Yesterday we went to pick early season peaches lest we miss them while we are away for the next couple weeks. I've never done much canning but I decided it's high time to learn and the success of the blueberry syrup spurred me on. Yesterday I decided to try a batch of peach butter. I bought a large water bath canner and a food mill . I guess I didn't wash the food mill thoroughly enough as some grease was still on it as I was grinding up the peaches so the first batch had to be discarded. The second batch turned out very nicely and smells lovely.
I made an interesting blueberry bread yesterday. I wanted to clear some things out of the fridge since we are heading out next week to drive the boy to Missouri for college and we'll be away two weeks. This bread finished off a bag of Trader Joe's blueberrys and used some of our freshly picked ones as well as cleaning out the sour cream and creme fraiche and then helped use up a few more eggs. For dinner we had quesadillas with onion, zucchini, peppers and andoille sausage and a side of tomatoes. Everything but the sausage and tortillas came from the farmers market, yum!
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
7 ounces flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cake spice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cream together butter, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 egg. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cake spice. Add dry mixture to creamed mixture and combine thoroughly. Transfer to a 10-inch springform pan and spread across the bottom.
Pour the blueberries over the dough and shake the pan to distribute evenly. Combine the remaining ingredients until well mixed and pour over the top. Bake about an hour or until edges are lightly browned and the custard is set. Cool completely.
I have really enjoyed the chicken from our CSA share, it's just head and shoulders above any other chicken I've eaten. This week I made a chicken marsala with it that was very tasty indeed. We received breasts this time still attached to bone and still attached to each other so I attempted to remove each half. It was pretty sloppy but it's just one of those things that takes practice and since I was chopping the meat up in the end it didn't really matter. Next time I'll keep those bones and make some chicken stock with them but I didn't think of that this time.
I was pleasantly surprised to find very affordable lobster at the farmers market this week so we brought one home for Daniel. I'd wanted to try grilling one like I've seen on some of the cooking shows. I had to get Jason to dispatch him since I'm still on light duty with the shoulder until Friday next. We also pulled out some CSA beef for a little Thai salad with more farmers market bounty.
My hair has been fairly unruly since my last haircut which turned out less layered than I like. I've tried several wrangling gadgets from the store with zero success so yesterday I finally got around to testing out this pattern which has been on my todo list for quite some time. I think if I make it again I need a light interfacing so the seam is not quite so visible but it fits nicely and it definitely tames the hair so I can see what I am doing.
Yesterday was a whirlwind of activity between baking and gardening. I started off the morning making blueberry pancakes then moved on to a double batch of sandwich bread followed closely by a batch of focaccia (apparently it's been a long time since I posted this recipe)..
Rosemary Garlic Focaccia
1 3/4 cups warm water (between 110 and 115 degrees F.)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
5 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup garlic and rosemary infused olive oil
1 tablespoon salt, extra for garnish
Preheat the oven to 475 F. Mix the water and sugar in a large non-reactive bowl and allow to stand ten minutes or until foamy. Add oil and three cups of the flour and blend with a wooden spoon. Add salt and as much of the remaining flour as needed to make a smooth soft dough, knead until smooth directly in the bowl. Cover bowl tightly with saran wrap and allow to stand for about 45 minutes or until doubled in size. Sprinkle two rimless cookie sheets generously with cornmeal. Punch the dough down and cut in half. On a floured surface press out each half, one at a time into an oval about 3/8 to 1/2-inch thick. Allow to rise 15 to 20 minutes. Dent the surface deeply all over with the tips of your fingers. Brush the surface generously with infused olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary and kosher salt. Bake at 475 F for 12- 15 minutes or until dark golden brown.
To infuse the olive oil, bring 1 cup oil to a simmer. Add 4 crushed garlic cloves and several stems of rosemary. Simmer 3 to 5 minutes then turn off heat and let stand for an hour. Strain and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. The strained rosemary can be used to top the bread.
I also made a giant dent in my garden todo list with some help from Jason. I potted up some things for Daniel's dorm room, as per his request and then Jason dug iris, coreopsis and rudbeckia for me to pot up for the ride south as a care package for my sister's garden at her new house. I cleared out the peas since they are about done making space for the butternut squash to climb on the trellis and while I was putting the pea vines in the compost I spotted what looked sort of like an avocado tree sprouting there. I grabbed a pot and a trowel and soon unearthed a determined (if a bit squiggly) mango tree. He does have pretty shiny leaves so if he survives the next few months he can become a houseplant.
This week really flew by and I realized when I downloaded my pictures this morning that it's a bit of a jumble. I made falafel this week but I can't recall which day. I used the rest of the chickpeas from Tuesday's dinner and whizzed them up in the food processor with cilantro, onion, bread crumbs, cumin, salt and pepper, and oil then baked them off at 400 F for 30 minutes. They were good but a bit crumbly so I'll have to work on that again sometime. Meanwhile the garden is loving the regular rain and the daylilies continue to entertain. At Daniel's request I made a blueberry coffeecake which Jason and I embellished with blueberry syrup.
I'm much more concerned with eating local vs. eating "organic" or "naturally grown" since those terms have been so diluted of late. This means the food arrives at my table with minimal transportation and relatively quickly after harvest making it fresher and more nutritious. Most of our local vendors utilize sustainable agricultural practices that represent the original intent behind the terms organic and locally grown and that makes me happy too. It doesn't mean I'll never eat a banana or use flour or spices and things but it does meant that I choose local when that's an option and I try to do the bulk of my cooking with local foods. Last night's dinner was probably one of the most "local" meals we've ever eaten. Everything except the salt and pepper came from the farmers market and I could really taste the differences.
The fish vendor at the farmers market must not have a lot of regulars because it didn't take her long to start recognizing us. Yesterday she told us we should definitely let her know if we had any special requests and she'd try to have those for us when she comes. On rainy days (which there've been a lot of this year) she brings a much smaller selection so it can really make a difference. This week we bought a delicious wild salmon which Jason grilled for me. It fit in nicely with the recipe I'd chose. We have fresh green beans and tomatoes from the market, local chickpeas, toasted baguette from the market and our lovely salmon topped with a yogurt dressing that is well worth repeating.
Yogurt dressing for fish
1 cup plain strained yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
juice of half a lemon
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix all ingredients and chill until serving time.
This is the second year Emma has come to visit and the second year I've had homework to finish once she's gone. She spent the night at a friend's house one night last week and while she was there I got busy with the robe so that when we got home the next day I had all the pieces cut out. Later that evening we started putting it together but didn't quite finish. I'd hoped to knock it out on Friday but since I wasn't allowed use of my right arm it had to wait. Yesterday afternoon I made good progress and it's now nearly done.
I've learned from past experience that 2 gallons of blueberries in the freezer isn't enough to make it through the winter so Jason and I went out again for a second batch. We're now nicely stocked and I even had enough to make a batch of blueberry syrup. These were a different variety than what I picked with the girls, it's nice to have an assortment to try.
Isn't that how the rhyme goes? Yesterday morning I had a followup visit with the orthopedist to get my MRI results. They didn't find much (hints of tendonitis etc. but nothing major) so he opted to do another cortizone injection in hopes of eliminating the pain so that I can get on with strength building at PT and get back that last bit of range of motion. That meant I wasn't to use my right arm for 24 hours which made for a dull day for Emma. We'd planned to bake a blueberry pie to go with dinner after her mom arrived. Emma baked the pie virtually entirely on her own with just some direction from me. This is a recipe that worked nicely for me last year. Usually my pies come out runny and don't set up well so I tend to avoid fruit pie.
For the crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes (cold)
1/2 cup almonds
Pulse almonds in the bowl of a food processor until finely chopped. Add remaining ingredients except for water and pulse until butter is incorporated and mixture is crumbly. With the processor running, drizzle in ice water one tablespoon at a time until dough comes together in a ball. Wrap tightly in cling film and chill 1 hour.
Set aside about 1/3 of the dough for the top. Roll out remaining dough on a floured board and transfer to pie plate, pushing it in a bit to allow for shrinkage during baking. Roll out reserved dough and cut into lattice strips or desired shapes for top of pie. Return top and bottom crusts to the fridge while you mix the filling.
For the filling:
1 quart blueberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
Stir together all ingredients except butter. Transfer berry mixture to the pie plate and top with butter cubes. Bake pie at 375 for 30 minutes, arrange lattice or cutouts on top of pie and return to oven for a further 30 minutes or until filling is bubbly. Cool completely before serving.
Yesterday we ventured in "to town" to visit the New England Aquarium. It's not really my favorite aquarium, having been spoiled at the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but it's been many years since I've visited so I wanted to give it a second chance. We had a lightspeed tour but it was just as well since the fire alarm went off and cut our visit short anyway. We grabbed a bite at the Summer Shack before heading home.
Last year when Emma visited a friend's daughter joined us on a few of the days and the two got along very nicely. We borrowed her again this year and yesterday morning the three of us made slippers. It took a bit of fiddling to enlarge the pattern to the right sizes for them but once that was done these were a breeze to put together. I may have to do a pair for myself because they'd be great for traveling as they fold up quite flat. I used remnants of flannel and fleece. On the top we put the fleece on the outside and on the bottom we put the flannel on the outside thinking it would be a bit more hard-wearing and the fleece would make for a cushy insole.
It was Jason's birthday yesterday so the girls helped me make a peanut butter tart and we arranged his gifts on the bed awaiting his return from work. I love peanut butter but I'm not a tremendous fan of peanut butter desserts however, I have to say this one was really delicious. It's great for summer since it's a custard and you don't have to heat up the house with baking.
An email from Tougas Farm yesterday morning reminded me that if I wanted strawberries this season I'd better high-tail it over there and get picking. The siren call of fresh berries was strong enough to over-ride common sense and I managed to pick 9 pounds before my sore back forced me to stop. Most of them I sliced and mixed with a bit of sugar and lemon juice. They are now safely stowed in the freezer for a bit of summer in winter later this year.
In the afternoon I made a quick batch of lavender soap with some ground apricot kernel as exfoliant. I've never tried adding that before so I had to guess how much and when to add it but it worked out perfectly.
For dinner I pulled some of those veggie burgers out of the freezer. I let them thaw for a few hours and then heated them in the oven at 400F for 15 minutes, they were perfect. We had some fries and farmers market beets as accompaniment. For dessert I came up with a dish using puff pastry that we quite enjoyed.
Strawberry Mascarpone Pastry
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup cinnamon sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
6 ounces mascarpone
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Grand marnier
3 cups ripe strawberries, hulled
Preheat the oven to 425F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and lay out the puff pastry on these. Spread with butter and dock with a fork (poke holes all over so pastry will stay flat). Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 425F until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool on baking sheet. Mix together mascarpone, cream, salt, vanill and Grand marnier until smooth. Cut puff pastry into quarters and serve topped with mascarpone mixture and then strawberries. Serves 8.
For many years Daniel's favorite food was corn dogs. I used to make them myself so we could have something slightly healthier. A close second favorite was shrimp and one night as I was making corn dogs he asked if I'd do shrimp ones the next time. We aren't the only ones to come up with the idea. Recently he saw this over on Food Network which reminded him that I hadn't done our version in quite awhile. I was still not able to chew so we had to wait a few weeks but here they are.
Julie's Corn Shrimp
1 pound Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons canola oil, more for frying
1/2 teaspoon salt
cornstarch for dusting
Pat shrimp dry and dust lightly in cornstarch. (This will help the batter to stick) Mix together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, mustard, and salt until thoroughly combined. Stir together egg, milk and canola oil and then fold into the dry mixture just until mixed. Put about 3 inches of oil into a deep saucepan and heat until a sprinkle of flour sizzles. Add shrimp to the batter and spoon them into the hot oil one at a time, browning each side well. Slice the first one open to be sure it's getting fully cooked, it should be opaque all the way through. Fry in batches of 4 or 5 and drain on a rack. Serve immediately.
This same batter can be used for corn dogs. We skip the sticks but it's easy enough to add them if you wish.
My first skein of the Corriedale yarn is dry and twisted up into a soft little skein. I'm continuing to spin at a fairly slow pace. I took advantage of the break in the rain to pick some peas yesterday for a nice garnish on the dinner salad. They are predicting a mosquito explosion after such a rainy June and I believe it. I got at least three bits just in the few minutes it took to pick a handful of peas. Light up those citronella torches folks!
I spent the morning yesterday working on getting my first two bobbins of the Corriedale singles plied. I have about 320 yards of lovely 2-ply with just a touch of extra twist. It measures 16 WPI for what it's worth. I think that's a very subjective measurements but if I do it every time I spin it'll gradually come to have some meaning for me. This feels like sportweight to me and I have vague notions that the Katharine Hepburn Cardigan might a nice pattern for it.
Part of our meat csa share this month was ribs. They baked up beautifully and paired nicely with crab cakes, fresh corn and German potato salad. Daniel specifically requested the chocolate pomegranate torte we'd had at Christmas so I made that again. I had to thicken the pomegranate jelly with cornstarch instead of cranberries but otherwise stuck to the original recipe.
2 pounds pork ribs
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablepsoons half-sharp paprika
Preheat the oven to 200F. Mix spices thoroughly in a small bowl and then sprinkle ribs liberally on both sides with the rub. Bake on a foil lined sheet at 200F for 3 hours. Now crisp them up on the grill 5-10 minutes per side, basting with your favorite vinegar sauce if desired.
The chicken we get in our meat CSA share is the best chicken I've ever eaten. I had planned to make a tandoori meal this week but I was too pooped on the day so I went with fricassee instead. The peas are from our garden and the other veg came from the farmers market. It was very odd to make this wintery comfort food in July but it was a wet chilly day. Not for long, I hear the sun is on it's way!
1 1/2 pounds bone in chicken
1/4 cup flour
salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large sweet onion, sliced
2 carrots, sliced into rounds
2 pattypan squash, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup English peas
hot cooked rice
Heat a Dutch oven over high heat with 1 tablespoon oil. Shake chicken with flour, salt and pepper in a bag to coat then add to the pan and brown on each side 4 or 5 minutes. Add onion to the pan and work it under the chicken and cook 3 or 4 minutes or until the onion begins to caramelize. Stir in chicken broth then sprinkle carrots, thyme, and squash over the top of the chicken. Cover tightly and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in peas. Serve over rice.
Most of the past month has been just drizzly and dreary but now it's started to really rain in earnest. I pulled out the wheel again and spun up a second bobbin of the corriedale wool. I really like to do 3-ply yarn but I'm planning to do 2-ply with this to make things a little easier on my back, shoulder and hands this summer. It's also good to mix things up now and then so that I don't get stuck in a rut.
After reading Lolly's post about veggie burgers and slaw I decided to try again to find a veggie burger recipe I like. I followed her slaw recipe fairly closely except that I used a red bell pepper and added a carrot. I had tahini leftover from earlier in the week so that was a shoe in. I changed the burger recipe pretty substantially because I knew I wanted to base mine on brown rice and I had some beans with zucchini and onion leftover from quesadillas Monday night. I also wanted enough burgers to put several away in the freezer for another day.
Julie's Veggie Burgers
3 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups cooked beans, zucchini and onion, mashed
1 cup shredded carrots
1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
2 large green onions, chopped
salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
1 tablespoon half-sharp paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 large eggs
3 cups fresh bread crumbs (or as much as is needed to make the mixture hold it's shape)
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix gently until well combined. Shape into a dozen patties and place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake 30 minutes or until firm to the touch.
Now that we can go to the farmer's market again and the fish vendor has become a regular there, we are eating fish on Tuesdays. This week we asked what was local and bought some delicious sole. We also found some lovely red and golden beets. I was surprised to discover that I really don't like white rice anymore but I made it so that I'd have leftovers to make fried rice for Daniel.
For the most part, I cook during the week and Jason cooks on the weekends but there are a few things that are exceptions to the rule. Jason generally does the grilling (except for pulled pork which is my dish) and I generally do any pastry type activities. When he decided to bake a pie this weekend that meant that I did the crust for him. We don't bake pie very often and I think it shows. I have some crust shields but I forgot to put them on until quite late. It seems as if the oven temp in recipes is always too low in our hands so it takes much longer for the filling to get hot and bubbly. I forgot to make enough dough for a double crust so we just had some scraps on top there. All that said, it was really delicious!
I'm also beginning to knit a little bit again. In preparation for knitting with the group again I've cast on a mindless and not secret knitting project. This is Socks that Rock in the Nodding Violets colorway on size one needles. The pattern is Simple Skyp Socks.
QuilterSal wrote to me with some great tips for hand quilting so things are improving already. After her helpful tips I stopped at the store and picked up some betweens (shorter needles for hand quilting) and a new thimble to try. I'm about 3/4 of the way around with my first row of quilting. A bit of research informed me that this should be a "stitch in the ditch" row so I've moved it a shade closer to the applique, after this the rows will be space about 3/8-inch apart. Thanks for the tips Sally!
We did brave the rain on Tuesday to make it to the grand opening of the farmers market this season. We had some lovely halibut on Tuesday, some fresh spinach and goat cheese ravioli on Wednesday and last night we had beets and broccoli with our baked potatoes. I roasted off some garlic along with the potatoes for the most amazing baked potato ever. Why didn't I think of that sooner? While the potatoes baked I pinched off a little catnip for the girls who were blissed out, except for Gabby who we swear thinks she's a dog. She wasn't interested in the catnip at all.
Yesterday we headed into Boston for an afternoon Red Sox game but the MFA was having another open house so we planned to visit there in the morning. As has become usual for us we walked from the MFA through the fens to Fenway and visited the rose garden as we passed by. The cool rainy spring has made this the loveliest visit to the rose garden yet. Of course, the cool rainy weather also made for a very chilly damp ball game which we did not manage to finish. The chill in the air really made my jaw ache so we left int he middle of the 7th inning and beat a hasty retreat home via the liquor store and Whole Foods. We had a really fantastic seafood dinner complete with clams and scallops braised in white wine with garlic, shallots and tomatoes. I think that will be visiting our table more often! You can find a full set of photos over on Flickr here.
On Thursday I had the first stage of a dental implant done in the space where the cracked problem tooth used to reside. I now have a screw installed in the bone and we must wait three months to see if it bonds with the bone properly. Every step of the way since the cracked crown back in November I've been told it shouldn't hurt more than a day or two and every time that's been wrong but this time it was really true. It sounds pretty awful but it was over in 20 minutes and there is minimal swelling and pain. I can't brush or chew on that side for two weeks so I'm starting off with quite soft food while the gum and bone begin to heal. Gabby has appointed herself nursemaid and I'm eating mushy stuff like yogurt, pudding and this dish I made for lunch which is pureed potato, broccoli and shallot with a bit of creme fraiche mixed in. The worst part is the antibacterial rinse that mucks up your taste buds so things taste wonky but it's only for a few weeks, not bad at all.