Lemony Vinaigrette

January 24, 2013 § 2 Comments

This isn’t for you. This is for me. This is for my failing memory. For the pause in my sentences, in my walk across the kitchen. My forty-something brain used to run, and now it slogs through water. I must now try to remember, instead of just remembering.

Shake the dickens out of it.

Shake the dickens out of it.

No, it’s not that bad. Not that bad by a long shot. It just takes repeated (and repeated and repeated) motions or readings or hearings to imprint anything into my mind. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes a bit of humility, but the routine will eventually become routine.

I remember this vinaigrette for its lightness, its lemonyness, its bite of pepper, and that unmistakeable hint of something mysterious (you’ll learn it’s sherry vinegar). But for the life of me I can’t remember the recipe.  This vinaigrette, used as a dressing for a bean salad in the Fields of Greens Cookbook, is for me. But I share it with you. Hopefully you’ll love it enough to make it routinely.

Ingredients
2 tsp. minced lemon zest (from about half a lemon)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about one lemon)1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
1 Tbs. sherry vinegar
1 tsp. salt (use kosher)
1/4 tsp. pepper (5-10 turns of a pepper mill)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

  1. First—very important!—do NOT confuse sherry vinegar with sherry. NOT the same thing. I speak from experience. You make that mistake only once.
  2. Combine everything in a jar with a tight, sealed lid (e.g. a mason jar) and shake the dickens out of it.
  3. Makes about 3/4 cup.
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Induction Is Like Magic

October 5, 2012 § 2 Comments

Dainty has been absent, but I have a good .. strike that .. I have a great excuse. I’ve moved.

Not far. Just a mile or so down the road. But even if the distance was 10 feet, it’s still a huge process. Packing, unpacking. Oh, and buying the place. And dealing with a construction crew that is – even a month after moving – still on site. But they are good boys so I don’t mind them being around.

Yes, the builders are still here. And yes, this building is new construction. It’s an unusual building, too. The design is based on the Powerhaus design used quite a bit in Germany and apparently this is the first building of its sort in the U.S.

And what makes it so unusual? It’s incredibly energy efficient. Like, super super efficient. I’ll get into it in more detail eventually, but let’s first talk about how it impacts Dainty the most: In the kitchen.

I’ve cooked with gas stoves since I learned to cook. But, the question in this Powerhaus design is this: Is gas efficient? No. Apparently gas is upwards of 70% less efficient than electricity. Bleh. I hate electric stoves. I mean, fire is so fierce, you know? Fire is awesome.

But, fire fails in efficiency. So … Dainty now has an electric cooktop. To be more specific, it’s an Electrolux Radiant/Induction Cooktop. It has two radiant burners and two induction burners on its flat surface. What’s induction? You know that commercial with Kelly Ripa making a meal and her water boils in 90 seconds? That’s induction.  It’s a little like magic. But water boiling in 90 seconds? Awesome.

After about a week of avoiding all forms of cooking once we moved in, I decided to cook something on the induction burner. Or at least boil something. Can’t go wrong with boiling, right?

I boiled eggs. It’s a simple enough process: Eggs in pot, cover with an inch or so of water. Bring to a boil. Cover. Turn off heat. Let them sit for 12-15 minutes. Rinse with cold water to bring down temp. I did exactly as outlined.

And I got a soft-boiled egg.

Here’s where I went wrong: When cooking on a radiant, coiled or gas burner, it takes time for the water to come to a boil. During that time—what? maybe 5-6 or so minutes?—those eggs are slowly cooking. When using induction, that time to boil is cut drastically short and hence the cooking time is cut short. Ergo, soft-boiled eggs.

Image

Eggs boiled on induction cooktop at a 1.5 minute full boil.

I’ve gotten back up on the cooktop and tried boiling eggs again. One minute at a full boil is not enough. 90 seconds, not enough. Two full minutes, a tad too much. Plus, without a slowly firming inside the shell, the shells tend to crack when they come to a rolling boil so quickly, spilling their whites.

So, what’s the solution?

Using the radiant burner. Thank goodness it’s a hybrid.

A Sister’s Visit

February 14, 2012 § 6 Comments

I have a sister. Two, actually. The sister in question, Karen, called me last Monday.

“Ellen, we’re calling from Mom and Dad’s. No, don’t worry, nothing’s wrong with them. But since we’re so close, Chris and I thought we’d drop by for a visit.”

And by close, she means 4 hours.

“Um … uh … okay…?”

“If it’s not too much trouble of course. We’ll be there Wednesday.”

“Um … sure …” Really? Is she really asking to come visit? “Uh, yeah, that’s fine … um, you’ll get a hotel room, right? Our place is kinda small …”

“If you’ve got a spot on the living room floor, that’s fine with us – we won’t be a bother!”

Jennifer and I have lived here for eight years now. This would be the first time Karen and Chris came for a visit.

This would be the first time that any of my five siblings visited me in my adult life. And I’m 42.

I know this isn’t the norm. I know there are siblings that visit each other all the time, or at least as often as distance allows. The distance in my family is pretty expansive—and I’m not talking the distance you measure by miles. We’re not a close family, and to visit one another is just not and has never been expected.

That little girl is me. And the bride is my sister. I’m 3, and she’s a few days away from 20. When I think of my family, I think of this photo: Me, with a bag of rice, the others doing what they do, separately. In the distance.

My sister called and invited herself to sit on that step with me, a step I’ve been very comfortable occupying alone for 40 years. I’ve lived all sorts of lives there, none of it she knows, or any of the others really know. Sharing that spot on the steps seems so foreign.

Two days to prepare for the visit, but I really had much more time than that, didn’t I?

Homegrown Food Challenge—Days 6 & 7

October 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

No, we did not whither away and die from lack of food after Day 5 of our Homegrown Food Challenge. We survived quite nicely, thank you very much. I’ve just not been … well … in the blogging mood, I guess. If you’re a blogger, you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down. Hey, it happens. I’m back on track now, though, no worries.

Breakfast:
Day 6—it was all the way back last Saturday. I had promised we’d kick it up a bit with something for breakfast that was more interesting than yogurt. And we did—omelets! Not an omelet, per se, but more of a flat egg. That’s what my mom called them when I was growing up. It’s just two eggs, slightly beaten and NOTHING added to the eggs, as you would were you making omelets. Just a straight ol’ egg. We added in some local goat cheese and diced homegrown tomato right at the last second, folded and called it breakfast. A slice or two of toasted homemade bread made it a filling meal.

homegrown omelet

Lunch:
After, Jennifer took off for the weekend to attend to some business, leaving me to fend for myself. Lunch was … honestly, I can’t remember. Must have been the last of the grilled eggplant paninni … yum … By the way, that post was way popular. Way. Popular.

Dinner:
Dinner was when I got creative on Day 6. Earlier in the week I had cooked up some homegrown Vermont cranberry beans. Used the pressure cooker, actually, and the process yielded some terrific bean broth. Add some homegrown leeks, homegrown carrots, and a neighbor’s small bunch of homegrown celery, and it’s the beginning of soup! I added to that the leftover Vermont cranberry beans, some leftover homegrown/homemade tomato sauce, a fading homegrown zucchini and a couple of locally grown potatoes—along with salt, pepper, homegrown oregano and sage. Soup and bread for dinner—the end of a great gardening day.

Day 7

Our weeklong Homegrown Food Challenge ended not with a big banquet ala Julie and Julia, but on a much more common, everyday note. Plans for going out with a bang—lasagna of homemade pasta, homegrown broccoli, eggplant and kale—faded with the afternoon. Instead we hunkered down, ate our soup and toasted our accomplishment with the last of the local beer.

Next year … I truly wonder what that will bring.

Homegrown Food Challenge—Day 2

October 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

One day down in the Homegrown Food Challenge, and it went quite well. A local eatery and leftovers – we eased into it. Nothing wrong with that. Day 2, as I promised, was much more exciting.

Chopping a head off a fish-type of exciting.

But, alas, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin at the beginning.

DAY 2

Breakfast:

More coffee from our favorite local coffee roaster, Flat Black Coffee Company, with the Maine’s Own Organic Milk.

More Stonyfield plain yogurt with half a local apple, Topsfield-produced honey and an Effie’s Oatcake crumbled on top. Hey, they’re a local company. It counts. And I’m inspired to make my own oatcakes now.

Lunch:

A big ol’ salad using:

  • lettuce and red pepper from the farmers market
  • a homegrown carrot
  • a local apple
  • a boiled egg – the eggs are local
  • homemade salad dressing – just something I whipped up, no biggie
  • my very own and awesomely tasty pickled beets. That’s right, pickled beets on a salad. It was awesome.
  • some shavings from a homegrown head of red cabbage

Filling and tasty. I washed that down with some home brewed iced tea.

Jennifer had the rest of the leftover pasta and a local apple.

Dinner:

This is where the fish head comes in. Or I should say, where the fish head comes off. Realizing there was way too much to say about last night’s dinner, I posted about the fish and side dish separately. (Click on the lick to check out the dish.) On the menu:

Broiled bluefish with smoky mayo and roasted romanesco

  • Cape Ann-caught broiled bluefish with a homemade smoky mayo
  • Roasted romanesco
  • A glass of white wine. Okay, okay, it was Tohu from New Zealand. BUT, it had been opened a few days earlier ans was in the fridge. That counts as a leftover, right?
  • I may or may not have had a handful (or two) of kettle corn purchased at the Topsfield Fair. It was popped on site! That’s local, right?

Day 3 is already two-thirds complete, and I’m happy to say we are both still on track with this Challenge. Tonight’s dinner is just an hour away. Grilled pizza is always a fun thing to make.

Pickling Green Cherry Tomatoes

September 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

What does a gardener do when a little thing like a hurricane is imminent? She cleans out the garden of all ripe, nearly ripe and totally unripe tomatoes, that’s what she does.

pickled green cherry tomatoes

pickled tomato scrumptiousness

Ripe tomatoes have been dispatched to salsa, gazpacho and pizza toppings.

Somewhat ripe tomatoes are on a tray and ripening, possibly for a sauce.

Ripe cherry tomatoes are … well, in a bowl and thinking of what they want to become. Possibly tomato cobbler. We’ll see.

The unripe tomatoes – interestingly all cherries – are destined to be pickled.

I know what you’re thinking: Pickling is soo sooo very trendy. Maybe it is. BUT … I’ve been pickling green cherry tomatoes since 1994. My housemate at the time – Lou – had been pickling since forever and shared the recipe. Pickle the cherries at the end of the season – right as you’re grabbing them off the vine before the first frost – and they are good and pickly and presentable as hostess gifts for fall dinner parties. Oh, that Lou.

A couple of notes:

1. Pickling green fruit is key here. Too much red ripe deliciousness and they cherry will swell and burst, making a jar full of mush. But, I do try to add a cherry or two to the jar that is turning just a bit orange. It’s pretty. So so pretty.

2. Would it be okay to cut green slicing tomatoes into chunks and pickle them? Well, yeah, maybe. I’d remove the pulp and use just the flesh. We want to avoid mush.

3. And with the pickling spices, garlic clove and sneaky pepper, they taste just fabulous. Ohhhh …. yum.

Pickled Green Cherry Tomatoes ala Lou

  • 21 8oz. jelly jars with new lids and rings
  • 8 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup salt

-Don’t have enough tomatoes to fill 21 jars? Work the proportions for the number of jars you can fill. I quartered the recipe and it filled 6ish jars.

-Boil the above and let cool.

Pickling spices

Fill'r up with pickling spices.

To each jar, add:

  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 chili pepper, aka “a sneaky pepper”
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 garlic clove

-Add tomatoes to each jar, filling to within about 1/4-1/2 in. of the rim of the jar. Don’t jam them in too tightly – they may burst if forced.

-When the liquid has cooled, fill each jar to cover the tomatoes. Place a lid on each jar and tighten the ring. Let sit out overnight and then place in the refrigerator.

What about preserving them with canning? It’s definitely doable! I’m not the one to tell you how to do it. Really. Even though I witnessed my mother can jars and jars of everything from apricots to zucchini, none of it stuck in my head. And if something goes wrong … like when that jar of canned tuna wasn’t sealed properly … it can go terribly wrong. And I’m not gonna be responsible for your botulism.

filling jars with green tomatoes

I couldn't help myself - I made one jar more red than the others.

This Morning’s Harvest, Next Week’s Meals

August 26, 2011 § 2 Comments

Okay, so I’m rushing for two reasons: 1) A big storm’s a-brewin’ and 2) leaving town for a week. What’s that mean? Gotta hit the community garden plot this morning and harvest.

Tomatoes are gonna get whipped in the storm. Pair that with the fact that they look like hell anyway (I think we have blight – that’s like having lice to me), I decided to harvest all the tomatoes except a few very green ones and rip up all the plants except the best two.

What else is on the list? Here it is:

Harvest it all! A hurricane's a-comin'!

  • Cherry and slicing tomatoes in all stages of ripe- and unripeness
  • Vermont cranberry beans
  • Green bean
  • Lettuce
  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Basil
  • Yellow and green chard
  • A cabbage
  • A big ol’ purple carrot
  • A zucchini – full disclosure: It’s not mine – another gardener gave it to me.

*Missing from this list are a handful of Hungarian wax peppers and a yellow squash. They were camera shy.

All of this will be processed in some form or another – along with a boat load of beets I harvested last week – in the coming week. Stay tuned!

Any suggestions? Anyone have experience frying sage leaves? What should I do with a huge purple carrot? Leave a comment, let me know.

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