I made that!

Blueberries!

Posted in All Sugar All The Time, Don't BUY it, MAKE it!, Yes We Can! by brandi on July 21, 2010

They’re here!

Have I mentioned lately that I have a thing for blueberries?  Beautiful, blue, bloomy blueberries…

This time of year I turn into a bit of a berry monster. The first couple weeks of berry season I tend to gorge on berries until I just can’t take any more. Then I stop just long enough to panic about their eventual disappearance. In response, I make jam. Lots of jam. I’ll make so much jam that I panic again and start giving it away. Then as I work my way through a couple of jars, I’ll start wishing I hadn’t given so much away. I’ll panic yet again, and if there are still berries around at this point, I’ll probably make more jam. You know, just in case I run out in January. So far this summer I’ve made a sun-cooked strawberry rhubarb jam, a black raspberry jam, and now, this absolutely perfect blueberry jam. It’s so straightforward that it seems silly to even share the recipe. But that’s its genius. Beneath all that obviousness is a jam that is so perfectly spreadable and so… blue. I’ve already eaten it on toast, biscuits, crepes and pound cake. And it’s only been 4 days.

Note on blueberries: With all jams, it is super important to get the best fruit possible. If you don’t want to smash your face into a pile of it, then it’s probably not jam worthy. Yes, it should be that good. I used Billy’s blueberries, arguably the best blueberries in the Puget Sound area.

BLUEBERRY JAM RECIPE:

2 lb 8oz (6 baskets) blueberries

2/3 cup water

2 lb sugar

juice of 3 lemons

1 package of Certo liquid pectin

- Put the blueberries and water in a heavy pot. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. The fruit should be quite soft.

- Lower the heat and add the sugar and lemon juice. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Turn up the heat and boil for 5 minutes.

- Add the pectin and boil for another minute or 2, until it has set. I test for set by spooning the jam onto a plate that has ben stored in the freezer. I place it back in the freezer for 10 seconds and then press my finger to it. If it wrinkles, the jam is done.

-Ladle into hot sterilized jars and seal. If you’re storing it at room temperature, it’s a good idea to process them. It’s ready to eat the next day.

I Grew That! And then I cooked it!

Posted in I Grew That!, I Like Salt Too by brandi on July 15, 2010

I’ve been debating about whether to share this part of my cooking world, out of worry that some might find it boring. But I just can’t hold back anymore, because my garden is fully intersecting with my kitchen now, and I suspect it’s only going to get more intense! So here it is: Since moving to Seattle, I have been gardening my little tush off. I signed up for a month long course at Seattle Tilth, ordered some seeds from Territorial seed company, hit the Home Depot store (many, many times) and I was off! First I planted perennials around my yard: a sour cherry tree, a pear tree, a meyer lemon tree (potted since they don’t love Seattle as much as I do), blueberry bushes, strawberries, raspberries, an artichoke plant and asparagus. Those won’t really produce much this year, as they’re busy building up their roots. But man is next year gonna be fun.

Once all of those plants were settled, I got to work on building veggie beds for my annuals. If you’ve spent much time in Seattle then you know that winter takes its sweet time passing the baton to spring. This makes for a shorter growing season than California, but a growing season that is JAM PACKED. I began in early March and after a couple rounds of spinach and arugula, things are in officially in full swing. It’s all so magical that I started taking photos of my bounty so I could prove it was really happening! So here’s my garden!

Beautiful (and spicy) french breakfast radishes.

Lots and lots of butterhead lettuce.

My first baby carrots!

Baby chiogga beets.

Russian banana fingerling potatoes!

And my personal favorite (which is great since we have them coming out of our ears now), English peas!

One of the (many) things I love about gardening is how things are just ready when they’re ready. And when that happens, you’ve got to act quick. Me and John received a CSA box for a few years before leaving San Francisco, so we started getting pretty good at designing dinner menus around what was in the fridge that week. Gardening is kind of like that, except you get all of one plant type at once! It was definitely hard keeping up with the mountain of arugula and spinach, but we did manage to eat all of our butter lettuce before the slugs took over. And the radishes and carrots, we destroyed them.

The peas, however, they just keep on coming! Everyday I harvest about 2 cups, shelled, and we just add them to whatever is cooking. I discovered that peas barely blanched and then tossed with butter, tarragon and a little black pepper REALLY rocks my world. Bucatini all’Amatriciana only gets better with a pile of peas thrown in. Chicken Tikka Masala? Add some peas! Last night John cooked dinner and he made a Venetian style risotto dish that I feel should be shared, (even though I suspect the rest of the country is well past pea season) because it showcases English peas beautifully. I suspect this recipe will make it into the pea rotation every spring (or summer if you live in Seattle).

RISI e BISI (Mario Batali):

Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil

4 small shallots, finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped

2oz prosciutto, finely diced

1 1/2 cups arborio rice

8 cups chicken stock, hot

1 1/2 cups fresh peas

4 TBSP butter

1/2 cul freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano

salt and pepper

- In a 10-12 inch saute pan, combine the olive oil, shallots, celery and prosciutto and cook over medium heat until the shallots and celery are softened but not browned, 8-10 minutes.

- Add the rice and stir for 2 minutes, until it almost opaque. Add enough stock to just cover the rice, turn the heat up to high, and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until the stock begins to be absorbed, then add another ladleful. As the level of the stock dips below the level of the rice, continue to add stock one ladleful at a time, to keep the rice covered, stirring constantly. After 15 minutes, taste the rice, it should still be quite hard.

- Add the peas and continue to cook for about 4 more minutes, adding a little more stock if necessary, until the rice is tender and creamy yet still al dente. The risotto should be quite moist, but not swimming (I actually like it swimming), you may have a little stock left over.

- Remove from the heat, add the butter and cheese, and stir vigorously for 25 seconds. Season with salt and pepper and eat immediately.

The Hottest Buns in Town

Posted in All Things Pork, I Like Salt Too, Playing With Yeast by brandi on July 5, 2010

Whew. My first 4th of July in Seattle and wow, it was fun. Old friends in town, new friends coming over, lots of food and fireworks and slap scrabble. It was our first party in a Seattle and I’m so glad we did it. But WHEW! There was cooking going on in my tiny kitchen, SO much cooking. Four pies were baked: cherry almond, black raspberry (I didn’t even know such a thing existed until this week!), strawberry rhubarb custard and blueberry lattice. A gigantic cabbage salad with a peanut dressing. More baked beans than I think anyone wants to see in one place. And pulled pork sandwiches. I wanted pulled pork sandwiches badly. Having never made them, I turned to the Lee Bros. for their recipe. Did I mention that we’re talking about 13 lbs. of pork?

It was an intimidating amount of meat. And while the flavor was fantastic (think tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, cane syrup), I have to fault the Lee Bros. for tricking me into thinking that pork shoulder would get as meltingly tender as I wanted in the amount of time they claimed. I now know that pulled pork wants at least 8 hours if you’re on the low-oven-roasting path. It was a close one and I have Sam and Brandon to thank for pulling a delicious dish out of the mess I started, because by the time we realized that the pork needed several more hours of roasting to liquify all that fat, we had already eaten all of the salads, sides and pies in the house. Not to mention the copious amounts of wine I had befriended by then. Thank God for chef friends who are more than competent at drunken cooking!

At some point John made a diagram about when to stop cooking the meat. It was a question of quality vs. time, measuring the increasing quality of the pork as it cooked and our changing expectations relating to our hunger levels. I swear it was genius at the time.

By now you’re maybe thinking “Gee Brandi, your last 3 posts are about meat. What gives?” It’s true, we’ve been awfully carnivorous this month. Which is why I will now turn my attention to the real reason I’m here talking about a pulled pork dish that I can’t even begin to explain how it came to be. My point? The bun. I will admit that when I mentioned to some people that I wanted to make my own buns, there was some skepticism. It was too much work, they said. There are perfectly good buns out there that somebody else made. But I just didn’t buy it. I mean, EVERYONE has a pulled pork recipe up their sleeve (well, except me apparently), but when a girl really wants to take it to the next level, then it’s the bun that gets people’s attention. So I made them anyways. Even though with 4 pies (3 requiring pre-baked crusts), an ungodly amount of beans, and half a day’s worth of pork, we were totally out of oven space.

And you know what people talked about the most at the BBQ? Those sexy little buns of mine.

There were lots of them, rising all over the house.

They were glazed with egg and sprinkled with seeds.

And then baked until they were puffed and golden.

I don’t care how much effort they were (not THAT much really), I’m never buying a bun from the store again.

And just so no one thinks I’ve stopped caring about dessert, here’s a blueberry lattice pie that was devoured in about 15 minutes flat.

LIGHT BRIOCHE BUNS RECIPE (adapted from Comme Ça restaurant, printed in the New York Times):

3 TBSP warm milk

2 tsp active dry yeast

2 1/2 TBSP sugar

2 large eggs

3 cups bread flour

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 TBSP unsalted butter, softened

Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

1. In a glass measuring cup, combine one cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg.

2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a large spoon, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. You can either transfer the dough to a clean surface for this or knead it right in the bowl. It’s a touch sticky, but resist the urge to add more flour.

3. Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in the fridge. This long proofing time will make a nicer flavor and also make it easier to shape while cold.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange two to three inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap lightly coated in nonstick spray and let buns rise in a warm place for one to two hours, until they almost double in size.

5. Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with one tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. If desired, sprinkle with seeds. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 17-18 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

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