Wednesday, August 10, 2016

From The Yard

Gathered from around the yard a bedroom bouquet of lavender, oak leaf hydrangea, catmint, and a couple favorite roses, New Dawn, a lovely pink tinged yellow we found in the yard when we moved into this house, and beautiful bright white September Mourn, a 2005 introduction named to honor the 911 victims.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Summer Squash Harvest

Summer is finally in full swing. The garden is overflowing with bright green leaves and yellow flowers promising vegetables to soon come. The squash as always is first.
Tromboncino and yellow sunburst, both flavorful heirlooms, ready to be sautéed for dinner. I'll melt a knob of butter and a splash of olive oil in a pan. Toss in 1/2 an onion sliced. When the onion starts to soften I'll add in slices of fresh squash give them a couple turns around the skillet and cover the pan. With the heat on low the squash will steam in it's own delicious juices and caramelize just a bit on the bottom. 20 minutes later a delicious garden fresh side thats good warm or cold for dinner as a side or scrambled into eggs for breakfast. A summer favorite.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Cake For The Fair

The last fair of our local season ends today.
I brought my usual jellies and jams and ended up with a couple blue ribbons. I hoped this lemon meringue cake with tart lemon curd filling (made with home grown Meyer lemons), fluffy white cake and airy sweet meringue frosting would be a big winner but alas only 3rd in the layer cake competition.
There's always next year. Sigh.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The First of Their Kind

A couple years ago, thinking back onto a perfect vacation week James and I enjoyed on Orcas Island in Washington state I ordered a barefoot Orcas pear tree. A whim that this year has finally started to pay off with our first little crop of beautiful blushed yellow Orcas pears.
Discovered by a local horticulturist in his island yard, Orcas pears are one of the few summer pears that will ripen in just a couple days on the counter instead of weeks in cold storage. Prized for sweet buttery flesh Orcas pears are homegrown favorites for canning, drying, and eating fresh. For me the tree is a living memento, better than a postcard of happy, lazy summer days together.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Our House Favorite Made Even Better

Not just cake, James' birthday nearly always calls for his favorite -- spaghetti and clam sauce. Though I make this favorite throughout the year for a special birthday dinner I slip in a little smoky bacon.
While the spaghetti is cooking I sauté 3 slices of chopped bacon in about 1/4 cup of hot olive oil. Next I add 2 chopped garlic cloves and a pinch of chile flakes to the pan followed (after about a minute) by the juice of one lemon, a good sized handful of chopped parsley and about 3/4 cups of white wine. After the wine cooked down by about half I tossed in about 4 pounds of very small little neck clams.
Honestly I prefer manilla clams which are small and sweet and James and I both think are perfect for spaghetti but so hard to find these days.
With the pan tightly covered it takes about 7 minutes for all the clams to open.
Meanwhile the pasta is cooking and when it's ready and drained I add it and about 3 TB butter to the pan with the clams, give everything a good toss around, add in another small bunch of fresh parsley and bring dinner to the table.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Happy Birthday James

A birthday dinner for two calls for a special cake -- mini cake for the birthday boy.
I bought these 3" cake pans years ago and had nearly forgotten them until this afternoon when cake for one seemed like the obvious choice. No leftovers makes it easier to get back on the diet.

I went for a simple Vanilla White Cake.

Preheat the oven to 350º
Prepare five 3" mini cake pans with buttered parchment paper on the bottom, sides buttered, the entire pan lightly dusted with flour.
Cream 1 stick of room temperature butter with 1 cup of sugar.
Add 2 eggs and 3 egg yolks one by one (beating well after each addition)
Drizzle in 1/2 tsp of good quality vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of cake flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp salt all sifted together
Add 1/3 of the flour, beat until just mixed, add 1/3 of the milk (1/2 cup total) and repeat until the last of the milk is added and the batter is silky smooth.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake springs back to your touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I trimmed the mini cakes and used two split in the center to make 3 nice even layers which I brushed with homemade jam and a fluffy sweet American buttercream.

In an electric mixer set to medium speed mix 1 stick of softened butter and 1 1/2 cups of confectioner's sugar until smooth. When danger of dusting your kitchen in powdered sugar has passes, turn the mixer up to high to beat in as much air as possible, drizzle in a touch of vanilla and 1 - 2 TB of whole milk and mix to desired fluffy consistency.

Classic birthday cake in miniature.

Many many happy returns Honey!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Fruits of Summer

A new garden and a few grapes not yet eaten by the passing deer.