A 30 Minute Meal

July 14, 2017 at 3:05 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Not sure if I’ve ever shared this story before so if you remember it, just chalk it up to old age.  Mine, not yours.  When my nephew was about five or six, his mom had a job where she worked varying shifts.  At times, when she worked nights, I’d watch the kids when they got home from school, until their dad got home.  He’d come by and collect them, spend some time with our parents, and eventually go home.  One time, I was in the kitchen making something for dinner, and I think it was spaghetti and salad.  My nephew was watching me, then asked,” Uncle Joe, can we have dinner with you guys?”

I was surprised, but said, “Sure, it doesn’t matter to me.  But I think you dad has something for you over at your house.”

He looked disgusted and said with that amount of derision that only a small child can manage, “Probably just cereal.”

“What?” I said, my voice ratcheting up a few notches.  “Go get your dad.”

We had a short but heated discussion wherein I told him how to make good, solid, nutritious dinners in 30-45 minutes so the kids didn’t have to eat cereal for dinner anymore.

So a few nights ago, it was getting to be dinner time around our place.  We usually eat fairly late, anywhere from 6:30pm to 8pm.  Both of us had been under the weather for several days, so our energy levels were pretty low.  I had taken out a couple of pork chops from the freezer so protein was set.  We still tend to organize our meals around the protein choice as much as I’d like to get away from that.  Neither of us was up to fiddling with complicated recipes or loads of veggies.

Finally at 6pm I said, “How does grilled chops and mashed potatoes sound?”

“Perfect.” was the reply and I moved to get up.

First, I had to heat the grill pan for the chops.

For any who don’t remember, we have a cast iron grill pan shallow sloping sides.

We love this thing and use it  probably three to four times a week.  It’s made by Lodge, and we found it at an Ace Hardware in Tucson.  It cost about $20 and we’re going to have it until we die.  Then we’ll bequeath it to someone.  It’s a great pan.

But since it’s cast iron, it takes forever to heat up.  So I set it on the stove, turned the burner on high, and turned to the pork chops.  They were blade chops.  They were huge, but the amount of edible meat on them was deceptive.  I used one of our newly sharpened filet knives (we have two) and hacked off as much fat and gristle as I could.  Then I sprinkled salt on them and set them aside.

Now for the potatoes.  I like potatoes now.  I didn’t when I was a kid.  I was known far and wide for not liking potatoes.  I’d eat french fries and potato chips, but that was all.  As I got older, my tastes changed, and I learned about different kinds of potatoes, and different ways to cook them.  Now I like potatoes, even my one-time nemesis, mash potatoes.

  • SIDE NOTE:  My mom used to make a casserole out of boxed Au Gratin potatoes, corn, and spam.  Not a pretty site, and guaranteed to make sure I went to bed hungry.

However, most ways to cook potatoes take a significant amount of time.  The already prepared box mixes and instant mash potatoes, in the old days, tasted terrible.  Then something happened.  One company heard my unspoken yearning and came up with an instant mashed potato mix that was phenomenal.

They are absolutely the best.  They aren’t expensive in any sense of the word, but when we see them go on sale, we stock up.  We usually have 7-10 packages on hand all the time.  They come in a variety of flavors, and we have found a few that should have been left in the idea bin, but for the most part, they’re all good.  Our favorites include the one above, plus the loaded baked potato, the four cheese, garlic and herb, lumpy redskin potato, and homestyle butter flavored.  I’m not kidding, when you get the flavored packages, you don’t need anything on top of them.

So the process is boil water.  Pour two cups of boiling water into a bowl.  Use a whisk to stir the contents of the package slowly into the water, making certain to mix completely.  Let it set for two minutes, whisk it again to fluff it a little, and serve it.  It will stand for several minutes in its hot state so you can make it a few minutes ahead.  There’s just enough in the package for two adults and two small dogs.  Potatoes are great for dogs, and ours are addicted to them.  Their tales start wagging as soon as they see one of the packages come out of the pantry.

So, I put water on to boil when I started heating the grill pan.  By the time the water was boiling, the grill pan was nearly ready.  By the time the potatoes were whisked and set aside, the grill pan was ready.

Pork should be thoroughly cooked but juicy.  Salting it ahead of time helps maintain the juiciness.  With the grill pan screaming hot, I set the chops on and waited until the searing process released the meat, about 4-5 minutes.  The marbled fat within and around the chops helped season the pan, so when I turned them over, I cooked them for only four minutes more.  I moved them to a plate and covered them with foil.

Now it was time to set the table.  Two plates, two napkins, two forks, two knives, some cut artisan bread, a bowl of potatoes with a serving spoon, and two different kinds of butter because we’re two different kinds of people.  Partner/Spouse already had his drink ready and waiting at the table.  I uncovered the chops and drained the juices into one of the dog bowls cuz I don’t waste a thing, and set them on the table.  I got my drink ready and we sat down.

I glanced at the time.  It was 6:34.  A thirty minute meal.  Adding a salad or other veggies would have added about two minutes to the process.  Voila!  I nearly wrote to my brother to tell him about it.

Post #537 Carne Asada

July 7, 2017 at 3:20 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #537 Carne Asada

I started off this post by originally calling it “Mexican Meat”, but then realized that could sound pornographic.  It would likely send my blog stats skyrocketing, but it wasn’t a message I wanted to send.  After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided to call it what it was.  It’s a post about Carne Asada.  But what exactly is Carne Asada?

Literally, carne asada is “grilled meat.”  It’s a Mexican dish, or Latin American to be more precise.  It’s stuff we (Partner/Spouse and I)  grew up on.  Ordinarily, it’s beef sliced into thin strips and seared quickly on a fired grill.  It’s marinated ahead of time in spices and chilis to impart a fiery flavor along with the smokiness of charred meat.

h/t to Anna M for the photo!

So why am I writing about this now?  For a couple of reasons.  First, a friend of mine from high school who still lives near our hometown wrote about the carne asada she and her family enjoyed over the holiday weekend.  The pictures she posted made my mouth water.  Then further down in the comments was one that made me chuckle.  “What is carne asada?”  Second, in our usual fashion, we stumbled upon a store with a real butcher’s counter at the back.  We bought some meat from them and it was really tasty.  But the real test for any butcher, or baker, or whatever, is will they stand the test of time?  Will they be consistently good?  So this past weekend, we went back to them and bought some steak tips, a large ribeye, two super thick pork chops, and a bunch of standard pork chops.  We decided to make carne asada with the steak tips.  And third, remember we had our knives sharpened?  I wanted to test them out by cutting the meat properly.

First, let me just say, those knives are spectacular.  When I made the caprese salad with those very ripe tomatoes the knife floated through them like they were soft butter.  The mozzarella cheese was zero trouble.  And the onion rings didn’t even make my eyes tear up.  When I cut the steak tips, the knife went through that meat like it wasn’t there.  Gotta love a sharp knife.

  • PRO TIP:  It’s actually safer to work with a perfectly sharpened knife because you’re not forcing the blade through the product.  Less force means more control and less opportunity for an accident.

Now, carne asada is as individual as the person making it.  It can be simply putting the thin strips on the grill, searing them on both sides, and then be done.  There’s a lot to be said for the flavor of charred beef.  But it can be very elaborate with blends of copious spices, chilis, acids, etc.  We’ve been trying to find the blend that we both remembered from our youth, so we’ve been experimenting with the marinade.  Well, this weekend we came as close to success as we ever have so far.

First, I cut the meat into smallish cubes rather than the thin strips.  No reason, it’s just what I did.  Then into a zip lock bag.  Then I zested and juiced a lemon and a lime and all that went into the bag with about two teaspoons of  kosher salt.  I wanted the coarser grains.  I sloshed it all around and set it into the fridge.

  • PRO TIP:  The salt helps force the juices into the meat better.  The acid from the fruit tenderize the meat making it cook faster and stay more tender.  The mix of the two fruits is just a pleasant flavor combination used for centuries.  The zest adds more flavor pops.

I wasn’t planning on using the meat for a couple of days so I didn’t want to add anything else to the marinade so it wouldn’t turn mushy or funky.  It sat in the fridge for two days then on the day I was planning to use it, I added a sweet vidalia onion marinade.  The marinade had every other spice and flavor I would have added to meat except heat, so I added a pinch of red pepper flakes.  I squished it all around to distribute everything evenly and squeezed the air out and popped it back into the fridge.  I noticed the meat was incredibly tender, a product of its own quality plus the long marinating time with the citrus juice.

When it was time, from past experience I knew these things were going to cook quickly despite their thickness.  I heated a cast iron flat circle to blazing hot then added a small amount of oil.  Everyone knows cold oil in hot pan means no stick, right?  While the skillet was heating, I put the meat in a colander and drained all the marinade out but I didn’t rinse it.  I wanted all that flavor on the meat.

Once it’s cooked, what do you do with carne asada?  Besides eat it, I mean.  We like to put it inside either a flour or corn tortilla with some veggies and cheese and cram them into our mouths as fast as we can chew.  Some restaurants we’ve been to that have carne asada on the menu just put the meat inside a tortilla, rolled it up, and called it good.  And it was good.  Others take about a pound of the meat cut into small pieces and pile it on top of a fresh garden salad with dressing on the side.  I’ve known some people who mix it with refried beans and make a beef and bean dip.  I’ve been known to pile a bunch on a plate and just eat it cuz it’s good.  And this marinade process we stumbled onto was so good!

And the knives were so sharp!

Let me know what you come up with when you make your own carne asada.  What marinade did you use?  How did you eat it?  And as always,


Post #536 The Best Kind of Market

July 5, 2017 at 4:46 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

No, it’s not the one where everything is free.  That market doesn’t exist.  The best kind of market is the large, open air farmer’s market type of market.  Some are better than others, and some aren’t worth going to.  We used to go to one while we lived in Maryland.  When we first started going, it was a veggie stand for a single farm.  They grew and included baked goods, then added lunch items.  They expanded to the point where it was no longer a veggie stand, or even a farmer’s market.  We stopped going.

I’ve been to open air markets all over the world.  Even when I don’t buy anything, it’s a load of fun to wander around, watch people interacting with merchants, and seeing everything on display.  Once I saw a massive pile of shoes, and people were pawing through them.  I finally figured out that it was a hunt to find two matching shoes in the right size.  We’ve found what is likely going to be our favorite market here.

It’s only about 20 minutes away, but then, in this state, nothing is very far away.  We visited once before just after we got here and were impressed, but it was still early in the season.  We’d been to a couple more since then, but preferred this one.  We went this past Saturday to get stuff in prep for the Fourth, and to test out one merchant.  There was a knife sharpening service.  And we have a set of professional quality knives.

So we planned out the morning, getting up at our normal times and taking care of the dogs, etc.  The market didn’t open until 9am, so we had time to kill so we went to one of my favorite diners, but more on that one later.  We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, drove to the market, and was still ten minutes early.  The market is pretty stable, the same vendors are usually there week after week, and usually in the same spot.  It’s set up in a park so there’s a combination or cement walking paths and dirt trails.  There’s areas for kids to play, dogs to play, and musicians to play.  We were ten minutes early, and were able to park within  a couple of blocks on a hill in a fairly settled neighborhood.  We passed a few people already on their way to the market.

The first time we went there, we must have copied the address wrong because we ended up nowhere near the place.  We switched from GPS to IPhone and found it with some minor difficulty.  This time, we copied the address right, and got there like we knew what we were doing.  So the day started off right.

We entered the park and followed the path to the market.  We were immediately entranced by the vegetable stand on the left.  It was local, it was fresh, and it was abundant.  Tomatoes so ripe they would split just by looking at them.  But since we were early, no one was selling.  We wandered around to the knife sharpener.

“Hi,” I said.  “I know it’s too early to start working, but can you just accept the knives now and start sharpening in a few minutes?”

There was a younger guy with arms like an athlete, and an older guy with a personality as big as the market itself, and a sense of humor to match.  The older guy said, “Sure!  I’ve been known to start early.”

“Yeah, as often as possible,” the younger guy retorted.  I handed him our knives.  We’d brought everything except the serrated knife because we don’t like that one and want to get rid of it.  There was water drops on them from the water bottles that were in the same bag.

“Sorry,” I said wiping the butcher’s knife on my pant leg quickly.  “There’s water condensation from the water bottles in the bag.  We don’t usually store them in water.”

“It’s okay,” the older guy said while the younger guy said, “We don’t judge.”

The younger guy checked each knife for size and sharpness.  His eyebrows lifted slightly with each knife.  At the end he quoted a price and asked, “Are you a professional chef?  These are good knives.”

I shook my head.  “No, just home cooks, but we like our knives to be high quality so they work better.”

“These are some of the best.  You should see some of the stuff that comes in here.  Some of them look like people have been gardening with them.”

I laughed.  We set a time for pick up and was wandered away.  They sharpeners don’t take credit cards, and since we didn’t bring cash, we had to wait a few minutes for the booth to open where we could buy market tokens, small and large coins worth market currency.  We watched a golden retriever roll in the grass like it was the best thing in the world.   A banjo band was setting up nearby and we listened to them for a little bit.

It was the same as the last time, but this time we took our time, tried samples, joked and laughed with vendors.  We sauntered and enjoyed the weather, the people, the music.  We bought some knick knacks.  We bought some fresh bread.  We bought some veggies.  We bought some salsa.  And I went back for the tomatoes.

It was like they were calling to me.  I wanted to make a caprese salad for dinner that night to go with the super thick cut pork chops we’d bought the day before.  Before we even got to the vendor, we passed a booth selling fresh made cheeses from a local dairy.  They had mozzarella.  We bought a half pound ball of fresh mozzarella, and a half pound of smoked mozzarella.  I like smoky flavor, but not on my cheese.  Partner/Spouse likes smoked anything, except fish.  I already knew how I was going to do this salad.  I walked up to a box of ripe tomatoes and selected two that fit into the palm of my hand like they belonged there.

The proprietor stopped me.  “Oh, those are sold by the boxful.”  she said.  I know my eyebrows went up.

“Okay,”  I set them back and said, “No way I’d ever use that many tomatoes before they spoiled.”

She motioned to another pile where I could select loose ones.  “It’s mostly restaurants that the boxes are for.”

The selection from the loose pile wasn’t as delectable as in the boxes and I’m sure my disappointment showed because she said, “Tell you what, go ahead a grab a couple from that box.  I’ll find some later to fill it again.”

It didn’t take me but 10 seconds to grab the same two I’d had.  I was happy.  We ended up getting a box of cherries (which I’m still eating), the tomatoes, two bunches of radishes, some scallions, and some other veggies.

By that time, the knives were ready.  We wandered back over, spending a little more time and money at a couple of other vendors.  The knives were ready, and after a couple of minutes of friendly banter, they both wished us a pleasant day and invited us to return.

We did a few more things after that, then went home and relaxed and played with the dogs.  All the while, I was thinking about the tomatoes and mozzarella salad.  I couldn’t find fresh basil anywhere so I ended up substituting freeze dried basil.  I doesn’t reconstitute well, but does have that zing of flavor and that’s what it’s about, after all.  I arranged the tomato slices and cheese slices in a full circle on a large circular platter we have.  I filled the middle with sliced onion rings and sprinkled fresh blueberries around.  It was wonderful, but there was a lot left over.

So the next day, I used the leftover caprese salad and made homemade pizza!  It was so good!  Mine was the basic cheese pizza.  Partner/Spouse had fresh onion and sausage pizza.  It was all so good and so fresh.

You’ll be hearing about our forays to this market a lot, I think, especially as the seasons change and different produce is available.

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