Tangerine Jam with Vanilla Bean

It’s a strange time of year.  In November and December I was so tired from the summer that I was happy to sleep in and do not a whole lot for awhile.  Many hours were spent soaking in the bathtub and reading through seed catalogues.  tangerinesBy now, though, garden plans have been laid out, the first round of earliest spring seeds have been ordered and shipped to us and I’m starting to wake up in the morning with manic summer gardening thoughts in the front of my brain.

Before I forget, though, these tangerines! Citrus season in California is very much upon us.  A friend of mine in Ukiah gave me a huge bag of tangerines off of her tree.  They were juicy, sweet and delicious, and while we ate a lot of them fresh I also ended up making a couple different projects with them.

CANNED TANGERINE SEGMENTS IN LIGHT SYRUP

I held back from adding a bunch of flavorings to the syrup.  My goal was to make a fancy version of the canned mandarin oranges that they sell at the grocery store.  They’re basically the same thing, but with local fruit and a light syrup made with organic sugar.  tangerines in syrupI used this recipe here, which worked out just fine. Maybe I’ll tinker with it next time, but I kind of like that these are pretty plain.   They’re lovely straight out of the jar, tossed with salads, in a sauté with chicken, almonds and parsley, and a whole load of other recipes.

TANGERINE & VANILLA BEAN JAM

tangerine and vanilla bean jamI realized a few years ago that any jam that’s heavy on the vanilla makes for the best, most delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I think it’s something that ends up kind of being reminiscent of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff? But without the marshmallow? Maybe I’m crazy…  This jam is a good alternative to marmalade if you’re not a fan of the bitter flavor marmalade can have. It tastes like a creamsicle because of the classic orange-vanilla combination. If you want to use it for savory applications, just leave out the vanilla bean. I thought about making another batch with ginger instead of vanilla, which I think would be great on chicken or as a salad dressing base, but…. we ate the rest of the tangerines. Oops.

Cook Time: 45 min.

Makes: 6 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 14 tangerines and 1 lemon, peeled and blended in a food processor, or about 5 c. of fruit puree.
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 box of sure-gel low sugar pectin
  • 2 c. sugar

Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.

Put the fruit puree into a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the fruit puree.  Simmer the fruit-vanilla mixture for 5 minutes on low heat.  In a small bowl, combine the pectin with 1/2 c. sugar.  Once the fruit has simmered, add the pectin-sugar mixture and turn the heat to high.  Once it comes to a boil, add the remaining 1 1/2 c. sugar.  Bring to a full rolling boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until you can see the jam sheeting of a spoon.

Ladle hot jam into hot, clean jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Wipe rims clean and attach lids and rings.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary.

Note: I only use 1/2 box of pectin because I find that when I use a full box, the set is way too firm for my taste.  If you prefer a firmer set, feel free to add the rest of the pectin.

DRIED TANGERINE PEEL

As you’re doing these projects, don’t throw away the peels. Save them and dehydrate them to make tangerine peel powder, which you can use as a spice with kinds of different applications.  I mixed some with garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, dried thyme and rosemary to make a savory rub for chicken or pork. You can also use it for sweet things — I find that any time you’re using desserty kinds of spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, a little pinch of the tangerine peel powder just makes it taste even better.  peelsYou can either dry the peels in a dehydrator or the oven; I don’t have a dehydrator so I used the lowest setting on my oven.  They took a couple hours to dry out, and then I ground them in my blender.  The powder felt like it still had a little moisture in it, so I spread it onto a cookie sheet and dried it a little longer to make sure it wouldn’t mold in the pantry. tangerine peel powderThe scent of the peels dehydrating is wonderful and will make your house smell delicious, like you’re baking a tangerine cake.

Happy canning!

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Winter Salad with Butternut Squash, Greens, Chicken and Candied Pecans

This salad!

winter saladI should have taken more pictures of it. This isn’t even really the finished salad, just the almost-finished salad. The finished version disappeared too fast to take pictures.  (The finished salad has chopped nuts and dressing on it).

This is the perfect winter salad, and the perfect antidote the cookies, cakes, cocktails, and candy that apparently we’re supposed to all be making and eating because it’s the holiday season.  Cookies are good and all but this salad is actually real food that’s delicious and you can eat for dinner and not feel like death afterwards.  butternut squash cubesThe salad components are simple: roasted butternut squash and red onions, a bag of salad mix from the farmers market, leftover roasted chicken, and some chopped candied pecans.   Oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, then it’s ready to eat. candied pecansThe candied pecans are a whole separate story…  My next door neighbors gave me a bag of pecans from their trees, and I guess I drank a ton of coffee the other day and actually sat down and shelled them all and made this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts.  It took forever to shell all of them, but jars of the finished nuts are nice Christmas presents that took time instead of money, which was very of important to me this year.   You could certainly substitute any kind of toasted nuts if you don’t feel like making this recipe, although I highly recommend it.  There’s a pinch of cayenne pepper in the spice mix that coats the nuts that really makes it taste amazing.

Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year! I hope you all are warm and happy, with good food on your table and friends and family close by.

WINTER SALAD with Butternut Squash, Roast Chicken and Candied Pecans

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • a few sprigs of fresh herbs: thyme, oregano, rosemary, whatever you have is fine
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • vinegar: apple cider vinegar or whatever you have
  • 1/2 lb. of mixed salad greens: use a spicy mix with some arugula and mustard greens in it
  • 1/2 c. candied pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 c. or so of leftover roast chicken, cut into cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the butternut squash and onions onto a cookie sheet with the fresh herbs. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

Put the salad greens in a bowl.  Top with roasted vegetables, chopped chicken and pecans.  Dress with oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

Sometimes I like to make this vegan mushroom gravy because you can dump it all over all kinds of stuff and it makes everything taste amazing. Savory and meaty and delicious.  (Sausage gravy will achieve the same purpose, but this is cheaper than buying nice sausage from the farmers market, and mushrooms are really tasty anyway). mushroomsToday I put it on a baked sweet potato for lunch.  Last night I put it on spaghetti squash and collard greens.  This is my go-to gravy for making vegan/vegetarian soul food dinners; I usually make mashed sweet potatoes with some brown sugar and bourbon, whip up a batch of this gravy, stew some greens, maybe fry a couple green tomatoes or bake some biscuits…. good to go.  No meat needed. purple sweet potato and mushroom gravy(I feel like I need to acknowledge that this sweet potato is bright purple.  I bought it at the co-op the other day, not realizing how vivid the color would be.  Hooray for purple vegetables, right?)

VEGAN MUSHROOM GRAVY

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs. vegan margarine, butter or olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c. diced onions
  • 3 c. sliced mushrooms*
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp. of soy sauce (or, if you don’t eat soy, balsamic vinegar is good)
  • 3/4 c. water or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbs. chopped parsley
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a sauté pan on medium.  Add the garlic, onions and bay leaf and sauté until the onions are translucent.  Add the mushrooms and sauté until they are cooked through.  Add 1/4 c. of water to the mushrooms while they’re cooking to make sure they don’t stick and burn.  Add the whole wheat flour and nutritional yeast and stir to coat the mushrooms mixture.  Let it start to brown on the pan a little bit, add the soy sauce and let it cook for another minute. The pan should be getting a little brown and crusty, but not actually burned.  Deglaze the pan with 1/2 c. of water or vegetable stock.  Keep stirring and the gravy should come together and thicken within a few minutes.  If it’s too thick, add a little more water.  Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

*I used a mixture of shiitakes and button mushrooms, but it really doesn’t matter what varieties you choose.

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

moroccan vegetable stewThis is a perfect fall stew, filled with vegetables from the late summer garden and richly spiced with cinnamon, cayenne and turmeric.  It’s based off a recipe from Moosewood Restaurant, so I can’t take credit for the brilliant idea, but when I made it for the cooking demo at the Redwood Valley Farmers Market this past Sunday, I realized I’d made so many small changes to it so it would fit what we have locally available that I should probably write up a fresh version so I don’t have to explain it to anyone else.  Because it’s so good! You must make it. If you want a simple, cheap, delicious dinner using a bunch of stuff you probably have around anyway, this is it.

The original recipe is from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites, which is a fantastic cookbook and worth every penny.

MOROCCAN VEGETABLE STEW

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 3 c. diced onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. (or less) cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 4 c. peeled, cubed winter squash – 1″ cubes (this is about 1 average sized butternut squash or 2 average sized buttercup squash)
  • 2 c. water or vegetable stock
  • 3 c. diced heirloom tomatoes
  • 3 c. diced eggplant
  • 1 c. diced bell pepper (any color)
  • 2 c. diced summer squash (any color)
  • 1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. diced tart apples
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon wedges, optional, for serving

In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium low heat. Add the onions and salt and cook, covered, for five minutes.  Add the garlic and spices and sauté, covered, for another three minutes.  Add the winter squash and sauté for a couple more minutes, then pour in the water.  Add the tomatoes and eggplant, cover and let everything simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add the peppers, summer squash, chickpeas, raisins and apples, cover, and simmer for another fifteen minutes, or until the winter squash and eggplant are tender.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.  Garnish with lemon wedges.

Feel free to change around the fruit based on what you have available.  This stew would be great with dried apricots instead of raisins and I’d love to try it with chopped fresh pears instead of the apples.

Heirloom Tomato Bloody Marys

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). bloody maryThese 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).bloody mary & okraHEIRLOOM 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

Ingredients:

  • 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

Ingredients:

  • 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.

It’s Summer So I’m Really Just Eating BLTs All The Time

These are my favorite sandwiches of the summer. now THAT is a blt!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. blt ingredients... bltmbb?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

Serves: 5

Ingredients:

  • 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
  • baby lettuces
  • balsamic vinegar
  • 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.

Pickled Red Onions & Quattro Stagioni Jars

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 jarsBormioli 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.)floodgate farms torpedo onionsSince 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 and apricots in honey syrupPICKLED 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

Ingredients:

  • 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.