Monthly Archives: August 2009

peach jam with crystallized ginger

peach jam 1

i’ve been keeping a little secret from you. i didn’t mean to, but the thought of blogging about this process seemed somewhat daunting to me. i’ve been making jam. lots of jam. some good, some not-as-good. although, i don’t think there is any bad jam. i had decided early on that i would try to make the stuff with a fruit and sugar base only. maybe some herbs from the garden. maybe some sugary root products (like crystallized ginger). but not packaged pectin. and not to be a snob about it either. i think pectin has it’s place: in jellies and when you want things to turn out just so, such as a commercial product. i have no issue with eating or buying jam that is made with pectin. it just seems silly to go to the trouble of buying or picking nice fruit to preserve yourself and then going to the added expense and trouble of adding an additional ingredient which is unnecessary.

peach jam 2

the idea of canning, putting up, preserving, what have you is something that really appeals to me on many levels. although many members of my family claim not to be ‘hoarders’, most of us like to save stuff, ya know, just in case we may need that stuff in the future. like way in the future. like maybe never. but at least we take comfort in the fact that we have it. i am also someone who hates the idea of waste. oh, the guilt of throwing away a 1/2 pound of grapes or a hunk of cheese that got lost in the fridge is almost unbearable. the fact that i can take pounds of fruit or veggies and put them in jars, virtually allowing them to hang in suspended animation for the better part of a year, just waiting for me to need them…don’t even get me started on how exciting that is.

peach jamnow, i am not an authority on jam-making, nor have i been canning very long (just started this summer), so for the specifics on all this i feel the need to refer you to the experts here, and here. this is a very nice site as well.

ginger 2

peach jam with crystallized ginger (makes 2 pints/4 half-pints)

i suppose you could use freshly grated ginger in place of the crystallized, but i would cut way back on the amount: fresh ginger can be very pungent. be sure to use (at least a few) peaches that are a bit on the under ripe side because these still have some natural pectin on board, making for a jam that jells more quickly, thereby reducing your cooking time and contributing to a fresher peach flavor.

3 pounds fresh peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into 1 inch pieces

2 1/2 cups sugar

2 tbsp crystallized ginger, finely minced 

1 tsp unsalted butter (only needed for a very foamy mixture-more on this below)

combine cut peaches, sugar, and ginger in a large bowl and thoroughly mix. this may be done up to two days in advance if kept refrigerated. place a shallow, empty bowl or small plate in the freezer, which you will use to test the set of jam when the mixture comes to temperature. pour contents into a large, heavy bottomed, non-reactive stock pot and bring to a boil. if mixture boils up rapidly and attempts to foam over, add a tsp of butter to the pot. this should get the mixture back under control. cut heat to medium-high and simmer at a pretty rapid pace until a candy thermometer (or deep-fry thermometer, same thing) registers about 220F.

place a few drops of mixture on bowl or plate from freezer and return to freezer for a few minutes. if, when you draw a line through mixture with your finger, the mixture stays separated and appears ‘wrinkly’, it is set. if it still appears runny, boil mixture for another 3-5 minutes and try freezer test again.

when it is ready, skim off any foam that has accumulated on top  and pour mixture into sterilized, hot jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. allow to sit undisturbed for 12-24 hours. check that jars have sealed properly. store in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. alternatively, you could store jam in sterilized jars in refrigerator for months without water bath processing.


Filed under Uncategorized

provencal tomato tart


tom tart 2

so the last days of summer seem to be upon us. and i don’t feel particularly sentimental about it. you see, down here in texas the summer is fairly brutal, especially this year. we may be approaching close to 60 days of 100 degree (or better) temperatures. and so there is no love lost between me and summer this year. good riddance. sayonara. adios, mofo.

tom tart flours

tom tart crust in pan

but wait. don’t leave without offering up the last of your tomatoes. i will take them gladly. i will put them in a tart with pesto and mozzarella and offer them up for the last week of summer fest.

provencal tomato tart (serves 6)

don’t let the long list of instructions for the crust scare you off–use your favorite store-bought crust if you can’t be bothered. the tart itself is so easy and versatile: substitute mustard for the pesto, gruyere for the cheese, you get the idea.

adapted from ‘once upon a tart‘ cookbook by frank mentesana & jerome audureau

for the crust:

(or use savory crust of your choice, par-baked)

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 semolina flour (this small addition makes for a fantastic crunch)

1/2 tsp salt

6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 tbsp cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces

small glass of ice water

put the flours and salt in bowl of a food processor fitted with metal blade. pulse a few times to integrate. add the butter and shortening all at once and pulse quite a few times, until mixture forms little balls (like moist crumbs) and no chunks of butter or shortening remain. be sure to use the pulse feature, you do not want to run it continuously and create a paste. dump dough into a large bowl and add 2 tbsp ice water. using your hands, start forming the dough into a ball, adding more water if needed. the dough should just hold together into a ball, you do not want it to be wet. wrap in plastic and flatten into a disc. place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

roll dough out to 1/4″ on a lightly floured board and place gently in tart pan with removable bottom. chill 30 minutes. this will prevent your the sides of your tart from shrinking too much when you bake it.

preheat oven to 400F. prick holes over bottom of tart with the tines of a fork. cover with aluminun foil or parchment paper and weigh down with pie weights or dried beans. bake in center rack in oven for 10 minutes. remove foil or parchment and weights and bake for 5-10 minutes more, until light brown. cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

tom tart pesto

for the filling:

4-5 tbsp fresh basil pesto

a few handfuls grated mozzarella cheese

6-7 roma tomatoes

a few tsp dried herbes de provence

slice tomatoes and place in colander with a pinch of salt to drain off any excess liquid. spread pesto evenly across bottom of par-baked tart crust. sprinkle cheese over. layer tomatoes like dominoes. scatter herbs atop tomatoes. bake until tomatoes begin to shrivel and cheese melts, about 10-20 minutes.

now, visit a way to garden, matt bites, steamy kitchen, and white on rice couple (and their commenters/participants section!) for other delicious tomato recipes this week!


Filed under appetizer, main dish, side dish


banana bread 3

this banana bread is one of the best i’ve ever made. i have been looking for years for a great banana bread recipe: not too dry, but not artificially moist. for some odd reason or another, it has eluded me. this recipe is from bakesale betty, a great little bakery and sandwich shop we were taken to on our last trip cali. it is made with honey, cane sugar, AND brown sugar. but that’s not what made it sweet. this is. i would like for you to make a loaf of this bread and while it cools get yourself a nice cup of tea or coffee, whatever you like, and take a few quiet moments to read this story by a fellow blogger. i found it to be a moving account of life’s to-and-fro’s.

banana bread closeup2

banana bread with cinnamon crumble topping (makes 1 loaf)

adapted from sweet amandine/bakesale betty/bon appetit

to toast walnuts, place in a single layer on baking sheet in a 350 degree oven. check and stir every 1-2 minutes. if you don’t set a timer, they will most likely burn. no matter how you try to tell yourself you will remember, you will not.

for the bread:

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar (i use organic evaporated cane juice sugar)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 medium)

2 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup toasted walnuts (optional, but not optional for me)

for the topping:

1 tbsp granulated sugar

1 1/2 tbsp golden brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon


preheat oven to 350F. butter and flour a 9x5x3  inch loaf pan. mix together topping ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

in a medium bowl, mix togther flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, baking soda and salt. in a large bowl, whisk together the banana, eggs, vegetable oil, honey and water until smooth. add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 2-3  increments and stir until just combined. do not overmix. add nuts, if using. pour into prepared loaf pan. spoon cinnamon topping over batter.

bake for about 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean (a good rule of thumb is to start checking every 5 minutes after the first 45-50 minutes). cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then turn out onto cooling rack, being careful not to dislodge too much of the topping.

p.s. and just so you know, she is alive and well and recovering at home, and even twittering about it. i know there was a collective sigh of relief with that first tweet.


Filed under breakfast, cake, desserts

smoked paprika roasted chickpeas and why my head is different

chick peas 3

this weekend i was invited to a showing of photographs by a group who was just finishing up a weeklong photography workshop led by my friend and food photography muse, penny. you could tell it had been a long week of work, inspiration, and creative juice extraction. i found myself so inspired and i attempted to imagine what it would be like for those who had attended the entire workshop. at the end of the show, a short video was shown documenting snippets of the week and something one of the group said in the video struck me. it went something like this; “my work isn’t different, but my head is different”.

to me, i thought it such a simple way to say: ‘i’m glad i showed up, i’m glad i participated, i’m grateful to be inspired by others, and i hope i’ve helped each of you to feel the same way’. what a sense of awakening this conjures up. almost like having someone pick up an object that you’ve been staring at for hours, and shifting it just 10 degrees. it’s still the same, but your take on it has completely changed.

when i thought about this week’s summerfest selection, beans and greens, i felt the need to branch out a bit and prepare (i use this term loosely due to the ease in preparation of these) a dish somewhat unexpected for this category, at least for me. i know there have been more than a few recipes for these on other blogs, but the concept is fairly new to me and that was the whole point. and boy are they good. and easy. and you probably already have the ingredients in your pantry as we speak.


smoked paprika roasted chick peas

i’m using smoked paprika for the spice, but you could dress these babies up however you like. the possibilities are endless: chile powder, cumin and cayenne for taco flavor, garam masala, or your favorite curry powder. you get the idea. this recipe could easily be doubled or tripled.

1-15 ounce can chick peas

1-2 tbsp olive oil

1-2 tsp smoked paprika (or other spices)

few pinches kosher salt to taste

preheat oven to 360F. drain, rinse, and blot dry chickpeas. place in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients and toss well. pour onto foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 40-50 minutes, shaking pan every 10-15 minutes. you want them to be crisp and dry on the outside with just a hint of tenderness on the inside. remember, there will be a bit of residual cooking, so remove them from the oven before they are completely crispy. allow to cool for about 10 minutes on baking sheet before placing in serving bowl. keeps in an airtight container for several days, but be sure to cool completely first. 

be sure to check out some of the other summerfest participants: mattbites, a way to garden, steamy kitchen, white on rice couple. you will find inspiration if you read their comments sections, as well.


Filed under appetizer, salty snacks

homemade steak sauce

steak sauce-final

a few weeks back, after grilling some fabulous rib-eyes, houston realized that he had used the last his precious steak sauce on the steak eaten just prior to this one. he is not one to write it on the grocery list or even tell me we’ve run out, so i secretly thought about letting him suffer, ya know get his just deserts and all that. plus, i simply could not believe that of all the half used sauces, including the organic one from trader joe’s, the one laden with tabasco, and the regular ol’ A.1., that there was not a drop left in house. but i took pity on him, as usual, and  ended up making a very nice but simple peppercorn sauce, which houston conceded was a nice change of pace.

stea sauce-spices in vodka

but, believe me, you do not want to deprive this man of his steak sauce. he gets downright pouty about it if you do. me, i’m not a steak sauce kinda person. never have been, don’t believe i ever will. i find it a bit cloying and tenacious for my taste. plus, i really, really like the flavor of a good steak. so there ya go. i was intrigued enough about the subject of steak sauce, however, to look into what it takes to make some for mr. man. i did find the ingredient list for A.1. somewhat exotic: raisin paste and crushed orange puree? plus, unfortunately, the usual suspects: corn syrup, caramel coloring, potassium sorbate, xanthan gum. i also found out that meat loaf is their current spokesperson, which i think cranks up their cool factor to ten. i set about to make my own version of the stuff and came across this recipe from saveur by way of grace firth. it looked the most authentic. and it had vodka in it. who am i to mess with authenticity?

steak sauce-grating tomato

this is something that had never occurred to me before: grating a tomato for the juice and pulp.

below is the tamarind pulp called for in the recipe. the stuff i got was labeled ‘seedless’. but it looked like it was not smooth by any means. so i heated it, then strained out the lumpy bits.

steak sauce-tamarind

homemade steak sauce (makes 1 cup)

adapted from saveur 

you will need to allow about 8 hours of infusion time for the vodka and spices. i pulsed the spices in a grinder a few times. alternatively you could use a mortar and pestle. i put the cinnamon sticks in a plastic bag, then wacked them with a rolling pin. highly recommended method, especially if you have a bone to pick with someone.

1/2 cup vodka

2 tsp crushed whole allspice

2 tsp crushed cinnamon stick

10 crushed whole cloves

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tsp hot pepper sauce

4 crushed garlic cloves

4 medium tomatoes, cored and cut in half or quarters

1/4 cup sugar

6 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/4 tamarind pulp, smooth and seedless consistency

place vodka, allspice, cinnamon sticks and cloves in a small glass bowl or measuring cup. cover with plastic or lid and allow to sit at room temperature and infuse for 8 hours. strain vodka mixture and set aside. put 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, soy sauce, hot pepper sauce, and crushed garlic in a small bowl and set aside. roughly grate tomatoes and discard skins, strain solids. you should have about 1 cup tomato pulp remaining; set aside. heat 1/4 cup sugar, 6 tbsp red wine vinegar in a skillet over medium heat, until sugar dissolves and it develops a deep caramel color, about 6-7 minutes. stir in tomato pulp.  reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until thick, about 4-5 minutes. remove and discard garlic from soy sauce mixture, then add mixture to skillet. bring to a boil, add tamarind and vodka mixture and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. i actually took it off the heat sooner than i thought i should based on a review that reminded me that sauces like this thicken up considerably after cooling. keeps chilled in refrigerator for up to two months.


Filed under condiment, meat

nectarine and mascarpone tart

nectarine tart 1

this summer i’m participating in summer fest 2009, wherein culinary ideas and inspiration about summer produce are traded by a group of food lovers and bloggers. a group, you say? but she never joins ‘groups’.  i think she hates groups, in fact! yes, i have a rep. i come from a long line of non group-joiners. what that is, i don’t know. it’s like a bad habit. i’m trying to be more aware of some of my not-so-good habits, diversify, break out of the same old rut, say yes when i would reflexively say no. always a good thing, ya know, to stretch those rigid muscles?

anyway, if you’re so inclined, you should check out some of the blogs from these summer fest party hosts: mattbites, steamy kitchen, white on rice couple, and a way to garden.

nectarine tart 2

i found distributing the crust evenly in the pan to be very zen-like. it sort of reminded me of sandcastle-building.

nectarine tart 3

i did my best to keep the filling-eating within normal limits. i was not successful. somehow i still had enough to fill the tart pan so no one would know.

nectarine tart 4

nectarine tart 5

nectarine and mascarpone tart (serves 8-10)

adapted from bon appetit

mascarpone cheese is  like an italian cream cheese, but it is extremely luxurious. it is a little pricey,but since the whole dessert is not very expensive to make,  resist the urge to use all cream cheese. there is some chilling time needed, so plan accordingly. we ate the leftovers the next day, and it still appeared and tasted very fresh.


25 gingersnaps, coarsely broken up

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted pure butter, melted


1-8 ounce container mascarpone cheese

6 ounce cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp grated lemon peel (about 2 lemons)

1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger (i skipped this-i wanted a silky smooth texture to the filling)


3-4 small nectarines, halved, pitted, cut into thin slices (a squeeze of fresh lemon juice will discourage browning)

1/4 cup peach jam, warmed 

2 tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger


preheat oven to 350. process gingersnaps in a food processor into a fine grind. add melted butter and pulse until combined.  press mixture into botton and sides of a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. bake crust until darkens, about 8 minutes. set aside and cool completely.

beat all ingredients for filling, except crystallized ginger , in a medium bowl or stand mixer until smooth. add ginger, if using, and mix with a spoon. spread gently into prepared crust. cover loosely and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.

after chilling, arrange nectarine slices in an overlapping pattern on top of filling. brush with jam. sprinkle with chopped crystallized ginger. serve, or refrigerate up to 6 hours. 

next time i think i’ll leave off the jam glaze. it doesn’t need it. it was perfect with just the clean and fresh taste of the fruit alone (see below). this would be perfect with plums, figs, or even fresh berries.


nectarine tart 6


Filed under cake, cheese, desserts, fruit