Saturday, August 28, 2010


 The weather has turned cool after a long stretch of super-hot summer days.  After a much-needed rain yesterday, the sky is still overcast and the air is fresh.  I am alone and psyched about having breakfast out on the deck.  We had boiled young potatoes yesterday with the herb butter I had made using parsley, dill and chives.   There are some left over.  I take those out along with a little handful of mushrooms and an egg.  I'm thinking omelet.  I brown the sliced mushrooms in a little butter and olive oil.  I push them aside and brown the sliced herbed potatoes.  I mix them together, break an egg over them, add salt and freshly-ground black pepper and make an herb scramble with my leftover potatoes.  Meanwhile the rye bread is toasting and I think, "one slice with the scramble and one with some of that peach jam for a little dessert."  I whip a little cream and pour in fresh coffee.  A sprinkle of cinnamon on top makes it special.  A few tomatoes with basil on the side and I'm outside in the fresh morning with a scrumptious leftovers breakfast.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cooking the Books - Cheese Vali Gobi

There isn't much I enjoy doing more than reading a really good book--unless it involves food.  To read a good book ABOUT food is almost more than I can stand.  So when I came across this Cook the Books Club I had to join in.  Every other month a new book is selected and the challenge is to prepare a dish that was inspired by that book. 
The book selected for this month is Climbing The Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey.  Climbing The Mango Trees is an insight into India's history through the eyes of a young girl. She reminds us that beneath the politics and the violence of a troubled nation, there are children. They want to play and they want to eat and they pay close attention to the details of their days. I was touched by how memorable the family picnics and the foods of her girlhood were to Jaffrey.  She loved her own Indian dishes and she thoroughly loved tasting the foods of her school friends that were different from hers. She describes all of those in wonderful detail.  I remember my own childhood as a newcomer to this country, bringing my lunch to school where it was different from the lunches of my friends. Like Jaffrey, I thought their lunches were much more interesting than mine. I loved reading about the spices and flavors detailed in this book. I wanted to make one of her very own recipes rather than developing one of my own.I was particularly drawn to the cauliflower dish. My Mama made cauliflower by cooking it in salted water until it was almost tender. Then she drained it and added it to a skillet that had butter in it. She sauteed it until it began to brown and added bread crumbs, allowing them to absorb the flavors of the butter and cauliflower as they browned also. I didn't know until I was much older that our simple fried cauliflower was "Cauliflower Polonaise."  It was my favorite sidedish.  When I saw Jaffrey's cauliflower recipes, I had to try one of them. I made the Grandmother's Cauliflower with Cheese exactly as the recipe was written in the book, except that I had no hot green chilies (not allowed to use jalapeno or serrano chilies) so I increased the amount of cayenne a little and I used powdered cumin as I couldn't find whole cumin seeds.
I learned a new technique right at the beginning:  she suggests grating tomatoes to make a puree.  It worked to separate the skin, although the seeds remain.

After cauliflower florets are cooked in a skillet with cumin for a few minutes, the grated tomatoes, ginger, chilies, cayenne, turmeric, coriander and salt are added.  

Fresh cilantro is added and mixture is transferred to a baking dish.

After adding cheese on top, the cauliflower is baked.

While my mother's cauliflower polonaise will always be my favorite, I love trying new flavors and this one was so very different.  I especially loved it reheated the second day when the flavors had mellowed and blended.  When I make it again, I'll prepare it the day before and reheat it for a meal.  I am so excited about making more dishes from this book.  Reading it made me feel that I had actually spent some time in the home of this family and making the foods puts me at their table.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Yogurt Cheese Applied

I recently made some yogurt cheese.  I had to answer the question I knew would come:  "What are you going to do with that??"  I decided one answer would be sweet and one savory.

This is my peach (and plum) month so I came up with a peach/plum salad.  I love spices and honey and this late summer weather makes me think about cinnamon.
I peeled and sliced peaches, sliced plums and alternated them with small slices of my yogurt cheese.  The center mound of cheese has been whipped with a little honey and powdered cardamom.  The others are plain.  I drizzled my very favorite honey over it.  Acacia honey has a suggestion of plum blossoms in its flavor that I love.  Then I sprinkled cinnamon liberally  and grated nutmeg lightly over that.  I sprinkled some chopped salted pistachios around the edge.  The peaches were particularly juicy and fresh in this salad.  You don't really need the sweet drier plums, but I think they look pretty.

Now the savory: 

This time I mixed my yogurt cheese with chopped dill and chopped chives.  I added a few drops apple cider vinegar to moisten the mixture and add a little tang.  I added salt to taste.  I spread that on pita bread.  I peeled and sliced a cucumber.  I sprinkled a little salt over the slices and mixed it in with them and then layered them over the bread.  I added freshly-ground black pepper to the top.  A second layer of cucumbers wouldn't have hurt.  I'm making one of these for my lunch at work tomorrow.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Plums and Plum Crisp

I went to the farmer's market for more peaches and they had these baskets of mixed plums.  I never know which plums are my favorite so I jumped at the chance for an easy taste test.

Queen Rosa:  A little hard to split--the flesh wanted to cling to the seed a little.  The taste was mild and enhanced with a bit of honey.  Upon heating, it developed more flavor with a good tang.

Black Ember:  Easy to split.  Taste was actually too bland and a little dip in honey made it even more bland by contrast.  When I heated it, it became sour, and somewhat flat.

Satsuma:  These were very small.  When I split one the seed came out taking plum flesh with it all around. The taste was more plumlike and a little drier in texture.  Honey was good with it.  Heating it made it a little tangy--pretty good.

The next time I go I would buy a basket of Queen Rosa--they were my definite favorite for flavor.

I wanted to make a Plum Crisp, but I needed 4 cups of plums and I only had a little over 1/2 that so I added a couple peaches.
I added the topping
And ate

                                                   PLUM CRISP

4 cups pitted plums, sliced (or a mix of plums and peaches)
1 Tablespoon flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar


1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup regular rolled oats
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter (melted)

Preheat oven to 350 deg. Mix the fruit with the 2 tablespoons white sugar, the 1 tablespoon flour, and the cinnamon. Pour into a buttered baking dish, about 6-1/2" x 10".  Mix the 1/2 cup flour, oats, both remaining sugars, cardamom and salt.  Lightly mix the melted butter through the dry mix until well-moistened.  Spread over the fruit. Put in oven and bake around 45 minutes or until topping is lightly browned and filling is bubbly.
Serve with ice cream, lightly sweetened cream or vanilla yogurt.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Yogurt Cheese

Ok, I am an easily distracted person.  Let's just get that out there right now.  (Those who know me already know that.)  Here I am in the midst of my August peaches and other produce theme, and I just discovered a neat website that concentrates on cheese-making. Forging fromage features all kinds of neat dairy challenges.  I have to take a break today from peaches. I have to make some cheese.  I decided to try the easiest one first:  yogurt cheese.  Yogurt cheese is apparently made the same way as instructions I've found for Greek yogurt, which I love!  So here's the process.  I emptied a large container of plain yogurt into a tea towel.  I used low-fat because that's what I had on hand.
I tied a string around the top of the tea towel to prepare to hang it to drain off the whey.

It looks a bit ghostly casting shadows on my basement wall!  The tea towel is a mite too big for the job.

After the recommended amount of time, I took down the hanging thing and, voila!  I had yogurt cheese!

I had to make this picture extra large so you could see how CREAMY it is.  And I didn't even use creamy yogurt!  I will next time.  It was easy, it tastes good and I am excited about making it with whole milk yogurt and adding herbs to it next time!  Actually I will try some of this with a suggested chive and black pepper addition.  The texture is actually closer to cream cheese than Greek Yogurt because of the length of time I let it hang.  Check out the site--they have some really fun projects.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Herb Butters

Corn doesn't need anything except butter and salt in my opinion--if it's good corn.
But I do LOVE herb butters. 

For this corn I mixed one stick of softened butter with 1 Tablespoon chopped parsley, 1/2 Tablespoon chopped chives and 1/2 Tablespoon chopped dill.  This is also my favorite topping for boiled new potatoes.

While I was in the mood, I mixed up another blend of one stick softened butter, 1 Tablespoon chopped rosemary and 1 Tablespoon chopped thyme.  I love this with chicken or beef.

I mixed a third stick of butter with chopped basil to put over pasta or almost anything else.

After blending each mixture, I shaped each one into a separate roll in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer to use when the garden herbs are done for the season.  It's easy to just slice a piece off and rewrap the rest to put back in the freezer for another day.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Peach and Blackberry Cobbler

Our farmer's market also has beautiful blackberries:
Before I froze these, I took out enough to add to peaches to make a scrumptious peach and blackberry cobbler.  I decided to try a new version from Pat and Gina Neely that I found on the abc news site.  It contains cornmeal in the biscuit dough and sounded interesting. 

I mixed the biscuit topping, using flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.  I cut in the butter and shortening and mixed in milk and egg.

I sliced the peaches,

heated them with brown sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, cinnamon and salt and simmered.  Then I added vanilla and 2 pints of those juicy blackberries.
After pouring the filling into a dish, I scooped the dough on top:

The recipe said to bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  I found mine needed to bake 50 minutes.

I didn't cool it very long before I scooped some on a dish, added vanilla ice cream and had the best hot cobbler ever.

I can't imagine anything I could do to the filling to make it any better.  I do have my usual complaint about cobblers.  I always think there isn't enough fruit on my plate.  When will I learn to cut the amount of dough in half or double the fruit!  The cornmeal did make this dough heavier than some, but it was very good.  The filling was to die for!

P. S.  I have been known to skip dough altogether and just caramelize some sliced peaches in a little butter and brown sugar, slide them over, toss in some blackberries to heat and slip it into a bowl with ice cream on
top. . . . .

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Grilled Peach Salad

I have leftover raspberry sauce from the peach melba I made a few days ago.  Remember August is our peach month and we can't get enough of them.  On this hot day we decided to have a grilled peach salad and use some of the leftover raspberry sauce to make a raspberry vinaigrette.  I grilled a couple peeled peach halves on our electric griddler.  I tore some romaine lettuce into bowls, sliced some grilled peaches over the lettuce, sprinkled walnut pieces and feta cheese over it and drizzled with the following raspberry vinaigrette:

1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons raspberry sauce
A little salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Wisk all the ingredients and drizzle lightly over salad.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Peach Jam

More peaches than we can eat!  We made jam!

We followed the directions on a pack of Ball powdered pectin.  We chopped peaches, added lemon juice and pectin and cooked to a full rolling boil.

Then we added the premeasured sugar.  We boiled hard for another minute and we had jam.  We filled jars.

We wiped the jars before sealing.

We processed the filled jars for 10 minutes and we were done!   Delicious!