Grams and I had spent the morning at the farmers market in Carmichael, picking up eggplant, summer squash, apricots, fresh wildflower honey (she didn't get raw, only because it came in a big container; I was worried about the potential for getting her sick but the salesperson explained that raw honey was only slightly riskier than filtered), and of course--strawberries! At $18 a flat, I wouldn't call them a bargain by any measure, but they were just barely ripe, big, perfect and delicious that we threw caution to the wind and shelled out a crisp twenty dollar bill.
So what if the strawberries weren't necessarily ripe enough for jam? That's the only way I like them, and I only cook food I like.
**SIDE NOTE I just spilled my soy latte all over my desk at work. While writing this blog and not filing or writing resolutions. After coming in ten minutes late and without my security badge. How have I not been fired yet?
The jam set up beautifully due to all the pectin in the new strawberries. It was lighter pink than last year's batch, and not as sweet (which I love!). I'll be eating it for breakfast all week, and maybe dessert, too, and on Thursday my morning co-workers are throwing me a party (again: Why do they love me so much??) because I'M TURNING 20! So I'm bringing jam and baguette at Grams' suggestion to show off our hard work.
If you are interested in making your own jam, I can't recommend it enough! It is very, very easy--I have literally been making jam with my grandma since i was five years old. Directions vary according to what brand gelatin and what kind of fruit you use, but some general tips:
- Don't use overripe fruit. Most of the pectin has changed to sugars, and the jam is less likely to set. Of course, it will still be delicious as a sloppy mess! My brother actually likes it better when it doesn't set, because he smears it on bread and licks the drippings off his fingers. Nom nom nom.
- Don't get ugly fruit. By this I mean, don't use white plums or peaches without some kind of color. It will look kind of mushy and might turn out discolored later. Apricots and red flesh plums are beautiful--and omg so delicious--in jam. If you are set on peaches, try adding some raspberries or another colorful fruit. This will enhance the flavor and look of the jam.
- Use pretty jars! This is the most important. My grandma recycles old jars from nacho cheese, salsa, etc. and then, if it's destined for a gift, we cover the tops with fabric and tie with a ribbon. Also, antique jars are a nice touch; she gave me some of her wildflower honey in a beautiful antique jar with a rocking horse on the lid. I want to try painting the lids of old spaghetti sauce jars next weekend.
I can't get enough of jam. It's delicious, and (if you use low sugar gelatin product--and ps, most modern products have no actual gelatin in them, so yay for vegetarians!) pretty healthy, plus you can buy local to eat year-round! Summer fruits have such short seasons...
Oh yeah, there some veggies, too. And crinkle-cut chips. At my grad party, we made most of the food from scratch. We didn't have a real "main course" but instead had several kinds of appetizers, cheeses, and of course cookies.
WHEREAS, An avid reader, KMO spends way too much time reading other people's recipes and never ever trying them except that one time (brown sugar cupcakes!) that it turned out really well; and
WHEREAS, Like many young women, KMO is an omnivore with a penchant for game but an environmental conscience, and finds herself not uniquely at a moral and political crossroads at just the lifting of a forkful of lamb; and
WHEREAS, She really, really wants to finally lose weight; and
WHEREAS, A whiner at heart, KMO can no longer make excuses for not following-up with any wishes on her blog, and recognizes that her original recipes are rather lacking in both creativity and substance; and
WHEREAS, Despite her schedule, KMO will set out to cook at least three meals a week, of substance, and a substantive meal shall be defined as a meal which contains vegetables, grain or starch, and a significant protein; and
WHEREAS, A young woman with impeccable taste and like-minded friends, KMO has also committed herself to bake at least once every two weeks a bread, cake, or similar item to be shared with the people she loves and/or hoarded for herself; and
WHEREAS, KMO has finally chosen her birthday dinner and will for once eschew the grill for a more classic dish, Agneau de sept heures, or in English, succulent leg of lamb cooked on the stove with carrots, onions, and herbs for seven hours; and
WHEREAS, KMO recognizes that there will be many missteps along the path to this perfect meal (JULY 9!!!); now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED BY KMO, That she will share with all of you--or, as the case is, with no one in particular--her fumbles and triumphs, her pleadings for mercy, her bellows of triumph, and most importantly, hopefully, her non-expanding waistline.
DATED THIS TWENTY-FOURTH of JUNE, TWO-THOUSAND and NINE.
But I digress. My point is that I make at least something for the coming week on Sundays (or at least, I make an effort).
This Sunday was a particular success. We were having my grandparents and my aunt for Father's Day dinner, and I knew that meant grilling, so I bought twice as many zucchini as we would need.
"Get at least ten," my mom recommended, when I told her I wanted to make skewers. So ten medium sized zucchinis were purchased, cleaned, cut, and skewered along with sweet Maui onions and Yves vegan meatballs (sooo good and spicy).
I got out some mini sweet peppers to put on skewers too, and then kicked myself when I opened the fridge monday morning and spotted them, raw and intact, on the shelf in the fridge. Oh well. They are just as delicious by themselves.
I had read that someone infused his wood skewers with rosemary, and thought that could be fun to try with the vegetables. He let his soak overnight; I gave mine about an hour before I got impatient. It wasn't a total fail. There was the tiniest hint of garlic (probably from oil left on the cutting board post-mincing) but more importantly, the skewers picked up some olive oil during the soaking--and everything slid off really easily.
I reserved the leftover skewers, and the soaking liquid (marinade? It just doesn't feel right) to use later in the week. We will use the grill on a weeknight. I promise.
I won't put a recipe, because a) as you can tell, I'm not very exact with my recipes anyway, and b) skewers absolutely do not need a recipe. Just throw something on a wet stick, add (seasoned) salt and pepper, and light it on fire. It's that simple.
Some guiding principals:
- Push the bits of food close together. With less surface area, the outside will get a nice char will the inner pieces "bake," as the heat stays inside instead of being lost.
- Don't stress. Grilling is an art, not a science. Never expect something to be perfect the first time you make it. If you are using fresh and delicious ingredients, it will taste good anyway. The great thing about skewers is that the sum is generally equal to the parts, so if you start with yummy veggies, you'll get yummy yummy product.
- Hydrate. Take a cool glass of white wine or icewater out with you. The grill is hot and you'll be doing a lot of turning the veggies over to make sure they cook evenly.
- Sample. Bits of food fall off the skewers? Grab them off the grill, blow on them, and pop 'em in your mouth. (Here is where hydration gets important. Burnt mouth = not yummy.) This rule is law in my family.
(And yeah, I'll be getting pictures soon.)
- Small Potatoes (new or small yukon or red will work), halved or quartered to equal size
- Minced garlic, to taste (I recommend 2-3 cloves, depending on how sizable they are. And our cloves come pretty big.)
- Melted butter, about 1-2 tbs
- Olive Oil, about 1-2 tbs
- Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper, to taste
Simply toss the potatoes in the other ingredients, then spread them on cookie sheets. Bake ina hot oven (400 degrees) for 30-40 minutes, turning once, until they are soft throughout and golden on at least one side.
DO NOT COVER THEM to keep the warm. This will ruin the crispy edges you worked so hard for! (Or not so hard.) Just turn the oven off, making sure to keep the door closed. Ten minutes before you sit down to eat, pop them back in the warm oven. I should mention that they are equally good at room temperature.
Make this. Expect second or third servings.
But this weekend, we had them at our house. When my mom and I had finished marinating the steak and tempeh (the tempeh didn't turn out so well) for the main course, we cleaned and chopped potatoes for the amazing Baby Potatoes and Garlic dish we do so well. We made chocolate ice cream from scratch--three batches!--and wondered if we should have made some vanilla, too. We leafed, cleaned, and shredded lettuce for the salad, then cut tomatoes and onions for it. We assembled puff pastries stuffed with brie, brown sugar, and chopped walnuts.
Even without more food from our guests, it would have been a feast!
But there was, of course, more food! They brought a cheeseplate (I wish I could remember all of the cheeses' names but I was in a food coma) with strawberries and fig jam, a five pound polenta and vegetable casserole, bruschetta with toast, and two bottles of wine (after a couple sips of each, Tony revealed to me that they were both over 90 points).
I should mention that Tony and Laura are the reason I fell in love with red wine. My parents are Chardonnay drinkers, and while I enjoy white wine with food or at the end of the day, it isn't the same. In a deep, smooth red wine I taste not oak or acidity or any of those wine terms--I don't know any anyway! I taste delicious indulgence, the sense that I am not only doing something luxurious, but also something grown-up and sophisticated. No matter how many times I taste a pinot noir or a cabernet sauvignon, the same feeling of joy and utter relaxation comes over me.
I hope as I growe in my tastes and voacabulary, that the sense of indulgence never goes away. I would hate to be one of those people who can't enjoy something without having to classify it. It's true that at the end of the day, for inexplicable reasons, a $10 Syrah will always feel more luxurious to me than La Creme Chardonnay.