Monday, July 25, 2011

Peach Jam!

Toast and Jam Breakfast

I know, I'm crazy--I did just spend a post complaining about how hot it was, and how I didn't feel like cooking because turning on the stove or oven was just too hot. So what do I do? I make jam. JAM. I've never made jam before! I don't have any canning equipment. Well, let me tell you something--making jam is very hot work, even if it has cooled off here (the high today is a mere 81--yay!). But I had a glut of peaches to deal with and needed to clear some space in the fridge (more veggies tomorrow!).

Peach Jam

And I have to say, I am totally in love with the idea of making jam now. Yes, it does take some time, and yes it is hot work, but gosh, it is SO COOL when you hear that loud ping confirming your jar has sealed. I used about 8 peaches (480 grams once they were peeled, pitted, and sliced) and just under half the weight in sugar, plus the juice of a lemon and a handful of candied ginger. No pectin, because I didn't have any, and for jars, I used one canning jar I had on hand and an empty jam jar for the rest (I wasn't sure if that was proper canning procedure, but it did seem to seal correctly, so I guess it's okay.) I was a bit worried about whether it would set without pectin, but it did! Okay, it's a little softer than storebought jam, but that's okay. I may try again with pectin if we get another plethora of peaches this week...


But for now, I'm pretty happy with this! I'm eating my own, homemade jam on (not homemade) toast and I feel remarkably happy for a Monday morning...

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Watermelon granita take 2

You know what, I don't even have the energy to talk about the weather. Let's just say it's hot. It was 104 degrees F when I left work yesterday and it is allegedly better today, although I wouldn't know because I haven't left the relative coolness of my apartment. I don't feel like cooking, I definitely don't feel like baking, and I don't even really feel like eating!

Fortunately, making watermelon granita hardly counts when it comes to effort. Just blend up a chunk of watermelon (I added some lemon balm from an earlier CSA pick-up), pour into a shallow container, and put in the freezer. Stir with a fork periodically as it freezes to break up the ice crystals. It feels like a treat (and it is!) but it's a damned virtuous one.


Or you can go look for the nearest shaved ice man (mine's right across the street--I can hear him now).

csa week 6

Anyhow, here is the haul from week 6 of the CSA, not that I have done much with it. I've eaten the komatsuna, about half of the corn, carrots, and lettuce. I would love to make peach jam with my glut of peaches, but that's going to have to wait. Maybe I should just peel, slice, and freeze them...but then I won't have space to make granita. Decisions, decisions!

Well, I'll keep it short. Wherever you are, I hope you are staying cool (this heat wave seems to have covered most of the States). I would send you some watermelon granita if I could, but I'm contemplating filling my bathtub with it....

Sunday, July 17, 2011

CSA Week 5: Jap Chae, Galettes

CSA Week 5-Fruit Share

So, how is your weekend? My Sunday is winding down (waaaaaaah) and it is H-O-T out there! So I'm hiding in my air conditioned apartment, eating watermelon, drinking iced green tea, and generally trying to stretch out my last few hours before the week starts again. This week was apparently the week of abundant fruit at the CSA; a whole load of peaches, plums, and apples (Macintosh, I think). I'm not even kidding, the fruit weighed a whole lot more than the veggies this week, and the peaches and plums have almost displaced watermelon on my "most eaten" list. ALMOST.

CSA Week 5

And here are the veggies: beets, zucchini, yellow squash, collard greens, carrots, cucumber, radishes, turnips, basil, a huge bunch of parsley, and lettuce mix. I roasted the beets and have been eating them tossed with olive oil, a bit of lemon juice, and some goat cheese--delicious! And I used up the beet greens, too, in a big batch of jap chae.

Jap Chae

Jap chae is a Korean dish of sweet potato noodles mixed with veggies and beef and flavored with sesame oil. I dispensed with the beef and used a mix of beet greens, carrots, zucchini, and yellow squash (and a few slices of fish cake). Quick, easy, tasty, and it used up a whole lot of veggies (yay!).

Peaches and plums

I turned one of the peaches and a couple of the plums into some galettes (or tarts, or whatever you want to call them). And actually it turned out to be two peaches that got used in the end, because I must admit, I couldn't resist, er, snacking as I was slicing.

Plum Tarts

I wanted to see how a cornmeal crust would go with the fruits, and while they are not the prettiest looking things ever, I think they match quite well. The plums are especially juicy! Next time, I've got to tweak the filling a bit, and add some flavoring (maybe nutmeg? A little bit of almond? Hm.).

So I've still got collard greens and a huge bunch of parsley. I think I may make chimichurri with the parsley (and freeze it), but I'm really not sure what to do with the collard greens....and egads, it's almost pick-up day again! Better get a move on!

P.S. Bonus picture from a dinner I had with my brother and a friend earlier this week at The Spotted Pig, super yummy ricotta gnudi.

sheep's milk ricotta gnudi @ the spotted pig

Friday, July 15, 2011

Vancouver: The Bog, The Park, and Food!


Ah, Vancouver--this is the weather on the first day of my trip. Bright, sunny, and gorgeous! Boy did it have me fooled, because for most of the rest of my trip, it was cool, cloudy, and rainy. Although it did end on a sunny weekend so really, I can't complain, and hey, any vacation is a good vacation! But I'm getting ahead of myself, because even before I got there things were looking up because for the first time ever, I got upgraded to business class on the flight out. Woo-HOOO!! I was very, very excited, because Cathay Pacific has got those individual cubicles with seats that recline completely flat into a bed. Oh man, they are so roomy compared to economy! And then of course, the food in business class is about 1000 times better...and they even set your tray with a tablecloth.

Seared scallop salad

Dinner started with seared scallops on salad. This was really pretty good!

Prawns in XO sauce and fried rice

And then I had fried rice and prawns in XO sauce--this looks more like regular airplane food, but was also pretty tasty.

Cheese plate

And then a cheese plate! I thought for sure I would stay awake through the whole flight (I mean, it is only 5ish hours) and watch movies on my relatively giant screen, but the lure of the completely reclining chair was too much to resist, and I got a couple of hours of shut-eye and almost too soon we were landing in Vancouver (they have one awesome airport, by the way.)

The Elbow Room

The next day, we went out for breakfast to The Elbow Room, which I gather is something of an institution and certainly is a place with character! I can't seem to find their rules anywhere on the Internet, but when I went up to pay, the proprietor lectured Pyota on letting a woman pay. Heehee.

The Big Ben

Anyway, here is a picture of my breakfast, the Big Ben. Totally hit the spot!


And then we rented a Zipcar and drove out to the Camosun Bog which was smaller than I expected, but was a nice walk nevertheless. Most of the ground is, well, boggy, so there are boardwalks that run above it, with helpful signs about the kind of plants you see in a bog.


Like blueberries! Above are blueberry blossoms, and below, wild blueberries (I was very excited, but restrained myself from eating them.)



On another day, we went to Stanley Park and saw some wildlife in the form of a great blue heron (we also saw a whole lot of nests! But I didn't get any good pictures.) over by the Lost Lagoon. And of course, my favorite, the resident raccoons:

munchy raccoon

You can see a video of racoons that Pyota made, too. I love them, they're so cute!

Beef noodle soup @ Favor Eat

I had lunch with Py a couple of times during the work week, at places like Boss, which is a totally HK style cafe where I had the most enormous serving of pork chop rice noodle soup ever (it came in a pie plate!). Above is a more reasonable serving of Taiwanese style beef noodle soup from Favor Eat in the Crystal Mall. So delicious.

watermelon boy

And of course, a bubble tea. But really I just wanted to take a picture of the lid, as it depicts one of my favorite activities--eating watermelon. And on that note, time to go! The really good food pictures are coming up in the next post....

P.S. I cannot wait to see the last Harry Potter movie. I know I'm going to cry like a little girl. Maybe I shouldn't have admitted that....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sour Cherry Cobbler

sour cherry cobbler

So it took me a few days, but I finally figured out what to make with the sour cherries from last week's CSA haul: cobbler! I suppose I could have made pie, but it's a bit hot to be making pie dough. The butter in it would probably have melted before I could get it rolled out, and who wants to eat greasy pie crust? Not this girl. But cobbler is easy to put together, especially when you use a cream biscuit topping (woohoo, no cutting in of butter, just stirring!), and hey, even if it is hot, I can survive turning the oven on for half an hour or so.

Sour cherries

But before I got to that part, I had to pit all the cherries, and man, did that take a long time. I lack a cherry pitter, so made do with a small piping tip, which worked well, but still! It's a lengthy process. And I got cherry juice pretty much everywhere, but at least the juice was clear so didn't stain.

Sour cherry cobbler is love

And here's the cherries all ready for the oven, topped with biscuits. I didn't add much flavoring to the cherries, just some sugar, a splash of almond extract, and a bit of lemon juice (plus instant Clearjel for thickening). It's really amazing how well the almond flavor goes with these cherries! And the flavor definitely is superior to anything I've ever baked with sweet Bing cherries. Very happy with how this came out, and I've got a bunch left (hiding in the freezer so I don't eat it all in one shot)...

It's been a very nice weekend! I had my first pottery class yesterday and made a fish-shaped plate and a cup. I'll have to wait a few weeks to show you the results, but hopefully they will be cool. And then today I had brunch with a friend, followed by some (unsuccessful) shopping, followed by gelato, and then a relaxed evening at home. I wish it was Sunday again tomorrow...

Sour Cherry Cobbler
1 quart sour cherries, washed, stemmed, and pitted (make sure you save the juices!)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons instant Clearjel* or cornstarch

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup cream (plus an extra tablespoon or two, if needed)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Stir together the cherries, sugar (use less if you want it very tart), lemon juice, extract, and Clearjel or cornstarch in a medium bowl. Set aside while you prepare the biscuit topping.

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar into another bowl. Stir the cream in just until the dough forms clumps. If there are still dry bits, add a bit more cream until you can gather the dough together into a ball. Pat the dough out gently to about 1/2" thick, and then cut out shapes as you like (I used hearts, but you could also just freehand it). Pat the scraps together and cut more shapes out. How many you can fit will depend on your pan dimensions, but any extras can be baked separately.

Turn the cherry filling into an 8" pan (or a pie plate, or whatever pan you have that will hold the filling with a bit of extra space--this would probably have been nice baked in individual cups as wel). Top with your biscuit cut outs. For a prettier finish, brush the biscuits with a bit of cream and then sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown.

This is very important--let this cool a bit. It's hotter than the sun when it first comes out of the oven, and you like the skin inside your mouth, right? Then trust me, and wait. And if you have vanilla ice cream to go with it, bonus!

*Clearjel is modified food starch. I bought mine at King Arthur Flour, but you could substitute cornstarch with no problem.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

CSA Week 4 (and hello, I'm back)

CSA Week 4!

I know, it's been a while--well, I just got back earlier this week from vacation (a fab week in Vancouver, filled with lots of great food, and quality time with Pyota--will be writing about our adventures later) and I've been busy with work since! Do you know how many emails I got while I was gone?? 279!!!!!!!!! Sheesh, don't these people know I'm out of the office?

Anyhow, I arrived back on a CSA pickup day (my brother picked up week 3 for me, but I forgot to ask him to take a photo), which helped ease the pain of not being on vacation anymore. You can see from my fancy collage that this week's share consisted of beets, radishes, fresh garlic, basil, lemon balm, peas, komatsuna, rainbow chard, mixed lettuces (not pictured), and the fruit share was sour cherries.

Braised radishes

I still had a bunch of radishes left from a previous pickup; I have to admit, I am not a big fan of radishes. They're too peppery for me! So I thought cooking them would help and I found this recipe for braised radishes over at The Kitchn. Oh boy! They don't look as pretty, but gosh are they delicious. I substituted some waxed Chinese bacon for the salt pork, which was a stroke of genius on my part, if I do say so myself. I hope I get more radishes next week.

Basil-Garlic Scape pesto

The basil and garlic scapes (from previous week) were turned into pesto. Can you believe this was my first time making pesto? I can't believe I waited so long, and I can't believe how dead easy it is to make (once I got around to buying a food processor). This pesto also contains almonds, olive oil, and parmigiano. I couldn't resist eating some of it with a spoon right after I made it. (Don't you like my little storage bowl? I picked up a set at Fishs Eddy, one of my favorite stores in NY, and a place I can spend HOURS in.)

Fettuccine with pesto

Then I boiled up some fettuccine and tossed it with more pesto--oh gosh. SO GOOD. So good that I actually ate this for breakfast this morning, too (I know, I'm crazy. I eat dinner leftovers for breakfast all the time.)

So far, I have also cooked the komatsuna (stir-fry) and plan to make some kind of pasta with the peas (and probably some shrimp). I am a bit at a loss for what to do with the chard though, so if you have a favored chard recipe, please do share!

The beets are also presenting a bit of a problem. It's so freaking hot right now that to turn on the oven would be unthinkable, so I can't roast them. I'm starting to wonder if maybe I could just steam them in my rice cooker...of course, this does not solve the problem of my sour cherries, which I am dying to make into a pie, but again, sigh, the oven! Maybe I just need to buy an additional air conditioner unit.