Wednesday, October 13, 2010

So I kind of got away from writing for a while.
It got to be this weird kind of middle school competitive compulsion and so I had to stop. I don't care about keeping a schedule anymore. and I don't care if my pictures don't look like Heidi's.
And I don't even give a damn anymore if anyone is reading this back row brochure.
I miss writing and I want to write about anything I want to and I am going to do just that.

Take that haters.

And while this isn't really a recipe it was Delicious.
I watched Alist Monday night and I am saying that word in my head the way one of those ladies says it. The way my Thomas says it. with a little moan in the middle and enough sibilance to turn the whole choirs head.
and it ain't pretty but its real life lady.
Enough with celebrity food and sexy photos tweaked within an inch of their

I chopped two squash up thick fried em in some olive oil s and p till they bottoms got nice n brown. threw in two cloves or garlic at the end with a hand full of chopped basil and a pinky's worth or oregano. squeezed some lemon juice over that mother and snuggled it up next to a bed of brown rice, a slice of pork roast stuffed with sausage and wrapped in bacon, and about three eggs over easy.

The best meal Ive had all week.
And that includes the night at chik-fil-a.

Friday, April 3, 2009

so... where was I?


I was just getting to my favorite vegetarian food cart when I heard a man with brown curly hair tell a girl with too tight wellies that she looked like Sophia Loren. She was in front of me in line. I couldn't see her face but I could hear her expression.
She clearly had no idea who he was talking about.
The man's voice was not overly sentimental, but he was twinkly and barely able to contain his smile in a way that reminded me I need to look around more often.
It was in this moment I realized it was spring.

I mean full on spring.
The kind of spring that brutaly hits you over the head with its springy-ness
and then leaves you for dead. After the thump there might even be some snickering and a, "see ya sucker!"

So it is this week where every last daffodil can bee found stretching its delicate little head to eavesdrop on the goings on this side of the mulch. And although I can't be one hundred percent sure what it is they are all knodding their heads in agreement about I know I want in on the conversation.

I don't normally like to tell people when my birthday is.
I blush far to easily and never know what to say when opening gifts in front of people.
I also fully realize the irony of mentioning this on a public forum and I am not doing it to be ironic.

But because it is around my birthday and I am edging towards soemthing big,
and because it is spring and there is a pervasive sense of newness I guess I kinda....
I feel like I want to be startn' somethn'

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Spring Garden (re-post...because I've been delinquent)

"Weed" may be the only four-letter word in the English language I don't use.

As a young collegiate lad, I decided to indulge my underfed bio nerdiness by supplementing my high falooten design degree with a certification in western herbalism at the New York Open Center under Peeka Trenkle.
Those classes fuelled a budding interest in food and health that ushered in a major change in the way I thought about food, and of course, how I ate.
Ever since I have been known to get a little witchy on occasion.
I'm not ashamed to dig up a root or two , and if you cough around me I'm going to try to dose you with garlic.
Enuf said.

So, this is the long way of saying I would like to introduce you to my Garden.
Garden, Reader. Reader Garden.
She may look a little toe-up now, but after she combs her hair its going to start getting green around here.
In addition to a few hot photos , you can expect gardening tips I have picked up along the way , as well as benefiting from my ethnobotanical knowledge (not that I am an expert or a medical professional or anything so respect my amatuerity and don't go suing me. Instead go to a doctor. p.s. that was the disclaimer).

"Weed" might be the only four letter word in the English I don't use,
as evidenced in the picture above I like to keep it on the wild side.
If strangers are friends you haven't met yet, then the same can be said for weeds.
They are nothing less then misunderstood plants, and learning to control your pruning finger can be a rich educational experience.
Gardens are , after all, one of the last places where we hold onto some part of our illicit past as hunter gatherers. Modern as we may feel ourselves to be, we often carry around plants as heirlooms- passed down to us like ancestral china.
We invite plants to sit on our windowsills and in our offices, pack them like over sized shirts into the grids of our cities and nurture them in our backyards.

But every garden has its outliers.
The wild has only been mildly domesticated.
In a feral garden there is always something new and once the growing season starts I'm always finding some interesting foreign leafy thing to look up.
Adding to the field book Que are butterflies , birds , assorted pollinators and the associated riff raff that follow them.
I actively try to recruit wildlife who appreciate the diversity and often reward me by popping in to "drop off" new seeds.
These are my gems.
Very often the very plants Ive been contemplating purchasing at the garden center actually turn up unannounced in the beds provided I give them a chance to grow.
I like the idea of a garden as constantly evolving with its own desires and personality.
While I make an effort to tidy up the beds I give it some room to breathe.
I'm on the liberal left when it comes to border patrol.
What can I say?
I like it a little hairy.

Welcome to my garden.


Monday, July 7, 2008

I took a break because I broke.


So I had an "incident" at the beach that left me laying on my back for a while.
And, turns out , this time when I say "incident" and "laying on my back for a while,"
I don't mean it in a good way.

Im back and unbroken now, and I have got all kinds of hot baked love lined up for you.
check me out next monday and I swear we will be back on track.
Don't leave me.
This has been tough enough as it is.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Rosemary Skewered Shrimp from The Mayor


Just in time for fourth of July grilling comes a recipe straight from the very woman who taught me how to light my hand on fire with out getting burnt.
(seriously...kind of like this)
If that won't give you grill cred I don't know what will.
A real wonder woman, The Mayor is both my big brother and my little mama.
When she isn't "kissing hands and shaking babies" on the beat , she's generally walking around scorching the pavement with her white hot sex appeal, running a painting company , and stopping every so often to make sweet love to a Cuban sandwich.
P.S. those aren't euphemism's.

This one is super simple and deliciously delicious, lending itself to an infinite number of variations.
The Mayor suggests melting a little butter with hot sauce as a marinade and using some BBQ sauce for grilling.
You could also marinate it with garlic / white white, slather it with a citrusy BBQ sauce or simply serve it over a bowl of rice or a salad.
Either way it cooks up in a snap with minimal preparation.
The Perfect appetizer for hungry BBQ guests awaiting the goods.

When marinading, remember to use shelled shrimp as the marinade will not penetrate the shell.

If you plan to use this as a main , count on about 1/2 a pound feeding one person.

Keep in mind the rosemary will catch fire if your cooking over an open flame.
It looks cool and smells great but obviously presents a challenge to the safety and well being of those around you.

Minimize risk by submerging the rosemary in a water bath before grill time, blowing out the flames (happy birthday !) or stamping them with the end of your tongs.
Another option is to skip the whole fire hazard thing entirely and use a
grill pan.

This "recipe" is a little amorphous on the proportions , but the way you build it is pretty straightforward.
You should have an equal number of all the ingredients in a 1:1 ratio.
(one rosemary to one shrimp to one tomato to one piece of bacon...)

If you have shrimpy shrimp feel free to double up two small ones on one rosemary sprig.

You can also stretch out your tomatoes and bacon by slicing each in half.

Rosemary skewered Shrimp with bacon and cherry tomatoes

  • Shrimp that has been shelled and de-veined. we started with a bag of about 25.
  • Rosemary springs
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Bacon

Start by stripping the Rosemary.
This sprig is going to act as the "backbone" of the appetizer.
Depending on the size of your shrimp you are going to want to strip off about 2 inches of leaves.
It is better to err on the side of too few.
You want to be sure your stem is both long enough and bare enough to accommodate your shrimp, a slice of bacon and a tomato.
Choose woodier rosemary about 4-5 inches in length.
The woodier stem will be less floppy and easier to control on the grill.

Start by poking the rosemary stem through one end of a piece of bacon.
Thread on the shrimp , then the other end of the bacon so that it covers one side of the shrimp like a meaty half moon ribbon.
Last, punctuate the stem with a cherry tomato finial at the bottom.

If you are finding it difficult to use the rosemary as a skewer, use an actual skewer, chop-stick or knife to make holes in the shrimp etc. first.
The rosemary will thread through more easily.

Keep in mind shrimp does not have to be cooked over a ridiculously high heat.
Let's go with a medium flame, otherwise you could save yourself a lot of time and just skewer some charcoal brickets and call it a day.
Ya heard?

The small shrimp took roughly a minute and a half on each side.
Larger shrimp about 2-3 minutes each side.

Shrimp are great to cook on the grill because they tell you when they are done.
Raw shrimp are often ocean colors like blue or slate gray
and change to sunset colors when cooked - pink or orange.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mulberry Jam

Here we go round the mulberry bush....

Every year there is a generous tree that reaches over my parents fence with heavy drooping branches of succulent mulberries.
Taught with sweet juice and ready to burst, they await picking like anxious little water bombs perfect for canning.
And every year I brazenly climb a ladder, wave at my stunned neighbor and try to apease my fathers threats to chop off the branches with a jar of something sweet.
Mulberries have a gentle blackberry-like flavor and unapologetically stain nearly everything they touch which accounts for his itchy axe arm.
The more precocious berries, too impatient to be picked, drop faster than a wireless call tagging the concrete below with purple black graffitti.

The last person I gifted with a jar of mulberry jam looked at me with polite distrust - sort of like I just stepped off a mississippi raft in dirty jeans and a straw hat asking them to whitewarsh a fence. I think she was expecting something more common and benign, like straight up strawberry.
But, gentle reader, I am here to tell you that mulberries don't reside in some kind of archaic Appalachian berry otherworld rubbing elbows with huckleberries and boysenberries.
They are actually fairly prolific, ripening across the delaware valley as we speak, and probably staring up at you from right under your nose.
Once you know how to recognize a tree it's kind of creepy how common they are.
This weekend at a bbq in south philly I nearly knocked a man down excitedly screaming,"mullberries!!" while gesturing towards the good Dr. to come look.
I was surprised to see several trees waving back at me with serrated fingers from an adjacent empty lot.
The good Dr. simply smiled sweetly and took another swig of his stout.
He's used to me by now.

...the mullberry bush...

Before we start some advice:

  • Don't get sick!
    Before you call up your instinctual hunter-gatherer and get picking , become aquainted with your tree.
    There are over 150 species of mulberry.
    Not all are suitable for picking and only the ripe fruits are edible.
    The unripe fruits , sap and several others parts of some trees are poisonous causing stomach upset and hallucinations.
    If you do not know what type of tree you are collecting from or are uncertain that it is safe to use the fruit you collect , DON'T DO IT.
    In addition to the above warning be sure the trees you are picking from have not been sprayed with pesticides or been given the opportunity to absorb nasty toxins from road sides or airplane dropping's
    (i.e. gyspy moth spray).
    Don't let this scare you though.
    White mulberry (white mulberry being a seperate species, we are not talking about the unripe fruit) has been used in Chineese medicine for centuries against fever.
    It lowers cholesterol and protects the liver.
    Mulberries of many species are also an excellent food stock.
    They have a fair amount of vitamins C and K with the added benefit of containing health promoting antioxidants called anthocyanin's.

  • Pick responsibly.
    One of the things that make tree's like mulberry so awesome is that they invite wildlife back into our living spaces.
    Birds, butterflies and animals of all sorts rely on these tree's for nourishment.
    Don't go hogging all the food.
    Animal's don't have freezers or supermarkets.

    Try to only pick 1/4 or less of what you see.

  • Keep in mind that many wild plants don't fruit with the same predictability as their domesticated cousins who have been bred over generations to exhibit characteristics humans find usefull.
    If your tree is only giving a little fruit at a time,
    save what you collect in the frigidaire for a few days or freeze it.
    Fill a mason jar with what you've got and cover it in a simple syrup of one part sugar to three parts water and freeze.
    The syrup keeps the fruit from getting gross in the freezer.

    Mulberries also mix imperceptibly with blackberries and go great with an equal measure of blueberries if you come up a little short.

  • Mulberries are like that athletic kid in gym class who is just dying to be picked.
    They fall right off the branch into your waiting hands, a jar or the ground.
    While picking berries don't be afraid to pick up the ones on the ground.
    Not only will they be washed, but they are also being cooked and sterilized.
    If you don't have a ladder feel free to capitalize on their eagerness to be picked and shake a few branches to encourage them to fall.

  • Making jam is not difficult but there is a bit of science involved.
    Im not going to get all "Bill Nye the sciecne guy on it" on it , but...
    Sugar, an acid (here lemon juice) and pectin all combine to make the jam "set."
    This is the difference between a syrup and what makes a jam jamy.
    If you will a jamy jam.
    Some fruits are endowed with more pectin and therefore more forgiving of sloppy proportions , but mulberries can hold a little bit of a grudge.
    Aparently when God was giving out pectin he kind of short changed the mullberry.
    (what a rascal!)

The darker the berry ... the sweeter the juice!

There are several ways to attack this problem :

- adding a high pectin fruit / or high pectin jam in with the mulberries
(i.e. apple/applejam)
- adding in a packet of commercial pectin (i.e. "sure-jel.")
- or go au natural. Collect 20%-30% less ripe-red berries.
(i.e. for every ten collect 2 or 3 red berries. The less ripe berries hold more pectin).
Avoid unripe fruit as it has proven to be poisionous.
In the lovely image of the mulberry spectrum you see above, I would only use the two on the left - the purple and the red. To be safe avoid berries with an white spots.

Personally I collect red berries and also add in some commercial pectin for good measure.

...the mulberry bush...

Mulberry Jam

  • 3 cups mulberries
  • 1 3/4 c - 3 c cup sugar depending on sweetness of fruit.
  • juice of one lemon
  • one packett of sure-jel

Hot Pack Canning: A Rough Sketch

Canning is a simple process of cooking fruit, pouring it in jars and then boiling it in a big pot of water. The boiling water simultaneously seals the jar and kills any unwanted bacteria, mold or yeast.

We are going to approach making jam by setting up two stations.
The first will be your stemming station where you prepare the fruit for cooking.
This is best on a kitchen table or somewhere you can sit down and stem/pit/peel fruit which could take a minute or two.

The second is your canning sation.
This one should be set up next to your range or really close in proximity.
This is where you get to use all your dern-fangled canning equipment.
I think it's easier , and best, to just go out and spring for some equipment if you can't borrow it or already own it.
Ball and several other canning companies make "canning kits."
These come in two varieties.
The bigger one that costs bigger money and and the little one that costs littler money.
The bigger kit generally runs about 40 dollars.
It includes a giant pot with an adjustable wire rack .
The rack lifts your precious jars of sweet and sticky just enough to keep their cute little tooshies from scorching on the hot pot bottom.
It also has the same stuff as the small kit.

The smaller one cost's about 12 bucks.
It has several pieces in it - the most important of which are the jar grabber and a magical magnetic "wand" for picking up hot lids.
Both are designed to keep you from burning your precious digits and well worth the the peseta's.
Many of these kits also include a funnel to fit in the mouth of your jars and a ruler to be sure your jam sits within a 1/4 of the jars lid.
Check out to check out products /prices / reviews before you buy.

You could always get creative and use a stock pot for the canning bath, replace a pair of tongs for the jar grabber, and a fork for the magnetic wand, but these things are going to get HOT.
Go buy some new toys.

You will also need a second non-reactive pot to boil the fruit/sugar/pectin/lemon juice in. A non-reactive pot generally means someting other than aluminum.
Aluminum readily reacts with acids and jam making utilizes acids to make the jam gel.

You may also want a ladel to transfer the hot jam from pot to jars.

The Process

Fill your canning vessel with enough water to cover the jars up to an inch and a half (roughly one thumb length from the joint that meets your hand to the finger nail) and place it on the stove to boil.
This will create your canning bath. Think of it as a big hot jaccuzzi for your cute little mason jars.
The pot can get pretty heavy so feel free to fill it a little , then transfer water from the sink to the canning bath with a smaller more manageable pot.

Unscrew the mason jars and seperate the two part lid from the jar.
Place the screw top on the counter at your canning station, put the lids in a small pot of water you will simmer for the duration of the canning process, and sink the jars in the canning bath.

If you look at the bottom of the discus piece of the two part lid, you will see it is ringed in a rubberish band. When placed on top of the mason jar this is what seals your jar up nice and cozy so that no bacteria or mold can get into your jam.
Simmering the lids brings them up to the temperature of the red hot jars coming out of the canning bath and facilitates a proper seal.
There are a few times I have canned on the quick and forgotten to simmer the lids.
I am not advising you to skip this step, but they did seal.
Keep in mind that once the discus piece of the two part lid has been boiled it should not be used again.
However, the screw top lid can be used several times over provided it doesn't have any dents and fits a jar tightly.
Boxes of 12 new discus lids are packaged seperately and sold on their own.
Buying a box will enable you to reuse your screw tops and glassware.
How green!

If you are cooking without a commercial pectin , stick a small juice glass or ceramic plate in the freezer. I will explain this below.

Wash the fruit and then set up your "stemming" station.
This stemming station consits of nothing more then two bowls , a pairing knife and a paper towel.
In one bowl you will sit the freshly cleaned berries/fruit.
You want to de-stem each piece of fruit.
The stems actually run pretty deep in these bad boys and you will want to sort of dig down in them to get as much as you can.
A few left behind won't hurt anyone, but the stems cook differently then the soft drups around them. Too many may add a few "twiggy" spots to your jam.

After digging out the stems place the berries in the second bowl.
Be warned that the berries kind of fall apart when you take the stem out.
This is perfectly ok.
In a lot of jam recipes your asked to crush the fruit to get more of the juice out. Lucky for us stemming mulberries sort of collapses the fruit releasing juice in the process.

These little guys can get some distance - shooting juice clear across the room.
If you look carefully you will see them eyeing up your crew necks.
Do not wear a white shirt unless you hate it!

Stemming could take you a little time maybe depending on how much mulberry you've got.

Photobucket we go round the mulberry bush so early in the morning...

Once you have completed stemming the fruit, coat it with the lemon juice and then toss with the sugar.
Keep in mind lemon seeds can make jam bitter.
Be sure to pick them out.

At this point it's ready to go on the stove, but I usually throw in an extra step if im not in a rush.

I let the fruit rest.

I cover it with cling wrap and place it in the frigidaire anywhere from overnight up to a day.
This is the old school way.
In my experience it gives the acid, pectin and sugar some time to get acquainted with one another, ultimately drawing out more juice and adding up to an overall better texture.
It might just be me,but jams prepared this way seem to be more on the goopy spreadable smell great side and less on the plasticy jello-like aspic side.

Next, wether it has rested overnight or comes straight from your stem station,
place the fruit,sugar and lemon juice mixture in a pot on low heat and stir constantly until it has all been incorporated into a seemless syrup.

After some time you will see that pinkish foam starting to appear on its surface.
It's nothing weird like rabbies or anything.
Just bubbles.
You can choose to leave it be as I do or skim it off the top with a spoon.
I also know people who add in a tbl of butter to cut down the foam.
I am a little wary of this as I am unsure of how fats would breakdown over time in a jar , but grandmas have been doing it for years.
Play at your own risk.

Keep stirring and heating the syrup until boiling bubbles form that you can not stir away.
When you have reached this stage it is called a "hard boil."
Its not necessary to use, but if you have a candy thermometer it should be registering around 220 degrees farenheit.

Add in your sure-jell and stir until it is fully incorporated.
Sure-jel is a preparation of powdered pectin that will ensure your jam will gel.
Get it?
Suuure-jel?! (*nerdy snort laugh*).
It is available in the hardware section of most grocery stores oftehn right next to the mason jars.
Jam can be made without it , but generally needs to be cooked longer.
This longer cooking time can make the fruit rubbery and tasteless.
Add in and extra 5 - 10 minutes of boiling in the canning bath to sterilize teh jars and you come up with a pretty lifeless jam.

The first indicater that your syrup is jamming is the hard boil.
The second is the plate test.
Remember that piece of dinnerware in the freezer?
This is it's cue.
You can trust a commecial pectin to set your jam without a test.
However if you are adding in apple jam or counting on the natural pectin in a fruit to make the jam set you will want to take the plate out and put a dab of jam on it. Return the plate back to its icy apartment in the freezer and check back in a minute or so. When the plated jam sets up the way you like it is done.
Again when using a commercial pectin this step isn't really necessary but it is fun to see how "done" it is.

It should be mentioned that one issue with commercial pectin is that it breaks down fairly quickly at high temperatures.
If you read the insert that comes with your Sure-Jell packett will suggest that you boil it for one minute only.
To gaugae a full minute I usually count to sixty slowly (a doi Ralph),
or sing a short song the duration of one minute.
As it is getting closer to the fourth of July lets go with the national anthem.
That's the one that starts, "Oh say can you see..."
Once you hit , "...and the home of the brave..." cut the heat and move the pot to a cool burner.

Now we move to the canning station.
Retrieve a jar from the now boiling canning bath.
Ladel the hot jam into a warm sterilized jar, top with a lid disk from the simmering pot and then use an oven mitt to screw on the second part of the lid.
(this is a good place to use your fancy equipment like the funnel and the magical magnetic "wand.")

Place each jar in the water bath one by one directly after it's lid is screwed on. You want to minimize its time out of the bath.
Don't let the baby get cold.

Let it hang out in there 5-10 minutes.
When removing the jars try to go in sequential order, taking out the first jar you placed in until you pick up the last.
Try not to bang the jars around too much and don't touch their tops for a while.
As they cool down, a vaccum begins to form within the jar which will seal it from the outside.
Over the next hour or so you will hear little tin-y popping noises that indicate your jars have sealed.

To check if a jar as sealed properly , press gently on the lid after it has completely cooled.
If it flexes it has not properly sealed.
In this case refrigerate it immediately and use it up asap, or just toss it.
It is possible to save it by re-processing it , but at this point I have no experience with that.
I am sure you could hunt down instructions on the interweb.
If anyone tries it let me know how it goes.

Jars that have sealed can be used up to a after they have been sealed.
Date them to be sure no one gets ill.

here is a great website to check out.
Not only is there a butt load of recipes and general information on canning , but you can also type in your zip code to get a list of farms in your area where you can pick your own fruit.

There are also several other web sites available on the internets many sponspered by canning companies like Ball.

P.s. "Here we go round the mulberry bush" was first sung by felmale inmates of a British prison.
See the disclaimer below and don't sue me or try to put me there.
If you want to use it as your "minute song" I would suggest singing four verses.

*Disclaimer: I am not a professional and cannot be held accountable for any type of poisioning based on the recommendations I have made above wether due to picking bad fruit or bad canning technique. Or anything else for that manner.s
Do your own research on what you have available to you before jumping in to this or any other recipe.
If you are unsure if something will make you sick, don't eat it.
Can at your own risk.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I'm Obsessed: Grilled Cheese with Vidalia and Granny Smith Apples

It put's the Uuuuunnnn in Lunch

Im not ashamed , but I will apologize.
It's a general good rule of thumb that if you can make a recipe just by reading the title of the post , as Dr. Phil would say, It ain't no recipe.
So lets just call this a list.

  • Swiss cheese
  • Chedar so sharp it cuts itself
  • Thinly sliced granny smith
  • Vidalia onion.
  • Olive oil or butter to fry it up in

Sometimes the simplest things are the most deliscious.