Friday, August 26, 2016

Fig Mustard

It's fresh fig season.  If you've never had one, you should try it.  Grandma Sophie had a tree when I was a toddler, and I never appreciated them.

I bookmarked this on Food In Jars back in April.  And every time I swore to myself I was done canning, I'd find something new to make and forget that this was on my canning list.  I'm still done making jams for a while, but I've branched out into other kinds of preserves.

One thing about fig season in California is that it's very hard to find dried Mission figs.  All of last year's crop is gone, and the rest of the varieties of dried figs don't look much better.  I've adjusted the recipe for a 12 oz package of 9 fresh Mission figs, which meant reducing the yield by about 1/3.
I'm glad I bought mustard seed and didn't simply substitute equal parts of ground mustard.  The seed grinds into almost double the volume.  I'm sure if it had sat around in a package, that amount would change.  There was no weight of mustard listed, which would have put an end to the discussion.  At least it gave my coffee grinder something to do, and it appreciated being cleaned.  Ever since markets started supplying grinders, all it ever gets used for is nuts and seeds.  Which, I guess, is what coffee is.

Figs have a honey-like taste, so I used honey in this recipe.  Whenever subbing in honey for granulated sugar, use about 2/3 the amount.

12 oz fresh figs
1/4 C water
*1/3 C mustard seed
2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 C lemon juice
1/3 C apple cider vinegar
*1/2 C honey (or 2/3 C sugar)

1.  In a dry 6" skillet, lightly toast the mustard seed over medium heat until it just starts to pop.  Remove from heat so it doesn't burn.  Once cooled, grind into powder in a coffee grinder.

2.  Remove stems from figs and chop into chunks.  Place in a small saucepan with 1/4 C water to prevent scorching.  Cook over medium low until figs are jam-soft and excess water has evaporated, about 20 minutes.  Purée with an immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender and return to saucepan.

3.  Add remaining ingredients.  If canning, prepare for a 3 cup yield.  You don't have to process this recipe.  It will keep in the fridge for at least a month.  I just can't go through that much before it spoils and canned them in 4oz jelly jars.  Bring everything to a low boil until thickened as much as you like.  Remember that it will thicken further once cooled.  Don't bother tasting it as it cooks; the flavor won't develop properly for at least 24 hours and it's just going to taste like a slightly tangy fig tahini.  Either ladle into jars and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath or allow to cool to room temperature and refrigerate until needed.
Fig mustard on grilled cheese.  A sweet & tangy combination!

Makes about 3 cups

Difficulty rating  :)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Pumpkin Patch

As soon as the first pumpkin blossom took, I started thinking of all the things I want to make once they're ripe.  I did a search of this blog to find out what I've already made.  I had forgotten a few recipes that were very good. If you think it's too early for pumpkins, Starbucks et al are starting on the 31st.  And there was a pretty decent display at the Ventura County Fair.

So here's another review list.


Well, I'm clearly not making all of this out of one pie pumpkin, even if it's probably going to be the largest I've grown.  I had forgotten about the Dutch pie and the scones.  Mostly I started this list to find the tamale recipe.  It's still early, with plenty of pumpkin season ahead of us.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Beet Ice Cream

Before you think this is some weird thing I came up with because I had extra beets, google it.  There are dozens of recipes for this.

Yes, beets are a root vegetable.  They were also once a popular source of refined sugar, now supplanted by the ubiquitous corn and other grain bases.  It's why C&H originally advertised itself as "Pure Cane Sugar", the implication being that cheaper brands were part beet sugar.  This recipe has more in common with something like a berry ice cream than what you're probably thinking of, a frozen beet on a stick.  Yeah, try getting that picture out of your head.  I dare you.

I started with my regular ice cream base, but reduced the sugar to make up for what the beets and orange bring to it.  Without the refined sugar masking everything, you really taste the beets.  If your goal is to trick children into eating veggies, don't go this route.  Add a bit more sugar and call it "punch" ice cream.  That's the closest kid-friendly taste I can think to use to describe this.

2 medium beets
2 egg yolks
1/4 C sugar
*1 C heavy cream
1 C milk
*1 small orange, like Valencia

1.  Preheat oven to 350º.  Clean beets and remove all but 1" of tops.  Wrap each tightly in foil and roast for 45 minutes, until soft.  Allow to cool, then slice off tops and root point and peel.  Chop into chunks. Grate about 1 tsp of zest off the orange and squeeze out 1/4 C of juice.  Place beets, zest, and juice in a blender or food processor and purée.  You can go the slightly chunky route, or make as fine as Stage 1 baby food.  I did a true purée and got nearly 2/3 C of it.
2.  While the beets are roasting, heat milk and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir frequently to avoid scorching.  At the same time, combine yolks and sugar in a cup or bowl big enough to accept some of the milk.

3.  Once milk comes to a low boil, gradually beat in 1/2 C or so of the milk into the yolks to temper them.  The container should be warm and the mixture fluid.  Pour back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low until just under a boil.  The milk will thicken to just past a heavy cream consistency.  Remove from heat.  Place a bit of plastic wrap over the surface until the beet purée is ready.

4.  Combine purée and cream.  The mixes don't have to combine completely if you're using an ice cream machine.  The churner will do it for you.  Place the wrap back on the surface and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours, until cool.

5.  Run mixture through ice cream maker to desired consistency.  Freeze an additional 2 to 4 hours before serving for a firm set.

Makes about 3 C, depending on overrun

Difficulty rating  :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Lavender Salt

I don't have a "condiments" label, mainly because I haven't gotten around to posting a recipe for tomato ketchup yet.  I also want to make mustard from scratch eventually.

One thing you can do to amp up savory dishes is to pre-flavor the salt.  All those zillion specialty salts you see in the market aren't any harder to make than what I'm about to show you here.  I'm using lavender because you're never going to find a lavender salt on a market shelf, but there's no reason you can't sub in rosemary, sage, dill, or most of the herbs you have in the spice cabinet.

This idea came courtesy of a link on Food in Jars to Living Homegrown.  The page has many ideas of recipe enhancements using lavender.  As the page points out, you can use fresh herbs to make flavored salts as well as dried because the salt will dry them.

1/4 C kosher salt
*1 generous teaspoon culinary lavender, fresh or dried

1.  Combine salt and lavender.

2.  Put in a 4 oz container and seal.

3.  Shake once a month or so to reduce clumping.

4.  Sprinkle into dishes as you would any salt: stew, soups, on fish, lamb, whatever you think could use a hint of lavender with its salt.

Makes 1/4 C

Difficulty rating  π

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Watermelon Rind Pickles

I think I first heard of these in the Little House books.  They definitely were not part of my diet growing up.  But I was about to cut up a mini watermelon for the Watermelon Soup and decided to look up a recipe.  The one in the Ball Book of Canning was easy and I had all of the ingredients at home.  The only extra step was going to be removing the outer peel from the melon.

These still qualify as refrigerator pickles, instead of fermented ones.  They are brined overnight, like a turkey, then preserved in vinegar and sugar.  For those of you familiar with the pickled ginger you get with sushi, it's more along those lines.

After trying to convince people this recipe was a real thing, I went to the Ventura County Fair.  In the children's exhibition, some kid had canned watermelon rind.  Theirs looked better than mine.  It probably wasn't their first attempt.

I'm scaling down the recipe to the 4 cups of rind I got off a mini watermelon.  A large melon would probably yield the 16 cups in the original recipe.

Rind of 1 mini watermelon
1/4 C pickling salt (I used Kosher)
2 C cold water, divided
1-1/2 C sugar
1 C white vinegar
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

1.  On Day 1, cut rind from melon and peel off green outer layer.  Cut into 1" x 2" strips and layer in a bowl or crock with salt.  Add 1 C cold water.  Weigh down the mixture with a plate topped with something heavy like a jar filled with water.  Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours.
2.  Transfer rind to a colander.  Rinse well under cool water to remove all the salt.  Place in a medium saucepan with other cup of cool water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer until fork-tender, about 10 minutes.  Pour back into the colander and let it drain while you prepare the pickling liquid.

3.  In the saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, and cinnamon stick.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes, to infuse cinnamon.  Add drained rind and return to a boil.  Reduce heat again and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until watermelon is translucent, about 1 hour.  Discard cinnamon pieces.

4.  During that hour of simmering, prepare your canner for a 1 pint yield.  I chose two half-pint jars.  Or just clean a container if you're not canning.  These are fine to refrigerate for a week.

5.  If canning, spoon in rind and cover with syrup, leaving 1/2" headspace.  Remove air bubbles, wipe rims, center hot lids, screw down rims finger-tight, and process in water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove from canner and check seals once cooled.

Makes 1 pint

Difficulty rating  :-0

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Turkey Tetrazzini

I stored leftover turkey in the freezer for a reason.

I've never actually had turkey tetrazzini, but I've certainly heard of it.  It actually isn't too different from Turkey Divan, just with different veggies and spaghetti.

The recipe I followed was from Food.com.  Well, almost followed.  I omitted the salt.  Even with making my own unsalted turkey stock from scratch, there was almost sufficient salt from the parmesan, celery, turkey, and onion.  I only added a pinch.  I can't imagine how over-salted it would be if you used a quart of regular broth and then added half a teaspoon.  Since I don't plan to ask anyone to make their own broth for this recipe, I'm instead calling for low-sodium broth and salting to taste.

I haven't followed a recipe as detailed as one I write in a while.  I hereby applaud any reader who tries to make one of my more complex posts.  For something that looks just like a pot pie base until you dump in the spaghetti, it felt complicated.

8 oz dry spaghetti
1 Tb butter
1/2 C finely diced onion
2/3 C finely sliced celery
1 medium carrot, peeled and either diced or cut in matchsticks
8 oz can sliced mushrooms, drained
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 C flour
1/4 C sherry or 1/2 C white wine
1 qt low-sodium chicken or turkey broth
*1 C grated parmesan cheese, divided
4 oz reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)
1 C frozen peas
2 C pre-cooked, shredded turkey meat (about 1 lb)
1/2 C panko breadcrumbs
salt to taste

1.  Cook spaghetti according to package instructions, breaking strands into several pieces on the way in.  Drain, then keep moist until ready to use.  Preheat oven to 350º and coat a 9" x 11" casserole with pan spray.

2.  In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Add onion, celery, carrot, mushrooms, and pepper.  Cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
3.  Add flour and stir until all liquids are absorbed.  Everything will look pasty.  Add wine or sherry and it will start to melt down.  Gradually add broth, allowing mixture to thicken between additions.  I know it's going to look soupy, but the spaghetti is going to absorb quite a bit of it.  Once all the broth is in, allow to simmer for 5 minutes, to finish cooking the carrots.  While that's going on, stir together breadcrumbs and 1/2 C parmesan to make the crumb topping.  Always use simmering time to prep a later step or do dishes.

4.  Remove saucepan from heat and quickly stir in cream cheese and other 1/2 C parmesan.  Eventually, it will melt into the mix.  Add the turkey and peas.  At this point, it's really going to start to look like a pot pie base.  Taste and add salt if too bland, keeping in mind that there's more parmesan going on top.  Drain the spaghetti if it's sitting in cold water, then add to the mix.  Stir to distribute evenly.

5.  Pour mixture into prepared casserole.  Sprinkle with crumb topping and bake for 30 minutes, until golden and bubbly.  Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes.  The casserole will stay warm for up to an hour, and it is much easier to serve once it cools a bit.

Serves 6

Difficulty rating  :)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Almond Cream Soup

I remembered making some kind of almond soup in school, but couldn't find the recipe.  I think it's in the textbook I gave Techie Smurf years ago so he could hone his techniques.

There were two kinds of almond soup online.  One is a famous style of Spanish soup, brothy with bits of almond.  That wasn't what I had in mind, but it does sound good.

I'm pretty sure what I had was similar to this cream of almond soup.  In the 15 years or so since I made this last, almond meal or almond flour has become easy to find in markets.  You don't need to grind your own.  This also makes it cheaper.  Don't despair if you buy a whole package and only use some for this soup; there are plenty of uses including pie crust, macarons & macaroons, coating truffles, gluten-free breadcrumbs, on ice cream, and even in salad dressing.

This soup is creamy and yummy, but doesn't taste as much like almonds as I expected it to.  And it's so thin that the almond garnish instantly sank.  You could probably get a similar taste by heating broth and almond milk with a touch of cream (or no cream for vegans).

2 Tb butter
1 clove garlic
1 large rib of celery, thinly sliced
3 cups chicken or veggie broth
2/3 C almond meal
1/8 tsp mace
1 C heavy cream
salt to taste
sliced or slivered almonds for garnish

1.  Start melting butter over medium heat in a heavy saucepan.  Smack the garlic hard with the side of a knife to crush it and make it easy to peel.  Heat the garlic and celery in the butter until softened, about 5 minutes.

2.  Add broth and bring to a boil.  Stir in almond meal and mace.  Lower heat to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook until celery is very soft, at least half an hour.

3.  Remove from heat and allow soup to cool at room temperature for at least half an hour.  This will allow the almond meal to continue to infuse into the broth and make the next step less risky.

4.  Using either an immersion blender or working in batches (I almost exploded the lid trying to do it all in one) in a regular blender, purée soup until smooth.  Strain back into the saucepan to remove almond grit and larger bits of celery.  Return to stove at a low heat and add cream.  Taste and add salt if necessary.  Serve hot or cold, but note that a chilled soup will need more salt.  Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with almonds to garnish.

Makes 1 quart, or 4 appetizer servings

Difficulty rating  π

Friday, August 5, 2016

Watermelon Soup

Mini watermelons were on sale for a dollar, and it's still hot out.  Plus, after my last batch of cantaloupe soup, I was really in the mood for something fruity to go with a Mexican night.

Because I decided to throw in a cucumber, this soup starts to verge into the realm of watermelon gazpacho, which is just subbing in watermelon for the bell peppers and half of the tomatoes.

What I didn't realize until I cut it open was that it was a yellow watermelon.  They taste just the same as the red ones.  It was just a surprise, and I wouldn't use one for a party because it would be hard to convince guests to try it.
That is, unless you add alcohol to it.  This soup purées very smooth, and can easily be a base for margaritas or daiquiris.  Garnish with some fruit on a toothpick and you can get a lot of them out of one watermelon!

1 mini, or "personal" watermelon
1 large cucumber
2 limes
1/4 tsp salt

1.  Peel watermelon and cucumber.  Chop into 1" chunks.  Juice limes.  If desired, save peel for garnish.

2.  Working in batches, purée everything in the blender.  What I found worked best was to put the juice of one lime and a big handful of watermelon in first.  Once that is liquid, you can get half the watermelon and cucumber in that batch.  If spiking, put in half of the alcohol to whip with the fruit.  Repeat.

3.  Chill until ready to serve.  A double batch (or a full-sized melon) would fill a punch bowl.  You can make it fizzy with sparkling water, but I would recommend adding a little simple syrup to counteract the bitterness.

4.  Serve very cold.  Garnish with pieces of fruit, mint, ginger, cinnamon, lime zest, or whatever goes with your meal.

Serves 6 as a soup, 12 as a drink

Difficulty rating  π

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Chilled Soup Recap

I know it's summer, but this is harsh.  And it's harsh all across the continental U.S.  It's like we're being punished for the political conventions.

So I've been having chilled soups with dinner nearly every night.  It started with using an extra cucumber off the vine and kind of went from there.  A cantaloupe I had bought to have with cottage cheese ended up in the blender with a handful of cherries.  This may go on until October.

So let's see what I've posted so far that works chilled:

Wow, I really do like chilled soups!

A melon, or the Death Star's Halloween costume?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jam Tarts

I once tried to make jam tarts by just putting jam in pie crust and baking it.  The jam boiled and got too hard to eat.  I figured that was the end of that experiment.

Recently, I noticed all the open jam jars I still had in the fridge from the tea party.  I thought I might want to give tarts another try and went looking online to figure out what I did wrong the first time.  Probably nothing.  All the recipes looked pretty much like what I did, even with high temperatures.

The day I decided to try them again, I also remembered that I still had hamantaschen dough in the freezer (also from the tea).  It's basically a pastry dough with baking powder in it, so I figured I would give that a try.  It does bake at a lower temperature than pie crust, and the jam would weigh it down so it wouldn't puff too much.  Besides, I really like that dough recipe.

They came out nice and soft, like the cookies they are, not crisp and crumbly like pie.  Since mini-muffin tins make tarts small enough to eat in a single bite, either texture would work.  Most important, the jam did not turn hard-crack.

1-1/3 C flour
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp grated orange peel
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C butter
1 egg
1 Tb milk
jams for filling

1. Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, orange peel, and salt in a medium bowl.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add egg and milk and combine until dough forms a ball.  Wrap in plastic or waxed paper and chill for at least 30 minutes, or you can freeze to use another day.

2.  Roll out dough on a floured surface until very thin, 1/16".  Cut out rounds with a 3" cookie cutter and coax into mini-muffin cups.  For standard muffin tins, use a 5" cutter.  The circles look big, but you've rolled the dough so thin there's no room for it to stretch into the cups.  Press lightly against the sides of each cup.

3.  When all cups are filled, get out the jam.  Spoon 1 tsp into each mini tin, about 1 Tb for standard size.  The jam should come up no more than halfway into the cup.  Place tin in the fridge to chill while the oven is preheating to 350º.

4.  When the oven is ready, bake tarts for 20 to 25 minutes, until lightly puffed and golden.  Cool and remove from tin to serve.

Makes about 2 dozen mini tarts

Difficulty rating  :)