Monday, September 27, 2010

Collaborating with a restaurant chef

I’ve eaten out at restaurants far too often this month. My birthday was in the middle of the month and my September birthday friends all seemed to want to get together for a meal. Just when the birthday meals were concluding, there was a business luncheon then a weekend writing conference. Whew! I feel like I have to re-introduce myself to my own kitchen.

One thing I have learned about eating out is that I don’t have to consume everything put before me in one meal. Instead, I can collaborate with a restaurant chef right here in my own home.

Often, I bring home a box of leftovers. That’s what happened over the weekend when we ate at Amerigo in Nashville on Saturday evening. I wasn’t very hungry when we arrived so I ordered Cuattro Fromaggi pizza with pesto sour cream sauce drizzled on it. (That, by the way, was quite pretty and added a wonderful aroma.) I usually prefer pizza with some vegetables but I didn’t see any combinations that appealed to me. So, I stole veggies from Jim’s plate to top the four cheeses and the thin crust. Then I ate half of my plate of pizza.

The other half, I prepared for lunch today. I sautéed garden red peppers, Swish chard and tomatoes to top the leftovers. Yum! I had quite a satisfying lunch.

Try it yourself sometime. Take home the leftovers then dress them up with whatever you have from your garden. You’re sure to create a unique dish that will be a one-time wonder.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Advice for canning season

I’m really big on not re-inventing the wheel. If someone else has already done it well, then I don’t need to make my own attempt unless I think I can truly improve upon it. I’m not yet a seasoned enough canner to offer much advice on canning. So yesterday when I heard the radio piece on Here and Now about canning, I thought, ‘That’s a great resource to list on my blog.’

I’m sure everything Kathy Gunst says about canning is absolutely true. But, I will say we’ve broken her rules on a couple of occasions. For example, we have successfully canned carrots. Yes, canning does require acid, salt or sugar, or some combination, and we did locate a recipe for canning carrots that worked in The Joy of Cooking.

Also, I’m sure it is preferable to store canned vegetables in a cool, dark place. But, we don’t have such a place in our home. We store our jars high on a shelf in the kitchen where they are exposed to light and, sometimes, to less-than-cool temperatures. Still, they’ve been preserved nicely and retain their good taste. The light, however, does oxidize the vegetables, which slightly darkens their color.

If you’re new to canning, follow directions and you should be fine. If you pick up one of your jars in December and find the lid popped up or that it smells bad, don’t take a chance. Throw it out. Otherwise, prepare to enjoy the goodness of your garden all the year long.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The garden revives

This year, I was determined to have a nice fall garden. I kept the weeds down in the patches that will continue to produce until frost and I did some late plantings—four kinds of greens, cucumbers, Roma green beans, squash and potatoes. I was looking forward to spending time in the garden until Mother Nature told me to rest for the winter.

Then the heat arrived, the rain left, the weeds starting taking over, and, you can guess what happened to my determination. Only about three potato plants sprouted. The cucumbers and squash that began to grow died in the dry heat. Only a sprinkling of lettuce and another green came up (I can’t yet tell what it is). The beans, however, grew. Their vines got longer and longer, winding up the trellis then down the other side. If Jack were here, he certainly would have tried some climbing. They looked wonderfully healthy but I didn’t see any flowers, until last week.

Earlier this week, I went out to cut Swiss chard and stopped at the beans on my way. There, much to my surprise, was a small cluster of fully grown beans, next to some babies that were just forming. I picked a small bunch that I’ve now added to and will cook them this weekend, just as the rains return. I think I’ll be spending some of my fall in the garden after all.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fruit for breakfast

I love fruit, especially when I can get it outside of my door. We have a peach tree that we have to duck under when we walk from the carport to our kitchen door. It took root from a pit that Jim through on the ground several years ago. It grew so nicely that we didn’t dare to move it to a more convenient place. This is our third year to have peaches on it and although they’ve battled with the elements, they survived, holding the peaches in their green-leafed palms for us to pick as we go in and out of the house.

In the front of the house we have raspberry bushes, which benefited greatly from the big rains we had several weeks ago. I’ve been picking plump, ripe berries that never all make it into the house. It’s too easy to just pop them right into my mouth. The bushes are so unruly that if someone were to ask me why we let the weeds grow so tall in the front yard, it wouldn’t surprise me!

When time for breakfast arrives, I’m especially happy to have the peaches and raspberries. Besides mixing them with plain yogurt and a few nuts, I also cut them up to put on top of waffles or pancakes. It’s easy to make a simple syrup to serve with the fruit. Simply combine the fruit in a pan with equal parts water and sugar. Cook on medium to medium high until it begins to boil then turn it down to simmer until it thickens a bit. In the meantime, toast some pumpkin seeds or nuts to add crunch to the meal. We poured our syrup with peaches and raspberries over biscuits that Jim made. He declared it to be a delicious “Upside down cobbler.”

Don’t have fruit in your yard? No problem. Find your local orchard. It’s the season when, in many places, their fruit is abundant. Then you, too, can have fruit for breakfast.