Thursday, August 25, 2011

Food Swap Recap - August

This past Sunday marked the latest From Scratch Club food swap. Held at All Good Bakers, I was impressed with the diverse crowd! Lots of new faces ready to roll up their sleeves and get swappin'. I brought some herbed salt in cute wire-latch jars, some carrots from my garden picked just an hour earlier, and some flowers from around the farm.

I spy Becky of The Mixing Bowl Diary, Sarah from Farmie Market, and Chris with From Scratch Club in this picture.

Turns out nobody wanted my carrots (suckers! I ate them myself and they were dee-licious). In exchange for my four pots of herbed salt, I received a batch of rosemary flatbread (which I'm eating right now with some tasty hummus), a jar of local honey from Wind Women Farm, some amazing, perfectly seasoned salsa, and a jar of chile, cayenne, and brown sugar mustard (from Ms. Chris herself). I also won a brick of cultured thyme butter handmade by Nick and Britin of All Good Bakers. I've yet to really enjoy it, considering how much I lurve butter. My flowers were given to Chris and Christine as a thanks for organizing the event. I picked two bouquets: The "pink" bouquet had zinnias, cosmos, and holly hock; the "orange" bouquet had marigolds, zinnias, sunflowers, and chinese lanterns. Chris generously gave me a half-pint of onions pickled with apple cider vinegar, thyme, and brown sugar in return. I made out like a bandit!

We will be holding another swap in September (as well as some fun special events with author Kate Payne!), so check out the From Scratch Club blog or Facebook page for more information. I hope to see you there!

Herbed Salt

Get ready for one of the easiest, most useful recipes ev-ah. Herbed salt takes less than 5 minutes to make, but has myriad applications. Try a little on homemade french fries or potato chips. Or try a lot, a la salt-crusted fish. It's a simple touch that makes the dish just a smidge more special. It's also a great way to use up an overflow of garden herbs. I recently brought this to a From Scratch Club food swap and people clamoured for it!

Have any other suggestions for herbed salt use? I'd love to hear!

Herbed Salt
Makes Approximately 2 Cups

2 cups Kosher salt
1/2 cup finely chopped herbs

1. Wash and thoroughly dry your herbs (you can use any herbs you like - I went Provençal and used thyme, rosemary, tarragon and sage). Finely chop herbs.

2. Combine herbs and salt together. Store in an airtight container (you can use immediately, but I like to let it sit for a day or two to let the flavors marry). Keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Peach Pie

My dad's birthday was last week, and given the choice between peach pie and his favorite cake (a chocolate mayonnaise cake - don't knock it until you try it), he'll usually choose peach pie. How appropriate, then, that peaches in the Northeast hit their peak right around his birthday! While I'm still dabbling in perfecting my peach pie recipe, here's the recipe I'm currently using (if you have a great recipe or some tips, please share them in the comments! I'd love to hear). It's a great way to wrap up this week's Peach-Palooza.

Peach Pie
Makes one 9" pie

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shortening
8-10 tablespoons ice water

1. Combine flour and salt. Add shortening and cut it into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse cornmeal or small peas.

2. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is able to form and hold a ball.

3. Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll onto a well-floured surface. Makes enough for a double-crust pie.

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 cups thinly-sliced, peeled peaches (fresh or frozen - do not thaw frozen peaches)
1 egg, separated
1 tablespoon milk or cream

1. Preheat over to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, mix together sugar, tapioca, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add peaches and stir to cover the peaches with the sugar mixture. Let stand for 20 minutes.

2. On a well-floured surface, roll out one-half of the pie crust dough to form an 11" circle. Transfer the dough to a 9" pie plate (either by gently rolling it back on to a rolling pin or by folding into quarters). Mold the dough to fit the pie plate and leave an overhang of dough. Prick a few holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork. Brush the bottom of the crust with the egg white. Roll out the second half of the dough (in the same manner as the first) and have it ready to cover the filling.

3. Once the filling is ready, add it all at once to the prepared pie plate. Cover the filling with the second half of the pie dough. Crimp the edges of the top and bottom crusts together. Cut three or four small slits in the  top crust to allow steam to escape.

4. Mix together the egg yolk and milk. Brush over the top of the pie, and sprinkle with sugar (optional). Cover the edges of the pie crust with strips of aluminum foil. Place pie on a baking sheet.

5. Place pie in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove foil from pie and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake for an additional 30 minutes or until pie filling bubbles and the crust is golden. Cool on a wire rack.

This recipe is adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook (an essential for every kitchen).


PS- I'm thinking of doing a entire series of pie tutorials. Is that something you would be interested in reading? Let me know in the comments, and in the meantime, here are a few pictures of my Dad :-)

Camping this year at Belvedere Lake

Last fall

My favorite picture of my dad and I

Blowing out his birthday pie candle with help from Edie

Thursday, August 18, 2011

SWILLED: Peach Cocktails

Today's peach-fix comes in the form of a summery libation (or two). Peaches are surprisingly versatile when it comes to cocktails and work well with several types of alcohol and mixers. I'm over at From Scratch Club today talking about two peach cocktails (and a mocktail substitute), the Positano Peach and the Sweet Savannah Sipper. Make them tonight to help kick-off your Thirsty Thursday and prepare for the weekend!

PS - Eric really liked the non-alcoholic version of the Sweet Savannah Sipper, and here's proof (he just learned "Cheers!" too, so he likes to clink glasses with Dave :-)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Peach Fruit Leather

Peach Week goes nostalgic today, with a take on old-school Fruit Roll-Ups. In efforts to "adultify" this a bit, let's call it Fruit Leather, instead. Most recipes you find will tell you that fruit leather requires a dehydrator, but I'm going to debunk that myth. You can most definitely make fruit leather in your standard old oven. Any fruit can be used to make fruit leather, but "firmer" fruits (like apples and pears) might require a bit of water to "loosen" the puree up.


Peach Fruit Leather
Makes Eight Large Strips

4 cups peaches (skinned, pitted and diced)
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1. In a blender, puree all ingredients together until smooth (if the puree is a bit thick, add some water to thin it out).

2. Line a jelly roll pan with waxed paper or a Silpat and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Preheat oven to 175 degree Fahernheit (if it doesn't go that low, heat to the lowest setting).

3. Spread the puree onto the prepared pan and spread out into a thin layer. Bake in the oven for 6-8 hours (or longer if necessary - a humid day might cause this to take longer). The fruit leather is "done" when it easily pulls off of the waxed paper or Silpat and stays together (with the pliability of actual leather).

4. Fruit leather can be wrapped in waxed paper and stored in the refrigerator for up to two months. This makes a great treat for lunches (especially with Back-to-School coming up!) and doesn't have any of the nasty chemicals or preservatives of conventional Fruit Roll-Ups. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Peach BBQ Sauce

Someone said to me recently, "That's BBQ sauce? It looks so light!" And it's true. When most people hear "BBQ sauce," they expect a ruddy red condiment with a tomato tang. But not this recipe. There is no tomato at all here! Just peaches and lots of yummy spices, essentially. The acidity that is typically found in tomatoes is presented by other ingredients. This peach BBQ sauce has a fiery kick to it, so don't be mislead by the pale color - this sauce has strong enough "legs" to stand up to most BBQ applications (though my kids like it on chicken nuggets).  I paired mine with wood-grilled baby back ribs. Have fun with this, and if you make it, report back to me on what you paired it with!

Peach BBQ Sauce
Makes Roughly 3 Pints

3/4 cup red onion (about one medium), diced
2 jalapeño peppers, minced with seeds*
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups peaches, skins removed, diced

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon whiskey

1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, peppers, and garlic into the pot and sprinkle with the salt. Sweat until the onions turn translucent (reduce the heat if needed to avoid burning the garlic).

2. Reduce heat to medium and add the peaches. Use a wooden spoon to break the peaches down. Add vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and vinegar and bring to a simmer.

3. Add the brown sugar, Dijon mustard, black pepper and cloves. Simmer until slightly thickened and stir often (about 15 minutes). Add the whiskey and cook for two additional minutes. Remove from heat.

4. Ladle one-quarter of the sauce into a blender and puree (be careful of steam!). Or use a stick immersion blender to puree in the pot. This sauce can be hot water bath canned, frozen, or kept in the refrigerator for one month. Enjoy!

*If two jalapeños seems to spicy for your taste, you can reduce to one pepper, with seeds, or completely eliminate the seeds altogether (the seeds are the hottest part of the pepper).

Monday, August 15, 2011

How to Remove Peach Skins

Peaches are fuzzy little buggers. Unlike their cousin, the nectarine, peach skins are not universally accepted in all recipes. For pies, crumbles, and other dessert-y applications, you will want to remove the skin. The best (most sane) method for doing this is blanching.

So, the first step is to select your peach. If you are picking peaches yourself, choose peaches that have a nice golden color with a "blush" on them (the blush is the pinky part). Peaches will ripen off the tree, so don't hesitate to pick "hard" fruit as long as it isn't green. If purchasing peaches that have already been picked, choose a peach that gives slightly to gentle pressure.

To begin blanching, bring a large pot of water to a boil. While waiting for the boil, make an ice bath (cold water and ice) in a large bowl. If your peaches are ripe to slightly over-ripe, go ahead and dunk them into the boiling water for about a minute or so (don't overcrowd them). Remove the peaches from the water and dunk them in the ice bath. Let them chill for about 30 seconds. If your peaches are still a little firm, make a small X-shaped slit in the bottom of each peach before you blanch them. This will help to loosen the skin.

Remove your peaches from the ice bath and rub them between your hands. This loosens the skin, and you should be able to slip the skins right off. If the skin is still stubborn, it's okay to re-blanch them. Discard of skins.

Pitting the peaches is the next step. Peaches that are ripe have a natural groove that runs vertically around the peach starting at the stem end. If you can find this, simply slip your thumb into that groove and run it along the pit. The first half of the peach should slide right off. Wedge the pit out of the second half and discard the pit (or try growing a tree!). If you can't find this, run a paring knife along the pit vertically around the whole peach (that is, starting and ending at the stem). Most of the time, you'll end up with two perfect peach halves. The rest of the time, you'll end up with mutilated parts of a peach. In this instance, puree up the pulverized peaches and make a lovely Bellini, some fruit leather, or cook up some jam. Because of this, I recommend buying slightly more peaches than you think you'll need :-)

It's Peach Week!

Peaches are in season here in Upstate New York (yep, peaches grow up here!) and so I thought I'd dedicate a whole week to the lovely fruit. I recently picked two bushels (about 65 pounds) of peaches with some friends with From Scratch Club. Since then, it's been peach-mania here on the farm. From jams to pies to cocktails, the peach has been the shining star of the kitchen. I'll be sharing some recipes and tips with you here this week, and I hope you'll enjoy some of them and report back on what you think! Are you a peach fan? Do they grow where you live? PS - Peaches kind of have a nostaglic touch for me. The restaurant/cafe I worked at in college was called Peaches, and it's where I met Dave (he was a patron and I was his waitress :-).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dessert Pizza

Everyone loves pizza, right? RIGHT?! I certainly do. I also love sweets. So, put "pizza" and "sweet" together and you get the perfect meal: Dessert Pizza. I posted the how-to on this delicious dish over at From Scratch Club. Check it out if you get the chance. Nectarines and black raspberries not your thing? Here are some other Dessert Pizza suggestions:

- Raspberry jam, mixed berries, drizzle of chocolate

- White chocolate, strawberries, chopped pecans

- Lemon curd, candied citrus peel, mint leaves

Enjoy, and for more of my From Scratch Club posts, click here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Queen Anne's Lace Jelly

Sometimes when I make a recipe, I can't help but wonder who thought of that? Who decided to try these ingredients, and how many did they try before they found the right one? This notion ran through my mind often while making Queen Anne's Lace Jelly. Seriously, who was the first person to walk through a field, gather an armful of the flower and think hey! I bet that would make a tasty spread. Let's cook it up and see what happens! I think of things like this a lot (blame the history buff inside me - I keep a journal of ideas for history books I intend to write one day, and subjects like culinary history are front runners). Of course I had to turn to Dr. Google for such answers. Here is what I found:

- Queen Anne's Lace is the progenitor of modern carrots. In fact, it is know as "wild carrot" (and if you dig it up and crush the roots, it smells like carrots)

- The flowering period for Queen Anne's Lace (in the Northeast) is typically June through August

- Queen Anne's Lace has medicinal qualities, much like many other herbs and wildflowers. It is thought that the plant can act as a diuretic, sooth the digestive tract, support the liver and aid in waste removal by the kidneys. It also aids in the treatment of dropsy/edema

- The leaves of Queen Anne's Lace (as with modern carrots) contains a high level of porphyrins, a hormone that stimulates the pituitary gland and can increase sex drive (bonus!)

- There is conflicting evidence on the effect Queen Anne's Lace has on fertility (depending on what part of the plant is used). While some claim it can increase fertility, others claim it acts as a contraceptive, and can even cause miscarriage. If you are preggers, I recommend you stay away, as with most other herbs

- Queen Anne's Lace is a dead ringer for Hemlock (yep, like the kind that killed Socrates). Be extremely careful when harvesting the flower to make sure you have the right one. The easiest way to differentiate the flowers is that Queen Anne's Lace has a "hairy" stem, while Hemlock has a smooth stem

- The source of the name is disputed, but many stories point to Royal fashions, the Patron Saint of lacemakers (St. Anne), and several instances related to Queen Anne of England/Denmark

For more information on Queen Anne's Lace and to see pictures, please visit The Carrot Museum

So, back to the jelly - Queen Anne's Lace Jelly isn't what I would refer to as a Peanut Butter and Jelly staple (like Strawberry Jam is), but more an accompaniment to a lovely cheese plate (alongside a nice creamy brie, candied nuts, and buttery crackers). Like other flowers jellies (lavender, rose, etc) it has a very herbaceous, medicinal taste. The only way to know if you like it is to try it, so here's the recipe, have at it!


Queen Anne's Lace Jelly
Makes Approximately 2 Pints

18 fresh, large Queen Anne's Lace flower heads*
4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 cups sugar
2 packages powdered pectin
3 drops natural red food coloring, if desired

1. Fill the sink or a large bowl with cold water. Submerge flower heads in the water and slosh around to remove any insects. Drain flowers.

2. Place the flowers in a large pot** and cover with boiling water. Cover and let sit for several hours or overnight. Essentially, you are making a very strong, stinky Queen Anne's Lace tea.

3. Strain the cooled "tea" through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Save the tea, discard the flowers.

4. Rinse your pot and add the tea back in. Heat over a medium-high flame. Add the lemon juice, sugar and pectin. Stir to dissolve and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute, then reduce heat to medium. Stir frequently and be sure to scrap the bottom of the pan to prevent burning. Cook for 8-10 minutes until thickened (a good "set" test is to place a plate in the freezer for 15 minutes. Drop a small spoonful of the jelly onto the cold plate. After 30 seconds, the jelly should form a soft set and not run).

5. If you wish, add food coloring to the jelly to give it a peachy-pink color. Otherwise, the jelly with be a very light chartreuse color.

6. Pour jelly into sterilized mason jars or other storage container. Keep in the refrigerator or process in a hot water bath for five minutes. Enjoy!

*You can definitely pick Queen Anne's Lace from fields and pastures (like I did), but pick several feet away from the road to be sure the flowers aren't contaminated with pesticides or road grime. Queen Anne's Lace can also be found at the Farmers Market.

**When making a floral or herbal jelly, be sure to cook in a ceramic or stainless steel pot. Cooper or aluminum pans can chemically alter the properties of the flowers/herbs.