Valentine’s Day – 2014

We celebrated Valentine’s this year with a wonderful dinner at home. I did most of the preparation in the afternoon to facilitate a fun evening of cooking and eating.

Salmon Rillettes from Michael Chiarello’s At Home cookbook was a great starter to nibble while the salads were assembled and the soup was warming.

Following the starter, a salad of “HeartBeets” was served. Beet “ravioli” made with thin sliced beets cut into heart shapes and stuffed with seasoned goat cheese topped the salad made with greens dressed with a beet-goat cheese vinaigrette.

Before the soup course, we assembled the main course and popped it in the oven. We then sat down to eat Cream of Asparagus soup. By the time we had finished our soup, the Boeuf en Croute was finished and ready to plate. It was a small piece of tenderloin topped with dijon mustard and a red onion reduction and wrapped in puff pastry. The recipe was from Rachel Khoo’s The Little Paris Kitchen. I made a red wine reduction to serve alongside and green beans sautéed with some of the red onions. Superb!

We had a selection of cheeses and then some miniature gateau. I cheated on the dessert – it was purchased from the freezer section of Trader Joe’s. I could not have made such a selection of cakes easily and TJ’s does such a good job of them!

It was a lovely evening of cooking and eating with a special someone who is also the photographer of most of the great food pictures on this site. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Learning about the Staff of Life

IMG_2334“The Ecology Center, in San Juan Capistrano, is a regional hub for eco-education that engages and empowers individuals and families. Through fun, hands-on activities, we teach practical, environmental solutions with impact at the household and community level.” from the Ecology Center website

And they were offering a class on Breadbaking by a well-known local blogger, Erik Knutzen, of Root Simple, who is also a Master Food Preserver from Los Angeles. I really wanted to learn more about bread and to meet another MFP.

The class was attended by about at least a dozen people. Erik did a great job of explaining all of the steps and reasons behind the recipe. Each person was able to get their hands dirty, or at least floury, making a batch of dough to take home. Following the directions and lessons learned in class, I made the loaf above. I baked it in my Le Creuset enamel pot after my husband replaced the knob with a ceramic one to withstand the 475° needed to bake a beautiful loaf.

And I did it again on Thursday!

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When Life Gives You Limes, Make Marmalade

IMG_2320The lime tree in the backyard was filled with fruit this year. I picked enough to take with me to a Master Food Preserver Continuing Education class and had plenty leftover to make a Ginger Lime Marmalade.

I am experimenting with a formula for making a marmalade. The basic formula is 2 pounds of fruit, 2 pounds of water, and 2 pounds of sugar. Some adjustments in the sugar should be made depending on the sweetness of the fruit. For example, grapefruit might need a bit more sugar and kumquats a little less sugar.

I prefer my marmalade a little sweeter, not bitter, so I peeled the fruit using a vegetable peeler which leaves most of the pith behind. The limes are juiced and the peels are stacked and cut into slivers. The rest of what is left of the fruit is placed in a pot and covered with water, brought to a boil, the heat turned off, the pot covered, and left to sit for at least 12 hours.

The next day the water that covered the pith and membranes was almost syrup-like. The pectin from the membranes and pith had thickened it. I strained the liquid that was now syrupy into a measuring cup and added the reserved juice and the peels. I matched the liquid in the measuring cup 1:1 with sugar. (If I had four cups of liquid, I measured out 4 cups of sugar.) I put the liquid and sugar in to my preserving pot, added about a tablespoon per cup of fresh grated ginger, and brought the mixture to a boil. I cooked it until it reached 220° and then filled my clean, hot half-pint jars. I processed the marmalade in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes.

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All Things Citrus

IMG_2314Master Food Preservers are required to complete a certain number of hours of Continuing Education each year so we meet at least every other month to hone our skills. We focused on citrus at our January get together.

We made marmalade, preserved lemons, and chipotle lime finishing salt. To save on expenses, each person brings jars and other containers to take home the finished product. For this class, we did not have to purchase any fruit either. So many of us have citrus trees and brought what we had to share. Thanks, Norma, for the lemons and thanks, Karen, for the tangelos. And thanks to my tree for the limes.

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Fermentation Fun

IMG_2305I started a batch of Indian spice flavored pickles a bit after Christmas. I put cauliflower and two kinds of carrots, regular orange ones and some beautiful red tinged ones, in my half-gallon fermenting jar. I added garlic, cardamon pods, cumin, and coriander. After a few days the brine turned a lovely shade of pink. By the end of the fermentation time. The carrots were all now orange and the cauliflower is pink! Not so sure that they look appetizing but they taste great.

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