My First Time Smokn’

Hey There,

Ya’ll, I feel like I have mastered the grill. Alright, “mastered” maybe a bit of a stretch but I certainly feel more comfortable with it than I did last year. If you remember last year’s post about my grill journey then you will remember that the grill and I have always had a “love hate” relationship (more like, one day I love it, the next day I hate it). I’ve always wanted to master the grill but the whole idea of using lighter fluid (I don’t believe in gas grills), cooking over an open flame and trying to manage temperature is intimidating and scary, but this year I decided give it another try.

Last weekend, I pushed myself to learn how to smoke meat using my charcoal grill. I love the taste of smoky and tender meat and I figured that it couldn’t be that hard. I mean after all you’re not really cooking with an open flame. I figured the only challenging part would be managing the temperature and making sure that the meat stayed moist and tender. After reading a few articles, watching a few YouTube videos and praying really, really hard, I gathered up some courage and headed out to my backyard with a well seasoned rack of ribs.

Ya’ll…SUCCESS!!! After about 5 hours of not so patiently waiting, I emerged with a perfectly cooked rack of ribs. Now, these ribs were by no means “Pit Master” worthy but they were pretty good. They were perfectly cooked, well seasoned, moist and flavorful.

Like I said, in preparation for my first “smoke” I read up on different smoking methods and I ran across the 3 – 2- 1 method. This method calls for cooking the ribs for 3 hours uncovered, cooking them with butter and juice for the next two hours and cooking them sauced and uncovered for the last hour. I did shorten the cook time of the last two steps. Instead of cooking the meat in butter and juice for the full 2 hours I scaled it back to 1 hour and I cooked it uncovered and sauced for about 30-45 mins. Towards the end, I felt that the meat was fully cooked and I was scared that I was going to over-cook it and dry it out.

All in all, it was a great experience. It went so well that the next day I marinated a chicken and smoked it on the grill. It was honestly the best chicken that I have ever had. Hands down!

If ya’ll out there are thinking about tackling the grill, please do. Start off small and work your way up. Find some great articles to read and watch a ton of YouTube videos. They are priceless!

Strawberry, Raspberry and Lime Fruit Tart

As long as I can remember I have always wanted to order one of those fresh fruits tarts sold in the bakery case at the grocery store. The color of the tarts was always so vibrant and the fruit always looked so sweet and fresh. I’m not sure what stopped me from ordering one (probably the price) but for one reason or another I never took the plunge.

Fast forward to this weekend. As I was taking inventory of what I had in my fridge and thinking about what I could make, it hit me that I had all of the ingredients for a fruit tart. With more than enough time on my hands (thank you self-isolation) I decided to give it a try and I’m so glad that I did!

After a few attempts at a pliable dough for the shell, I managed to make a flavorful and super fresh tart. So, as you know, a fruit tart is typically made of three components, a crust shell, filling and the fruit that adorns the top.

It took me two attempts to make the shell. The first batch of dough I made was way too dry. I wasn’t pliable and it was impossible to roll out. On my second attempt, I tried a different recipe and thankfully it worked out. (Y’all I was loosing my patience). Instead of cutting cold butter into the flour and sugar mixture, the second recipe started off with room temperature butter. The recipe called for the room temperature butter to be creamed and for the flour and sugar added to the butter. That worked out a lot better!

After I was able to get the crust worked out, I moved on to the filling. Overall the filling was easy to make and it turned out to be super sweet (almost too sweet), rich and creamy.

Finally, the fruit. Towards the end of the process, I started to get a little lazy and I just plopped the strawberries on top. In hindsight I should have sliced them just to make the tart a little more esthetically pleasing.

Even though there are a few things I would tweak, I was extremely pleased with how this tart turned out and I would 100% serve this at a lunch or family dinner. Honestly this would be perfect for Mother’s Day!

Recipe Recap:

What Worked:

– Using a crust recipe that called for room temp. butter. Starting off with softened butter made the crust more pliable and easy to work with.

– Lining the crust with a thin layer of warm jelly to create a moisture barrier that prevents the custard from making the tart shell soggy.

– Incorporating the lime as a topping/garnish. The custard was extremely sweet and the tartness of the lime helped to cut the sweetness.

What I Would Do Differently:

– I would make the custard less sweet. The recipe that I used called for 2/3cup of sugar however it said, “you can use a little more if you prefer” which led me to think that with 2/3cup of sugar ,the custard was going to have a subtle sweetness. Not the case. I could have easily used 1/3cup of sugar and have been okay.

– I would have whipped the egg yokes a little longer to make them lighter. Th custard was good (at one point I was eating it straight from the bowl) but I could have been a little less dense.

– Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries are standard tart toppings but next time I will consider using more tart fruits (especially if the custard is on the sweeter side) I like really like the juxtaposition of the sweet custard and the tart fruit. Kiwi and lime would be good options.

– This isn’t something I would necessarily do differently but I would be interesting to change up the flavors and make this a more “fall appropriate” recipe in the cooler months.. Instead of a plain vanilla custard, I would add a dash of cardamom and cinnamon to warm it up. Instead of fresh strawberries, I would opt for apples and pears (maybe even caramel drizzled apples and pears). Def. going to try this out closer to September. I’ll let y’all know how that works out.

Shrimp Pesto Ravioli

Hey There!,

It’s been a while but I’m back.

While I want to share my recipe for the best homemade shrimp and pesto ravioli that you’ve ever had (you see that confidence), I also want to talk (or rather write) about commitment. While staying at home and self-isolating, I’ve had plenty of time to think about my blog and what I want from it and what I want it to be. My vision for The Kitchen on Wellington is that it is a space where we share recipes and have a larger conversation about food in general and how its relates to and impacts our lives.

As I was thinking about my vision and how to execute it, I began thinking about commitment. Commitment is absolutely necessary to run a successful blog and it is necessary to become a great cook. It takes real commitment to cook for yourself and family when it’s a lot easier to pick up food. It takes real commitment to make things from scratch when pre-made options are readily available. It takes real commitment to work new recipes into your meal rotation when you’re pressed for time and it takes real commitment to repeatedly test recipes in order to perfect them. If I’m being honest, commitment is something that I have always struggled with. I usually start off with all of these grand ideas and along the way I loose the inspiration to see the plan all the way through.

While the world is slowing down and our lives are grinding to a halt, I want to use this time to commit to being committed. I want to pour into this blog on a regular basis and learn all that I can about making this the best blog that it can be. I want to commit to eating at home and trying new recipes. I want to commit to being more thoughtful about the foods that I cook. This increased commitment won’t be easy but I’m committed to trying.

Now, enough of the rambling, on to this pasta. I actually whipped this up using leftover ingredients in my fridge. I bought the wonton wrappers earlier in the week for pot stickers and I had basil left over from stir-fry. I like to keep shrimp on hand so the only item that I had to purchase was the parmesan cheese.

I was really happy with how everything turned out and I would certainly recommend this recipe. This will 100% be added to the meal rotation.

*The recipe measurements are not exact. I never measure as I cook. Use these measurements as a starting point and guide. Increase, decrease, remove and substitute items as you see fit. *

Below is a guide to this recipe.

Pesto:

-basil (3 oz,) -pine nuts ( 1/4 cup) -parmesan cheese (grated) (1/4 to 1/2 cup) – juice of 1/2 lemon -olive oil -2 garlic cloves

Filling:

-minced salad shrimp (1/3 cup) – homemade pesto -salt/pepper (to taste) -garlic/onion powder (to taste) -parmesan cheese (grated) (to taste)

Cheese Sauce

– butter (5tbs) – flour (5tbs) – half and half (about 1 cup) -parmesan cheese (1/3 cup) -salt/pepper

Direction:

1) Make the pesto by combining all of the dry ingredients and the juice of one lemon into a blender. While blending, add in the olive oil until the desired consistency is reached. The pesto should not be thin and runny but the consistency of a thick paste. Season with salt/pepper as needed.

2) To assemble the filling, mince the salad shrimp and combine with some of the pesto. Grate in the parmesan cheese (Be mindful of the saltiness. The cheese is relatively salty so add in small batches and taste along the way) and combine. Reserve some pesto to add to the cheese sauce later in the recipe.

3) Make the cheese sauce. Heat butter over low-medium heat. When butter is melted and warm, whisk in the flour. Continue to whisk and cook the mixture until it is light brown in color and smells of pie crust. While whisking, pour in about 1/2 cup of half and half. The mixture will immediately thicken. Reduce heat to low and while whisking pour in another 1/2 cup of half and half. Continue to whisk until mixture smooths out and thickens. If the sauce is too thin, increase heat while whisking until it begins to thicken. If the sauce is too thick, gradually add in more half and half until it begins to thin out. Add in grated parmesan cheese (about 3/4 cup) and season with pepper. Taste and add additional seasoning if desired.

4) Fill the wrappers with the shrimp and pesto mixture. Place filling in the middle of one wrapper. Using a second wrapper, place on top of the “filled” wrapper and seal. In order to seal the two wrappers, gently brush water along the edges of one wrapper and gently press the two wrappers together. As you are assembling the ravioli, keep the completed ravioli under a slightly damp towel so that they don’t dry out.

5) In a baking dish, place a thin layer of cheese sauce in the bottom of the dish. Layer in the ravioli and cover with more cheese sauce. Dollop the remaining pesto on top of the dish and top with additional grated cheese if desired.

6) Bake for 30 mins. or until ravioli are done

Notes:

Parmesan is a relatively salty cheese. Taste along the way and adjust the amount the added salt.

To make this dish a little more healthy, add spinach or kale to the sauce or layer zucchini ribbons between the ravioli and sauce.

Farmers Market Guide – Beginner’s Edition

Hey There,

I can’t believe it’s almost August. Summer is almost over y’all. Where did the time go? I mean we were just praying for it to get warm and now it’s almost time for it to cool down again.

While we have a few more weeks left of summer I want to share with you all my love for the farmer’s market. Prior to this summer I had never been to a real farmer’s market. Crazy, I know, but growing up the farmer’s market just wasn’t a place that we went. We got most of our produce from the grocery store and every once in a while, we would stop by the Pole Green Farmer’s Market (it’s more of a farm stand) in Mechanicsville and pick up a thing or two.

This summer I really wanted to start taking advantage of the markets in the RVA area. There are so many! I started with the Lakeside Farm’s Market and then worked my way up to the South of the James Market. Honestly, I think I was a little intimidated to go to the market. I had “attempted” to go to the South of the James Market once and it was so crowded and there were so many vendors and I didn’t know where to begin. This summer I decided that I was going to give it a second try. Honestly, I’m now hooked.

I go almost every weekend and just roam and pick up things that I need for the upcoming week. The atmosphere is always so causal and relaxed and it’s really nice just to be out and about. As great as the markets are now, I know that they are going to be even better in the fall. I mean, what can be better than casually strolling through the market with good coffee on a cool crisp morning!?!?!? Ummm….nothing! I can’t wait! But until then, I’m stocking up on all of the great fresh summer produce they have to offer.

Now, if you’re new to the world of farmer’s market like I was, you may be slightly intimidate or apprehensive about going. Honestly, there is nothing to be wary of. But just to get you started, here are 10 tips that I think are helpful for any beginner market shopper.

  • Walk Around the Entire Market Before Making Your First Purchase.– Resist the urge to buy from the first vendor whose stall you stop by. Often, there are other vendors who are selling the same goods at a better price or who have better quality items. Also you want get a lay of the land and see everything that the market has to offer before you dive in head first and start buying things.
  • Don’t Be Put Off by the Higher Prices – Yes, the prices are the farmer’s market are higher than those at commercial grocery stores but the quality and variety of the produce is usually better. Also, understand that the money you spend at the market, goes directly to the farmer or vendor. Support local businesses!
  •  Don’t Be Afraid to Buy or Try “New” Produce – One of the best parts of the market is that there is such variety. Often farmers have special or rare varieties of produce that you can’t find in commercial grocery stores. Take advantage and challenge yourself to buy a new or different variety of fruit or vegetable each time you go. Just last week I bought a yellow watermelon for the first time.
  • Bring A List – Make a list of everything you hope to get from the market. Sometimes the choices at the market can be overwhelming so it’s helpful if you have a list. A list keeps you on track and helps to keep you from overbuying.
  • Bring Your Own Bags – Any type of sturdy canvas or lightweight bag is perfect for the market. You want to make sure that even when your bag is packed full with your market finds, it is still be easy to carry. Also, if you will be buying frozen goods from the market (especially during the summer months) consider bringing an insulated bag.
  • Dress Comfortably – I know that this sounds like a no-brainier but it is so important especially in the summer time. Make sure you have on shoes that you can walk in! The first time I went to the market I wore my “cute” sandals and before I could make it to half of the vendors my feet were on fire. I learned my lesson that first time and from then on I have worn sneakers or my Nike sandals.
  • Bring Water!! – It’s a good idea to carry a water bottle with you when at the market. Especially in the summer when it is blazing hot, having water can be a lifesaver. Some vendors do sell water but why pay for a bottle of water when you can bring your own.
  • Show the Non-Food Vendors Some Love – Although most people go for the food, a lot of great local businesses set up tables at the market. The farmer’s market is a great place to find one of a kind items (pottery, soaps art work, etc.) and to discover small local vendors.
  • Bring Your Appetite – Often farm’s markets will feature food trucks or local restaurants, or there will be vendors selling breakfast and lunch items. Try the food!
  • Talk To The Vendors – Strike up a conversation with the vendors whenever possible. Everyone at the market is there to sell a product so they are more than willing to tell you everything you want to know about an item.  They are the experts when it comes to what they are selling! They can be a great resource for recipes and new tricks and ways to prepare an item.  

If you are a frequent market shopper or if you are planning to visit your first farmer’s market, let me know all about your experience. I’d love to know what your favorite market in the RVA area is.

Until Next Time!

Samantha J.

Lakeside Farmer’s Market Haul
South of the James Market Haul
South of the James Market Haul

Carrot Coconut Soup

Hey There,

My summer diet has been all about incorporating as many fresh local ingredients as possible. Every weekend I visit a local farmer’s make, pick up whatever looks good, bring it home and attempt to make something different out of it (more on that in a later post). This weekend’s “experiment” was a delicious Carrot Coconut Soup packed full of ginger and lemongrass.

I know that it’s blazing hot outside and soup is the last thing on most people’s mind (especially during this heat wave we’re going through in RVA) but this turned out to be a tasty and light summer meal and it’s perfect for a weekday lunch. The coconut milk does a great job of lightening up the favor and a adding a touch of basil would brighten up the flavors even more.

What I like most about this recipe is that it’s easy to make and easy to adapt. If you’re been following me for a while, you know that I’m all about changing up simple recipes and just going with the flow of things (hence the unstructured recipes and vague directions). I want you guys to use these recipes as a launching pad to experiment and make these recipes your own. This soup can be easily changed to be a cozy fall or winter soup just by adding warm spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, harissa, or any middle eastern or north African spice and swapping out the coconut milk for heavy cream.

As always the “recipe” for this soup is below. If you decide to make this dish, let me know how you decide to make it your own.

Until next time!!!

Ingredients:

12-15 whole carrots Onion Power Garlic Powder

White Pepper Ground Ginger Salt

Olive Oil 8in Fresh Ginger Fresh Lemongrass

3-4 Dried Chilies 3-8 cups of water/broth (vegetable or chicken)

1 can of coconut milk

Directions:

  1. Toss carrots in olive oil and season with spices.
  2. Cut 4in of fresh ginger into medium sized slices
  3. Roast carrots and ginger on a baking sheet at 375 degrees or 20-30 minutes or until tender.
  4. While the carrots and roasting, dice two and a half pieces of lemongrass into thin slices along with the remaining 4in piece of ginger. In a medium sauce pot, combine ginger, lemongrass and broth. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  5. Dice softened carrots and ginger into small pieces and blend along with water/broth (strained). Gradually add the liquid to the carrots one cup at a time until you reach your desired consistency.
  6. Once blended and smooth, transfer soup to a large stock pot and add in one can of coconut milk. Stir to combine.
  7. Add in dried chilies and bring to a simmer. Add additional spices as desired
  8. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
  9. Remove from heat and serve. Garnish with additional spices, shaved ginger and basil.
  10. Enjoy.