In My Kitchen – November 2020

In My Kitchen – November 2020

“Where have you been?” You may well ask. The answer is complicated…in a cave, trying to enter a coma, in a complete media blackout zone, and in general a nervous wreck. I’ve found it almost impossible to write or even do much reading. Books on tape have become my refuge. I apologize if I have missed your blog posts or emails. I promise to recover in a week or so.

Things are not good in the U.S. No matter the outcome of the election (as I write it is currently undecided), things are not good. Whatever side you are on, things are not good. How can folks have such different views of both democracy and leadership; why are we so divided and how can there be so much anger? Even more important, what can we do?

In addition to the horrible political situation, we personally have been closing on a second home/condo/apartment in downtown Oakland. We have deep roots in Oakland, after over 30 years we have many close friends plus all our medical professionals are there. Our retiree medical insurance benefits depend on having a residence in Oakland. Fort Bragg is an example of the deep holes we have in rural health. We are lucky to have a small local hospital but any specialist is over a 2 hour drive away. We have been renting in Oakland since we sold our home two years ago but that was always intended to be temporary. I will attach a picture of the new kitchen at the end of this post. We don’t plan to move until next year as there is some work to be done.

So everything has converged to set up a period of maximum stress in my life and that’s not even mentioning Covid. But, we feel grateful to have our health and a roof over our heads with food on the table, there are many more folks who are less fortunate right now. 

How are you coping out there?

So, what is going on In My Kitchen?

Casey and Quinn

What are you making for dinner Mom? Casey and Quinn under the table.

After almost 10 months of stay at home orders and social distancing, I am running out of steam. It’s been many years since I cooked 3 meals a day for weeks/months on end. “What are we having for dinner?” has become a looming question every day. I am mostly bored with the menu.

With the cooling temperatures, I thankfully have a new repertoire of recipes. The Instant Pot has come out from its summer home in the garage, and I am dusting off my casseroles and braising pots.

I made ox-tail stew for the first time, yes for the very first time. After researching recipes I decided to use the electric pressure cooker. It was absolutely delicious, essentially a one pot meal with the potatoes and carrots. It only needed a green salad on the side. The meat melted off the bone and the sauce was amazing.

Instant Pot Ox-Tail Stew

Instant Pot Ox-Tail Stew with Red Wine

The potatoes came out of the garden. This was a classic stew with carrots, celery, garlic, and potatoes plus tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, herbs-de-Provence, and red wine. It was even better the next day. I will post the recipe.

We also ate a seasonally appropriate dinner of a butternut squash, hominy, and chicken stew. Another cool weather winner.

New in my kitchen is this electric smart rice cooker. I was convinced into buying it after having polenta cooked in a similar pot at a friend’s house. Put in all the ingredients, set the time and walk away???? Sold! I also find it very useful for cooking mixed rice or grain types, oatmeal or porridge. My old rice cooker did a wonderful job with white rice, not so good with other types.

Rice Cooker

Rice Cooker

Also new in my kitchen, or rather in our outside dining area, are these little but powerful lanterns. Now that it is getting darker earlier, candles are not bright enough plus they are frequently blown out by a puff of wind (not to mention fire danger). These little lanterns have two setting so we can see our food and each other in the dark when we have small socially distanced dinner parties.

November is the time for winter vegetables, cauliflower being one of my favorites. We usually have a rather plain roasted cauliflower dish, cauliflower gets the most wonderful sweetness when roasted and charred. This sauce with olives, bacon and crisped parmesan really perked things up and packed a flavor punch.

So that’s about all. I mourn the end of tomato season but cheer the beginning of braised and long cooked meals (or Instant Pot). What are you cooking this season?

As promised, here is a glimpse of the new kitchen.

New Oakland Kitchen

New Oakland Kitchen

We are thinking of refreshing the kitchen cabinets as they are well used (if you look closely) and a little battered. But there is little else to do. It has a wonderful view of the Oakland skyline.

This post of In My Kitchen is part of a monthly summary of kitchen adventures around the world. Come and visit us at Sherrys Pickings.

Be well, be safe, be kind…we are all in this (whatever it is) together.

 

In My Kitchen – October 2020

In My Kitchen – October 2020

In My Kitchen is a monthly gathering of food bloggers from around the world. I’ve learned a lot over the years about new ingredients, products and tools from reading the posts. Click the link above to visit this virtual party. Our host is Sherry from Sherry’s Pickings. Please consider adding your own post, I would love to read what’s new in your kitchen.

September and early October are often referred to as ‘Indian Summer’ here in California. Besides a heat spell which seems to come unexpectedly (but every year) in May, it’s usually the hottest weather of the summer. And, it’s fire season. I used to look forward to this time of year, now I dread it. The good news is that the weather is now cooling and there is a weak storm system on the horizon. Hopefully it will assist the firefighters still battling the August complex fire which has burned at least a million acres and is now considered a ‘gigafire’. It’s the largest fire in California history, started by an unusual lightening storm this past August. Smoke has made the air’s particle count dangerously high. Even here on the coast there have been days when we don’t go outside.

I did manage to find a day to harvest the potatoes out of one raised bed. I was absolutely shocked at the abundant harvest from this one bed! I got almost a bushel of potatoes, Russian Banana and Princess.

September Potato Harvest

Fort Bragg Potato Harvest – September 2020

They are all considered fingerlings.

Fingerling Potatoes

Russian Gold and Princess Fingerling Potatoes

They are thin skinned and creamy inside. So far we have had them roasted like baked French fries and cooked as Syracuse salt potatoes. Have you heard of Syracuse salt potatoes? I had not before I went looking on line for recipes. Salt potatoes are a regional specialty of Syracuse, New York, a.k.a. The Salt City. Salt potatoes date to the 1800s, invented by local salt mine workers who created a simple and inexpensive lunch by boiling small potatoes in brine. The potatoes are still very popular today with the Central New York crowd and I understand they are a regular food item at the State Fair.

When boiled in a heavy salt brine they take on almost a mosaic salt shell but stay deliciously tender and creamy inside.

Syracuse Potatoes

Syracuse Potatoes

See the salty crust on these? I garnished them with some melted butter and chopped fresh herbs.

I served them with cabbage wedges roasted with heavy cream and parmesan and a simple roast chicken.

I have made this in the past with cabbage slices, it’s a favorite way of cooking cabbage as the cream caramelizes and the cabbage itself turns sweet. The link above will take you to the original recipe.

The combination with the potatoes was delicious.

You can find many different recipes for roast chicken on my blog. This simple one is my favorite.

In my kitchen I have a new book, Whole Grain Sourdough at Home by Elaine Boddy. Elaine was one of the first bloggers I met, actually through In My Kitchen, when I first started. At that time it was hosted by Celia of the blog Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. 

Whole Grain Sourdough at Home

Whole Grain Sourdough at Home

I just fed my sourdough starter (it came originally from Celia’s Patricia – we always name our sourdough starter) and am looking forward to trying some of her recipes. Because of the pandemic’s early enthusiasm for sourdough baking, the stores were out of most flours for months. I think exhaustion has finally set in and the shelves are restocked.

Sourdough Starter - before

Sourdough Starter – It’s Alive!

My own starter is named Devon.

And then there is the occasional flop. Isn’t this salad beautiful? Well, it was not a success in our household. I can’t remember where I found the recipe, maybe in the NY Times. It was a combination of roasted cauliflower and grated or finely chopped raw cauliflower with nuts, herbs, and pomegranate seeds. Sounds interesting doesn’t it?

It could have originally been from “Jerusalem,” the beloved Middle Eastern cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi.

This salad sounded perfect but the textures and combination of sweet with tart was off. Next time (if there is one) I will make it with raisins or dates instead of pomegranate seeds, add more chopped red onion, more parsley and cilantro, less mint and raw cauliflower. And maybe some chopped green olives…

Roast Cauliflower with herbs and Pomegranate Seeds

Roast Cauliflower with Herbs and Pomegranate

It just goes to show that you can’t always trust a beautiful picture to be a great recipe.

In my kitchen I have two beautiful ladies, just back from the groomers and decked out as harem beauties.

Casey and Quinn as Harem Beauties

Casey and Quinn as Harem Beauties

Actually this photo was taken just outside the kitchen door before they had time to rub off the decorations. They are great favorites at the grooming parlor.

I am excited at the turn of the season. I don’t think summer food is exceptionally post worthy. Just how many blog posts of grilled vegetables and meats do you want to read? Me, not so many. But there are some exciting recipes I am looking forward to sharing, stay tuned.

And, stay well and safe. November promises to be an interesting month…

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.