Tuesday, August 10, 2010

things that are red

I finally remembered to buy sour cherries at the market this year (they have a pretty short season) and made some maraschino cherries. I started with the new york times recipe, but I have to admit that I like the sugary sweet store bought version, so I added some sugar to the recipe. I honestly can't remember how much... hopefully I wrote it down someplace. The sour cherries are important because they stay really red and they taste better than a sweet cherry after cooking. Actually the guy in line before me popped one in his mouth raw despite protests from myself and the farmer's market girl... they don't taste so good raw. I think he learned his lesson. I made a whole bunch of extras for christmas gifts- I'm thinking the cherries with a bottle of nice bourbon- sounds perfect to me. But for now I have been making Bourbon Cherry Slushies, more appropriate for the intense Baltimore heat. It's super easy to grind up ice cubes in the food processor for the "slush" bit and well worth the effort, especially when it's hot. The rose is just a shot from my garden.

Bourbon Cherry Slushies

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • a few homemade maraschino cherries
  • a slug of maraschino liquid

Mix in a highball and top with shaved ice. The ice will melt fairly quickly and thin out the bourbon a bit.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

fig caramel upside down cake

I adapted this recipe from one in Rustic Fruit Desserts, a book I highly recommend. It's a small book which generally is unappealing to me in a cookbook-- I don't have the greatest vision I don't need teeny tiny type slowing me down-- but it makes up for it's size with hunger inducing recipes and great pictures. The original recipe called for cherries (which I don't really care for cooked honestly) and I added some buttermilk to the cake, but otherwise pretty much left it be. If you come into some fresh figs- I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Peaches are finally in season and I have a boatload from the co-op. I'm bordering on peach addiction I can't seem to get enough of them. They are also one of the few fruits that I like cooked (along with apples) I prefer most of them raw, especially in the summer. To start I made peach cobbler which is probably one of my top ten favorite desserts. Ok I actually made two of them. And I ate almost all of them myself. Peaches are healthy right? I use the dough from this recipe although for the filling I just use peeled sliced peaches, maybe 2 tbs of sugar, 1 tbs of flour and a little vanilla extract. Then I made another summer favorite, peach and bacon pizza. I nearly always have some bread dough kicking around in the fridge so I made my crust with some wheat sandwich bread which was actually pretty tasty. I spread the crust with marscapone that had been mixed with salt and pepper and some asiago-- I usually use blue cheese but I didn't have any. Then add sliced peaches, sweet onions and chopped bacon and cook. I use nice thick bacon so I cook it most of the way first- if you used prosciutto or something thinner you could throw it on raw. Now, before you tell me that putting peaches on pizza are weird... let me remind you that tomato is a fruit as well. And besides it's delicious. My next favorite summery peach treat is hot dogs with peach chutney. I am a big fan of the savory/sweet combo and this is just the best. I serve on top of warm brie as well and it is divine. The hot dogs are made of bison and from the co-op as well- they may well be the best ones I've had.

Peach Chutney

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 3-4 cloves minced garlic (use coarse sea salt to help break it up)
  • 1 smallish onion diced
  • 1-2 hot pepper diced (I use a strange hybrid pepper that I accidentally made in my garden, apparently this happens if you grow two peppers close together)
  • 4-5 peaches, less if they are giant
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Dunk the peaches in boiling water for a few minutes so that their skins peel off easily. Pit and dice the peeled peaches. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add onion and peppers and sweat for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute or so. Add peaches and cook another 2 minutes. add sugar and stir in then add whiskey and vinegar. There will be a fair amount of liquid at this point continue cooking on medium heat until the liquid has reduced and it is thick like a chutney around 30-40 minutes. As the liquid reduces you will have to stir more often to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The peaches will break down quite a bit, but you should still have some chunks. Will keep for weeks in the refrigerator or I often properly can it as well.

from the earth

this is the first year that I have grown both potatoes and radishes-- both in pots. They both did better than expected. I love the way they look when they first come out of the ground.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sunday, May 30, 2010

st. louis

Went to St. Louis this weekend for my cousin's wedding-- I had never been before. I felt strangely compelled to dance around and sing Judy Garland songs. Of course I had to take pictures of the mud from the Mississippi caked on the steps, and hopefully my grandma won't mind that I posted a picture of her on the internet- I love it and she was very excited to see the "mighty mississippi." The house second from the bottom stars prominently in a musical my sister and I decided should be written in our honor. It was probably only funny at the time in retrospect...

Monday, May 24, 2010

havre de grace

Took a little day trip up to Havre de Grace this weekend because I had to return my students portfolios and I figured that if I had to drive way up there anyway I should at least do something fun on the way. Turns out it was a good idea-- Havre de Grace is way cuter than I realized. In fact I think I want to go back and check out some of the stuff we missed. There is a grist mill in the park that still operates and they give you fresh ground cornmeal when you visit! Next time. Lighthouse and park (where all the birds were), Bomboy's Handmade Candy (worth the drive right here)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

asparagus ramp pizza

It still makes me giggle a little that ramps have become so gourmet of late. When I was a kid they were straight up hillbilly food. Schools in western maryland actually forbid students from coming in during ramp season because they all stunk like garlic. Because of that I honestly didn't start eating them until I was an adult. (They don't make you smell unless you eat a whole lot of them...) This is a cheddar cheese pizza dough with homemade ricotta, asparagus, ramps and fried eggs. (well I guess they are baked technically)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

urban garden party VII

What garden party is complete without croquet? Mine was a vintage table top version found on ebay. The cookies are italian ciambelle made with white wine, olive oil and lavender.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

urban garden party VI

Strawberry Basil Rose Trifles- Strawberry and rose is a classic combination and was kind of my starting point for this whole concept. I was originally thinking shortcake, but trifle seemed more elegant and appropriate. I made them individual to stick with the idea of finger foods and they looked beautiful in these vintage green ice cream dishes that my mother gave me years ago. I made the pound cake from my favorite recipe (Nick Malgeri High Ratio Pound Cake) but you could purchase one to make this easier. Strawberries were macerated with sugar and rosewater, and I used a basil infused simple syrup and sherry to moisten the cake. (I also tried a version with Campari and orange flower water, but didn't like it as much) I used my fake whipped cream, but obviously regular whipped cream would work just fine. Just layer strawberries, cream, cake, then syrup and repeat until you reach the top. I like to let them sit for a bit so that all the flavors meld.

Rose Punch- As I mentioned in the first post this is the recipe that started it all. I've been eying it since childhood. but had never made it before. The centerpiece is an ice ring embedded with roses- I am afraid it didn't come out that well in the photos what with ice being super reflective. The tween inside me was really happy with this though. The adult was happy with the booze. Punches have been out of fashion for so long and they really are pretty good idea for a party. In fact I always pre mix drinks for parties, so I guess I have been making punch all along. I didn't actually use the punch recipe that came with the ice ring because I thought it was a bit boring. Instead I used rose sparkling wine, (punch should always sparkle in my opinion) rose infused vodka, simple syrup and some cranberry juice. It is served in my pretty milk glass punch bowl that I got for a steal on ebay. I used champagne coupes instead of the little punch cups because I thought they looked more elegant and were more appropriately sized for floating a rose in. These roses were all from my garden (and not treated with chemicals) but if you bought them and were trying to conserve you could do a petal instead.

Rose Crackle Cookies- Found these on the web and added more rosewater and a little pink food coloring. I also used rose sugar (rosebuds left sitting in sugar, much like vanilla sugar then ground up in a food processor) on the outsides. They were a pretty good old fashioned cookie, although the rose flavor was far more subtle than I would have liked.

I don't have credit information on the drawing, but it is from the Life photo archive.

Flowers are roses from my garden and indian strawberries.

urban garden party V

Dayliliy and Mulberry Pavlovas- since I had already used some daylily tubers I wanted to throw some flowers in there too. (most recipes I found were for the flowers) I honestly used them more for color than flavor, I can't really say they added much flavor-wise, but they looked stunning. The mulberries were collected from a tree in my alley and are truly one of my favorite spring treats. They grow all over the city and a surprising number of people are unaware of their charms. The berries start out white and turn from red to almost black as they ripen. Supposedly the white ones will make you sick, but I suspect that is an old wives tale they just don't taste very good. I like them still on the red side- they are a bit tarter that way. They also feature into the story of Tristan and Iseult-- the original star-crossed lovers. Something about the white berries being turned red with blood. I can't seem to find anything helpful about it online. My Antonia, by Willa Cather also uses them for the star crossed lover metaphor I seem to recall... I made individual pavlova shells and piped them with a star tip to make them a bit fancier. I used coconut cream, but whipped cream would have worked just as well. I think the most important thing is to make them a bit in advance so that the cream has time to soak into the meringue and soften it up a little. I did not add any sugar to the berries as they were already quite sweet, but if you were using store bought berries I probably would. They are displayed on a chunk of birch bark that is resting atop a small cake stand.

Chicory Dandelion Coffee- This is another thing I have been meaning to make since I was a child. I remember my mother's confusion when I told her I wanted to roast dandelion roots and make coffee... umm why? I was a strange child. If you have ever been to New Orleans you have probably had Chicory Root mixed into your coffee, it's fairly standard practice there. I combined the two because honestly I couldn't gather enough of each to not combine them. Just gather the largest roots you can find, wash and dry them, cut them into smaller evenly sized pieces and roast in an oven at low heat. Mine never got super dark but were clearly dried out and reduced in size. Then grind them in a coffee grinder and prepare in a french press. The dried roots smell amazing- almost chocolately, but the tea you make from them is quite bitter like coffee. I thought it tasted great although if you are expecting it to taste exactly like coffee you will be disappointed. I used some teacups from my collection- I went through a strange phase of collecting small single tea cups as a teenager. Yeah... I was a weird child.

Chicory Tea Cakes- This may be my favorite recipe of all the garden party recipes. I knew I wanted a tea cake to follow with my evolving British theme and I was stumped for days about how to do something more interesting than just sticking a flower on top. Then somehow this came to me. I used my leftover ground chicory root and substituted it for the matcha in Nick Malgeri's Green Tea Pound Cake. I actually added about 4 tbs. which is twice what he calls for as matcha has a stronger flavor. I also added a simple glaze of confectioner's sugar and water which was key I think- they were a little too dry without it. (And I am not generally pro-glaze I only added it to begin with because I thought it looked pretty) The tops are garnished with chicory flowers-- also edible. They were so tasty. The chicory/ dandelion root adds a subtle bitterness that makes the cakes so complex. I will definitely make this again. The platter is another piece of bark that sanded and waxed (so happy with these platters) and the little doilies are made like paper snowflakes. I wanted some kind of 'modern doily' for this party because it went with my theme and because the cakes were too close in color to the platter. I initially was going to machine embroider some but I ran out of time so I came up with this as a backup. It was super easy and fast and I think they look adorable. Here are the basics if you didn't do this ad nauseum as a child. Just round off the edges of your snowflake and you are good to go.

Flowers are milkweed, (which is surprisingly beautiful up close) feverfew and alliums.

Friday, May 7, 2010

urban garden party IV

Tea sandwiches- These seemed key for a proper garden party, so I started with a simple radish and butter tea sandwich, partially because radish is springy, partially because I intensely love these little sandwiches. It's on a rustic wheat bread that I made (crusts intact) simply covered with farmer's market butter, french breakfast radishes from my garden, scallions and a bit of sea salt. The french breakfast radish is long and skinny and I like the way the little slices look almost like petals. I threw in some strawberry blossoms just in case the radish petals weren't floral enough though. The orange colored sandwiches are inspired by another recipe out of Martha's hors d'oeuvres handbook. It's just carrots cooked until soft mashed with cumin and orange flower water. (Martha's used broth) I garnished them with an almond for some crunch and salt. The radish sandwiches are on one of the two wooden plates that I made for this party- they are another sculpture building castoff. It's a giant piece of bark from a huge stump that someone discarded that I sanded and sanded until smooth on the inside and then finished with carnuba wax. I left the bark side natural. I absolutely love the way they turned out!

Pansy cookies- I actually found several recipes for these-- you could use any favorite sugar cookie recipe really. You bake it about halfway then take it out of the oven, brush with egg white, lightly lay down the pansy, (they sort of stick to the warm cookie) brush on a little more white and then dust with sugar. They look adorable and aren't really much more trouble than regular sugar cookies.

May Wine Syllabub in tulip cups- this is another crabtree & evelyn inspired dessert-- there is a recipe for may wine, a traditional german may day drink. It is basically wine infused with sweet woodruff, a sweet little shade loving plant that pops up in early spring. There is often a strawberry or raspberry floated in the drink as well-- which is why I decided to incorporate rhubarb as well. Rhubarb is the quintessential spring flavor for me. Rather than make the traditional drink I used my sweet woodruff infused wine and rhubarb syrup to make a traditional British syllabub. A syllabub is essentially sweetened whipped cream with wine or liquor so it seemed like the perfect translation. I used real cream, in spite of my lactose issues because it really needs to be whipped, mixed with the rhubarb syrup for sweetness and then added the infused wine. (add a few tender sprigs of sweet woodruff to some white wine a few days in advance and allow to steep) The result was delicately pink and delicious although a little thinner than I would have liked, I think I could have whipped it a bit longer. I did actually purchase these tulips because mine were spent after a particularly hot april. I removed the stamens and piped in the syllabub for a beautiful little (edible) vessel. I put a little spring of the sweet woodruff on each as well. The tulips are resting on a curved piece of stainless steel that was another of my sculpture building finds.

Flowers are hydrangeas, lavender, wild indian strawberries and some pink weeds I found.