Saturday, October 29, 2011

Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

Roasting pumpkin seeds after carving pumpkins is a time-honored tradition. I love carving pumpkins, but I've never really loved eating the seeds... until now. This recipe is adapted from David Leite's wonderful cookbook, The New Portuguese Table. You can use the seeds from any kind of winter squash.

2 cups pumpkin seeds
1 egg white
2 t. red chile or hot paprika
1/8 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
2 T. sugar

Heat oven to 300F. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Remove the seeds from the pumpkin and rinse them. Whisk the egg white in a bowl until very foamy. Add sugar, salt, spices and pumpkin seeds. Mix thoroughly. Lift the seeds out with a slotted spoon, allowing them to drain a bit. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast, tossing occasionally, until crisp and slightly browned, about 25 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chimayo Cocktail

As Eric Felten says, this is one of the few great cocktails that can be made with tequila, besides a margarita. In his fascinating column called "How's Your Drink?" in the Wall Street Journal, he once mentioned this gem, invented at Rancho de Chimayo in northern New Mexico. He raved about it, even going out of his way to visit Chimayo every time he's in NM.

The ingredients are: tequila, lime or lemon juice, unfiltered apple cider, and creme de cassis. But the key here is to use really good apple cider, and really good creme de cassis.

2 ounces tequila
1 ounce unfiltered apple cider
1/2 ounce creme de cassis
1/4 ounce lemon or lime juice

With high hopes, we made this drink the first time a few years ago with the cheap creme de cassis that everybody buys. And we were a little disappointed. The combination of Dixon's apple cider and tequila was pretty great, but the cassis kind of ruined the taste, and gave it a weird purplish hue.

This year we got some great apple cider from Manzano Mountain Retreat, and because we revere Eric Felten, we knew we had to try again with the Chimayo cocktail.  We finally bought some fancy French cassis for twice the price of the cheap stuff. And wow! Huge difference.

The good cassis has a wonderful, winey, fruity flavor and gives the drink a gorgeous red color. All of a suddent, I get it.  And I'll be looking for all kinds of ways to use cassis now! Wonder if we could make our own... I saw black currants for sale at the growers' market this summer.

The Garden Journal - July, September, October

Wow, August and September slipped away so fast! My favorite months of the whole year, but I was working too much and barely had time to look at the garden. This wasn't the best year for our garden - less than 3 inches of rain since January, and temperatures consistently over 90 degrees (although we had fewer days over 100). And after our first rain of the year, we were so excited we turned the drip system off, and forgot to turn it back on for a week. I'm amazed everything didn't actually die.

These photos are from July 27, and there's another set below from September 22, but I didn't have time to write about them then. We got just a few strawberries from the plant in a pot on the porch in July, but it hasn't done much since.

One of the coolest bugs I've ever seen! I think the pattern on its back looks like a printed circuit board. I spent an hour searching Google to figure out what it was - a Calligrapha beetle.

It laid these pretty pink eggs, which hatched into amazingly cute fuzzy larvae, then finally became these gorgeous beetles! It really only chewed on the hollyhocks, which can probably handle it - they are tough as nails.

The potatoes bloomed, which means the new potatoes are ready.  They will continue to grow bigger until the plant dies in the fall. These are volunteers from last year's sowing of Yellow Finns. Next year we'll have to plant potatoes in a sunnier spot, because the tubers never grew very big. I never thought to grow potatoes before, because they're so cheap in the store, but it turns out there are tons of cool varieties, and the difference in flavor is so amazing that it's really worth it!

The first tomato to ripen after the Sungolds was this cute little Stupice. It has continued to produce pretty well since July, but I can't say the flavor is spectacular.

The mystery squash grows bigger and its stripes get darker. It turned out to be a kabocha (Japanese pumpkin) - hooray!

The sunflowers volunteer year after year, seeds from a red variety we planted years ago. The lavender is blooming, and there's a little brown praying mantis on one stalk in the back in this photo.

 Aloysius likes to watch from the window.

A tiny watermelon and a tiny cantaloupe. The canteloupe got ripe, then split and rotted before I noticed it in August. The watermelon grew to about volleyball-size and we ate it in September.

September 22 - The cabbages I planted in April are finally starting to head up, but I don't have much hope for them - too many aphids and cabbage loopers.

The artichokes completely died back in August and September - we thought they were dead, but after the rains cooled the weather down a bit, they suddenly sprouted up again!

 I planted some broccoli and cabbage starts at the beginning of September and they are doing pretty well.

The Hopi squash grew absolutely huge - probably 20 feet in either direction. It climbed up the cholla and grew a pumpkin so heavy it took the cholla down! Then it went up the bean trellises and took those down too. We're still waiting for the stems to turn corky, which is how you tell a winter squash is ripe.

We got just one or two apples from the Cort Pendu Plat, none from the Arkansas Black. The deep freeze last winter must have killed the blossoms, just like on the plum tree. Let's hope we don't have another one of those this winter!

And finally, the sad story of the tomatoes. We were so excited to get all that alpaca poop, and we mixed lots of it into the tomato beds... which turned out to be way too much nitrogen for them, so they grew big and green, but didn't set much fruit. What fruit they did set, took forever to ripen. The marigolds sure look great though, don't they? We finally got a few ripe tomatoes off each plant this week, and now that it's mid-October it's too late set any more fruit. Sigh! Live and learn.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Roasted Tomato Sauce

I love to make this sauce in the fall when we have an overabundance of garden-ripe tomatoes and I want the heat from the oven to warm the house up a bit (we have a really old oven that just radiates heat, inefficient but charming). Unfortunately I don't actually have an overabundance this year - I put too much nitrogen-rich manure on my tomato beds, so they grew huge and leafy but didn't produce much fruit. Live and learn. So I used some Speckled Romans, my favorite paste tomato, from Amyo Farms. They have an intense flavor that is richer than any other Roma type I've tried.

This recipe is from an issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine several years ago, and it's a winner. Carrots make it extra-healthy and add a soft, mellow flavor. Roasting the vegetables brings out extra sweetness and depth of flavor. Roma-type (paste) tomatoes are usually best for sauce, because they have a drier texture and there's not so much juice to cook off, but any kind works well here because the carrots add body to the sauce. 

3 pounds ripe tomatoes
1/2 pound carrots
1 medium-large onion
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 t. dried thyme or several sprigs of fresh herbs
2 T. olive oil
1/2 t. salt
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425F. Cut the tomatoes in half (or quarters if you're using really big tomatoes). Slice the carrots and onions about 1/4 inch thick. Toss with the whole garlic cloves and herbs in olive oil on a large baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast about 1 hour - be sure to check several times in the last half hour and move veggies from the outside of the tray to the center as they begin to brown. Remove from oven, let cool a few minutes, and remove tomato skins with tongs or your fingers. Transfer the veggies with their juice to a blender and puree until smooth. Cool completely and refrigerate. Serves 4, with pasta.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ginger-Lime Pear Marmalade

Another pear recipe that's perfect for underripe pears. Their crunchy texture, once cooked, gives a nice chewy bite to this marmalade. The natural pectin in the pears and citrus rinds makes it gel beautifully without added pectin.

I've always liked the combination of pear and lime - there's something delicately floral about both of them, and they work perfectly together. And of course ginger is a shoo-in (don't you just love that word?)

The recipe comes from the awesome new Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, so it is safe for canning (it's easier than you think!) and makes 4 half-pint jars. If you don't want to go to the trouble, you can always just refrigerate the jars. But they start to fill up the fridge and you can only eat so much jam, so I say go for it! You will need a jar lifter, though. I've made do with rubber-grip tongs, but that wasn't exactly safe. I've seen canning kits all over the place this time of year, at Lowe's hardware, at Ace, at K-Mart... and the jars are sold at grocery stores, but they don't always have the tools.

3 limes
8 cups thinly sliced, cored, firm pears
4 cups granulated sugar
3 Tbs chopped crystallized ginger
1 1/4 cups water

Remove peel from limes using a vegetable peeler, then slice into very thin strips. Juice the limes, and add to a stainless steel saucepan with the pears, sugar and ginger. Stir well to combine. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

If you wish to can the marmalade, set a large pot of water on to boil (for a small batch like this, a 6-quart stockpot will do). Wash the jars thoroughly and set them in the pot to warm. Set a skillet of water on low heat to warm the lids (you don't need to warm the rings).

In a small stainless steel saucepan, combine the water and lime peel. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook about 15 minutes, or until the peel is very tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Drain liquid into pear mixture.

Bring pear mixture to a full rolling boil over high heat, and boil hard for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add peel and boil until mixture gels, about 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and test gel.

This is the part I've always had trouble with - I can never tell if it "sheets" off the spoon and I'm never quite organized enough to chill saucers in the freezer for the other test. This book has a great explanation for testing by temperature! 
"Cook the soft spread until it reaches a temperature of... 8ºF (4ºC) above the boiling point of water.... At or below 1,000 feet (305m) above sea level, water boils at 212ºF (100ºC). At higher altitudes, subtract 2ºF (1ºC) for each added 1,000ft (305m) of elevation."
So... at 5,000ft elevation here in Albuquerque, we subtract 10ºF, and water boils at 192ºF. So my spread would be done when the temperature reaches 200ºF.

Once the proper temperature has been reached, skim off any foam. Remove your jars from the pot using your jar lifter, and pour the water out of them. Ladle the marmalade into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles by sliding a knife gently down the sides of the jar. Wipe the rim with a clean, damp cloth or paper towel. Use tongs to lift the lids out of the skillet. Center lid on jar, and screw band down over it to fingertip-tight.

Place jars in the boiling water bath, making sure that they are covered by at least an inch of water. Boil for 10 minutes if you're at sea level, 20 minutes in Albuquerque, 25 minutes in Santa Fe, or 30 minutes in Taos. (You must add 5 minutes for 1000-3000 feet of elevation, 10 minutes for 3000-6000ft, 15 minutes for 6000-8000ft and 20 minutes for 8000-10,000ft.) Turn off the heat, let the jars rest in the bath 5 minutes, then pull them out without tilting them - don't worry about water on the tops, it will just evaporate as they cool. Set them on a dishtowel on the counter and let them sit undisturbed for 24 hours. They will be shelf-stable for at least 6 months.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sweet Potato and Fontina Pizza with Shishito or Padron Peppers

This pizza combines two great tastes of fall - sweet potatoes and Shishito peppers (or similar Padron peppers). If you haven't tried these incredibly tasty little frying peppers yet this summer, now's the time to get some before they're gone. Both Shishitos and Padrons have an intense flavor and are generally not hot, but every once in a while you get a humdinger! They're generally fried whole in olive oil and sprinkled with a little sea salt as an appetizer. I saw the first sweet potatoes of the fall this month at the growers' market - I bought an absolutely enormous orange one about 5 inches in diameter, and a few slender magenta colored ones. Fontina makes this pizza really special - it's a soft cheese that melts like Mozzarella, but with a funkier flavor. There are many types, from milder Danish varieties to sharper aged French or Italian varieties, so if you can, taste a few to see what you like. For the crust, try a dough ball from Il Vicino or Whole Foods (they even have whole grain.)

1 premade pizza crust
1 medium sweet potato
Big handful of Shishito or Padron peppers
1 T. olive oil
1/4 t. salt
1 large clove garlic, minced
4 oz. Fontina

Preheat oven to 450. Stretch or roll out the pizza dough to fit a 12-inch pan (I like thin crust, so I just use half of one dough ball from Whole Foods.) Slice the sweet potatoes about 1/4 inch thick, then steam or microwave them for a few minutes until they are just barely tender. Slice peppers lengthwise, removing the stems. Toss with olive oil, salt, garlic and sweet potatoes. Distribute vegetables evenly over the crust and dot with slices of fontina. Bake until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is browned at edges, about 20 minutes. Serves 2.