Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pickled peaches

oh the choices v2

We're in the middle of a canning frenzy. Honestly, we've been canning since June, but now, we're really getting into it. TH is also starting to dry fruit. Why? Because when neighbor's fig tree breaks branches under the weight of the fruit, you have to do something. Figs led to apricots and now peaches.

Peaches, we had a lot of them this year, we have two trees that produce -- one Babcock - the ubiquitous white peach and one yellow peach that has seen better days, but still produces fantastic peaches. The Babcock is directly outside our dining room window - TH would monitor her peach development and curse each squirrel who would eye her tender peaches.

Everyday was a peach orgy here -- breakfast, lunch and after dinner would see us slicing and eating peaches - TH likes hers with milk and I just like them. Peaches are one of the things that brought TH and I together in the beginning and that in itself is key.

Life around here can be sweet, but these days, I'm being sour. Work and family stress is making life with me a bit trying. Just ask TH and the dog. Instead of making peach conserves with my plethora of peaches - we try something else, a pickled peach. Imagine the concept of peaches with a little bite, but still sweet and with a non mushy texture. Pickled peaches are a great accompaniment for pork or just by themselves. You can can them, however we just make them as we need them. They are delicious and made even more delicious when made with peaches from your own tree.

Pickled Peaches - from Chez Panisse Fruits, Alice Waters

Makes six halves, can double or triple recipe

3 peaches
2 cups water
1/2 cup red wine vinegar (my guess is white would be just fine)
2 T honey (1 T is fine)
1/2 t peppercorns
4 whole cloves
2 allspice berries
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf - fresh if you have it

Pickle the peaches one day before you need to serve them to let the flavor mature.

Peel peaches - if they are ripe, the skin should peel right off, if not, plunge in boiling water for a minute and remove and place peaches in cold water to stop the cooking process. Skin should peel off easily. Cut peaches in half and remove the pits.

Measure water into a non reactive heavy bottomed sauce pan, I use Le Creuset for this. Add peppercorns, cloves, honey, vinegar, allspice, cinnamon and bay leaf and bring mixture to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add peach halves and cook for 3-5 minutes under low heat, after 3 minutes they peaches should be tender. Remove pan from heat. Carefully remove the peaches from the pickling mixture (slotted spoon is good for this, or a 1 cup ladle), place peaches into a non-reactive container - I use pyrex or glass working bowls. Let pickling mixture cool, strain out the solids and pour liquid over peaches to cover. Store overnight in fridge and serve the next day. Will keep in the fridge for a week, good luck having them last that long.

Alice suggests serving with duck, me not so much. I like a nice pork loin.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


shades of blue

I have been rejoicing over plums this year. There is a big plum tree that overhangs the ppatch wall. I have no idea on the variety, all I know is that the plums start in early July and they are red on the outside and red on the inside. They taste like a plum - tangy and sweet. I have yet to find a plum tree to plant that has the same characteristics. With the plums we picked day aft
er day - windfalls mostly and some off the tree, not trying to be too greedy, we made plum jam to mix into yoghurt and have slathered on toast come January.

The ubiquitous Italian prune which seems to drop its beautiful blue/grey fruits this time of year is another plum that I can do without when fresh - a bit astringent when under ripe and mushy when ripe. Not a flavor or texture that works for me - but oh, my my oh my when combined with apple for chutney or made into a plum sauce for meats - it transforms itself to a much nobler fruit. Blessedly at least six people you know have a tree in their back yard and will be happy to part with their fruit in exchange for a jar of chutney. I won't even go into the myriad of recipes for plum cakes that will use up the excess . Much like zucchini - many have been the victims of a drive by pruning.

Last weekend at the farmer's market, I saw Damson plums for the first time in a long time. This is a plum that has definitely fallen out of favor in the past generation. I can't blame you for not loving them - they are tiny, the pit versus flesh ratio is high and they are very astringent. However, with a bit of lemon juice, some sugar and time, you can create something that will bring you back to fall sometime in January.

Damson plum jam - makes approximately 4 pts

2 lbs damson plums
3 cups sugar
juice of one lemon

If you are patient, you can pit each plum.

If not, place plums in a heavy non reactive pot - I used Le Creuset with an enamel interior and cook until plums are soft - approximately 10 minutes, be careful to keep the heat even and low and check to make sure the plums aren't sticking.

Once soft and easy to pit, remove from heat.

Place softened plum into food mill or into sieve to remove the seeds. Collect plum puree and place into non reactive pan.

If you are patient and have pitted the plums by hand, pat yourself on the back with your sticky plumy hand and place the pitted plums into a non reactive heavy pot and heat under low heat until plums are soft. Stir often to prevent sticking and burning.

You can now use your food mill to remove the skins, but don't bother.

Add 3 cups of sugar and the juice of one lemon to the plum puree. Stir until mixed and heat under low to medium heat -stirring frequently to prevent sticking until jam starts to thicken - approximately 20 minutes, the mixture will come to a boil. When it has reached the desired thickness, remove from heat and let sit for a few minutes. Skim off any foam.

Place into hot jars - process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Eat within two years.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Dinner, all ready. I'm over it.

My father knows how to make three dishes tops, which considering his age and the era in which he was raised, is pretty good.

When we were little, my father left Seattle to go to London to take a course in biomechanical engineering. He went three months earlier than the rest of us. While I missed my father, I was more worried about what he was going to eat. As far as I was concerned, the only thing he knew how to cook was ab-gusht, the Persian lamb stew with shanks, chickpeas, onions, and tomatoes -- all slow cooked to a meaty goodness. The marrow was the best part. My mom assured me that he was going to be okay.

Later, his repetoire expanded to addas katteh - rice with lentils - easy fast and surprisingly meaty and hearty and his version of piperade - a mix up of eggs, tomatoes and potatoes. I used to love watching him make it, mostly because the idea of my father cooking was so unusual. His time at home was outside, or reading and studying. I also loved this combination of flavors - except back them I did not like runny eggs. The sharpness of the tomato combined with the richness of the egg yolks and the substrate of the potato was a classic combination, little did I know my dad was not this dish's inventor, but his version was a knock out.

Piperade is very much the same classic combination of flavors -- sweet peppers and onions as a base with a touch of smoked paprika or chile powder and tomatoes added and cooked down and the crowning glory -- eggs, glorious eggs. The potatoes are addition. Most people would mop up the eggy goodness with bread -- the potatoes are just a nice addition. Ditto for adding ham to liven things up.

The recipe I used was from Chocolate and Zucchini -- I'm going everywhere these days to excite my palate. The best part is the vegetable prep can be done the day before, leaving you with only adding the egg and cooking.

My hack:

2 peppers - red pepper and yellow pepper -- sliced
1 medium onion - chopped
1 t ground chile pepper - not hot
1 T olive oil
1/2 clove chopped garlic
sea salt
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped - could used canned in the winter
sliced cooked potatoes if you have some sitting around
8 eggs

In a large heavy skillet, heat olive oil, add sliced peppers, onions, garlic and cook using low heat until everything is softened and melting - approximately 35 minutes.

Add seeded chopped tomatoes and potatoes if you have them and cook another 15 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated and spread the mixture evenly in the bottom of the skillet. Season with salt and pepper.

Turn off the heat -- crack each egg, without breaking the yolks. Add each egg to the pan one by one and cook over low heat until the yolks are softly set.

Remove from heat, divide into fourths and serve with crusty bread.

Monday, September 07, 2009

I spent today trying to not care about any sort of social media. I did keep my phone nearby as to see if TH would check in from the frigid north.

She did, late.

Out of boredom, I would hit the twitter icon on the blackberry and then think to myself - do I really care what you are doing? Do you care what I am doing? Why am I following a bunch of people who follow each other, start conversations or make dinner plans that 10000 people follow and don't invite you?

Twitter - The whole concept is voyeuristic and at the same time, disheartening and at times ego deflating. I wonder to myself --am I not a cool kid? Am I not one of the in crowd? Honestly, at the ripe age of 40 something, why do I care about such clique ridden things? Most of these intimate between two people conversations can be held via a email stream that not all of us really need to cc ed. It is my belief that for some,Twitter is now replacing that level of intimacy that most of us have come to cherish - notes passed in the hall, an email check up, and horrors of horrors - picking up the phone and actually talking to someone.

I think I understand why teens are not twittering -- IM works better to have a icon to icon conversation without the rest of the world reading and laughing along.

Why do I give a flying puck?

From an intellectual level and as a person trying to grasp how social media can be used for information dissemination - it is important. If I had a graduate student and a lot of time, I would spend time reading tweet streams of certain groups of people and the ask others to assess what they are really get from 140 characters or less? If I had the strength - I would write an abstract for AAG.

In terms of information dissemination -- news feeds, hurricane advisories, software updates, twitter is fantastic. Case in point, @dooce used twitter this weekend to reach out to her 1 million plus followers for help in locating a missing friend with some mental illness issues who was last seen in the Phoenix area. The police were not willing to start an investigation - but did at the urging of the public. Imagine if we could do the same with Amber Alerts, flood information, severe weather, that is a great use of twitter, what your on the spur of the moment lunch plans - not so much.

So, will I stop twittering, nope, but I will be more likely to keep things to myself and pick up the phone a little more often.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

My friend JK, who we see only these days on Twitter and Facebook has given me lots of ideas to chew on for blog topics, thank you!

The weather on the East Coast this summer has been dreadful - wet and not too warm. The tragedy of it all is that potato and tomato blight has struck with a vengeance. We small scale city gardeners can kvetch about our lack of B,L, &Ts, but its the commercial farmer - be it a monolithic farm or a small scale CSA who are really feeling the hurt.

However, it gave me pause for thought -- how much does it cost to grow that tomato on your patio? Did you buy a fancy new pot? Compost, one of those spiral hoses? Did you remember to get someone to water it when you went away for the weekend? If sunk a bunch of money into that lovely terracotta pot and an obscene amount of money for that heirloom tomato plant and only get three marble sized tomatoes and cost average it -- well, you don't want to know. Twelve dollars a tomato is a really nice salad at Chez Panisse or a medium pizza with a coupon at Papa Johns.

Yeah, the 10' or 100 mile diet costs, big time.

Due to my schedule this summer I have been spending a lot of time in our ppatch and maybe we have been lucky so far with the varieties we planted, TH's judicious pruning and the exceedingly disgustingly torpid weather - leading to crankiness for humans and bumper crops of tomatoes for us.

Today I picked eight lbs - mostly these tiny little paste like tomatoes that I abhor and TH loves and made a thick rich sauce that will get us through at least six lasagnes this fall and winter. I think we might have another twelve lbs to pick if the weather cooperates.

I realize that our own little garden costs as well - our annual renewal fees, the compost and seeds we buy and the extra we contribute each year to garden scholarships. We also give back -- pounds and pounds of summer squash, beans, beets, greens and soon hard squash to local food banks.

The sauce is simple to make -- if you have a mouli or Foley food mill. I'm a lazy cook - I'm not one for the tomato peeling and deseeding pre-cooking - besides you lose so much of the flavor in the juice of the tomato.

Sauce for lasagne -- suitable for freezing, but not for canning

In a very heavy, non reactive dutch oven -- combine and melt over low heat.

4 T olive oil
2 T butter

Add 3 cloves chopped garlic

once that starts to cook

chop two medium sized yellow onions

Add to garlic/butter/olive oil mixture

cook until transparent - about seven minutes

Meanwhile, take six lbs of tomatoes - paste is preferable, but whatever you have on hand and is ripe will work.

Core the larger tomatoes and chop into fourths. Pierce the skin of the smaller paste tomatoes to allow them to burst when cooking.

Add tomatoes to onion/garlic mixture -- mix well.

Turn heat up a bit - you don't want to scorch the tomatoes and cook for at least twenty five minutes or until tomatoes have started to fall apart.

Take off heat.

Use the food mill to remove the seeds and skins from the sauce. Usually I do this right into the new pot - still keeping to non reactive finishes. If you wish, you can season with some sea salt. Cook tomato sauce down until you have reached a consistency you like -- this batch has been sitting and slowly cooking at warm for the last six hours and its starting to look like sauce.

Once you have reached your desired thickness for your sauce - -remove from heat - let cool down and decant into your favorite freezer containers.

Making tomato sauce can be discouraging -- all those pounds of tomatoes for a yield of four quarts if you are lucky. The sauce is wonderful on a cold winter's night. In some cases, I add one or two sweet peppers to the onion mixture to add a little complexity. I'm not one for adding the herbs until I know what I am planning on doing with the sauce and sometimes they go bitter.

Why am not suggesting you can this? I'm not sure that the addition of the butter is going to be good with boiling water canning. Its better safe than sorry.

This year I am not canning any tomato products - its too much work for not enough return. Sorry, I hate to tell you that - sauce is easy, peeling hot tomatoes and then canning them for 35 minutes - not so much.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Alas, my workcation has come to an end.

Today, I managed to get three things off my desk!

Like any vacation - I did a bit of shopping -- managed to score a pair of BR jeans at 80% off and took a look at the new Tiffany and Co. that opened in the destination mall by my house - scored a small box of Frans there - DOUBLE SCORE.

Dog walker took Ernest to Greenlake and around and to the DOG PARK and he's very tired - TRIPLE SCORE.

Yeah, for being stuck here instead of an immigration cell at YOW, I'm scoring left and right.

Its a long weekend - so I think I'll stick to the excitement -- cleaning, reading and gardening.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Day three of my workcation is over... Honestly, it is probably not a bad thing for me to be at work. I'm less stressed and asking people to cut to the chase instead of waffling. It saves everyone time, really.

I have yet to find poutine, I know its available at Bastille - but I'm not going there by myself. Instead we'll eat TJ's hors d'oeuvres and tomatoes from the garden.

I left work early - 4:30 yesterday and took my camera to the Ppatch and took 400 pictures. The abundance of what is grown is amazing and still people are planting -- winter greens, lettuce, peas and beets and turnips. Things are not going to grow as fast, but maybe we'll be rewarded with some dinosaur kale in November. Picardo farm is located in a hollow and heartache follows the first cool night when the fog settles into the hollow and we lose the tender squash plants. I hope that doesn't happen for a long while - I need a bit of cheer these days.

Anyone planning on planting a garden this winter?


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I find it amazing that TH can email her former advisor who is currently in Budapest tonight to bring her a crottin from CDG. The crottin will appear in front of her tomorrow when they meet in Ottawa.

Lucky dogs.

The dog is also lucky because his dog walker is taking him on two long walks tomorrow.

Lucky me.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Tuesday, September 01, 2009



I have been remiss. Sorry to my six loyal readers.

Its been a hard summer. For those of you who see me on a marginally regular basis can attest to my Pepcid AC swallowing and deep breaths. For those of you who aren't, you are not missing anything particularly pleasant.

This week I am pretending I'm somewhere else. Poutine, Molsons, bagels and a beaver will fill some gaps, but not all - including finally meeting Sherry, Graham and Sophie.

Well, there is always a next time and I'm a pretty lucky person these days, considering.

Happy September, the month could end now for all its worth.