I’m so excited to tell everyone that I will be working with April Cunningham from North Coast Opportunities to put on a series of canning and cooking classes this year. The classes will be offered at the Willits Grange Kitchen and the Ukiah Senior Center Kitchen (both of which are really nice commercial kitchens). We’re working on adding some dates at the Redwood Valley Grange as well. Workshops will focus on cooking and preserving seasonal produce from local farms. I’ll show you how to make jam and pickles but we’ll do some fresh cooking too. After each class, participants will go home with a bag full of goodies that we’ve made that day. At just $20, the classes are a ridiculously good deal! There’s no commitment to attend the whole series- feel free to sign up for one class and then sign up for the rest once you see how much fun they’re going to be and how delicious everything we make turns out. Space is limited, so contact April Cunningham to reserve a space: firstname.lastname@example.org, or 707-467-3212. If you’re interested in attending but the dates don’t work for you, e-mail April to stay in touch about future workshops.
April 18: Ukiah Senior Center 1:00-4:00 pm. – FULL
It’s peak tomato season, so at the farmers market I’ve been rattling off all the tomato projects I know in a very thinly veiled attempt to convince people to buy huge amounts of tomatoes from me. The usual tomato projects that I tell people about are making canned sauce, dehydrating heirlooms in the oven (they’re so good, and it’s so easy!), freezing bags of sungold tomatoes to make tomato bisque during the winter, canning tomato jam, ketchup, and bbq sauce… I mistakenly omitted one of the best projects, though: the Bloody Mary. Williams-Sonoma contacted me and asked if I’d share my recipe here as part of their focus on juicing this month. Since Bloody Marys are delicious and we’re drowning in tomatoes, it seemed like a perfect idea. (Especially since a bunch of the farmers from the Redwood Valley Farmers Market had been meeting up after the market for Bloody Marys for a good part of the summer, and every time we’re drinking them I keep saying I need to write up our recipe to share with everyone). These are bloody marys for right now. While it’s true that you can cook tomato juice and can bloody mary mix for later (which I’m going to do), the base for this cocktail is just fresh tomato juice, bright and sweet. I used my champion juicer to juice a couple slightly overripe tomatoes that we had leftover from the market today, but feel free to use a blender if you don’t own a juicer.
The ingredients for this cocktail were almost all right out in the garden. Jason picked some fresh dill to add to the bloody mary base, along with horseradish and green olives. I raided the pantry for some pickled okra and dilly beans that I’d canned a few weeks ago for garnishes, though any sort of crunchy pickled vegetable is at home in a bloody mary. The one thing I noticed is that you have to be careful not to over spice these since the fresh juice from heirloom tomatoes tastes much more delicate than regular cooked bloody mary mix. Our first round was a little heavy on the horseradish and I thought it overwhelmed the flavor of the tomatoes, so naturally we had to do some more recipe testing and get it figured out. Naturally. (Because cocktails).HEIRLOOM TOMATO BLOODY MARYS
The perfect cocktail to celebrate tomato season, and the perfect cocktail to relax after a long day working at the farmers market.
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 2 cocktails
Bloody Mary Mix
4 oz. vodka
Garnishes: pickled okra, dilly beans, lemon wedges and green olives
Fill two glasses with ice. Add 2 ounces of vodka (or less, of course) to each glass. Top of bloody mary mix. Stir. Garnish with a lemon wedge and pickled vegetables.
BLOODY MARY MIX
2 c. fresh heirloom tomato juice
juice from a wedge of lemon
2 tbs. fresh dill, roughly chopped
a dash of worcestershire sauce
Tabasco sauce or cayenne pepper, to taste
3 green olives and 1 tbs. olive juice
1 tsp. prepared horseradish (or if you have fresh, substitute 1/2 tsp. fresh grated horseradish)
1/2 tsp. celery salt
fresh cracked black pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree. Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary. Individual varieties of tomatoes will taste very different from one another and may taste good with more horseradish, a little extra heat, some extra lemon, etc.
These are my favorite sandwiches of the summer. Can you even tell that this is a picture of a sandwich?
I’m not sure you can. Actually, I really don’t think you can. The bread’s under there, I swear. We already ate it, so it’s too late for any reshoots.
Here’s the deal I love plain old tomato sandwiches as much as the next girl, but if you have a little bit more time and a couple more ingredients, say… some fresh mozzarella and basil, it really doesn’t hurt. I used Floodgate Farms salad mix for this, since I am like a walking commercial for their salad and put it in everything. It has lettuces, edible flowers, arugula, fresh herbs, and a bunch of other wild greens like purslane mixed in. It makes me happy and I eat it every day if I can.
EPIC BLTS, aka BLTMBBs?
Cook Time: 15 minutes
1 loaf of sourdough bread
a few tablespoons of mayonnaise
around 5 medium sized heirloom tomatoes
5 pieces fresh cooked bacon
a few slices of fresh mozzarella
4-5 fresh basil leaves
a few sprigs of fresh dill
salt and pepper
optional additional toppings like sliced avocado or marinated artichokes, though I didn’t use them in this version, are equally encouraged
Slice the loaf of bread in half and warm it in a 350 degree oven while you cook the bacon. Fry bacon, slice tomatoes, slice mozzarella. Take the bread out of the oven and spread mayonnaise on each side. Layer all of the toppings on, drizzle with balsamic, season with some salt and pepper, then close the loaf. Press down on the top of the sandwich with your hands to compress everything a bit; it will stay together as a sandwich much easier if you do this. Slice into 4-5 individual sandwiches and serve.
So, I’ve never bothered doing any giveaways with free stuff or contests or any of that. I like keeping this page more like a journal that I can use to remember good recipes and gardening ideas, and I don’t feel like spending a bunch of time trying to turn it into something more than that. BUT…. when a fancy jar company offers to send me some of their jars, that’s a whole different situation. I will never say no to more jars, whether they’re dusty ones from grandma’s basement or these gorgeous Quattro Staggioni jars that I used this morning.Bormioli Rocco sent me a box of their Quattro Stagioni jars and some canning goodies (opening it was like Christmas in the middle of summer!) and they’re hosting a giveaway on their Facebook page where five winners will receive the same box that I got. All you have to do is go and like their page.
Quattro Stagioni jars have a one piece lid, which I know not everyone has worked with, but is really not much different than a two-piece lid. Food in Jars has a good instructional over here explaining how to use them, so I won’t completely rewrite it, but the main tip is that you only need to screw on the lids until they’re moderately tight. Food in Jars says: ” When you screw this lids on, you only want to tighten them to the point when you feel the rim of the jar make contact with the sealing compound. Don’t go any tighter or the air won’t be able to escape and you will have compromised your seal.”
(Also, can I say how nice it is that if I am insecure about canning knowledge, all I need to do is go check on the Food In Jars page to confirm it? I don’t know what people did before the internet and food blogs.)Since these are pretty jars, I wanted to make something pretty to put in them. I settled on pickled red onions and apricots on in honey syrup. I’m crazy about the pickled onions. We grilled some venison kebabs the other night, then made sandwiches on french bread with pickled red onions and lots of mustard. Jason and I drank cold beers and watched the baseball game on tv. and it was pure summer bliss. You could also put these on burgers, in a wrap with falafel or grilled vegetables, or toss them in a salad. Once the onions are gone, save the brine and use it for salad dressing.PICKLED RED ONIONS
Use the freshest onions you can find for a vibrant hot pink color. I bought these gorgeous onions from Floodgate Farm at the Redwood Valley Farmers Market.
Cook Time: 45 min.
Makes: 7 1/2 pint jars
5 c. white wine vinegar*
10 c. sliced peeled red onions (1/4″ thick rings)
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
a few sprigs of fresh herbs: I used marjoram today, but sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary, etc. are all fine
1 clove of garlic, minced
Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.
In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the vinegar with the peppercorns and the garlic. Bring up to a boil and add the sliced onions. Stir gently and simmer for five minutes, until the onions soften.
Place a small sprig of fresh marjoram in each jar, and then use a slotted spoon to fill up the jar with onions. Ladle the infused hot vinegar over the onions, leaving a generous 1/2″ of headspace. Use a chopstick or rubber spatula to remove the air bubbles and adjust the headspace as necessary. Wipe rims and attach lids, then process for ten minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary.
*I’ve also used red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and white vinegar. The recipe comes out fine with all of them.
What could you not love about a buttery pecan crust piled high with honey sweetened fresh blueberries? Basically nothing.
This dessert is a riff off of this fresh blackberry pie that we make every summer. I really love both recipes because the filling is a combination of fresh and cooked fruit, giving it this juicy, not too sweet flavor that I can’t get enough of. If you happen to get your hands on a whole bunch of really good blueberries, this recipe will not do you wrong. Make sure to chill this tart before you serve it; it’s much better cold. Top with whipped cream to make it really divine.
HONEY-SWEETENED BLUEBERRY PECAN TART
For the crust:
1/2 c. toasted pecans, finely chopped
3/4 c. all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
5 tbs. cold butter
3 tbs. honey
1 tbs. water
Combine the flour, salt, and pecans in a mixing bowl. Work the butter into the flour with a fork. Add the honey and the water and bring the dough together into a ball using your hands. Press the dough into the bottom of a 9″ tart pan. Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the crust until golden brown and aromatic, 15-20 minutes.
While the crust is in the oven, cook the filling.
Ingredients for the filling:
5 cups of blueberries, divided
1/2 c. honey
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 c. water
2 1/2 tbs. instant tapioca (or cornstarch is fine too)
1 tbs. butter
In a medium saucepan, combine 2 c. blueberries with the honey, water, lemon zest, tapioca, and butter. Mash the blueberries with a potato masher to release some of the juices. Bring everything to a boil. Cook until the mixture has visibly thickened, then remove from heat and fold in the remaining three cups of blueberries.
Pour the prepared filling into the cooked pie crust and then chill in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.
So here’s my theory: If you’re going to have a fried chicken dinner, I think you need to serve a lot of really fresh vegetables to go with it so that the whole meal’s not super heavy and deep fried. Braised collards are traditional, of course, but I think what really makes the meal is a big dish of pickled okra. The vinegar is such a good counterpart to country gravy and mashed potatoes. Plus, everyone knows to make collard greens so they’re necessarily all that exciting, but I’m not sure the general public realizes how amazing pickled okra taste. If you like dill pickles, you will love these. They’re crisp and tangy (not slimy at all), and even though I could have canned them, I didn’t bother because my family and I polished them off in just a couple days. They were perfect as a side dish to a big southern dinner, but also delicious with cold beers, pimento cheese and crackers. This is a horrendous picture from my phone because I was more worried about serving a table full of people and then eating with my family before the food got cold than taking perfectly styled photographs, but just so you see where I’m going with this: It was so good!
My recipe for fried chicken is here, along with some prettier pictures. The biscuits are a recipe that I always use from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. They’re yeasted buttermilk biscuits and come out wonderfully fluffy. If you don’t have that cookbook you should almost definitely buy it – it’s a winner.
Cook Time: 20 minutes
1 lb. okra
2 c. apple cider vinegar
2 c. water
1/4 c. kosher salt
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp. dill seed
1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 onion, cut in half and sliced thinly
optional: a pinch of red pepper flakes
optional, which I didn’t use because I couldn’t find: one or two fresh dill blossoms
Combine the apple cider vinegar, salt, water, garlic, dill seed, black peppercorns and sliced onion in a nonreactive pot and bring to a simmer. (If you want them spicy, this is also when you should add the red pepper flakes to your own heat preference). Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Arrange the okra in a nonreactive container (I used a glass dish but you could use jars too) and add the dill blossoms if you are using them. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the okra. It should cover them completely. Move the container to the refrigerator. Refrigerate for at least 48 hours before serving. They should last in the fridge for about a month, but you’ll probably eat them much quicker than that.
I just got back from a week in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. My parents, one of my brothers and I all stayed at my grandma’s house and cooked a lot of pretty amazing food, so I have a several recipes I’ll be sharing this week as I get the time to write them up.
First up: this strawberry-peach-lemon jam. It turned out really nice, with a gorgeous color, a good set and texture and lovely complex flavor. (But… It’s also a bit of an abomination, since I used a bunch of sketchy fruit from a tiny local grocery store right down the road from us: conventionally grown, underripe, out of season peaches, some mediocre strawberries and a lemon to try and add some flavor.) I’ve deemed it totally acceptable to break the usual rules about local fruit in our situation, when you’re staying at a house with several family members who all know how to make and can preserves, somehow there’s no jam in the house and all the local fruit is out of season. The decisive moment was when I found an open jar of smucker’s strawberry jam in the fridge. I don’t know who in my family bought that, but SHAME! Recently, I’ve been trying to make really simple preserves, with just one kind of fruit, sugar and sometimes lemon juice. I’m kind of obsessed with finding the best-of-the-best-most-delicious-you’ve-ever-tasted apricots/blackberries/whatever and doing the bare minimum that I need to do to get them into jars. Whoever grew the fruit is really doing most of the complicated work. As far as my part goes, tracking down the perfect fruit is actually way more complicated than getting it into jars.
With boring grocery store fruit, though, I figured there’s no harm in playing around with some new flavor combinations to try and make the jam a little bit more vibrant. And it worked! It’s kind of ridiculous that homemade jam is still so much better than the grocery store counterpart even when you’re not using very high quality fruit. I’m really curious to see how this recipe turns out if I made it during the summer with some really sweet, ripe strawberries and peaches from our own peach trees.STRAWBERRY-PEACH-LEMON JAM
Makes: 4 half pint jars
1 quart of strawberries, stems removed and sliced in half
3 peaches, blanched, peeled and diced
1/2 large lemon, sliced for marmalade*
1 tbs. vanilla
3 c. sugar
Day 1: Prepare the fruit and macerate
Combine the sliced strawberries, peeled diced peaches, sliced lemons and sugar in a nonreactive container. Cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
Day 2: Cook off the jam
Bring boiling water canner to a boil, prepare jars and lids.
Transfer the fruit to a heavy bottomed, nonreactive pot and cook on high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. After about 10 minutes, when the fruit is cooked through but the jam isn’t gelled yet, remove the pot from the stove and use a potato masher to mash the fruit to a consistency that you like. (At this point it will really start to look like jam). Put the pot back onto the stove and continue cooking until the jam reaches the gel point. Ladle into hot half pint jars leaving 1/4″ headspace. Attach lids and rings and process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as necessary.
Note: Strawberry jam can be challenging to get to set properly, but since this has a bunch of lemon slices in it, it should set pretty easily. It did for me, atleast.
Another Note: When you make marmalade, the sliced citrus fruit is often parcooked in some water before the sugar is added to make sure that the rinds are cooked all the way through and don’t end up chewy at the end. Since this recipe skips that step, it is very important to slice the lemon extra super thin, otherwise I’m pretty sure it won’t cook thoroughly with the strawberries and peaches.