Archive for Cookery

A Smoked Duck Breast & Blackberry Salad

smoked duck & blackberrry salad

Blackberry time is here. The canes in the garden have started to produce, and should all go well, continue to produce for another 4 weeks. Which is good, because blackberries (and eggplants) are one of the consolations of a typical Virginia summer, especially the kinds we’ve been seeing the last few years: hot, hotter, no rain, and yet muggy. Ouch.

But at least we have blackberries. That means blackberry sorbet, blackberry sourcream sherbet, creme de blackberry, blackberry shrub. But not blackberry gastrique nor blackberry jam, of which we still have plenty. We eat them. We freeze them. Me make juice. We sell them. It’s blackberry time, I tell you.

It’s also hot. So, preparations with minimum applications of heat are ideal. And blackberries, with their sweet-tart flavor, lend themselves well to savory dishes.

Recently, I prepared a smoked duck salad as an appetizer for a 32-guest lunch  (inspired by this recipe from the James Beard Foundation). I simplified the James Beard Foundation recipe by using smoked duck breasts prepared by The Whole Ox Butcher Shop in Marshall, VA (which sliced paper-thin with their meat slicer); changed the sauce a little bit… and reduced the plate to appetizer size.

An easy dish and attractive that’s great for a crowd, as all the components can be prepared ahead and assembled up to 30 minutes before serving (because we are using robust greens that can stand to the sauce).

So there, Smoked Duck Breast & Blackberry Salad – Appetizer for 12 Read more

Lard: make it at home. A pictorial guide.

Despite Thomas Jefferson’s efforts 200 years ago, olive trees don’t grow in Virginia. Erratic winter weather with nightly lows in the single digit temperatures followed by days at 70F — as well as hot muggy summers — don’t make happy olive trees. Anything below -10C (14F) will severely damage even a mature olive tree.

Don’t get me wrong, I love olive oil. And I used quite a bit of it along with avocado oil and nut oils. But in the last few years, I have been switching part of my cooking  fats to … lard, specifically home-rendered lard from locally pastured pigs. Here, in the Northern Virginia Piedmont, what other cooking fat is locally available to me? in such abundance? and so easy to make at home? Read more

Foraging for Wild Summer Berries (and Shrub recipe)

Wineberries and a few wild blackberries

Wineberries – and a few wild blackberries

Who hasn’t plucked and munched on a handful of wild blackberries or huckleberries while hiking? Didn’t it feel like a tiny treasure hunt, the taste of wild berries sharper, more intense than their tamed counterparts?

Sure, foraging for berries takes time, but you didn’t lift a finger, did not drop a single bead of sweat  to propagate, nurture, plant, weed, fertilize nor water the little suckers! You only have to show up and pick.  Even with decent foraging skills,  a couple of hours of picking yields a harvest that may look slim.  After all, I can pick 5 times faster from tidy rows of ‘Apaho’, ‘Triple Crown’ or ‘Navajo’ – three widely planted thornless cultivars – than from a fiercely tangled thorny thicket of wild blackberries. (yes, I have measured!)… but of course the tidy rows have to be maintained, pruned, trellised, weeded, mowed…

Besides, there is nothing like picking wild berries on a warm scented summer morning: the sweetly clean fragrance of pink bouncing-bet, the sharp minty smell of trampled horsemint, the aroma of over ripe berries, the muskiness of rotting vegetation, the heady pervasive scent of flowering basswood humming with bees… it’s… wild! And some berries simply are not cultivated. So if you want them, you get to pick.

Most common berries fruiting in June or July for us include: Read more

A Black Currant Streusel Cake With Black Currant Compote

black currant coffee cake 012

So far, it’s been a good year for berries! A cold winter and abundant spring rains have given the plants what they want.  You will not hear me complain about the past winter nor about the rains (yet, at least…)

I am actually harvesting red raspberries… thanks to a bout of happy garden laziness. The raspberry canes that fruited last year should have been cut down at the end of the winter. For a number of reasons – none of them very good – I never cleaned the patch. And what’s the result? Raspberries  in June! Not something to do every year as the patch would rapidly becoming an awful mess, but every  2  years, or every year on half the patch alternating which half is cut in March. Remains to be seen, however, if the fall harvest is as abundant as before. Still raspberries in June is pretty nice.

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I have written before before about my fondness for red currants. I simply adore their brilliant tartness, when mixed with other berries, or by themselves with a light sprinkle of sugar, or in the easiest jelly in the world, one I make every year.

This year, I am also harvesting black currants. When I planted them, I had cassis on my mind, the syrupy dark purple liquor from Burgundy that’s also made in the Ile d’Orlean, in Quebec. I somehow imagines that the berries have the same flavors. Not so. Certainly not raw.

Black currants needs to be cooked for that haunting flavor. Otherwise it’s just another tart berry, and one not particularly remarkable at that. Pleasant but nothing special. Cook it however, and you’ve got something really special. Read more

When You Have Green Tomatoes

 

Just dug and cleaned baby ginger

When I have green tomatoes and baby ginger, I make Green Tomato Jam With Baby Ginger. Because, I have pickled green tomatoes and made green tomato relish in the past… but we don’t eat that much of it.  So the pickles and the relish languish on the shelves. Jam, we eat. Read more

Thoughts on Canning Tomatoes

Students who take my canning class tell me that one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to canning is … surprise!…  time. (the other is the commendable desire not to sicken one’s family)

I will not prattle about how time used now is time saved later … and other opinions/musings/ramblings etc. I have expressed myself about food preserving in general and  canning specifically before here.

I will not give an on-line canning lesson either – that’s much better done in this nifty, detailed and clearly written USDA guide.  And here, also are the answer to a bunch of commonly asked canning questions from the same source.

All laid out for water-bath canning tomato sauce

But I am here to tell you that canning tomato sauce does not have to be a day-long process. Tasks can be broken down is steps that be performed over several days, with the last day being a couple of hours. Total time is somewhat longer than if done at once. But, for for me, 4 times 2 hours is more manageable than 7 hours at once. Read more

October 29 And It’s Snowing

October 29 and it is snowing – wet heavy snow. Plenty of leaves yet on many trees — although the birches are denuded by now. Still, some under story trees or ornamental ones like crape myrtle sport lots of green. It’s an unusual sight, snow on leafy trees. Will winter be short? Or will it be a long one?

The next few days promise to be mild, and with ground still warm from summer, there will be no lasting accumulation; yet, the falling snow and the frost predicted for tomorrow morning are firmly ending the summer garden. I hurried on Thursday and Friday to pick up all of the remaining peppers and green beans, cut up big bunches of basil and chayote squash vine, and dug up the last few sweet potatoes that I had planted in my tropical bed. Also dug up, potted and dragged those same perennial tropicals or Mediterranean plants to the greenhouse. Barely in time. But in time. They will survive winter – just, sometimes – in the minimally heated greenhouse to be planted out again next spring. What can I say? I love ferns, lantanas, daturas, citruses, jasmines, geraniums, agapanthus, gingers and bananas. I do! Read more

Le Temps Des Cerises

It’s sour cherry time – or rather, sour cherries are just over here in the Virginia Piedmont. A kind cherry tree owner offered me their tree to pick, and I gratefully enjoyed the privilege. But as the garden is going gangbusters (with  planting, harvesting, cleaning and maintaining – ALL AT THE SAME TIME!!!), I have little time to write down recipes, so photos is all we get. Maybe I’ll scribble down some of the recipes in the next few posts…

When sour cherries are in season, one rushes to pick, pick, pick and then pit, pit, pit and process. Because the season is very brief: on Memorial day they are blushing, on June 15, they are over!

So what to do with sour cherries:

- pit them, toss them with sugar, other berries and enjoy as a sweet-tart refreshing dessert

- pit and freeze for later use

- sour cherry preserves

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Read more

Fast Food My Way (Tongue it is!)

We eat plenty of fast food here – especially for lunch. Don’t believe me? well… take a look at the picture of one of our not unusual lunches.

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  • Green salad from the garden (Pick early in the morning, wash, dry, refrigerate, ready to go in seconds) with hard boiled eggs from the hen house (hard boil, refrigerate – they will keep several days and only take seconds to chop and add to the salad)
  • Various homemade pickles: curried zucchini pickles, dilly green beans, cornichons and green tomato relish. Made last summer. 3 seconds to open each jar.
  • Sliced Beef Tongue with really good mustard. Tasty (really! don’t knock it off until you try it), easy, inexpensive. What else do you want? Prepare the tongue up to days in advance, keep it in the fridge, ready to slice at a moment’s notice for sandwiches or just for a cold cut platter with pickled veggies.
  • Sun tea: steeped in the sun in 1/2 gallon jar and rebottled in recycled glass bottle for more convenience.

Voila – that is slow food, but it is also fast food. Better: it’s real food.

The how to on cooking beef tongue (or other tongues for that matter like lamb), you may find here at DC-based The Slow Cook. Ed Bruske gives very detailed instructions on how to cook tongue and brine it first – if you want.

But really, it’s easy to cook tongue; in a nutshell, this is what you do: Read more

Roasting a Spring Lamb

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Roasting a whole lamb in the spring is the epitome of the outdoor party (although a whole pig comes pretty close too).

We just did that this week-end for the benefit dinner organized by Flavor Magazine to benefit the Rappahannock Food Pantry.

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