In My Kitchen – September 2020

It is September already? Oh my! Labor Day usually means the end of summer but this year is certainly strange. School has started but only virtually here in California. Our holiday visitors usually go home in September but many of them are still here, living in hotels because the smoke and fires have driven them from their homes. Fall is our scary season because of warm weather and dry vegetation. We can only hope the winter rains start early.

This month is also the anniversary for this blog; started on September 26, 2014. At the time I had been recently laid off and was looking for a way to connect with others who had an interest in cooking and gardening. Little did I know how much it would expand my vision of the world. And how many lovely people I would come in contact with in the course of the next few years. My first post was titled When life gives you cucumbers… It is rather a fitting title for this year as well although perhaps I would change it to be something other than cucumbers. At least they taste good.

This month’s In My Kitchen will be a combination of July and August since I missed last month. In actuality September’s In My Kitchen is a review of August since September has only just begun. October will be a review of September.

So what’s been happening In My Kitchen?

An abundance of produce has meant preserving as well as meals that consisted mainly of vegetables. I was away for the first part of August and my assistant gardener (AKA husband) did a lot of harvesting. As a result I came home to 10 pounds of fresh beans that needed eating or preserving.

Fresh beans

Fresh beans

I blanched and froze several pounds for later in the season.

We ate several meals of green beans:

And I made several pints of quick refrigerator pickles (it was too hot to bring out the big hot water canner).

My assistant gardener harvested daily but, as usually happens, there were missed zucchini.

baseball bat sized zucchini

baseball bat sized zucchini

I intended to stuff this one but the fridge was bursting with produce that needed to be eaten. My worm bin got it in the end.

In My Kitchen I also have or had a half flat of figs from a local grower. I made Balsamic Pickled Figs and Brandied Figs (although I didn’t have any brandy so I used Cointreau). The leftover balsamic brine was reduced and added to some of my homemade red wine vinegar. It is adding a wonderful sweet note to salad dressings.

We also ate a number of them out of hand or in salads with candied walnuts, blue cheese and arugula.

Fresh Black Mission Figs

Fresh Black Mission Figs

 

Balsamic Vinegar Figs

Balsamic Vinegar Figs

Balsamic Vinegar Figs

  • 1 1/4 lb of Black Mission Figs, gently rinsed and dried but stems left on
  • 3/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 1/4 cups of sugar

Method:

  1. Sterilize 4 pint sized canning jars
  2. Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan big enough to hold the figs. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add the figs to the brine and lower the heat to simmer gently for 10 minutes
  4. Add the figs to the jars and pour the brine over, leaving about 1/2 inch of space at the top.
  5. Wipe the top of the jar and put on the lids, finger tightening
  6. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Once complete, turn off the heat but leave the jars in the water for another 10 minutes.
  7. Remove and let cool on a clean tea towel. Refrigerate any jars that do not seal.

Please refer to additional canning instructions (there is an abundance on line) if you need more details.

Don’t throw away the extra balsamic brine if you have extra like I did. I reduced it and added some to my red wine vinegar…oh yum! It is fabulous in salad dressings or drizzled over simply sliced tomatoes.

My kale was starting to bolt when I got home so I made a batch of kale pesto and froze several serving sized bags of blanched kale for winter soups.

Kale Pesto

Kale Pesto

Our CSA box has contained a lot of beets, both red and golden. I canned several jars of pickled beets from each.

On the way back from running an errand we saw a sign that a fishing boat at the docks had fresh albacore tuna for sale. You had to purchase an entire fish but they cleaned it for us. We had a lovely dinner of fresh grilled tuna and I froze the rest in appropriately sized portions. I’ve been freezing in vacuum packed bags so I have the choice of cooking them sous vide or thawing and cooking in another manner. The vacuum packing prevents freezer burn. I’ve found that I can cook most items, still frozen, sous vide and retain all the flavor and texture of fresh food.

Last night we pulled out some frozen lamb steaks, cooked them sous vide at 136 degrees (still frozen) for 3 1/2 hours and finished them on the BBQ. They were delicious and perfectly medium rare.

 

Fresh Albacore Tuna

Fresh Albacore Tuna – just off the boat

It’s finally tomato season, something I look forward to all year. In addition to my own garden tomatoes I purchased a flat of heirloom beefsteak tomatoes from Nye Ranch, just down the street.

Nye Ranch heirloom beefsteak tomatoes

Nye Ranch heirloom beefsteak tomatoes

We have been enjoying all kinds of tomato salads or big slices in sandwiches.

This salad of tomatoes with stone fruit and a seed drizzle was a big hit.

And finally In My Kitchen we had a wine tasting. This was a pre-release tasting of Pinot Noirs from the barrel. Navarro Vineyards in the Anderson Valley has a big farm barrel tasting each year for their members. It’s a lot of fun with wonderful food and wine. Of course, this year they had to go virtual. My husband and I got to taste 4 of their 2019 Pinot Noirs (the tasting was not virtual…maybe in more ways than one). Anyway it was great fun to chat with the owners and winemakers over Zoom and taste it with them. Here’s a picture of our tasting room set up in the kitchen with our tasting notes.

Sometimes I think it’s fun to go back and look at what was happening a year or more ago…

In My Kitchen – September 2019

I didn’t write one in 2018 or 2017

In My Kitchen – September 2016, we were preparing for a hiking trip in Ireland. Oh how I miss traveling.

In My Kitchen – September 2015

I hope you are all well and safe. This post is part of a monthly gathering of bloggers from around the world hosted by Sherry of Sherrys Pickings. Click on the IN MY KITCHEN link and you can read what’s going on in kitchens far and wide. And please consider adding your own post to the mix, I would love to hear what you are doing in your kitchen this summer (or winter).

21 thoughts on “In My Kitchen – September 2020

  1. Fresh figs look divine β€” we don’t really get them, and the occasional basket of figs like in your photo is prohibitively expensive. At Michigan prices I think you have over $100 in figs in that photo. SO it really looks amazing.

    be well… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    • Oh my! That is really expensive. My half flat was only $25 and there were a generous number of figs. Some of the dried ones aren’t half bad when reconstituted but I have found it is hit and miss.

  2. thanks so much for joining in Liz. look at all your wonderful produce! must have been a bit of work fixing up those beans:) And how marvellous to buy a whole tuna, esp. if the fishmonger cleans it for you. take care, Sherry x

    • I am glad you were able to get In My Kitchen up and going again. I will let you know if I have been suddenly unsubscribed and don’t get the email messages when you post. I don’t know why I didn’t get your latest one.

    • Thank you Karen, we are eating well as my tight pants will confirm. But at least most of it is healthy.

  3. Liz I always enjoy your garden and IMK post, but this was the best for my taste. You gave us beautiful green beans, which don’t do well in our climate. Also, that radical looking zucchini that I’m sure your worms enjoyed (we always gave those to the chickens). Then you threw in those incredible looking Mission figs. I love figs! You bought a fantastic looking tuna and grill some of it fresh grill and then you sous vide a lamb steak. Girl, you guys know how to rock during this COVID misery.
    Happy anniversary and your so right, it’s all about meeting new friends and learning…

    • Thank you Tandy. I froze quite a lot and am going to have a try cooking it sous vide, still frozen.

    • It would be so welcome to have some help with the preserving, and I would share the harvest.

  4. Everything looks so good Liz, but those figs in balsamic vinegar are my absolute favorite! They sound delicious and they can be used in so many dishes as well!

  5. Happy bloghiversary Liz! 2014 was a good year for blogs. I started mine that year too. What a great post. Those green and purple beans are gorgeous, and all the canning is making me feel lazy. Ciao, Cristina

  6. Liz, I only got through half of this month’s IMK participants when it started to rain and I had to shut down my computer. (Wish i could send some of that out West!) Apologies if this is a repeat or duplicate comment — couldn’t remember if I already did, lol. What a strange world we live in now, climate-wise and otherwise, but glad to see you had such a fantastic harvest with your “assistant gardener’s” help πŸ™‚ and were able to preserve much of the bounty. I also liked your freshly cooked ideas and fresh tuna (swoon…), pickled beets, kale pesto, balsamic figs, and stone fruit-tomato salad, too. Simply lovely, xo.

    • Thank you Kim. I am glad I was able to get in the harvest before this month’s smoke drove me out of the garden. But, I feel fortunate to only deal (at least so far) with the smoke and not actual flames. This feels like such a dangerous time, for multiple reasons. And yes, we could certainly use that rain.

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