Saturday, July 30, 2011

"sun dried" tomatoes

our first tomatoes to ripen
this season
were our romas
they ripened 
while we were away from home
by the time i picked them
they had
shriveled on the vine

handfuls upon handfuls
baking in the sun
going from
heat stroke
solar energy
had zapped my tomatoes

once picked
i sliced each tomato in half
placed cut side up on a sheet pan
sprinkled with sea salt
placed in a 175-200 degree oven to dry
about 2 hours later
or maybe 3
i lost count
(check on them every 30 minutes after the 1st hour)
they were done
dry but not dried out

after cooling 
i stuffed the deep red chewy goodness
 into a fancy jar
smothered them 
with good olive oil

Saturday, July 23, 2011

triple berry dessert sauce

we grow strawberries in our garden
and each june
joyfully harvest them
we also grow
only evident
by the bare vines
choking our fences
those sweet berries 
are harvested by
the local fauna
which possess
ripeness gauges
to rival a seasoned gardener

i buy most of our berries
at the local farmer's market

this week
i found gorgeous raspberries
perfectly ripe
brightly colored
 four bucks a punnet

here i was
mulling my decision to buy
a woman beside me said
"they would make the most delicous coulis"
"do you know what a coulis is?"
i sweetly smiled (which is a bit of a feat)
and said
"yes i do" and "yes they would"
but what i was thinking was
you are either crazy or rich
four dollars a handful is not a bargain
 if i planned to whirl these in a blender 
with some sugar
i might as well buy frozen ones
 half .the. price.
 at the grocery

this going through my mind
as i handed over my eight dollars
and chose
the ripest berries
in the most full containers

i brought them home
and they sat
then i moved them to the fridge
where they sat
some more

i am reminded of that woman at the market
with her clarvoyant premonition
as i 
simmer these over ripe berries
into a sauce

not a coulis
but a sauce
triple berry dessert sauce
1 pint raspberries
1 pint blackberries
1 lb strawberries--hulled and cut in half
juice of 1 lime
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 oz cassis
place all ingredients in a saucepan and simmer on low until the berries are soft and the sugar is melted.  the strawberries may take a bit longer to soften than the raspberries or blackberries. if you find this happening, just turn the burner off and allow the berries to sit in the warm juice for 10 minutes or so, the strawberries will continue to soften from the residual heat.
allow to cool to warm. spoon over ice cream or a slab of shortcake. refrigerate whats left. will keep about 5 days.

Monday, July 18, 2011

lemon-chevre ravioli

i have been making homemade pasta for as long as i can remember
growing up
 as summer arrived
so would my grandparents
both sets
heavily ladened with luggage
and lessons
my grandparents were old school italians
"the grandpops" sat on the sun porch
playing cards and tending to the vegetable garden planted each year
(zucchini flowers were a must have every summer)
and the "grans" would sit at the kitchen table
compiling lists of what would be needed for the evening supper
always a side dish
we would make it several times each summer
filling our bellies and the freezer
the dining room
pasta central

a table only used at christmas
 in a room that appeared hermetically sealed
would become
a work bench,  covered in flour

we'd spend hours
our summer staple

it must be said
we never used 00 flour
the type used for pasta in many regions of italy
it was hard to find
and expensive
we used what we had on hand

it was delicious

my grandparents have all passed
and with them
many of  the summer traditions
we all enjoyed
i still make pasta
in small quantities
with the same equipment
as generations past
it is abundantly less shocking
to see my dining room
littered with flour
and covered in pasta

sometimes i use 00 flour
when i have it on hand
but mostly
which works beautifully for a delicate pasta
like this lemon pasta 
used to make chevre ravioli

not quite how nonna would do it
but delicious

lemon-chevre ravioli
for the pasta
3 cups cake flour (i use king arthur)
5 extra large eggs
2 tsp finely grated lemon peel
place the flour in a mound on your work bench.  using your fist, make a large well in the center of the mound. 
Using the fork, bring the flour into the eggs to begin forming a dough. Continue bringing the flour in until you have a sticky mixture.  Begin working the rest of the flour in by hand and knead for at least 10 minutes, and until you have a very smooth dough.  The dough must be very smooth and well kneaded before leaving it to rest for 10 minutes or up to an hour at room temperature.  Cover the dough with plastic or a towel or something to discourage a "skin" from forming.  When ready, use a bit of flour so the dough does not stick and roll very thin.  cut in desired shape(s)
for the filling
5 oz chevre--room temperature
3 oz cream cheese--room temperature
1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch nutmeg
1 tsp finely grated lemon peel
2 Tbs basil leaves--chiffonade
pinch salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 egg
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
mix everything together until evenly incorporated.  place in refrigerator until using.  can be made up to a day in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.

to assemble
small bowl of water and pastry brush
semolina flour or cornmeal
it is important that your dough is rolled out thin, because you are using two pieces. it doesn't have to be as thin as a won ton wrapper, but it should be close to it.  if you are using a pasta machine, roll the pasta to the second thinnest setting.
place 1 sheet of pasta, cut into strips 2" wide and as long as you like on your work surface. make sure your surface is dusted with flour to prevent sticking.  place filling with a teaspoon in the center of the dough, leaving room for even border on all sides. brush the dough, where you are going to seal the top piece, with water.  place a second piece of dough on top.  press around the filling with your fingers until you have a nice seal.  stamp with your ravioli cutter, cut with a knife, roller or cookie cutter to make uniform ravioli.  press the seams one more time.  place on a cookie sheet sprinkled with a bit of semolina or cornmeal to prevent sticking.  use immediately, or freeze for future use.

this recipe is being linked up to 
click here to see what other great recipes are being made with king arthur flour
*full disclosure...i received a coupon for a 5lb bag of flour from king arthur flour for agreeing to participate in this challenge.

you can also find me at the hearth and soul blog hop

Friday, July 15, 2011

i love sweets {buffet}

when asked to donate
a sweets table
for a school auction
i enlisted the help of a friend
to put it mildly
i can run amok
grand ideas
outlandish displays
(we shall never forget the 15 foot lighted eiffel tower we HAD to make for last year's french theme)
fancy packaging
always seem like a great idea
two days of frantic baking
my friend
is a voice of reason
incredible creative talent
meticulous taste
the queen of cones
we were able to put together 
this darling display
expressing the event theme of

*labels and signs created by hubster

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

walldogs like cheeseheads {travel}

wisconsin is hubster's home state

we travel to his hometown
about once a year

while driving into town, after a long day of travel, 
hubster and i noticed
the little town of plymouth 
seemed brighter
what we were noticing
but not seeing fully, because of darkness
was the brilliant work of
who descended onto plymouth
for a few days last month
to paint 
murals showcasing 
the long and wonderful history
of this small town
a town 
considered to be
if you appreciate
history of small communities
signage vernacular
take a walk through plymouth, wisconsin
then stop at
for a great burger served by a car hop
follow it up
with a custard sundae

if you are in town on a thursday in summer
go to the city park
you can hang with the locals
work off your meal
dancing the polka

Friday, July 1, 2011

maple bacon

here is something i can hardly believe myself
i shunned bacon
for 5 years
it was complicated
and in hindsight
i mean really
religious convictions aside
i can't think of a reason NOT to eat it
it is 
just. that. good.

curing my own bacon has elevated to
obsession status
a few bats of my baby blues
 hubster agreed to buy a smoker

it was time
he is itching to make venison jerky
and of course
i have my bacon thing

here is my first attempt
and an honest report
it is good
i made the mistake of washing off the brine, but not soaking the bacon before smoking
which meant
it came out very salty
i soaked it after the smoke
in desperation
which meant
i not only soaked out the salt, i also soaked out the smokiness
so i cold smoked it again
and it just isn't perfect
but it is close
maple-brown sugar-rosemary bacon
3lbs pork belly
1/4 cup +/- kosher salt
1/4 cup +/- brown sugar
3 Tbs good quality maple syrup
1 Tbs fresh rosemary
place pork belly in a large tupperware type container
3 Tbs maple syrup & rosemary sprig (post curing)
apple or cherry wood chips for smoking
rub all sides with salt
mix together the brown sugar, maple syrup and rosemary. rub all sides of the pork belly with the mixture. cover and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  after 24 hours, repeat the process and place back in the refrigerator.  check daily, if liquid begins to gather on the bottom, pour it off and place back in the refrigerator.  at 5-7 days, you should be done. the pork belly will be a bit more dense, and firm.  rinse the pork belly well and dry with paper towel. slice off a small piece and fry.  if too salty, place the belly in a bowl of cold water and place in the fridge for 1 hour. dry, slice off a piece and fry a piece.  if it is still too salty, repeat the soaking process, 1 hour at a time.  once the bacon is to your liking, dry off.  rub the fatty side with maple syrup and place rosemary sprig on top. 
meanwhile prepare your smoker
i smoked my bacon at 120 degrees and smoked it to an internal temperature of 130.  there are so many different philosophies on this. you can cold smoke it, hot smoke it, not smoke it at all.  this will not keep in the fridge like store bought does not have nitrites.  it is best to cut what you will eat within a week, then freeze the rest.
it is very important to keep your pork belly at proper temperatures and to keep all surfaces it touches very clean. this is not a time to be lenient in your sanitary rituals.  bacon should not be eaten raw, once cured and smoked, it should be cooked fully before enjoying.


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