Tuesday, June 24, 2014

We be jah-min

This past weekend my friend Tracy and I made strawberry jam. We made three varieties: traditional, pickled and balsamic.
I chose to slow-roast the berries ahead of time to concentrate the flavor. At about 200 degrees, the roasting took about an hour and a half. I also chose to use Pomona's pectin since I wanted the berry-rich flavor to be the main attraction and to use as little sugar to sweeten as possible. For each jam, I added all of the ingredients together, brought them to a rolling boil for 2 minutes and processed in a water bath for 10 minutes.


Traditional
I used the Hood variety to make this jam. They are naturally sweet and really translate the berry flavor without much help.
  • 4 cups berries
  • 1 cup white sugar 
  • 2 T store-bought lemon juice*
  • 2 t each Pomona's pectin and calcium water
* Use store-bought lemon juice rather than fresh-squeezed lemons as the latter's acidity is guaranteed to be consistently at the right level while lemon's acidity varies slightly from lemon to lemon.

Pickled
This jam was loosely based on this recipe from Food 52, but I decided that I wanted more punch to my jam than what recipe called for - let the adventures in personal taste preferences begin! I am excited to try this sweet, salty, tangy concoction on toast and with some meat from the BBQ this summer.
  • 3 cups Seascape berries
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3-4 T each sherry and rice vinegar
  • 1.5 t crushed coriander seeds
  • Cardamom*
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 pinches chili flakes
  • 1.5 t each Pomona's pectin and calcium water
* I used sugar that I had ground seeds into previously rather than the amount the recipe called for - I would probably add more for the next go round.

Balsamic 
I love strawberry balsamic jam! It is like a grown up version of the jam I grew up with. I also added cracked pepper and thyme to this batch. Yum!
  • 4 cups Seascape berries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 
  • Cracked pepper to taste (I did about a quarter teaspoon)
  • Thyme leaves
  • 2 t each Pomona's pectin and calcium water

This project officially kicked off my 2014 canning season. Next up - raspberry jam!





Saturday, July 6, 2013

Garden-inspired summer fare

Last night, Mark and I had what we considered the perfect summer fare for dinner. Here's what we had:

Favas with lemon juice, olive oil, s & p, and Parmesan.

Lacinto kale purée with garlic and oil from smoked trout.

Zucchini ribbon salad with white balsamic vinegar, s & p, olive oil, and basil.

Cuppa farro salad with veggies from the garden and smoked salmon from our friends Sarah and Darian.

Fresh crusty loaf, tinned smoked trout and prosciutto.

Love a homespun summertime picnic with my sweets!

What is your favorite summertime fare?


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Springtime meals from the garden

I love this time of year in the garden. Everything is new, fresh and quickly changing.

This year we have a ton of leeks and garlic, and tonight we started to enjoy the bounty.

Mark used these leek scapes in tonight's stir fry - think texture similar to asparagus stems with a slight leek flavor. Delish.

Garnished with flowers from the sprouting broccoli we enjoyed earlier this spring.




Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Radish pesto

Last week Mark brought home baby radishes from the farmer's market. The radish were so small that it got me thinking - what can one do with radish greens?

It turns out that you can, among other things, make pesto with them! So, we did. And it was delicious.



I referenced this recipe on the Chocolate and Zucchini blog as a rough guideline for ingredients and amounts. Then I set about to make our pesto.


We had pistachios on hand, so I chose them for the nut portion of the pesto. After toasting them in a pan for about a minute I added them and the radish greens minus the stems to the Cuisinart and pulsed them a few times.

Once I had the right balance of nuts to radish green ratio I added all of the other ingredients - cheese, salt and lemon - and quickly pulsed them a few times. Then I drizzled olive oil in while pulsing a few more times until it was a thick paste. I tend to go easy on the olive oil initially since you can always add more if you want to later on.

There was about a cup left over which should be just enough for another spring pasta dish later this week!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Today was one of those rare sunny March days that made us all think that we've finally left the rain behind. While this isn't the case, the sun did get me thinking of summer, and summer means tomatoes!

This year I have selected a wide variety to grow - both to sell as starts, and in my own garden.

Starts for sale...
I am planning to grow and sell tomato starts again this year - four-inch pots for $2.50 each. They will be ready for pick up by mid to late May, depending on the weather.  I am taking orders right now, and will have some additional starts on-hand on a first come, first served basis.

As a reminder, determinate plants grow to a prescribed size and then produce fruit all at once which is great if you are canning or making sauce from them, while indeterminate will continue to grow and produce fruit the end of the growing season.

Cherry Tomatoes
  • Chocolate cherry: Plants are super productive and produce one inch chestnut and port-wine colored fruit with a delicious, multifaceted flavor.

    I grew these last year and was particularly impressed with how they ripened from green to beautiful little bursts of summer after picked in late October. When I took out the tomato vines there was cluster upon cluster of small green globes that I parked on a platter in the dining room to ripen.
    (Indeterminate, 70 days)
  • Sun gold: The unique flavor of this tomato gives it an almost "cult" following. The plants will be loaded with clusters of eight to fourteen tomatoes about an inch in diameter throughout the summer until frost. May be grown in containers with support. (Indeterminate, 57 days)
  • NEW! Sungreen garden hybrid: I am mainly growing these out of curiosity and to complete the rainbow of tomato colors for cherry tomatoes. They are supposed to be very sweet and are ripe when soft to the touch. I will have a very limited supply of these. (Indeterminate, 70 days)
  •  NEW! Yellow pear: These plants are described as being loaded with hundreds of small 1-2 inch fruits. (Indeterminate, 75-80 days)
  • NEW! Mini orange: A tasty little tomato that produces massive yields of salad-sized tomatoes all summer. These little 2 oz tomatoes are of the most intense orange color, they seem to be almost glowing.
Sauce/Paste Tomatoes
  • San marzano: This classic Italian paste tomato is considered by many to be the world's best! A low sugar, low-acid tomato, it has a high solids content and excellent flavor. The oblong red fruits are 3"-4" long and 1.5" wide. (Indeterminate, 80 days)
  • NEW! Heinz:  "A reliable, early-maturing standard processing tomato that produces ripened fruit all at the same time. Dependable producer even in cooler weather. (Determinate, 75-80 days).

    I have grown these before and had great success with them. This year I plan to grow nine of these babies in one of the troughs. 
  •  NEW! Tumbling tiger: As described by Territorial - This fun and exciting variety defies the boundaries of tomato standards. The bushy plants reach only about 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide. Despite its diminutive stature, it produces an uncanny amount of fruit! The 1 inch wide and 2 inch long plum shaped fruit have a fascinating coloration of green striping overlaying deep red. Meaty, tasty and juicy, it makes a wonderful snacking tomato, but is also great for salsas and processing. Tumbling Tiger's tight determinate habit lends itself to container planting or tight spacing in the garden.(Determinate, 70 days)

    I am excited about trying this little guy out!

Slicing Tomatoes
  • Brandywine: Amish heirloom with famous distinct flavor, grown since 1885. Fruits are 10 to 14 oz., dark reddish pink, tender and juicy. (Indeterminate, heirloom potato-leafed plants, 85 days)
  • Burbank slicing: Developed by Luther Burbank around 1915. Determinate and fairly early, Burbank Slicing is a heavy yielder of majestic 3-4 inch fruit. The fruit has a very deep red color and a traditional bold tomato flavor. This was the only variety that Mr. Burbank raised for canning. (Determinate, 75 days)
  • NEW! Red Siberian: I selected this one because of its short growing time - 55 days! - it is described as a Russian heirloom that delivers heavy yields and excellent flavor. Sounds like a great combo to me! (Indeterminate, 55 days)
  • Pineapple: Large, irregular yellow fruits are suffused with red streaks that radiate from a red interior. The flavor is rich and fruity. (Indeterminate, heirloom, 95 days)

    This lovely tomato is going back into my garden this year. I grew it two years ago and absolutely loved it - beautiful and tasty!
  • Gold medal: This whopper is unbelievably early for its size. The large yellow fruit have an interior blush of red and weigh over 1 pound, some reaching 2 pounds.  The plants grow well in cool nighttime temperatures. (75 days, Indeterminate)

    I loved these tomatoes last year! My bigun' is posted above, and the flavor was outstanding.
  • Japanese Black Trifele: Pear-shaped fruit has green-streaked shoulders, deepening to a burnished mahogany and finally to a darkened, nearly black base. The meaty interior has similar, opulent shades and an incomparable, almost indescribably complex and rich flavor to match. The fruit reach 2 1/2-3 inches long and wide and are very crack-resistant. Despite the name, this thoroughbred has its origins in Russia. (Indeterminate, heirloom potato-leafed plants, 80-85 days)

    I only harvested one fruit from my plant last year, which was disappointing, but this tomato continues to be one of my favorites!
  • NEW! Pink Oxheart: Beautiful big, oval, pointed fruit with a fine sweet old time flavor! (Indeterminate, 85 days)

    I read about these somewhere last year, and they were voted to be one of the tastiest tomatoes. I had to try them out!
  • Green Zebra: This unique tomato is very flavorful and sweet, yet has a zingy and well-balanced taste that isn't too acidic. Mature fruits are golden green with forest green stripes and reach 3 inches in diameter. 

    This is one of my absolute favorites. The green and yellow tiger striped fruit are eye catching and the the taste is to die for - oh, and they are super producers!
  • NEW! Grandma Oliver's Green: The packet describes this tomato as an attractive green heirloom tomato that produces large fruit whose skin is green with a yellow blush and a creamy lime interior - sweet, tangy flavor. (Indeterminate, 80 days)

    Last year I kept seeing these beautiful green slicers at the farmer's market. I couldn't bring myself to buy one since I had so many in our garden to eat, but I vowed to try growing them myself this year.
  • NEW! Black Krim: Dark red-purple fruit, rich sweet flavor. An heirloom from Russia with very unique looking, large fruit. (Indeterminate, 80 days)

    My sister introduced me to this variety a couple of years ago and it is a staple in my garden. Stunning to look at, delicious to eat.
  • NEW! Indigo rose: A new release from Oregon State University,  this tomato has deep purple skin where sunshine hits the fruit to red/orange where a leaf or stem shields an area from the sun. The fruits are excellent in salads and for snacking. (Indeterminate, 70 days)

    The purple skin piqued my curiosity.
About the above descriptions: I have culled these descriptions and images from their seed packets and catalogs – ask if you have additional questions.

In my garden...
This year's garden plan is a bit tomato-centric, but I want to have a large enough crop of saucing tomatoes to can (something) from my garden. I also want to try all of the wonderful slicing and cherry varieties. Here is the plan for the troughs and raised bed on the west side of the house:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pasta!

In the last two weeks I have made pasta three times - once rolled out by hand and twice with a hand cranked pasta machine.

I had NO IDEA how easy it is to do, and now I think I am addicted!

I used Jamie Oliver's recipe from his Naked Chef cookbook which has well written and easy to follow directions that are accompanied by great illustrative photos.

After trying it by hand and succeeding, I decided to be bold and make roasted squash ravioli for my book club!

First, I roasted the squash, skin and all, the night before, making sure it got caramelized.











Then, I whizzed it up with our immersion blender and added freshly ground nutmeg to taste, about a third of a cup of freshly grated Parmesan and an egg and put the whole mixture into a smallish ziplock bag in the fridge.




With the filling done, I set out to roll the pasta dough into thin sheets for the ravioli. This proved to take more time than skill.

The process involves repeatedly putting the dough through the pasta machine, folding it onto itself and then running it through again at a the next smaller setting.


My dough was initially a little wet, so I kept adding flour dusting to it each time I ran it through resulting in more elastic dough. I also cut the pasta into smaller strips as I got to the smaller settings so that the dough was easily manageable. As I got to the desired thickness I placed the finished pieces on cookie sheets that had wax paper on them and sprinkled semolina flour on each layer so the dough did not stick.

Once all of the dough was rolled out I placed the pieces of dough on the counter, used a brush to give it an egg wash, and then piped a small quarter-sized portion of the squash filling onto the dough. Then I folded the dough over itself and sealed the contents in by lightly pinching the dough together and removing any air pockets when possible.

This is the most important step since an improperly sealed ravioli is likely to come undone while cooking.

By the time the gals arrived for book club I have made the ravioli, but still needed to boil them for about a minute and a half and then coat them in melted butter and sage. Lucky for me, my guests are long-time friends and game for waiting a bit for the finished product.




I served the ravioli in batches, so it wasn't long until everyone had a batch of three followed another three.











I did miss the final step, a dusting of Parmesan, which would have rounded out the flavor.

Oh well, not bad for a first go of it!







I had left over pasta dough, so Mark brought home some ragu sauce from Tails & Trotters for Sunday night's dinner. Yum!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

So far, 2013 is shaping up to be a great year.

Okay, I know that we are merely one day in, but today Mark and I got to spend the day together doing things we love to do.

That may not sound like much, but since the opening of the Tails and Trotters shop I don't get to see a lot of him, and when I do, he is either distracted by a large work-related to do list, exhausted or both.

So, a whole day together = awesome.

So, what did we do?

I created two hachiya persimmon jams. One with just the persimmons (about 2.5 cups), juice of 1 lemon, a third of a cup of sugar, and 1 teaspoon each of calcium water and Pamona's quick pectin.

The other had these ingredients and about 1 teaspoon of ground up allspice and about an inch of mashed fresh ginger (I tied the ginger into cheese cloth so I could remove it when I felt the ginger level had reached the right level.

This was the first time I used the Pamona's pectin, and I am pretty excited about it since you can make lower sugar jams with it that really allow the fruit flavor to shine through.

It was also my first experience making persimmon anything, and I have to say YUM!

I also used about a  cup of some apple sauce I made the other day to make an applesauce cake (Joy of Cooking) which is very good. We plan to move it into our regular dessert rotation, so I will freeze 1 cup portions for easy accessibility.

For his part, Mark whipped up steaks with a fabulous wine reduction sauce, green beans with a lemon Dijon sauce and tater tots (yes, tots). Delish!

Yep, so far 2013 is shaping up just fine!

Next on the canning docket? Why, I have some pink grapefruits and I plan to marmalade those bitches up next weekend!

Happy New Year!