Category Archives: appetizer

heirloom tomato jam

well, hello there. some of you playing along at home may be wondering “where did she go?”, “is she like other bloggers who simply got bored of her her own blog, got too busy, or just doesn’t give a hoot anymore?”. the short answer is no, the long answer, and since you’re still reading i’ll go ahead and assume you want the long answer, is that my blog has taken me to places unknown in my wildest dreams. you may have noticed many of the latest posts have been geared towards preserving and canning, for which i have discovered an unbridled love. each small batch of preserves i make is like a tiny art project, changing with the seasons.

soon we shall see if it loves me back. i am launching my new preserving business on september 1st, called confituras. which is spanish for confiture. which is french for delicious. i will make very small batch, locally sourced jams, marmalade, jellies, and pickles from the abundant local fruits, vegetables, and herbs found mostly here in central texas. my offerings will change with the seasons, as today i have pickled peaches and blueberries, lavender peach butter, prickly pear cactus jelly with fresh lime and the lovely heirloom jam you see below. tomorrow, i may have a completely different selection. if you’re in the austin area, i will begin selling my products at Barton Creek Farmer’s Market to start in a few weeks and, with any luck, become aligned with some CSA deliveries, local farm stands, small stores and coffee shops. my website is being built as we speak (www.confituras.net) but you can shoot me an email if you are interested in any of my confituras at: info @ confituras dot com


we served this tomato jam with a nutty, well-aged white farmhouse cheddar and almost died it was so good. a friend made a BLT with it. i think it would be fabulous on cornbread, or eggs, or roasted potatoes. you should definitely make this, but if you don’t have time, i can make some for you.

heirloom tomato jam (makes half pints)

adapted from white on rice

you can make this with heirloom or homegrown tomatoes, but try to avoid commercially-grown tomatoes due to their lack of flavor. you’re preserving something seasonal for a reason, after all, and who wants to preserve a mealy, insipid love apple? we have made this several times this summer with various types of tomatoes. each batch was slightly different in color and flavor, but always perfect in it’s variation.

2 pounds heirloom or homegrown tomatoes

1 cup light brown sugar

2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or whatever herbs you like)

8 whole cloves

2 sticks good quality cinnamon

4 tsp aged balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp bottled lemon or lime juice*

place spices in a small piece of cheesecloth or tea ball infuser with all other ingredients in over a medium simmer, stirring frequently, for about 30-45 minutes until thick and jam-like (remember it will thicken a bit more as it cools so don’t overdo it). ladle into sterilized jars and process for 15 minutes in a water bath.

* although i usually shy away from bottled citrus juices, in this case the stable acidic amounts are a must due to the tomato’s unpredictable and borderline acidity. i found a good quality organic lemon and lime juice under the brand of santa cruz in my market.

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pickled red onions

pickled onions finished

i am a fan of quick. and i’m not talkin’ highly processed or convenience foods. now, i’m not knocking busy folks who need to buy a pre-chopped onion every now and again, but for me chopping the onion is a process that takes me from an over-stimulating day to a place of zen. i’m a strange one that way. so what we’re talking about here is a quick pickles. canned, or water-bath processed pickles are a wonderful thing, but sometimes you lose quality and crunch factor with this method. plus you have to wait days to weeks for the pickles to be ready. if you have never done this, it is virtually impossible to slave over a hot canner, then wait up to two weeks to taste the results.

pickled onions raw

if you are a fan of grilled, smoked, caramelized, braised, broiled or roasted meats or vegetables like we are, you need to make some pickled onions. they are the perfect balance to the char or caramelization that occurs with any of the above cooking methods. i could also see this as the perfect companion to anything warmly-spiced (think cumin or cinnamon scented savory dishes, like the pork carnitas below), or anytime you want to add a brightness to a dish. this is such a simple way to punch up so many foods, i think i’ll keep  a jar of it in my fridge all summer long.

pickled onions on carnitas taco

pickled red onions (makes about 2 cups)

adapted from david lebovitz and simply recipes

1 large red onion, sliced thinly

1 cup white wine vinegar

3-4 tbsp granulated sugar, or to taste

2 bay leaves

1/2 cinnamon stick

5 whole allspice berries

5 whole cloves

5-10 whole black peppercorns

pinch of salt

in a small saucepan, heat vinegar, sugar, and spices to simmering. add sliced onions and simmer gently for 30 seconds. remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. place onions and pickling liquid in a glass jar. will keep and taste freshest in the fridge for up to a month.

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grilled artichokes with meyer lemon aioli

last weekend i went to the downtown farmer’s market to pick up an order i had placed with a very special company here in town called dai due. they take locally sourced products and run with with them, such as making chorizo from richardson farms pork and preserved lemons from local meyer lemons, which are the 2 products i had pre-ordered. the folks are very kind and informal, my two favorite traits for a business. while i was there, i decided to take a quick scan to see if i could find some (rumored) local artichokes. i did and they were beauties. not too big, not too small and extremely fresh. i bought a bag full of them. this is the time of year when my ‘california is showing’; beautiful produce starts showing up for farm-to market meals, warm days with cool nights rule, incredible flora everywhere (thanks, ladybird johnson). sometimes i tell my husband that his ‘oklahoma is showing’,  but it’s usually not meant to be nice.

the first night i just steamed one up and we dipped the ancient-looking leaves into a creamy mustard sauce i had leftover from a pork tenderloin the night before. the next day i went poking around for some fresh new ways to prepare my thorny friends and came across a grilling technique that sounded enticing, yet simple. then, the search continued for a new condiment to enjoy along side. i found it in a meyer lemon aioli from molly wizenberg, remembering that i had those preserved lemons waiting on me.

an aioli is basically a homemade mayonnaise preparation enhanced by the addition of garlic and in this case, meyer lemon. i had everything else i needed on hand. i’ve made homemade mayonnaise before but have always cheated, meaning i used a blender. i decided to try my hand at whisking under my own power. my arm almost fell off, but it was worth it. plus, you can stop and rest as needed without any penalty done to the final product.

instead of adding lemon zest at the end, i finely chopped some of the preserved meyer lemon peel.

grilled artichokes (1 per person if they are small)

adapted from bon appetit

4 small to medium artichokes

a few lemons

good quality olive oil

prepare artichokes: cut stem of artichokes to 1 inch. cut off about 1/4 to 1/3 off the top off the artichoke, remove thick outer leaves and snip of thorny points to remaining leaves. cut artichokes in half lengthwise (or quarters if using large ones),  rub cut sides of artichokes with lemon juice and place in a large bowl of aciduated water (squeeze a few lemon halves into the water). steam artichoke halves in about an inch of water for 20-30 minutes, until tender when you pierce heart with a sharp knife.

remove from pot and allow to cool slightly. remove choke from center of artichoke. i find a grapefruit spoon makes easy work of this chore. drizzle olive oil on artichokes and place on preheated and very hot grill. the artichoke is cooked, you are really just searing it to give it flavor. turn every few minutes until you have grill marks on all side of artichoke pieces. you can serve these warm or at room temperature with meyer lemon aioli.

meyer lemon aioli (makes 3/4 cup-enough for about 4 artichokes)

adapted from orangette

1 medium garlic clove

1 large egg yolk

2 tsp meyer lemon juice

1 tsp white wine vinegar

1/2 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

zest of 1 meyer lemon (i chopped up 2 slices preserved meyer lemon from dai due)

mince garlic clove, add a pinch of salt to mince, and mash garlic into  a paste with the side of the knife.

in a medium bowl, add garlic and next 5 ingredients, through salt, whisk for about 30 seconds until mixture is well blended.

start adding the oil, a few drops at a time while whisking constantly until you arm just about falls off, taking breaks as needed. add at least the first 1/4 cup of oil this way. after that point, you can add the remaining 1/2 cup in a continuous stream, while whisk continuously, making sure the oil is well-incorporated as you go.

this is really a labor of love and the mixture will thicken as you go, rewarding you with the most beautiful and silky homemade mayonnaise you have ever tasted. or bathed in.

if you enjoy farm-to-market meals (and really who doesn’t?) check out these other let’s lunch posts:

cowgirl chefscrambled eggs with roasted asparagus and potatoes

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pickled pearls of wisdom

when i first heard that alliums were the produce of choice for this month’s can jam, i couldn’t have been more excited. i am a savory girl, for sure. i’ll take leek confit over a square of chocolate any day. roasted garlic over cheesecake. and i’d choose caramelized onions before selecting a big bowl of ice cream. i soon learned however that my dreams of canning all of my favorite onion and garlic preparations were being shot down at every turn for one very good reason. alliums are low-acid vegetables and they don’t care who knows it. because of this fact, and because i am fairly new to canning, i was having difficulty finding a way to safely can any of my beloved lily family favorites. by the looks of some of the chatter on twitter about this month’s challenge, i am not the only one who was having difficulty.

then i sat down and reminded myself that this was precisely reason that i wanted to join the can jam: to stretch my canning muscles. honestly, if it was gonna be so effortless that i would be able to whip up something without any thought process whatsoever, then what’s the point, right? and isn’t that what life’s all about? setting out to do one thing, then quickly realizing it ain’t happening according to expectations and adjusting as necessary? since i usually choose to make quick, refrigerator-style pickles, i decided that canning a pickle would the most logical next step. i settled on pickled cocktail onions more because they are adorable and i love the taste of anything pickled, than for their obvious practical application of fulfilling a gimlet-lover’s dream. i do plan on giving away a jar or two to the few friends that are known to have cocktail hour, but mostly i will keep them on hand for grilling season, as i imagine their briny little selves will shine next to a pork tenderloin with a nice char or as cooling antipasti. hell, i may even throw them in my next bloody mary.

pickled pearls (makes 1 1/2 pints)

adapted from saving the season

1 heaping pint cocktail onions (just over a pound)

3 cups champagne or white wine vinegar

4-5 tbsp granulated sugar

a few dried chilies de arbol

6 whole allspice

4 whole cloves

10-12 whole black peppercorns

10-12 coriander seeds

2 bay leaves

1- 3″ cinnamon stick

a few grains of cardamom (you can bust the pods open with a rolling pin)

make a brine from 1/4 coarse sea salt (regular iodized salt may turn the brine dark and cloudy and flaky kosher salt may not give the proper proportions for the brine) and 4 cups water, heat gently until salt dissolves, then cool to room temperature.

trim the root and stem ends of each onion and peel away a layer or two ‘to reveal the pristine and glassy interior’ (love that description). this may take awhile, so just slow down and revel in the zen of the activity.

place onions and brine in plastic bags (i used a separate bag for the purple and white onion as to discourage any bleeding of colors) and set in a large bowl to catch any accidental leakage. it was also very easy to keep the onions submerged in the brine this way. brine for a minimum of 12 hours, maximum of 48.

when ready, place vinegar, sugar and aromatics in a saucepan and bring to a boil. simmer for about 15 minutes, then remove from heat. meanwhile drain onions from brine and pack them tightly into sterilized jars. pour brine over onions, leaving 1/2″ headspace, and divide aromatics among jars, adding more if desired. if you are squeamish about heat on the palate, be careful with the hot chiles. breaking them open or adding them to a 4 ounce jar could render the onions rather spicy. process 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

the instructions say to allow flavors to marry for at least 2 weeks before using.

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sparkling cranberries

i just love the holiday season. i know, i know, i am a freak of nature according to many, but i just can’t help it. i love the food, the lights, the specialness of it all. as christmas approaches, i start to get a little freaked out that the holidays are winding down. honestly, i have to talk myself down off the ledge, take a deep breath, and enjoy all that is around me.

cranberries are a special holiday treat, mostly because of their seemingly short life-span (in terms of acceptability in using them after christmas anyway). and these cranberries are special. you can serve them as part of a cheese course, on top of a holiday dessert, or just pop ’em in your mouth. we tossed them in our glasses of bubbly, too! they take a little getting used to because they are essential raw and very tart but the sugar seems to tame this somewhat. they are at first sweet, then with a burst of tartness, then sweet again. live a little…try ’em out!

well, i am off to the in-laws for several days to enjoy family and friends for the holiday. i hope you enjoy yours!

sparkling cranberries (makes 2 cups)

adapted from 101 cookbooks

2 cups fresh cranberries

2 cups water

2 cups granulated sugar

plus additional granulated sugar and medium coarse grain sugar for coating

make a simple syrup by heating water and 2 cups sugar in a medium saucepan. bring to a simmer, until sugar is dissolved, then set aside to cool for a bit. pick over cranberries, discard any shriveled or soft berries, rinse in a colander and set aside in a glass bowl. when syrup is still warm, but no longer hot, add to berries. place a small plate on top of berries to be sure they are all submerged. cover with plastic wrap and chill 8 hours or overnight.

drain, reserving syrup for another use, if desired. roll berries a few tablespoons at a time in medium grain sugar. (i used an unbleached medium grain organic sugar sold at costco for this step). dry for a few hours on a cookie sheet. then roll them in the regular granulated sugar for a final dusting. allow to dry for an additional hour or so before handling. the combination of sugars does seem to do a fine job of coating them completely.

these keep chilled for up to a week.

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apple gallette with blue cheese and walnuts

apple gallette 1a

it may surprise you, considering how many sweet treats i make and write about on this blog, that i consider myself more of a savory than sweet-type person. you heard me right, i really do not have a sweet tooth. gasp, i know. it’s crazy, too because i love to bake cakes, tarts, cookies, et al, but i tend to eat desserts only on special occasions or in lieu of a meal. (insert late afternoon slice of pie and cup o’ joe here). for this month’s let’s lunch challenge, the group has decided  on a ‘fall desserts’ theme, which seems to fit in with the whole dessert-as-meal-replacement plan.

apple gallette 2

this time of year does bring out a bit of the ol’ sugary cravings, i suppose. i tend to go for more earthy, fruit-based concoctions over super-sweet chocolate or frosted ones. but i’m weird that way.  should i even mention that i would take a lemony anything over a chocolate something else?

apple gallette 3

this would be  a good dessert after a nice fall meal or even, dare i say, as an appetizer with a glass of bubbly or red wine. you could even leave out the blue cheese and serve warm with homemade whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

apple gallette 4

apple gallette with blue cheese and walnuts (makes 1 large tart)

adapted from barefoot contessa

pastry:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 tbsp sugar

12 tbsp (1 1/2) sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into small dice

1/2 cup ice water

apples:

4 granny smith apples

1/2 cup sugar

4 tbsp (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small dice

1/2 cup apple jelly (or a light colored jam, heated and strained)

2 tbsp calvados (this is a fabulous french apple aperitif-get some!)

1/4 cup walnuts chopped

1-2 ounces of quality blue cheese (i used point reyes)

for the pastry, place flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. pulse 2-3 times until well-combined. add the butter and pulse 10-12 times until butter is in small, pea-sized pieces. be sure to use the pulse feature, you do not want to over mix and create a paste. with the motor running, pour the ice water through the shoot until the dough just comes together (you may not use all the water depending on the humidity level and other factors). dump dough onto a floured board and quickly knead into a ball. at this point, i like to press the dough into  a disc the shape of how it will be rolled out, i.e. a round, square, or in this case, a rectangle. wrap in in plastic and chill for at least 1-2 hours.

preheat oven to 400 degrees. line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

roll dough into a rectangle about 10 x 14 inches. trim the edges straight with a pizza cutter or knife. for a more rustic look, you can omit this step – i do not judge. place dough on prepared sheet pan and chill while you are readying the apples.

peel apples and cut through the stem, removing stems and cores with a sharp paring knife or melon baller. slice the apples crosswise into 1/4 inch slices, leaving slices together in order. place slices in diagonal rows on pastry, starting in middle of the tart, then adding adding rows of apples to fill in until pastry is covered. sprinkle with the full 1/2 cup of sugar and dot with the butter. although it appears like a LOT, do not be tempted to cut down the amount of sugar~the tart will be, well, very tart if you do.

bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is browned and the apples have brown edges. rotate the pan once during cooking. you may deflate any air bubbles that form by poking them with a small knife. don’t worry if the juices run off and start to burn, this is expected. remove tart from oven. heat jelly and calvados in a small pan and brush mixture on pastry and apples. dot with the blue cheese – use as much as you prefer, but be warned, a little goes a long way. it will gently and beautifully melt into the gallette. loosen tart from paper before cooling so it doesn’t stick. allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

if you love a good fall dessert, check out these fine folk’s take on them , too:

cowgirlchef

a tiger in the kitchen

geofooding

bonvivant

slow food chef

free range cookies

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white grape gazpacho

 grape gazpacho close3

ok,  so while most of you are getting out your sweaters and jackets, here in texas we are simply pretending it’s fall. we finally got a break from the 100 degree days this week, and by the looks of it, you’d think 95 was the most refreshing temperature imaginable. it’s all relative, I suppose. this is all to let you know that while you may no longer be in the mood for chilled soup, we are still right smack dab in the middle of enjoying such things.

now while i’m not a big fan of  ‘fruit’ soups in general (to me, they’re just a smoothie in a bowl that is frustratingly difficult to drink with a spoon), this is a very unusual blend of refreshing ingredients. althougth there is an element of sweetness from the grapes, it is gently tempered by the nut meats, fresh bread crumbs, and garlic. i told you this was unusual. in fact, at first i wasn’t even sure that i liked it. but it definitely grew on me. give it a try (even if you have to wait until next summer!)

white grape gazpacho (4 first course servings)

adapted from great cold soups and the new york times

3/4 cup toasted blanched almonds or marcona almonds

2 tbsp toasted pine nuts

2 cloves garlic

2 1/2 cups green grapes

1 cup white grape juice

1/2 cup water

2 slices day old hearty white bread, crusts removed and cubed

1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

a few tbsp walnut oil for finishing

place blade on bowl of food processor. with processor running, add nuts and garlic until finely minced. then add grapes, grape juice, water, and cubed bread and puree until smooth. strain mixture into a bowl through a fine sieve. chill for at least 3-4 hours. meanwhile whip heavy cream in a bowl until soft peaks form. fold into grape mixture gently. garnish with sliced reserved grapes and drizzle with walnut oil.

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Filed under appetizer, fruit, grapes, side dish, soup