Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Gift of Nature's Bounty & Honey Kumquat Cranberry Compote

For many of us, winter brings holiday opportunities to celebrate with, spend time with, and show gratitude for family and friends. I get immense joy from sharing with those I love food made with care and love from beautiful, wholesome ingredients. So with that in mind, I have spent the last year putting up foods to give as gifts or to share at gatherings.

Homemade pickled vegetables make beautiful hors d’oeuvres. Hot sauce & salsas get rave reviews as gifts and are quickly consumed at parties. Jams, preserves, compotes are very versatile: add to a cheese plate, serve with fresh baked rolls, bake on brie wrapped in puff pastry, spread on sandwiches, or in desserts. Make an unconventional version of a traditional holiday dessert, trifle, by layering cranberry compote with small chucks of ginger spice cake, topped with a few spoonfuls of whipped heavy cream sweetened with maple syrup, and topped with a few pieces of toasted pecans. The cake and compote can be made a few days ahead of time, and assembled (up to 24 hours ahead of time) in small clear glass cups or mason jars for beautiful individual servings.

By preserving the harvest, we can share and enjoy the best each season has to offer year round. Our (or our neighbors’) trees & gardens can produce boatloads of produce, sometimes falling to the ground faster than we can pick it. Or ask your farmers or produce department if they have any overripe and pick up multiple pounds of the stuff at a lower price. Canning is not hard and what an awesome way to use fallen fruit and bruised veggies!

For the uninitiated, the canning process may seem intimidating to take on by one’s self. But it's ever-so-fun in a group, or find a friend with some experience, or follow instructions on the pectin package (or online or a book from the library). You will need some equipment: large pot, canning rack that will fit into said pot, canning jars (can be reused), new lids (these can't be heated twice), bands (can be reused), maybe a few other useful tools (like a ladel, funnel, spatula, maybe a magnet lid wand). Yes, it's a bit labor intensive but the results are pretty amazing and cheap, and all your loved ones will feel so fortunate if they get some.

In season now, persimmons and pomegranates are beautiful winter fruits that can be a little tricky:

You generally find two varieties of persimmon at the markets: fuyu (short, squatty shape) and hachiya (more oblong, teardrop shape). The fuyu you can eat firm and are a bit sweeter when they are just a bit soft). I do not recommend eating hachiya until it is very, very ripe, super soft, and jelly-like, almost translucent. If it's not, the hachiya is very astringent, which is not pleasant (but you may want to try it just for the experience).

Easily remove the jewel-like seeds of the pomegranate by scoring the outside with a knife, peel it apart and loosen the seeds from the pith in a bowl underwater. The seeds sink and the skin and pith float. Or try cutting it in half, and banging the outside with a wooden spoon over a bowl and the seeds fall out.

Another seasonal favorite, cranberries are not grown locally, but this compote is so much better than the jelled substance from a tin can. This is a new, easy recipe I improvised this year. Make it with love!

Honey Kumquat Cranberry Compote
1 cup fresh orange juice from the farmers market
1 1/2 cups kumquats, sliced thin, seeds removed, from my backyard
3 cups fresh cranberries from the local co-op
1/2 cup local honey

Stir together all ingredients in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Cover pan and bring to boil over high heat. Stir, reduce heat to medium, and cook covered for 5 minutes, until all cranberries burst. Uncover, reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes, until thick.

Can be made weeks ahead of time (keep refrigerated) or canned:

Boil empty canning jars for 10 minutes and left them to sit in the hot water. In a separate small pot, soften lids in hot water (not boiling). Ladle hot compote into sterilized canning jars, filling ½ inch from the top, wipe off the rim with a clean damp cloth. Seal each jar with a lid and barely tighten bands. Boil jars for 15 minutes on a canning rack. Remove from water bath and let sit, undisturbed overnight. Test lids in the morning by pressing top to make sure they’re sealed; tighten bands and label your homemade gifts.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Honey Habanero Hot Sauce

There is a guy in our produce department that special orders chiles from one of our farmers.  He shared a handful of the chiles with me (3 anaheims, 2 orange habanero-looking, 2 red habanero-looking, 2 small green, and 1 small red).  The only thing I can think to do with them is turn them into hot sauce:

1 head garlic
1 1/4 cup carrot, roughly chopped
1 1/4 cup onion, roughly chopped
4 habanero-type chiles, stemmed
3 small mystery chiles, stemmed
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp salt
2 tbsp honey

Note of caution:  I wear gloves when dealing with hot chiles - especially when I don't know exactly how hot they are - because I do not want them anywhere near my face or other sensitive body parts.  And if you've ever dealt with chiles and then touched your face, you know what I'm talking about!  If this by chance happens to you, soak your burning skin in milk to help take the fiery sting away.

Break garlic cloves apart and roast on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven until blackened in spots, turning occasionally until soft, about 15 minutes. Cool, peel, and set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the carrots, onion, chiles, salt, vinegar and 1 1/2 cups of filtered water. Cover partially and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the carrots are completely soft. (Careful not to inhale the steam!)

Blend all ingredients & their cooking liquid together until smooth.

Makes about 4 cups, which keeps for months in the fridge and makes great gifts.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Dia de los Muertos Potato Salad

Mi familia and I celebrated Dia de los Muertos by visiting the gravesite of my great-great-grandmother, Narcissa.
We had a lovely family BBQ at my brother's; we sang and played piano and danced with my little nieces.  I made potato salad:

2 pounds mixed small heirloom potatoes (purple, red, fingerling...), cut into 1/2" pieces
rice vinegar
olive oil
10 backyard chicken eggs, rinsed clean
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, grown in my garden, chopped
1 small red onion, diced fine
1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
2 ribs celery from Chino Farms, diced
3/4 - 1 cup homemade mayo
2 tablespoons stoneground mustard
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a covered pot, cover potato pieces with water and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until potato is soft but not mushy.  Drain. Drizzle lightly with rice vinegar and olive oil, toss gently, and allow to cool.

Hardboil the eggs -
In a small pot, cover eggs with water and bring to a boil.  Cover, turn off heat, and let sit for 10 minutes.  Drain.  Cool eggs by submerging in cold water.  Peel, chop into 1/2" pieces, and add to potatoes.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients, adding salt & pepper to taste.  My family likes it heavy on the mayo, so this recipe is pretty creamy.
Next year, I'll bring Narcissa tamales...

Saturday, October 5, 2013

DIY Figgy Newtons & Preserved Figs

These will not mesh with the luau theme of my aunt's party this weekend,  but 'tis the season.  And if we can control ourselves from eating them all, here's what we'll bring:

Figgy Newtons
1 stick cold butter, cubed
1/3 cup evaporated cane sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups fig preserves (recipe follows)

Drain figs from their syrup (I'm reducing the syrup to save for another recipe). Puree figs into a thick paste.  Return figs to stove and simmer, stirring, to a thick jam consistency.

In a large bowl, cream butter & sugar together.  Add egg, vanilla, and zest and combine.  Add flour, baking powder, and salt and stir until well combined.

Using lots of flour for dusting, roll out dough into long stripes about 3-4 inches wide, 1/4 inch thick.  Spread fig paste and fold dough in half lengthwise and seal dough by pressing together along the edges.  Cut into squares and bake on parchment on cookie sheets at 350 degrees for 25 minutes until cookies begin to brown.

Fig Preserves
2 cups filtered water
6 cups evaporated cane sugar
9 inches of cinnamon stick
a lemon, seeded, quartered, sliced thin
1/4 orange, seeded, sliced thin
8 cups (36 ounces) fresh figs from my mom's neighbor's tree, washed & destemmed

Combine water, sugar and cinnamon in a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and add figs and citrus slices.  Cover and cook 45 minutes.

If not using right away, can by filling sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space, add lids and rings (not too tight).  Boil jars for 15 minutes on a canning rack.  Remove from water bath and let sit, undisturbed overnight.

(adapted from HGTV recipes)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Spinach Linguini with Mushrooms

Even though I was babysitting 2 little girls, that did not detour me from making this dish.  The girls both assured me that they liked mushrooms (but I keep the pasta separate just in case).

1/2 pound spinach linguini, boiled until al dente in salted water
olive oil
1/2 red onion, quartered and sliced thin
sea salt
a few sprigs of thyme, leaves only
6 ounces cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 large clove garlic, minced
black pepper
small handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
small handful pinenuts, toasted

Cook and drain pasta, return to pot and toss with a drizzle of olive oil to keep from sticking together.

In a large saute pan, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat and lightly caramelize the onions (add thyme also if using dried), stirring frequently.  Increase heat to medium-high, add another tablespoon of olive oil and the mushrooms, stirring frequently until browned.  Turn off heat and add garlic (and thyme if fresh), stir and let sit covered for a couple minutes.  Add sea salt & pepper to taste.  Serve over pasta, topped with parsley & pinenuts, drizzling more olive oil as needed.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

No-spouse Acai Bowl

While my spouse is away this weekend, I'm taking the opportunity to make foods I love but he can't or won't eat (for this recipe, that means greens & coconut)...

an acai packet, unsweetened (not something I usually buy but I had a coupon)
3 smallish lacinato kale leaves (love this stuff!)
1/2 frozen banana (free from work: one (of many) major bonus of working at a grocery co-op)
1/3 mango (also free from the co-op)
a handful of frozen berries (I've been stockpiling from this summer's farmers market bounty)
a generous splash of coconut milk or apple juice
spoonful of local honey or 1-2 dates
1/2 teaspoon local bee pollen (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cacao nibs (optional)
slice of fresh ginger (optional)

I do not have the uber-expensive vitamix but I do have a quality blender and it handles acai packets like a champ! Add just enough coconut milk (or other liquid) so it will blend well.  Top with fresh fruit (strawberries from JR Organics Farm) and granola. Update: new favorite acai bowl topping - shredded coconut!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sourdough Pancakes

Wow.  It is really unbelievable how good these are.  Who knew?  They sounded pretty weird when I first read about them in Wild Fermentation.

But they are ethereal, quite literally.  And of course delicious; actually, the most delicious pancakes I've ever had.  An if you're the type who wakes up hungry (I am not), there's practically no waiting for these to make it to your plate.

This recipe is adapted from The Tassajara Bread Book:

The night before:
1/2 cup starter
2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or flour of your choice)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons rolled oats (or flour or other grain)
2 tablespoons wheat germ (or flour or other grain)
2 cups lukewarm filtered water

Mix together in a glass bowl, cover with a towel and let stand at room temperature in a draft-free spot overnight.

In the morning:
Remove a cup of the mix (this can be used your starter moving forward).  To the remaining mixture, add
1 beaten egg
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup milk (or more for a thinner batter)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons rapadura sugar
1-2 tablespoons of chia, hemp, or other seeds or nuts (optional)

Mix ingredients gently but thoroughly.  Melt a couple pats of butter in a skillet or griddle on medium high heat.  Pour small (close to silver dollar-sized) pancakes and flip when they bubble and have cooked edges (really quickly).  Cook them about another 20-30 seconds (until cooked).

Serve with your favorite pancake toppings.

This also makes heavenly light, crispy waffles!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Spiced Nectarine Preserves

I recently tried a spiced nectarine preserve (or at least, that's what I'm guessing it was) with goat cheese on a crisp, thin bread slice that had been baked with olive oil.  I was at a wedding and the bride is foodie, urban homesteader, and event planner.  It was, of course, a beautiful, delicious farm reception, complete with handmade marshmallows for fair trade chocolate s'mores we made ourselves over a bonfire during a stunning sunset.  Her brother catered, the groom served a homebrewed saison, and wood-fired pizzas were made, while we watched, with locally grown ingredients.  We ate on locally crafted wood tables with sweet, small bouquets of flowers most likely picked on the farm.  It was an affair after my own heart.

And as soon as I tasted those preserves, I knew I had to try to make them.  And lucky for me, nectarines are in season; so I asked my friend/farmers market vendor selling nectarines if they had any overripe fruit they couldn't sell, picked up multiple pounds of the stuff, did some recipe research, waited for the sun to set and the weather to cool a bit before building up a sweat over a hot stove, and came up with this...

6 cups chopped nectarines (remove pits but keep the skins - the pectin is in the skin), from Smit Orchards
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, from a Schaner Farm lemon
3 cups rapadura sugar
rounded 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
a slightly crushed cardamom pod (try to fish it out before canning)
a scant pinch of ground cayenne, just for kicks
1 teaspoon homemade vanilla extract

Cook fruit, juice, & sugar at a soft boil for 30-minutes; reduce heat if needed to prevent burning.  Stir often and skim off foam from the surface.  Stir in spices, turn off heat and stir for 5 minutes.  Ladle into sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Wipe rims and jars clean with a damp cloth.  Seal each jar with a lid and barley tighten bands.  Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Wild Yeasted Sourdough Stoneground (mostly) Whole Wheat Bread

I have always wanted to be able to make wonderful, toothsome, crusty, chewy bread.  I've tried several different recipes and methods over the years, and have had very limited success with this endeavor, which discourages me from trying very often.

But with renewed ferver, I'm making bread, a la Michael Pollan's Cooked.  I located rye (in People's bulk department) and stoneground heirloom whole wheat flour (packaged and much more expensive than the bulk department). I've wild-caught yeast, which was almost instantaneously bubbly (raising my hopes for this attempt), mixed the leaven and soaked the flours (I'm using filtered water because San Diego water is highly suspect).  My leaven wasn't as active as it needed to be and sank (along with my hopes a bit) instead of floating in water, so I added commercial yeast (much to my chagrin) per his suggestion.  I've mixed leaven into flour mixture with sea salted-water and bulk fermented.

I love the sourdough smell of the starter!  I love the sourdough smell on my hands!  I love that he encourages mixing everything with your hands.

Shaped the dough into 2 loaves (wow, that's a sticky dough but not dissimilar to Grandma Robert's rolls, the only bread I've made well consistently and loved) and proofed for days (longer than intended) in the refrigerator.  Trying to get it out of the bowl and into the very hot dutch oven involved a lot of scraping.  And trying to get the beautifully baked loaf out of the dutch oven involved a lot of prying with various implements.  It did not escape unscathed; part of the bottom stuck to the dutch oven.  How does one prevent that from happening? [Answer: allow the dutch oven to preheat for 15-30 minutes at 500 degrees - then it's much easier to pop out]

But the bread was wonderful!  Crusty, chewy, toothsome, sour, whole-wheaty goodness!  I made really good (dare I say excellent?) bread!  True, it could have had more airlift but whole wheat is notoriously height-challenged.
And I have a problem with throwing away 80% of the starter every day; this is too wasteful.  Seems to me recipes of yore would use that portion of the starter as the leaven for the daily bread baking.  So I need to play a bit more with this recipe before I publish my own version (so for now, here's my recipe from previous attempts).  But I've never felt so encouraged!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Eat Produce for Breakfast (a long-winded recipe for Vegetable Hash)

Bread and sugar in various permutations seem to be the mainstays of breakfast in our typical western modern diet.  And while I absolutely love fresh, homemade, organic, whole grain muffins/waffles/quick breads/biscuits/scones/toast/pancakes/french toast, I'm constantly trying to make them healthier or I skip them altogether for a fruit- or veggie-based option.

If we're not quite ready to quit our sugary bread breakfasts, we can improve the taste and wholesomeness of our favorite scratch comfort recipes.  Using whole grain flours (especially stone ground) is a good way to start the rehab process: begin trading out 1/4 of the white stuff and gradually increase the ratio of whole grains to refined grains to ease your taste buds into it.  Step 2 might be to stir in your choice of seeds, nuts, fruit or veggies into the mix: try chopped almonds and dried cherries, or pecans with chopped apples or pears, or walnuts with shredded squash.  Bake up and serve topped with a heavy spoonful of seasonal sliced fruit, cooked up into a compote or served fresh.  Or take rolls, biscuits and pastries in a savory direction: decrease or eliminate sugar from the recipe, and stir in or stuff with a spoonful of baked sweet potato and fresh rosemary, sauteed peppers and cilantro, sun-dried tomatoes and basil, caramelized onions, or whole cloves of roasted garlic.  Hungry yet?

Or maybe we're ready already to dive right into fruits & veggies as the center of a lighter first meal of the day.  When the weather is warm I want a smoothie: a handful or 2 of blueberries and a chopped nectarine (or local seasonal fruit of your choice), maybe spinach or kale, a frozen banana (if you've got one lurking in the freezer), a scoop of probiotic-rich yogurt or some coconut milk, a few dates or spoonful of local honey, a big pinch of local bee pollen, splash in some orange or apple juice, and  blend with 1/2 cup or so of ice.  Stir in chia or hemp seeds or top with granola for some crunch.

Lean and mean green drink more your speed?  Then you probably know how to make one.  They tend to be a bit too fibrous and, well, vegetal for me.  But I do like them quite a lot when made with fruit and strained through a colander (just kidding; how 'bout using a juicer?  But then we'd lose all that fiber...): berries, carrot, orange, apple, beet, and/or celery, maybe dates, lots of kale, some spinach or lettuces, and a little flat-leaf parsley (I guess I like my green drink less mean, and mildly sweet).

Of course there's a whole host of other options within a wide range of healthfulness: baked fruit crisp, fruit salad, sauteed greens, roasted potatoes, apple sauce (ok, maybe just for babies), fruit with granola and yogurt, vegetable-filled quiche...oh, and here's a novel idea: eat a fresh, beautiful, naked piece of fruit!

But if you are fortunate, and have time for a slow morning, I highly recommend a highly satisfying vegetable hash.  This is a "mother" recipe, readily adaptable to what's in your pantry and the changing seasons...

All-Veggies-In Hash                       Serves 4
1 pound potatoes (blue, Yukon or fingerling), cut into 1/2" cubes (or mixed root veggies of your choice: sweet potato, parsnip, beets, turnip, celery root, sunchoke..)
6 cloves garlic in their skins
olive oil (or sunflower oil, coconut oil, ghee...)
sea salt
1 small sweet onion, quartered and sliced thin (or red or yellow onion, shallots or leeks)
1 small crockneck squash, diced or sliced small & thin (or other seasonal veggie: carrot, fennel, broccoli, mushroom, winter squash, corn...)
1 large poblano chile, diced (or more seasonal veggies)

In a roasting pan or on a cookie sheet, toss potatoes and garlic with about 2 tablespoons of oil to coat, sprinkle with salt to taste and roast at 450 degrees for 45 minutes or so, stirring once about 20 minutes in, until golden and crispy.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized skillet or pan, caramelize the onions (cook slow & low, stirring frequently, until the color of caramel) on medium-low heat in 1-2 tablespoons oil and a pinch or 2 of salt.  Then add the other veggies and saute until soft.

Remove the skins from the garlic and toss all ingredients together with a few grinds of black pepper.

If you like, serve topped with shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a poached or fried egg.

Want to add more produce power?  Add fresh chopped parsley, cilantro, chives, tomato, avocado, salsa or hot sauce, or homemade fermented ketchup.  Want even more veggies?  Serve on a bed of sauteed kale, or fresh arugula, dandelion, cress or hardy mixed greens.

...and that was my breakfast this morning.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wise Words from Michael Pollan

I think he's all that and a mason jar of homemade dehydrated kale chips.  I love what this guy has to say about food.  Even though (or especially because) I was trained as a dietitian at UC Berkeley and UCLA, my favorite nutrition advice ever is "eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

In his latest Cooked, I am tickled with his perspectives on and blend of anthropology, religion, food science, biology, chemistry, history, agriculture, journalism, home ecomomics, research, technology and especially ethics, whisked together with great humor by his awesome way of expressing himself... I find myself compelled to share some of his thoughts on cooking:
Once I committed a couple of hours to being in the kitchen, I found my usual impatience fade and could give myself over to the afternoon's unhurried project.  After a week in front of the screen, the opportunity to work with my hands--with all my senses, in fact--is always a welcome change of pace, whether in the kitchen or in the garden.  There's something about such work that seems to alter the experience of time, helps me to reoccupy the present tense.  I don't want you to get the idea it's made a Buddhist of me, but in the kitchen, maybe a little bit.  When stirring the pot, just stir the pot.  I get it now.  It seems to me that one of the great luxuries of life at this point is to be able to do one thing at a time, one thing to which you give yourself wholeheartedly.

Who knew he could share the dharma, too?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Adventures in Food Preservation, Final Class Project: Balsamic Mulberry Jam

I've been picking boat loads (up to 16 cups) of mulberries off my tree every day.  They fall to the ground faster than I can pick them.  My refrigerator overflows with them.  I had to jam just to make room for more mulberries.  I jammed them a couple years ago, which went well but I made a few adjustments this time.

I really enjoyed using the pectin from the seeds & pith of citrus for marmalade, and I hope to get a hold of under ripe apples in the future to make my own pectin for jams (especially since I'm having a hard time finding organic pectin), but that didn't happen this year so I've bought the boxed stuff from OB People's Co-op. This is a citrus-derived pectin that uses calcium to jell the pectin; this allows me to use less sugar in the jam or to use honey, which I like.

I de-stemmed my mulberries by hand, which takes forever, because I wanted the fruit to stay as intact as possible, making more of a preserve texture (it also makes a dark purple mess but because the color is naturally sourced, the stains come out washing up with soap and water).  It still ends up pretty mashed (cuz the stem runs down through the middle of the fruit).

4 cups smashed mulberries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (I picked up a lovely one last time I was in the SF Ferry Building from Stonehouse)
1 tablespoon calcium water (add calcium packet to 1/2 cup filtered water in a small jar and shake)
1 tablespoon pectin powder
2 cups rapadura sugar (this will give it a deep molasses-y flavor and won't screw up the color cuz the berries are so dark)

I clean and sterlize jars and keep lids in hot water.  I follow the directions on the pectin box (and do all the stuff properly how I was taught in class and from reading the text, but here's the streamlined version):
Heat the fruit with the acid and calcium water to a boil; mix the sugar and pectin together and then add to the fruit, stirring to dissolve.  Return the mixture to a boil, then remove from heat.  Fill jars leaving 1/4 inch head space, add lids and rings (not too tight).  Boil jars for 5 minutes on a canning rack.  Remove from water bath and let sit, undisturbed overnight.

I got 5 cups of jam from this recipe.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Adventures in Food Preservation, Part 4: Marmalade!

I've made jam a couple times before but because you've got to be exact, I've found the process intimidating to take on by myself.  But it's ever-so-fun in a group.  Get a good source for detailed instructions: our text is great (and cheap), Preserving Summer's Bounty, there's of course lots of info online, and it's a good idea to follow the directions on the box (if you get your pectin in a box).

There is a good deal of equipment needed for jamming:
  • large pot
  • canning rack that will fit into said pot
  • canning jars (can be reused)
  • new lids (these can't be heated twice)
  • rings (can be reused)
Not technically required but very useful:
  • magnetic lid wand (sounds dumb but keeps scorching hot lids sterile)
  • jar lifter (basically tongs with grip)
  • wide-mouthed funnel
  • thin spatula to scrape inside of filled jars to remove any air bubbles
Yes, it's a bit labor intenstive (cleaning and sterilizing all jars and such ahead of time...) but the results are pretty amazing and cheap (especially if you're growing it or foraging) and all your loved ones will feel so fortunate if they get some.

We burnt the marmarlade (ever so slightly) and it was good!  So let's just call it caramelized:

Orange Marmalade
3 pounds (about 12 small) oranges: ours were assorted varieties from Dennis, who can be found at the Little Italy and other SD farmers markets, including low acid vanilla pinks and blood oranges, which gave the marmalade a rich, dark color.
1 Eureka lemon
1 Meyer lemon
4 cups filtered water
4 cups sugar (we used evaporated cane)

Scrub the fruit clean. I do not use soap (yuck); just rubbing and water.

Cut in half and juice the oranges (you need 2 cups of juice), saving all the seeds & membranes in a muslin bag or cheesecloth (cuz we're making our own pectin!)  Scrape the white pith (and save in the bag) from the oranges.  Julienne the peels (for 4 cups).

Cut Eureka lemon in half and juice.  Add the juice to the orange juice. Add the seeds, membranes and peel to the bag.

Cut the Meyer in 8ths, lengthwise.  Remove seeds and membranes and add them to the bag.  Slice the Meyer sections into thin triangles.

Put the juice, peels, Meyer triangles, water & muslin bag (closed tight, let the string hang over the edge but don't let it catch on fire) in a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Bring to a boil and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring so the fruit and bag doesn't stick to the bottom and burn (like we did, but hey, it still tasted great).

Remove from heat.  Transfer bag to a bowl and allow to cool.  Measure the marmalade mixture and for every cup, add 7/8 cup of sugar.  When the bag is cool enough to handle, squeeze the pectin juices into the marmalade mix (and then compost the bag contents).

Heat the marmalade back up to a rapid boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently (which we did so we didn't burn it anymore).  Secure a candy thermometer in your mixture (did I mention how much equipment jamming requires?), making sure it does not touch the pot.  You want to get the temp up to 220-222 degrees so it will jell.  There are other ways to tell if it's jelled, but those are a bit too esoteric for me.

Fill sterilized jars (that you've been keeping in hot water), scrape down side to remove any air bubbles, clean head space & outer threads with a clean, damp cloth, add lids & rings (that you've been keeping in hot water), not super tight, and process in 180 degree water bath for 5 minutes.

Again, follow all instructions (from a resource other than this streamlined post).

Saturday, May 11, 2013

My First - and Best - Hot Sauce: Chipotle

I've been wanting to make hot sauce for a while.  My spouse loves it but it's hard to find a really good one with wholesome & organic ingredients.  So when the deli put one out that I particularly enjoyed, I asked how they made it.

Based on Daniel's recipe at OB People's deli...

1/2 cup whole dried New Mexican chilis, stems removed
1/4 cup whole dried chipotle chilis, stems removed
4 fresh medium heirloom tomatoes
1 fresh anaheim chili
1 head garlic
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Roast fresh chili, garlic and tomato at 400 degrees until soft and blistered; remove stems (and skin & seeds if desired). 

Heat vinegar with equal parts filtered water and simmer all ingredients together until dried chilis are soft (this could take a few hours).  Blend all ingredients until smooth. Add more vinegar and/or water for desired consistency.

My spouse was very excited when trying the sauce and immediately started listing the food he would eat it on (vegetarian tacos, vegetable hash, poached eggs, hash browns, nachos...)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Adventures in Food Preservation: Part 3

Lacto-Fermented Veggies
Last week's class returned to fermentation, using sauerkraut juice or whey (products of the previous 2 classes) to ferment non-Brassica veggies and pico de gallo.  I visited the SD Public Market just before class to pick up my veggies from Suzie's Farm.  I stuffed a small jar with small carrots scrubbed clean and cut in half, and another jar with small golden beets, peeled and quartered.  I forgot to put my herbs and spices in first, so I then add a few peppercorns, fresh cilantro, a bay leaf (to keep the veggies crisp) and a dried hot pepper to the carrots, and peppercorns, fresh dill and a bay leaf to the beets.  I used cup jars, so I added 1/2 tablespoon of sauerkraut juice to each jar.  I made a brine by dissolving 3 tablespoons of course sea salt to a quart of water, and covered the veggies with the brine.

My veggies were packed tight so I didn't think I needed to weigh them down to keep them submerged in the liquid; I just set the lid on loose and put the jars in a cool, dark space.  Well, a few days later when i came back to check for mold, all of the herbs and spices (that I forgot to put in first) had floated to the top are were moldy.  So I removed them and the mold and put the veggies in the fridge.

Fermented Pico de Gallo (Salsa Fresca)
8 Roma tomatoes (they will keep their firmness), diced
1/4 very large onion, diced
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 small hot peppers of unknown variety, minced (I wear gloves to do this as to avoid later touching my face with capsaicin hands)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 1/2 teaspoons whey or sauerkraut juice

After mixing all my ingredients and adding them to a quart jar, I wasn't sure if I had used sauerkraut or whey, so I added about 1/2 tablespoon of salt and added whey to cover the salsa in liquid, loosely covered with the lid, and stored in a cool, dark place. When I checked it a few days later, no mold, but it was bubbling over and making a mess, so it went into the fridge.  It tastes way too sour so I think I over did it on the whey.

Poor Man's Capers 
(I made this recipe times 4 in a quart jar for the whole class to split into small jars next week)
3/4 cup young nasturtium seed pods
1/2 head of garlic cloves
sea salt

Cover with salty brine and...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Adventures in Food Preservation Part 2

In our next class we made cheese and yogurt, as well as dehydrated mushrooms & kale chips.

For yogurt, we heated pasteurized milk up to 160 degrees with a couple vanilla beans (split & scraped), let it cool to 110 degrees, added "starter" (store-bought Strauss whole plain yogurt) and divided it up between us to take home and incubate. I tried to warm my little jar of yogurt is setting in the oven on the "warm" setting, which was too hot, killed the microbes, and my yogurt did not set.  But others in the class said their yogurt set just fine and was lovely, so I need to find a different warming method.  I'd like to get a hold of a dehydrator cuz that would be perfect.  I could also try a hot water bottle wrapped together in a blanket, or use my soup maker to hold warm water and the yogurt. They make special yogurt makers but I'm not into unitaskers. 

With a new focus on preservation, I'm looking for more ideas.  I traded some backyard chicken eggs for lavender and lemons and made preserved lemons, which was super fast and easy.  Now I need to wait a month and see how they turn out. They sure smell good!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Mother's Day Picnic

To celebrate and show gratitude for our mothers, this year my family will be picnicking on a small farm surrounded by lavendar, sweet peas and sunflowers. I get immense joy from sharing a meal made with care and love from beautiful, wholesome ingredients with those I love. In May, we still have the best that spring has to offer us and the bounty of summer begins.

me & mom when we were young
My picnic basket will include a trio of salads, deviled eggs, assorted cheeses and crackers, and mulberry lemonade… oh, and probably some cookies or lemon bars, although mom is sweet enough already.

Deviled Eggs
1 dozen back yard chicken eggs, hardboiled
a small shallot, finely diced
fresh parsley, minced
Peel the hardboiled eggs and cut them in half lengthwise.  Remove yolks and place in a bowl.  Arrange the whites on a serving tray.  To the yolks, add the remainder of the ingredients (except the parsley and paprika).  Mash the yolks with a fork and stir ingredients together until creamy.  Dollop the yolk mixture back into the egg halves.  Sprinkle with paprika and parsley as desired.

Kitchen Tip: how to easily peel a hardboiled egg
Crack each of the 2 ends, removing a bit of the shell at each end, seal your lips on one end and blow; the egg pops out of it's shell!

Spring Vegetable Salad
Mixed greens (a handful per person)
a diced avocado
fresh basil chiffonade (stack several leaves, roll them tightly, then cutting across the rolled leaves, producing thin strips)
a julienned red beet
roasted asparagus
a couple thinly sliced carrots
fresh corn (slice the kernels from a cob)
tossed with a champagne vinaigrette
…and if you really want a rich salad, add chevre & toasted pine nuts (but that just may be gilding the lily)

Champagne Vinaigrette
Shake ingredients together in a jar: 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar (or red wine vinegar or lemon juice), 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon dijon or whole grain mustard, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Grain Salad or Pasta Salad

Seasonal Fruit Salad
Toss together sliced nectarines, pluots, strawberries, and oranges, with mulberries or raspberries; drizzle with a little local honey, top with fresh mint chiffonade and garnish with edible flowers.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Adventures in Food Preservation Part 1: Fermentation

I am fortunate enough to be taking a class offered through San Diego City College, AGRI 128: Food Preservation Skills and I'm extra fortunate cuz it's taught by a friend of mine.  For the past several years I've been interested in actively cultivating my homesteading skills, especially related to preserving the bounty of the harvest, because these are lost arts, and I believe our survival as a species depends on our remembering the cultural heritage of these arts.  Why?  Well, as my friend and teacher reminds us, to increase our food security: we can increase our local- and self-reliance while we decrease the cost of food and decrease our risk of food poisoning by DIY-ing our food system.

It is also fortunate that homesteading is currently enjoying a renaissance, particularly around the culinary arts. Those of us who didn't learn how to pickle, jam, culture, cure, salt, dry, candy and ferment at our grandmother's knee can now build community and skill-share as we learn to "put up" food together with our like-minded friends (hey, maybe order of case or 2 of produce, saving even more $, and have a preservation party).

The People's Co-op deli recently started making their own raw, organic sauerkraut (yay!), which saves them and us a lot a money.  And like so many other foods before this, I never liked stinky sauerkraut until I had the real stuff, which is quite lovely on my veggie dog on sprouted wheat bun with a little fresh tomato and whole grain mustard.

Fermentation increases the digestibility of that healthy fiber in our beautiful produce and preserves its nutrients (and for cabbage, that's the vitamin C and beta-carotene).  And eating these foods helps build and maintain our healthy gut flora (which, compared to our ancestors, is sorely lacking in biodiversity, leading to all sorts of dis-ease states for us today).  Eating more cabbage, filled with micro-nutrients, can help reduce our risk of the big C.  Cabbage (and all plants in the Brassica genus - broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi...) have naturally occurring lactic acid-producing bacteria (the good-for-our-gut kind), which allows the cabbage to ferment in a good way with a little chopping and salt.  Here's our recipe from class:

2 pounds of fresh, clean, organic, sliced or chopped cabbage (be it red, green, smooth, napa or savoy)
1 tablespoon course sea salt (salt inhibits the growth of bad bacteria; non-iodized cuz iodine will kill off the good bacteria)
1/2 teaspoon whole caraway seeds, optional
1/4 teaspoon whole juniper berries (don't eat these!  pick them out when eating the finished product), optional

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and mash with clean hands until the cabbage begins to give up its liquid and ingredients look shiny.  Stuff mixture into a clean, wide-mouth quart jar.  Press cabbage firmly to completely submerge in the briny liquid.  Put a weight (l used a slightly smaller jar filled with water but there's a very convenient and cheap airlock and weight available at the Co-op) on top of the cabbage to keep it submerged, cover with cloth to keep anything else out (or use an airlock), and keep in a cool, dark, dry place.  And in 3-4 days: probiotic yumminess!  Apparently you should check it everyday to make sure the cabbage is all submerged and no mold forms on top (and if it does, just remove it), but I didn't have any such issues.  When you like the way it tastes, put a lid on it and keep it in the fridge for months.

As the cool-season crops sing their swan song, now is the time to try this out. And after you've eaten your [insert your favorite Brassica here] kraut, save the lactic acidy-water to inoculate other veggies that you'd like to ferment: carrots, cucumbers, beets (more on this later)...