You are currently browsing the monthly archive for May 2011.

 

Spring has sprung and I could not be more obsessed.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve checked to see if new seedlings have sprouted.  Or how many weeds I’ve pulled (where do they come from?!?)  I’m determined to have a better crop than last year and I’ll do [almost] whatever it takes to make that happen.

I do get distracted though.  I’ve let seedlings die from lack of water from time to time, and I may have planted seeds too close together in an effort to get everything into the ground before June.  I’m not perfect.

Yesterday I noticed that my peas were starting to collapse onto my carrots.  But it’s okay; nature is forgiving.  Carrots are survivors and a full day of sunshine always perks them right up.  I like that about carrots.

The parsley, dill, cilantro, and basil are an inch or two tall.  The sage, tarragon, and scallions should sprout by next week.  The lettuce seeds that started outside never appeared but the seedlings started inside back in February are making a go of it despite the downpouring rain.  The strawberries are a new addition and bound to be popular with little H, and the nasturtium with their broad flat lily pad-like leaves are reaching toward the sky.  The rhubarb roots need planting if I can just decide on the perfect spot for them while last year’s raspberries are coming up in full force.  The blueberry bush is lush and leafy, the perennial herb garden in full bloom.  Our yard has turned from a weed-filled, tire rut streaked, broken glass strewn nightmare to a bountiful oasis of delectable produce.

There is little in life more satisfying than gardening.  It nourishes my soul.  It grounds and grows me.  It makes me feel like part of a larger whole, a provider, a self-sustainer, an independent.  To share these gifts with my little H and my big R is rewarding beyond compare.

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Because I totally forgot!  Seriously, I was so distracted by little feet at my feet and big feet coming home from a long day of work, that I completely neglected to take photos.

I am forgetful, so this is not entirely suprising.

I learned about these little gems a few weeks ago when a fellow Dining Diva selected El Salvador for our upcoming dinner gathering theme.  She selected pupusas for the main event and invited us all to get our hands messy by making them with her last weekend.  Last night’s repeat wasn’t quite as successful, making it clear that these babies take practice.  The masa needs to be just right, the filling flawlessly seasoned, and the pan perfectly oiled and heated.

Despite the lack of photographic proof, these pupusas must be documented.  They are delicious.  And not just a little bit, not just because I needed a break from hum drum taco night, not because I was way too hungry to judge properly. 

Served with curtido, a fresh pickled slaw, these are a winner.

I used a recipe from Whats4Eats.com but this is really just the beginning.  Practice is the main ingredient that cannot be substituted.

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It all started with some leftover whipped cream.

Leftover whipped cream is a sad sight. Before long, it turns into a floating island of whipped cream on top of a milky puddle. Mmmm.

But if you’re careful, and you act quickly (say, by the next day) you can save the part on top from being completely lost.  In fact, I once learned that whipped cream is best stored in a sieve propped over a bowl.  I had not done this in my sleepy haze the night before, so I had no time to waste.

Rewind to Sunday, grocery store day. Beautiful rhubarb in the produce section and a recipe from Gourmet Live just waiting to be tested.

That’s when this happened:

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The recipe isn’t too fancy. Chop some rhubarb and toss it in a pan with just enough sugar to keep it tart. Simmer until it turns jammy. Cool.

Whip some cream, add some sour cream and powdered sugar, whip some more, then add a splash of sherry.

Layer them together in a pretty cup and crumble some ginger snaps on top. I used the ginger snap recipe from my dear old copy of Joy of Cooking, subbing about 1/3 of the flour with whole wheat flour…combined with dairy and fruit, this might even pass as breakfast!

What’s the problem with this recipe?  Too much whipped cream. Fast forward to Wednesday.

I was going to make a quiche, so first I made some pastry dough. I like to use Julia Child’s recipe from Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home (signed by Jacques no less — thanks Rob!). It’s classic and easy and I realized that my past failings with pastry dough came largely from lack of confidence. Using the same recipe over and over has helped me overcome.

Letting the dough rest in the fridge gave my taste buds just enough time to start thinking about the whipped cream…and the leftover rhubarb jam…and the apples on the kitchen table…and then the quiche became a frittata with a lovely fruit pie for dessert. Perfect!

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So a few weeks ago my coworkers and I started planning a potluck. And, of course, we needed to make up goodie bags for everyone because, well, we all like to cook and bake and enjoy having excuses to do both.

For no explicable reason, I had a sudden urge to make caramel popcorn with salted peanuts.

I browsed my favorite bloggers for ideas – Deb then Joy – and then checked to see if Martha had a good recipe (or twelve, as it turns out). Fortunately, I’m not the first person to have had a sudden craving for crunchy, caramelly, nutty deliciousness.

I settled on Deb’s version from Smitten Kitchen, a spicy, salty, and sweet popcorn that she adapted from The Craft of Baking, a cookbook not in my collection but possibly soon to be if the other recipes are anywhere near as delicious as this one.

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I made a full batch with peanuts first, including just 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne (barely noticeable except a little bit at the end) and about 2 teaspoons of kosher salt.

Then I decided that I really needed to make more for the potluck crowd (plus some to keep at home) so I made another half-batch with unsalted almonds. I mixed them all up together and they were outrageously yummy!

One quick note about making the caramel. I was a little nervous about making this for the first time without a specific temperature in the instructions. I started with a candy thermometer and it ran up to about 260 degrees before I pulled it out of the pot. I then decided to let it get a little darker brown before continuing, so I’m guessing that it probably got up to 270 before I added the baking soda. For the second batch, I left the thermometer out completely and just used my judgment. Both batches came out great!