In My Kitchen – September 2020

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).

In My Kitchen – July 2020

In My Kitchen – July 2020

Another month has passed and we are well into summer. It’s a strange summer with none of the usual holiday markers to indicate the march of time. No Memorial Day, no 4th of July, and I don’t think Labor Day will be different from any other day of the week. I am losing track of time and the date as one day seems much like the one before and the one to come. I’m not (necessarily) complaining as we are all well, have plenty to eat and I am not worried about where the rent payment will come from. I feel very fortunate. But, it seems unreal with so many sad and horrifying events happening around the country and the world. I try to avoid being political on my blog, but I am deeply embarrassed and humiliated by my country right now.

So I retreat into my kitchen (and garden) which has a bounty of richness.

The flowering sweet peas are blooming like crazy. They need to be picked almost daily or they will set seed and stop blooming. I can see the blooms on the dining room table from the kitchen and they smell divine.

Sweet Pea Flowers

Sweet Pea Flowers

On the edible side, I have both snap and snow peas in the garden. It takes a few days to harvest enough for a meal but they are delicious!

Snap and Snow Peas

Snap and Snow Peas

In my kitchen I have the first of the cucumbers from my plastic covered raised beds. I haven’t been able to get any to ripen in past years but the plastic has done the trick, raising the temperature.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

In my kitchen I have zucchini, lots of zucchini, which we adore simply grilled and splashed with good olive oil. I usually salt them for a few minutes before cooking which improves the sweetness and draws out excess water.

Grilled Zucchini

Grilled Zucchini

In my kitchen I have lettuce, this one is so beautiful as it looks like a flower. It’s almost too pretty to eat.

Lettuce

Lettuce from the garden

Our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box from Nye Ranch has contained bunches of regular and golden beets the last couple of weeks. I pickled a two of pints of each. The golden beets are with rice vinegar and ginger, the red ones with red wine vinegar and star anise.

Also from our CSA I have turnips. I don’t really like turnips, I try but am not having any luck. I hate to throw them into the worm bin so this time I made a quick refrigerator pickle with them. I do like radishes and I know they are in the same family. But, I am simply not a fan. I will let you know if the pickled ones turn me around.

Quick Refrig Pickled Turnips

Quick Refrigerator Pickled Turnips

And in my kitchen I have this lovely broccoli Romanesco.

From Wikipedia:

Romanesco broccoli is an edible flower bud of the species Brassica oleracea. First documented in Italy, it is chartreuse in color. Romanesco has a striking appearance because its form is a natural approximation of a fractal.

Broccoli Romanesco

Broccoli Romanesco

Isn’t it beautiful? Although it looks closer to cauliflower the flavor is more like broccoli.

And, for comfort there has to be something sweet…in our case that’s chocolate, especially milk chocolate.

This post is part of an ongoing monthly summary from kitchens around the world. In My Kitchen is hosted by Sherry, from  Sherry’s Pickings.

Click on the link above for entertaining reading. And consider adding your own post if you are a blogger. We would love to read what is going on in your kitchen.

In My Kitchen – June 2020

In My Kitchen – June 2020

How are you doing? I realize that is mostly a rhetorical question – although I would absolutely welcome replies from all of my almost 300 readers.

Who wouldn’t be distressed right now? It seems frivolous to talk about events in my kitchen, even though it is a source of great comfort. I can (mostly) control things there while around me everything feels out of control and falling apart.

“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.”

– Ijeoma Oluo

We all have hidden biases and prejudices. Knowing and examining them is the first step to having an open heart.

Covid still silently stalks us In the midst of demonstrations against police brutality and racial injustice. I understand the anger and frustration of the marchers, and the feeling of solidarity in joining together. We have all been separated during the shelter-in-place orders. But Covid-19 is still out there, we won’t know who or where it will strike for another few weeks. Where do we go from here? I really don’t know.

So, I will go to my kitchen.

In my kitchen I have the remainder of a jar of lemon/lime curd. There isn’t much left and I will soon make another batch. We love it on toast or an English muffin for breakfast, or on a cracker with a cup of tea as a mid afternoon pickup.

Lemon and Lime Curd

Lemon and Lime Curd

Here’s the strange thing, the yellow colored citrus fruit is a lime and the green ones are unripe lemons. If you leave a lime on the tree long enough it turns yellow even though it still tastes like a lime.

I made the curd sous vide which ensures you don’t actually curdle the eggs. It’s a perfect batch every time.

Makes about 1 1/4 cup

Lemon Curd

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice or a combination of lemons and limes
  • 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) of unsalted butter, melted
  1. Preheat your water bath to 180 degrees F (82 degrees C)
  2. Sterilize a 1 pint canning jar, lid and ring (I just pour boiling water into the jar and let it sit until the water bath is heated or put it through your dishwasher)
  3. Place the egg yolks in a small food processor
  4. Add the sugar and pulse until it dissolves and the mixture thickens slightly
  5. Add the lemon juice and melted butter, pulse to incorporate. Don’t over process or it will turn frothy.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared jar.
  7. Seal the jar, finger tight, in immerse in the water bath for 45 minutes to an hour.
  8. Remove the jar from the water, open the jar and stir to mix. Reseal.
  9. Cool in an ice/water bath and refrigerate.

This will store for up to 2 weeks if it lasts that long. You can also freeze it.

The weather has finally warmed enough to sit outside with a glass of wine in the early evening. I made pizza with a crust of puffed pastry, perfect for alfresco dining.

We’ve also dusted and uncovered the grill. These Turkish lamb chops were delicious.

A cloudy chilly day brought me back indoors for slow baked salmon with a charred broccoli pesto.

We’ve had lots of salads from the garden and the first zucchini squash.

zucchini

Zucchini

I am looking forward to snap peas and green beans, it will probably be a few more weeks until they are ready to harvest. Meanwhile I have been enjoying vegetables out of the Nye Ranch CSA box.

Nye Ranch CSA

Nye Ranch CSA

In my kitchen I have flowers. Our rhododendrons are blooming, also poppies and many other flowers. I always have a fresh bouquet nearby.

Poppies and Rhodies

Poppies and Rhodies

This post is part of virtual blogging party, In My Kitchen, hosted by Sherry of Sherrys Pickings.

The link above will allow you to read stories of kitchens around the world, written by accomplished cooks and travelers. Please join us, and if you are a blogger, add your own linked post about your own kitchen adventures.

 

 

In My Kitchen – May 2020

In My Kitchen – May 2020

This post is part of a monthly catch up from kitchens around the world. The bloggers are passionate about food and cooking and there are always lots of new things to learn. You may find a new ingredient or technique or tool you can’t live without. The world seems a smaller place right now and it’s inspiring to read how others are coping. You will find the link to In My Kitchen at the end of this post.

We nearing the end of week 6 of stay-at-home orders in California. Both the world and my kitchen look very different. Without the usual busyness of life, I find I am more introspective and thoughtful. And more appreciative of small things.

We have, in this time of social distancing, permission to be comfortable. That word, comfortable, has special meaning right now. It’s actually two words, comfort and table. Both of them are especially important in this moment of time.

We have permission and maybe the requirement to take comfort, and much of that is taking place around the table. My current wardrobe consists of only those things that replace the hugs I am missing from friends and family, clothes are soft and cozy and oversized and baggy and worn. I wear them unselfconsciously since no one will see me. The silk shirts, pencil skirts and skinny jeans in the closet hold no attraction. Maybe the kitchen and table are partly to blame.

Comfort is homemade sourdough with a crackly crust, thickly smeared with rich unsalted European butter.

Sourdough

Sourdough

Comfort is macaroni and cheese, the rich smooth creamy center contrasting with crusty brown burned cheese edges. Comfort is tomato soup (Campbells please) and grilled cheese sandwiches, the extra sharp cheddar oozing out when it is cut in half.

Grilled Cheese

Grilled Cheese with Leftover Chicken and BBQ Sauce

We have permission to be deliciously unselfconscious about what gives us pleasure without worrying about what we will look like to others. Maybe this is something we should keep.

In my kitchen I have flowers, spring is here and I pick exuberant bouquets from the garden.

Spring Flowers

Spring Flowers

Rhododendrons

Rhododendrons and Azaleas

They make me smile.

In my kitchen I have three new cookbooks. The grocery stores are a little short on ingredients, but I am looking forward to preparing and posting some of the delicious new recipes once the supply chains are up and running again. Reading a cookbook feeds my imagination and allows me to be an armchair traveler. That’s about all the traveling any of us will be making in the near future. We had to abandon our planned trip to New Zealand in March.

Two of them, Neighborhood and Week Light, are written by Australians and are vegetable centric. Melissa Clark (Dinner in French) is a frequent contributor to the food section of the NY Times, I enjoy her articles and recipes.

In my kitchen I have the first CSA box from Nye Ranch, just down the road from us. I really appreciate the ability to support small, local agriculture. This is a new venture for them and makes up for the lost income from restaurant customers. The box contained lovely fresh and very local produce.

Nye Ranch CSA

Nye Ranch CSA – Week 1

In my kitchen I have resurrected my sourdough starter from the freezer.

 

My family thinks I am missing the microbiology lab too much. It has been a challenge to bake sourdough bread. Do not in any way think that the beauty of the loaf pictured above is indicative of my success. It was an anomaly. Bread flour is not to be had anywhere, so I am working with whole wheat and sprouted wheat flour and a small amount (I am conserving my 2 lb. bag) of all purpose flour. Most of my efforts are better used as croutons or hockey pucks. But I am still trying. Thankfully the starter is happy and bubbling away (I was a pretty good microbiologist). I have been searching the internet for tips when working with heavier flours. It seems everyone is baking, flour is as scarce at toilet paper. If any of you have some suggestions, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

The “In My Kitchen” is hosted monthly by Sherry, from Sherrys Pickings. Please do come on over, it’s lovely reading with a cup of tea or coffee and may inspire you.

(Note: I do not receive any renumeration from Amazon or any other supplier/source I may mention in a post. Any link is for your interest and information only.)

In My Garden – April 2020

In My Garden – April 2020

The following two paragraphs are copied from Kitchen Garden Seeds. I’m on their email list and get messages fairly frequently. Perusing seed catalogs in print or online is a time honored winter and early spring tradition for most gardeners.

“Back in the 1940s in the midst of World War II, Americans across the country planted Victory Gardens to supply themselves and others with fresh food, which was a scarcity at the time. Victory Gardens were hugely successful, and a symbol of our country coming together toward a common goal of keeping ourselves healthy and proactive.
We’re now in the midst of another global crisis, and judging from what we’re hearing from our customers, gardening is yet again what we’re all gravitating toward for sustenance and comfort. As we all hunker down to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and the population in general, flattening the curve as best we can, we have the opportunity to get back to basics: spending quality time with family, cooking leisurely meals, engaging in meaningful conversations, and, of course, gardening. Growing our own food and flowers is incredibly therapeutic, with the added benefit of supplying our families with fresh food without stepping foot in a grocery store.”
Even if you only have room for a small patio garden, it can be very gratifying to pick some fresh herbs or a few cherry tomatoes for your dinner. This link will lead you to a post I wrote a few years ago with some ideas, Kitchen Basics to Grow in Pots.
We have been preparing the vegetable garden for early summer vegetables. Although I did have summer squash in the raised beds last year, it’s too cool for cucumbers or tomatoes. We’ve hope to remedy that by covering some of the raised beds with plastic to make mini-hoop houses.
I would love to grow peppers but it really is too cool for them here. I did run across an interesting article about them though and had a few minutes of ‘hot’ summer envy. Here is a link if you live in an area where you can grow them. The link is from a site called Happy DIY Home, they had some handy tips regarding home and garden.
Raised Beds

Raised Beds with Hoops for Plastic Covering

At the moment my raised are filled with lettuce, kale, and chard. Definitely winter produce, and because of the cold they are growing very slowly.

The sparrows were decimating the peas, they haven’t been able to get a start because of the foraging birds. I found some old netting in the garage and that seems to be giving them a helping hand. I won’t wait as long next year to wrap some netting around them.

Snap Peas with Netting

Snap Peas with Netting

We spent a day digging out redwood roots from one of the raised beds. This is a chore that has to be done once a year to each bed as the trees and their roots are very aggressive. There were some sore backs after the job was completed. It made me wish for that hot tub we keep meaning to purchase.

Raised Bed - roots removed

Raised Bed Minus Redwood Roots

I’ve started some seeds in seed trays.

New seeds

Seeds – lettuce, chard, kale, cilantro

So, what is happening in the flower beds this month? Spring is definitely here and the plants are starting to leaf out and bloom. The tulips and irises are in bloom, also the Geums. Salvia concolor has not been out of bloom since the start of winter, much to the delight of the yard’s hummingbirds. This variety of salvia seems to be doing better than most others of its kind in my garden. I planted several of them last fall with Alonsoa meridionalis “Apricot Mask Flower” and both have been in non-stop flower.
Salvia and Alonsoa

Salvia and Alonsoa

I am mesmerized by foliage combinations, especially welcome when not much is flowering. Here is one of my favorite combinations.

The tangerine color of the Geum flowers mirror the leaves of the Heuchera, both shown off by the dark foliage of the Anthriscus. All the Geums have just started blooming like crazy, they do very well here and I consider them one of the most successful plants in the garden. Everything has to be able to put up with the competition of the redwood roots.

The first rhododendron is in bloom, it’s a bushy yellow one. I think the variety is ‘Top Banana’ but I’m not sure.

Rhododendron 'Top Banana'

I think this is:Rhododendron ‘Top Banana’

And the first dahlia shoots are showing.

Dahlia

First Dahlia Emerging in the Spring

It will be another few weeks before most of the emerge. It’s a tricky time when the snails and slugs can ravage them.

Banana Slugs

Banana Slugs

Here are two pictures of the pollinator meadow, 2019 and 2020. Late last fall we mowed all the plants in and this year we will see how it changes. I’ll add side by side pictures each month for comparison.

If you would like to take a look at the garden last year at this time, you will find the link here. We had a lot more rain last winter season than this one. In fact almost twice as much as this year. I fear that, without a lot of early spring rain, we are headed into a drought.

And lastly, while I have been digging in the raised bed and putting in new plants, the dogs have been busy doing their own excavations. They have completely dug up a portion of the yard in search of a allusive gopher or mole.

Major Gopher Excavation

Major Gopher Excavation

Dogs digging

I know it’s here somewhere

There must be a whole colony from the looks of it.

Examining a Days Work

Examining a Days Work

Definitely a tunnel here.

Stay well everyone, stay safe. Let me know how your garden is doing. Right now I call it my therapy.