Dangerously Delicious Jam

June 24, 2013

Found the first local apricots at the farmers' market this weekend They're so lovely, and the scent they send into the air as they sit on the kitchen counter is endlessly seductive. But I bought too many, don't want to refrigerate them, so the ones we haven't eaten go into this quick, delicious jam.  


Fresh Apricot Jam

¼ cup water

1 ¼ cups sugar

2 pounds apricots, including skin, pulled apart, divided 

vanilla bean, optional

juice of half a lemon


Stir the sugar and water together in a small heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring until clear, 1-2 minutes. 

Pull apart the apricots, and add half of them to the syrup. Simmer until they disintegrate, stirring, for about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining apricots and vanilla bean, and stir for another 5-7 minutes, until the apricots soften. 

Remove the vanilla bean.  Slice it the long way, and run a knife along the inside edge to remove the seeds. Stir the seeds into the jam.

Add the lemon juice and cook for another 3 minutes.

This will keep well in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks – but it's unlikely to last that long. 


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Sour Cherry Lemonade

June 23, 2013

The joy of this drink is that you don’t have to engage in the tedious task of removing the pits from the cherries. You do, however, have to remove the stems from a quart (about 2 pounds) of sour cherries and toss them into a blender until they’ve turned into a rough mush. Some of the pits will be chopped too; that’s fine because you’re going to put them in a strainer and press hard, extracting as much puree as you can. Discard the solids.

Put the cherry puree into a pitcher and stir in the juice of four lemons, and about a half cup of sugar.  (If you like things really sour, you might want less; if you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’ll want more.)

This will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator, but after that it becomes rather murky. When you’re ready to drink the lemonade, pour into glasses and add water (or sparkling water) to taste.  



A Bag for All Seasons

June 22, 2013


You know how you take your canvas bag to the farmers' market and always end up putting the peaches in your pocketbook so they don't get crushed beneath the potatoes? I always show up with lots of little bags, and still find myself balancing the eggs on top of my head.

Well, not anymore. I've just discovered this fantastically functional market bag designed by scientist and food blogger Darya Pino. The perfect little compartments provide pockets for stalks of this and bunches of that – even an outside pocket for a loaf of bread. Instead of canvas it's made of breathable nylon. Good idea: everything in its place. 

$25 from quirky.com

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A Boost for Caesar Salad!

June 21, 2013

Vegetarian Worcestershire Sauce?  I have to admit I was skeptical.  How could anyone make decent Worcestershire sauce without anchovies, which contribute so much to the flavor? When I found this Bourbon Barrel
version I bought it out of simple curiosity . I brought it home and tasetd it against the classic Lea & Perrins that I always have in my pantry.  To my surprise, this new version blew the classic out of the water; its rich, round, warm flavor made the old one seem like a one-note wonder, and rather acrid to boot. The Bourbon Barrel Worcestershire is a little sweet, but very complex.  It's going to be wonderful in barbecue sauce, and it should do great things to Caesar Salad.  I can also imagine it sprinkled onto vegetables, tossed into stews, and I can't wait  to see what it does to a pot of black beans. 



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Wonderful Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings

June 20, 2013

Stopped by a farmer's stand this morning and found such beautiful spinach I couldn't resist buying it. And, mostly because I was doing my best to avoid work, I decided to make a lovely little lunch.

What should I call these? Gnudi? Dumplings? Gnocchi?  Not quite sure.  What they are is delicate and very delicious.

 Spinach Gnocchi

a scant pound of spinach (14 ounces would be fine)

3 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of very finely chopped onion. 

1 heaping cup of ricotta – drained if watery

1 cup grated Parmesan

2 egg yolks

½ cup flour; you may need 2-4 more tablespoons

zest of one lemon

Grating of fresh nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste 

Wash the spinach well and remove thick stems. Blanch quickly in boiling salted water.  Drain; when the spinach is cool, squeeze it dry with your hands. Dry it again; you want as little liquid as possible in the spinach. Then chop it.

Put the butter in a large skillet and add the onion, cooking for about 5 minutes until it is fragrant and golden. Add the spinach and stir about, just to combine. Taste for seasoning and allow to cool.

Consider the ricotta; is it watery?  Drain it well.  Then add the Parmesan, egg yolks, lemon zest and nutmeg.  Fold in a half cup of flour; if it’s still loose, add up another quarter cup to firm up the batter.

 Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt., and reduce heat to a rolling simmer. Use two spoons to form dumplings and drop into water.

Poach 8-9 dumplings at a time, for about 3 minutes or until they float to the surface of the water. 

You now have a couple of options.  You can scoop them out and serve them naked, with just a bit of melted butter on top.  You can serve them with a simple tomato sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Or you can take them one step farther, and make a gratin out of them in the following fashion:

Scoop the dumplings into a buttered baking dish and drizzle them with melted butter and a sprinkling of grated cheese.  Put them in preheated 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until they’re lightly browned and the cheese has melted.

This should make an extremely satisfying lunch (or supper) for four people.