Friday, June 5, 2009

Saturday at Kansas City's Market

It's a sunny, 70-something early Saturday morning at Kansas City's historic City Market and the place couldn't be more packed. By afternoon, the temperature will soar into the 90s with humidity following closely behind. But now, with a cup of coffee in hand, purse full of cash, and armful of canvas bags, the hunt begins.

The City Market has had plenty of time to get it right since opening in 1857. In fact, so popular is this fresh food shopping emporium on spring and summer weekends, that it has grown into one of the Midwest's largest farmer's markets.

Purchase gargantuan homemade cinnamon rolls and crusty bread from an Amish mother and daughter. Grab a bunch of cilantro from a Thai vendor. Gather up a handful of scallions so large and plump that they would dwarf some yellow onions. Choose from tomatoes of every size and color, huge heads of bright green romaine, and zucchini the size of your forearm. Then stop by the Italian deli for prosciutto or purchase some coffee freshly ground right at the market.

As much as visitors appreciate the plethora of purchases available here, the atmosphere is what brings many people back again and again. There's a mix of every ethnicity from throughout the metropolitan area plus a pulsing, vibrant energy that infuses the market experience with excitement. A teen violinist lovingly plays her instrument for pocket change one week while a wizened saxophonist takes the same spot on another weekend. And great restaurants ring the market area, serving everything from smoky, savory barbecue to authentic Middle Eastern fare and Chinese dishes served by one of the area's best-known restaurant families.

Buying fresh food was never more fun or entertaining.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

In Honor of Elvis

Right about now, my close friends who just read that title are giggling uncontrollably because they know that, in general, I've never been known as a big Elvis fan. But there is one thing Elvis did that I am a big fan of - the sandwiches he loved that combined a generous smear of peanut butter with mashed banana on bread (he preferred white). A recipe in Gourmet magazine called for grilling the sandwich in a frying pan and butter and, finally, eating it with a knife and fork.

I prefer whole wheat to white bread whenever possible and I also love to make cupcakes - which may have become quite apparent if you read my blog frequently. So I zipped by the grocery store for a few bananas, pulled out the peanut butter, and grabbed everything else I needed to make some dynamite, Elvis-inspired cupcakes. Add a tall glass of milk or a mug of dark roast Columbian and you've got a terrific snack or decadent breakfast. It's also a great way to get fruit, protein and whole grains into your kids without much complaint from them.
Banana Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Makes 18-20 cupcakes

2 medium bananas
1/2 cup plain, low-fat yogurt
2 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

cupcake papers
small banana

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. Fill cupcake papers approximately 2/3s full. Bake for 28-30 minutes. While baking, make:
Peanut Butter Frosting

2 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened
2 ounces creamy, unsweetened peanut butter
1/8 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup confectioner's sugar

Combine cream cheese and peanut butter thoroughly. Stir in milk and vanilla. Beat in confectioner's sugar, adding more as needed to achieve a thick but spreadable consistency. Cool the cupcakes completely and then spread with frosting. Before serving, place one small slice of banana on top of each cupcake. Refrigerate remaining cupcakes until ready to use.

VOE - leftover frosting is also wonderful on dark chocolate cake/cupcakes.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Door County Wake

We waited patiently as a long line of vehicles slowly drove onto the massive ferry in preparation for transport across Death's Door - the watery link between the Door County area and tiny Washington Island where many a ship met with harsh waters and weather before modern navigation devices came along. Once cars had filled the vehicle decks, we joined dozens of passengers on the ferry.

I headed to the top deck with several friends. The sun hid behind a cloud and the temperature dropped as our ferry chugged to life. I gratefully pulled the jacket around me that I had brought along 'just in case.' Throughout the half-hour trip the sun and temperature bounced around as we tried to figure out if occasional spray came from the water or the sky.

We spent several delightful hours at Washington Island Hotel, Restaurant and Cooking School, where proprietor and chef, Leah Caplan, described her commitment to using locally produced dairy, fish and cattle as she served us fresh Door County cherries wrapped in delicate crepes (please note: Caplan is no longer the hotel proprietor). We strolled through the renovated antique hotel and grounds, and then returned to the ferry dock.

Our late-afternoon trip across Death's Door was full of steady temperature and radiant sunlight. As Washington Island faded behind us the water glistened and a sparkling, watery wake followed us all the way back to the mainland.

The Perfect BLT

By 2:30 p.m. my stomach grumbled loudly as I looked for someplace to grab a bite. I finally found a diner full of customers and the BLT on the menu almost immediately caught my eye. My daughters called to say Happy Mother's Day as I waited for my sandwich, allowing me to forget my hunger for a few moments. When it arrived, I knew I'd made the right choice.

Creamy mayonnaise slathered thick-cut bacon, juicy tomato slices and fresh romaine piled high between three slices of toasted bread. It's no wonder they needed a toothpick to hold this club sandwich together. Paired with fries, it was a daunting amount of food. As I bit into my second triangle I mourned the fact that, because I would be traveling throughout the day, I had no way to refrigerate and save the portion I couldn't finish. Such are the challenges of road trips!

BLTs always make me think of summer, and somehow send me back to Mom's blue and white kitchen with the antique corner china cabinet, where five of us crowded around the table to share this quick dinner on hot evenings. Although I don't remember toasted bread in our sandwiches my husband does and his also included a slice of American cheese.

What's in your ultimate BLT?