Category Archives: 50 Recipes

Strawberry Kisses Part 3

Misty morning

At three am I woke to the smell of strawberry air. The gentle, soft essence of strawberries was coming from the kitchen. Not the fake, nasty chemical version you find in lip balms, candles or air fresheners, which in my opinion doesn’t have the remotest connection to a true strawberry, but rather the air in my house was filled with scent of real strawberries because I was making Strawberry Chips, and they take all night to make. Our neighbor Joyce had loaned us her dehydrator and I was trying my hand at preserving strawberries in a slightly different way than the strawberry fruit leather I made in my last post.

Strawberries

 

I’d eaten dehydrated and dried fruit before, but I had never actually encountered a dehydrator in person. They’re huge! Most of my kitchen equipment is the size of a baby, while this sucker was the size of a large toddler. And Joyce’s dehydrator is jacked up like the kitchen equivalent of a monster truck with so many extra tiers it may require a special license to operate. I ended up setting the dehydrator on a card table rather than on my kitchen counter since I wasn’t sure how much clearance the machine would need.

Stacking the dehydrator with strawberries

Before you can turn it on you have to get the food into similar sizes. Dehydrators do the work of sucking most of the moisture out of whatever food you put in them, but they don’t prep it for you. That’s just a lot of old-fashioned slicing and dicing. My husband told me Joyce cuts her fruit with a mandoline to get even slices (which theoretically would then have similar drying times), which makes total sense because Joyce is a physicist and does things scientifically. I chose to go rogue and cut my strawberries by hand. I’m such a wild thing. She also recommended a longer drying time at a lower temperature to preserve more of the vitamins. I did follow that suggestion, which is why I woke up at three am smelling strawberry air.

Strawberries in dehydrator

Before you decide to borrow your neighbor’s dehydrator I need to tell you that strawberry chips are the fruit equivalent of crack cocaine. You will become addicted to them. The good news is there are no withdrawal symptoms, well until strawberry season ends and you realize there are only strawberries from California or Florida to dehydrate and you go nuts and decide to plow under your entire lawn so you can plant every inch of your yard in strawberries. Not that you actually do it, but the lack of more local berries to dehydrate makes you seriously consider the option for a minute or two. I’m just warning you.

Dehydrated strawberries

Strawberry Chips

There is not a whole lot of recipe here. Take 2-4 quarts of strawberries, depending on how many tiers your dehydrator has, and after removing the stems slice them into 1/4 inch pieces. On my second batch I threw the outer slices into a bag which went into the freezer for smoothies, since the outer pieces seemed to dehydrate at a different rate than the inner pieces. You could slice horizontally or vertically – your choice depending on if you want circles or strawberry shapes, I chose the latter. Dehydrate on the low end of the spectrum, 105 – 115ºF for 12-14 hours depending on how juicy your strawberries are. When cool, store in small batches in baggies with the air sucked out.

If you’d rather not go to all the effort of sucking the moisture out of your strawberries you can enjoy them the old fashioned way which my friend Jane Lear did with her husband in this post. Or you can do what Shawn and I did last week when the kids were out one evening with friends. We just opened a chilled bottle of Prosecco and ate a bowl of strawberries au naturel as we sipped our bubbly.

Strawberries and champagne

 

Here are links for Strawberry Kisses Part 1 and Strawberry Kisses Part 2.

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Strawberry Kisses part 2

Strawberry rollup lineup

The remnants of tropical storm Arthur, formerly known as Hurricane Arthur, put a damper on the beginning of the July 4th holiday weekend strawberry picking. Strangely nobody wants to pick their own strawberries during a thunderstorm. Where is their sense of adventure? Oh, they’re more concerned with safety. Once the storm blew through the skies cleared up and the harvest resumed. Inspired by my tinkering with some strawberry fruit leather last week Strawberry Boy and Strawberry Girl both came home with brimming boxes of strawberries and I went back to the kitchen.

Strawberry Boy

I love the idea of fruit leather since it is the distilled essence of fruit. Strawberries, a spoonful of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice, boiled down to a thick paste and then spread onto baking sheets and popped in a very low oven while more of the moisture evaporates. As if you could concentrate a strawberry’s soul. What you buy in the store is like a third cousin twice removed compared with what you can make at home. The two big differences between home-made and commercially made are no artificial preservatives and tons less sugar. Without all those preservatives I wondered how long the fruit leather would last, but then I watched the kids snorffle up strip after strip and realized it wasn’t going to last long enough to bother worrying about it. So I got on with making more and if you still have strawberries in your area I suggest you try these as well.

Whizzing up strawberry goo

A couple of things I noticed as I made batch after batch

  • You want to make sure the strawberry goo you cook down isn’t too thick or thin
  • If you make a 12″ x 18″ jelly roll pan it takes a really long time for the center to dry
  • Cutting the fruit leather is very sticky so try using a pizza wheel or really good pair of  kitchen scissors

Strawberry goo

Strawberry Fruit Leather

4 cups pureed strawberries (about a quart and a half)

4-6 Tablespoons sugar

1-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

You can puree the strawberries in a blender, food processor or juice machine. The idea is to have absolutely no lumps. If you want to make seedless fruit leather strain the strawberry juice through a very fine sieve at this point. We didn’t bother. Pour the strawberry juice into a wide saucepan or jelly pot and add the sugar and lemon juice to taste. Simmer 40-55 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture has reduced to approximately 2 cups or half of whatever you started with*. While the juice is cooking down prepare a jelly roll pan with a silpat mat or piece of parchment paper. If you cook the strawberry juice so that it is too thick you won’t be able to spread it evenly on the jelly roll pan. If you make it too thin it will run to the edges of the silpat mat or parchment paper and seep underneath. When you get the right ratio you will be able to tilt the pan and have the strawberry goo flow to cover the mat, stopping short of the edges by about 1/2″.

Pop the jelly roll pan into a preheated oven set to its lowest setting (mine went down to 170°F) somewhere between 150-200°F. Bake for 3-6 hours depending on your oven temperature until the entire surface of the fruit leather is dry enough to touch without any sticking to your fingers. Every so often turn the pan front to back  since most ovens have hot spots.

Let cool, transfer fruit leather to a piece of parchment (if you baked it on a silpat mat) then cut into strips. Roll up parchment and fruit strips into little logs and secure with a piece of tape or a rubber band. Store in a bag in the fridge.

 

Too thick and just right

The top batch was too thick to spread evenly. The bottom batch was just right.

Strawberry fruit leather

 

Strawberry sunshine

 

Strawberry roll ups

* If you stop here you will have an amazing topping for yoghurt or ice cream. You could also drizzle this thickened strawberry goo over pancakes instead of maple syrup.

You can find links for other recipes that go well with strawberries by clicking here. If you want to dehydrate strawberries you can read about that here.

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Strawberry Kisses part 1

Straw for the strawberry plants

I think 2014 will be the summer of perspective for my family, me included. One teenager has her driver’s license, but not her own car which means we have to share my car every day. I’m thinking of setting up a calendar just for the Suburu. It also means we’re all very aware the price of gas is hovering around $4/gallon. The flip side of Belle having her license is I don’t have to chauffeur her brother Russell (who only has his permit) around very much, which after sixteen years of driving them around is kind of nice. Then there’s the reality check that if you are juggling summer school, work, homework and trips to the gym you will have approximately zero time for socializing. Or the dismal reality that ER tables are not meant for people who are over 6′ 3″ (don’t ask, I’ll just say it was not at a visit to the ER and nothing is broken just badly bruised). My favorite sliver of family summer perspective came after both kids received their first paycheck. It became clear how how little money you actually make when you work for minimum wage. These aren’t bad lessons, they’re just life lessons.

Strawberries resting on straw

The good news is that both teens have jobs at a local strawberry farm. The better news is that with the cooler-than-usual spring weather strawberry season is running a few weeks late. So despite it being early July there are still two more weeks of strawberry season to go! Plus we now have two strawberry experts in the family. Did you know strawberries can get sunburnt? I had no idea but I’m not sharing my sunscreen. They have more vitamin C than an orange which is a factoid the citrus growers don’t share with you. Plus there are roughly 200 seeds on each strawberry. Who knew? Or more to the point, who counted?

Strawberries for sale

My favorite statistic was hearing what  people plan to do with the strawberries they pick on this farm. Ninety-eight percent of them say they plan to make either strawberry shortcake, strawberry jam or freeze them. So I decided I would spend the remaining weeks of strawberry season coming up with some other things to do with strawberries, though all three of those methods are great ways to use the season’s bounty.

Strawberry Girll
There is just one little problem. I keep eating whatever I make with strawberries before I can reach for my camera. They are just that good. Grammy Caldwell would approve because these strawberries are red all the way through, not just on the outside. Since I am hanging my head in shame for my strawberry hoovering tendencies I am going to instead direct you to the half dozen tried-and-true recipes featuring strawberries below.

  1. Crêpes with strawberries & a sprinkle of sugar or honey
  2. Macerated strawberries on Angel Food Cake
  3. Strawberry juice mixed with stewed rhubarb juice for astrawberry-rhubarb Quarantine Cocktail
  4. Jessica’s Silver Dollar Pancakes topped with strawberries
  5. Fruit Smoothies with bananas, strawberries and orange juice
  6. Chocolate cake with strawberries, raspberry jam and chocolate ganache

Flat of strawberries

 

I’ll try to grab my camera sooner when strawberry boy and strawberry girl bring home their next batch of just picked berries.

You can read about the strawberry fruit leather I made here and the strawberry chips here.

 

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Lentils of Love

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and I admit I was at a loss as to what I should get for my Dad. He’s an avid fisherman, but trying to buy someone a present connected to their passion, if it’s not one that you share, is one of the trickiest shopping trips you can embark on. My brother has gone on numerous fishing expeditions with him, and so has a better sense of which fly might tickle his fancy or what the latest fishing gear is that might not already be in his collection. I tried fly fishing a few times, but found I’m more of a cook than fisherwoman. Plus his preferred choice of catch and release fishing doesn’t bring home much salmon or trout.

Joe and Jay at Togaik Lake

While fishing is not where we connect, food is. I love to cook and my Dad and I both love to eat. His repertoire in the kitchen is primarily the grill, his infamous champagne punch, and willingness to help punch down the bread dough. Where he really excels is as a volunteer taste tester. I don’t think I’ve ever had him pass on taking a nibble or slurp or bite of something, “just to make sure it’s good”. Even when he’s not asked. Self sacrificing all the way.

Dad preparing to punch down dough

When I was going through my first vegetarian phase I made a dish called Funistrada. It sounded great in the cookbook – noodles with a cream sauce – but as this was the 70s and because vegetarian cuisine wasn’t quite as sophisticated as it’s become this recipe had a serious flaw. The cream sauce was made using all whole wheat flour and no herbs or seasonings, though it may have had some cheese. It was as if you made a vat of paper maché goop and layered it between seven layers of noodles. For some reason Dad hadn’t wandered into the kitchen as I was putting it all together so there was no taste testing that day. Which is too bad because Funistrada is disgusting.

I told everyone to dig in as I brought the salad and bread to the table and Dad happily dug in and kept eating. My brother, who has not always been known for his tender ministrations toward my feelings, took one bite of the stuff and spat it back out announcing loudly that it was so awful it might kill him. I was horrified, but after one spoonful I had to agree. It was inedible. My father looked relieved and wanted to know if this meant he didn’t need to finish it all. He had been ready to sit at our kitchen table and eat this nasty stuff because his daughter had made it. I don’t think I would have made the parental sacrifice myself if faced with a plate of Funistrada. So as an honest taste tester perhaps he’s not so good, but as a Dad he’s great, plus he let us order out for pizza that night.

For many years I baked Dad his presents. Cookies were easy to bake and mail, but when he was diagnosed with diabetes the gift of cookies didn’t seem like such a thoughtful present. He manages his illness really well, but it seems unfair to give someone gift they had to take a pill for. So I’ve made donations of honeybees and goats in his name, which is actually a great thing to do for someone who has enough stuff (and who shouldn’t be eating sugar). Then yesterday I was wishing I could just make him something yummy and healthy. I came up with Lentils of Love.

Lentils of Love salad

It’s a dish I made last weekend for Russell’s non-graduation celebration (yes, my youngest is skipping his senior year in high school and instead heading off to Simon’s Rock College this fall). It’s what a good vegetarian/vegan recipe should be. Flavorful, interesting, and edible. I’ve made it on and off for years after I was first introduced to le puy lentils. While some foodies will tell you must use the small green pulses grown in the volcanic soil around Auvergne, France I can tell you the world will not stop spinning because you use green lentils instead. I’m not saying le puys aren’t great, because they are, but rather that the secret to this recipe is a lentil that won’t fall apart and get mushy when you cook it.

The real trick, which Russell’s godfather Rick reminded me of, is to cut the vegetables into teeny, tiny squares, hardly bigger than the cooked lentils themselves. In the past I’d chopped my carrots, celery and onion into small cubes, which was just fine. However, when Rick minced those same three vegetables into a micro mirepoix instead of chopping them I found it elevated the dish to the next level.

Micro mirepoix vegetables

Now, as you will probably note this is not something I can send to my Dad in the mail, so the bonus of these Lentils of Love is that I’ll need to take a road trip to see him, and make them for him in person. Maybe he’ll join me in by cooking something on the grill.

Lentils of Love

1 1/4 cup Le Puy or green lentils

2 1/2 cups water

1 small bay leaf (or half of a large one)

1/2 teaspoon thyme

2 carrots, peeled and cut into micro squares (about a cup)

3 celery ribs, trimmed and cut into micro squares (about a cup)

1/2 red onion, peeled and cut into micro squares (about 3/4 cup)

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

dash or two of cider vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Bring the lentils, bay leaf, thyme and water to a boil, then cover and cook until the lentils are they are soft, but not mushy about 35-43 minutes. There should be almost no liquid left, but keep an eye on things so you don’t simmer them dry. If there is any liquid left drain it then cool the lentils a bit.

While the lentils are cooking cut up your mirepoix. Place in a large bowl and add the slightly cooled lentils (you want them to be warm enough to suck up the oil and vinegar, but not so hot they cook the vegetables), olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. If you need a brighter note to this salad add a few dashes of cider vinegar.

You’ll want to retaste this when the lentils have cooled down to see if you need to tweak the oil/vinegar/salt/pepper ratios. I will often double or triple this recipe thinking there will be tons left over, but no mater how much I make it all seems to disappear in a day or two. Just letting you know.

You could also top this with some chopped walnuts or pecans. Or a crumble of cheese. There is a myriad of possibilities.

Here’s another variation on this recipe (so many tweaks are possible) from Heidi Swanson who tweaked one of Deborah Madison’s recipes.

Dad and me

 

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Quarantine Cocktail

June iris

We’ve made it through 27 days of quarantine after the little incident with the raccoon on Mother’s Day. The dog has had his shot (note the use of the singular), Shawn and I have had our shots (note the use of the plural), and we’ve only got 18 days more to go on Oliver’s state mandated quarantine. Time to celebrate with a spring time cocktail!

Rhubarb plant

While I have worked with food most of my life, one job I’ve never had is tending bar. I appreciate a good cocktail, have made many for photo shoots (with fake ice cubes and dots of glycerine to give the visual impression that the ice is actually cold), but have not explored mixology. Given that my rhubarb plant is ginormous (gigantic + enormous) this year and getting ready to take over the garden it seemed like the perfect time to try something pink and fun.

Rhubarb

My habit of procrastination is something my gardens have to suffer through. I buy packages of seeds dreaming about bowls of fresh peas and enough basil to finally fill my freezer with pesto, but don’t always get around to planting them in the ground so they can grow. My weekly visits to the farmer’s markets find me coming home loaded with berries, bread, eggs and vegetables, as well as several plants which inevitably take weeks to get in the ground. One of the hard truths I’ve realized about myself is when it comes to gardens the best foods for me to grow are ones that more or less grow themselves. Rhubarb is close to the top of that list. Once it’s planted and happy it will continue to grow year after year. The bonus is it’s one of the first things up in the spring along with chives.

Chive blossoms

Usually I never do anything too fancy with my rhubarb. I simmer the cut up stalks with some orange juice, sugar, and a chunk of ginger. Occasionally I’ll add a stick of cinnamon, but not always. Once the fruit has softened I serve it over ice cream or yogurt. The stewed fruit would look muddy and odd in a cocktail so I strained the juice, then added some gin, seltzer, and a twist of orange. It was a lovely late spring cocktail and just the thing to help boost our spirits for the final days of quarantine. If it’s not 5 o’clock where you are skip the gin and top off a jigger or two of syrup with seltzer for a refreshing spring tonic.

Ingredients for stewed rhubarb

Ingredients for Quatantine rhubarb cocktail

 

Quarantine Cocktail

Generous 4 cups of chopped rhubarb (1 1/2 pounds before trimming)

1 orange

3-5 slices of fresh ginger, depending on taste

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup water

Place all ingredients in a medium size saucepan and simmer over medium heat for 7-12 minutes. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes so the flavors can meld. Strain the liquid from the solids, reserving the solids (from which you remove the orange rinds and ginger slices). Let cool. Save the solid ginger infused rhubarb solids for mixing into a bowl of ice cream or whipping into a milkshake or spreading on toast as a kind of non-jam.

Gin

Rhubarb ginger syrup

Seltzer

Orange twist (optional)

I used the following measurements, but feel free to experiment with whatever suits your tastes. 1 part gin to 2-3 parts syrup topped with seltzer and served over ice. If you feel like being fancy add a twist of orange.

Quarantine Cocktail

Note: For those of you new to rhubarb don’t forget while the stalks are edible – the leaves are poisonous.

Swallowtail butterfly

 

 

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