Thursday, July 31, 2008

Matar Pullao (Rice With Peas) And Chickpea Curry

What better thing to cook when you're doubled over with intestinal pain? Well yeah, obviously I didn't eat any-but everyone else still had to eat, and they loved it. I made quite a large amount as it will be rather hot over the next few days and these dishes re-heat well in a microwave. I also made a fresh cherry chutney to go with it (recipe will follow at end).

The curry is a recipe of odds and ends. I had two sad little carrots and three small tomatoes from the garden so I used them. You could substitute whatever vegetables you have on hand-courgettes would work nicely here, provided you don't overcook them to a watery mess (please, don't do that). Red peppers would also be nice.

I cook my own chickpeas which does mean planning ahead for an overnight soak. I've always been successful cooking my beans rather plain-just a couple bay leaves and water. Some people cook beans and peas with salt in the pot, but my experience with that has not turned out well. besides, you'll spice up the beans just fine in curry.

The Matar Pullao is a fairly common Indian dish and is usually topped with a generous serving of fried onions. I didn't do that, but feel free if you wish to go a traditional route. I pinched off the bottoms of the cloves and just tossed in the buds because I was afraid Danny might not see them to pick out. Grown-up eaters could probably just toss in whole cloves. A spice bundle with cheesecloth won't really work well here. As the recipe makes quite a bit, be sure to get the leftovers into a shallow pan (or two) to cool rapidly in the fridge. Rice has some weird potential for food borne illness that I've never fully understood (or encountered). My suspicion is that it becomes a problem when people have take-away Chinese food that they do not get right home and into the fridge. Personally, I've never known anyone that was food poisoned by rice, but go ahead and get it cooled quickly just in case. To be on the safe side, re-heat it well before serving.

You Will Need:

For The Chickpea Curry:

8 cups cooked chickpeas (if using tinned, omit salt in recipe)
2 large onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced in ovals
1 cup cooked green peas
1-2 tablespoons fresh ginger peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons ghee
1 tablespoon oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 teaspoons coriander powder
1 cup + hot water
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
2 teaspoons garam masala
3 small tomatoes

Heat the oil and ghee in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, ginger, garlic, and onions. Cook until soft. Add chickpeas, green peas and spices. Add coconut milk and tomatoes. begin thinning with water as it cooks. You may need up to three cups of water before it is finished according to your taste. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer cooking uncovered until quite soupy-about 25 minutes. Serve over rice.

For The Matar Pullao:
(Based on the recipe in The Spice Box by Manju Shivraj Singh)

4 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
4 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
2 tablespoons raisins
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup green peas
2 cups basmatti rice rinsed and soaked for 20 minutes, then drained
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 1/2 cups water

In a large heavy pot heat the oil and add the cumin, cloves, cinnamon and raisins. Fry 2 minutes. Add the onion and fry 2 more minutes. Add peas, drained rice, salt and pepper flakes. Cook until onions are soft. Add the water, bring to a boil then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook twenty minutes. Serve hot.

Fresh Cherry Chutney:

1 cup pitted and chopped Bing cherries
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/8 cup chopped crystalised ginger

Bring everything to a boil in a small pot. Reduce to medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally about twenty minutes or until most of the liquid( but not all) has evaporated. Keeps one week in fridge.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

White Bread With Raisins, Apricots And Ginger

This recipe made one large loaf and one regular sized pan. It is versatile and can also make three dozen good-sized rolls. I would have preferred the glaze be made with egg and cream rather than egg and whole milk, but not enough to brave 98-degree heat to go out and buy cream. We're expecting this heat to stick around through the beginning of next week, so baking is getting done early and late. I'm putting canning on hiatus until this weather breaks-I can't imagine adding steam to the already warm house.

You Will Need:

1-cup warm water

2 tablespoons sugar

2 ¼ teaspoons granulated dry yeast

2 teaspoons salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1 ½ cups milk, scalded

1-cup raisins (soaked in hot water at least 30 minutes and drained)

1-cup sultanas (soaked and drained)

1 cup chopped dried apricots (unsoaked)

¼ cup chopped crystalised ginger (unsoaked)

5-6 cups (or more) bread flour

8 teaspoons vital wheat gluten

1 egg yolk and 3 tablespoons milk or cream for wash

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and sugar. Let proof about ten minutes.

In a small saucepan, heat the milk and butter until it begins to steam (this is the "scald"-not "burn"). Remove from heat and pour into a large bowl. Let cool to lukewarm and add the proofed yeast. Mix the vital wheat gluten with 2 cups of the flour and the salt. Add to the liquid mixture and beat well with a wooden spoon. Add the fruit, mixing well. Continue adding flour until you have a stiff, not sticky dough. Knead until smooth-about 10-15 minutes.

Place in a buttered bowl and let rise until doubled (took about an hour in today's heat).

Punch dough down gently and let rise another 30 minutes.

Grease pans generously with butter and place in dough. Cover with a towel and let rise about 45 minutes or until almost doubled.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush tops of loaves with wash and bake 20 minutes. Rotate loaves and continue baking until they sound hollow when rapped with the knuckles or an internal read thermometer reads around 200 degrees F. The tops will get quite dark and you can cover with foil if you think they may burn (mine never do). This can take as long as 40 minutes depending on the size of the loaves.

Cool on racks before slicing.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Semolina Pizza With Cherries And Tomato

The tomatoes and sage are from my garden. You're probably wondering how I kept the red onion so vibrant. My trick was a bit of port and a handful of chopped cherries. Beautiful colour, don't you think?

I don't suppose I'll ever just make a tomato and cheese pizza.

You Will Need:

For the crust:

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup Semolina flour
3-4 cups bread flour

For the topping:

1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup ruby port
1/4 cup sage, stems removed
1/4 cup parsley, stems removed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup Bing cherries, pitted roughly chopped
3-4 Italian tomatoes, sliced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups grated Swiss cheese
Olive oil for sauteing
olive oil for brushing pizza
Black pepper

Dissolve the yeast in warm water with sugar. let proof 15 minutes. Add olive oil, salt and 1 cup of flour. Mix in semolina and additional flour until you have a pliable, not stick dough. Knead well-about ten minutes by hand. Place in an oiled bowl and let rise in a cool spot about 1 hour or until doubled. Punch down, let rest 20 minutes.

Oil a baking pan and stretch the dough onto it. Cover and let rise while you prepare the topping.

In a pan with about 2 tablespoons olive oil, saute the onions, cherries, sage and parsley for a few minutes until softened. Add the ruby port, turn up the heat to burn it off. Remove pan from heat and let cool slightly before topping pizza.

preheat oven to 450 degrees with one rack at bottom and one in the middle position. Brush the dough with a bit of olive oil and spread on the mixture of cheeses. Add the onion topping and arrange tomato slices. Grind fresh pepper over entire pizza.

Bake 5 minutes at the lowest position, then move up and bake another seven to ten minutes or until cheese begins to brown.

Apple Cherry Sour Cream Turnovers

Last weekend I bought a rather pricey bag of small "Summer Apples" at the farmer's market. I asked the surly teenager if they were eating or cooking apples and he scowled; "Eating." One bite at home determined they were not eating apples-unless you happen to be a horse.

The apples are very tiny-they look like miniature Macintosh and are super-tart. A variety of crab apple perhaps. I thought they might be a bit much alone, so I added Bing cherries to the filling.

The dough for this pastry is absurdly difficult to handle and I'm not sure I'd do it again-no matter how delicious. I'll post the recipe if you're feeling ambitious but I'll warn you that it must be very, very cold to work with and won't look as attractive as other pastry doughs.

This recipe will make about a dozen fair-sized turnovers. Make them larger or smaller to suit your tastes and adjust the baking time accordingly.

You Will Need:

For the pastry:
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream

For The filling:

3 cups thinly sliced apples tossed with lemon juice and water to retain colour
1 cup Bing cherries, pitted
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup cinnamon sugar
1/4 cup butter for dotting

Sift flour with salt. Cut in the cold butter and then mix in the sugar and sour cream. Mix well and wrap in plastic. Chill several hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine flour and sugar and toss with the drained apples and cherries. Roll out the dough into squares. Place filling in centre, dot with a bit of butter and fold one side over. Close with a fork. Poke a hole to vent and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Repeat until all are done.

Bake twenty minutes or until golden and done. Cool on racks. Makes about a dozen.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Things Covered In Chocolate

Last month, I bought three gigantic boxes of raisin bran because it was dirt cheap and I thought Danny would like it. He did not like it. I don't like it either-so I melted six ounces of bittersweet chocolate and added three cups of raisin bran. I plopped them by the spoonful on waxed paper lined baking sheets and let them set in the fridge. I made the cherries yesterday.

Danny gets up from his nap and sees the haystacks.

"What are those chocolate things?"
"Oh, that's the raisin bran you hated."
(Looking serious) "It's true that I didn't like raisin bran....but I love things covered in chocolate! Even raisin bran is better covered in chocolate!"

Valid argument, I guess. I still have almost three boxes left. I'm going to need more chocolate.

So what are you waiting for, stick a bowl of chocolate in the microwave and start coating.

Thai Tofu With Coconut Rice

I used the recipe HERE, but exchanged small scalloped summer squash, carrots and some of the green beans I'd frozen. This worked well. I also didn't have any red curry paste, so i substituted hot sauce (you know, the giant bottle with the rooster on it). The rice was simply Basmatti rice cooked with a handful of flaked coconut-easy. The commenters at epicurious thought it needed fish sauce so I added some. Personally, with all that lime I can't see what difference it makes, but I'm not a connoisseur. In fact, the whole thing was ready in about half an hour. Not bad for a Monday night dinner. Mr. Eat The Blog started a new job today and wasn't sure how long the commute home would take-and this dinner can be kept warm easily. He likes his new job-and enjoyed the tofu for dinner. Again, not too bad for a Monday.

Chocolate Cherry Muffins

Not the most attractive muffins I've baked, but they were enjoyable. I only used 2 heaping tablespoons of powdered cocoa. You could make it more intense, or even run some melted chocolate through the batter, but I was going for something subtle.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 heaping tablespoons (or more) powdered cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pitted and chopped bing cherries
sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease the top of a muffin tin that will hold 12 regular sized muffins (these are pretty big-I would not go jumbo with them). Line with paper baking cups.

Cream together the sugar, salt and butter for three minutes. Add the baking powder and eggs mixing well. Add flour, milk, cocoa, vanilla and mix well. Fold in cherries. Fill cups generously and top with a pinch of coarse sugar if desired. Place in oven and bake 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees F. and bake about 30 minutes longer.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Peach Jam

In hindsight, I should have made these as a slow cooked jam, but feeling lousy, I went the pectin route. As you can see, the fruit floats to the top a bit because it never gets a chance to really cook. I'm hoping this will result in a very fresh, bright flavour. It's not really a tragedy-you can stir it down when opening it, but I guess I had something else in mind. Actually, I probably had peach butter in mind. Oh well, maybe next year.

Over the past three days I've made four batches of apricot jam-so we're set for quite some time. Or, at least until my mother-in law's birthday in October as she's already expressed a desire for more of the jam we sent her. I think I can spare half a dozen jars-since I made an absurd amount.

That's really the best part of making jams and jellies-giving them away. There's nothing you can buy that even comes close and the happiness it brings people makes it worth the effort of putting up an extra batch or two for sharing.

I expect a lull now until the tomatoes come in full-force. Then, another lull before apple season. I might can some currant or Concord grape juice before the season is over, but I don't have anything else planned. Well, planning is a lousy way to go at things anyway-particularly if you're an impulsive apricot purchaser.

You Will Need:
(makes 8 half pints)
1 quart finely chopped peeled, and pitted peaches
7 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 pouch liquid pectin

In a large pot combine fruit with lemon juice. Add sugar and bring to a boil slowly stirring until sugar is dissolved. When peaches reach a full rolling boil, add the pectin and bring back to a full rolling boil. Stir constantly for exactly one minute. Remove from heat, skim foam, and ladle into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rim and threads clean and seal with a heated lid. Tighten screw band fingertip tight and process in a boiling water canner for ten minutes. let cool five minutes in the canner before removing. Let cool 12-24 hours. As always, if you're cannig for the first time, please visit the USDA website for detailed information regarding food safety and proper preparation of utensils.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cake Wrecks

-no, none of mine are there. These gems come from professional bakers. Go look, it is very funny.


These used to be a fairly common item in Italian grocery stores in the 60's and 70's. Then, they just sort of disappeared. I saw versions of them a few times when I lived in Boston, but they weren't like the ones we had in Chicago. Honestly, I never knew they had a name-we just called them "round bread sticks."

So one day, I went over to Breadbasketcase, to see what Marie had been baking. There they were, my long missed round bread sticks-with a recipe to boot. I was so excited.

Regular readers know how Danny (aged 3 1/2) like to sniff the jar of fennel seeds. Usually, I just cave and bake him lemon/fennel biscotti, but when I saw the recipe for taralli, I knew he was going to love them. And he did-just look at that smile. My husband has already eaten five of them and I doubt very much the batch will survive the evening.

So thank you again Marie, for posting that fantastic recipe and letting me share a bit of my childhood with Danny.

The recipe and wonderfully detailed photos may be found HERE.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Michigan Blueberry Pie

Growing up in the Midwest, we always looked forward to the first Michigan blueberries of the season. I'm not sure why we thought they were better, or more exotic than the East coast berries, but it was something to wait all year for. Today, the first showed up at my grocer.

I'd been filling Danny's head with all sorts of stories about how the Michigan blueberries only grow when no one is looking and they achieve this mostly at night. If you're a regular here, you've probably figured out by now that we tell our son some pretty outrageous stories, and the blueberry tale is kind of mild in comparison to our other whoppers. Anyway, he's been pretty excited about these berries.

Know what? They are better than the East coast berries we've been getting.

The pie is a fairly simple deal. I keep my spicing of fruit pies rather tame and this is no exception. I used nutmeg and lemon zest. You may prefer a bit of vanilla sugar, or cardamom, or cinnamon even. Whatever you choose, keep it subtle and let the berries be the centrepiece of the pie.

The crust recipe is quite good, but delicate. if you're not super-confident in your pastry skills, use one without sugar and butter.

You Will Need:

For the crust:

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable shortening
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup very cold water
1 egg
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Combine flour, salt and sugar. Cut in the shortening and butter. In a bowl, mix the water with an egg and vinegar. Mix into flour mixture slowly-you may not need it all. Let rest a few minutes before rolling out. Makes 2 9 inch crusts

For the filling:

2 pints blueberries washed and stems removed
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons butter for dotting top
1/4 cup heavy cream for brushing crust
Sugar for sprinkling crust

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Fit the bottom crust into a 9 inch pie plate. Combine filling and pour into bottom crust. Dot with butter and top with other crust either cut into a lattice or a plain top. Make slits as needed. Brush generously with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 15 minutes, then lower to 350 degrees F. for about 45 minutes or until done. I bake mine on a baking sheet-just in case.

Serve with whipped cream.

A Mountain Of Fruit

I tackled half the apricots this evening. Tomorrow I'll do the rest and the peaches. I still can't decide between spiced pickled peaches or chutney. Guess I'll sleep on it. Heaven only knows what I'll bring home from the Omaha farmer's market tomorrow.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Red Currant Jelly

Until recently, red currants could not be cultivated in the United States as they were considered an invasive species harmful to the timber industry and thus, banned. Now there are strains that do not cause damage to trees and they have slowly been introduced in the States once the ban was lifted.

Currants are still somewhat expensive and a bit of a novelty item (at least around here). I happened to find them on sale 2 pints for $5.00 but considering you need about seven pints to get five cups of juice, it does become a bit of a splurge to make this jelly. If you like currants, then it is worth every penny as it bears no resemblance to the stuff you can buy in a jar at the grocer. The only thing I've ever used red currant jelly for was glazing tarts or basting a roast duck, but I suppose this is special enough to sandwich between cookies or spread on toast.

You don't need a jelly bag to do this (some people tie a pillowcase over the back of a kitchen chair and let it drip in a pan) but it is neater and the apparatus disassembles easily for storage. If you're not planning to make jelly again, I'd line a sieve with cheesecloth and let it drain.

The recipe is flexible and if you run short of the five cups of juice you can make up a cup of it with water. I wouldn't go more than a cup though.

I used liquid pectin which saved time and guessing about the gelling point. With jam I don't worry about being so terribly exacting, but a weeping jelly would be unpleasant. With a pouch of liquid pectin, the guesswork is taken out of it.

You Will Need:

5 cups red currants juice(up to 1 cup of which may be water)
7 cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin (I used Certo)

Wash and stem the currants. Crush them with a potato masher. Place in a large pot and add 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook ten minutes. Drain through a jelly bag.

In a large pot, combine currant juice and sugar, stirring constantly until dissolved. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat. A full rolling boil is one that does not stop when stirred. Stir in the pectin and return to full rolling boil. Cook exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Ladle into heated jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and wipe rim and threads clean with a damp cloth. Top with heated lid and secure screw band. Place in a boiling water canner. When all jars are completed, lower rack, cover and bring to a boil making sure jars are covered by at least two inches of water. Process ten minutes. Remove lid, turn off heat and let cool five minutes before removing to a towel to cool. Space jars two inches apart and let cool 12-24 hours. Check for seals. Remove screw bands, wash jars clean and store.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

All This For A Jelly Bag

All I wanted to do was buy a stupid jelly straining bag at the hardware store and go home. There is a thrift store next to the Hardware store, so my husband took Danny over to look around. I was happy-I purchased my jam bag and headed back to the thrift store. As I was standing right next to Danny, he picked up a broken water globe and got the plastic snow and liquid all over his hands. That would have been OK but before I could stop him he had them in his mouth and nose to try and wipe it off (yeah, I know).

I had to plead with an employee to let us use the loo so I could wash his hands. Only after checking with a manager were we permitted to use their restroom. I washed Danny up but then noticed quite a bit of the stuff up his nose. The woman went off in search of the manager again. I didn't ask her to, but she did.

The manager (an older woman) looks at the broken water globe and irritated asks:

"What do you want me to do?"

It was utterly insane. I didn't ask her to do anything (except let us use the bathroom, which she finally did) but she continued to act confrontational like she thought we were going to sue her or something. Finally I asked if we could perhaps take the broken water globe with us to the hospital to have him checked over- in case they needed to see it. She reluctantly handed it to us informing us to "be careful, it's broken." Yeah, thanks for that warning.

Sitting in a room at the hospital waiting to be seen, my husband starts explaining to Danny that he may need ipecac. We were pretty sure he wouldn't (though I was more concerned about him having pieces of plastic jammed up his nose) but his dad wanted to give him a good scaring so he'd never stick his hands in his mouth again. To illustrate what ipecac does he leaned over and loudly pretended to vomit. It was quite dramatic. And loud.

The thing is, these newly built hospitals have very thin walls and within seconds, the nurse and doctor came running into the room to see who was throwing up. I imagine there's a chart now that reads: "Father is retarded." Anyway, they laughed and told Danny to relax, that no one uses ipecac anymore and if it really comes down to it, they'll pump your stomach.

They didn't know what to do either, so they called poison control. It turns out, the water globes aren't completely non-toxic and have small amounts of (get this) propylene glycol-that's anti-freeze, to work as a preservative. Granted, he'd have had to drink the whole thing-or according to poison control-a dozen before it would have any effect, but still. The doctor checked his throat and nose, told him to keep his hands out of his mouth and we went home a few bucks poorer. He's fine, but man, it damn near gave me a heart attack when I saw his mouth full of plastic snow.

And by now everyone in town has likely heard about they guy acting out the effects of syrup of ipecac for his kid in the out patients.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lemon/Prune Cookies

These are seriously addictive cookies.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely chopped prunes
Confectioner's sugar

In a bowl (well, duh! Where else would you do it?!) mix the butter, sugar, lemon juice and zest together. Add the egg and beat well. Add the flour sifted with the baking powder and salt. Stir in the prunes. Wrap tightly in cling wrap and chill at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

On an ungreased baking sheet, make balls the size of a walnut and place about 2 inches apart. Bake 10-15 minutes or until browned on the bottom. Remove to a rack and immediately roll generously in confectioner's sugar. You may wish to repeat this a few times as they cool. Cool on racks. Makes about 3 dozen.

Orange Toll House Cookies

I followed the classic Toll House recipe but added the grated zest of an orange and replaced vanilla with orange juice. Perfect.

A Shelf of Hard Work

I've since moved on to fill the next shelf up.

Monday, July 21, 2008

That's Not Safe Canning

I have a canning guide from a cooperative extension office that has a great warning to the would-be preserver to avoid the advice of celebrity cooks and old publications and follow tested safety methods. I thought of that warning as I read the two installments of recipes in the Guardian from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage.

Look, I understand the desire to continue doing things as one always has, particularly if one has suffered no ill effects. Still, the method of preserving being suggested in the Guardian is no longer reliably safe. The bacteria have changed, and the soils they grow in have become more contaminated. To do open-kettle canning where food is not processed in either a water bath for high acid foods, or a pressure canner for low acid, is inviting trouble. While the recipes sound fine, I would not make them without putting them through a water bath canner-10 minutes for jams and jellies, 15 for chutneys and 20 for pickles. If using quarts, add five minutes. You should also take altitude into consideration and adjust accordingly.

My other piece of advice not covered in the recipes and methods is eliminating air bubbles. Bacteria can live in those air bubbles and it is important to release them before capping the jar. It is not a good idea to simply pour and cap. Take a small, plastic or rubber spatula and press against the food and glass to release any air bubbles-do this three or four times around the jar. It is more of an issue with fruit or vegetables suspended in liquid (like tomatoes) but you should still do it with jams and chutneys. I cannot imagine why this rather important point was omitted in the article.

Again, I hate to sound like a broken record, but food safety is important and publishing articles (and books) that treat it as optional seems a risk not worth taking. We're not talking about a mild case of the shits-these bacteria strains kill people-quickly and horribly. Be safe and follow current health guidelines. Botulism is a lousy way to go.

Mulled Honey

This is a very small batch recipe-three 1/2 pints. Quick and easy, but remember to use a big enough pan as honey tends to boil quickly and you don't want it to boil over.

Adapted from The Ball Blue Book of Preserving

You Will Need:

1 lemon
12 whole cloves
3 sticks cinnamon
2 2/3 cups honey

Cut lemon into six thin slices. In the rind of each slice, stick two cloves. In a large pot, mix the honey, lemons and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil watching carefully that it does not spill over.

Ladle into hot jars placing one cinnamon stick and two lemon slices in each jar. Remove air bubbles, wipe rim and threads carefully, and seal with a hot lid. Tighten screw bands and process ten minutes in a boiling water canner. Remove lid and let cool five minutes. Cool on towels 12-24 hours before checking for seals.

Pickled/Spiced Pineapple

Pickled seems like an inaccurate description, but that's what it is called (due to the red wine vinegar). This is a very sweet, syrupy. way to preserve fruit. The recipe made three pints, but you may get four depending on the size of your pineapples-prepare four jars and lids in case.

I know this does not really photograph well (yellow fruit in brown syrup) but take my word for it-you'll be running out to buy more pineapple for a second batch (I know I am). The small taste we had today before canning it was good-in a month of soaking in the syrup it will be fantastic. My husband says it reminds him of something he ate when he lived in Hawaii in the early 70's. My guess is either ham (Spam) or pork with a sweet glaze, but being neither Hawaiian nor a pork eater, it's just a guess. I'm not baking him a ham to find out.

You Will Need:

2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup red wine vinegar 5% acidity
1 cup unsweetened not-from-concentrate pineapple juice
3 sticks cinnamon, broken
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
1/4 teaspoon whole cloves
2 fresh pineapples peeled, cored and cut into spears (about 5 lbs. each)

Combine brown sugar, vinegar and pineapple juice in a large pot. Add spices tied in cheesecloth. Cover and simmer twenty minutes. Remove lid, add pineapple and cover. Simmer until heated through (about five minutes). Remove pineapple to a covered casserole or pot to keep hot. remove spice bag from syrup and bring to a boil. Pack pineapple in hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Pour boiling syrup over leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with a spatula. Wipe threads clean and seal with heated lid and screw band fastened fingertip tight. Place in boiling water canner. Once boiling, process 10 minutes. Remove lid, let cool five minutes. Remove to towels and let cool 12-24 hours.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Orange Marmalade

Have you seen the beautiful Australian oranges in the stores yet? Buy some-they make excellent marmalade. I'm really hoping the crop from South Africa will be as good as last year. When I tasted them for the first time it was like eating an orange in 1970-before they started hybridising all the taste out of oranges.

A word of warning about marmalade-it can quickly turn into a block of immobile gel that will bend any utensil you try to pry it out of the jar with. Keep in mind that you need to pull it off the heat before reaching the gelling point. It will continue to set after it sits several hours. If you do end up overcooking it, it can always be melted down and used as a glaze for meat, poultry or pastry. Better, I think, to keep an eye on it. With marmalade, softer is definitely better.

I use a jelly thermometer when making marmalade. At my elevation, 220 degrees F. is the ideal gelling point-but you need to check the elevation where you live and calculate the appropriate temperature. In the United States, you can call your local extension office and they will walk you through it, or you can find the information on line. I like to talk to the people at extension offices because they are such a great source of other information and once they find out you're preserving, will send you all sorts of helpful things in the post. I swear, if it grows, walks or gets cooked, they can answer your questions.

This recipe is not fancy-in fact it is downright basic. Though it is largely comprised of oranges, you do need some lemon which at the current price of...wait for it...$1.27 a piece (1) at my grocer, you might want to factor that into whether or not to make it at this time. Last winter I made a marmalade that was half lemon and half orange-I don't think I could afford that right now.

I should note that Danny (my citrus-hating son) ate it and asked for another piece of toast and probably would have just ate it from the spoon if I'd let him. The sugar ratio is 1:1 which i realise is quite a bit, but I don't recommend reducing it as it will effect the preservation and gelling of the marmalade.

It does take a while to make, and the peels and chopped fruit must be simmered five minutes and then let stand eighteen hours before cooking. The actual cooking time was about an hour, but you have to watch it to prevent scorching. Again, this is an activity best done when someone can watch the children as the second you turn your back, it will scorch. If you live alone (you lucky, lucky, bastards) you can cook up a batch at three in the morning.

The recipe is supposed to make 7 half pints. I ended up with nine. It wouldn't be a bad idea to prepare an extra jar and lid, or have one ready to keep the extra (unprocessed marmalade) in a jar in the fridge.

You Will Need:

2 cups thinly sliced orange peel (including pith-you need this for pectin) about 10 medium oranges

1 quart chopped orange pulp (about ten medium)
1 cup thinly sliced lemons-seeds removed
1 1/2 quarts water

Combine everything except sugar in a large, heavy pot. Simmer five minutes. Cover, cool a bit and then set in the fridge for eighteen hours.

Cook rapidly until peel is tender (this goes pretty quickly). At this point you need to remove the fruit and liquid to measure. Add 1 cup sugar for each cup liquid. Return to pot and add 1 cup sugar at a time, stirring until dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook rapidly ALMOST to the gelling point. Keep stirring (and stand back, as this stuff burns if it hits you).

Remove from heat and ladle into hot jars. Run a spatula around the inside rim to remove air bubbles and wipe threads clean. process ten minutes in a boiling water canner. Cool five minutes in canner before carefully removing and placing on towels to cool. let stand 12-24 hours before checking for seals.

Is Your Pesto This Green?

Or is it kind of brown and murky?

Here's the trick, though purists will scoff I swear you cannot tell the difference in taste. Blanch the basil for 30 seconds in boiling water. Then plunge it into ice cold water to stop the cooking. Drain, pat somewhat dry and proceed with your favourite pesto recipe (we omit the pine nuts due to allergy).

So much more apetising, don't you think?

Pickled Green/Wax Beans

Yeah, I packed them too loose and they floated. Live and learn.

The only real downside of making these was that I bought far too much dill (at .50 cents) and now I have two gigantic bunches (heads and fronds) drying upside down in the kitchen. I don't need this much dill-even dried. My husband noted that it smells like pee. I mentioned that it reminded me of my dad's dirty work clothes hanging in the laundry room growing up-then I remembered, for years my mother would scream at him to be more careful and not dribble pee on his pants because he smelled like a wino on the Madison Street streetcar. Geez, who knew that working with pickles all day would make you smell like you'd pissed yourself? It really was the dill. Sorry dad!
(come here for the food, stay for the disturbing stories!)


These took quite a long time to cool down and eventually seal (a few hours) which is the first time that's ever happened to me. It was pretty warm in the house, and they were raw packed, so who knows? Eventually, they did all seal well.

The other thing I must warn you about are the fumes from the pickling liquid. Please, before you set that pot to boil, open the windows and try not to stand downwind of it-four cups of boiling vinegar is strong. It dissipates quickly once poured, but you'll want to keep the windows open and everyone (including children) out of the near vicinity for a while as it can be a little irritating.

Makes about 8 pints

You Will Need:

4-5 pounds fresh green or yellow (or both) green beans trimmed to 4 inch pieces
8-16 heads of fresh dill
8 garlic cloves, peeled
4 cups white vinegar (labeled 5 % acidity)
4 cups water
1/2 cup pickling salt
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Sterilize jars and keep warming until ready to pack.

Wash and trim green beans. In a large saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, salt and pepper flakes to a rapid boil. Meanwhile, in each hot pint jar place 1 piece of garlic and a couple heads of dill. Pack tightly with green beans leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Pour boiling liquid over leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with a spatula and wipe threads clean. Seal with a heated lid and screw on band fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water canner for ten minutes. Remove lid and let cool five minutes longer. Cool on towels and leave undisturbed for 12-24 hours.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Couple Questions

1) Why do people butter their steaks? This shows up quite a bit in older cookbooks and my husband seems to remember his mother doing it. Why? Does it improve the flavour/texture of a less expensive cut of meat, or is it a "more is better" type of thinking? I've never done it and the only thing my mother ever put on a steak was salt and pepper-maybe some garlic salt if she was feeling fancy. This is a very new concept to me.

2) Cookie scoops. Unless you are operating a bakery, why would you need uniform drop cookies? Isn't the charm the sort of uneven nature of them? You can buy these little scoops in a number of sizes but it seems so silly to me. People rave about how wonderful it is to have all their cookies the same size, but I just have to wonder why that's important? Am I missing something here?

Lemon Freezer Curd

I had six leftover egg yolks looking for a use and this one was just perfect. I had no idea lemon curd could be frozen. This makes 1 pint-enough for 1 9 inch tart.

From The Ball Blue Book of Preserving

You Will Need:

6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
Grated peel of one lemon
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter cut into 8 pieces

Press egg yolks through a sieve set over a heavy saucepan to remove traces of egg white. Add sugar, peel and juice. Heat over medium heat, whisking until combined, then stirring with a wooden spoon constantly. Cook until mixture coats the spoon (about 20 minutes) taking care not to curdle the eggs. Remove saucepan from heat. Stir in the butter one piece at a time stirring after to ensure it is smooth. Pour into clean jars or plastic freezer containers (I used glass jars) leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Let cool about 1 hour, then cap, seal and set in freezer. Thaw in fridge when ready to use.

Alice Waters Whole Wheat and White Bread

I didn't hate the bread, but I can't say I was won over either. The instructions are unbelievably fussy and poorly written (if I need warm water, list it in the ingredients, not halfway into the recipe). Sure, the loaf is pretty, but so are many of the other breads I bake. Half a cup of whole wheat flour does not a wheat bread make. This is essentially a light loaf that uses a couple tablespoons of olive oil instead of butter like most home style breads. I suppose what really annoyed me was that it only made one loaf. If I'm baking bread, and heating the oven I want at least another loaf to freeze for my efforts.

The recipe comes from Fanny At The Chez Pannisse and was re-printed in The Best Of Food And Wine, 1995.

If you really want the recipe, I'll send it to you via email, but I just don't think it deserves a post-it isn't anything special or terribly different from my regular white/wheat loaf.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Butterflies And Bugs

Look what you can do with a white cake and some frosting.

The ladybugs were cut from scraps with a biscuit cutter.

Really, any cake recipe and frosting will do-and it need not be perfect-my three year old critic was pretty impressed.

Carrot Fritters With Fennel

How many three year olds do you know that beg their mothers to let them sniff the jar of fennel seeds? Right. He's mad for the stuff and I'm thinking of making him a closet sachet filled with fennel seeds just so he'll leave mine alone. Fennel seed cookies, soup, you name it-Danny loves it. Today I made carrot and fennel fritters for lunch.

This was so simple to do and I was able to do a bit ahead, such as grating the carrots and chopping the parsley. Served with yoghurt and a bit of the plum sauce I made earlier in the week, it was a nice meal and a change from the usual soup and sandwich routine.

The extra can be wrapped in foil and kept refrigerated. They should re-heat well in a hot oven.

You Will Need:

5-6 medium carrots, grated on the largest hole of a box grater (you aren't going to pull out the food processor for five carrots, are you?)
1/2 medium red onion, sliced in spears
1 generous handful of parsley, trimmed and chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup (about) matzo meal (you can use four or breadcrumbs but you'll need to adapt amounts)
Oil for frying

Combine carrots, onion, parsley and fennel seeds in a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs, salt and pepper and matzo meal. You may need more matzo meal-the mixture should be thick enough to drop in hot fat by the spoonful.

Heat a shallow amount of oil (about an inch thickness) in a frying pan until quite hot. Drop by spoonful into pan, taking care not to crowd the fritters (three to four at a time). Fry until browned around the edges, turn and fry on other side. Remove to a rack placed over a baking sheet to drain.

Serve with yoghurt or sour cream. Makes about 12 generous fritters.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

White Pizza With Beets, Salmon, Spinach And Sage

I really didn't know what else to call it. I realise it isn't technically "pizza" but it isn't really easy to describe. Well, I could describe it as delicious.

At first glance it seems pretty decadent until I confess the crust contains a package of cooked, frozen spinach and that the tinned salmon was leftovers from last night's salad. The small bit of cheese is a combination of store-brand Swiss and the last few shavings of Romano. The sage is from my garden which is currently overrun with the stuff.

One surprise was the quality of the crust which was an accident. I ran out of bread flour and had to substitute two cups of all purpose to three cups bread flour-this produced a light, airy crust with a nice chewy texture on the outside.

As with most of my improvised dinners, this took about an hour and a half to pull off. I had already roasted the beets earlier, which I suggest as they need time to sit after coming out of the oven. You could use tinned beets here as well, though I'm biased to think roasted beets have a nicer flavour. Still, I won't insist, seeing how it is only a pizza topping.

I was so pleased with the way the spinach worked in the crust I may never make a plain pizza dough again.

You Will Need:

For The Crust:

2 cups warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 package frozen chopped spinach-cooked, drained and squeezed dry
2 cups all purpose flour
3-4 cups bread flour

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand five minutes. Stir in the honey to dissolve. Add to the bowl the salt mixed with the two cups of all purpose flour. Add the rest of the flour a cup at a time until you have a dough that is no longer sticky and can be kneaded. At this point, begin working in the spinach taking care to distribute it evenly. Add more flour as needed. When dough is elastic (about ten minutes hand kneading) place it in a well oiled bowl, give it a turn and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled-about an hour.

Punch the dough down gently and let rest ten minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Oil a baking sheet and stretch the dough to fit. Let rise while you prepare the topping.

For The Topping:

1/2 tin red salmon, flaked bones and skin removed
1 tablespoon olive oil mixed into fish. Additional oil for brushing surface of dough before topping.
About 12 small fresh sage leaves
Fresh rosemary to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup grated Swiss cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
2-3 large beets roasted, peeled and sliced into matchsticks

Brush the top of the dough with a generous coating of olive oil. Sprinkle with the Swiss cheese. Arrange beets, salmon and herbs in a pattern you like. Sprinkle Romano cheese over the salmon parts (to keep it from scorching in the oven).

Bake 5 minutes on the lowest rack in the oven. Move to the centre rack and bake another 5-8 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese begins to brown. Take care not to over bake as the fish will dry out. If the crust is taking longer than the fish, cover with a piece of foil until the last minute.

Let stand a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Makes a very generous pan pizza that will provide plenty of food for a crowd (or leftovers for a family of three).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nectarine Chutney

I've been trying to think of something interesting to say about nectarines. Yeah, I still haven't thought of anything beyond, "I sure like nectarines." The addition of 3/4 cup lime juice in the recipe makes it all the more delightful.

This is a small batch recipe. I was able to get three pints from it with about a tablespoon leftover. That's close. On the other hand, you could make it and end up with four. I don't suppose it would hurt to heat an extra jar-just in case.

This probably wasn't the wisest thing to do on a 95 degree day. It's expected to be miserable through next week which is a drag as I wanted to take Danny to the antique thresher show this weekend. Maybe we can send "Mr. Eat The Blog" as he isn't bothered by direct sunlight.

I'm not sure what to make next. I probably ought to pickle a batch of green tomatoes since I have them. Maybe some chow chow, or pickled green beans?

When the light in here is better I'll snap a picture of my rapidly filling shelves of home preserved foods-it is really quite impressive.

Adapted from The Ball Blue Book Of Preserving

You Will Need:

2 quarts sliced nectarines, peeled and pitted (about 15)
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar (5 % acidity)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped crystalised ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chili pepper. seeded and finely chopped (I used a banana pepper that was on the strong side)
3/4 cup lime juice

Combine nectarines and salt. let stand twenty minutes. Combine sugar, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add the nectarines and cook until transparent. With a slotted spoon, remove the nectarines to another bowl. Add everything else and cook until onions are tender. Add the nectarines back in and cook until thick, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. carefully ladle into pint jars, remove air bubbles and wipe threads clean with a cloth. Cover with a heated lid and secure bands carefully and finger-tight. Immerse in a water bath canner for ten minutes. Remove lid and let cool for five minutes before removing to cool. Let stand 12 hours before testing seals.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lime Marmalade

This is wicked good marmalade, but I'll warn you, it has a bitter bite. If you think Seville oranges are bitter, this stuff will blow you away. There's sweetness too (I ended up using eight cups of sugar to eight cups cooked limes) but it is really assertive.

I had some leftover, but not enough to can, so I'm going to try making a coconut/chicken curry with it as a base.

The recipe makes about 7 half pint jars. I had a little extra, but couldn't stretch it to eight. Because you measure the fruit after cooking, you'll probably come up with slightly different amounts depending on how much pith and pulp the limes had. That's OK. Just measure 1 to 1. For every cup of cooked limes, use an equal amount of sugar.

I used food colouring because the limes were an unattractive colour after cooking (like yellow Chartreuse). two drops of green food colouring and seven drops of yellow ought to do it.

Adapted From Kerr Kitchen Cookbook, Copyright 1990.

You Will Need:

4 cups very thinly sliced limes (paper thin) halved and seeds removed(about 8-10 limes)
7 1/4 cups water
7-8 cups sugar
2 drops green food colouring
7 drops yellow food colouring

Wash and scrub the limes very well. Slice as thin as possible and place in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered for forty-five minutes to an hour or until peels are very soft. measure the cooked fruit and liquid. Return it to the pot and add an equal amount of sugar and the food colouring if desired. Bring to a boil and cook rapidly almost to the jelling stage (on a thermometer 220 degrees F.) . You don't want to overcook marmalade or you'll be bending spoons trying to pry it out of the jar (voice of experience speaking).

Skim off foam (there will be quite a bit as citrus really tosses off foam). Immediately fill hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe tops and threads clean and seal. process in a boiling water canner ten minutes*

8The original recipe suggested five but current guidelines suggest ten. As the book was published in 1990, I decided to err on the side of caution and go with current standards.

Cool five minutes in canner before removing. let stand 12-24 hours before checking for seals

Pucker Up! (Oooh, that's tart!)

Next Up-Nectarine Chutney

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Blueberry Cobbler

I really dislike summer, but I sure do love blueberries. Thinking about it, they are probably what makes this miserable season tolerable.

This recipe is from the New York Times Heritage Cookbook (aka, The Big Blue Cookbook), but I changed the spices from a large quantity of cinnamon to vanilla, lemon zest and nutmeg. Cardamom would be nice as well. I have no reason to think cinnamon wouldn't be lovely-I just don't care for it with blueberries-particularly in-season sweet ones. Maybe with frozen it would make more sense.

The cobbler is very soupy (which I prefer to heavy and gloppy) and although the recipe calls for a nine inch pie plate, I would caution against it. I just barely avoided disaster in a spill over. Use a larger pan and play it safe.

You Will Need:

2 tablespoons cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
3 cups blueberries
1 teaspoon plus three tablespoons cooking oil
Grated zest of a lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup whole milk
Whipped cream (I sweetened mine a bit with sugar and extra vanilla)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Mix the cornstarch and sugar in a saucepan. Add the water and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, zest and blueberries.

Turn berry mixture into baking dish and sprinkle with the teaspoon of oil. Sprinkle on the nutmeg.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the remaining oil to the milk and pour at once into the flour mixture. Mix until it comes together in a ball.

Top cobbler by the spoonful with batter and bake about twenty minutes or until dough is nicely browned.

Serve warm with whipped cream.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Thought I'd post a photo to tempt you with the lovely colour of the dried borage. Still don't know what to make other than tea.

Quail Eggs

These were available at the Vietnamese market (a rather nice one, at that) for a bit over a dollar. Don't try this at Whole Foods.

I'm going to poach them and then batter and deep fry them-just because.

Freezing A Peck Of Beans

The sooner you get them blanched and into the freezer, the better. Wash, and trim the beans. Place in boiling water for three minutes. Remove and run under very cold water until cool. Drain, pat dry with a towel and pack in plastic freezer bags in small amounts removing as much air from bag as possible. Then, I place them in another bag as extra insurance. You don't need to do this, but it helps guard against freezer burn.

Do not add salt to cooking water, or cooked beans.

And yes, the purple beans are lovely, but they turn green just like any other once they hit the water.

Friday, July 11, 2008

That's Cheating

I know this isn't a good photo, but if you look carefully, you can see a half-punched through hole in my "Swiss" cheese.

The faulty hole punch extends well into the wedge, so I know this isn't a's a manufacturing defect.

I don't know about you, but I sort of expected it to develop those holes naturally-not with a freaking hole puncher!

Double Chocolate Cherry Torte With Chocolate Covered Cherries

This makes it something like, eight different chocolate tortes I've tried. This one was nice, with a light top and dense centre, but the real treat was the chocolate covered cherries. I didn't notice the kirsch flavour after baking and next time I might consider doing an overnight soak of the cherries. In fact, until I went to type this out, I'd forgotten there was any kirsch in it. Well, you know me-I like boozy cake-speaking of which, I took about a cup of halved, pitted cherries and put them in a jar with cheap vodka. I'll give it a shake once a day for a few weeks, strain it and add in a simple syrup. Excellent.

I very carefully removed the pits from a dozen cherries and then dipped them in bittersweet chocolate. because the cherries were very ripe and fresh, they are extremely juicy. Biting into one of these is not something I'm capable of describing adequately-you'll just have to make a batch yourself.

The recipe for the torte may be found HERE.

We Don't Do "Bomb" Pops

-But somehow, Nonviolent Pacifist Pops with gelatin doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.

I was inspired by THIS recipe, but I knew Danny wouldn't go for strawberries with balsamic vinegar, and honey didn't sound too great either. The cheesecake layer was more work than I wanted, so I went ahead and made a small batch of strawberry and blueberry instead. I wanted to post a link to the original because it is an excellent tutorial if you feel inspired to do something impressive. Danny is impressed enough by the fact I'm making ice-lollies, I don't need to go out on a limb and make them fancy.

This will make enough for ten small pops.

For the strawberry:

2 cups crushed strawberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the blueberry

2 cups crushed blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the gelatin

2 cups warm water
1/2 packet unflavoured gelatin

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin on the water and let soak a few minutes before stirring to dissolve.

Mix the strawberry and blueberry slurries separately in the blender washing it out between batches. Add half the softened gelatin to each as you blend.

Pour first layer into dixie cups. Chill about twenty minutes or until set but not completely frozen. Insert stick. Pour in the second layer. Return to freezer until firm (about two hours).

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Oh, Hello There!

I wanted to get out before the heat, so early this morning I was at the grocer buying fruit. This week blueberries, cherries and strawberries were on sale. These aren't for canning. The cherries are going to be a pie, and the strawberries and blueberries are going into homemade ice lollies. I was standing in line when I felt something itchy down the front of my sun dress. I wasn't about to reach in and scratch because it was crowded, and you know there are security cameras everywhere now. I waited until I was in the car to extract what I thought would be a loose thread. Imagine my surprise when a large box elder bug came hopping out, looked at me like I was disturbing him, and then flew away disgusted.

Insert joke about "Democrats" in my bra*

*Box elder bugs are called Democrats as a slur in Nebraska because they tend to come out in droves around primary time. Ha, ha, ha.

Scallion Pancakes

The dumplings in the foreground will be posted in detail at another time. Tonight, I want to talk pancakes-scallion ones.

I've never seen these anywhere but Boston, and honestly, in the ten years I spent there I probably ate them three or four times. My husband really likes them, but I found them kind of doughy and unpleasant. I now realise this was due to them cooling as we waited for delivery. Oh, when these came out of the hot fat it was clear we'd been missing out on something terrific.

The recipe may be found here.

You're going to want a dipping sauce to go with them if you aren't lucky enough to have a pint of my homemade plum sauce:

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 green onion, finely sliced
pinch of sugar

Mix well and let flavours absorb for an hour or so in the fridge before serving.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Plum Sauce

So who's bringing the dumplings?

You know that plum sauce that comes in a jar in Asian markets? This isn't it-this tastes like plums. Four pounds of plums. The recipe makes four pints. I can't wait to try making this with prune plums.

Now go get me some dumplings. I'm making a second batch of sauce tonight.

You Will Need:
(From the Ball Blue Book)

4 pounds plums (I mixed black and red to get a good colour and sweet/tart balance)
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons mustard seed
2 tablespoons chopped green chili peppers
A 1/4 x 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup cider vinegar (I splurged and bought good vinegar)

Wash plums and drain. Pit and chop the plums. In a large pot, combine everything EXCEPT the plums. bring to a boil and then add plums. Lower heat and simmer until thick and syrup-like. Mine took about an hour on medium heat. Ladle hot sauce in hot jars, remove air bubbles, wipe jars clean and adjust caps and bands. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes in canner before removing. Cool without touching on towels for 24 hours. Test for seals and wash jars before storing.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Shut Up And Eat Your Frozen Mash

*This is a cross-post from the other blog as I thought it might be interesting to readers here.

I suppose there's only one way to settle this-have Delia and Marguerite arm wrestle.

Honestly, I don't understand all the outrage people are expressing over Delia Smith's latest cookbook that (gasp) suggests the use of prepared items such as frozen mashed potatoes (the horrors). While I might (actually, I do) get slightly sickened at the thought of tinned mince (who knew such a thing existed?) I'm not one to insist that carrots require being freshly chopped before stewing them to death (as is the British way with vegetables). I'll bristle at the cost of purchasing prepared items, but that doesn't mean I don't have dried soup greens in my pantry, or tinned beans to be used in a pinch.

I find it somewhat amusing that Marguerite Patten's cooking is considered complicated by today's standards. How complicated is soaking cake in ungodly amounts of booze? I don't say that disparagingly-I love ungodly amounts of booze, and Marguerite Patten's Christmas cake recipe. That said it isn't particularly difficult or time-consuming cooking. In fact, I own a few of her cookbooks from the 1950's and I must tell you, they are considerably less complicated and fussy than some of the more recent publications I've seen. The recipes are more traditional, that is-the sort of thing good old Delia spent years trying to direct people away from-but not really all that difficult.

As for the decrease in the number of ingredients, I'm not sure that is an overall trend in all markets. I see a fair number of recipes specifying what sort of exotic salt to use, or for specific varieties of lemons. Marguerite Patten, to the best of my knowledge never suggested topping anything with Fleur de Sel (or any other odd ingredient of her day). Largely, her recipes were approachable. We seem to think every woman sat home watching the oven timer in the past and that's utter nonsense. Women may have been home more, but their time was just as occupied by other activities. My mother was home in the 1950's and 60's but I can assure you, she did not have the time to stand over the range preparing complicated dinners. For occasions-certainly, but our nightly dinner was usually simple fare. I hardly think the addition of mustard powder in a recipe is time consuming or exotic (though it is the magical ingredient that made my mothers macaroni and cheese the best thing she made) as suggested in the article. As for the pastry-I knew I'd achieved something when I could make from scratch a pastry crust faster than it took to defrost a purchased one from the freezer. Under fifteen minutes-sometimes ten. So much for time savings. I don't use suet, though I would if I could lay my hand on it.

My point is that this nonsense of berating people over how they prepare food is utterly pretentious. What Delia is doing is what she has always done-trying to help people put an actual "meal" on the table. Don't care for tinned mince or frozen mash? Fine, make your own, but for someone that hasn't the desire to learn the finer points of potato mashing, and is happy enough with the frozen variety-what business is it of ours to fault them? Honestly, you could eat much, much worse.

My sense is that this isn't so much a backlash against bad cooking as it is against modern women. In our make-believe memories where we all cleaned the house in dresses, crinolines and three inch heels (and our hair roller set) and had five course dinners on the table each evening we've somehow convinced ourselves that mother's Lancashire hot pot wasn't quite as revolting as it seemed at the time. Really, long hours of simmering didn't make it any more palatable. Besides, people still subject food to long periods of over-cooking they just use crock-pots instead. For what it's worth, my mother used to leave the oven on low and go out with dinner cooking away. I'd never dream of doing it, but we never had a fire either. Somehow, we've convinced ourselves of this delusion that a mile of ingredients and instructions combined with long periods of cooking produce a better result. Sometimes, yes. I don't believe most people care. I do believe that we like to dictate what women should do whether it is formula vs. breast-feeding children, staying at home vs. working outside, or any other opportunity we find to criticise. I realise these books are read by men as well, but largely the intended audience is female. Oh you naughty modern women what with your frozen mash and tinned mince and pre-cut carrots! Next, you're going to insist on having your own savings accounts and owning property. Better nip this "Cheating at Cooking" thing in the bud. Get 'em all back in the kitchen where they belong…but never really were.

I have a booklet from the 1950's promoting quick meals for "The Woman In A Hurry". Danny likes to look at it (he calls it the "Silly Mama Book") because it features a drawing of a woman in a hat and gloves, her handbag tossed onto a kitchen chair putting a roast in the oven. Danny finds it hilarious that she didn't take her hat off first ("why is she in such a hurry?") but you know, she was probably just getting home from work. Or chores. Or taking the kid to the doctor. Or arranging home repairs. Or going to the mechanic. Or any of the other things women did (and do) that we seem to selectively ignore.

Eat your frozen mash (or don't) and leave poor Delia alone. But do try the Marguerite Patten Christmas Cake-just don't light a match anywhere near.