Saturday, August 28, 2010

Red Gooseberries

I always thought gooseberries were green.  Check out these little gems.

While visiting Salt Lake City this summer with Carrisa we found a thriving farmer's market on Saturday morning at Pioneer Park.  In August there is an incredible selection of local and artisanal foods to be had such as meats, cheese, honey, bread, as well as fresh vegetables and fruits.  I loaded up on local fruit that I don't usually see in the southern California markets such as three varieties of currants (purple, red, and white), two varieties of gooseberry (green and red) and two varieties of raspberry (purple and red). The flavor and sweetness of the red gooseberry reminds me of grapes. 

Summer Gazpacho

A dish of gazpacho is the flavor of summer in a bowl.  This batch is made with Arkansas Marvel Heirloom tomatoes.

To make Gazpacho blanch and peel about a pound of tomatoes.  Place them in a blender with salt, fresh herbs and olive oil.  Blend until smooth.  Refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.  dress with diced tomato, red bell pepper, avocado, crumbly goat cheese, and a sprig of cilantro.


Experiment with different varieties of tomatoes.  Green zebra, another heirloom variety, makes a particularly silky gazpacho.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Well-Composed Salad

My Favorite Summer Salad 
For lunch on a hot summer day nothing is more tasty and refreshing that a well-composed salad. One of our favorite summer salads features three colors of beets. I gather most of my salad makings from the local farmers market   I buy deep red beets, golden beets, and pinkish watermelon beets from local farmers.  Early in the day, often while I am making breakfast, I steam the beets, slip off the skins, and store them in the fridge.  Later when I want to make a salad I slice the beets and arrange them on a bed of organic salad greens.  I like to add cubed raw cheese,  hard boiled egg, or toasted walnuts.  The fun part is decorating the salad.  I have grow boxes and terra cotta pots of flowers and herbs expressly for this purpose.  I gather whatever looks fresh and lovely at that moment.  Chive blossoms, violets, calendula petals, and borage flowers are all fair game.  I finish the salad with a drizzle of homemade salad dressing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Heirloom Tomatoes With Personality

This summer my husband Dan discovered heirloom tomatoes.  He planted several varieties in grow boxes and containers.  He likes their somewhat untamed and prolific growth.  I like their intriguing names and how each variety has a distinct taste and character. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Homemade Freezer Jams and Jellies

During the summer, even while traveling, I like to comb local farmer's markets for delectable and unusual summer fruits that can be made into jams, jellies, and preserves - knowing that when I have a friend over for a cup of tea this winter I will have an assortment of jewel-like jams and jellies in the ready.

This summer I made black currant jam, red currant jam, white currant jelly, red gooseberry jam, green gooseberry jam with cardamom, elderberry jelly, and loquat cinnamon butter.

Jars of Homemade Jams and Jellies

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to Freeze Green Beans

Carrisa and I grew great green beans this summer.  When we were sated and had eaten all that we could possibly eat I began freezing them for winter stews.


Wash the green beans in a big colander.  Trim the ends off and cut them into pieces.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once the water is boiling carefully place the green beans in the water and blanch for 2 minutes.

Once the green beans have been in the water 2 minutes - quickly strain - and immerse them in a bowl of ice water.  Leave them in the ice bath until they are no longer hot.

Place the green beans in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer.  If you place them in the bag without freezing them on the cookie sheet first they will freeze into a solid block of green beans.

At this point you can pack them into freezer bags.  It is nice to label and date the freezer bags.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Elderberry Jelly

Fresh Picked Elderberries
Carrisa and I picked wild elderberries all summer long. The nicest berries we found came from the Provo Canyon in Utah.  The berries that grow in Utah are much larger than the smaller southern California variety.

Since we never did picked the 3 - 4 pounds of berries that most jelly recipes call for we made up our own jelly recipe.


The biggest part of making elderberry jelly is de-stemming the berries.  That takes patience.  Once the berries are de-stemmed rinse them in a colander.  Place de-stemmed berries in a sauce pan on the stove over a medium heat.  Mash the berries with a potato masher to help extract the juice.  When the berries come to a boil,  reduce heat, and simmer with a lid for about 10 minutes.  Place the berry mash in a colander over a bowl and let it strain for several hours to extract all of the juice.

Place the elderberry juice on the stove and add pectin according to package directions, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and sugar or other sweetener to taste.  Bring to boil and simmer on the stove at a low boil for 2 minutes.  Pour into jars to cool.

When the jars are cool, seal, label, and stash in the fridge.

Hint: Use only the bluest blackest berries and discard the pale greenish hued berries as they are not ripe.  Ripe elderberries have a white bloom on them not unlike a blueberry.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Monet's Apricot Souffle

I have been using a lot of egg yolks in my morning smoothies lately.  Apricot Souffle is the perfect way to use up left over egg whites.  It is easy to make and it tastes delicious.


8 egg whites
1 10 oz. jar of apricot preserves

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold in the jar of apricot preserves.  Spoon the mixture into buttered ramekins and place the ramekins on a cookie sheet.  Bake in a 300 oven for 2 hours.  Remove and cool to room temperature.

 Monet's Apricot Souffle
When I fold the apricot preserves into the beaten egg white I am careful not over mix it.  I like to find the little pockets of fruit inside the souffle.

A Lovely Texture

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lavender Honey

Has Winnie The Pooh ever tried Lavender Honey?

The healthiest plant in my garden is definitely a gigantic lavender bush.  It gets bigger and bigger each year as it slowly takes over the garden.  Though I admire its hardy tenacity and ability to thrive with little care, I decided to cut a bit of the lavender exuberance back this year and dry some of it in the dehydrator.

My son Brett and his wife Charlotte have been fans of lavender ice cream ever since they had it for the first time at the Inn Of The Seventh Ray.  In fact, they liked it so well that they have experimented with making lavender ice cream at home.  Brett mentioned that the next time he makes it he wants to try adding a bit of honey to it.  Well, that was all the encouragement I needed.


Lavender blossoms

Fill a jar loosely with lavender blossoms.  Pour honey over the blossoms and stir with a chopstick until the jar is full.  Put the lid on the jar and let it steep for 6 weeks before using.

Lavender honey can be used to sweeten tea and is said to calm the nervous system.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Rosemary Vinegar

Rosemary vinegar adds a nice spike of flavor to salad dressings and meat marinades.


Fresh garden rosemary
Apple cider vinegar
Glass mason jar with lid

Fill a jar with fresh rosemary.  Pack it in fairly tight.  Pour apple cider vinegar over the fresh herbs.  I like to use raw apple cider vinegar.  Press the leaves down with a chopstick so that the vinegar covers all of the rosemary.  If you don't have a plastic screw-on lid, and are using a metal canning lid and screw band, cover the mouth of the jar with plastic wrap or a piece of parchment paper so that the metal does not come in contact with the vinegar.  Set the jar in a dark cupboard and let it infuse for 6 weeks.  Strain away the rosemary and decant vinegar into a fresh bottle. Add a fresh sprig of rosemary if desired.

I like to make mugwort vinegar when I gather wild mugwort in the hills near the ocean.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Rose Petal Honey

Carrisa and I gather roses early in the morning before the sun gets hot.  We pluck the petals from each rose and pack them loosely into jars.  We fill the jars with local raw honey and stir it with a chopstick to take out any air bubbles in the honey. Then we screw a lid on tightly and turn the jar over once a day for about a week.  Sometimes we open the jar and stir the honey with a chopstick.  This is a good opportunity to taste the honey.   After about a week, when the honey is fully infused with rose flavor, it is ready to eat.  You can either leave the rose petals in the honey or you can strain them out depending on your personal texture preference.  Some varieties of rose petals are so delicate that they nearly dissolve in the honey.

We made three batches of rose honey.  We made rosa rugosa alba rose honey, double delight rose honey, and the unknown rose honey.  As each variety of rose imparts its own unique flavor and color to the honey Carrisa and I decided to have an afternoon tea/honey tasting party.  We both liked the unknown rose honey best.  It has a delicious peachy-rose fragrance and favor.  The unknown rose honey petals come from an old bush that my grandmother planted so long ago that nobody remembers the name.

Double Delight Rose Petals

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Loquat Butter

My mother has a loquat tree in her back yard.  This summer, when the tree was loaded with fruit, we decided to make loquat butter.  Loquat butter is really simple to make. We sliced and pitted the loquats.  Then we put the loquats in a saucepan and cooked them over a med-low heat until they were soft and thick.  We stirred the mixture fairly frequently to prevent scorching.  When the loquats were thick and jam-like we sweetened them to taste with raw cane sugar and a dash of cinnamon.  We filled sterilized jars, sealed the jars with lids and ring bands, and let them cool on the counter.  When the jars were cool we put them in the fridge for an hour or so before transferring to the freezer.  The flavor of Loquat Butter reminds me of apricots.

Loquat Cinnamon Butter

Loquats Sliced and Pitted

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lacto-Fermented Dill Pickles


When Carrisa and I ended up with a bumper crop of cucumbers this summer we made dill pickles. We used Sally Fallon's recipe as our guide.  The results were simply wonderful.

Lacto-Fermented Pickled Cucumbers

4 - 5 cucumbers
1 T. mustard seed
2 T. fresh dill, snipped
1 T. sea salt
4 T. whey
1 c. filtered water

Wash and scrub cucumbers.  Slice into quarters and pack into a wide-mouth mason jar.  Combine remaining ingredients and pour over cucumbers.  Make sure cucumbers are covered with brine.  Add more water or brine if necessary.  The top of the liquid should be at least 1-inch below the top of the jar.  Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days.  Store in the fridge.

Lacto-Fermented Dill Pickle

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Homemade Marmalade

This marmalade is made with local oranges, lemons, and raw honey.


Marmalade is easy to prepare and makes a delicious accompaniment to morning toast and afternoon tea.  Carrisa and I filled a jar with diced organic orange and lemon peel and poured our favorite local raw wildflower honey over it.  Then we stirred it with a chopstick, sealed the jar, and put it in the fridge.  The marmalade can be eaten right away but the flavor gets better with age.