Pear Almond Tart

So, I canned a bunch of pears back in September.  (Recipe here).  Now that it’s February it’s really sinking in how delicious they are.canned pearsOut of all my canning projects from 2013, they’re one of my favorites.  Before they were ever in jars, these pears were some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Ever!  They were grown right in Redwood Valley by a lovely couple that I met at the farmers market a few years ago.  (They’re basically the embodiment of the kind of fruit I want to be preserving all the time). A lot of the time we just eat them out of the jar, but I needed to take a dessert to a friend’s house yesterday and whipped together this tart with some of them.  An almond crust combined with sliced canned pears and a rich vanilla custard (with eggs from our chickens!) made for a really lovely tart that tastes delicate and luxurious at the same time. pear almond tartThis recipe is a combination of a couple recipes: the crust is an adaptation from Deborah Madison’s nut crust in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, p. 695 and the filling is based off of this pear tart recipe from Williams Sonoma. 

PEAR ALMOND TART

Cook Time: 1 hr.

Ingredients:

For the Crust:

  • 1/2 c. slivered almonds, roughly chopped
  • 3/4 c. flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbs. sugar
  • 5 tbs. butter
  • 2 tbs. water

For the Filling:

  • approximately 6 canned pear halves
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 c. heavy cream
  • 3 tbs. flour
  • 2 tbs. butter, melted

Combine the almonds, flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Cut in the butter with a fork. Add 2 tbs. of water and use your hands to form the dough into a ball.   Press the dough into a 9″ tart pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put the crust into the freezer for 15 minutes to firm up, and then bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the eggs until they’re frothy.  Add in the sugar,  lemon zest, vanilla, heavy cream, flour and butter.  Mix to combine everything thoroughly.  Slice the pear halves into 1/4″ thick slices.  (Depending on the size of your pears, you may need slightly more or less to cover the tart shell with a layer of pears.)

After the crust has cooked for ten minutes, take it out of the oven.  Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Arrange the pear slices to make an even layer covering the crust.  Pour the custard mixture over the top of the pears.  Put the tart in the back in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the filling is set and golden brown.

Note:  I served this tart after it had fully cooled. I’m not sure how it would be still hot;  I think the custard sets a bit while it’s cooling.

 

French Bread with Quinoa, Seeds and Rosemary

We’re finally getting a glimpse of the winter I’ve been dreaming of for months and months.snow stormUp until now, it’s been warm and sunny outside, making my summer farming plans started seeming more and more farfetched.  Now that we’ve had a bunch of rain and snow, though, I’m starting to relax a little bit.  I’m so happy to have a proper winter Saturday, indoors with a fire going in the woodstove and a loaf of bread in the oven. _MG_4129I’ve been working to get better at baking, and I think this recipe is starting to get pretty good.  I like a loaf of bread with lots of seeds and good things in it. I want it to taste savory, without a bunch of sugar or honey in it.  Something that I can toast and spread with butter and maybe avocado.  quinoa breadI still have a huge amount of learning to do about baking, so if someone with more experience than me happens to be reading this and has any suggestions for improving it, please feel free to chime in.

FRENCH BREAD WITH QUINOA, SEEDS AND ROSEMARY

Makes: 2 baguettes or 1 larger loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. lukewarm water
  • 1 packet of yeast (2 1/2 tsp.)
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3 c. bread flour*
  • 2 tbs. flax seeds
  • 1 tbs. chia seeds
  • 1 tbs. poppy seeds
  • 2 tbs. pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 c. cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 2 tbs. fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

Put the water in a small bowl and sprinkle it with the yeast and the sugar.   Let it sit for about 5 minutes, until small bubbles start forming on the surface.  Put the mixture into a bigger mixing bowl with 1 c. of flour and mix together thoroughly.  Add the flax seeds, chia seeds, poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, rosemary and salt, along with 2 more cups of flour.  Using a wooden spoon, stir all the ingredients together as much as you can, then turn it out onto a floured surface and knead all the ingredients together.  Knead for 8-10 minutes to make a smooth, elastic dough.  If it’s too wet and sticky, add a little bit of flour.  If it’s too dry, add a little bit of water.  Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased mixing bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in size.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll it out into a rectangle.  Starting with the long side of the rectangle, roll it up into a loaf shape.  Transfer to a cookie sheet and let it rise again for 30-40 minutes, covered with a kitchen towel, until it doubles in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Slash the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife and then put it in the oven to bake for 25 minutes until it’s nicely golden brown.

*I was out of whole wheat flour when I made this, so I didn’t bother using it, but a mixture of white and whole wheat flour would be great if you feel like doing it.

Small Batch Meyer Lemon Marmalade

meyer lemon marmaladeI usually make monster batches of preserves.  I like preserving by the bushel when fruits are in peak season.  During the winter, I usually end up going down to San Francisco once or twice and getting some citrus fruit from the farmers down there who are coming over from the central valley.  I haven’t made it down there this winter, though, and a girl needs lemon marmalade, so when I was in Whole Foods the other day (I can’t believe I’m saying that; I never shop at Whole Foods and I think the stores are super pretentious, but I was trying to kill time in Santa Rosa, so I kind of just ended up there) I ended up buying six precious little meyer lemons. Apart from feeling like a loser for buying fruit at the grocery store, this little batch of marmalade was quite a success.  It only takes a few minutes to slice up six lemons for marmalade (the last time I made lemon marmalade I did fifty pounds of lemonswhich took hours and hours).  The cooking time is also really short, which is nice.  Also, I’d forgotten just how lovely a kitchen smells when it’s filled with the aroma of fresh lemons.  The most important part: a piece of toast with butter and marmalade is one of the best things in the universe. IMG_5064MEYER LEMON MARMALADE Makes: almost 4 half pint jars Cook Time: 1 1/2 hrs. Ingredients:

  • 6 meyer lemons
  • 3 c. water
  • 3 c. sugar

The first step is to wash and slice the lemons for marmalade.  If you’ve never done this before, check out this set of instructions from Hitchhiking to Heaven for an explanation.  (It seems redundant to take another set of pictures of virtually the exact same thing).   Save the seeds and wrap them in a piece of cheesecloth. Tie the top closed with string. Next, measure the prepared lemons.  The six lemons I had came out to almost exactly 3 cups of prepared sliced lemons.   The ratio of lemons to water to sugar should be 1:1:1, so adjust the rest of the recipe accordingly. Combine the lemons and water in a large, nonreactive pot.  Add the cheesecloth bag with the seeds and bring the mixture to a low simmer to cook the lemons.  Cook for about 20 minutes, until the peels are tender.  Using a pair of tongs, remove the cheesecloth and give it a squeeze to release the juice that’s inside (it’s homemade pectin, which will help the marmalade set). Discard the seed bag. At this point, prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids. Add the sugar to the pot and stir to combine.  Turn the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.  If you don’t have a thermometer, you can use the frozen plate method.  The marmalade will come up to a full, rolling boil and you’ll see that the liquid will start to thicken and runs off a spoon in sheets instead of a thin stream (click here for a picture).  At this point, you can put a teaspoon of the liquid on a plate that’s been in the freezer.  Put the plate back in the freezer and wait for a minute. Pull it back out and run your finger through the liquid. If it wrinkles, it’s done.  If it’s still thin and syrupy, it needs to cook for another few minutes). Ladle the hot marmalade into hot, clean jars leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Wipe rims clean and attach lids.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as necessary.  lemon slices

Quince Slices in White Wine Syrup

Last month, I came to grips with the fact that I really just don’t like quince.  I think they taste like eating roses, and not in a good way.  The problem is that I still have two bushels of quince sitting in the pantry looking a little worse for wear and I really hate wasting food. I’m going to need to do a couple projects to use them all up, but this is attempt #1 at creating something we might enjoy.  (That last project I did was membrillo, and I thought it was foul). quince slices in white wine syrupMy original inspiration was this recipe for roasted pears and quince in white wine with tangerine zest which looked like it would be lovely adapted into a shelf-stable canned recipe. I ended up making quince slices white wine syrup infused with rosemary and tangerine zest that I’m hoping to use for some savory applications instead of just dessert. I feel like I might love them with some moroccan-spiced roast chicken and homemade flatbread or in a tagine with slow cooked lamb.  I’m going to let the jars sit for a week or two for the flavors to come together and then give it a try. peeling quinceQUINCE SLICES IN WHITE WINE SYRUP

Makes: 4 quart jars

Cook Time: awhile. peeling quince is kind of a pain.

Ingredients:

  • 8 lbs. quince
  • 2 tbs. lemon juice
  • 4 c. water
  • 4 c. dry white wine
  • 4 c. sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 tangerine
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Prepare the quince:
Rinse them under running water to remove the grey fuzz on the outside, then peel off the skin.  Remove the core and cut into 1/2″ thick wedges. As you’re working, put the wedges into a large, nonreactive pot with water to cover them (about 12 cups.) and 2 tbs. of lemon juice to prevent the fruit from browning. Once all of the fruit is cut into wedges, put the pot on the stove and simmer for 30-45 minutes.

While the quince are poaching, fill the boiling water canner and bring to a boil and prepare 4 quart jars and lids.

When the quince are fully cooked, drain them in a colander* and set aside for a minute.  Put the pot back on the stove and add the ingredients for the syrup: water, wine, sugar, tangerine zest and juice, lemon juice and a sprig of rosemary. Bring to a simmer and cook for a couple minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Transfer the cooked quince slices from the colander back into the pot with the syrup and simmer everything for a few more minutes.  Ladle the quince slices and syrup into hot, clean jars leaving 1/2″ headspace. Remove air bubbles with a chopstick or plastic spatula and adjust headspace. Wipe rims, attach lids and process for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary.

*You can save the cores, peels and poaching liquid to make quince pectin stock if you want.

canning quinceP.S. See that little green spatula? My mother in law gave it to me for Christmas. At the time, it seemed like a random little stocking stuffer, but I’m obsessed with it and have been using it for everything.  It’s perfect for removing air bubbles from jars!

P.P.S. You may notice in the top picture that I actually totally failed on removing the air bubbles from one of the jars and the headspace isn’t right at all. We’ll be using that jar first since it won’t have the shelf life that the others will.

Gobi Mutter Masala (Kind of, I think), aka. Cauliflower Curry

I think that maybe this would maybe be called gobi mutter masala? That’s what I was googling when I was originally looking at recipes for cauliflower curry.  But then I changed the recipe a whole bunch, so maybe it’s just some weird americanized cauliflower curry.  Really, I have no idea.  Either way, this curry is delicious and a really wonderful way to use up cauliflower if you happen to have some lying around.cauliflower curryA few notes:

I used a pretty substantial amount of heavy cream and some butter in this recipe, but it could easily be made vegan by switching to a neutral flavored oil and coconut milk.  The amount of heavy cream can also be tweaked; I used an amount that made it taste super rich and creamy and good, but if you’re trying to go a little bit lighter (since it’s January and all), you could just add another cup of plain yogurt instead of the heavy cream.  It won’t be quite as luxurious, but it will still taste good.  For a lighter vegan version, I would use plain almond milk.

GOBI MUTTER MASALA

Serves: 4-6, depending on portion sizes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek
  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • 1 tbs. ground cumin
  • 2 tbs. paprika
  • 1 tbs. turmeric
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (remove the seeds if you want to keep the dish on the mild side)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 quart crushed tomatoes
  • juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 c. plain yogurt
  • 1  c. heavy cream
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 2 c. frozen peas
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Heat the butter on medium heat in a large pot. Add the dry spices (fenugreek, coriander, cumin, paprika and tumeric) and saute them in the butter for a minute or two. Then, add the garlic, ginger, jalapeno and onion and saute for another few minutes until the onions start to turn translucent. (Add more butter or a little water if the onion/spice mixture gets too dry and starts to stick).
Add the quart of crushed tomatoes, sugar, lemon juice, yogurt and heavy cream and turn the heat to a low simmer.  Cook for ten minutes and then puree with an immersion blender (or whatever you use to puree things in your kitchen).
Add the cauliflower and peas to the tomato sauce, cover the pot, and then simmer for another 20 minutes or so to cook the cauliflower.  Taste and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice as necessary.  At this point the curry is ready to serve, but you can also simmer it on low for a bit longer if you have the time.  (The flavors tend to improve if it sits on the stove for awhile. )
Serve over rice topped with chopped fresh cilantro.

Cranberry Chia Smoothie and a Clean Slate

I’m kind of obsessed with New Year’s Resolutions, this year especially. Let me just say, I am relieved to be done with 2013.  It was really a mess. You know how life tends to go in cycles, with ups and downs, and it’s not always sunshine and flowers?  I thought about that often last year. It’s over though, thank god!

I know not everyone bothers with making resolutions and that they’re kind of made to be broken eventually, but I find it very clarifying to have a clean slate and the opportunity to kind of step back and evaluate what I would like to have happen for that year. I write ridiculously long lists of dreams, plans and ideas, knowing full well that I’m not going to do all of them at all, but usually I end up doing some of them, which is great.  I guess they’re not really “resolutions” in the traditional sense.  Intentions is probably a better word.  Past examples that worked out really well include: “start my own jam business” and “I think we should get 200 chickens.”cranberriesOne of the things I am focusing on right now, at least for the beginning of this year, is to take better care of myself. Meaning, if I’m trying to get my life really on track for where I want to be going, working every moment of every day and drinking 9,000 cups of coffee to get through it is a horrible way to make it happen.  Very little will end up getting accomplished, except being really exhausted and crazy.  It’s funny, because I totally know that already, but sometimes we just need learn things the really hard way, right? (Although… I might say that the thing about learning things the hard way is that the lesson is so painful that I personally will absolutely not be forgetting it any time in the near future). _MG_3970So. For the last few days I’ve been making smoothies for breakfast.  Some resolutions might be difficult to keep, but I think this one is pretty easy.  “Eat a real breakfast with things in it that are actually good for you.”  I’ll sheepishly admit that it’s pretty simple, not exactly rocket science, and I’ve known it for a long time, yet I decided to have coffee for breakfast for most of last year.smoothieHere’s to a happy and healthy 2014!

CRANBERRY CHIA SMOOTHIE

Makes: about 1 quart jar

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. almond milk
  • 2 tbs. chia seeds
  • 1 c. cranberries
  • 2 big kale leaves, stems removed
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 tangerine, peeled
  • optional: 1 tbs. honey or maple syrup

Combine the chia seeds and almond milk and let the seeds soak for atleast 30 minutes. (I do this step the night before so it’s ready to go in the morning).  Once the seeds are soaked, combine the almond milk/chia mixture with the other ingredients and blend until smooth.

Holiday DIY: Gold Leaf Pine Cones

So, I got this idea off of pinterest. I was looking at holiday craft projects and realized that I had been limiting my universe to glitter in the past, and that GOLD LEAF is amazing and I should put it on everything.  I mean, how could you not?gold leaf pine cone centerpieceTechnically, when you’re using gold or silver leaf, you’re supposed to use a special adhesive that is made by the same brand as the gold leaf, but I didn’t have any so I just used Mod Podge.  I bet you could use Elmer’s glue if you wanted and it wouldn’t matter.

Materials:

  • a few pine cones
  • gold leaf (FYI: not real gold leaf, that would cost a million dollars. Fake gold leaf is made of other metals and is much cheaper, about $10 for a big pack. You only need a few sheets for this project, depending on how many pine cones you do)
  • craft glue or gold leaf sizing
  • spray varnish or gold leaf sealer spray

The method is simple:

Paint the outer tips of the pine cones with a thin layer of glue.  Gently place the sheet of gold leaf over the pine cone and it will stick to the glue.  You may have to use a dry paint brush to gently ease the gold leaf onto all of the glued spots.  pine cones step 1Now, wait for the paint to dry.  Use the dry paint brush to brush away all of the excess gold leaf. Take the pine cones outside and spray them with varnish or gold leaf sealer.  You’re supposed to use the gold leaf sealer, but I already had a can of spray varnish for oil paintings which worked just fine. pine cones step 2Once they’re dry, bring them inside and use them for whatever decorating needs you might have.  I originally saw them used as garlands, but I decided that we needed a centerpiece instead, so I put them in a pottery bowl with some fir branches.  gold leaf pine cones DIYI think the finished product looks cute and festive, right? (But really just an excuse to bring more metallics into your life.)

Happy Holidays!