May 2021 – In My Kitchen

May 2021 – In My Kitchen

This post is part of a monthly roundup of goings on in kitchens around the world. It’s hosted by Sherry of Sherry’s Pickings. Please consider joining and adding your own monthly update.

We had our first weekend guests at start of this month (who were vaccinated and actually allowed indoors) since the pandemic started 14 months ago. Although it was sunny during the day, evenings were chilly and we were able to beat a welcome retreat inside for dinner.

To celebrate we had these stunning botanical gin and tonics featuring elderberry tonic garnished with flowers and herbs from the garden. Spring is definitely here.

Botanical Gin and Tonic

Botanical Gin and Tonic

Along with buttermilk brined beer can BBQ chicken, I served this delightful celery and lentil salad. Along with crisp crusted local sourdough, it was an easy and delicious meal.

 

In my kitchen there have been new salads that are perfect for serving with spring and summer cookouts.

Curried Sweet Potato Salad

Curried Sweet Potato Salad – I’ll have some of that!

A curried sweet potato salad with cashews and creamy goat cheese served with a simple grilled steak.

In my kitchen I have a new Korean pepper paste made with brown rice and red peppers.

Gochujang

Gochujang

While considering what to make for dinner in my kitchen, I saw a recipe for Spicy Fire Chicken (it was also called Maangchi’s Cheese Buldak) in the NY Times food section and was intrigued. Truthfully cooking has become somewhat tedious and the recipe was outlandish and completely out of my usual comfort zone. Here is a link to a YouTube video of Emily Kim (she is the Korean web star known as Maangchi) preparing the dish. I was able to order the rice and red pepper paste on Amazon. And although I fully intended to try the dish, when I tasted a spoonful of the paste it was HOT! So much so that I questioned the wisdom of cooking with it and imagined the hours of heartburn that might result. To the rescue came another very simple recipe using it. This time a simple marinade of equal parts gochujang and honey with a splash of soy sauce and olive oil. To my surprise the comments said that it was not overly spicy. And it was true. So true that I don’t have pictures because we wolfed down the dish before I could pull out my camera! The marinated skirt steak was delicious, it was not hot at all but had a wonderful depth of flavor. I will try and restrain myself long enough to post it next time.

In my kitchen was (all gone now) a cheesecake made with labne. The recipe is from the cookbook Nothing Fancy by Alison Roman. She called it Sweet and Salty Cream Cheese Tart, it’s made with a crust of Ritz crackers and includes grapefruit juice. It appealed to me because it wasn’t overly rich or sweet, and it was easy to prepare (very important). I don’t usually make desserts, preferring savory over sweet.

Sweet and Salty Cheese Tart

Sweet and Salty Cheese Tart

 

Sweet and Salty Cheese Tart

Sweet and Salty Cheese Tart

It cracked a little in the center when cooling but a few fresh raspberries concealed it.

Lastly in my kitchen I made a sheet pan coconut fish and tomato bake. I will post the recipe because it was wonderful. Stay tuned.

Sheet Pan Coconut Fish and Tomatoes

Sheet Pan Coconut Fish and Tomatoes

The rockfish was purchased fresh off the boat in Noyo Harbor. I served it with fresh asparagus and a creamy combination of mashed potatoes and pureed roast cauliflower (left over from a previous meal).

What’s new in your kitchen this month?

In My Kitchen – March 2021

In My Kitchen – March 2021

It’s the In My Kitchen time of the month. Known as IMK, this is a collection of posts from bloggers around the world detailing what is new in their kitchen. You will read about new ingredients, techniques, appliances, kitchen upgrades and gadgets. I’ve been part of the party for several years and have learned a lot. So come on over to Sherry’s Pickings (she hosts it) and read all about our kitchen adventures.

So, what’s new in my kitchen?

The kitchen in Oakland got some nifty new mats. These are waterproof, vinyl and padded for comfort.

Kitchen mats

Kitchen mats

I love the patterns and they make cleaning up spills a cinch. I purchased them through the Food 52 website, they have lots of designs available. Note: I do not receive renumeration from any product recommendation.

Also from Food 52 I purchased a small cast iron spice grinder.

 

I find that purchased ground spices lose their aroma and flavor very quickly. And when I grind them in my mortar and pestle they tend to fly out and land all over the place, including the floor and even in my hair. This small grinder allows me to grind just the amount I need for a recipe, and keeps everything where I want it…not the floor and certainly not on me.

In My Kitchen I have a couple of new cookbooks. These are vegetarian and vegan, which I am not. However, the recipes are wonderful and creative. Many of us are pursuing a more plant based diet and I recommend both of them.

First Mess is vegan, but you certainly wouldn’t feel deprived eating anything you created from this book. The pictures made my mouth water.

Description from Amazon: “Home cooks head to The First Mess for Laura Wright’s simple-to-prepare seasonal vegan recipes but stay for her beautiful photographs and enchanting storytelling. In her debut cookbook, Wright presents a visually stunning collection of heirloom-quality recipes highlighting the beauty of the seasons. Her 125 produce-forward recipes showcase the best each season has to offer and, as a whole, demonstrate that plant-based wellness is both accessible and delicious.”

Start Simple is vegetarian and also very creative.

Description from Amazon: “From veteran food writer, recipe developer, and creator of the James Beard Award-winning Jarry magazine comes an innovative approach to vegetarian cooking.

What have I got to eat? It’s a question we ask every time we open up the refrigerator or pantry door. It might be eggs, some cheese, and half a loaf of bread, or a box of wilting greens, garlic, and some sweet potatoes. Though these ingredients may not seem like much to make a delicious meal, recipe developer and author Lukas Volger knows it’s all you need. In Start Simple he offers a radically new, uncomplicated, and creative approach to cooking that allows you to use what you already have on hand to make great meals you didn’t think were possible.”

I am looking forward to cooking from them both and sharing my favorites with you.

I’ve been playing around with the air fryer that I received for Christmas. Vegetables cooked in it have been a big hit. There isn’t any vegetable that I don’t enjoy roasted, now I don’t have to turn on the oven for a small batch. So far the biggest successes have been with Brussels sprouts, delicata squash, and mushrooms.

You will find the recipe for the mushrooms here. Both the squash and the Brussels sprouts were cooked at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes with a shake in the middle. Cutting the delicata into slightly thicker slices seemed to work the best. The middle was meltingly soft but the outside was delightfully charred. When in season, delicata squash is my favorite of the winter squashes because the peal is edible. I love tossing them in a salad along with crunchy nuts, sharp red onion, arugula and a mustardy dressing…cubes of sharp cheddar cheese optional.

In the air fryer, I have also cooked a pork tenderloin and chicken cutlets. I’ll post the chicken cutlet in the next few days. The pork tenderloin was very successful. Bone in chicken thighs were less successful, but a bone in chicken breast turned out juicy and delicious.

The chicken cutlets I used boneless and skinless breasts, cut in half horizontally, then breaded and cooked in the air fryer with only a few drops of oil. Stay tuned for the recipe, it still needs a little fine tuning.

Air fryer chicken cutlets

Air fryer chicken cutlets

I’ve been having fun with it, I only wish it didn’t take up so much space on the counter.

In My Kitchen I have a batch of moonlight cherry tomatoes. This year I have found the cherry tomatoes in the grocery store lacking in flavor. I don’t remember this being the case last year but it certainly seems to be this year. Have any of you readers found the same thing? Anyway, I decided to try an idea from the barefoot contessa to concentrate the flavors by roasting them overnight. It’s an easy recipe…preheat your oven to 450 degrees F, cut the cherry tomatoes in half, lay them cut side up on a parchment or foil covered sheet pan, sprinkle with a little salt and olive oil (my mother used to add a tiny drop of brandy). Put the sheet in the oven, turn off the heat, and leave them overnight. That’s why they are called moonlight tomatoes. It did help concentrate and sweeten the tomatoes, they were excellent stirred into scrambled eggs the next morning.

Moonlight cherry tomatoes

Moonlight cherry tomatoes

And finally, in my kitchen I always have my trusty sidekicks. Although their attention is completely self serving, they hope I will be clumsy and drop a tidbit.

Casey

Casey – are you going to share a slice of that pork with me?

Quinn

Quinn – play fair, you can’t give my sister something and not share with me!

What’s happening in your kitchen this month?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In My Kitchen – February 2021

In My Kitchen – February 2021

This post is part of a fascinating collection of blogs from around the world. In My Kitchen posts (also known as IMK) are about kitchen (and maybe garden) happenings over the past month. They could include dishes that have been cooked, pickled or preserved foods, herbs and veggies from the garden, plus new and interesting kitchen gadgets and other goings-on… You’ll find almost anything kitchen related. Since the blogs come from around the world (both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere) it’s an international gathering. Please join us over at Sherrys Pickings, add your own post or simply have a good read.

My February is being consumed by the move from out apartment in Oakland to our new (to us) condo, also in Oakland. We’ve been doing some renovations before the big move which happens in 10 days. Oh my, there is still a ton to do! I have only just started packing.

New cabinet doors in the kitchen and the bathrooms were installed last weekend. The painting of the entire unit continues and hasn’t yet been completed. Our painter has assured us that it will be completed at least 5 days before the move. Fingers crossed!

Consequently the cooking part of my life has been fairly simple and uninteresting, although nourishing.

But…stay tuned for next month when there will be lots of new things. The same day we move out, our daughter is moving into her own place. Consequently we are dividing up the contents of our current kitchen. We each have our favorite pots, pans and utensils so there is a lot of negotiating.

On to some details about the remodel. For such a beautiful place, the cabinets were shockingly awful and in terrible condition. They must have gone with the very lowest bid possible when they first installed them, it shows. They were laminate and particle board with cheap hinges that were hung badly. The cabinet doors didn’t really even fit.

Here are a few pictures of before:

As you can see, the pantry doors were too small. All the doors are hung unevenly, sagging a little on the hinges,  and the line of doors over the stove side of the kitchen don’t match in height.

The new cabinet doors are the same color, but actual maple with brass pulls. They did a beautiful job.

Just as an aside, the orange wall hasn’t been painted yet (and the disco ball light fixture will be replaced at some point).

Oakland Condo After

Oakland Condo After

It was the view that sold us on this particular unit. You can see the port of Oakland and San Francisco off to the right. By the way, this picture was taken from the kitchen window.

View from new condo

View from the kitchen, new Oakland condo

The waterfront at Jack London Square is only a block away. Restaurants, theaters, coffee houses, breweries and bars are a short walk. There is a Sunday farmer’s market plus lots of walking/running trails along the estuary. It’s quite a contrast to our rural life in Fort Bragg where we will still spend the majority of our time.

But I am looking forward to having a city home as well.

There is one very interesting new thing in my kitchen in Fort Bragg, rice koji. I will use it for shio koji marinades. I read about this on a chef’s blog and was intrigued. Rice koji is rice kernels covered in a fragrant white bloom of Aspergillus oryzae mold. It has been used to make miso, soy sauce, or koji pickles among other things. As rice koji is fermented with water and salt, it thickens into a porridge-like consistency and takes on a sweet funky aroma. You can see the gas from fermenting in the jar on the right. It’s rich in protease and amylase enzymes that can break down proteins and starches. I plan to use it as a marinade for meat, fish and vegetables. It is supposed to impart savory and subtle sweet notes to food as well as tenderize them. I will let you know.

Koji

Koji

It is common in Japanese cooking and currently popular with chefs.

Have any of you out there used it? If so, what are your favorite recipes?

 

Stay well everyone, and get your vaccinations when it is available.

 

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.