Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rock Stars

My friend Phantom and I are ROCK STARS! Look what we did!

Okay, maybe we're a little too proud of our (ahem) 11 jars of canned tomatoes, and a little embarassed by how bone-tired we were afterward, but hey, we did it. It made us both intensely grateful that we don't have to spend the entire month of August doing this every day, while keeping track of our kids, without the help of the television.

I want to write a little more about what we did. We started out with about 42 lbs of field tomatoes from Wilson Farms . We were hoping for roma/plum tomatoes, but the ones they had were from NJ, which wasn't quite local enough for us. After some wrangling with the employees about what, exactly, constitutes a bushel of tomatoes (don't ask), I picked out 6 boxes containing approximately 7 lbs each. That was the extent of what I could load into the cart and still keep track of my kids.

Okay, so we started out by dunking the tomatoes in boiling water and then peeling them, quartering them, and cooking them down a bit. Then we ran them through the food mill. We realized at that point that what we were getting was basically tomato juice, which wasn't quite what we had in mind. So we changed horses midstream, so to speak.

At that point we started peeling, seeding and dicing the tomatoes by hand, which we cooked down and eventually combined with the juice/sauce that was simmering away from the first half of the tomatoes.

That makes it sound so simple, doesn't it? You should have seen our shirts, our fingernails, the stove, the floor, the sink, and the quantity of pots, pans, bowls and dishes we used.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A busy week

I had to hit the ground running when we got back from vacation, and I've sort of only just surfaced for air.

The first picture shows the 3.5 lbs of cherry tomatoes I harvested from our plants after a week away. Needless to say, we made very short work of them. And now I'm back to yelling at the kids to PLEASE STOP PICKING them before they're ripe. Seriously, I don't think we've had any ripen on the vine in the last 3 days. Not only that, they EAT the underripe tomatoes. That means none for me. Augh.

Next picture is a cute little salad I made with butter lettuce from Brigham's Farm in Lincoln, some shredded cabbage, carrots, and some of those cute yellow tomatoes. I have to say, cute as the yellow tomatoes are, I find them sort of insipid. They're so low-acid and mild they have practically no tomato flavor. Next year, regular cherry tomatoes. (If I even grow them next year. Our lot is really too small to accomodate any sort of crop rotation.)

Then (and this is sort of gratuitous, because I make this like twice a week) I took a picture of my basic sandwich bread, adapted from a recipe in Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. It's half whole wheat, half white flour, enriched with scalded milk and butter . . . it serves as the basis for countless grilled cheese sandwiches, french toast, cinnamon toast, and probably constitutes a good half of the calories my children ingest.

Yesterday was my Drumlin pickup and so major food prep is going to take place today. (Can you say FIVE eggplant??) Pictures will follow! (Though I must say I'm getting p!ssed about the greens situation. Seriously, folks, where is my weekly infusion of chard? Surely I should be getting tons of kale by now? This week we got two heads of lettuce and a leetle tiny bunch of tatsoi. Thassit. We are not amused. Of course, next year I'll compensate by growing my own, and then I'll be so inundated I won't know what to do with myself. I'll cope with that when the time comes.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Highlights from Canada, part 2

Look! Milk comes in a bag!

Janet caught a 2.25 lb small-mouth bass. It was delicious. (Pictures of Jon butchering the fish available upon request.)

Local cheese from the cheese factory near Smith's Falls! The curds squeak in your teeth!

One more post from this trip is forthcoming, along with a recipe, once Janet forwards me the picture of what we dubbed "Crosby Lake Hummus."

Highlights from Canada, part 1

We went to Crosby Lake in Ontario last week for vacation with my friend Janet and her family.
Of course we cooked a LOT, and that included baking.

The top picture is the bread I made more or less every day; the next one is the pizza I made one night. After that are some onion rolls from a Martha Stewart Living magazine Janet brought for cottage reading material. Finally, I had to throw in a picture of the flour I used. I'm such a tourist. I hadn't been to Canada in many years (or anywhere else outside the country, to tell the truth) so I got a total childish charge out of the foreign currency and the grocery store where everything's packaged using the metric system. That there bag of flour? 2.5 kilograms! Ha! And everything is labeled in English AND French. Duh, I know, it's not that exciting. But it takes so little to amuse me!

Baking was pretty low tech. I didn't bring a stone or a peel, and we didn't think to buy cornmeal. So I made very basic bread: 2 c all-purpose flour, 2 c bread flour, 2 tsp salt, 1.5 tsp yeast, and maybe 1.5 c of water. I saved a little chunk back each day to use as a starter for the next batch. I let it rise once, then shaped the dough and put it on a buttered cookie sheet to rise again. I baked it at 425 for 10 minutes and then another 25-30 at 350.

I haven't made pizza without a stone in years. There was a round pan, which I greased generously with olive oil. I pressed the dough out a little less thin than usual, and baked it with toppings for about 10 minutes at 500, at which point I pulled it off the pan and just slid it back in on the oven rack for 2 more minutes to crisp the bottom crust. The result was so good that I think I might occasionally do that again. I can only imagine how good the crust would be in a pan ON the preheated stone. Yum.

The onion rolls were yummy, though they needed more onion and possibly some gruyere.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lots of cooking

All I've been doing lately is cook. I don't know how many pictures I can cram into one post.

Just today I froze two quarts of green beans, and threw together a coleslaw and some bread for Jon's company's potluck picnic. I took no pictures of those things.

Yesterday Aaron and Rachele came for dinner, for which I made, in no particular order, zucchini bisque (I'll write about this sometime, if for no other reason to preserve the recipe, which I misplace often and usually wind up calling up my sister AGAIN to get it), cucumber and feta salad (yes, again, what of it?), baba ganoush (ditto), carrot salad, "farmer's chop suey,"* bread, pickled beets, and apple crisp. One of these pictures shows a plate loaded with those things.

This week I also made zucchini bread (using the recipe in James Beard, which is good, though next time I think I'm going to try Rose Levy Beranbaum's from The Bread Bible.)

That might be all. Whew.

*re. "farmer's chop suey" -- well, I thought I'd made this up, years ago. I used to come home from the farmer's market and just chop things up and throw them into a bowl: tomatoes, cukes, peppers, scallions or red onions, maybe some carrot. Sometimes I'd add feta or cubed mozzarella, or some chick peas. Then I'd dress it with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper and swoon my way through the bowl. I never thought of it as anything -- just what I did in summer when the livin's good. But somewhere I saw a "recipe" for it that called it farmer's chop suey -- I thought that was too cute, so I started calling it that.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

salads (and potatoes) for dinner

The top picture is fattoush, made from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, but lacking the cilantro and sumac. I added chickpeas for a little extra protein (plus they were just sitting there . . . ) For the bread I used the leftovers from Monday night's crackerbread, but pita would be better -- just a little thicker and spongier. This was delicious, though!
The middle picture is a cucumber salad I found on David Leibovitz's blog. I've read him for a long while, and I gave Aaron and Rachele a copy of one of his books for Christmas last year, but this is the first recipe I was compelled to try, and I have to say, it was simply phenomenal. I had slim pickin's for dill from my garden (most of it has gone to seed) but other than the tiny amount of dill, I followed the recipe exactly. Oh, and I used a French goat's milk feta I bought at Russo's a couple of weeks ago, which is excellent, creamy, and not too salty.
Finally, another gratuitous potato picture. Just in case anyone out there thinks my kids are happily wolfing down fattoush and cucumer and feta salad for dinner. (Hysterical laughter.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

peach jam (and calabacitas)

Just made some peach jam, from "seconds" from Honey Pot, and I am ashamed to admit just how fast and loose I played with the recipe. For one thing, I used the lemon I meant to use in the jam yesterday, in baba ganoush (how the hell do you spell this, anyway?) and in fennel salad (which wasn't terribly spectacular, to tell the truth.) For another, I LOST the directions that accompanied the Ball brand pectin stuff. I opened the box yesterday, read the directions, and LOST them. SIGH. I shouldn't even be allowed to be a grown-up.

Anyway, the formula of the pectin I bought involved using less sugar, so I couldn't even reliably use a recipe I found online for peach jam, since I had this weird formulation. So what did I do? That's right, I winged it!!! I used 1 cup of apple juice, 3.5 cups of sugar, 1.5 tsp of powdered citric acid, and a heaping 4 cups of prepared fruit. My experimental tastings were pretty good, so hopefully I didn't wildly screw up.

The other photo is the leftover calabacitas from last night: sauteed onion, jalapeno, diced zucchini and pattypan squash, and corn. A summertime favorite.

Monday, August 11, 2008

what's cooking today: potato leek soup, roasted eggplant and crackerbread

It's been a rainy and cool stretch of summer, but the produce doesn't stop. We've eaten lots of dinners that consist of little more than chopped fresh things, lightly dressed, and lots of corn on the cob.
Today I'm really cooking again, or I risk losing a bunch of stuff! I am making a small amount of potato leek soup, top picture -- that's an action shot, bubbling away -- because I can never think of ANYTHING better to do with mature leeks than this elemental soup. Love it. We only got one, so it's a small amount of soup, but it should make nice lunches this week.
The roasted eggplants I'm going to scoop out and make into baba ganouj, to scoop up with the crackerbread I'm also making (bottom picture).
I have two cute fennel bulbs that I think I'll make into fennel salad (picture and recipe hopefully to come) and I cut up a bunch of teeny, tiny squash to saute with an onion, some cumin seeds, and some leftover corn as "calabacitas." Maybe I'll even through in some jalapeno, if I get brave.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Salsa, Ratatouille, Beans

I made some salsa on Saturday evening. Well, it was intended as salsa but came out kinda soupy, so I ate it with a spoon, as if it were gazpacho. I didn't drain the liquid out as I went along, but the final effect was still delicious, if rather on the juicy side. I chopped tomato, green pepper, about half a jalapeno (very finely minced, almost pulverized, and without ribs or seeds; I'm sort of a wuss about heat), lime juice, salt, and and ear of corn. I had no cilantro, which would have been a fabulous addition.

The middle picture is ratatouille. I use as the "recipe"/guide for ratatouille an old recipe that my mom used to make, found in a Junior League cookbook called Applehood and Motherpie, for "Mediterranean Pie." When I was a kid, it was the only way I really LOVED eggplant, and it still holds up. Occasionally I've made the filling (which is, essentially, ratatouille) and then baked
it with buttered breadcrumbs on top -- the idea of putting it in a pie shell doesn't really appeal anymore. The richness of pie crust just seems over the top. I sauteed onion and salt in a generous amount of olive oil, and then added peppers and zucchini. This time I just stirred in the roasted eggplant and garlic I'd made the other day, which wasn't really getting eaten, and then some tomatoes.

We ate the ratatouille last night accompanied by cannellini beans which I tossed with some of the pesto still hanging around in the fridge, and bread. As I wrote about last time I made cannellini beans, I decided to go ahead and salt the soaking water. The results were fantastic! I soaked probably half a pound of beans in about 1.5 quarts of water with about a tablespoon of salt, for about 5 or 6 hours. I drained them and added fresh water, a few cloves of garlic, and a bay leaf. I brought them to a hard boil for about 5 or 6 minutes, and then turned them down to a gentle simmer for 40 minutes. They turned out beautifully tender, yet did not fall apart.

The bread is a standby "dinner" bread (as opposed to sandwich bread) which I got from a Washington Post recipe by Rose Levy Beranbaum. I just hunted around but could not find a link to it, unfortunately. It's a reliable one-day bread; certainly not as complex as one made with a starter, but when I don't think of it a day in advance, or when I don't have a well-fed, active wild-yeast starter (which I tend to let go dormant in the summer when it's often too hot to bake a lot), it does okay. I toasted my slices and drizzled them with olive oil before topping with the beans and ratatouille.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

oatmeal for breakfast; risotto for lunch; it's carb-tastic!

The oatmeal I topped with yogurt, flax seeds, a few blueberries and a chopped peach. Oh, and a litte agave nectar. (Jon asked, shouldn't you be wearing your birkinstocks if that's what you're eating? Ha ha ha.)

I pan-fried leftover risotto, and ate it with a salad for lunch!

More to come about a trip to Russo's, salsa, ratatouille . . .

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Rachel's bruschetta

That bread I made the other day? I took a couple of loaves to my friend Rachel (to whom I had promised bread *way* too many times without delivering!) Look what she made from it! And she sent me a picture!!

She writes: I sauteed garlic and fava beans in olive oil and then added the tomatoto the hot mixture. Then I toasted the bread and spread goat cheeseon it and topped it with the mix.

Looks delicious, doesn't it?

Friday, August 1, 2008

It's August!

Last night I froze those green beans pictured above; I also made a huge jar of pesto. I probably should freeze some!

Today we went to Honey Pot Hill and bought peaches, apples, corn, as well as picking blueberries! Ouma (MIL) hung out with Annie while Arij and I picked. As you can see, I froze two bags according to the instructions in a Cook's Illustrated from last summer.

Last night for dinner I cooked some beet greens and onions; I added some water and some chickpeas and let it all stew for maybe 20 minutes or so -- it was really good, much better than the sum of its parts. (Let's see. I sauteed 2 onions chopped medium with some salt in a couple tablespoons of olive oil till they started to brown. I chopped the beet greens and added them too . . . let saute for a few minutes before adding the water, the chickpeas, and a lid.) The greens and onions took on a silky quality that was really lovely.

Today made eggplant "jam," based on what I remembered of a Deborah Madison recipe. I had four smallish light purple and white streaked eggplant; I baked them whole for an hour at 400 on a foil lined sheet. After they cooled a bit I sliced off the tops and peeled off the skins, scooping the flesh into a bowl. While they were still warm, I poured in some olive oil and a clove or two of garlic pounded with salt in the mortar & pestle. Delicious on little toasts I had made last week and saved airtight.

I also made hummus, a huge amount with the remainder of the chickpeas I'd cooked the other day.

Finally, I made risotto (that's the third picture above). Sort of a plain one as the base, with the chickpea broth, but I sauteed onion, pattypan squash, and a few fava beans and stirred that (as well as several big scoops of pesto and lots of Romano cheese) in at the end. Sort of similar to what I've been making and putting over pasta, but mixed into risotto instead -- a nice change.

Now I'm exhausted! But in a good way, and Herm washed dishes, cleaned the stove and generally made it fun to be in the kitchen today!