Monday, June 29, 2009

this weekend's cooking projects

so this weekend, s and i made three food projects in one morning. each one was so quick and easy, but i didn't actually make them all. no problem. i will talk about them all anyway, as if i had more of a hand than may be technically true.

last weekend, we made some arugula pesto--arugula, sauteed garlic, almonds, parm, salt, pepper--and discovered the total genius that is the kitchenaid food mill attachment. it makes your pesto this lovely consistency where you don't have to add much, if any, olive oil, so the flavors themselves stand out really well. it doesn't puree like a food processor tends to, and you don't have to mess with it and add lots of liquid like you do with a blender. furthermore, you can apparently get attachments with it to make pasta noodles, though i don't have those yet, which would even make it more functional.

anyway, we decided to use that attachment again to make a different kind of pesto (which, with the aforementioned arugula pesto, and the garlic scape pesto my roommate m made on wednesday, makes 3 types of pesto made in one week in our house!), since when we were at the garden we noticed that there was a huge amount of communal cilantro. we picked several handfuls, and got some raw cashews from the store. sunday morning, it was pesto-making time. a few cubes of parm, a clove of elephant garlic, some overgrown chives from the garden that had gotten a little bit woody so weren't good for straight eating anymore, all into the food grinder! after everything was ground up--which, by the way, is so awesome to watch!--we mixed in a splash of the nice olive oil and a little salt, and we were done! cilantro pesto, mmmmmm.

food project #2 was preserving more sour cherries. shayn pitted and washed them, then we added some sugar and let them macerate. once the sugar was dissolved, we froze them in a tub. for some reason, they didn't freeze very quickly, so last night i put some of the cherry sauce over my froyo and it was AMAZING. the longer-term plan for the cherries, if i get final say, is a white chocolate-mascarpone tart, maybe with a graham cracker crust, maybe with an almond crust. but, it's nice being able to take them out and use them at will!

food project #3 is a result of stop #2 on waltham day on saturday, although it is technically on the watertown side of the waltham-watertown line. we went to russo's, the most amazing store on earth. it has the most incredible fruits and veggies, so much cheese, fresh pasta, a great (and not that expensive) salad bar, etc--i used to work two doors down from it and loved going there for lunch. they have a huge selection of produce at amazing prices, and one of the things we got there was a bag of key limes (probably ~15 of them?) for 88 cents. so, we decided to preserve them the way you would meyer lemons. i haven't really heard of doing this with limes. we will see what happens. but, random easy pickling project when you find nice cheap food? yes please. other purchases at russos--after getting a full bag of foods from the garden (mostly lettuce, kale, collards, kohlrabi, sage, cilantro, cherries) include the following: 3 lbs of brussel sprouts, a pkg of blueberries, 2 artichokes, 12 small hot peppers, 1.5 lbs of fava beans, and one other thing that i am currently forgetting because i know that we had 7 items, one too many for the express lane. total cost? $13.00!

last night, i made beet chips. also quick and easy. i sliced beets on the mandoline, tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper, and put in a single layer (i learned my lesson) on a baking sheet for 6-8 minutes. really, really good, and a nice way to eat a lot of beets (if, say, your csa is giving you so many of them but it seems like a funny time for beets since it is SUMMER NOT FALL and so you have to trick yrself into liking them)!

that was this week's easy projects. the photos weren't that exciting so i didn't include them. maybe i will go back later and change that.

RECOMMENDED DINNER (aka how i combined random stuff to eat last night):

  • raw kale salad (dinosaur kale, carrots, garlic scapes, chive vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper)
  • beet chips (see above)
  • whole wheat toast that m got a huge day-old bag of from city feed, with thinly sliced cheddar cheese (i used my veg peeler) and cilantro pesto
  • vanilla frozen yogurt with cherries

(this is best accompanied by season 1 of ANTM--who knew the whole season came as one rental from the library branch only 1.5 blocks away? it's okay to be in love with elyse, right? sure, she's only 20 then, but she's closer to my age now.)

Monday, June 22, 2009

sour cherry freezer jam

at the community garden where some friends and i have a plot, they have communal fruit trees. they are magical. and right now, the sour cherry tree is heading toward ripeness.

off the tree, the sour cherries are a little bit, some might say, sour. but fixed up with a little bit of sugar and turned into preserves? MAGIC.

freezer jam is nice because you don't cook anything, so you get to retain the really fresh flavor of whatever you are preserving. with cherries straight from the tree, that's extra exciting.

you will need:

  • sour cherries (though you could do this with sweet, also, just with less sugar)

  • a lemon or lime (or at least lemon or lime juice)

  • sugar

  • fruit pectin

all photos by shayn.

first, you need to pit and wash yr cherries.

next, mash them up in a bowl and figure out how much you have once they are mashed (yes, you can use a measuring cup if you want).

if you are using sour cherries, add about twice as much sugar as you have cherries. if using sweet cherries, maybe use a 1:1 ratio and then add more to taste if needed?

mix until the well blended, then let sit for 10 minutes (note the masher not moving!)

while it is sitting, you can juice limes or lemon or just pour some juice into a cup. for about 2/3c of cherries, we used a couple of tablespoons of lime juice. look what a good camera this is! you can see the sugar granules on my hands!

after the 10 minutes, combine the lime juice with a package of pectin and stir to blend.

whisk the pectin/juice mixture into the cherries until thoroughly combined--it will thicken a little, but not all the way

pour into a freezer-safe container, put in the freezer, and you're done!

except! then, you have to eat it!!!

garden-fresh salad!

i'm not sure why this non-recipe is what gets me back to posting, as it is far from the most exciting thing i have made recently--though since saturday's sour cherry freezer jam experiment was well documented, i may post on that also. i think it's just exciting: lettuce from the garden!, strawberries from the farmer's market!, a new and tasty but super-easy tempeh marinade! it's so early summer, and as the weather outside is solidly grey and rainy, i need something to remind me about seasonality.

i made this salad last night, and brought more for lunch today, and it was just the right combo of light and fresh and hearty and flavorful.

first i:
went to the garden and picked lettuce and the last couple of chive blossoms i could find.
this is a picture of chive blossoms

and they are amazing. they will come up again later in the post.

then i:
went to the farmers' market and i got a pint of strawberries even though, as was pointed out to me, we had plenty in the fridge and were getting more in our farm share on tuesday. but the ones in the fridge were from the grocery store, and i didn't want to wait until tuesday.

after that i:
looked around in the fridge and found: 1 pkg tempeh, 1 small spring onion, 1 carrot. i took my chive vinegar that i made in may down from it's lovely spot atop our refrigerator, and got out our nice olive oil (thanks, ocean state job lot!). then i grabbed some apple cider vinegar, ground cumin, a bay leaf, and paula deen's house spice blend (this is just: salt, pepper, garlic, onion).

okay! so now i have my ingredients:

  • lettuce

  • strawberries

  • chive blossoms

  • chive vinegar

  • tempeh

  • carrot

  • spring onion

  • olive oil

  • apple cider vinegar

  • spices (cumin, salt, pepper, garlic, onion, bay leaf)

but you could substitute for almost any of those things. it's just a template!

first, i chopped the tempeh into cubes and marinated it in a mixture of 1 pt olive oil:1 pt cider vinegar, then diluted it to half and half with water. i added the spices, stirred, and put in the tempeh.

next, i sliced the strawberries, chopped half the onion into really tiny pieces, and broke up all the chive blossoms. at this point, it was SO PRETTY:

i got out my mandoline, which is amazing, but you could use a knife, and sliced the carrot really thin. i tossed it into the salad, also.

next, i sauteed the tempeh until it was browned, and let it cool a little bit.

while it was cooling, i washed the lettuce really well. it was quite dirty.

finally, i mixed it all up and tossed in a little bit of the nice olive oil and the chive vinegar.

were i not going to eat leftover blueberry muffin bread with the meal, i might have also made croutons, chopping up old bread (from the freezer) and sauteeing in olive oil with more spice blend (seriously, i don't love garlic or onion powder for most things, but it works really well on croutons) until slightly browned and toasty!

it was SO GOOD. so. good.

will i post more? freezer jam? maybe...