Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fresh Fennel

I have three hands of fresh fennel. I don't know what the proper name is: do I say I have three fresh fennel? Are they bulbs? They look like hands to me. I use fennel seed when I make pizza crust but just fresh fennel. I am stumped. Ideas? Please? I don't want to waste any of our CSA but I am stumped on what to do with this black licorice tasting vegetable? spice? What is it???

Friday, July 16, 2010

Humbling Experience

This will just be a quick post, over my lunch, because it is a rather important post. I have to admit, I have gotten a little cocky.

Just last weekend, I witnessed one of Manatee's nieces beating herself up for putting too much liquid in the coleslaw. Now the poor girl is 16 and it's probably the first time she made Grandma's coleslaw and she was about ready to quit cooking forever. I told her that if I quit making everything I had screwed up on, there would be nothing left for me to cook.

Sadly, this is true.

Then I had my moment of feeling proud of how far I've come and I enjoyed the look of shock on her face because they actually think I know what I am doing.

And, I admit, I thought at the time, I think I have finally gotten to a place where I know what I'm doing. What a fool I was in the past!

And then, came the bread. Now a week ago, by some stroke of dumb luck, I made a very delicious loaf of homemade wheat bread. When people asked if we had gotten a bread machine from our registry, I enjoyed the look of awe when I said no, I had made it the old fashioned way. I then went into detail about kneading the bread and how cool it was, like I actually knew what I was doing.

Well, with that loaf, I froze two other loaves. I tried thawing one yesterday and then put it out to rise.

It didn't budge.

I had read about people putting it on their stove when the stove was on (well I thought that is what they meant at least) so I did that.

It didn't budge.

I put it on the windowstill in the sun.

It didn't budge.

I think you get my drift. Well, not to be deterred I proceeded to put it back on the oven while I baked some dessert breads. It was on their for over two hours. No budge. Left it out overnight. No budge. Finally baked it.

I think it weighs ten pounds and is condensed so that it only comes up to half of the breadpan. Manatee is referring to it as the 10 pound cake.

I took another loaf out and then fretted. Talked to my co-worker who owns her own bakery. She then began an excited discussion of yeast. Well, discussion may be the wrong term. She spoke passionately about yeast and the temperatures it needs to be and what you should do and my heart sank, my stomach turned and I realized I had ruined two loaves of bread. Between thawing the two loaves, I had done everything you were not supposed to do.

Depending on how much time we have before our guests arrive will determine if I will start from scratch. Whether it be today or not, I will have a newfound respect for baking when I attempt my next loaf. I will do some more reading and pay close attention to it, make sure I have the correct temperature, not fry the yeast to death or put it out in the right temperature but have it so tightly wrapped, it has nowhere to go.

I also admit, my first thought when I found out how royally I screwed up was to add a bread maker to our registry, but then I have to remember our niece. I told her not to give up so I shouldn't either. I learned a lot from my two unleavened loaves of bread. It's only a waste if I don't try it again with my newfound knowledge.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Revolutionary Pie, Pesto Dish and a Small Kitchen Fire

I have been busy since my last post. I have a dessert, a main dish and a minor emergency all to share with you. Here goes....

Two years ago, I decided to start a tradition: every Fourth of July, I would bake a blueberry pie. The last two years I made an amazing blueberry ginger pie. That was the plan this year until I saw a recipe for a Blueberry Slab Pie.

Now to me, that just sounds cool. Essentially it's a pie on a cookie sheet. Well then I start making rhubarb pies and discovered I really preferred a basic crumb topping compared to a top crust so I knew there would be adjustments come the Fourth.

So, I created 'Blueberry Pie Bars' out of two recipes and my own customization. It's Martha Stewart + Betty Crocker + Badger Girl. Essentially, the recipe is this:

Pie Crust- do the amount for two crusts but it will just be the bottom
Fruit filling- in this case 8 cups of fresh blueberry + the zest and juice of 1 lemon + 3 Tbsp Cornstarch + 1/2 cup sugar
Crumb Topping

I am convinced that people think taking a slice of pie requires more commitment than taking a bar.

So, this started with two ingredients- a 3/4 jar of pesto I wanted to use this week and these amazing purple potatoes we got last week from the CSA. I was torn- I knew I needed to use the pesto which to me generally means pasta but I also wanted to use the potatoes. I also had bought some organic chicken sausage that I knew would be good with the pesto based on previous experience. Driving back from the CSA pickup- it dawned on roasted potatoes, veggies, pesto and chicken sausage.

I bought zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, baby bella mushrooms and regular fresh mushrooms. When I got home, I got the veggies (sans mushrooms) ready and then tossed it with fat free chicken broth and white wine (I wish I had measurements but I seriously just poured the broth in to coat and splashed in some wine from my wine glass). We got some pearl onions so I cut them up and threw them in. I roasted them at 325 for 15 minutes and realized it was going to take forever so I turned it up to 500. After 15 minutes at 500, I turned them off and moved them down a few racks in the oven. 

Then I sprayed some Pam in the pan and sauteed the chicken sausage and mushrooms. A few minutes later, I tossed in the roasted veggies with 3/4 jar of pesto. Yumm!

And now, the emergency. Manatee and I have three pot holders. Two are so wimpy you need to use them together and one is old, faded and grayed but it works. I had turned the burner on to get it nice and hot, then turned to find the pan I wanted to use. When I returned to the electric stove, my poor little potholder was in flames. I screamed (Manatee wasn't home) and then grabbed it by the corner, got it into the sink and turned on the faucet. Crisis diverted. Not sure if I am going to divulge this little secret to Manatee as he thinks I am a little accident prone in the kitchen. Hopefully we'll get lots of new potholders for the wedding. 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Garlic Scape Pesto,

CSA Day! We got an amazing bag of produce from our farm today. I was very happy to see my 'whimsical' garlic scapes. I didn't use all of them last time so I was determined to make use of all of them this week. In our little info. sheet, it mentioned that you could throw them in the food processor with some olive oil to put on pizza. Inspired, I stopped at the store for an italian cheese blend and some Roma tomatoes. I admit that I was tempted to pick up some pizza crust mix but practicality prevailed: I know how to make pizza dough from scratch and it would probably take just as long.

I checked the farm website to see if they had any more specific instructions for the pesto. I wasn't going to but then remember some.... disappointing prior attempts at making pesto ( was a long time before I could even LOOK at pesto after that) so I checked their website and only had to make one substitution.

Garlic Scape Pesto
6-7 Garlic Scapes
a little less than 1 cup olive oil
1 cup Italian Cheese Blend

*Original recipe was a cup of olive oil. I struggled with that. I was a little over 3/4 cup. I just couldn't put a whole cup in there. It was just wrong.
I was also supposed to use just shredded Parmesan but I had bought a blend. I thought it was probably a little richer than it would have been with Parmesan.

Spread on your pizza dough (the pizza dough is a top secret family recipe, seriously, I'm not telling, but just so you know, it's AMAZING).
Cover with Italian Cheese Blend and sliced tomato. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minute.

I served it with a fresh salad courtesy of CSA and my homemade balsamic vinaigrette.