Thursday, August 25, 2011

their market (and more jam)

Sophia and Daniel spend a lot of time dreaming of the future, when they plan to open their own bakery. They've already asked to have some of my recipes on hand (and my help in the kitchen) when the time comes.

In the meantime, they have been honing their business skills with their very own streetside market. The other morning, Sophia and Daniel's market was open for business. With signs posted along the streets and the call sent out to friends and family, they filled their tables and waited for costumers.

At their market one could find packages of acorn caps, paper airplanes, fresh picked peaches, homegrown tomatoes, bundles of fresh herbs, pinecones, fans, and finger-knitted creations. A steady stream of customers visited throughout the day, and at the close of business, the market was pretty well sold out!

While they busied themselves with their sales out front, I got down to business with the 30-some pounds of peaches we brought home from Michigan.

With a recipe from my sister and a few changes of my own, I made a mighty fine batch of Peach Lavender Jam.

Peach Lavender Jam

2 Tbsp. Lavender flowers
1/2 cup boiling water
4 cups finely chopped peaches
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
sugar and honey to sweeten
ground cinnamon
Pomona's Universal Pectin and calcium water

In a small bowl, steep the lavender flowers in boiling water for about 20 minutes. Strain out the flowers, reserving the liquid. Combine the lavender liquid, peaches and lemon juice in a heavy pot. Stir in 4 tsp. of calcium water (included in Pomona's Pectin package).

In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix desired amount of sweetener (we used about 1/2 cup each of sugar and honey) with 3 tsp. pectin powder. Bring fruit to a boil, add pectin-sweetener mixture and a sprinkling of cinnamon, stirring vigorously for 2 minutes until dissolved. Return to boil and remove from heat. Ladle into prepared jars, place tops, and boil jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

This jam is fresh and tart, with a light lavender flavor that seems just right for capturing the flavors of the season. It's gotten the seal of approval around here, so I wouldn't be surprised if you can find some at a local Sophia and Daniel's Bakery soon (just ask the manager, Charlotte, for the August special!).

Monday, August 22, 2011

taking the time

:: time for exploring::

:: time for sunsets on the shore::

:: time to set up camp::

:: time for playing at the beach ::

:: time for finding the sweetness of the season::

:: time for enjoying summer to the very last drop ::

I've said it before about the beach we visit each year, but I do love to see how the children carry the memory of this place with them. There is so much familiarity to it now... the landmarks on the journey they excitedly recognize, the favorite camping ground under the oaks with the creek running behind, the old dog at the orchard who greets them a bit more slowly each year. Together, these moments help round out a summer, and fill the reserves for winter to come (for surely, there will be a cold, dark day in the months ahead that is brightened by the thought of this piece of summer and the prospect of its return).

We marvel, too, at the healing power of watching them play at the shore. Just a few minutes of seeing their joy, and all the stress of the journey is washed away, all the effort is entirely, unquestionably worth it. The trip isn't always easy (let's not talk about closed campgrounds or setting up tents in the mosquito-filled darkness of post-midnight Michigan). But none of that matters once we're on the sand and in the waves.

All that matters is taking the time to be there.

Friday, August 19, 2011

garden fresh pasta

Can we keep talking about the garden? Cause that's really where it's at for us these days.

What is this satisfaction that comes from growing and cooking our own food? Hasn't humankind worked very hard to ensure that individuals don't have to spend their time in these pursuits? Maybe that's just it -- because we don't depend on this for survival, we are able to find such joy in it. It strikes me that so many things we do in the name of leisure now (gardening, preserving, sewing, knitting, etc.) were tools for survival not long ago.

Whatever the reasons, it does bring joy to head out back and harvest the makings of a meal, which is just what we did for our pasta dinner the other night.

Garden Fresh Pasta

2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable puree

Lightly steam your vegetables and run them through the food processor or blender to make the puree. We like the combination of spinach and broccoli, but you can try beets, carrots, peppers or kale. You can experiment with adding fresh herbs to the dough as well.

Form the flour into a mound in a bowl or on a smooth work surface, making a well in the center. Combine the eggs, salt and vegetable puree and pour into the well. Work the flour into the moist ingredients, blending until a ball forms. Knead the dough until it is smooth, adding small amounts of additional flour or oil (a drop at a time) if needed to adjust the consistency. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling it out.

In years past, we rolled the dough by hand, cutting the ball of dough into quarters and working with one piece at a time. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a thin rectangle. Starting at a short end, roll the rectangle up and slice through the roll at 1/8-1/4" widths or more, depending on how wide you want your noodles to be. Unroll each slice, and voila! You have noodles.

This year, we were lucky enough to use the pasta machine my in-laws handed down to us. It made for even noodles and plenty of fun for the kids.

This recipe makes about 1 pound of pasta. Fresh pasta cooks a bit faster than dried, so check often for doneness. A drizzle of olive oil in your boiling water will help keep the noodles from sticking.

The rest of the garden picks were chopped and sauteed, along with some shrimp, to serve with the pasta.

Top with grated parmesan, serve to a hungry family and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

summer squash

It seems that some part of every meal these days comes fresh from our garden or the farm. It's a good feeling, knowing where your food is coming from, wandering out back to see what's ready for the taking, planning your meals around the abundance that follows you home.

The summer squash - zucchinis, yellow neck, pattypan - are some of my favorites. It seems they pop up over night, with a large, ripe squash ready for picking on what seemed a bare stalk the day before. And pattypan? The name is as cute and as odd as the squash itself.

A lesser known relative of the zucchini and yellow squash, pattypans (sometimes called scallop squash) are similar in taste, though a bit firmer in texture with a thicker peel. Usually white, but sometimes yellow, these squash hold up great on the grill.

Patty Pan Kebabs

1-2 patty pan squash, seeds removed, cut into 2" chunks
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
olive oil
salt and pepper
chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley, rosemary, etc.)
bamboo skewers

Arrange squash and onion pieces on skewers. Brush with olive oil on all sides. Sprinkle evenly with salt, pepper and herbs. Grill for 5 minutes each side.

After dinner, the left over squash went into the fridge, where it shared a shelf with the remains of other meals: a quarter of a roasted red pepper, half a roasted tomato, a handful of garbanzo beans. A mix like this might end up going to the chickens or the compost, but in what I can only deem a stroke of brilliance, I threw it all in the food processor with a drizzle of olive oil and dash of salt, turning the whole mess into an awesome roasted vegetable spread.

Spread on toasted focaccia bread, it was just one more way to enjoy the local harvest.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

at the faire

On a whim, we headed up to the Rennaissance Faire. The children could not have been happier; the day could not have been finer. Costumes, sword fighting, street performers, boat racing, friends and festivities all about. I have a feeling we'll be going back for more...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

all on a summer's day

The cherries we brought home a few weeks back went so fast, but we put them all to good use. Along with the scones, we made a batch of tasty cherry jam, and I must say that all the canning we've been doing has paid off. Preserving food has become as relaxed and easy a kitchen job as chopping vegetables.

Cherry Jam

4 cups pitted, chopped and mashed sweet cherries
1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 cups honey
a dash of ground cinnamon and cloves to taste
3 tsp. Pomona's Universal Pectin powder
4 tsp. calcium water (powder to make this included with Pomona's pectin)

Measure fruit and juice into pan. Add calcium water and stir well. Mix honey and pectin powder in a separate bowl. Bring the fruit to a boil. Add honey mix and stir while cooking for 1-2 minutes to dissolve pectin. Add cinnamon and clove. Return to boil and remove from heat. Fill clean jars, leaving 1/4" headspace. Place lids on jars and boil in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Every time the kids have this jam, they are reminded of something elusive. Something sweet and good and warming. Was it something from Christmas? Something a loving grandparent served? "Maybe one more piece of toast smothered in jam will help me remember, mama..."

And because I can't stop at just one or two good ways to cook up these delicious fruits, I put together this cherry tart recipe. The tart crust on the first version wasn't quite what I had hoped for, and so I made them again with better results (and plan to make them again and again...).

Cherry Tarts

3 cups pitted, chopped sweet cherries
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract

1/4 cup oats
3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. cold butter, cubed
1/4 cup cream
1 egg yolk

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in the butter until the mixture has the consistency of cornmeal. Add the cream and egg yolk. Combine and knead the dough until smooth. Break into 8 pieces, flattening each into a 5" circle. Spoon in 3-4 Tbsp. of filling. Fold edges of dough over the top to encircle the fruit. Place on parchment lined baking sheet, cover and freeze for at least one hour (well wrapped, the tarts will keep in the freezer up to 2 weeks). Place uncovered in a 375 degree oven (straight from the freezer) and bake for 30-35 minutes.

We enjoyed them topped with some creme fraiche, sweetened with a hint of sugar and vanilla extract, while reciting the old nursery rhyme about that queen of hearts and the tarts she baked...

... all on a summer's day.