Friday, August 27, 2010

I Say Heirloom Tom-aahhh-to!

A few posts ago I lamented my tomato situation. Big beautiful plants, slowly succumbing to blight. Huge green fruit, full of promise refusing to turn the rosy pink or brilliant green and yellow they are intended to be.

Faced with the prospect of no tomatoes in January, imagine how thrilled I was to get an email announcing the TOMATO SALE, at a local farm, Heritage Prairie Farm. Someone up there, somewhere is looking out for me.

Grab your apron, we're making Spicy Tomato Jam.

I've made this recipe twice. The first time for a canning class I taught. I used all red tomatoes since I wanted the acid they provide and it was wonderful. The second time around, based upon availability I used a selection of red, yellow and green.

This recipe is from Farm to Fork by Emeril Lagasse. Not usually a fan of the "bam" man, I admit, I LOVE this cookbook. So much so in fact that I keep renewing it's library status, hogging it from others. Maybe I should just buy it.

Lots of tomatoes, fresh ginger, two whole lemons and a bit of spice thrown in a pan to cook.

Heirloom tomatoes are sometimes called ugly. I think they are what a real tomato should look like. Somehow, even a homegrown hybrid just looks.....fake?

I like to use my 10 quart Calphalon pot for preserving. It's broad across the top to allow for evaporation, key when making jam -especially with juicy fruits.

I usually like to use a thermometer for jam, just to make sure I don't over cook it. In the case of this recipe, it's really not necessary. The directions suggest stirring often in the last 10 minutes of cooking which is really important. Stirring with a silicone spatula will make it obvious when the proper consistency has been reached.

I found it delicious directly off the spoon. That said, the possibilities with this are endless - bruschetta, grilled meets, cheese platters, sandwiches and panini. What more could you want out of a jam?

Spicy Tomato Jam
adapted from Farm to Fork by Emeril Lagasse

4 (about 2 1/2-3#) cups peeled, seeded, and chopped ripe tomatoes - I suggest all heirlooms and no paste tomatoes. I didn't peel the tomatoes and found the thin heirloom skins weren't noticeable)
2 lemons, peel cut entirely away and discarded, seeds, removed, flesh finely chopped (I tried to remove some of the tougher segments)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 T. minced fresh ginger (I used the microplane and added a touch more the second time around)
1/2 t. crushed red pepper (adds the prefect bit of heat - don't be tempted to skip it!)
2 pinches salt

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a brisk simmer and continue to cook, periodically skimming off any foam that forms on the surface and stirring frequently, until a thick, jamlike consistency is achieved and most of the liquid has evaporated, 30-35 minutes. (Stir more frequently during the last 10 minutes so the jam does not burn on the bottom of the pan)

Transfer the jam to hot sterilized jars, filling the jars to within 1/2" from the top and attach the lids and rings. (At this point you may process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes to make the jars shelf stable. Check this website for canning basics if you've never canned before)

Once they have cooled, store the jars in the refrigerator for up to 4 months. (Alternatively, place the jam in covered non-reactive containers and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Yield: 1 generous pint, 2 8oz. jars

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Time For Bed

A twist on through the screen door....

The girls have become very good at putting themselves to bed - with the exception of Little Lily.
She perches on the family room picture window to tell us it's time.

She likes to be tucked in.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Preservation of Childhood

Preserving Children

Take one large grassy field, one half dozen children,
three small dogs, and walk along a narrow strip of brook,
pebbly if possible.

Mix the children with dogs, and empty them into the field,
stirring constantly.

Sprinkle the entire with daisies and buttercups,
pour brook gently over pebbles
and cover all with a deep blue sky
and bake in hot sun for several hours.

When children are thoroughly browned they may be removed.

They will be found right and ready for setting away to cool in the bathtub.

Mrs. Estes
Buck's County (Pennsylvania) Cookbook

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Love Boys!

I love my boys. Even if they don't all belong to me.

They still all pile in the same bed to watch "scary" movies - even if someone winds up on the floor.

They eat my food - even if they don't put the dishes in the dishwasher.

They bake cakes for girls they like - even if I don't like the girls. *sigh*

They're goofy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tarragon-Blueberry Bundt Cake

I love to be inspired at the green market this time of year. There are so many things I want to make, I worry that I won't get them all done before the leaves begin to fall. A few weeks ago, it was blueberries I was after.

I checked my cookbook shelves for something new. While I love baked goods with blueberries, for some reason they never pan out for me. Tossed with flour or not, they always seem to sink or clump up and though it doesn't effect the flavor, the looks are lacking.

No matter, I forged ahead when I came across this recipe in a long forgotten cookbook, Morning Glories Breakfast, Brunch and Light Fare from an Herb Garden, by Sharon Kebschull Barrett

The abundance of tarragon in my garden (ironically successful this year), made this a perfect recipe. Herbs in sweet preparations always intrigue me. Remember the Lemon-Rosemary Bundt Cake?

I was a bit distracted while preparing this cake. Perhaps it was the puppy, continually arguing of over-summered children or the ever growing "to-do" list. Only when I was putting it in the oven did I realize my pan was poorly buttered and floured.

After a challenging removal from the pan and subsequent cooling, I cut a thin slice. Disappointing was the apt descriptor. It was not the prettiest cake I've baked (note the pan preparation) and the blueberries were clumpy (as usual). So why am I sharing this with you?

The next day, flaws and all, it had blossomed into the most delicious cake. Unfortunately, it was so tempting I struggled to avoid eating the whole thing right off the cake plate.

Make this cake. I hope your blueberry baking skills are better than mine and don't forget to butter and flour the whole pan.

Tarragon Blueberry Bundt Cake

4 t. (1 T. plus 1 t.) minced tarragon leaves
2 cups all-purpose flour, preferably bleached (I used unbleached)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. coarse salt (I used kosher)
8 T. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
2 cups blueberries (fresh or thawed)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease (and I suggest flour) a 10-cup Bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly whisk together tarragon leaves, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time until mixture is fluffy and well-blended. Beat in vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, alternately beat in flour mixture and sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating just until blended. Gently fold in blueberries with a rubber spatula. Spread batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until top springs back when lightly pressed. Let cool 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To serve, dust cake (it will be dark) with confectioners' sugar, and mound berries in the center if desired; slice along and/or between the ridge lines.

12-24 servings.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Taste of Summer

What exemplifies the flavor of summer more than basil? Added to just about any dish is sings. A perfect summer tomatoes tastes even better. But what to do when your basil plant overwhelm your garden? Pesto - a great addition to soups, sandwiches, sauces and an always appreciated gift.

So often I am surprised when people ask me about my pesto recipe. It seems to be such a simple preparation but I have gathered all recipes aren't alike. I am lucky. Mine is amazing and so I wanted to share.

Bunches of basil, a handful of parsley, nice olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and really great garlic are all you need. Buy the garlic at the local green market and you'll truly appreciate its flavor. Did you know much of the garlic sold in this country is grown in China?

Into the food processor, the herbs, garlic and pine nuts. I give it a few quick pulses to chop it until it looks about like the above picture. At that point, I slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream, being careful not to over process.

Parmesan cheese. I always grate my own, since it's so much fresher than the little plastic tub. Fold it in by hand to avoid over processing.

Some people freeze it in ice cube trays. I find the amount in a 4oz. canning jars is just right for most applications or at least a quantity to be used up quickly. Before sealing, I cover the surface with a bit of olive oil to deter oxidation.

Always label lest you forget what it is, assuming it lasts that long. When I give jars as gifts, I like to add a cute tag, like the ones in this post.

Tag or no, you're a hero.

Basil Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
3 t. pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Coarsely chop the basil, parsely, nuts and garlic in a food processor. With machine running, add olive oil in a steady stream until completely pureed. Mix the cheese in by hand. Season to taste.

Yield: about 1 1/2 cups

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Grilled Green Tomatoes

Remember back in the spring when I was thoroughly convinced this was going to be "the best garden year ever!"? Well, it's not. Too much rain and oppressive heat has all but spoiled most of what I've planted this year. Thank goodness my small plot doesn't need to feed us completely and gratefully I have a really good green market full of wonderful farmers to fill in the many gaps.

Most disappointing in a sad garden is the loss of tomatoes. I have found I am not alone in my area losing most of my plants to blight. While I have gotten only a few to ripen (Thank you, Box Car Willy), the vines are laden with green fruit both big and small.

The thought of food wasted makes me sick so I am being proactive. While I don't want to jump the gun and pick them all green, I am searching for green tomato pickle and chutney recipes to have at the ready. I love fried green tomatoes but in effort to be healthier (are you laughing yet?) I decided to grill them. Okay, really it's a side dish recipe from the July/August issue of Everyday Food.

Slice into a 1/4" thick slice.

Brush with canola and generously sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Then grill over a medium-high fire about 2-3 minutes per side.

Creamy Basil Sauce
Everyday Food - July/August 2010

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 small clove of garlic, minced
1 T. fresh lemon juice

Process all ingredients until basil is finally chopped and sauce is smooth.

In a pinch for time? Add some homemade pesto to store bought mayonnaise and add a splash of lemon juice.

Don't have a fabulous pesto recipe that is fast, delicious and freezes well?

Come back soon....

A No Brainer

Which egg would you want to eat?

These lovely specimens laid by spoiled chickens served organic feed, local produce, hand fed organic oats and flax, all while wondering the idyllic yard of the yellow house?

Or this anemic one from a nationally well-known company with a fairly steep price tag?, too.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What Happened?

The view through the screen door a few Fridays ago...

Where is the sidewalk chalk?
Where are the bubbles?
Is he in the - street?
Hey, wait - are there girls out there?

Doting little brothers?
Where are the tricycles?
Why did he bring a movie instead of Tonka Trucks?

My how time flies....

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Yellow Hen House Update

The girls are growing and enjoying many hours in the yard.

Spoiled chickens eat lots of watermelon and overgrown pickles.

Charlie, Queen of Mischief and Ruler of the Roost...

...after a late night in the run...

...laid her first egg!

Thank you, Charlie!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Just Peachy


The peach. The quintessential summer fruit. So delicate and perishable, the need to fill up in peak season is a compulsion. While I've realized I appreciate apricots cooked, a fresh peach with chin dripping juice is "it" for me.

Although one can make vanilla peach butter, a perfect cobbler with fluffy biscuit topping, or home can them in juice for winter eating a quick poach is ethereal. These amazing treats are a late summer fridge staple.

The recipe comes from my falling apart copy of The Silver Palate Cookbook, with a few modifications. I usually always double the recipe since one pound whole fruit doesn't ever seem to be enough.

Basic poaching ingredients plus a few black peppercorns infuse equal parts water and white wine.

When poaching peaches they are kept whole with the skin on. They cook only 12 minutes, come to room temperature before being peeled and pitted. Super easy.

I like to keep them in a jar, always available for breakfasts and snacking. Over ice cream or drizzled with yougrt.  Or dolloped with a bit of vanilla creme fraiche and a crumbled amaretti they make a lovely dessert.


Poached Peaches

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
piece of a cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
half a vanilla bean
zest of one lemon
6 black peppercorns
16 oz. dry white wine
1# just ripe peaches

Combine sugar, cinnamon stick, cloves, vanilla bean, lemon zest and peppercorns with 2 cups of water and 2 cups of dry white wine. Simmer 10 minutes.

Gently place 1# whole peaches into hot syrup and return to a simmer. Cook fruit gently for about 12 minutes, or until fruit is tender but not mushy. Do not overcook!

Remove pan from heat and let fruit cool in the syrup. Peel, pit and slice as desired.

The fruit is now ready to be served, but can be stored in the poaching liquid in the refrigerator.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Junie B. Downing

We are happy to introduce the latest addition to our family. Our new puppy, Junie B. came to live at the yellow house last Sunday. Our sweet girl, is of a litter of four left in a box, under a tarp on a 90-some degree day, in the rain. (do I even need to comment on that?)

We had been thinking about a dog since the loss of Murray months back. After weeks of surfing, when I saw this face, I knew she was the one. She and her brother Johnny were named for the singing Cash couple. The name morphed perfectly into one of our most favorite book characters.

I'm not completely sure of what she is or how big she'll be.

I am completely sure I hope she loves me, almost, as much as Murray did.