Category Archives: Food

Quinces

We have been in a canning kind of mood lately.  In the photo above, you can see our Habanero-Fig-Apricot Jelly and Pear Vanilla Jam in the foreground and Pickled Habaneros in the background.  Despite my life being nearly completely overtaken by working nights on the pediatric wards, I managed to make some time to preserve some quinces that we bought from the farmer’s market.We also bought a new canning setup and the pot is large and in charge…

I think it’ll come in handy when Greg brews beers.

Quince is a fruit that reminds me of a floral version of an apple or pear.  The only thing is that it’s so sour and astringent when raw, you have to cook it before it’s edible.  The flesh is white when raw and turns into a beautiful deep orangey pink when cooked.  Below, you can see how fuzzy the skin is.

I realized that I can use this batch of fruit to make both quince jelly and quince paste. I started by chopping and heating up the fruit.

I then mashed the fruit and drained the pulp of all its juices.

The juices were used for the jelly, and the remaining pulp was ground up, reheated and used for the quince paste.

Once heated up, I put the quince paste in a baking sheet and let it dry in the oven.

The quince paste goes perfectly with a mixture of sheep cheeses.

Here are the recipes I used…

Quince Jelly

Simply Recipes’ Quince Jelly

Chocolate and Zucchini’s Quince Jelly

Quince Paste

Simply Recipes’ Quince Paste

Cannelle et Vanille’s Quince Paste

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autumn has arrived

despite an amazingly warm and summer-like weekend, it definitely feels as if Autumn has finally arrived.

eunice and i have had various projects keeping us busy lately (other than work).  one of which has been trying to utilize the many habaneros coming off of our plants.  in celebration of the california legislature recently repealing the law against infusing hard alcohols, i have made a habanero-infused tequila.  i took a patron silver and dropped in 3 habaneros.  the peppers had their tops chopped and the seeds and ribs removed.  the orange fruit sat in the tequila for a week and by then had lost their color.  i tried a shot yesterday and the habanero taste really comes through and the heat is just perfect (it burns everywhere).  other than that we have made and canned a habanero-heirloom tomato jam, and am planning on pickling and canning the rest whole.

the green habaneros pack huge flavor and less heat

these are the hot ones

infusing

habanero and heirloom tomato jam

our first attempt at canning

in our other local food exploits, i caught my first king salmon on the lower american river. the run has been great this year, and unfortunately due to work i didn’t make it out until this past weekend.  our boat caught a huge bright hen with amazing copper-colored fillets.  the other fish were jacks, smaller and looked to have been in the system for a bit.  those are going to the smoker.

lower american king salmon

have gotten a few days outdoors as well.  up to tahoe and onto mt tallac, a great hike that i can’t recommend highly enough.  and eunice and i completed our first century ride the other day.  we did foxy’s fall, a 100 mile bike ride around davis/napa/sacramento.  it was leg burning but great.  despite the pain, being on the bike this fall has been great.  even got a few races in on the sacramento cyclocross circuit.

mt tallac summit

i made a friend and got the plague

a really rewarding hike

looking forward to the rest of fall and some weather, pickle has already got his rain boots on.

pickle is ready for mud

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Huitlacoche Quesadillas

We went to the Co-op today and were super excited to find Huitlacoche aka Corn Smut or, for those who are faint of heart, Mexican Truffle.  This unsightly food is a fungus that grows on corn and used in many Mexican dishes.  In America, many of the corn that is infected with this fungus is deemed a failed crop and burned (though I think this is changing now).

As you can see in the photos above, this does not have the most appealing appearance.  However, when pan-fried with squash, garlic and peppers, it made for one of the most delicious quesadilla fillings I’ve ever had.  It has a flavor somewhat reminiscent of mushrooms…earthy, savory and a touch bitter.  However, in addition, you get a hint of corn flavor as well.  I think next time, I will buy more than just 1 ear of corn!

To prepare this dish, I referenced my Diana Kennedy cookbooks and came up with this adaptation.  I chopped up the huitlacoche, cooked it with one of our Full Belly summer squashes and our very own homegrown Jalapeno peppers and epazote leaves.  We heaped this mixture on to some Mi Abuelita corn tortillas along with shredded cheese to complete the quesadillas.

Huitlacoche Quesadillas

adapted from The Essential Cuisines of Mexico by Diana Kennedy

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 ear of corn with Huitlacoche, stripped from the cob and roughly chopped
1 medium yellow summer squash, diced
1 Jalapeno pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp epazote leaves roughly chopped, optional
Salt to taste

10 small corn tortillas
Shredded Jack cheese

1. In a frying pan, heat the vegetable oil. Add the garlic and green onions and fry until softened, about 30 sec
2. Add the squash and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes, stirring constantly
3. Add the huitlacoche, cook until heated through
4. Add the Jalapeno peppers and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the epazote leaves and salt (about 1/2 tsp), mix well and cook for another minute.
6. Take the mixture off the heat and set aside
7. Heat a separate griddle or frying pan. Place a handful of shredded cheese and a big spoonful of the huitlacoche mixture between 2 tortillas. Cook on the griddle until the cheese is well melted, flipping once halfway through. Be careful not to burn the tortillas.

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Mango Chili Paletas

I recently bought this popsicle making set at our local co-op, and it’s been awesome to use.  While I love making ice cream, it takes at least a day’s worth of forethought and the gratification is delayed.  With popsicles though, you can make them right after work and enjoy them for dessert.  Anyway, this was my first attempt, and they turned out great.

Mango Lime and Chile Paletas

Ingredients
2 ripe, medium mangoes, peeled and cored
juice of 2-3 limes
sugar (start with less than 1/4 c; how much sugar you use will depend on the sweetness of your mangoes and your own taste)
1 dried guajillo chile, seeded and stemmed
1 tsp Mexican chile powder
approx. 1/2 c. water

Combine ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Taste, adding sugar and liquid as needed. Pour into a popsicle mold and freeze.

 

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off the beaten path

desolation wilderness from highway 88

taking the dogs off-trail into the sierra nevada backcountry is one of my favorite activities (and theirs); so i try to squeeze it in whenever i can.  i recently became more interested in exploring the mokelumne wilderness, an often over-looked wilderness area.  this is a shame as it has a great variety of terrains and habitats, and is a relatively quick and easy drive from sacramento. i purchased a mokelumne map from REI and am now trying to get myself into all the areas of the park; for exploration, fishing, climbing, anything.

about as stoked as dwight will ever get

i took the dogs on a several mile loop off-trail to several lakes near 8000 ft elevation, a few were rumored to hold golden trout.  this may be true, but i did not witness much trout activity this afternoon.  that being said, it was the middle of the day, and its an area i’d like to return to for an evening or a multi-day trip.

the wild flowers were amazing, maybe slightly slowing from when i was in the area 2 weeks ago, but still great.  i recently purchased “sierra nevada: a natural history” and was eager to identify anything that happened to catch my eye.  several flowers and fungi were pretty curious, and i found myself trying to identify all the various conifers which is turning out to be more difficult than i had imagined.

red-belted conk, it was huge!

leopard or alpine lily

unidentified flower and pickle paw

wandering daisy

dwight and pickle had a blast.  dwight is “dwight on PCP” when we are in the woods, and he went 110% for 5 straight hours per his usual routine.  pickle did well, only one dificult section in the hike with a several foot drop that i had to chimney down that required me to catch and lower him.  made it home by 9 pm and just in time for a rye whiskey old fashioned.  and i have tomorrow off!

dwight high on life

pickle struggling to climb onto a log

here are a few pics of recent meals, an almond sole dish with a heirloom tomato salad with goat cheese pesto and blackberry vinagrette.  also, a pic of my pitcher plant i recently purchased.  contemplating making a bog of carnivorous plants, we have too many flies.

heirlooms from the CSA

this was delicious

already caught a few flies

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a few new projects and the meals that fueled them

vacation has been nice. but with last month’s busy schedule and hurried move, there were several projects (new and old) that needed to get done over the two weeks. a few were required due to the move. the kitchen needed a table to hold the microwave and the craft room needed a table/shelf for the loom. these were quickly built and may not be earthquake proof. also, i had to rebuild the bonsai shelter which was more complicated than it should have been.

the microwave plug doesn't reach the outlet so don't bring us hot pockets

the bonsai deathstar is fully operational

more creative projects include a small stool for eunice in front of the vanity in the bathroom and an ottoman for the main room. these aren’t quite done, just picked up the upholstery foam this afternoon and have yet to choose fabrics for the ottoman.

on its way to becoming a stool

cube in the works

awaiting foam and fabric

in between all the creativity i have managed to dedicate my vacation to bacon, with blt’s, rasher’s, and pancetta all making an appearance and frequent encores. these last few days may have a few pimm’s cups as well.

central valley summers are great

behold!

this never happens when i have to wake up at 5 for work

irish rashers are the greatest form of bacon, discuss

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The Return to Cooking

With all the moving that we’ve been doing, we’ve been eating out a lot more than we’d like.  However, we’re almost all settled in, and we cooked our first big meal today in our new kitchen.  The kitchen is a bit smaller than our last, but we love the new appliances and it’s fun to cook in.

For dinner, we decided to make a Roasted Tomato and Bell Pepper Soup with Honey, Thyme and Sea Salt Flatbreads.  For dessert, we made No Bake Chocolate Cake .  We followed the soup and flatbread recipes as written.  For the cake, I added a pinch of cayenne to the cream to make it more like a Mexican chocolate cake.  The soup and flatbread were delicious. The cake is still setting as I write, but the batter was very tasty and I’m sure the cake will be too.

I’ll just let the photos do the talking…

 

 

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an ode to vacation

intern year is over.  and we have been awarded 6 days off.  earlier in the year we had grand plans of sonoma cabins, vineyards, good eats, and wide open spaces.  sadly, we have been forced out of our current house that we adore (i dont want to talk about it) and so much of this break is being spent packing, boxing, taping, and moving.  but my god, even with the chore of moving, vacation is god!

surf 'n turf

moving has provided a steady task, but it has been interspersed with bike riding, drinking, yoga, and good meals.  day 1 we got a lot done, and were rewarded with some home-made surf n turf of bison filet, shrimps, and scallops on the bbq.  also found time to get on the bike in the heat and spent a few hours on the american river trail.  it’s great when time off gives us a chance to soak up all the reasons why we have fallen in love with sacramento over the past few years.

covered in shallot butter

love these new metal skewers

i ate these shrimps, heads, skin and all!

day 2 and we were off to the farmers’ market;  70 degrees at 9am, ranier cherries, squash blossoms, and a market packed to the brim.  we made off with a few choice items including the afore mentioned blossoms, baby back ribs, pretzel croissants, and a first for us, crawfish!

love these!

everything should be filled with ricotta

and also then fried!

the rest of the day was filled with yoga followed by so many pimm’s cups, with some packing as well.  lunch was squash blossoms filled with ricotta, battered and fried (recipe at the bottom of the page).  yum.  dinner is still going.  yet another version of baby back ribs with some home-made chipotle-maple bbq sauce and a crawfish boil!  this should be interesting.

two racks of farmers' market baby back ribs

on a bed of onions, covered in beer, in the oven for 2 hours before the grill

mud bugs

so scary

homemade bbq sauce is the only way to go

these turned out amazing!!!!!

crawfish!!!!!!

needless to say, we are soaking up this time off with good meals, good rides, good yoga, and good drinks.  we will have a mini-vacation for a day out of town and then back to work in a few days.  looking forward to our new place, and in the meantime, trying to salvage what we can from our beautiful garden; rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley, and oregano have been potted; but still planning the rescue of the tomatillos, edamame, eggplant, habanero, jalapenos, broccoli, corn and brussel sprouts.

our new obsession, pimm's cups

a proper pimm's cup with borage foraged from our garden, who knew?!?!

Eunice’s Stuffed Squash Blossoms

12 squash blossoms
1/3 cup canola oil

Filling:
1 cup ricotta
1 tsp Rosemary
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
salt to taste

Batter:
1 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup water
pinch of cayenne
pinch of salt and pepper

1. Prep the squash blossoms by cutting off the stems if they came with stems. Then, reach inside the blossom and snap off the stamen. It’s ok if you tear the blossom a bit, but try to be careful.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, thyme, oregano and salt and scoop this into a pastry tube or a ziploc bag with a corner cut off (improv pastry tube).
3. Squeeze about 1 Tbsp or so of the filling into each squash blossom and twist the ends of the blossom to secure.
4. Mix together the flour, water, cayenne, salt and pepper in a separate small bowl. Add extra water if the batter seems too dry.
5. Heat the canola oil in a frying pan.
6. Dredge the stuffed squash blossoms through the batter and once the oil is hot enough, fry the squash blossoms until the batter starts to brown, about 2 minutes.
7. Place on a paper towel to soak up extra oil and enjoy!

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