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Just so you know: the trick of freezing fresh herbs in a little water in ice cube trays? Works wonderfully. The other night I made a quinoa salad that normally has fresh tomatoes, dill, parsley, basil, and cilantro in it–I had to skip the tomatoes, of course, and the cilantro because I couldn’t find any (I can’t remember whether I froze any at all or if I used it all for pesto), but I used frozen dill, parsley, and basil and the salad tastes fabulous. Maybe even better, since I’m snatching a little summer from the jaws of winter. Well, spring technically–there are crocuses in my yard now, so I’m willing to concede that it might actually happen.

There’s a pomegranate in the fridge that I must remember to open and eat. I did this last year, you know…bought one last pomegranate around the holidays and never quite got around to opening it, and eventually threw it away in, um, the next fall, I think. It was still okay, just shriveled, but I didn’t want to eat it. I’ve been obsessively eating oranges and grapefruit for months now, so some variety would be nice.

I made bagels today. They need either a little more salt or a little more honey (I’m not sure which), but otherwise they turned out astonishingly well. Who knew bagels were so easy to make? It’s the boiling step that intimidated me,  but I read a The Fresh Loaf account and recipe and was emboldened to try it. I made some modifications and mixed up my own “everything” topping to put on it, and I’m more convinced than ever that I need to work on growing seeds for cooking with. Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds…plus onion and garlic, and some salt, and I’ve got my own savory bagel mix. Maybe I’ll get ambitious and plant some of the seeds in my spice rack this spring. The lentils I planted last year did nicely–I never picked any, because there were only a few plants and each lentil was encased in its own pod and it just seemed like too much damned work and now I wonder how lentils can be so cheap with as much labor as they much take; but they did well, and I’ve certainly grown other seeds that can be used culinarily.

Only tangentially related to gardening: we’ve been battling mice in the kitchen for months. I spied one running across the room before Christmas; it crept into my garden tote and I put it outside and thought we were done. At Christmas it became evident there were still more. We put out glue traps and caught four; we bought twelve more glue traps and caught none, but I kept seeing the mice every once in a while, spreading from the pantry toward the stove. Today I started working on the dishes that we’ve neglected and found droppings on the counters. I swear the mice are avoiding the traps on purpose. I even put little bits of food–scraps of bread, a piece of walnut–into the middle of them, but no luck. I’m comforted that they seem to be staying in the kitchen so far (and indeed, why wouldn’t they?) but enraged that they’re expanding throughout it. I have a deadline of May 1 (when we’re planning on going away for a weekend) to get rid of them through traps and cleanup and sealing holes (either chivvying Eric to do the latter or figuring out how to do it myself–his lack of motivation to do anything about the mice, or other household problems, is also irritating, but that’s a different issue); if they’re not gone by then I’m going to consider poison. Between them and the rabbits, which have enlarged their warren over the winter to the point where I can’t think about planting seedlings in the vegetable garden this spring until I’ve done some serious filling and maybe shooting, I’m not feeling very kindly toward the rodent family these days.

When I got home yesterday I proceeded immediately to the garden to pull five leeks before it was completely dark. They came out easily; I guess the ground warmed up a little since Sunday. I peeled the outer layers and cut off the roots and green leaves and chopped them into white and pale-green crescents. I don’t know why people say leeks are dirty. Is it because I’m supposed to be piling dirt on them to blanch them and I’m not?

I sauteed the leeks and a clove of garlic in a little butter and added a pound of All-Blue potatoes, using this recipe except that I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and added in some leftover cream and parmesan cheese because we’re leaving for Washington tomorrow and I wanted to clean out the fridge. I loved the look of the creamy soup with green leeks and purple potatoes floating in it. I loved the taste, too. I don’t know what to use leeks for other than this soup (though I bet caramelized leeks would be great on pizza), but this might be enough to get me growing them every year. That is, if I can handle hearing Eric say “You have leeks in the garden? Won’t all the rainwater drain away?” every time I mention them.

Tomorrow, as I said, we’re heading to Washington for an extended-family Thanksgiving. We’ll be making potato-cheese casserole and pumpkin bread shaped like a turkey for our contribution. Nothing from the garden, but maybe next year. And I’m totally going to save the rest of my All-Blues so we can have lavender mashed potatoes at Christmas.

I cut the last head of garlic off my little braid today. I see I must grow much more garlic in later years. I bought some more from the farmer’s market to make up for it. Also peppers, four for a dollar; apparently this particular farmer wasn’t going to cover his crops anymore and was getting rid of them. Also a cabbage for making pasties for Eric. Also small sweet peppers and yams because why not? Also jalapenos to make roasted tomatillo salsa.

It’s still cooking, but I’m a little dubious about it. Mainly because the smell reminds me of a Korean fish dish my mom used to make. I can’t tell you why; certainly she never used tomatillos or jalapenos in it. It’s probably just an accidental similarity in the mingling of the hot pepper and the onions and the vinegary tomatillos, seasoned with my imagination. When it cools it won’t smell like that anymore, and I’ll be able to tell whether I like it.

No frost as far as I could see. My dreams of tomato pesto pie are still intact. Tomorrow night is forecasted to be even dicier, though, so I may consider ending the tomato/basil harvest–and bringing in my bay and papyrus.

This weekend I’m doing a bunch of freelance work, and Eric’s mowing the lawn. After I don’t know how many weeks–I’m ashamed to talk to my neighbors, frankly–he’s got no urgent grading or plans, and the lawn is to be mowed.  Or there are no more apple turnovers. And how could he not want more apple turnovers? I want more, too–plus eggplants and onions and maybe some more squash to replace my lovely Stella Blue Hokkaido, which is deliciously long gone–which is why I’m going to the farmer’s market, even if I don’t get outside any other time this weekend (except to pick the tomatoes and basil). If gardening isn’t getting me out in the fresh air, at least other people’s gardening/farming does.

My friend Carol has a jar of Cherokee Trail of Tears beans in her kitchen windowsill. She also has a huge bucket of potatoes on her kitchen table; or she did yesterday, anyway. I went up for a Getting Things Done day (she finished two projects and undid two, which kind of counts as progress as it needed to happen in order for her to finish them; I cut out a quilt’s worth of fabric pieces and started a short-row toe) and we decided to have potato-leek soup for dinner. So of course we had to dig potatoes for soup.

She grew three kinds: banana fingerlings, All-Blues, and a white kind I can’t remember the name of–Oway?–but that she said she wouldn’t grow again anyway. “The fingerlings are my favorites,” she said as we crouched on either side of her potato bed with trowels. “We eat them roasted with garlic. Does Eric like them?”

“He thinks potatoes made that way are bland,” I said, rooting out some All-Blues. “He mostly just likes mashed potatoes.”

“He thinks roasted with garlic is bland, but mashed isn’t?!” she said, unearthing a hand’s worth of fingerlings.

“I think it’s just what he’s used to,” I said. I’m going to have to see if I can get him to change his mind, though; I have fingerlings of my own (French) and roasting them with garlic and oil and salt sounds marvelous. I haven’t had potatoes much at all this summer, and I’ve missed them.

The potato-leek soup turned out wonderfully: tasty and attractive, lavender soup with light green highlights from the leeks. She says they had lavender mashed potatoes not long ago, too. Hooray for funny-colored food!

Apparently my camera is more stubborn than I thought–or rather, its software is. Sigh. So there are no pictures. I’m not doing much gardening, either, other than adding vast quantities of apple cores to the compost pile. Instead I’m cooking and baking. Apples were $10 a half-bushel at the farmer’s market; with them and the butternut squash that were three for a dollar, the raspberries, the onions, and the honey, I had to stop several times to rest my arms before I got to my car. I’ve made a double batch of apple butter (still simmering, and I have to scrounge up an extra jar or two before it thickens completely), apple turnovers, bread, and the–most likely–last batch of fresh salsa. (I’m not too bereaved. It’s really good and it’ll last a while, and I have tomatillo salsa still to look forward to and several jars of canned salsa in the pantry.)

I intended to make rosemary focaccia today as well, using the rosemary before it gets too cold, but there’s no time. Maybe this next week. Along with butternut squash soup and a squash-and-onion galette, and eggplant parmesan (with homemade mozzarella! We bought a kit from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company), and maybe roasted peppers with some leftover farmer’s market peppers for pizza. Summer may be over, but harvest and good eating certainly aren’t.

It turns out grapes spontaneously mutate into slugs when left out overnight.

Or maybe they don’t. The mothers gave us a generous plateful of their Concord grapes, but I don’t like them and Eric didn’t get through them before the number of fruit flies multiplied to the point where I found one in a covered bowl of rising bread dough, and that is not acceptable. So I put the plate out on the back porch. This morning I walked out and stepped on something squishy that turned out to be a slug bigger than I thought they made them in Ohio. There were other nickel-sized slugs around, too. It must be slim pickings this time of year because they had to travel up three steps to get to the grapes.

In other news, there is no other news. Well, I picked most of our remaining pears, and made a pear tart (no whipped cream, brown sugar in the topping, and half cinnamon, half allspice instead of all allspice; it was delicious but much too small) to eat while we watched the VP debate. I think this was the first time Eric and I have ever sat down and watched two hours of non-DVD television together. I’m continuing to pick a few tomatoes every once in a while, waiting for the tomatillo husks to brown, watching the broccoli like a broccoli-growing hawk. Still hoping to get some bricks from my stepmother-in-law to pave the herb garden, but if not I can go buy my own now.

I think I’m actually hoping for frost. That’s not quite true, but I’m past the denial stage of mourning for summer. Now I want to be able to clean up the garden–not that I couldn’t, but I didn’t get enough out of it to justify pulling the plants before they’re entirely spent–and see what frost-sweetened carrots and leeks are like, and quietly contemplate next year’s plans.

Also I want to know why I’ve got tomato and bean seedlings in the lettuce and spinach beds. I spread compost there after I pulled them so I can see how tomato seeds might have escaped, but I don’t think I threw any beans out. Where did they come from?

You get home, glad to be done with the crazy clients and crazier coworkers for the day. About six pounds of tomatoes lounge on the counter amid scraps of paper with weights and dates, or recipes from the Internet, scratched on them. “You have too much energy,” your husband tells you when you kiss him hello and tell him that you’re spending the evening in the kitchen. You put some garlic and the tomato-and-basil sourdough that’s been rising all day in the oven, and tell him brightly that he’s going to help by doing the dishes.

You weigh out two pounds of Roma and Zapotec Pleated and Tiger-Like tomatoes, rinse them briefly (“So you have to wash homegrown vegetables too?” your husband complains), and chop them up. You finely dice one onion, marveling that for once it’s not searing your eyes shut with its sulfuric-acid-making gases. You drop some oil into a pot and start it heating while you run outside–smiling at the sunflowers that are finally in full bloom–and pick several basil heads and oregano branches. The safflower seed heads you left for the birds are still there, unmolested, and you wonder whether that will last.

Inside, the oil is hot, so you add the onions and saute them until just tender, then add the tomatoes and a teaspoon of salt. You chop the herbs while the tomatoes get up to simmering. You remove the bread and garlic from the oven. The bread goes on a rack to cool and three cloves of roasted garlic go in the tomato sauce. Then you start washing and peeling and chopping your juicy, farmer’s market peaches, five or six at a time. Your husband further complains that since you’re peeling them, why wash the peaches? and you answer by popping a bit of peel, with some delectable flesh attached, into his mouth. He doesn’t ask you any other questions.

You reach four cups of chopped peaches, hands dripping, just as the tomatoes are thickening. You wash your hands, throw the herbs in, and let the sauce simmer a bit more while you put the peaches, a tablespoon of lemon juice, two-thirds of a cup of sugar, and a third of a cup of corn syrup into the food processor and hit ON. The peach puree goes into the ice cream freezer to become sorbet while you put water on to boil for pasta and get out the stick blender to smooth out the sauce.

Twenty minutes later you’re sitting at the dinner table, enjoying beets with balsamic vinegar and pasta with homemade sauce. The oregano should have gone in sooner, but that’s fixable in the next batch. You’d be looking forward to peach sorbet for dessert, but dinner is engrossing you. “The sauce is missing something,” your husband says, frowning. “What was that sauce we made before? With the canned paste?” You don’t throw anything at him because your stepsister-in-law is there, eating microwaved marshmallows with a fork, but you do resolve not to ask him to taste the salsa you’re planning to try the next night.

Today’s helpful tip of the day: one-inch-thick wooden stakes are not strong enough to hold up healthy tomato plants in August. My Roma and Persimmon plants are tumbled about because a stake each snapped sometime in the past day or two. I think I have some metal poles from the fencing we took out of the driveway. If not, well, I hope they’ll be okay. I’m gripped by the fear that my tomato plants will all snap their stakes and succumb into heaps of vines and rotten fruit.

We made gazpacho yesterday, and I dried some tomatoes in the oven for later pizza/salad use and made some sweet salsa. Unfortunately I realized too late that the recipe was for canning, and since I wanted it fresh I oughtn’t have cooked it or added the lemon juice; but it was too salty anyway so perhaps it doesn’t matter. I started cutting up more tomatoes to throw in to alleviate the saltiness, then stopped, partly because I didn’t want to throw good tomatoes after bad and partly because it was bedtime.

Today I’m slow-roasting the rest of the Garden Peach tomatoes (which I’m really loving: the fuzziness is unnoticeable in the mouth and they’re tasty and prolific, and they start to become both sweet and tinged with pink when they’re very ripe), as Eric is squeamish about yellow pasta sauce. I notice I still have some yellow pasta sauce in the freezer from last year. I must use that up.

My loss-of-tomatoes fear is acting here, too; I’m afraid I won’t really get red tomatoes in any quantity and we won’t make enough sauce to even be worth trying, and Eric won’t eat yellow/orange salsa either (though that’s probably a point in favor of using the yellow and orange tomatoes for it, considering how much I love salsa), and frost will come and I’ll have only my single can of peach salsa (too much cumin) and memories of freshness. This is almost certainly not true, but I fear it. It was very fall-like yesterday; it was beautiful, but I wanted it still to be hot and humid and July. But I’m not going to let my fear of fall spoil my late summer.

Flowers and even fruit are only the beginning. In the seed lies the life and the future.

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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