Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blackberry Syrup

Our summer here in northern California has been cool, which makes for a paltry tomato crop but a very, very happy bunch of blackberries.
I've picked so many berries for the freezer this year that I've run out of containers. Which means I was enormously pleased to come across this recipe for berry syrup from Jenn at Pint-sized Pioneering.
If you have just three cups of berries, some sugar, and a bit of water, you can make a jar of delicious syrup. So far I've made three batches (that's two batches, above).
Now if only I can find more room in the freezer . . .
Anyone else finding interesting things to do with excess fruit this time of year?


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Simple Summertime Tomatoes

Some of us need recipes in order to cook, while others can take a handful of mushrooms, some leftover sweetened condensed milk, a wad of wilted lettuce and somehow magically transform them into dinner.

My sister's one of the latter.

This is her summertime dish, a delightful combination of garden tomatoes, onions, and basil. There are not many specific measurements here as, alas, she does not need them. So just do your best; add ingredients until it looks and tastes right. It's hard to go wrong with this, especially if you're starting with garden fresh tomatoes and basil. Bon appetit.

Cut tomatoes into bite-sized chunks. Slice an onion into rings. Cut basil with scissors. Combine all, and add 1 T. sugar. Cover with balsamic vinegar and some olive oil (optional). Let stand a few hours on the counter so tastes blend and onion loses its acidity.

So how about you? Are you a recipe cook? Or do you have the gift?


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mocha Frappuccino

I post this recipe as a public service to all those former frapppuccino lovers who have been suffering severe withdrawal these last months after Starbucks changed its formula from icy, chocolatey, coffee perfection to a drink that, alas, while still icy, no longer tastes like either chocolate or coffee.

After much weeping and gnashing of teeth -- and yes, a few beseeching phone calls to Starbucks headquarters -- we, here at the castle, have moved on.

Ok, by we, I mean me.

Ongoing experimentation, aided by other bereft, recovering SB addicts (thank you, LJ), has yielded this recipe, which I happen to love. I hope you will love it, too.

This recipe starts with a "base" mixture you stir together and keep in the fridge. When you're ready for your drink, you simply pop 3/4 c. of the mix into the blender, add a dollop of chocolate sauce (about 1 T.), and about 10 frozen coffee cubes, and you're all set.

14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk (about 1 1/4 c.)
2 1/2 c. double-strength coffee (for this, I use instant espresso powder mixed with water, according to the package directions -- about 2 heaping tablespoons in 2 1/2 c. water)
2 1/2 c. milk

Mix the base together and keep in the fridge until you're ready for your yummy drink.
Handy hint: My blender doesn't do a great job at grinding up ice. If yours doesn't, either, use your meat tenderizer hammer-thingie to smash up the coffee ice cubes before putting them in the blender. I don't do this on my tile countertops because I wish to crack the ice, not the tile.

Another handy hint: Any extra hot coffee Kahuna leaves in the pot in the morning gets immediately whisked away and frozen into cubes. If you want to lighten the coffee flavor, you can use 5 coffee cubes in your drink and 5 regular ice cubes.



Monday, August 16, 2010

Rosemary-skewered Fish and Veggies

We swiped this flavorful bbq idea from Brownieville Girl, who blogs about food all the way from Ireland.
You simply use rosemary sprigs as your skewers, cut up chunks of fish (we used tuna), spear the little suckers alternately with cherry tomatoes, sprinkle with seasoning salt, and barbecue 'em up.
The skewers in the back are filled with garden onions and peppers along with the tomatoes.
Delicious. Thanks for the idea, Brownieville Girl.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Peach Nectar

In the epic 2010 battle over the backyard peach tree, with the teams the Castle Dwellers vs. the Stinkin' Squirrels and Blue Jays, I declare we Castle Dwellers the victors.
Exhibit A: We got canned peaches. A couple of batches. Exhibit B: We made off with enough peaches for a pie.
Exhibit C: Peach pit jelly. A minor victory as it doesn't include any actual peaches. But a victory nonetheless.

Let the record show we are not even presenting evidence for Exhibit D, peachy tart, for the simple reason we do not wish to condone the silly practice of peach blotting in any form.
Which brings us to:
Exhibit E: as in excellent. Peach nectar. So good you'll drink it almost as fast as you make it.
Take that, you lousy squirrels and blue jays. We win.
You may cease your obnoxious squawking now.
My favorite way to use up an abundance of peaches, this is the recipe I go back to year after year. No need to can; you simply mix up a batch in your blender, pour into glass jars, and place lovingly in the freezer.
4 c. peeled, sliced peaches
4 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. lemon juice
Place peaches and water in large saucepan. Bring to boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for a bit. Place sugar and lemon juice in large bowl and set aside. Working in batches, whirl peach mixture in blender, then pour into bowl with sugar and lemon juice. Repeat until everything's blended. Stir well, then pour into glass jars and freeze.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Peachy Tart

Really, fussy little recipe from upscale food magazine?
After two and a half hours of constructing this orange juice-laced crust, a jam-liqueur glaze,

this pulverized almond, slowly-thickened cream center . . .

you're really gonna make me drain each and every peach slice on a paper towel then pat it dry?
This peach tart had better taste fine, is all I'm saying.
Mighty, mighty fine.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Flaming Omelet

I do love to play with my food.
So imagine my delight when I came across this book at a recent library book sale.
The Pyromaniac's Cookbook: The Best in Flaming Food and Drink (by John J. Poister). What could be more fun?
I'd never set my food on fire (on purpose, that is; the blazing toasted sesame seeds and the s'more pie's marshmallow topping hardly count, and I'd prefer we not mention those again, thank you for asking) until last fall, when I tried a banana, butter, and brown sugar number that you ignite with a touch of rum. Seeing as that was my first intentional kitchen conflagration, I had my son standing by with the fire extinguisher.
That experiment was a complete success, so it was with supreme confidence I set out this morning to flame my omelet, fire extinguisher snugly tucked away in its kitchen cabinet home.
I am happy to report that the flaming omelet was another complete success. All flames stayed in the pan where they belong. You'll note the lack of spectacular flaming photos because, well, I was a little busy there for a few seconds.
We have lots of these onions on hand at the moment, since we had to harvest them before the bunnies did. So I rejoiced to see this omelet called for onion. And also for blue cheese, which, if you check out this post, you will learn is a particular favorite of mine. I am sure, for the non-blue cheese lovers out there, you could substitute any kind of favorite cheese.
Now get out your little skillet, check the cabinets to see if you have any gin handy, find a nearby relative with a fire extinguisher if you're a tad nervous, and get cookin'.
Oh and please do not sue me if you happen to catch anything on fire.
about 1 T. diced onion (or green onion)
1/2 T. butter
2 eggs
2 t. milk (or cream)
2 t. water
salt/pepper, to taste
1 T. crumbled blue cheese
about 2 T. dry gin, warmed in the microwave for 15-20 seconds
Saute onions in butter until soft, but not browned. Remove to small dish. Add a smattering more butter to your skillet, if needed. In small bowl, whisk eggs, milk, water, salt and pepper. Pour into skillet and cook over medium heat until top is pretty well set.
I like to use the wooden spoon to gently lift up the edges of the egg as it's cooking, tilting the pan so the runny part makes its way to the pan's edge. If the center of the omelet is still too gooey for my liking, I'll poke a couple small holes in the middle to let the egg run down to the pan's bottom to cook.
When eggs are pretty set, sprinkle on the onions and the blue cheese. (Poister also added green olives and chopped parsley here, but I did not.) While top of omelet is still creamy, fold over, add the warmed gin, and light on fire. Make sure your wooden spoon is not still on the edge of your pan (ahem). Serves one. Deliciously.
Quote from The Pyromaniac's Cookbook: "The pyrotechnical display connected with flaming dishes does and should have a positive psychological effect on both the server and the servee. At the very least it should be a treat, if not a feast for the eye."
Additional note: If you check out the Amazon link to this book, you'll see a very sweet review written by the author's son.

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