Monthly Archives: June 2011

Fridge Scapes

Ever just have too much preserving to do? Yes, even in a small scale kitchen like mine. I’ve had these great CSA garlic scapes sitting on my counter for the last week, gradually looking more and more sad. After conquering the last of my strawberries (any thoughts on what to do with ten liters of puree?) I finally had a chance to ponder the scapes.

I really like garlic. It goes in most everything I cook. Its not quite, “Hi, my name is Kate, and I have a problem with garlic…” but its close. The garlic scapes were initially meant for a frittata, but I wasn’t going to turn on the oven on super humid day. We were long past switching from fans to AC but still stubbornly avoiding reality – so you can bet that not only was I not firing up the oven but also not firing up the canner. Boiling a small pot for brine was about all I could handle. Fridge scapes to the rescue!

Fridge Scapes
As many garlic scapes as you can cram into your jar(s) of choice
Spices per jar: 1-2 dashes red pepper flakes, 1 garlic clove, 3 basil leaves, 10 peppercorns
Brine: a la Kate @ Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking: 1 part white vinegar, 1 part filtered water, 1 tablespoon salt per part.

1. Stuff spices in jar.
2. Stuff scapes in jar.
3. Top with boiling brine.
4. Wait two weeks. I mean, try and wait two weeks.
5. Inhale.

I’m still on step four. Its torturous.

Brine Options:
1. Asian scapes: With toasted sesame seeds or a touch of sesame oil, some soy and fresh chile. These are fridge pickles – you can play with the flavors a little more than with traditional pickles when you don’t have to worry so much about pH.
2. Moroccan scapes: preserved lemon and a dollop of harissa in the brine. Yes, please!
3. Dill or Bread & Butter scapes: like cucumber pickles, only garlickier.

Scape Uses:
1. A little bread, a little wine, a little cheese, maybe some Charcutepalooza? and some pickled scapes – I call that dinner.
2. Bring them to your pickle party!
3. Bring them to your local food swap. Coventry’s next one is next Sunday – maybe you can join us?

Strawberry Rhubarb Ginger Jam + Giveaway

So there’s something absolutely magical about the first quart of local summer strawberries around these parts. Actually, there’s something really magical about the second quart – the first quart rarely makes it home. Joel gets it. Strawberries are a fleeting thing in the Northeast – before you know it they’re gone. In fact, I completely missed them last year due to that pesky rite of passage for new lawyers (ahem, the bar exam). So this year, I knew I had to do it up.

After a strawberry deluge last week (51 jam-ready pints!) I got more from my CSA this week. The perfect pairing with some of the world's greatest wood fired chocolate chip cookies.

Obviously, some had to go into jam. A simple strawberry jam is what I was after. You know the one – strawberries, sugar, some lemon and a little pectin to make it set – thats it. The kind that takes you right back to early summer in the middle of the winter, or whenever you happen to pop open the jar. I set that second quart to macerate with the typical double berries to sugar ratio. Almost everything went according to plan – even with a new kind of pectin. It set beautifully. It even looked like Martha Stewart made it. Except… the sweetness. It was way, WAY over the top. I dont know if I spaced when macerating (it happens) or the berries just were that ripe (also possible) but it was just too much. A huge wave of guilt came when I thought about ruining that precious quart.

What’s that – necessity is the mother of invention? Apparently. I had all the ingredients of Kaela’s (er, Tai’s) Rhubarb Ginger Jam ready to go. Back into the dutch oven went the cavity-inducing strawberry batch, with an almost equal amount of rhubarb and candied ginger. For extra punch, I added in a tablespoon(ish) of powdered ginger, to ensure the jam would even up.

I’m really happy with how the jam turned out. Its still sweet, but nicely warming from the ginger. Due to its creation, though – I can’t really share a recipe – there isn’t one! I’m sure you would end up with an equally tasty version by adding some ginger to your standard strawberry rhubarb recipe. As always, if you want to put it up, add 220° jam into hot jars, top with hot, wet lids, and process for 10 minutes. [If you need a review, please buy the Ball Blue Book and check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation.] As always, you can just turn it into a fridge jam – the best way to experiment in small batches.

If you’re not a huge ginger lover like me, I would only add a bit of candied ginger to taste. And dont worry – there are plenty of simpler strawberry recipes to come. If you are a ginger lover, though, I can’t recommend this jam enough. In fact, I’m so happy with it that I’ll even send a half pint to one lucky SK reader in the US or Canada. Just leave a comment here telling me about your favorite way to use/inhale/preserve seasonal strawberries. Need inspiration? Check out last night’s #punkberry discussion started by Sean at Punk Domestics. Entries to close Sunday June 26th at 11:59pm eastern time.

Heatwave Carnitas

This recipe became another 90° day keep cool meal this past week. Dinner Hummus was lovely for one night, but we had three straight sticky days and beans weren’t going to cut it. We had some Woodbridge Farm Heritage pork shoulder in our freezer. How to cook it without a huge hassle?

Thanks to a slow cooker, it was really a breeze. The addition of a few lazy margaritas [1) limeade + reposado + triple sec + ice, 2) shake, 3) imbibe], dinner was on the table in about 10 minutes and without overheating. Really, what more do you need?

Pork Carnitas
→ For the crockpot:
Pork butt or shoulder, trimmed of most of the fat
Coarse mustard
Hot Sauce
One 28 oz can whole tomatoes or one quart home-canned tomatoes

→ For the carnitas:
Equal parts chili powder, pimentón and granulated garlic (more or less 1 scant tablespoon each per person)
Bacon fat
Grilled corn tortillas
Toppings of choice

Put the pork in the crock pot, covered with the mustard, hot sauce and garlic. If you don’t like hot sauce, don’t worry, the pork isn’t spicy. The point here is to get super flavorful, moist pork. Add the whole tomatoes, and squish with your hands to break up a bit. I wouldn’t recommend wearing white, even if you are super careful it always ends up on your shirt. I speak from experience. The pork needs to cook on low for at least 8 hours. Prepare first thing in the morning, head to work, it will be ready when you come home.

To make carnitas, heat flour tortillas until soft and a little browned on a griddle or a cast iron skillet. Place in a clean kitchen towel to keep warm. Add some bacon fat, and more or less one cup of shredded pork per person – your mileage may vary. Once warm, toss in the spices. You might need a bit of liquid here – either a bit more fat, some water, or some beer. Mmm beer. Ahem. Wait until the pork gets crispy – it will be quickly – and add toppings. I recommend sharp cheese and/or sour cream, fresh mustard greens, and chipotle hot sauce.  Add at least one margarita, go sit in front of a fan, and don’t move for at least 30 minutes.

1. For the initial crockpot liquid, you can change it up in a variety of ways. Beer, wine, homemade stock, chipotles in adobo, worcestershire, onions… any combination of liquids and spices would be great. Anything to lend flavor.
2. Do you really need the bacon fat? Probably not. But it was in the fridge and pork cant go wrong with more pork.
3. Some pickled shallots or onions would be great. I happen to be all out – time to make some more!

These were NOT inspired by The Kitchn’s Heatwave Carnitas – I swear – even though the method is essentially the same. Great minds think alike!

Dinner Hummus

In case you’re not from the Northeast or haven’t heard – we’re currently in the midst of a heatwave. Today temperatures in Connecticut were well above 90°, and tomorrow its more of the same. 90 is not totally unheard of around these parts, but its pretty rare for the beginning of June. July or August is really where it belongs. Personally, I wish it never would come around (Snowflake Kitchen, remember?) but at least the tomatoes and peppers seem to like it. Luckily, we’re supposed to see some relief by the end of the week. When it gets this hot, the last thing I want to do is cook. I have some rhubarb macerating in the fridge, but there it will sit for another day – there is no way I am preserving in this weather. I began to hunt around for dinner and found almost nothing that didn’t involve a stove one way or another. I hate picking up prepared food or takeout almost as much, because to be perfectly honest it still involves moving from my comfortable spot in front of the fan. In my moment of desperation, I spotted a lone can of garbanzo beans in the back of the pantry. Hummus can count as dinner, right?

Dinner Hummus (that works equally well anytime)
One can (cooked) garbanzo beans, drained and thoroughly rinsed
Approximately half a cup of olive oil, as green as possible
2-3 garlic cloves
Two heaping tablespoons of tahini
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Blend beans in the food processor until finely minced. Drizzle in the olive oil while on low speed until it comes together. You may need more or less olive oil depending on your preference. Scrape down the sides of the food processor and blend again. Add in the garlic, tahini and lemon and process briefly until blended.

It should keep in the fridge for a week or so, if it lasts that long – this stuff is worlds away from storebought hummus. I came home with a loaf of wonderful bread from the equally wonderful folks at Farm to Hearth yesterday – it was the perfect vehicle for dinner hummus at the end of a scortcher (or, in proper New England parlance, a wicked scortcha). But if you are unfortunately no where near F2H, then some pita (or homemade naan!) will work just fine. Hummus + bread + wine – a perfect summer meal when the stove simply won’t do.

1. Preserved lemons would be the perfect bright note to balance the raw garlic in this. I would only add one (in my case the rind of one quarter) so as not to overpower the rest of the flavors.
2. Roasted red peppers or harissa. I am only too sad that I am out of homemade harissa right now.
3. Roast the garlic before blending. You could add more roasted garlic than raw, as the roasting will take away the bite.
4. Another favorite way to serve (pictured) is topped with a little pimentón, coarse grey salt and an extra drizzle of olive oil.

The Beginnings of June in the Garden

There’s been a lot of stirring in the garden. Almost everything is planted in its final resting place and I am very excited about not having to pot things up anymore. I am currently on the hunt for bigger containers because I actually ran out. I found a fertilizer that works and I no longer need to worry about frost. Finally things are moving along!

The greens are coming along nicely. The chard is a slow process, especially as I direct seeded it outside in April. Its about two inches high at this point. I am dreaming of a passive solar greenhouse full of year-round greens in my future…

The tomatoes are doing well. I think I actually grew too many, so I’ve been trying to pawn them off on friends and at our local swap but to no avail. I grew Baker Creek’s Riesenstraube this year and it has been absolutely prolific. I think I have like six of them – which is crazy for a container garden.

I am growing a few kinds of peppers, but I am most excited about my Pimientos de Padrón. I dont know if they’re particularly missing the Spanish medioambiente but they seem to be alright. When flash fried, these little beauties are my favorite tapa ever. I hope we get some hotter weather so they perk up a bit, but its early yet.

Slugs killed my tomatillo hopes last year before anything could happen. While I am still engaged in epic battle with those nasty buggers, I seem to have the upper hand at the moment. Its all worthwhile – I think the tomatillos are showing tiny tiny fruit!

The theme of this year’s garden has been make do with little. I wanted to buy a trellis for my Boston Pickling cucumbers after inspiration from a few of Re-Nest’s posts on vertical gardening. I happened to have a bunch of freecycled wire fence in our shed, and with some tomato cage stakes for support a makeshift trellis was born. Its not pretty, but its definitely functional and sturdy. I’m particularly proud of it, but it remains to be seen if it will work or not.

Not pictured: two massive zucchini plants that I've been storing on the diving board of all places.

So I don’t know if I can call it a garden anymore. I’ve been teased that its more of a microfarm at this point, and I’ve been forbidden from adding anything any closer to the pool. While its nowhere on the scale of Daphne’s Dandelions or Modern Victory Garden, but considering I have filled the most consistently sunny space on our property, I feel like its closer than you might think.

So how does your June garden grow?

This post was shared as part of this week’s Tuesday Garden Party at An Oregon Cottage.

Lazy Risotto

It’s just been way too nice to post lately. The sun is back, and its not a million degrees out. In typical New England fashion, mother nature went directly from rain to summer without having much of a spring, but things have evened out a bit after some scary storms this week. A tornado – in Springfield, Mass! Can you believe it?

Anyway, for nights like this, when its ever so slightly cool, I like to make lazy risotto. Full disclosure up front: this is not a rice risotto. This is a pasta risotto. Its not completely lazy – you do have to stir it a few times, but its a heck of a lot easier than traditional demanding recipes. Homemade chicken stock lends a ton of flavor, and it works well either as a side dish or main course. Easily made vegetarian with vegetable stock, too.

I like to use a mix of pastina and orzo – the combination makes for a great texture. With chicken stock, pepper, and lots of fresh grated parmesano reggiano, it is a perfect vehicle for spring veggies like asparagus and fresh mushrooms. Its even good plain. Honest.

Lazy Risotto
3/4 cup of dried pasta per person (side – double for main dish). Mix pastas as you like.
2 tablespoons olive oil
Three cups of chicken stock, heated to just under boiling
Pepper to taste
1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add dry pasta and stir to coat. Keep an eye on it and stir until golden. Then add a ladle or two of chicken stock – be careful, it will bubble furiously with the first bit of liquid. Add the rest of the chicken stock a ladle or two at a time. You don’t have to sit and stir this like regular risotto. In fact, you can probably add half the chicken stock, stir and walk away until you add the rest. I wont tell. This is lazy risotto – its unpretentious. Just before the last bit of stock is cooked away, add the parmesan. You can also add a pat of butter, but I swear it really doesn’t need it. I also dont think the recipe needs salt, due to the volume of parmesan in it, but also your call. Garnish with additional parmesan, and serve.