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).

August – Easy Refrigerator Pickled Green Beans

August – Easy Refrigerator Pickled Green Beans

I don’t know about you but, for me, it has been far too hot to pull out my big canner. My kitchen has been warm enough the last week without adding to it. Hence this recipe for easy refrigerator pickled green beans. The pickled beans won’t last as long as regular hot water canned beans, but 6 months is plenty of time to enjoy the harvest. They also taste a lot fresher and have a better texture.

As I said in an earlier post, I came home from a week away to find about 10 pounds of green beans had been harvested in my absence. That’s a lot of green beans. We ate a good percentage of them immediately…roasted green beans with garlic and olive oil, simply steamed green beans with coarse salt and olive oil, and in a Greek green bean salad.

Fresh beans

Fresh beans – these were all bush beans

The purple ones turn greenish when cooked. They were among the earliest to mature in my garden and were very prolific.

Oven Roasted Green Beans with Garlic and Olive Oil

Oven Roasted Green Beans with Garlic and Olive Oil

I still had a fair amount of green beans left over after 3 meals. I certainly didn’t want to waste them or throw them into the compost heap.

We like minced pickled green beans on top of avocado toast, it adds a welcome sharp note to the richness of avocado (especially when topped with a soft poached egg). You can also chop them, add a good spoonful of sour cream, and use them as a sauce for steamed or boiled green beans. Or, eat them out of the jar with a slice of sharp cheddar.

This recipe makes enough pickled beans to fill 3-4 16 oz canning jars.

Ingredients
  • 6-7 cups of blanched green beans 
  • 1 c white vinegar
  • c apple cider vinegar
  • 3 c water
  • 1/4 c sea salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 sprigs of fresh herbs such as dill, mint, tarragon or thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper corns (I used smoked ones)
Method:
  1. Sterilize your jars and lids by placing them in boiling water for 10 minutes or running them through the dishwasher. Cool upside down on a clean dish towel.
  2. First, make the brine. Bring water, both vinegars and salt, and sugar to a simmer, stirring until all salt is dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool.
  3. Blanch the green beans by adding them to simmering salted water and cooking for 3 minutes. Drain and cool in a colander. I usually add a handful of ice on top of the draining beans and run cold water over them to stop the cooking. Spread them out on paper towels or a clean dish towel to cool completely.
  4. Place a garlic clove, herb sprig and 1/4 of the peppercorns in each jar.
  5. Pack the green beans into the jars as tightly as possible.
  6. Fill the jars with brine to within 1/4 inch of the top, close the jars tightly.
  7. Place in the refrigerator, they will be ready in about 2 weeks and will last for several months.

 

Quick Refrigerator Pickled Green Beans

Quick Refrigerator Pickled Green Beans

I had enough green beans for 3 pint sized canning jars with brine leftover. So I blanched the remaining snap peas from the harvest (only 1 minute this time). I added a slice of fresh ginger and sprig of mint to the one remaining pint jar and filled it with the snap peas. There was just enough brine to cover them to the top.

Snap and Snow Peas

Snap and Snow Peas

 

Quick Refrigerator Pickled Snap Peas

Quick Refrigerator Pickled Snap Peas

Maybe some of you also have a glut of beans from your yard or the farmer’s market…

Just in case you do, I am taking this to Fiesta Friday $343 over at Angie’s. This week I am helping by co-hosting. Head on over to join or check in on the virtual party. You’ll find lots of recipes, both sweet and savory, in addition to craft and decorating ideas.

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.

 

 

January – Homemade Red Wine Vinegar

January – Homemade Red Wine Vinegar

Did you know you can easily make your own vinegar from any partial bottles of red wine sitting around? Amazing red wine vinegar at a fraction of the price of those imported ones at the gourmet store, and just as good.

In fact, I think homemade red wine vinegar is miles better than the best commercial brand, and only takes a little patience on your part. As well, it a a “live food”, fermented by you. If you have leftover bottles of red wine after pouring a glass or two from the bottle (the wine really isn’t much good after a couple of days whatever method you use to preserve it), this is the way to reduce your waste and get something delicious from your kitchen. Not to mention the cost savings.

My initial crock of vinegar started because of the win of an “instant wine cellar” at an auction and benefit about 4 years ago. I won 100 bottles of wine, some of them very expensive from small boutique vineyards, quite a wonderful windfall. Hooray! Most of them were leftover from auctions and benefits of past years, we were very excited. But…they had not been stored properly; and many of them were “over the hill” or “corked” once opened and sampled. It’s discouraging to open three bottles of expensive wine just to get one that is drinkable. We ended up with dozens of bottles of spoiled wine (that should have been wonderful), but were starting to turn to vinegar. So, what to do? I couldn’t stand the idea of chucking them down the drain.

Enter My Pantry by Alice Waters, plus information from the internet. I was inspired.

Making your own red wine vinegar is easy, white wine vinegar…not so much. I don’t recommend mixing red and white wine together (although Alice does) when making your own vinegar. Start with a simple red wine vinegar. I understand white wine vinegar is much more difficult to get right and haven’t tried it yet. We usually don’t have as much white wine left over since I often use the remainder of the bottle for cooking.

This recipe takes something that you were going to throw away, plus a touch of living vinegar, to make something that will give your food a ton of flavor. No leftover wine? No problem. You don’t need expensive wine, just something hearty and full bodied for the best vinegar.

What you do need a starter or “mother”. What’s that? Mother of vinegar (MOV or Mother for shorthand purposes) is a fermenting bacteria culture used to make vinegar — an acetobacter that develops in fermenting alcohol and converts the ethanol into acetic acid (what gives vinegar its sour taste) in the presence of oxygen. If you have a friend who makes vinegar ask them to share their mother; otherwise do as I first did and use Bragg Natural Vinegar as a starter.

Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

It was even on sale after the holidays.

Bragg vinegar

You can make a small batch but why not make a lot.

Vinegar Crock

I started with a large crock. But I had a lot of leftover, going bad, wine. You can scale up the following basic recipe.

For a smaller batch, say almost a bottle, go with:

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cups wine (feel free to combine the dregs from several bottles)
  • 1/4 cup of starter vinegar with mother.

Method:

  1. Pour your leftover (not from people’s glasses) wine into a clean wide mouthed jar or crock.
  2. Add starter vinegar.
  3. Mix it all up
  4. Cover with a clean fine mesh towel (secured with a rubber band or string) and let it sit at room temperature, stirring vigorously when you think of it, until a thin, gelatinous film starts to form on the surface. That will form into the mother. You may see it 7-10 days after you begin the process, the time be will dependent on the temperature where it is stored. Start tasting after a month but it may take longer. Be patient. My larger batch took almost 5 months but it is worth the wait.
  5. Once it tastes more like a smooth vinegar and is to your liking, strain (I use a coffee filter) it into bottles and seal. You can then add more wine to the leftover mother in your crock or jar or start with more Bragg vinegar to start the process again.

Note: Do not use cheesecloth to cover your fermenting container. The holes are too big and you will end up (as I did) with vinegar flies about the size of gnats in your curing vinegar. I had to throw the entire first batch out. I now use a clean tea towel tied securely around the top.

Red Wine Vinegar

Your vinegar will be slightly cloudy, but that is because it is alive.

December – Gifts From the Kitchen

December – Gifts From the Kitchen

This year I am having fun making many of the gifts I am giving during the holidays. As well, it is wonderful to have something ready for hostess gifts when invited to a party. Wrap any of these in a pretty tea towel for a personalized gift.

Here are some ideas, most have been posted on my blog over the past few years.

II didn’t realize I had so many recipes for lemons! Skip past this section if they are not available to you. But, if you are lucky enough to a backyard lemon tree (or don’t know what to do with ALL THOSE LEMONS), here are some options, make:

Meyer Lemon Confit

Confit Meyer Lemons in Olive Oil

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices (would work with regular organic lemons, wash and maybe add more sugar as Meyers are sweet):

Candied Meyer Lemon Slices

Meyer Lemon Indian Spiced Pickle

What about preserved lemons? Use some holiday spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and allspice in the preserving process.

Preserved Lemons 

Preserved lemons

There is Lemon Marmalade

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Just the thing for Christmas tea.

Meyer Lemon Marmalade, Toast and Tea

There is Meyer Lemon Aigre-doux. This is an Italian sweet and sour preserved lemon recipe, wonderful blended with olive oil for a lemony salad or roasted vegetable dressing.

Meyer Lemon Aigre-Doux,
Preserved Lemons

And lastly Lemon-Lime Curd, amazing on any kind of holiday bread or toast. You could also make this all lemon curd or even all lime curd. Panettone anyone?

Lemon Curd

Lemon Lime Curd

What about homemade applesauce? Apples are readily available in many areas. Add a few cranberries to the simmering apples to color them pink or red. Homemade applesauce is so much better than any commercial one you can purchase.

Gala Applesauce

Consider a pretty crock of cheddar beer dip or spread. Use a sharp cheddar and one that is the darkest orange for the best color (I used a white sharp cheddar which wasn’t as pretty).

Cheddar-Beer Dip

Or a jar of homemade mustard, there are two recipes on my blog. Choose the one that fits your schedule. Here is the second for hot and sweet mustard, it’s quick and easy.

Hot and Sweet Mustard

Give it in a pretty container for a special treat.

What about spice mixes? Most of the commercial spices are full of sugar, preservatives and other ingredients you don’t want to put in your food.

A popular mix with my friends is the Fennel Spice from Michael Chiarello. Although it is easy, I find most folks would rather receive a jar than make it themselves. I have given it many times in the past and it is always a much appreciated gift. He also has an excellent toasted chili spice. I use it to coat port tenderloin (or a slow cooked shoulder of pork) before I cook it sous vide. It’s also great on grilled chicken. For a vegetarian or vegan option it is wonderful coating slices or wedges of sweet potatoes.

Fennel Spice Before Being Blended – Can’t you just smell those fennel and coriander?

Pork Tenderloin Coated with Vinegar Then Coated with Toasted Spice Rub

There are other bloggers who have amazing spice mixes, Mollie from the Frugal Housewife has a delicious “smokin’ Chipotle Taco Seasoning‘. Any Mexican food fan would love a jar. She has a number of other spice mixes and blends, all of which don’t contain any preservatives or additives you don’t want to feed your family. Plus, they taste better than commercial blends. The Foodbod is another source of various spice blends, focused on vegetarian cooking. She is also the queen of sourdough. She sells her own starter on her bread website, which is full of tips and instructions.

You’ll also find a number of spice mixes on my Pinterest page.

I am taking these last minute ideas to Angie’s Fiesta Friday #254. Join the party by adding your own link. The co-hosts this week are Antonia @ Zoale.com and Kat @ Kat’s 9 Lives