Saturday, August 30, 2008

Labor's Preserve

This long weekend pays homage to the grind of the worker, and is meant to offer perhaps a break from the routine. But the labor of the farmer is peaking, and the land is abundant after a long summer’s drenching of rain and warmth. So, while the beach is always a seductive distraction the foresight of winter’s slow thaw into spring presses on my mind. I have already squirreled away in my freezer: fresh corn shaved from its cob; okra simply halved; blackberries and blueberries hoping for a breakfast muffin, and of course, tomatoes, whole, at their flavorful best. I do get hungry between December and April, and being the food snob that I confess to be I do not always find acceptable vegetables – I do get tired of frozen spinach.

Beyond, a freezer packed to the point that opening it is a risky proposition I also have started pickling and jarring other summertime favorites -- petite Kirby cucumbers uncomfortably packed into a jar as well as green tomatoes, garlic tops, and cabbage potentially becoming sauerkraut. Perhaps, I may get a day to sit on my duff reading and frolicking in the surf it all depends how efficiently I labor away preparing for the winter solstice.

Pickled White Cabbage
2 heads white cabbage (medium size)
3 medium red onions – sliced into 1/4” thick strips
1/4-pound ripe poblano peppers – seeds discarded and then sliced juilenne
3/4-cup kosher salt
1/3-cup white distilled vinegar

Cut the cabbage in half, and remove the core. Then slice the cabbage into 1/2-inch thick strips. In a large bowl toss the cabbage, onions, peppers, and salt together. Pack the cabbage mixture in a clean glass or ceramic jar (about 1 gallon size). Then pour over the vinegar. Cover with a lid, and refrigerator for two weeks to a month.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


A simple day by the beach the other day fulfilled all I need to get out of a day off napping on and off; getting through a few more chapters of my latest read, and adding another rock to my ever-growing pile. Then there was the unexpected find. My friend forewarned me, and then pointed me in the right direction. Thorny, thick, trailing vines rife with clusters of plump, glistening blackberries. It took no time to fill a quart container full leaving plenty for the deer’s nightly graze and potentially, other beach-goers who know.

I gained a great appreciation for the price that is put on a pint of this berries – I walked away from my excursion through this ripe thicket pulling thorns from my fingers, and trying to sooth the many scratches suffered around my ankles. Oh, but the reward. They were so, sweet and dense in flavor that I must confess a renewed love of blackberries. I froze much of that day’s pickings, and I plan another visit this week to augment it. You know one day this winter I will lay my beach towel out on my living room floor, and pop this summer gems just like I did as I was collecting them.

SummerTrifle - yields 10 - 12 servings

1-1/2 cups peach puree (from approximately 2 to 3)
2 pints blackberries
2 pints raspberries
2 pint blueberries
2 pounds mascarpone (or sour cream, quark or Devonshire cream)
1/3 cup sugar
42 lady fingers

By hand, mix together the peach puree, mascarpone and sugar until combined.

Using a 6” wide and 9” deep glass dish line the bottom with about 4 to 5 lady fingers, breaking some of them to accommodate the roundness of the bottom. Then stand about 12 of the ladyfingers around the parameter of the dish. Add a little less than a third of the peach mixture into the bottom. Lay a few more ladyfingers down. Sprinkle a third of the berries on top, and then some more of the peach mixture. Continue in this fashion ending with a layer of the ladyfingers on top. Very gently press down on the trifle taking care not to cause the filling to come oozing up. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. Bring out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to serving. This kind of dessert doesn’t hold a shape well once removed from it mold. I prefer to serve it at the dining table and always presenting it in a glass container.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Full is her bounty
Richness pours .... taken home
Lush pleasures it brings

Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms – yields 12

24 zucchini blossoms – stamen carefully removed
6 ounces goat cheese
1/4-cup chives - chopped
1 tablespoon oregano - leaves only, chopped
1 shallot- minced
3 garlic cloves - minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 egg whites
1/8-cup olive oil
1/2-cup breadcrumbs

In a work bowl mix together the goat cheese, chives, oregano, shallot, garlic, salt and pepper to thoroughly combine.

Gently open the zucchini blossom and add about a tablespoon to each, and then twist the top of the blossom closed.

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.

In a work bowl whisk together the egg whites and olive oil – then dunk the stuffed blossoms in the egg mixture and then dredge in the breadcrumbs. Place the blossoms on a lightly oil baking tray. Repeat with the remaining zucchini blossoms.

Cook in the oven for 7 to10 minutes. Serve hot.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Corn...On or Off the Cob

The old adage the Fourth of July corn is knee high is true if the plains States are your source for corn. Now, corn starts showing up in early summer in the warmer states, and continues its kernel popping run into early fall. Though it is the height of summer when corn peaks.

Don’t pull back the husks to chose your corn -- you need to molest the corn caressing it up and down the husk covered cob…Is it full with a good girth? Are the tassels sticking out of the top slightly damp, and golden? These are the indicators of a fully developed corn.

Now, there three distinctive kinds of corn to find in the market these days: yellow, white and bi-colored. The yellow is the starchiest and the one that always needs cooking. This is the one you should use in creamed corn, or chowders for its starchy quality gives the finished dish a richness without using copious quantities of cream. The white and bi-color are far sweet, and are easily eaten raw. Shaved off the cob, tossed with some cherry tomatoes, scallions, lime juice and basil and you have a fabulous salad. I will admit to simply stripping the husks and silk from the cob and eating a couple raw for dinner.

Definitely shave as fresh as you can get corn from the cob, and store it in a freezer bag….You will your own frozen corn all winter.

Corn Ice Cream – yields approx. 3 quarts
5 ears white corn
6 egg yolks
1-cup sugar
1-quart milk
1-quart cream
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Remove the kernel from their cobs. Puree the corn kernels to liquefy – it should yield approximately 3 cups.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together to a pale yellow.

In a 4 quart sauce-pan heat the milk and cream to just the scold – do not let it boil. Then slowly add some the hot milk into the eggs to temper them. Add the egg mixture and pureed corn into the remaining milk, and stir, constantly, over a medium-low heat to slightly thicken.

Pour the milk mixture through a fine sieve into a container, and chill completely. Stir in the vanilla, and freeze according to your manufacture’s instructions.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Summer's Fruity Bites

I really don’t mind the fruit flies that show up every year around this time. My kitchen counter always has a bowl filled with plums, peaches, apricots and nectarines. In my refrigerator you can’t miss the half of a watermelon that gets slowly whittled down. I almost feel that I am pumping my body full of vitamins, and other powerful nutrients in order to survive the chilly, crunch of winter. I am starved for ripe fruit, and I just cannot bear anything from a conventional store. Most of the fruits have been harvested under-ripe, and then chilled just to make to the store’s display case hoping to seduce you into buying. Don’t! Why waste you time and money a two-bit hooker when true love waits for you on the local farmer’s stand. I am not aware of any summer fruit that prefers to be collected up under-ripe, and nor do I know of any fruit that will ripen once it is chilled below 65 degrees.

Sure if the fruit is ripe and fragrant refrigerate it – extend its shelf life by up to a week. I am all for that but, I will not; cannot, nor, should not suffer a mealy, tasteless nipple of fruit this time of year. After all, I am squirreling away nutrients so I can make it to next summer, and I want to enjoy the feast.

Summer Fruit Cocktail – yields 10 to 12 servings
1 bottle (750 ml) Proseco or another dry sparkling wine
1 bunch of lemon verbena – rough chopped
1/2-cup sugar
5 ripe peaches
5 ripe apricots
5 ripe plums
3 cups diced yellow watermelon

In a 2-quart saucepan bring the proseco, verbena, and sugar to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to it simmer for 5 minutes. Then remove from the saucepan heat, and place in the refrigerator to completely chill.

Remove the pits from the peaches, apricots and plums and then dice the fruit.

In a large work bowl add the diced peaches, apricots, plums and watermelon. Once the proseco mixture has chilled strain it directly over the fruit. Gently toss the fruit, and refrigerate to chill.

Serve in a martini or sherbet glass with a dollop of crème fraiche or yogurt.