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 Kitchen – April 2020

In My Kitchen – April 2020

How are you all doing out there? I know that we are facing some hard times. In California we are in our third week of shelter-in-place and going a little stir crazy. I am spending a lot of time in the kitchen, but it’s not the same. I’m trying to avoid the grocery store and market, shopping only once a week or less (which is not my common practice).

By the end of the week, when fresh produce (and other essential ingredients) are running out, we find ourselves eating a lot of pantry meals. Some of them have been surprisingly delicious. Others, not so much.

Meanwhile I have been struggling with so many emotions, seemingly all at the same time.

  • I am sad and grieving, for all of us. It is heartbreaking to read what is happening in Italy, and NY, and Detroit…all over the world.
  • I am encouraged and hopeful. I know many people and companies are ramping up research and production to meet our needs in this medical emergency.
  • I am afraid for my family, friends, my community, the world and myself.
  • I feel full of appreciation, respect, pride and even love for those that are stepping up. In my book our medical caregivers, our first responders, and many in our local and state government are my new heroes.
  • The day seems to go so slowly but then again, the day is over before I know it.
  • I am accomplishing very little even though I have all day to do it.
  • And I am mesmerized by the news.

For the first time in a long time, the world feels very small. We are all connected. We are all in this together. Things will never be the same. That might be a hopeful thing.

Exercise helps, taking a walk or a Zoom class or getting out in the garden helps, a lot.

So what’s happening in my kitchen? More ambivalence… I want to spend time in the kitchen. But, then again, I’m not interested in spending time in the kitchen.

Emotions are complicated things aren’t they?

So, in my kitchen, I have pickled asparagus. Spring is happening, ignoring the reports of doom. The asparagus is amazing. I purchased 4 big bunches at the market (before the lockdown) and made 4 quarts of pickled asparagus.

Pickled Asparagus

Pickled Asparagus

I couldn’t decide whether to pickle them tip up or tip down, so I did some of each. Does it make a difference, what do you think? Our weekend brunch favorite is pickled asparagus on avocado toast with a poached egg on top. The sharpness of the pickle contrasts delightfully with the crisp toast, creamy avocado, and the rich soft egg.

I made fennel spice rub with a few adaptations for Forever Roasted Pork Shoulder. There was plenty left over for other dishes.

Roast Fennel Spice

Roast Fennel Spice

Forever roasted pork shoulder

Forever roasted pork shoulder. You will find the recipe for the pork shoulder and the spice rub here.

In my kitchen you will find me using my electric pressure cooker more often. It’s not an Instant Pot but it works the same. The market seems to have large packages of chicken and I cooked a big batch of chicken thighs so we would have leftovers for lunch. It was very successful.

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot

Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs in the Instant Pot. You can find the recipe for Asian Inspired Chicken Thighs here.

It’s useful to know you can cook an entire family sized package of thighs quickly. Most of the recipes online call for only four. Now that everyone is home for lunch each day, leftovers are very welcome. Use any kind of rub or spices that are family favorites.

Towards the middle of the week, and thinking about lunches again, I made a pantry soup while there was still a few zucchini and potatoes hanging around. This recipe is endlessly adaptable. I chose to make it more Italian spiced but you could easily change it to Mexican by using beans instead of potatoes, frozen corn, and chili powder. Or Indian if you have ground lamb and some curry powder. Customize it to what you have on hand and the flavor profile you feel like in the moment.

There’s a wonderful book, first published in 1991, called From Pantry to Table by Marlena Spieler. She has some creative cooking ideas and suggestions from a well stocked pantry or kitchen. I know Amazon did not rate it highly but for me it’s a go-to for ideas when my pantry is down to the bottom of the barrel.

Italian Soup - Sausage, Zucchini and Tomato

Italian Soup – Sausage, Zucchini and TomatoThe recipe for Sausage, Zucchini and Tomato soup is here.

In my kitchen I have one new cookbook, recommended by a friend. I haven’t cooked from it yet but am looking forward to it. It may need to wait until I can do some more expansive food shopping.

The Beauty Chef

I do like her emphasis on self care and that your skin reflects what you eat. We all need to be reminded to take care of ourselves right now.

In My Kitchen is a collection of posts from around the world. It’s hosted by Mae from Sherrys Picking’s. Please do check in with us, this month the world is very small. And please, if you are a blogger or writer (or a poet), think about joining us and adding your own thoughts, it will help all of us through these difficult times.

I welcome any comments. What are you doing to stay sane right now?