Monthly Archives: March 2011

Pesto, in the plural sense.

garlic scapes, of any amount, roughly chopped
a bunch of basil, stems removed, leaves fragrant
a handful of walnuts or pine nuts or such
quite a bit of grated Parmesan cheese
a sensible amount of salt, doubled
and some black pepper
in a food processor
with more olive oil than anything else.

Source: A Pesto Poem by Tammy Donroe

Garlic Ramp Cashew Pesto. One of about four different pestoes in my chest freezer. What is the plural of pesto anyway?

I make all sorts of pesto during the year. Depending on what I need to get rid of I mean what’s in season, of course. Also a great way to save the flavors of summer for an April Fool’s Day Nor’easter, if you catch my drift.

1 part nuts. Cashews, walnuts, pignolis, pistachios… roast them.
1-2 parts greens. Basil, kale, garlic scapes, broccoli raab, artichokes…
1 part olive oil. Extra virgin, as green and fruity as possible please.
1 part parmesan. Real deal reggiano – accept no substitutes.
Salt & Pepper to taste

Most easily done in the food processor. Roast the nuts for added flavor. I’d love to do it old school with a mezzaluna but a) don’t own one and b) I’m pretty sure my Alaskan (tourist) ulu isn’t quite sharp enough. Chop nuts, remove. Add greens, chop. Add back in nuts. Drizzle with olive oil. If you want to freeze it, add only enough olive oil until it comes together. When thawed add more olive oil and cheese. As always, play with it until you find a balance you like. As you can see, I tend to go light on the cheese and heavier on the nuts. It really is good without cheese – I swear! Best served with carbs, really, but also good with proteins or veg.

Pesto inspiration:
Lunch at Sixpoint’s Arugula Pesto with Almonds
Grilled Bread with Thyme Pesto and Preserved Lemon Cream
NY Times Asparagus Pesto
Smitten Kitchen’s Linguine with Tomato Almond Pesto

1. Pizza or pasta. Enough said.
2. + Crusty bread + fresh mozzarella as an appetizer or tapa with a glass of wine.
3. Add extra olive oil and slather on grilled chicken or fish straight off the grill. Cheese optional here.

I’m always looking for new pesto ideas – please suggest some!

Food in Jars’ Tomato Jam & Spoon Oil

These really are two separate projects. One edible, one practical. They have nothing to do with each other, except that they both require a boiling water bath and a mason jar or two. So if you have some free time on a weekend, you can kill the proverbial birds with one stone.

So start your boiling water bath (BWB). You can make do with what you have – make a rack out of tin foil to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot – but it really is worth investing in a canner with a rack. Ball even makes a stainless steel canner, though its not cheap. (Hint: Check eBay or Froogle for deals!) Once I fill it with cold water, cover and turn the heat to high, I start both the spoon oil and the tomato jam/other waterbath canned product of your choice.

First, the spoon oil. Taken from FIJ and 3191 Miles Apart. Add a 1/4 lb of beeswax to a mason jar in your canner so that it begins to melt as the water heats. The jar needs to be above the waterline – so having a rack helps here.

Once the beeswax begins to melt, Marisa and Stephanie suggest heating the mineral oil in another jar before adding it to the beeswax. I did, but looking back on it all it really did was dirty another jar. In the next batch, I might just mix them together from the beginning.

I had the hardest time finding mineral oil, until I went to the local pharmacy. Both Walgreens and CVS have it in the back – just ask someone to help you find it before you spend a ton of time hunting. And don’t ask someone at the grocery store, unless you really feel like sending the employee on a wild goose chase.

This spoon needed a healthy dose of spoon oil AND a sanding.

Anyway, warm the mineral oil alone or with the beeswax, until it forms a lovely clear yellow liquid. Once it cools, you can lay out all of the wooden implements in need of some TLC. As you can see, we had quite a few of them. When its cooled, let a thin coating of spoon oil soak into your wooden stuff for an hour or so (enough time to make and can tomato jam perhaps?) and then rub dry with a kitchen towel.

While the spoon oil is cooling, I start the jam of choice. This time, I wanted to make another batch of tomato jam. Make sure to use a non-reactive pot – I use an enameled dutch oven – whenever you cook tomatoes. I made my first batch with fresh paste tomatoes this summer – tomatoes were crazy here – and then made another batch with frozen heirloom tomatoes from 18th Century Purity Farms purchased at CRFM. In February. Reason #212372191 why I am a farmer’s market junkie.

Tomato Jam
Adapted from Food in Jars’ Tomato Jam
5 pounds tomatoes, finely chopped – seeds, skins and all!
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup pure cane sugar or turbinado sugar
8 tablespoons lime juice (Bottled – Marisa explains why)
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger – no powder please!
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon red chili flakes
1 tablespoon fresh diced red chile

Combine everything in a non-reactive pot. Cook over low heat – be careful, with all that sugar it will burn! Marisa recommends 1-1 1/2 hours, but I usually end up letting it go around 2 hours. Stir every 10 minutes or so, until it reaches desired consistency. I use equal parts dried and fresh chile – add more if you like more of a kick.

When it is almost ready prepare your jars, lids and rings. When it has cooked down to your liking, remove from heat and fill jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe rims, apply lids and twist on rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes. I always have some leftover, which goes into an unprocessed jar in the fridge for me.

After 20 minutes, remove jars from water bath and allow them to cool. Sometimes, I turn the heat off in the canner and let the jars cool in there. When jars are cool enough to handle, test seals. You should be able to pick up a jar by its lid only. Store jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year – if they last that long…

1. Serve with sharp cheese and crackers. Its great to bring to a party, since its most people don’t equate tomatoes with jam. Remember though – its fairly sweet – so pair accordingly.
2. I think it would be equally delicious or in a grilled cheese sandwich with whole grain bread.
3. I might have future plans for it as the base of a tomato, thyme and gruyere tart.

Spice Rack Challenge: Cardamom

As you’ll see by the (late) date of this post, I’ve been suffering from a bit of cooking apathy lately. When the March Spice Rack Challenge was announced, I knew I didn’t immediately have anything up my sleeve, and I would actually have to cook a new recipe. I mean, I make homemade chai on a fairly regular basis – how hard could it be? Well then I went to Alaska, and then to Vermont, and long story short I haven’t had a weekend at home in four weeks! No time to cook + cooking apathy = shortage of timely posts.

So in search of a cardamom recipe, I first went to my delicious bookmarks. is an internet bookmarking site, one which I use to organize recipes I find by ingredient and type of cooking. Its a great resource when you’re stumped what to make – “I have this and this and this…” – and helps filter the vast collection of internet recipes I’ve stumbled across. Unfortunately, there was no deluge of cardamom-containing recipes there, so I headed over to Food Blog Search. I toyed with the idea of making Chai-Spiced Chocolate Chip Cookies (Chai Chocolate Cookies for less of a mouthful) but frankly that seemed kind of… erm… half-assed. Which, in truth, it was.

Luckily, The Kitchn came out with a recipe for a Yogurt Apple Cake. I know, I know, it contains no cardamom. But don’t you think cardamom and apples would be a lovely combination? I also modified the recipe because I didn’t want to go to the store again for yogurt or apples, and I did happen to have some canned shredded apples a la Mrs. Wheelbarrow and a bit of sour cream. I have two more jars of those apples destined for apple hand pies (this weekend maybe?) and figured I could use a jar for cake… who doesn’t like cake? Plus – a recipe that clears out some of my canning pantry? Done.

Sour Cream Cardamom Apple Cake
Adapted from The Kitchn’s Apple Yogurt Cake with a Cinnamon-Sugar Streak

1/4 cup sour cream
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup grade B maple syrup
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 pint shredded apples
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
Softened butter to grease the pan

Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease your cake pan with softened butter. Add a cookie sheet on a lower rack – this cake may spill over. Mine did. Ah, 20-20 hindsight.

Whisk together the yogurt, vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla (“wet ingredients”) in a large bowl. Add the jar of shredded apples. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom into another bowl. You can sift straight into the liquids bowl, but I find it easier to do it in a separate bowl, then incorporate the dry ingredients in thirds.

So, time to divulge my spice secrets. I get my spices from three main sources: Penzey’s (online/West Hartford), World Spice (online/when in Seattle), and the Latino section of the grocery store. Both Penzey’s and World Spice will grind your stuff to order. It’s one of those things, that you dont know what you’re missing until you smell them for yourself. On my recent trip to the Pacific NW, a visit to World Spice yielded the most amazing Vietnamese Cinnamon and Pimentón/Smoked Paprika. Worlds away from that grocery store cinnamon you bought forever ago. Spices lose their zip after about a year, so its best to buy in small amounts and replace often if you can. Even better – buy things like nutmeg and cardamom whole so that you can grind them yourself immediately before use. I found a secondhand coffee grinder at a thrift store a few years ago that has become a spice grinder. The Latino section of your local supermarket will have deals (read: its cheap) on certain things – I buy nutmeg, cloves, and occasionally onion powder there. I also have bought spices in bulk from natural foods stores like Whole Foods or a local co-op. Their higher turnover will almost always yield better quality than sealed jars sitting on the shelf since ancient times.

Left to right: World Spice, Penzey's (my labeled jar) and Badia. What are your spice sources?

Anyway, back to the cake. You can make a spiced swirl and separate the batter like the original recipe, but frankly I was lazy and just wanted some yummy cardamom apple goodness, stat.

The leftovers. There was no leftover cake.

The original recipe says to bake for 45 minutes. Mine was done about 40 minutes. Every oven is different – get an oven thermometer and be vigilant after half an hour. I am a big fan of the toothpick test.

1. Make it healthier. I cut the amount of sugar from the original recipe with maple syrup. Add less sugar, add more maple syrup, up to you. I don’t use agave nectar, but if that’s your thing I’m sure you could sub it in. I can see flax seeds, walnuts or pistachios as other healthy but delicious additions.
2. Add more apples. One jar of apples was good, but I think adding some larger fresh chunks of apple (Granny Smith?) would have added to the texture.
3. We served it with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (naturally) but it would be lovely with a glaze.
4. Don’t just eat it for dessert – it became my breakfast with some yogurt!

Saint Patrick’s Day Sauce

Being born and raised in New England, our March 17th is all about the boiled dinner. Corned Beef, Potatoes, Carrots, (optional) Turnips and Cabbage, all cooked together over many hours. Usually slathered with horseradish or mustard to liven things up. Well why not have both? In my family, its a tradition to make this sauce, and eat it with EVERYTHING on the plate.

How good is this sauce? Well, lets just say I am mildly lactose intolerant and I eat it anyway. Take a look at the ingredients – if that isn’t an endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Saint Paddy’s Sauce
A secret family recipe

2 tablespoons butter
One large container sour cream
One brick cream cheese
Horseradish to taste (anywhere between 2-4 tablespoons)
Spicy Brown Mustard to taste (equal parts to the horseradish)
Additional powdered yellow mustard for color and flavor
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium heat. Add cream cheese. Once it is melted, add the rest of the ingredients. We like it moderately spicy – you are serving it with boiled food after all – but you can adjust to your palate. Trust me – totally worth the extra calories and dairy pain.

Forgive the lack of proper picture taking on this one, folks. I barely had enough time to whip up the sauce tonight, and I wasn't cooking, so there was limited opportunity. I do love that this picture could have been taken in 2011 or 1971, though.

I’ve thought many times about making it healthier. It probably doesn’t need the butter. You could sub Greek Yogurt for the sour cream, and not do all of the cream cheese. But every year I crave the nostalgia as much as I crave the taste – and I make it the same way its been made for years in our house. Maybe I’ll play with it next week – when all that leftover corned beef goes on sale.

Raspberry Meyer Lemon Preserves

Finally, time to post a recipe of my own! Ok, ok it was inspired from Shae at Hitchhiking to Heaven, but I think I tweaked this enough to make it different. I was on a meyer lemon rampage of sorts, trying to finish up all of the fruit before I left for Alaska for 10 days. I had done a marmalade, I had the makings of limoncello steeping… and even though I had lots of lemon goodness now I knew I would be craving it in a few months. Hence, a preserve. I came upon Shae’s Cherry Meyer Lemon Preserves but wasn’t sure if I could even find cherries in Connecticut in mid-February, and even if I could I didn’t want to think about the miles on it to get to me. I did, however, happen to have a bag of raspberries in the freezer from this summer, and in no time this recipe was a go.

Raspberry Meyer Lemon Preserves
Adapted from Hitchhiking to Heaven’s Cherry Meyer Lemon Preserves

Meyer lemons (I think I had six on hand I needed to use)
Frozen raspberries
A little alcohol of choice – I used Disaronno Amaretto

The beauty of this recipe is its adaptability. I generally use 1:2 sugar to fruit ratio with jams, and used that here. This means you measure out your fruit (a large measuring cup works great here) and then half the same amount of sugar. I think I had somewhere around 5 cups of lemons and raspberries, so I used somewhere around 2.5 cups of sugar.

I sliced the lemons as I would for a marmalade: first in half, then removing the pith, then in half again and in small slices. Then, like a marmalade, I soaked the fruit in a little bit of water and soaked the seeds for extra pectin. I added the whole frozen raspberries and splash of Disaronno to the lemons. I think a spiced rum could also be great. Or maybe lemons and strawberries with a splash of tequila instead. Add the sugar at this point and mix enough to mix evenly, but gently enough to leave the raspberries intact. Let the mixture macerate/soak/combine anywhere from a few hours to overnight.

Raspberries cook down quite easily and quickly, and I knew I wanted a mixture of chunks of fruit and jelly – like a good jam. I brought it to a boil, then I cooked it over low heat until it reached the consistency I wanted. I let it cool down while I prepped the canning equipment: boiling waterbath canner & rack, heated lids and rings, six widemouth half pint jars, and then reheated it to 220° prior to processing. I really like Local Kitchen’s Canning in a Boiling Water Bath Tutorial if you need a further details. Also, if you are a newbie canner, please check out Food in Jars and buy the Ball Blue Book. Because botulism is bad.

I was worried about the set. Fruit in syrup is nice and all, but it wasn’t what I was going for. I didn’t have any pectin handy, and like I said needed to use the lemons up before heading westward. All of the jars sealed, and I figured I could always recan or find other uses for it. When I got back I was pleasantly surprised. The set is still fairly loose, but in between fruit in syrup and jam. I’m sure if you let the fruit and sugar mixture sit overnight it will set more – I only let mine sit on the counter for a few hours.

1. Breakfast. The small bit of preserves that was leftover went straight into the fridge. Its been in my oatmeal and yogurt all week. Delicious.
2. I haven’t gone here yet, but I can’t wait to use it in/over a pound cake or yogurt cake or quick bread. I think it will be delicious!
3. I think it would be lovely mixed into a frozen yogurt.

[How not to do] Kiwi Meyer Lemon Jam

Hi from Alaska! Sorry for the lack of posting – I’ve had to suffer through this view for the last couple of travel days:

Mendenhall Valley/Juneau, AK

Don't ever fly to Alaska without getting a window seat. At least for the last leg of the trip. Trust me.

So to sate you until I get back, I give you some kiwi meyer lemon jam. Be warned: this probably won’t be the last Meyer Lemon recipe. This stuff is pretty great, even if it didn’t turn out the way it was originally envisioned.

Kiwi Meyer Lemon Jam
Adapted from Vanilla Garlic’s ‘ Kiwi Meyer Lemon Jam

1 Meyer lemon (or two small ones)
3 cups sugar
3 lbs. ripe kiwi fruits

1. Seed the lemons. Puree with two cups of the sugar. Yes, blend the whole lemon – seed, pith and flesh. Let sit for a few hours, or even overnight.
2. Peel the kiwi and slice into coins. Then, if you haven’t had kiwi skin before, go ahead and try some. Really, its delicious. Toss with the last cup of sugar and let sit for a few hours until you are ready to make jam.

3. Combine the lemon and kiwi mixtures in your non-reactive jam pan over low heat. Be careful – this can go from loose to overcooked very quickly. Cook until it comes together, put in a glass vessel of your choice and consume tout de suite. Once it cools, that is.

Note: Though I think this probably would be fine to waterbath due to the acid in the fruit used, I don’t know for sure. This recipe is more suited to life as a refrigerator jam.

I really need to a) work on my kitchen lighting and b) not start making jam so late at night.

Really, thats it. I used the three kiwis that were on my counter – all I had. I would suggest following Garrett’s cooking instructions (“This will be a loose jam. Overcooking it until it become very thick will scorch the kiwi fruit.”) exactly. Because if you don’t, the jam will set quite hard. Pretty quickly, even.

So as far as jam fails go – this one wasn’t bad. After jarring, I had no trouble licking the spoon. It will end up in my morning oatmeal and yogurt once I make it back to the East Coast. Until then – I can salivate over the pictures…