Hot Water Bath Need Not Apply

>> Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Every year at harvest time I always have these high hopes of turning the seasons bounty into something that can be put on a shelf and enjoyed when nothing local is to be found. In other words, canning peaches, making pickles or turning strawberries into jam. I get out my cookbooks, find some amazing recipes, and then get to the part about a water bath and a seal on the jar. Ahh, maybe next year I think to myself. The whole canning process just seems like such a hassle. And it is a hassle when your trying to get dinner on the table or give the kids a bath. Or when your so tired at the end of the day that all you want to do is veg out on the couch in front of Greys Anatomy with a nice hot cup of tea (or bowl of ice cream).
So even though I am not at the point in my life where I can devote hours to preserving the summers best, I can still make one heck of a raspberry jam, and here's how!

Raspberry Jam
adapted from Nigella Lawson

2 cups fresh raspberries
2 cups granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Put the raspberries and the sugar into separate pie plates. Put the pie plates in the oven for about 25-30 minutes until they are both very hot. Carefully remove them from the oven and pour the hot sugar over the hot raspberries. Stir together with a wooden spoon, and as you do the sugar and the raspberries will become one. Pour this amazing jam into clean jars and let cool before storing in the fridge. Alternatively, after mixing the raspberries and sugar you can strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve if you want to remove the seeds.

Sooo good with popovers fresh from the oven. Look for this recipe in my next post!


Raspberries and 'Apples For Jam'

>> Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Roses are Red
and Raspberries are too,
Did you know that they
belong to the same family?
Well they do!

Sorry for the rhyming, just something I wanted to share with you all. I guess that explains why every time I smell a rose it makes me think of raspberries. And don't worry...I am not thinking of becoming a poet!

So you may have figured out by now this post is about raspberries! In particular, the raspberries we picked from Rob and Sally's garden. They were amazingly sweet and juicy and picked at their prime! Cant ask for more than that!

I thought this would also be a good time to tell you about a new cookbook I bought since one of the recipes will be taken from it. Cookbooks to me are like novels or memoirs. One of my favorite things to do is to sit down with a comfy blanket and a good cookbook and read it straight through cover to cover. Well this cookbook is one that you can do that with. It is filled with childhood memories and beautiful pictures and wonderful drawings made by the authors children. Its a cookbook I had to have. And I have to tell you it was love at first sight! The cover had me at hello! I bought the cookbook for the cover alone! Actually, I should say, Cyn and I were just browsing at Borders on a kid free night and she must have seen me longing for it because when we got out to the truck to leave it was sitting on the front seat. I know, pretty nice-huh?

Anyway, its called Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros. The recipes are very kid friendly and not to complicated. The chapters are arranged by colors, I love that. All the red foods are together, the browns, the greens, and so forth. Towards the end of the book there are chapters called monochrome and Multicolor.

The recipe I chose to make is from the chapter called Stripes. It is Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream. The best part about it is you don't need an ice cream maker to make it. I also made Vanilla Shortbread from Nigella Lawsons Forever Summer cookbook. The two together were awesome. Can you say Vanilla shortbread Raspberry Ripple ice cream sandwiches?

Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream
from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros

Ice cream
1 Cup milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Raspberry Puree
3 T. superfine sugar
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 cup water
2 cups raspberries

For the ice cream, heat the milk gently in a saucepan. Whisk the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extract together in a bowl until they are smooth and creamy. Just before the milk comes to a boil, remove it from the heat, and whisk a ladleful into the eggs to acclimatize them. Whisk in another ladleful and then pour the eggs and milk back into the saucepan. Turn down the heat to its lowest , and cook for a minute or so, whisking all the time, just to cook the eggs through. Remove from the heat, whisk in the cream, and pour into a bowl that has a lid. Leave to cool completely, whisking now and then while it cools.

Put the lid on the bowl and put it in the freezer. After an hour, remove the bowl from the freezer and give the mix an energetic whisk with a hand whisk or an electric mixer and then put it back in the freezer. Whisk again after another couple of hours. Put it back in the freezer until it is nearly firm.

Meanwhile, make the raspberry puree. Put the sugar, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of water in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Simmer over low hear, for about 5 minutes until it has reduced a bit. Take it off the heat, add the raspberries, and then puree until smooth. Strain the puree through a fine sieve to catch all the seeds. Cool completely.

Swirl the puree through the ice cream with a spoon. Make a few more swirls, folds and pirouettes, but no so many that the puree starts to blend in with the ice cream. Cover the bowl again and return to the freezer to set completely.

Alternatively, pour the ice cream mixture into an ice cream machine and churn following the manufacturer's instructions. When it is ready, transfer to a freezer container, and then add the raspberry puree and make your swirls.

Take out of the freezer a few minutes before serving so that it is not rock hard.

Makes 6 cups

Vanilla Shortbread
From Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson

2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, preferably Italian 00
2/3 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons very soft unsalted butter
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
vanilla or ordinary granulated sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 325 F

Put the confectioners' sugar, flour and cornstarch into the bowl of a food processor* fitted with the metal blade and give them a quick blitz (just to save you sifting, which is my most-hated job in the kitchen) before adding the butter along with the vanilla seeds you've scraped out of a bean. (I find the easiest way to do this is by cutting the bean in half across, and then splitting each short half lengthwise and prising out the seeds with the point and edge of a sharp knife. Don't even think of throwing the seeded bits of bean away: stash them in a jar of granulated sugar to use next time a recipe requires vanilla sugar.)

Process again until the soft mixture coheres and begins to form a ball, loosely clumping around the blade. Turn this out onto a jelly roll pan** and press to form an even (or as even as you can make it) layer, using fingers or the back of a spoon, or both. Be patient: I promise you it will fit smoothly.

Using the tip of a sharp knife cut the pressed-out shortbread into fingers. I make two incisions lengthwise - i.e. to form three rows- and then make ten cuts down 0 so that you end up with eleven fingers per row. Obviously, the aim should be to cut at regular intervals, but don't start getting your ruler out. Just go by eye: uniformity is the province of the conveyor belt not of home cooking. Use the tines of a fork to make little holes in each marked-out biscuit: I press down about tree times, diagonally, on each finger.

Now that you've pressed, incised, and punctured, slide the jelly roll pan into the oven an bake for about 20 - 25 minutes, by which time the shortbread will be pale still, but not doughy. Expect a little goldenness around the edges, but shortbread should be not crisp but melting. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes or so, before removing, with a palette knife and your fingers, to a wire rack. Sprinkle with sugar and leave them to cool completely before storing in a tightly lidded tin.

Makes 33 fingers.

*I don't own a food processor so I just blended everything with a pastry blender.

**I used a 13x9" pan.


A Meal Fit For A (Vegetarian) Queen

>> Tuesday, October 16, 2007

We don't often eat a meal with out some kind of meat or poultry. I'm not sure why, its a perfectly healthy way to eat. But after getting back from Rob and Sally's garden, meat was the last thing on my mind. We had so many wonderful (and Perishable) fruits and veggies that I knew if I didn't use them right away I would be sorry.

So this is the amazingly fresh meal we had after getting back from the garden. I cannot explain to you how wonderful everything tasted. So fresh, so tender, so incredible!

We had these huge potatoes that I threw in the oven for 1 1/2 hours at 400 degrees. The skin was crispy and the insides were creamy and golden. I served them with sour cream mixed with fresh chives from my garden and crumbled up bacon bits (OK so we didn't go all vegetarian).

I made a salad using the tender lettuce leaves, steamed green beans and the cherry tomatoes.
I made a basil vinaigrette to go with it and shaved some fresh Parmesan cheese over the top. Mmmmm so good!

But I have to say, the broccoli was the best part. I found this amazing recipe for broccoli on Epicurious. It was so good I'm not sure I will have broccoli any other way from now on.

Broccoli With Toasted Garlic Bread Crumbs

1 1/2 lb broccoli, trimmed and cut into 2- to 3-inch-wide florets (5 inches long)
4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup panko (Japanese coarse bread crumbs)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest

Put 1 inch of water in a 5-quart wide heavy pot, then put a steamer basket inside pot and bring water to a boil. Add broccoli and steam, covered, until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.Meanwhile, cook garlic in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in panko, pepper, and salt, then increase heat to moderate and cook, stirring occasionally, until crumbs are golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in zest.Transfer broccoli with tongs to crumb mixture in skillet and toss to coat.

So that is our meal straight from the garden. I have to say, I wish I could eat like this everyday.

Dessert was pretty good too. So good I thought I would save it for its own post. But I will give you a hint: It has something to do with raspberries!


Squealing Potatoes And Garden Candy

>> Sunday, October 14, 2007

Did you know that a potato squeals when it is stabbed with a shovel? Well according to my uncle Rob it does!

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in October, a little warmer than a typical fall day in New England. The sky was blue and we were ready to pick. We were going to my uncle Robs and aunt Sally's garden. The goal here was to help Rob pick vegetables, teach the boys (and us) a thing or two about gardening and bring a few things home to create with. Sounds like a perfect day to me. And it was!

First thing the boys got to do was collect chicken eggs. They seemed like old pros. Both of them got right in the chicken house and started collecting. We did have to give Abe a few lessons about handling the eggs gently, scrambled eggs are good but not before you are going to cook them! Caleb counted 21 eggs and Abe only cracked 2.
There is nothing like fresh chicken eggs in the morning. The color of the yoke is so much more vibrant than those in a grocery store. Two very fresh eggs poached, whole wheat toast, my favorite breakfast!

Our next lesson, digging potatoes! And yes, part of that lesson was that potatoes squeal when you stab them. Just ask Caleb, he swears he heard it. In order to keep your potatoes from squealing you've got to dig down deep enough as not to harm any of the spuds as they are being harvested. A lesson Caleb will not soon forget!
Here we all are digging potatoes. Cyndee was the official photographer for the day! Thanks Cyn!

Here Caleb is trying his hand at harvesting them himself! Not bad for a beginner! This was around the time Abraham scolded Rob for getting his Mamas shoes dirty! That's my boy, always watching out for his mama!

A pretty good harvest of potatoes that day.

Here's Abraham picking some broccoli shoots. You have to be very focused to get the job done right! You get broccoli shoots after the initial harvest of the broccoli head. They are delicious.

Next we headed for the tomatoes and the raspberries. I think these were the sweetest tomatoes I ever put in my mouth. I cannot remember the official name of them but Rob referred to them as garden candy, a very fitting name. I'm still not sure if Caleb knew he was actually eating a tomato or if he really thought it were candy. Abe on the other hand was not fooled. He would not even take a bite!

Even one of the chickens was able to snag some garden candy.

The raspberries were equally delicious! They nearly melted in my mouth.

Here I am picking some baby lettuce leaves. It was the most tender lettuce I ever ate!

We also picked beans that day and the boys helped Rob harvest a gourd that will dry out and be turned into a bird house or feeder! We had a wonderful day at Rob and Sally's garden. Someday I hope to have a garden as beautiful and as plentiful as theirs. But the best part about it was that I got to take home some of the freshest and tastiest food we have ever had. I will share the wonderful meal we had and all the recipes in my next post.

And now for a little fun after all that hard work!

Thank you Rob for inviting us to your garden. We had a wonderful time!


The Never Ending tomatoes...

>> Tuesday, October 09, 2007

I still had more tomatoes left after slooooow roasting about 15lbs, so I decided to make my own tomato sauce, something I have never done before. Oh, I have made tomato sauce before but only using canned tomatoes, never fresh. The thought of peeling all those tomatoes never sounded like too much fun, opening a can was much easier! But I thought I would give it a go instead of letting the fruit flies have their way with them.
It really wasn't that bad. After blanching the tomatoes in boiling water for a few minutes the skins came right off. Who knew???

The smell of the blanched peeled tomatoes instantly brought me back to being a child at my grandfathers house on the pond. I must have done this same thing with him, not remembering until years later when the fresh smell of tomatoes filled my own kitchen. It is amazing how a certain smell can transport you into another place in time.

The recipe I used was adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe for fresh tomato sauce but I decided to kick it up bit and I added fresh basil and sausage towards the end. It really was delicious. We have used it on pasta (the obvious choice) and also for homemade sausage pizza. And we still had enough to freeze for a cold winter day when the only fresh tomatoes around are those pale pink ones that should not even be called tomatoes. Maybe we could rename them, hard mealy flavorless fruit. Wonder who I should talk to about this?

Anyway here's the recipe:

Fresh Tomato Sauce With Sausage And Basil
adapted from Martha Stewart

10 pounds beefsteak or plum tomatoes (or a combination)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely grated
6 garlic cloves, smashed
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
couple good hand fulls fresh basil
1-2 lbs sweet Italian sausage casing removed

Bring a large pot of water to a boil; meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water. With a paring knife, core tomatoes, and score an X on the bottoms. Working in batches, carefully lower tomatoes into boiling water; when skins begin to split (30 to 60 seconds), use a slotted spoon to transfer tomatoes to ice water.
When tomatoes are cool, remove skins (use a paring knife, if necessary), and discard. Finely chop tomatoes.
In a Dutch oven (or other large pot), heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add tomato paste; cook, stirring, until slightly darkened, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes, and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and saucy, about 1 1/2 hours. Season with salt and pepper.
In the mean time, remove casing from sausage and cook over medium heat in olive oil until crispy and crumbly. After the sauce has simmered for 1 1/2 hours add the cooked sausage and fresh basil. Simmer for a while longer just to let the flavors blend.Use immediately, or freeze in airtight containers up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature or in microwave before warming.


The Quest Continues...

>> Friday, October 05, 2007

So here is another attempt at finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie. The recipe came from and is from Gourmet magazine. I followed the recipe exactly. I have to say , from my first chocolate chip cookie post, things are definitely looking up. The recipe called for 2 sticks of melted butter, which gave the cookies really good, buttery flavor.
I liked the texture. The cookies have crispy, buttery edges yet a nice chewy center. All very important things in a good chocolate chip cookie.
The only issue I had with these cookies is that they were still a bit to thin (well Cyn had more of a problem with this than I did). The recipe says to scoop the batter onto cookie sheets and flatten with moistened palm of hand. Well I realized halfway through that if I skipped this part the cookies might not come out as flat. And I was right, by not flattening the dough the cookies come out a little rounder and a bit softer in the middle.
Now I realize everyone's idea of the perfect chocolate chip cookie is different. I am just trying to find the perfect one for our house. I do recommend, however, that everyone make this a priority in their own home. You should see the smiles when I pull the first batch out of the oven.
Now even though these were really good, the search is not over. There are so many different recipes out there, I'm not sure it will ever be over.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
From Gourmet magazine 2003

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (16 oz)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or wax paper.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.
Beat together butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Lightly beat 1 egg with a fork in a small bowl and add 1 3/4 tablespoons of it plus 2 remaining whole eggs to butter mixture, beating with mixer until creamy, about 1 minute. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture until just blended, then stir in chips.
Scoop 1/4 cup batter for each cookie, arranging mounds 3 inches apart, on 2 baking sheets. Flatten mounds into 3-inch rounds using moistened palm of your hand. Form remaining cookies on additional sheets of parchment.
Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until golden, 13 to 15 minutes*. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool and continue making cookies in same manner using cooled baking sheets.

* In my oven they only took 9 minutes. This gave them a nice soft texture.


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