27 December 2008

bûche de Noël

My bûche de Noël!


Meringue mushrooms, nestled on flour sack, glued together and waiting to join the bûche...

26 December 2008

more fun than play-doh

I'm back, after quite an absence. (Computer called it quits a few months back, just bought a new one a week ago).

And here it is, the 26th, with my family's Christmas party tomorrow. And making, for the first time, a bûche de Noël. And having way too much fun with the marzipan. This stuff is seriously more fun than Play-Doh. And if you screw up, it's edible.

18 September 2008

death of an apple, birth of a melomel

I moved at the end of last month -- not far -- and was without internet for a week, and then... my Mac died. Very dead. So posting might be few and far between and sans photos.

Started raspberry melomel (fruit mead) with raspberry blossom honey and raspberries from my farm share : each week I'll add my share of berries until it's out, then I'll let it sit. For probably a year. I'll rack it after a month or two and strain those berries out. I'm very excited. Last year's mead is coming up I think and it's about time to see how it has matured. (Last year's cyser [cider made with some honey] is bright, sharp and delicious).

21 August 2008

soup and cheese

I have proved, once again (to myself at least), that grilled cheese and tomato soup are the ultimate food pairing. And maybe not just an ultimate comfort food, but an ultimate food. Period.

  • one onion, sliced
  • eight smallish carrots, likewise
  • a few stalks celery, chopped
  • two leeks, sliced thin
  • four or five large orange tomatoes (I used the ones with red near the top, shaped like beefsteaks), chopped into big chunks
  • four cloves garlic
Sauté the first four ingredients in olive oil and a nob of butter. Season with salt. Cook until onion starts to get some color (twenty minutes on medium-low?). Add the tomatoes and garlic. Add enough water to cover the tomatoes. Cook for half an hour or so until very soft. Pass through a food mill. Add some olive oil into the pan and cook 2tbs flour for a few minutes. Add puréed soup back to the pot and reheat. Add pepper.

Make that grilled cheese while it reheats. This is great with emmenthaler on sourdough. Nasturtiums add a nice green and peppery touch. With these tomatoes there's no need for the baking soda trick: these are a little lower in acidity as it is. So you just get pure tomato goodness. And cheese and bread, fried, make it heaven.

summer grilling.

I had a somewhat rare (excuse the pun, folks) meat craving a few nights back. I had tried some skewered grilled meatball things at a cookout a while back made of some local, mostly grass-fed beef, so I sought that out. I didn't find it, but I found another of the same description. I added chopped onion, herbes de provence, salt and pepper. I found the perfect destination for sauerrüben made almost a year ago — it is perfect for hamburgers. And they were perfect on a ciabatta roll from my bakery, with all the fixins' — all of which, save Belgian beer (Saison Dupont is, I found, incredible with burgers) and French mustard — were local. (And the pickle is from this batch.) That's what makes summer so wonderful.

13 August 2008


From all this rain and these storms, my CSA has lost ten acres of crops since July! (Today the roma tomatoes were all crushed, wooden spikes and all, as if run over by a tractor...)

It seems like a waste of a whole lot of work planting, weeding, etc. for acres to be lost. I suppose that's part of the gamble of these things. Whereas my minute garden is between two houses and protected from high winds, these storms have swept across open fields and the water has drowned multiple crops.

cantaloupe sorbet

Melon sorbet with borage flowers.

Another experiment with the ice cream maker (some friends who had one and got another as a gift passed the gift on to me).

I had two watermelons and a cantaloupe from the CSA last week. This was inspired by Jane Grigson's recipe for watermelon sorbet as her melon sherbet has egg whites and all sorts of things in it.
  • one cantaloupe, seeded and puréed
  • one star anise (maybe two next time?)
  • 1½ c. water
  • one cup sugar (I might use a bit less next time)
  • juice of one lemon
Make a syrup of the last three ingredients. Boil for ten or twenty minutes. Cool and strain out the star anise. Add to purée, cool and freeze. (This ice cream maker either moves too fact or doesn't get cool enough so I put in back in the freezer for half an hour and then turned it back on).

It's a bit sweet, but not overly. Very melony. As with the lemon kefir ice cream, I think a bit of alcohol would keep it from freezing solid. Something neutral like vodka, two tablespoons, might be good. I didn't have any either way.

12 August 2008

Lemon Kefir Ice Cream (for Marcy)

My friend Marcy sent me this recently:

Lemon Kefir Ice Cream
  • 400 ml (1 2/3 cups) kefir
  • the zest from a large organic lemon
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) lemon juice
  • 130 grams (1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons) agave syrup (I used sugar)
  • a good splash of limoncello (or rum, or cachaça) (optional) (I used a bit of rum)
Makes about 1/2 liter (1/2 quart).

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk until blended. Cover, refrigerate for an hour until well chilled, and churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instruct
ions. Serve with thin butter cookies, a handful of berries, and/or candied violets.

I'd be good with buttermilk as well. I added maybe 1 - 2 Tbs rum and it keeps the ice cream from freezing too hard. It's super simple, and really good. Considering the kefir was "low-fat," this didn't have that disappointing flavor and texture that most frozen yogurt has. It's very rich, and smooth, and has that nice tang of the kefir.

Garnished with miniature edible marigolds called "Lemon Gem."

09 August 2008


In my last post I started making kimchi.

Here it is:

Eating a decent amount feels quite good. It's tart, quite spicy and just wonderful. The eggplant in the kimchi keeps its texture and form, as if raw, but it looses all color, taking on the pink of the pepper and the flavor of the brine. Straight-up delicious.

And here is David, a few days ago, trying it as a condiment for sautéed cucumber, zucchini and Japanese eggplant with rice:

30 July 2008

mixed vegatable kimchi

This is a kimchi inspired by, — once again — by Sandor Katz's Wild Fermentation. This is a cross between baechu (cabbage, as in napa cabbage or Chinese cabbage) and a mixed-vegetable ferment.

Take one small head cabbage, sliced in ribbons, toss it with two thinly sliced carrots, a sliced onion and two of those thin, long eggplants, also sliced. (Radish is nice, I'm out):

Cover with a brine of 4 tbs sea salt to one quart water. Let rest a few hours. (Or overnight):

Make a paste of ginger (a decent knob), maybe 7 cloves garlic, a small onion, two anchovies and 1 ½ tbs Korean hot chili pepper (my past experience shows this to be a must — you can buy it by the pound in a Korean market):

Drain the vegetables. Taste for salt. Usually should be fine. Add the ginger-garlic paste:

Mix very well:

Pack into a crock:

Cover with a saucer or some other non-reactive object of the right diameter:

Place a heavy object (like a Ball jar filled with water) on the saucer, and cover with a cloth to allow air (but not bugs) to circulate:

Taste after a few days. Then each day after. Make sure the saucer is covered in 24 hours by liquid. If not, add brine.

Refrigerate when it's crispy and sour and all stained with chili pepper. This won't take long in the summer. If you have a cool place (or want to bury it in the ground, which I hear is traditional), it can age for months.

I'll post the results. (Nota bene: as this was a small head of cabbage, and I used a lot of garlic and ginger, this'll be more of a condiment than the last kimchi that I made that I devoured simply sautéed with rice.)

(see my first, second and third attempts at kimchi)

pickle project 2008

(I sprinkled salt on the sides to help keep it from inviting the wrong flora)

I haven't had pickles since finishing of last year's this winter. The CSA had a good deal of pickles this week so I chose some pickles in lieu of eggplant or extra carrots (you get a ½ bag of vegetables, a full of greens, etc.). Using Sandor Katz's recipe from Wild Fermentation as a guide, I started my first of the season with dill, yellow and brown mustard seeds, garlic and peppercorns. I almost added a hot pepper, but I'll wait. Maybe I'll pickle peppers next week?

And finally, tomatoes are in season. These orange-fleshed tomatoes were incredible with olive oil and fleur de sel. First fresh tomatoes I've had in 2008, I think!

27 July 2008

ginger-melon jam

I got two wonderful, striped, orange-fleshed (and still unidentified* — I should have taken a photo) melons from the CSA this week. I ate the first one in about twenty-four hours it was so good. Looking through Jane Grigson's Fruit Book, I found a recipe for Melon and Ginger Jam. A very simple recipe, adapted from hers:

For each 2lbs cubed, peeled, melon (about one melon):
  • 2lbs sugar (I use organic in preserves, usually)
  • Rind and juice of 3 lemons
  • Ginger, grated fine (maybe 5-7 inches?) (Grigson uses preserved ginger)

The fruit sits overnight with the sugar at room temperature (first picture). I then added the ginger and lemon and cooked it until it started to set when cooled on a small dish. I mashed the fruit with a potato masher for a more even consistency (melon holds up quite well to cooking, which surprised me).

The lemon flavor mellows and mostly highlights the melon flavor and the ginger gives it a wonderful kick. I am very happy with the results.

2 lbs fruit yielded 3 pints (3 half-pint and six quarter-pint jars).

* n.b. (13 August) : The melons have been identified as "Early Queen".

26 July 2008


At the end of a long day (week, month, year, actually), I was in need of some comforting food. I didn't want to go shopping. I had eggs, some Finlandia cheese, some canned salmon, and a Julia Child book. I decided to make my first soufflé — a traditional soufflé au fromage. I made the base, a béchamel with yolks added and then cooked again, half of which I reserved for a chard-salmon gratin, and whipped the whites. I folded the whites in with the cheese. I baked that and the gratin until it seemed just right. It it was. It was the ultimate comfort food: cheese and eggs elegantly preserved — for a fleeting moment, it seemed — in air.

The soufflé seems so démodé, but it's really easy, and really good. Melt-in-your-mouth good.

strawberry ale

The last week of June, with strawberries abound and more coming, I decided to try a go at making a strawberry wheatbeer. I started with a 2 gallon batch of wheat beer (in a 3 gallon carboy). It included: 1 pound Munton's light malted barley, 2 pounds Munton's wheat malt and a pound of unmalted wheat flakes. It is lightly hopped. I let it cool, overnight, protected by cheesecloth — hoping to excite and invite the various microflora of my neighborhood.

I've read that strawberry ales need to be enjoyed young, and that strawberries do poorly with fermentation — with all that activity and release of CO2 the strawberryness escapes. So I brewed that for a week and then added maybe 4 pounds of strawberries — whole and crushed — for a second fermentation for two-and-a-half weeks.

It then spent a week in the bottle with some more light malt for a final fermentation/conditioning.

And it's wonderful. It has a nice berry tartness with a slight acetic tartness — nothing overwhelming, nowhere near a wild-fermented cider —, it's light and it has an aroma that really is of fresh strawberries. The carbonation is light and has the fine bubbles of a sparling wine. And the tartness with that is magnificent.

17 July 2008

kohlrabi and other csa vegtables

I began to lose my patience for salads and uncooked meals. With kohlrabi, zucchini and spring onion waiting to be used, I decided upon two things. First, zucchini strips sautéed quick with garlic and almonds. Second — and yes, this spikes the temperature in your kitchen by a good twenty-five degrees — gratin of kohlrabi, spring onions and fennel.

Take one decent sized kohlrabi bulb, one onion and one small fennel bulb. Slice all very thin (a mandoline, one of those compact Japanese ones, is perfect for this. Or a sharp knife). Blanch the kohlrabi in salted water. Drain, toss with other vegetables and a dose of cream. Season. Place in a gratin dish, cover with a bit of cheese (maybe something Swiss — this was that aged "Finlandia" cheese) and some fresh breadcrumbs. Bake at 300º until bubbly, then pass under the broiler for a minute. It'll still have a nice crunch to it.

Then sauté some almonds and garlic in olive oil and butter, add zucchini in spaghetti-like strips. You want to just heat this through. Season. The zucchini should be just warmed. Use maybe one small zucchini per person, one large for two, etc. Sprinkle with fresh tarragon. Or maybe thyme.

Perfect with bitter greens (such as mizuna, tatsoi and mustard greens) tossed with nothing more than oil and vinegar.

14 July 2008

currant jelly

I planted a red currant bush at my parents' house when I was a kid. Naturally, its most fruitful time has been since I've no longer been there. My parents dropped off about two pounds, so I made jelly (referring to Jane Grigson's Fruit Book as well as the preserving manual Putting Food By) :

Ingredients: just equal parts (weight) currants and sugar.

Grigson says to boil hard, then boil for 8 minutes. Sounds vague. I do like that she leaves the fruit whole (even suggests not taking out stalks) and then straining it. Putting Food By suggests making currants juice, then making jelly. That seemed to troublesome. But they direct one to boil until 8ºF above boiling.

I boiled the currants and sugar until they were at 220ºF, whisking at one point to make sure that the fruit was all broken. I strained it through a sieve and got 5 ½ pint jars. [n.b.: hot water bath for 6 mins.] It's tart and deep, deep red.

08 July 2008


An entirely homegrown salad: Alissa's escarole, cucumber and baby summer squash with my nasturtiums. A perfectly bitter early summer salad: the sharp escarole was offset by the sweetness of raw squash and cucumbers while the nasturtiums' sweetness pairs with escarole's bite and its pepperyness goes well with a spicy mustard vinaigrette.

And then cauliflower (from the CSA), tossed with nutmeg and olive oil and grilled. Simple; very, very good:

And mackerel, one of my favorite fish, stuffed with thyme, preserved lemons and garlic, grilled:

And the last of my many strawberries, all tarted up.