Comparing Jam Techniques

Here’s a tale of two jams.

IMG_2931Same recipe. Same plums. Do you notice the suprisingly different color? The jar on the left is dark, red, and deep in color. Before processing, the jar on the right was as yellow as the plums it was made from and tasted like freshly picked fruit.

After reading and comparing many recipes, I noticed that the technique in the River Cottage book was very different than most given instructions. The idea? First bring the fruit to a boil, then add the sugar. This seems to allow for a much shorter cooking time, resulting in a brighter jam. Related to trying to shorten the cooking time, he also suggests one stir the fruit infrequently. I’ve always been afraid of burning the bottom, but stirring cools the fruit and, again, lengthens the time it takes to set.

 My yellow plums are juicy and wet, so here are the proportions I used for the jam:

  • 2 pounds plums
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

After testing for set, I added a scraped vanilla bean.

For step by step instructions on plum jam, reference this how-to (which uses a slightly different process.)

I have heard many islanders recently make the joke that “plums are the new zucchini,” meaning they’re plentiful this year and hard to offload. If you’re also “plummeled” try:

Zucchini, Pasta, and Almonds

IMG_2740It’s zucchini season! This one pot pasta dish cooks up quickly for those evenings when you’re wondering how to make dinner in a hurry. Based on this delicious recipe, you’ll find it’s a good way to use up that squash (and feed a hungry family who’d rather be playing outside.) If you think zucchini and browned almonds are a funny combination, just try it once. It’s a little magical.

Simple Zucchini Pasta with Ricotta and Almonds

1 large zucchini
1/2 c. ricotta
8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 c. slivered almonds
olive oil, salt, coarse white pepper

  1. Boil water for pasta and cook according to instructions. Be sure to salt the water. While it’s cooking set a bowl and a strainer in your sink. When you drain the pasta, reserve about one cup of the pasta water in the bowl. Drizzle pasta with a little olive oil and set aside.
  2. Slice zucchini into thin ribbons. (Using a julienne peeler, this is an easy task.)IMG_2738
  3. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to your now empty pasta pot. Over medium, stir almonds until browned. Remote from pot and set aside.
  4. Add a little more oil in the pan. Cook zucchini for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Add in ricotta. Stir around. Add pasta water 1 tablespoon at a time until your sauce is the consistency you’d like. Salt and coarse pepper to taste.IMG_2739
  6. Plate and top with almonds.

Super Easy Risotto Cakes for Now or Later

IMG_1966First of all, please get your hands on some good asparagus and make this risotto recipe (minus the artichoke). With the leftovers, you can make yourself some super easy risotto cakes to be eaten now or later. This dish really is a freezer miracle – take the cakes right from the freezer and pop into the oven for a little bit. Voila. You’ve got an instant fancy looking and quick meal.

Risotto Cakes

leftover risotto, any amount
about 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
olive oil

  1. After making risotto, refrigerate the leftovers overnight.
  2. Prepare. Pour panko out on a plate. Set 3 tablespoons oil to heat over medium in a large, flat skillet.
  3. With wet hands shape the cold risotto into tightly packed balls. A three-inch diameter ball will make a meal. A two-inch ball will make a nice appetizer size.IMG_1963
  4. Flatten each ball onto the panko, flip over, and flatten a little more. You’ll need to tend the edges by pushing towards the center a little bit.
  5. Sprinkle a couple of crumbs in the oil and, when they sizzle, the oil is ready. Place the cakes in the heated oil. Sizzle about five minutes per side or until nicely brown.
  6. Add more oil to the pan and repeat until all your cakes are cooked.

If you intend to freeze these, undercook them slightly. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze. After about an hour, you can move them to a bag or container.

For a quick meal from the freezer, bake at 425F for about 25 minutes (or until nicely browned)

Serve over dressed salad (with a little Hitchcock sausage on the side, as pictured.)

Simple Fresh Mint Ice Cream

mint chip ice cream recipeIt’s birthday season here again. This year, we made an ice cream cake suitably topped with penguins and other critters from Antarctica. Sandwiched in the middle was homemade mint ice cream, adding just a little bit of fresh zing to the chocolate cake. Picked from your garden, fresh mint is a lovely addition to your favorite vanilla ice cream recipe. Here’s mine!

Fresh Mint Ice Creambruise mint

Makes 1 quart

1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 c. sugar
pinch of kosher salt
2 sprigs of fresh mint
1 vanilla bean, split
optional: 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

  1. Pick two sprigs of mint, each about six inches long. Rinse and pat dry. With a mortar and pestle (or back of spoon), bruise your mint leaves.
  2. In a medium pot, combine all of the ingredients. Heat over medium, whisking often.
  3. Just as it begins to bubble, take the pot off the heat.
  4. Carefully remove vanilla bean with tongs and scrape with the back of a spoon. Add scrapings and pod back to milk mixture.
  5. Cool the mixture by adding it to a bowl set over ice. When chilled, set it in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
  6. Before adding to your ice cream maker, remove vanilla bean and mint sprigs. Process. If using, add chocolate chips.
  7. Return to freezer.

Kale and Chickpea Soup

And now, because it’s the last week before the market opens and possibilities will soon abound, let’s have just one more go around with…kale!

This soup is lightly adapted from Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian, a book that followed me home from Powell’s and appeared to have many solid Italian selections that align with our available veggies. (A friend who locally haunts the restaurant has confirmed that the restaurant is indeed a winner.) Easy and frugal, this soup is one of those magical recipes that makes something wonderful out of not much. I love that you use the chickpea water instead of stock, and I think the technique of using the food processor is a really unique way to change the texture of the kale in a soup. I’m dreaming of future pizza potlucks with this soup on the side.

 

Ckale chickpea souphickpea and Kale Soup

about 8 hearty bowls

2 cups dried chickpeas

1 carrot, peeled and quartered
1 stalk of celery, quartered
1 onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, peeled
5 strips of lemon peel
1 sprig of rosemary
3 sprigs of thyme
1 tbls. kosher salt
1 cup of olive oil

3 tbls. olive oil
4 additional garlic cloves
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 large bunches of kale

  1. The night before you want to make the soup (or 8 hours ahead of time), soak chickpeas in a large bowl full of water.
  2. herb sachetUsing an empty tea bag or a scrap of cheesecloth, create a secure bundle that contains the carrot, celery, onion, garlic, lemon peel, and herbs.
  3. Add the bundle, soaked chickpeas, 3 1/2 quarts of water, salt, and 1 cup of oil to your soup pot. Bring to a boil over high, then reduce to low and simmer for about 1 hour. (Taste a chickpea to test that it’s done.)
  4. Near the end of the hour, prepare your kale. Remove ribs and coarsely chop.
  5. In a medium skillet, heat 3 tbls. olive oil over medium-low. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and stir once. Add kale. Cook for about 3 minutes.
  6. When the chickpeas are done, add the kale garlic mixture, 2 cups of the chickpeas, and 1 cup of the cooking liquid to the food processor. Pulse until the chickpeas are smooth and the kale looks finely chopped.
  7. Add this puree back into your soup. Season with salt and pepper, and heat until hot.
  8. If you like, finish each bowl with a little lemon juice, olive oil, and/or Parmesan.

Notes:

  • Reheats well!
  • The first time I made this soup, the kale I used had a purple tint to it and resulted in the interesting coloring that you see in the photo.

Breakfast Custards

IMG_0874Don’t we live in a beautiful place? We feel particularly grateful lately. The sun is out, the plum tree is in bloom, and the chickens are finally laying! We’re flush with eggs! Here we suddenly find ourselves in the sweet season of plenty. (We’re helped this time, by circumstances – our Heyday Egg subscription has overlapped with this onset of eggs from our own chickens.) Custards, puddings, pasta, and yes, even brioche have been happening in our kitchen lately.

Here’s a recipe that’s one of our favorites. Served to a neighbor recently, she labeled it “fancy,” but really it’s extremely simple. This custard is quick to make up, allows you enough time to shower while it’s baking in the oven, and, in our household, is child approved 100% of the time. We began with the recipe in The Breakfast Book and adapted it to our own taste. Hope that you enjoy it too! Here’s wishing you many eggs and a happy spring time!

Breakfast Custard

For four

1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. cream
4 eggs
2 tbls. maple syrup
dash of salt
unsalted butter, room temperature (for preparing ramekins)

  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare four 1/2 c. ramekins by buttering the insides generously with your fingers. Set a tea pot of water on to boil.
  2. In a large measuring cup, whisk milk, cream, eggs, maple syrup, and salt together. (Or, alternatively, pulse with the immersion blender a few times.)
  3. Pour egg mixture into the buttered ramekins. Place ramekins in a 9 x 9 glass pan.
  4. Fill pan with boiling water until it reaches halfway up the ramekins.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Serve in ramekin or unmolded onto plate.

first blue eggNotes:

  • This recipe easily reduces for two eaters (or even one.)
  • Adjust maple to your own taste. Maybe you like it sweeter?
  • Want to try a savory custard? (It’s a great way to sneak veggies past a sneaky eater, but you didn’t hear that from me.)
  • Of course, this is much better with a little Hitchcock bacon sprinkled on top.