Monday, November 27, 2006

Bread and Onions

Recently I have been attempting bread again, and I have a nice, bubbly starter going in a crock in the fridge. However, it seems that I do not have the best of luck with bread. True, I have a good bubbly starter, good flour to work from, using a scale to consistently measure, long rises, the steam method for baking, and using an instant-read thermometer. But no matter what, no matter how great it smells, how pretty it looks, it just...isn't bread. I'm hoping if I keep plugging away, eventually I master a decent bread, but until then, maybe I'll have to stick with other talents.

To that effect, I decided to make some pickled pearl onions today. I used a variety of onions grabbed from Trader Joe's, so they make a pretty contrast as you can see. Hopefully I can make myself wait at least a month or so before trying them so they'll develop more flavor. Also, I really want to try them served along some nice cheese and some homemade sausage.

Yup, I hope to try my hand at grinding and making my own sausage someday soon. I have asked Santa to bring me a food grinder attachment for my lovely KitchenAid, and I hope to enter the realm of charcuterie soon.

Of course, on a related note, this is due in part to a local fabulous restaurant called The Linkery which is not only dedicated to local producers and knowing where your food comes from, but they also make their own sausage in house! And wonderful sausage and food it is! In fact, to celebrate my new job, Kyle and I went to The Linkery about 10 days ago, and we had such a delicious meal. First, we started with a simple picnic plate with two links (Thai green curry chicken sausage and Romanian beef sausage), yummy cheese, and red wine onions. Kyle had a cask-conditioned Pizza Port Good Grief brown, and I had the San Pasqual Meritage, a local red wine, to drink.

We then had a mixed herb salad and the "grilled filet of wild kangaroo (Australia) with vegetable curry, multi-grain saffron pilaf, and organic kiwi". And I have to say, the kangaroo was cooked to perfection! Cooked like a medium rare filet mignon, it had a delicious pure beef taste with just a final hint that echoed vast spaces of land, sun, and wild grasses. Of course, the multi-grain pilaf and kiwi paired very well with it, two things I wouldn't have thought would work so well together. And to finish we had a Mexican Chocolate Mousse Cake which was beautifully light and fluffy in texture, but sinfully rich and spiced on the tongue. Obviously, we will be going back and enjoying many, many more meals there!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Fall's bounty

So it has been awhile since updating, and I have been quite busy in the kitchen. Besides the normal cooking that I do, mostly with the CSA box bounty, I have done a few other projects to speak of. Firstly, I made a new batch of jam, a Pear Lime and Ginger jam, of completely my own creation. And it seems I've been in a big ginger mood lately, as I also tried a new recipe for ginger cake, or Gembertaart, as Gourmet magazine calls it. It's quite good, but the recipe has some ridiculous steps, such as making a foam out of egg whites and folding it into the very dense batter, which completely deflates the whites. But it is quite good, and makes an excellent tea cake or something to eat a slice with a small glass of sherry.

Speaking of sherry, I have to share that Kyle and I are wine club members of Mount Palomar winery in Temecula, CA and they make the best Solera aged cream sherry. Very nice and hazelnutty in flavor. Anyway, we went up to Temecula for some wine tasting, and we picked up another bottle of this divine liqueur.

Hmm, what else? Well, I made cheese again, this time a mascarpone cheese. It's a very rich yummy cheese, perfect mixed with a tiny bit of vanilla sugar and served along ripe, sliced pears. And of course, like many other people, I keep mispronouncing it "maRSCapone" instead of what it should be, "masCARponE". Otherwise, I have stumbled upon a really interesting vegetable item at Bristol Farms (which has a great full-service butcher, by the way), an upscale market. Brussel sprouts. Yup, you read that right, Brussel sprouts. But on a full stalk, which I had no idea they grew on. I ended up cooking them with a roasted spatchcocked chicken and some roasted potatoes for Thanksgiving. Of course, the best way to cook Brussel sprouts is to cook them simply and quickly. Briefly, I trimmed and washed the sprouts, boiled for 10 minutes, then tossed in a saucepan with some melted butter, minced garlic, some lemon juice, and minced parsley. Very good. And nice to have a simple meal, as I mostly boycotted Thanksgiving this year, as for some reason it always stresses me out every year.

Of course, when spatchcocking the chicken, I used my kitchen scissors and realized they aren't as heavy duty as I would like. I went ahead and bought some Messermeister heavy-duty kitchen shears that should easily handle chickens, and I can also separate the blades for cleaning and sharpening. Of course, Kyle doesn't get how I still need kitchen stuff, but oh well. And related to that, I was able to purchase some lovely All-Clad pans, like a saucier and a fry pan at their outlet, which carry factory imperfections. This means i got both pans for quite cheap, actually for more than 50% off retail since I purchased the pans with a friend and got an additional 20% off. I can't wait till they arrive!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bones, lard and more

So I haven't been blogging lately, but I have a good excuse, I swear! Well, a few actually. First of all, I have been looking for a new job recently, one with more challenge, more chemistry, and more pay. I found a job to fit all three categories, and I'll be starting in 2 weeks! So besides a job search to keep me busy, I've also been doing a lot more volunteer work for the Central Shelter. Okay, okay, I guess they aren't that great of excuses. But at least I tried some new dishes over the last bit that I can talk about.

For starters, I checked out the cookbook "Bones" from the library (by the way, everyone should use their local library as a resource, especially for cookbooks). Basically, the cookbook is based on the premise that the bones really need to go back into cooking. Keeping meat on the bone while cooking results in more even cooking, moister meat, and usually more flavor. Unfortunately, cooking with meat on the bone has become harder and harder, mostly because supermarket "butchers" are providing few cuts on the bone to meat consumer demand. And by consumer demand I mean paltry, tasteless, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, boneless pork with no fat left, etc. And don't even get me started on what they call a butcher these days! Which is why, expensive as other things are, if I want a real butcher, I make a trip to Whole Foods or Bristol Farms. But better than that, they can give me scraps of fat, stock bones, and helpful advice for not more than a buck or two.

Okay, off track a little, but here goes. So I decided to make braised beef short ribs on inspiration from the cookbook. The first time, I made a red wine reduction style braise, and served the short ribs atop a cheddar polenta. It was amazingly good, although a bit rich as the ribs contain quite a bit of fat, along with the rich polenta. The second time I made braised short ribs I used a recipe in "Bones" for a dish with a balsamic vinegar glaze that was quite good. Served along with some fresh arugula from my plant pot (plus some roasted marrow bones for me), it was a very tasty dinner.

That's right, I said roasted marrow bones. Very yummy and very bad for me, but perfect spread on some toast with a sprinkling of coarse salt and a bit of chopped parsley, shallots, lemon juice, and capers. I can definitely see why people rave about roasted marrow bones.

Also inspired by the book, I made a basic brown stock, and then concentrated it down so I wouldn't have to store so much in the fridge. And of course, while I was at Bristol Farms, getting the beef bones and veal knuckles (for almost nothing at all), I picked up some pork back fat from the butcher for rendering my own lard.
Which sounds pretty crazy and weird, and I know it is. But lately I've been wanting to get into sausage making, but without a sausage grinder, I kinda stuck just fiddling around with pork bits in other ways. Still have to try using the lard for refried beans or tortillas or such. I wanna try a pie crust, but as it smells a trifle porky, I'm not sure how it would turn out. Maybe I should make a crust for empanadas or meat pasties instead to take advantage of the pork smell.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pears, peaches, and pickles

So I've been going a little canning crazy lately, and I have managed to put up two types of confitures and some dill pickles over the last 10 days or so. I am just loving the new confitures book by Christine Ferber I purchased, and it is allowing me to try more tastes beyond the standard typical jams. The only problem is that many of the jams are a pretty soft set, which is okay for me, but it would be nice if I could improve my techniques.

One of the first things I put up lately was a Pear with Balsalmic Vinegar and Spices confiture as Henry's Market had Bartlett pears on sale (3 lbs for $1!). Involving a balsalmic/honey reduction with cinnamon, cardamom, star anise and peppercorns, it is so much of a fall flavor jam. Very yummy.

And of course I had to try the White Peaches with Saffron before all the yummy peaches were out of season, and I'm glad I did. It's more of sliced peaches in a heavy syrup type of confiture, but tasty nonetheless. And the saffron really does come through.

The last thing I put up (yesterday actually) was fresh kosher dill pickles with the cucumbers purchased at the Farmer's market on Sunday. They were so simple to make and so yummy.

Fresh Kosher Dill Pickles

small cucumbers, sliced into about 1/4 inch rounds
fresh dill (dried works well too)
yellow mustard seeds
lightly smushed cloves of garlic
vinegar (either white or cider)
coarse salt

Make a solution with one part vinegar to one part water and add 1 Tbsp of salt for each cup total of solution (example: 3 cups vinegar plus 3 cups water plus 6 Tbsp salt). Let come to a boil and boil gently till salt completely dissolves.

In each canning jar (amounts for 1 pint), place 1 tsp mustard seeds, clove garlic and dill at bottom top with cucumber slices. Once jar is half full, add more dill and another clove of garlic and continue packing with cucumber slices until 3/4 inch from top.

Fill each jar with hot vinegar mixture to a headspace of 1/2 inch. Make sure bubbles are not in solution by running clean knife or wooden skewer around inside of jar to release bubbles. Seal and process in boiling water canner for 5 min (good review of proper canning techniques can be found on National Center for Home Food Preservation)
or let cool and place into fridge for up to 4 weeks (if it lasts that long!)

As a reference, I used 6 small cucumbers (about 4-5 inch in length) and amount of liquid above, and it made 5 pints of pickles. My next project is going to be pickled garlic, as Ryan has specifically requested it and in the process I am now quite curious. Maybe pickled peppers too? Hmm, much to consider.

Also, my seeds started sprouting! It's very exciting to watch them spring through the soil and shout up quickly day by day. I'm going to be quite sad when it comes to thinning them, as I want them all to survive. At least the mesclun type can be resown quite often.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Weekend fun

After recovering from a nasty cold over the week and part of the weekend, I decided to celebrate on Sunday by purchasing many fun gardening items. Among these was the rigging for my very own homemade grow light to help my lemon tree be all it can be. Basically, I went to Home Depot and picked up two of the reflector clamp work lights and some compact fluorescent bulbs. I grabbed a cool white 60W equivalent bulb meant to simulate daylight and a multipack of 60W equivalent warm white bulbs for a grow light and also to replace all the bulbs in the house to be more energy-efficient.

Speaking of, I have been working very hard (and succeeding on many counts) to improve the energy-efficiency of my life and reduce my waste and impact on the environment. I've been recycling pretty well, especially given that I have to make a special trip to recycle, which made it harder to start. I just replaced all the lightbulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which should save energy and money. I have switched my husband and I to more local, sustainable dairy, meat and produce. This last one has actually been in process since last September when we joined a CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture) with BeWise Ranch, which has been one of the best, most rewarding decisions of my life. Not only do we support local farmers and organic, sustainable produce, but our quality of life and nutritional content of food has vastly increased with all the vegetation now in our diet.

Well, anyway, I'm really trying to live a more "back to basics" life without a strong reliance on fast food and consumer waste. Unfortunately, the one thing I would improve would be my driving to work. I really wish I could carpool or use public transit, but I work in a small company with no one near to my home. And I tried public transit when I first started working, but it was so unreliable and time-consuming (took me 1 1/2 to 2 hours to get home versus 20 min to drive home). Well, hopefully people will begin to wake up and realize that life should not be lived in selfish pursuit of "more, right now".

Okay, tangent over, I promise. To get back on track, I have a grow light set-up with a cool white CFL and a warm white CFL positioned towards my citrus tree on a timer to supplement when sunlight is no longer streaming through the east-facing window. I also purchased a few plants for a winter lettuce garden such as arugula, swiss chard, and seeds for radishes and seeds for a mesclun salad mix.

This Sunday I went with a friend Holly to the Hillcrest Farmer's market, which was awesome and filled with so much yummy produce, and I picked up a few lovely things. Besides grabbing a swiss chard plant and arugula plant, I also bought a variegated mint plant. I had never seen anything like it before. It's very pretty and has a great mint smell with just a faint anise aroma. I also picked up some beautiful heirloom tomatoes like green zebra, which is my favorite, and some small cucumbers for pickling. I love having such great access to local, tasty and inexpensive fresh produce!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lemon splurge

Yes, it's true, I have finally succumbed to the SoCal dream of my own citrus tree. I've been back and forth on purchasing a lemon tree for some time, as I wasn't sure my apartment would get enough light and heat for my baby tree. But after reading a post in a new blog I love (Lindy's Toast) where someone had a lemon tree in Pittsburgh of all places, I knew I had to try.

Now, for those of you out there who think I have a huge place to have such a big lemon tree, I don't. I have a dwarf Improved Meyer Lemon tree that I purchased from Simpson Valley Nursery in San Diego, so it will never grow more than about 6 feet tall. Of course, that's assuming it thrives, which I really hope it does. Right now I have it outside on the porch, which is a northern exposure. I'm hoping to move it inside to my east facing bedroom window and work up a grow light scenario to help it along. Wish me luck!

Friday, September 08, 2006

New Mexican Love

What, may you ask, is New Mexican love? Why green chile of course! And by this I don't mean what those sissy people in California and at Ortega call green chile, but honest-to-goodness flame-roasted Hatch green chile! Truly a gift from God! For those who don't understand a mere mortal's obsession with this delicious-ness, this ambrosia, by all means, post a comment with your email, and I will endeavor to spread the word and taste of wonderful chile. And please, it's chile with an e.

Okay, so if it's not already obvious, my hubby and I recently returned from a trip to my second home state of New Mexico, where we were attending a wedding of friends, seeing friends, and visiting family. It was a wonderful trip, highlighted by many outings that involved green chile cheese fries (best thing ever!) as well as meeting the new addition to our group, baby Evelyn Morgan who is the newborn babygirl of our friends Joe and Rebekah in New Mexico. We also saw Kyle's parents, which was nice as always, and attended the wedding of mutual friends of ours from college who now reside in Seattle.

Other than the bliss that is green chile and just hanging with friends, there hasn't been much else going on. However, as strange as it is, whenever we get back to San Diego I always crave sushi big-time, as well as just Asian-tasting food in general. After feasting on yummy sushi at Sushi Deli 2 in downtown San Diego (sooo good, and very well-priced) when we got back, we mostly just hung out. Unfortunately, I managed to catch a cold pretty much the next day we were back, which I still have.

But on Friday I managed to make an old stand-by favorite in our house, Thai beef salad. You can tell I'm really having fun with the new camera too.

Anyway, it's a really simple dish involving a quick marinade of skirt steak (or whatever thin steak you prefer) which is cooked and placed atop a lightly dressed bed of greens.
*1 Tbsp coriander seed, toasted and lightly crushed
*1 Tbsp peppercorns, toasted and lightly crushed
*1/4 cup soy sauce
*1/4 cup sugar
*3-4 cloves minced garlic
*about 1 lb of thin beef of choice

Mix above in plastic bag and let sit in fridge for at least 40 min to 2 hr. When done, remove from fridge and either on stovetop or on grill, cook till medium rare. Let meat rest on cutting board while preparing salad dressing (can cut into slices once rested)

*1 small orange, juiced
*1 lime, juiced
*finely chopped serrano pepper (or whatever tickles the fancy)
*1 Tbsp sugar
*1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
*1 Tbsp rice vinegar
*1/4 to 1/2 cup of oil (frying up some green onion or shallots to make flavored oil make this really good)

Mix all but the oil together really well, then slowly stream in the oil while whisking to make a dressing of your liking.

Place a small amount of the dressing in the bottom of a big bowl and put in handfuls of fresh greens of any kind and lightly dress each handful. Plate some greens on a plate and top with sliced of the cooked beef. Very tasty, especially as left-overs. The dressing is really good left-over, and I keep it for at long as 2 weeks, although it usually doesn't last that long before I eat it.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Not so jammin'

So just a few updates on what I've been doing lately. As for my beloved ricotta salata I was trying to attempt, the curds were way too overcooked, and so they didn't press so well, giving me a cheese that was tasty, but really crumbly in texture and dry in an uneven way. Next time I'll definitely up the citric acid and hope I get better yields. But definitely not adding any more heat is the way to go. Hey, it was worth a shot though. Only cost me about the price of a gallon of milk and some time to experiment.

As for an earlier post involving my apple pectin stock, it did set up. Sort of. But when the big test came for it to be used as pectin stock in a black cherry with pinot noir jam recipe, I got....that's right, cherry sauce. So I now have lots of tasty, runny black cherry sauce and pretty much useless apple pectin stock (but decent apple jelly, if you like that sort of thing). Oh well, maybe I just need to resign myself to using a little bit of commercial pectin for certain recipes.

in other food epiphany news, on Friday I used a coupon at the new Bristol farms to buy some very pretty albacore tuna steaks since they looked good at the store, but wasn't sure what to do with them. I decided to lightly sear the top and bottom of each piece (after seasoning it with salt and pepper and adding toasted sesame seeds) till the inside was about med rare, and serving it with a wasabi compound butter on top. For a side, I did a personal house standard of shredded carrot and shredded radishes, sometimes thinly sliced green onion, with some ginger and rice vinegar (let sit for a bit to get everything all nice and vinegary). It was so incredibly good! And the wasabi butter part totally contrasted with the fish in a nice, smooth way. I love asian-style cuisine.

As you can see form the picture, it made quite a nice sight sitting on a plate. Of course, I'm still experimenting with good ways to take food pics, but now I have a new fancy camera to take better pics of. Yup, we finally succumbed to a new small, sexy camera, the Canon Powershot SD600. It's so pretty and shiny! But now I actually have to get better at taking food pics because I no longer have the "I have a crappy camera" excuse. Oh well, hopefully people won't be afraid to give me lots of tips.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Curds and Whey

Weekends appear to be my busy Amish times, because this time around I made cheese! I made ricotta again in order to make ricotta salata, which is a dry, salted ricotta that apparently is very good for eating out of hand. Right now its happily being pressed in the fridge, and will soon begin it's salting and aging process for the next few weeks.

I really hope it turns out because when I made it this time, I think I overcooked the curds. I was trying to get it not only to the curdle stage (which it did, beautifully), but also to the "no milky whey" stage like the book suggests. Alas, I still had milky whey, but I finally gave up when I realized the curds were turning a bit rubbery. I think perhaps I just need more curdling agent on the front end to maximize my yield from grocery store milk. Basically, the recipe is as follows (paraphrased courtesy of Home Cheesemaking, a great book by Ricki Carrol):

Whole Milk Ricotta
-1 gallon whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
-1 tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup cool, unchlorinated water
-1 tsp salt

Mix salt and citric acid solution together. Add to milk, stirring well. Heat milk slowly to 185-195 degrees (should take at least 20 min), stirring often to prevent scorching. Once curds and whey separate and no milky whey is left, turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes undisturbed.

Gently transfer curds into butter muslin-lined colander , and hang for 20-30 minutes above bowl (to catch drips) until desired amount of whey has drained off. Store in sealed plastic container in fridge for up to 2 weeks, if it lasts that long.

Note: Citric acid can be ordered online (see link at left) or found in any homebrewing shop for beer or wine. Butter Muslin can be ordered online, or storebought cheesecloth can be folded several times over for drainage. Jersey cotton shirt material also works nicely. Just make sure holes aren't too large, or all the cheese will drain right through.

So next time I think I'll try adding 1 1/2 tsp of citric acid and see how that works. Hopefully my yield will improve without imparting too much of a rubbery texture

Monday, August 21, 2006

Jam Fever

Apparently the PTBs (powers-that-be, for all you Angel fans) have decided that my purpose in life is to make jam. Because all I seem to want to do these days is make lovely, delicious confitures. This weekend I made a few types of raspberry jam, all of which are very yummy. Besides plain raspberry, I made raspberry with lemon verbena and raspberry with star anise. The plain raspberry is very tasty and raspberry-ish, always a good basic jam. But the lovely and surprising thing is how different and good the other two flavors are. The lemon verbena one is all summer, with tart raspberries and hints of fresh lemon taste and smell. The star anise one reminds me of fall, with its faint hint of licorice and an earthiness I didn't know raspberries had.

How could I afford to use so many fresh, delicate, expensive raspberries for jam, you ask? Why, I used frozen of course! Stealing the idea from The Great Alton Brown, I have discovered how good using frozen fruit can be when making jams and jellies. After all, they are picked at the peak of freshness then frozen, so sometimes they're even better than fresh, hassle-wise.

And since this was apparently not enough confiture making for me, I felt the need to try my hand at a pectin stock/green apple jelly. After trying to contact local apple farmers in Julian to ask for unripe apples, and being rudely shot down, I decided to try and make the pectin stock with granny smith apples. Basically, you take 4 lb of apples, slice them (leave seeds and skin intact), and simmer for about 30 min in just enough water to reach top (about 6-7 cups). Once done, place mash in colander and collect juice. Then place mash into jelly bag and strain more thoroughly to get all the juice/pectin out. Once done straining, boil on stovetop with sugar (3/4 to 1 cup sugar per cup of juice) and juice of 1 lemon per 4 cups juice. Let boil down and reach jelling point (approx half will evaporate), place in jars, process and cool. Tadaa! Now you should have homemade pectin stock to use in place of prepared pectin from the store.

Or at least that's the idea. I made it last night, and I'm still not sure how well each jar will set up. It was still runny last night, but the jars were pretty warm, so maybe when it cools all will be good? Well, if not I'll have very very sweet apple juice that's a little thick. Maybe I could just label it apple juice concentrate and nobody will know what it should be. Well, I did add a handful of tiny black corinth grapes (labeled "champagne grapes" at Trader Joe's) to one of the jars and then added apple jelly mix, so maybe I'll have a cool new jelly thing to try.

Of course, the real sad thing was having to throw away the beautiful apple mush! Okay, so maybe only I think it's pretty, but that's cause I see its potential...applesauce! Oh, if only I had a food mill. Or the KichenAid fruit/veggie strainer. Or a food mill. Or a... okay, so the real problem is I'm not sure what would be best. On one hand, the food mill is decades old and guaranteed to work...but hand operated. And the KitchenAid attachment would be shiny and new and mixer operated...but maybe not clean as easy or work as well at straining things like blackberries. Any suggestiongs, for anyone who might be reading and knows of these things?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Greek attack!

So last night was our turn to host the Wed night revelry of friends, and I decided to make Greek food. Because I can never seem to get the timing right, I started prepping dishes a few days before, and I actually made a schedule of when everything needed to be done. Yes, I am a total dork, but it did work and I got dinner all ready to serve at the same time, by 7:30pm.

I made a delicious, and easy, Greek salad with cucumber, tomatoes, red onions, feta cheese and Greek olives (dressing: 1 part lemon juice to 2 parts olive oil, with dash oregano and minced clove of garlic and tbsp honey) which was excellent and fresh-tasting. I also made a spanakopita clone called a borek from a Turkish cookbook I checked out from the library. And if that wasn't enough, I made a lamb ragout in my awesome dutch oven. And of course, what's a night of Greek food without baklava! It was very yummy and very bad for me! But so worth it.

Overall, it was a great night with lots of yummy food and free-flowing wine and hanging out with great friends. I think I enjoy the Wed without Lost and ANTM more than with them simply because we can all just chat and relax with each other.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Cheese & Jam

I must say, the hardest thing about this blog (well, any writing) is how to start? I mean, since I don't post very often, a lot does tend to happen in my weeks away. Well, a lot for me anyway. Do I start by talking about the mozzarella cheese I made, and show everyone the yummy pics that I took during production? Or perhaps I can regale everyone with tales of my plum jam and the unfortunate cut that occurred? Or maybe talk about the cool new restaurant Kyle and I found that makes its own sausage?

Well, I guess I'll just start from the top, as I am a list person. About a week ago I made mozzarella cheese again, which is important because...I have pics to prove that it happened.

And of course, the cheese was tasty as always. Next time I really want to try and make feta cheese, so hopefully this coming weekend. What else, what else? Oh yes, I made plum jam as a friend of mine kept raving about her grandma's plum jam everytime I mentioned jam. So I decided to make some, since the stone fruit crop is really good this year, and alas, misfortune happened to me.

That's right, while chopping some plums, I decided to chop my thumb a bit too. Knife went right through the nail and started bleeding something fierce. Of course, my first thought was "no blood on the food!" so I was quickly able to avoid any blood on the food and get my thumb all wrapped up so I could finish the jam. So funny how anymore when I hurt myself, it's more an inconvenience than painful and all I can think of is how annoying cooking with a bandaid will be. The plums did get chopped, albeit slowly, and I managed to make plum jam with a bit of cinnamon in it.

I also just ordered a book by Christine Ferber, all on small batch, interesting jams (or confitures, how French!) and I can't wait to try new and exciting combinations.

Hmmm, what else? Well, Kyle's birthday was yesterday, and to celebrate over the last weekend, we went to a great place in North Park called The Linkery. Why is it called The Linkery? Well, they make their own sausage in house. I mean, how great is that! Plus, they're dedicated to local, sustainable produce with high quality for a reasonable price. And it was all very, very tasty. Someday, when I have more room, I can make my own sausage and truly become a Renaissance woman of the hearth. Most people think I'm crazy, and I can't really tell them I'm not, because I do know how odd it is that I have started making my own cheese and jam and want to make sausage and someday learn how to butcher meat, and all sorts of other stuff. Oh well, maybe I really am "Amish" like my friends tease me :)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Long time gone's been about a year since writing this blog, and I guess I just stopped doing it for some reason, mostly cause I got lazy. But Kyle and I hung out with a friend (down for ComicCon, more on that later!) yesterday who mentioned the blog and limoncello, and I thought why not start posting again and at least post the recipe for him to use all those lemons with. So first things first, here's my limoncello recipe:

*6-7 thick-skinned lemons, preferably organic so no pesticides
*2 cups vodka (Smirnoff Red works well; don't use a really cheap vodka, but yummy Grey goose would be wasted here)
*1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
*1 1/4 cup water

Wash the lemons in hot water before starting with veggie brush to remove any dirt or wax. Remove the peel with a veggie peeler, removing all the white pith on the back so it doesn't turn all bitter. Put the peels in a large jar (enough to hold 4-5 cups) that can be sealed tightly. A mason jar with lid works well, but so does the cool flip top jars. Add 1 cup of vodka to jar and swish around. Cover the jar with cap, date it and put it in a dark place at room temp.

After 20 days, take out mixture. In a saucepan over med-high heat, make a simple sugar syrup from all the water and sugar. Let boil for 3-5 minutes. Let syrup cool completely, then add to vodka lemon mixture, also adding the last cup of vodka. Mix well, cover, and date again.

Let sit in a dark, room temp place for about 2 weeks, at which time taste every so often until it's to your liking. The mixture should be sweet but tart, and smell a lot of lemons. When done, strain the mixture (discard lemon peels) and place in pretty, capped bottles. Really good cold as a sipping drink, but also good poured over fresh fruit or pound cake. Enjoy!

Okay, hope that helps. Anyway, I've been up to a lot in the last 10 months. Hmm, we got a kitty (Kaylee) who is just so sweet, even though she always wakes me up at 6:30 in the morning. Also, since we had such a great time adopting here from the county shelter, I now volunteer at the central shelter. There's a link posted, for those looking for more info.

Also, Kyle has started to make his own beer, which is very good. So far he's made a porter and a German whit beer, both of which are nice and not too hoppy, so I can drink them ;) he's so sweet! As for me, I have started making jam and preserves quite a bit, and also started making cheese. I know, I get teased about being Amish all the time. I realize most people don't make cheese, but actually for soft cheese it's not too hard. I tried a gervais cheese (like cream cheese), ricotta, and mozzarella, and they all were quite delicious.

What else? Well, lots of cooking things I'm sure, and other stuff I can't really remember right now. Oh, but this is important! I've found a fabulous new show to watch that I totally love! Veronica Mars, and everyone should watch it, it's an amazing show! If you liked any Joss Whedon work at all, you would love this simply because it has a fresh, strong woman as the lead with amazing character development, storylines, and dialogue. Which leads me to the most exciting news ever!

I met Joss Whedon!!!!!!

That's right, I went with Kyle to San Diego ComicCon this year, and saw tons of amazing things, but most of all I met Joss Whedon and got him to sign my Fray comic book that he wrote. Seriously, I can't stop smiling about it:) For those who don't know, I am obsessed with all things Joss, such as Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, three amazing shows that everyone should watch.

Otherwise, it's just been horribly, horribly hot and humid here. We have both fans going full time, and it's barely made a dent. I don't remember it ever being this bad. I don't even want to think about cooking or dishes or laundry in heat like this. Luckily our complex has a pool (what one doesn't in SoCal!) so I think I'll take a swim. Hopefully it won't be another 10 months till I remember to post again ;)