Go Big Or Go Home

I have about a million things I want to share with you. Recipes, photos, ideas. I’ve been working on Thanksgiving and summer at the same time, and a million other things.

I’ve been making jam, and getting ready for pickles season to begin in earnest. I’ve been drinking a lot of delicious smoothies and unsweetened coffee. I’ve been working on my tan and somehow finding time to read the books I’m obsessing over (while brushing my teeth, while stirring the jam, etc.).

I’ve been cooking a lot of recipes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty, and it’s going a long ways towards building the anticipation for our upcoming trip to Israel. I like to think it’s what’s been keeping me on track with getting my eating habits back in order. I’m also hoping that Lilli decides she really likes Israeli food because right now she is being a super picky toddler and it’s Driving. Me. Crazy.

I’ve been berry picking at least once a week for the last 3 weeks with quarts of frozen berries to show for it, and I’ve been harvesting fennel pollen like crazy so far with little success. Not sure what’s up with that.

The truck has been taking a lot of my time. Between getting it all gutted and looking at appliances, scouting the markets looking for likely vendors for our raw ingredients, catering weddings, and recipe testing, it’s been a busy month indeed. I hope you don’t hate me for neglecting you, but a very wise friend once said to me “never apologize” so I’m not going to. I’m just going to tell you that it will all be worth it in the end.

Those tomatoes? They are the best. We served them at the wedding we catered last weekend (for which I also did the cakes–yes, 4 of them–and am kicking myself for not taking time to photograph). I got the recipe from Ashley Rodriguez who writes Not Without Salt, and it’s the best way to eat heirloom tomatoes that I have ever come across in my whole life. I can’t wait for all the tomatoes in the front yard to start getting ripe so I can devour them bathed in fragrant vanilla. They’ll probably all start getting ripe while we’re in Israel so my sister–who’s house-sitting for us– will be the lucky one who gets the first harvest.

This week James (my biz partner) and I put up about 40 lb worth of nectarine jam. It’s divine. It’s chunky and fruity. I can’t wait to serve it on some warm toasty skillet cake in a cozy little brown box off the truck. I can’t wait for that window to slide open with a sign hanging next to it that says “Come and get it!”

In the meantime we’re preparing for back to back dinners this weekend–our first matched set. We’ve been selling them all out, and are planning a brunch in September that we’re super excited for. There are few spots left for each date next month, so if you’re interested you should get on the list ASAP.

This is what’s been on my mind for the last 2 days, though, so I’ll share it with you. We’ve been eating a lot of nectarines lately–I think they’re way better than peaches, and consequently can’t get enough of them. Neither can Lilli. She’s been eating like 3 a day, if she can get away with it. This incarnation of jam is very simple, though it does require some patience. If you don’t want to spend so much time slaving away, you can always make a berry jam and just add the lemon zest to that as well, it will be just as nice.

Nectarine Jam with Lemon

6 heaping cups nectarines cut into 1″ chunks
3 cups sugar
zest from one organic lemon plus juice

Add the fruit, sugar, and zest to a large heavy pot over high heat and stir it all up. Bring it to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Once it’s really boiling, set a timer for 30 minutes and come back to stir it every couple of minutes. Towards the end this becomes almost constant stirring–you don’t want to fruit to start sticking to the bottom of the pan or all the sugars will burn. After 30 minutes, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice. Put into hot sterile jars and process 15 minutes in a water bath for pint jars. This batch will make about 3 pints with a little bit leftover for your toast the next morning.

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The Mistake

What happens when you take a bowl full of raspberries, a big drizzle of honey, and some greek yogurt and mix them together?

You should get some delicious popsicles, if you know what you’re doing. Which apparently–some days–I don’t.

I was super stoked about making these popsicles. I even talked about it over on Facebook. I decided to make raspberry and honey with greek yogurt when we got to the P-patch and saw the berry bonanza going on in my plot, and remembered the jar of deliciously floral honey we picked up in Manson when we were visiting Lake Chelan a few weeks ago.

I don’t really know what went wrong. They had all the makings of what should have been a killer batch of delicious popsicles.

Then I added some liqueur to them, which I think is where it all went downhill. Even the heady scent of good vanilla couldn’t save the day.

Usually adding a bit of booze to things is a win. With these babies though, it turned the texture to weird creamy with bits of straight up ice lodged throughout. Between the ice and the seeds in the whole berries, they were too much crunch and not enough creamy goodness. And to make matters worse, the liqueur had a weird flavor when it froze–supposedly raspberry but more like rotten grape juice.

I know, this is really making your mouth water. I bet you wish I would give you the recipe to make these tempting delights.

But, lesson learned. I mean, I did it for you, friends. I made these popsicles so you wouldn’t have to, and now we all know what happens when you mix these things together and freeze them.

Sometimes, you have to just take the things that come to you. Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of lemons. I guess that’s why I made lemonade. It’s been a lot of hit and miss these past few weeks and I’m happy to say that I have been doing my best to move on. I’m getting back on the bandwagon of deliciousness, with recipes forthcoming that a girl can be proud of.

I might still be battling the chickens to stay in their designated area. I might still be neglecting the p-patch only to show up and find that someone has stolen all of the best artichokes off of my plants. I might even continue to pretend that the weeds aren’t getting as tall as Lilli, but at least I will be taking the time to enjoy the rest of summer while it still lasts.

And with any luck, I’ll be making more popsicles. Like these ones. Or maybe these.

Or maybe, these. Hopefully they will redeem me from the circle of hell reserved for people who mess up that easiest of summer treats, the popsicle. I made these ones after realizing I still had a quarter of a watermelon in the fridge that I didn’t want to eat in it’s current form.

They are a snap to make and are highly refreshing. Not as picnic friendly as whole watermelon, but are perfect for a night on the porch with friends.

Watermelon Margarita Popsicles
makes about sixteen (16) 1/4 cup popsicles

about 4-5 cups watermelon chunks–seeds removed
1/4 cup good tequila
1/4 cup simple syrup, chilled
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice

Puree the watermelon. You’ll need 3 1/2 cups of juice for this recipe, which you should get from 4-5 cups of solid watermelon, but if you need more juice, puree more melon until you have enough juice. If you happen to get more than 3 1/2 cups, just save it for something else. Non-frozen watermelon margaritas perhaps.

Add the syrup, lime juice and tequila and give it a good stir. Carefully pour juice into your popsicle mold, cover and add the sticks. Freeze until solid then run a thin stream of warm water over to remore. Store frozen popsicles in a zipper bag and freeze the remaining mixture. Before serving sprinkle a tiny pinch of crunchy sea salt over one side of the popsicle for a true margarita experience.

Good News

You know how when the sun comes out in the middle of winter it’s like you’ve never seen it before? Even if it was out the day before? (But especially if like here in Seattle it was raining cats and dogs?) 

You know also, how when you actually get to go outside and let your totally bundled up self absorb some of that sunlight it makes you feel really warm and happy and want to skip around in a meadow somewhere.

Yeah me neither. Not at all.

Recently I made muffins that pretty much served to encapsulate that breath of sun in a slightly sweetened fluffy goodness. They had apricots. Lots and lots of them. Frozen at the peak of summer but then folded into a muffin batter hearty enough to sustain you on even the coldest winter day.

The bad news about these muffins is that you probably don’t have several gallon sized freezer bags full of apricots with which to make them over and over, like I have. The good news about them is that you really could use just about any type of fruit in them. They could have frozen berries, or peeled and chopped apples or pears, or even frozen peaches.

Oh, I thought of some more good news about these muffins. They are pretty healthy, since they’re whole wheat and oat and have a whole mess of protein rich ingredients alongside that pile of fruit.  They are a great breakfast or snack for this time of year, when most people are trying to eat a little bit lighter. Even more good news is that they are great slathered in butter, in case eating light isn’t a priority.

Sun is Shining Good News Muffins
makes 12 regular sized little cups of joy

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
  • 1/4 cup ground flax
  • 1/2 cup bran flakes
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt (I like to use greek, it’s tangy!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen berries or chopped fruit, loosely measured

Preheat your oven to 500°F. This will make the muffins rise up a lot and have a nice domed top. Don’t worry, you’re going to turn it down when you actually put the muffins in. 

Beat the liquid ingredients together until well combined, then add the bran flakes and stir till they’re mixed in all the way. Let it sit while you whisk together the dry ingredients and prepare your muffin tin. 

Whisk together all the dry ingredients, including the flax, in a large bowl. Then add the fruit and nuts and stir around to coat all the pieces in flour. This helps to keep them all from sinking to the bottom when the muffins bake.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and combine just until you don’t see any large streaks of flour left. It’s ok if the batter doesn’t look completely smooth.

Fill the cups of your tin about three-quarters full, maybe a little more. Place muffins in the oven and immediately drop temperature to 400°F. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until muffins test done with a toothpick.

The Spoils

I am happy to report that not a single earwig made it home with me from blueberry picking today.

In the trunk, having a pre-picking snack.
I did however, make it home with a couple of spiders, and some potatoes. Not to mention the blueberries. Almost 6 pounds of them, which I somehow managed to pick while gossiping with a friend and watching our 2 babes crawl/wander around in the damp grass of the blueberry field.

Then we had a picnic, which was absolutely nothing special other than for the fact that we got to eat it outside.

There was no one else there today, with the exception of Pat, the owner and farmer. He was a very sweet old guy. It was so nice to have the place all to ourselves–the kids could wander around and eat as many blueberries as they could find, without bothering other pickers or us worrying that they were getting into other people’s stuff.

Plus, it was a rather cool day, temperature wise. No sticky sweat to make you wish you could go home, and not too many bugs either. I wish all berry picking experiences could be so pleasant.

Now I have 4 pounds of blueberries in my freezer, almost 2 lbs more left untouched (I’ll save them for tomorrow, I’m blueberried out for today) and plans to return to the small farm I discovered in a couple of weeks for more blueberries, sweet corn and green beans, plus cucumbers and dill for pickles.

 

But what to do with all those blueberries that I now have sitting pretty in a bowl on the table? Perhaps muffins, perhaps pancakes, perhaps just let Lilli stuff herself silly for the next couple of days. Maybe all three. I’m also thinking some blueberry crumb bars might be just the thing, because I am supposed to be bringing cookies to several different events this weekend. And since I have some red currants sitting around, I think I’ll add those in as well. I’ll probably use this recipe, as I do adore pretty much any recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

I encourage you to find a berry field, and for an hour or two, or the whole day if you think you’re tough enough, hang out and pick berries. Eat your fill, laugh with a friend, and bring enough home to put some in the freezer. When you pull them out in the middle of winter, you will thank yourself for the joy of that summer day, and the memories that each berry has attached to it.

Créme Fraîche X2

Last Wednesday I had a few glasses of wine with some friends I don’t see enough of. We decided that no matter the weather on Saturday, we were going to BBQ. I promptly forgot all about it, especially that I had offered to host.

On Friday, James called to ask what I was planning on putting together, and what could they bring. Talk about think fast! I knew that I was planning on making salmon cakes for dinner, and that I wanted to grill asparagus. I also had a new potato salad recipe on the menu. He decided to pick up some early corn and some rosé, and that they would bring dessert. Okay, plan in place.
Saturday rolls around…early. Lilli decides that 6am is the perfect time to wake up after staying up late to have Shabbat dinner at Joe’s parents’ house. After trying to sleep through her kicking and squirming and rolling and practicing crawling in our bed for a while, I got up and made cinnamon pecan coffee cake. “This is the best breakfast I have ever eaten” is declared an hour later by two ravenous 8 year olds. OK, next. Make a picnic, go to the zoo. Make a pitstop first for chicken feed. 3:30pm, eat ice cream. 4:30 head home, and then make a quick trip to the grocery store for a few key ingredients I knew I didn’t have.

Joe kindly took Lilli with him and the boys to the park down the street so I could focus on making dinner without having to stop every 5 minutes and play a game. In the hour until he brought her home, I was able to defrost 1 1/2 lbs of leftover salmon and then make the cakes, and put together a lemon mayo sauce to go with; roast 3 lbs. of small delicious potatoes and some garlic for the potato salad; slice a loaf of bread to grill; rinse and trim a bunch of asparagus; and probably something else that I am forgetting, like do the dishes. This is about when I realized that not only did the salmon have créme fraîche, but also the potato salad was going to be dressed with the stuff. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for weeks to make it from scratch and it has yet to turn out as thick as it should be but it still tastes good. I plan on getting it right, but for now I’m content with trying.

About 6:30 people showed up and it got a little more fun. Copper set the table and entertained Lilli while I finished everything up. The boys brought a friend home from the park and proceeded to go wild in the backyard. Drinks were poured, bread was eaten, and it was a perfect evening despite the chaos that threatened to storm in at any moment.

This potato salad recipe is very simple. It’s plain but in a good way. Sprinkling the vinegar on the potatoes while they are still hot allows them to really absorb that flavor. The tang from the créme fraîche really works well with the rich flavor of a well roasted potato. It doesn’t keep as well as mayonaise based salads, but you won’t have to worry about that because there won’t be any left. I wasn’t even able to take a picture because it was gone too fast!

Roasted Potato Salad with Créme Fraîche
adapted from Good Day for a Picnic by Jeremy Jackson
serves 6

2 lbs potatoes (I used a mix of yukon, red and purple)
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra
salt and fresh ground black pepper
6 cloves garlic, peel on
2 Tbsp champagne vinegar
3/4 cup créme fraîche
2 Tbsp toasted pine nuts

Preheat oven to 450ºF. The original recipe calls for you to peel the potatoes, but I prefer to leave the skin on. Cut the potatoes into spears and let dry a bit. Toss in the olive oil in an ovenproof skillet or onto a baking sheet. Salt and pepper to taste. Wrap the garlic in foil with a little drizzle of olive oil and put them in with the potatoes. Roast for about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes have gotten nice and golden and crusty. The garlic will be done also.

While the potatoes are still hot, cut them into smaller, bite sized pieces. Jeremy Jackson recommends a serrated knife. In a good sized bowl, toss the potatoes with the vinegar. Press the softened garlic out of the skins and mush it into a paste. Add it to the potatoes and toss the whole thing again. Taste for salt and pepper.

Let the whole thing cool a bit, and then spread the créme fraîche on top, sprinkling the pine nuts over last.