September is my favorite month. Birthday, anniversary, a chill in the morning air that evokes that back to school feeling, and time for woolies.
It’s been a delicious week. I celebrated my birthday with friends and family, repeatedly. The kids came over and made kalua pork (instant pot ftw), and spam musubi, as part of a Hawaiian themed dinner.
DH and I celebrated our upteenth wedding anniversary a week later.
This was part of our anniversary dinner at Républica, a restaurant in NW Portland. The restaurant was recently featured in the LA Times. Dinner was delicious, and exquisitely plated. The co-owner/pastry chef is the daughter of a friend; I’ve known her since the kids were in preschool. It’s so great to see her doing something she loves, and doing it so well.
And I celebrated a friend’s birthday yesterday with a wine tasting/blending party. We tasted three single grape pinot noirs, and then played with blending them.
I baked a flourless chocolate torte, which we paired with an ice cream sampler. The new way to blow out birthday candles is by waving your hands at them. Thanks, pandemic! Still fun.
Time to get back to work! How’s your September going?
You know I have a long-standing passion for yellow plum jam. Yellow plums are my all time favorite for jamming, and and for eating.
I made 2 batches (20 half pint jars) of ginger/plum/bourbon jam, from just two bowls of plums from my friend Linda. I thought I was done for the year.
Darn kids, I thought. Who’s dropping lunch reject plums on my dried up front lawn? Then I looked up, and realized the truth. The plum trees that I planted 10 years ago, that never produced fruit (well, one tree made two plums about 5 years ago), have decided that this is the year. Maybe they like being heat stressed, or they think they need to reproduce because the heat is going to kill them. Whatever.
I got on a ladder, and picked 19 plums. That’s the harvest, between the two trees. They’re oddly large, and the fruit is firm, like an Italian prune. I think they’re a Japanese plum, but I’m not sure; 2011 was a long time ago. The plums aren’t especially juicy, and they’re fairly tart. I don’t want to make more jam; purple plum jam isn’t as delicious as yellow plum jam, at least to me. What to do?
I put out the question on FB, and the answer was: Plum Torte. The famous NYTimes recipe from Marian Burros, to be precise. I remembered that Smitten Kitchen also had a take on it, and another friend referred to the Food52 version. Excellent references, all. I did a mashup of the three using:
3/4 cup all purpose flour plus 1/4 cup corn meal 1 teaspoon baking powder Large pinch of salt 3/4 granulated sugar 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) salted butter, softened 2 large eggs 5 plums quartered and pitted (because mine are so big) omitted the fresh lemon juice 1 tablespoon chunky sugar and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon for garnish
Cream sugar and butter, beat in eggs, beat in dry ingredients. I put mine in an 8” springform pan, because that’s the one I have. Top with plums, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or til done. Cool, remove from pan, celebrate!
I told you the plums are oddly large. The recipes call for 12 small Italian plums, halved, and a 9” pan. If I had halved the plums, I could probably only fit 4 in the pan, so I cut them lengthwise, twice, and made a flower/sunburst with them. They sink into the cake,, so you’d never know, and I forgot to take a picture before baking. I’m not a real food blogger!
We loved this so much, I had to make it a second time, because we still have a few plums left. Also, I wanted to tweak it a bit; I used more corn meal the first time, and it was crunchier than I like. I have medium grind cornmeal, because I use it under pizza on the pizza stone. A finer grind would be ideal, but I don’t use corn meal often enough to have more in the pantry.
This cake is actually for dessert tonight, but I wanted to take a picture for you. And now I have to taste it. Such a sacrifice. Delicious!
I finished the final design for my book last Wednesday night, just in time for our photo shoot on Thursday morning!
My publisher is in Salem, Oregon, so we met at Archive Coffee and Bar in Salem. Cute place. Nice coffee. I didn’t partake at the bar, but it looks impressive.
I can’t show you my actual knitting, so check out this artful blur. Yarn is Hazel Knits Artisan Sock, in Iris and Cackle.
More blur. But I’m looking forward to sharing these projects with you this fall! Progress on the book is coming along; I have two more items that need to be photographed, and then a bunch tutorial photographs. I’m not the photographer, so I’m not too fussed about that. But the patterns are finished, and the tech editing is also done, as of last week. Now I just need to do all the writing for the parts before and between the patterns. I’m on my way!
I also need to do some work for a video class that I’ll be recording in August, for a September event. Deadlines for that are coming up soon, too. I’m glad I can shift my work around to fit my very flexible schedule.
You know what doesn’t respect a schedule? Ripe produce! I picked plums at my friend Linda’s house, which meant I had to jam them right away. I made plum jam with ginger bits and bourbon. And because I couldn’t find a record of my final be all and end all recipe, except in Facebook comments on a post from last year, I’m noting this here. Sure Jell recipe, and at the end add a generous 1/4 cup bourbon, and 1/4 cup Penzey’s Sweet Ginger Bits. Perfect.
Also, it was such a pretty picture, I ran it through the Waterlogue app to “paintify” it. Happy summer!
I’ve been making chocolate chip scones for decades. The ancient recipe lives on my refrigerator, and is getting harder and harder to read. It used 4 tablespoons of butter, and milk. They were nice, but not particularly luxe. Along the way, I’ve modified things a bit.
Ginger Chocolate Scones
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
2 cups flour (not whole wheat; I used unbleached white) 3 tablespoons sugar 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (not soda) 1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp (1/2 cup) cold butter
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips 1/4 cup candied ginger bits (I like Penzey’s)
1/2 cup half and half (just barely, or it will be too wet) 1 egg, scrambled
Combine dry ingredients and stir. Cut the butter into pieces and then blend them into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter. Stir in chocolate chips and ginger. Scramble the egg into the half and half, and then pour it into the flour mixture. Stir until blended, then knead on floured surface about 10 times. Form three balls with the dough. Pat out balls into circles about 7 inches in diameter, slightly mounded in center. Cut each circle into six pieces. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until just golden. Cool on rack. EAT! To reheat, warm in toaster oven on lowest setting.
Makes 18 dainty scones.
One step closer to letting you know about my new project! Soon.
Well, I didn’t finish DH’s sweater in time for his birthday yesterday; I got sidetracked by that new smaller leafed Leafy Origami Cowl. I decided to set the cowl down and do some mad knitting on the sweater.
Four episodes of Bridgerton later, it was long enough to consider hem options. DH doesn’t want patterning at the hem, just ribbing, so I had a bit more knitting to do. No problem. (For those who know that I was saving Bridgerton as treadmill incentive, I decided getting this sweater done was more important. I’ll pick a new incentive.)
The hem is just 1×1 ribbing, and I’m using Patty Lyons’ “What the Flip” method of transitioning into the ribbing so that the hem doesn’t flip up where the stockinette meets the ribbing. Basically, on the first round of rib, slip the knit stitches (purlwise with yarn in back), purl the purl stitches, and then work k1p1 ribbing on subsequent rounds. Easy enough! I don’t know that this hem was going to flip, but why not just avoid the whole issue?
The hem should be done tonight, and then I’m headed for Sleeve Island.
Even without his new sweater, we had a good day. We went to Mt. Tabor for a walk/hike to the top of this extinct volcanic cinder cone. Volcano in the city!
There are several city water reservoirs on Mt.Tabor that will eventually be decommissioned in favor of new covered reservoirs, but these are so pretty.
The kids made lasagna Bolognese from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s Food Lab book, and it was fabulous. Lots of interesting ingredients including anchovies and fish sauce for perfect umami flavor.
I made a pear tart and bourbon caramel sauce for dessert, both old favorite recipes. All was traded back and forth on the porch, since we’re still distancing. Looking forward to a Covid-19 vaccination someday soon.
For Christmas, we gave the kids a private Zoom class with our favorite local chef, Jenn Louis. She has had several restaurants here in Portland, and has several cookbooks out, too. Their choices were: handmade pasta, paella, or tamales. They felt that paella was the dish they would probably make again on their own. Good call!
Jenn even lent us paella pans for the event. So perfect! I did all the shopping; it was like making a meal kit for the kids. They’re in a Covid bubble, as are we, so we had two houses cooking together, apart.
Jenn planned the whole meal. We had some nibbles before dinner: Manchego cheese, quince paste, marcona almonds and baguette.
Salad with roasted red pepper, olives, tangerines, lemon vinaigrette (and some goat cheese left over from the dates)
Bacon wrapped dates, stuffed with goat cheese.
The kids bought these delightful Spanish wines, red and an effervescent white. They were a perfect pairing with our dinner.
Are you hungry now? Jenn has graciously allowed me to share the paella recipe, below. She also said that we could do this in a large skillet, if we didn’t have paella pans. (I’m not sure I really have room to store one, lovely as the are.)
Paella with chorizo and shellfish
SERVES 4 1⁄4 cup [60 ml] olive oil, plus more for finishing 4 ounces [115 g] chorizo, roughly chopped 8 ounces [230 g] mixed seafood of your choice 1 yellow onion, diced 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 2 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika 1 cup [200 g] Calasparra, Valencia, or Bomba rice (short grain, arborio works, too) Small pinch of saffron threads (about 1⁄2 teaspoon) 2 tomatoes, cut into 6 pieces each and most seeds removed Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 4 cups [960 ml] chicken stock or water, plus more as needed (edit: now that I’m doing this in my skillet rather than a wider, shallower paella pan, I’m going to start with 3 cups. I can always add more if the rice isn’t done enough.)
Warm the olive oil in a 13 1⁄2-inch [34-cm] paella pan over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook for 2 minutes, then add the onion, garlic, and paprika. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and saffron and stir to evenly coat and toast the rice, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they become warm and begin to fall apart, about 3 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Evenly distribute and flatten out the rice in the pan and then add the stock. Turn the heat to high, taste the broth, and adjust the seasoning. Bring to a simmer, then decrease the heat to a medium simmer and cook, rotating the paella pan every 2 minutes, for about 20 minutes, until the rice is plump and cooked. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper.
After 10 minutes arrange the seafood on top of the rice and continue to cook until the seafood is done. (edit: I’m adding seafood when the liquid is down to the rice level)
Keep the paella over high heat and continue to rotate the pan every 2 minutes to create an evenly crispy bottom, (known as socarrat). Add additional chicken stock or water as needed to fully cook the rice. (edit: my super conductive Cuisinart pan doesn’t need to go to high heat; I don’t want it to scorch!)
A very pretty dinner, indeed!
I love gifts that are consumable, and leave no clutter behind. This was exactly right. And we all got to hang out together on Zoom, still socially distant. I’ll be so glad when they can just come over for dinner again, but this was a great alternative. Thanks to Jenn Louis for the recipe and the class!
Jenn’s latest cookbook is The Chicken Soup Manifesto; I gave a copy to my sister Sharon last year.
She’s on a roll! (Soup photos are courtesy Sharon Hsu. And I don’t know why the first two turned sideways when I uploaded them?)
Someone had to guard the turkey from the cats as it came to room temperature before roasting. Good job, Phil!
The turkey roasted up beautifully. I tented it with foil for the last half hour.
It is so hard to get a decent picture without natural light! And yes, a petite serving, but that’s what happens when I’m in the kitchen all day, and tasting as I go. Have to make sure it’s good! My Dad’s stuffing? Stellar.
I opened a special bottle of wine for the occasion, and sent half of it off with the kids. In a mason jar. Classy! But I wasn’t ready to give up the bottle/label yet. This was part of the swag from the solar eclipse watch at Willamette Valley Vineyards in 2017,
Pumpkin pie for dessert.
We were happy to share dinner with the kids, picked up distantly from the porch. And we Zoomed with DH’s family in the morning.
I’m hoping for a more normal Thanksgiving next year, but we have much to be thankful for, now. Wishing everyone a lovely weekend!
It was a big week! I did a little knitting, and a lot of teaching.
Here’s the little knitting, before. I ripped back my Rio Calina a bit. I learned that it’s not so much the direction of the cable cross that drives me, but the over/under. I didn’t like long snakey lines that continued uncrossed on the top of the fabric, so I changed it! Do you see what I did?
I like it a lot better this way.
The squash I’ve been pollinating (plant sex!) in the garden did some sneaky growing while I wasn’t paying attention. It got big!
I guess the bees can manage from here on out.
I used one of the squash on a pizza. Same basic structure as the puff pastry tarts in previous posts, but this is a little more substantial than the puff pastry.
Do you remember mug cakes, from a few years ago? We needed a small dessert, so I made a mug cake. This is half, plus some goodies. Here’s the recipe.
I taught 4 classes for Virtual VKLive, including Syncopation, which made its VKLive debut. It was really fun; my students were awesome!
Now I’m working on more video tutorials, and launching a Payhip store. More on that later.
This was a delightful appetizer. So simple, and so pretty. I’m not done playing with the idea, but here are some rough notes for it. Still playing with my food!
Summer Vegetable Tart
1 Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry sheet (2 in a box, I’ll be playing again)
1/2 small zucchini (you may call it a courgette if you’re fancy)
1/2 small yellow crookneck squash (story below)
20 cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella (I used crumbled feta, but will change)
small handful of basil leaves, sliced thin
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 T maple syrup
salt and pepper
Thaw puff pastry, 40 minutes. I flip it halfway through because it can get soggy. Roll it out a little bigger, to about 10” square. Fold up the edge to create a lip. Use a fork to poke holes in the bottom of the pastry to keep it from rising too much (but mine rose anyway, and I had to stab it to deflate it). Pre-bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.
While your pastry is pre-baking, slice squash into 1/8” thin rounds. Slice tomatoes in half. On your pre-baked pastry (which you’ve stabbed to deflate), sprinkle parmesan, and arrange your vegetables, artfully, of course. Bake 20 – 22 minutes at 400 degrees, until pastry is brown and vegetables are done.
10 minutes before tart is done, bring balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and a pinch of salt and pepper to a boil, turn heat to medium high, and reduce to thicken to a sauce, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
When tart is finished, sprinkle with mozzarella and basil leaves, and drizzle with the sauce. Beautiful!
Planned playing: Toss the vegetables with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper to so they juice up a bit while cooking? Pre-roast more vegetables (because they’ll shrink), chunkier cut, for more flavor/softer texture? Or, do it like Jamie Oliver: roast the veggies in a dish, then put the puff pastry on top and cook, then flip the whole thing over to serve. Brilliant. I’m trying this next. Link here. I think it’s heartier/more dinner-like. The tart I made is a lovely light appetizer.
Oliver drizzles balsamic vinegar over all, but I think I’d still do the balsamic glaze to give it more body. It’s pretty!
I don’t think there’s any way to get this dish wrong; there are so many ways to play with it.
Edit: The kids came for socially distant lunch today, so I tried the roast and flip version. Upshot? It was good, but I like it better the first way; I don’t like my veggies being super soft from roasting. So I’ll probably hybridize this by tossing the thinly sliced squash with a bit of olive oil and oregano, and then placing them with the tomatoes on a par-baked crust and baking to finish. You could also use a veggie peeler and create squash ribbons, if you want to look *really* fancy.
Go play with your food!
Back story: I have one yellow crookneck squash plant. It has given me ONE squash, and not for lack of trying on my part. So I wanted to showcase the pretty squash, and that’s why I made this tart.
The plant was making lots of flowers. boy flowers. Then it made girl flowers. But not at the same time, for weeks. Finally, girl flowers appeared. (You can tell because they have an ovary under the flwoers; boy flowers are just flowers on a stem.) But the girl flowers weren’t getting fertilized, so they were withering on the vine (lower left picture).
Reader, I did the plant sex for them. Water color paintbrush. Boy pollen to girl flower. Voilà, a squash! Just one, so far. And now I check my flowers daily…just call me yenta/matchmaker!
Friday’s full moon is known as the Strawberry Moon, and it’s definitely strawberry season here. I went to the farmers market last week and picked up local Seascape strawberries. I made 8 half pints of jam, strawberry shortcake, and 1/2 pint of strawberry balsamic jam with the leftovers. That strawberry balsamic jam was so good; it left me wanting more.
I went back to the market this week, and was early enough in the day to pick up Hood strawberries, the crown jewel of local berries. They’re so delicate they don’t travel out of the area. This half flat turned into five 4 oz jars of strawberry balsamic jam (recipe from Food in Jars here), more shortcake (half for us and half delivered to the grown kids), and a bit left for eating fresh. I think next time I’ll add an extra tablespoon of balsamic vinegar for a slightly deeper punch.