Monday, July 18, 2016

Lazy Summer Day


Late July and five calves on the ground.
Lazy days eating grass and napping in the shade.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

YIPPPIIIIEEEEEE!


Of all the years to miss the fair.
I was out of town for work and then just made it back for a day and a half of power weeding, cooking and general improvements before our houseguests rolled into town.
I was in such a rush getting dinner into the oven today I ran late and had to ask James to run down to the fair office to pick up my entries. I had no idea I'd won and it turns out this is my best Marin County Fair ever.
I missed seeing my own "pyramid" of prizes and getting my picture in the paper. I admit I was a little disheartened after the Sonoma-Marin fair this year. I usually do very well there and my jellies -- one of which I thought was the best I ever made -- were not a big hit with the judges. And yet -- that very same jelly, Gewürztraminer plum, took best in show in the Preserves competition at Marin county along with my Apple Bourbon jelly which took best in show in the Homegrown category.
I was giddy when James walked in the door.
I love the fair.
I'm never going to miss one again.

Monday, July 4, 2016

American As . . .


Apple, raisin, pecan pie with flaky lard and butter crust.

I pulled this beauty (unbaked) from the freezer just in time to bake up an all American dessert with visiting friends.

Warm pie for dessert. Who needs fireworks?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Black Bean Tacos


There is a little stand at the farmer's market near us that sells what James calls the "best popcorn in the world." Unpopped red, yellow, and blue kernels I take home and pop in olive oil with plenty of chrunchy Maldon salt for an afternoon snack. I can't figure out how it can be so delicious.
Tierra vegetables grows, not just popcorn but all manner of heirloom corn for flour and popping and even a bit for eating fresh. Last time while waiting to pay I noticed something new -- homemade tortillas fashioned from heirloom green corn meal. Not the usual pale yellow or even speckled white these are dark greenish brown -- not like any tortillas I've seen before . . . so of course I couldn't resist them.
I snapped up a bag and as I drove home decided on a dinner of canned black beans simmered with chili powder, garlic, cumin, olive oil and chicken broth topped with a cabbage, cilantro, onion and carrot salad simply dressed with lime juice and creamy avocado (with a little more lime and salt) served on top of pan toasted heirloom tortillas. Heirloom perfection.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mini-Pies and Cherries: A Freezer Full of Joy


Here's a trend I've been meaning to jump on for a while.
So long in fact it's probably already past. But guests coming to visit with their mini-pie sized daughter and our little cherry tree's first real fruit harvest seem like a perfect excuse for a freezer brimming with mini cherry pies.
I made my usual flaky pie crust with both butter and lard (2 cups flour, pinch of salt, 1/3 cup cold butter, 1/3 cup cold lard, 1/3 cup ice water). With a little cutting and a little pressing I fit my dough into 7 1/2 pint mason jars, saving half the dough for the lattice tops.
Next I mixed up my filling. I had just barely 2 cups of cherries. I combined those with 1/3 cup sugar, 1 TB cornstarch, a pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp of lemon juice, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and a pinch of nutmeg. I gave the filling a good stir and let it sit while I rolled out my second crust and cut it into long thin strips for weaving.
I used the jar's lid to cut out circles of my lattice woven crust, placed each one on top of the now filled little jars (it took about 1/4 cup of filling for each jar), and snuggled the dough down to meet the crust on the side. Lids on top, bands screwed down, 7 pies in the freezer for futures guests -- expected or not.
While I was looking for ideas online I saw reference to a baker on Etsy who makes mini mason jar pies for weddings for $7 each (prices have come down quite a bit since that article) and I scoffed.
"Who would possible pay that," I thought.
Now that I have made just 7 of these cute little pies -- $7 each doesn't seem like near enough.
Make them for love, not for money.
SaveSave

Friday, June 24, 2016

An Unexpected Winner


I thought it would be the almond cake but I got ahead of myself. James' favorite almond cake took 2nd prize (in unfrosted cakes) and this simple sweet persimmon bread, with batter featuring my home grown persimmons and no less than 3/4 cup of Kentucky bourbon, took top honors.
I made a fresh loaf for the fair but I always have one tucked away in the freezer for guests to nibble on. It's just right toasted for breakfast or as a sweet afternoon snack.


The Blue Ribbon Persimmon Bread Recipe (adapted from James Beard)

Preheat oven to 350º

Sift together

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups sugar

make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add

2 cups persimmon purée
4 lightly beaten eggs
1 cup melted butter, cooled
3/4  cup bourbon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

mix until almost combined and add in

2 cups chopped walnuts, toasted
2 cups dried cranberries (or raisins)

Stir lightly together and pour batter into two buttered and floured  9x5 loaf pans

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife interred in center comes out clean

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Ready For The Fair



The most recent treat James said was "the best thing" I ever baked was this embarrassingly  simple almond cake.
"You should enter that in the fair," he said.
Well tomorrow I will, along with a collection of homemade jams and jellies and a dense, sweet persimmon bread made from our home grown fruit.
But, back to this cake. Adapted from a  recipe by former Chez Panisse baker David Liebowitz, it's one of the easiest recipes I know. It's what I make when I am not in the mood to do a lot but still want dessert for guests. It's super moist and a great make ahead cake. It keeps for days. In short, it's the ultimate casual dinner party finish.
First combine 3/4 cup of almond paste (not marzipan but almond paste) with 1 1/3 cups of sugar in a standing mixer. The sugar helps break the almond paste up in small bits. Add 10 TB of room temperature butter and beat until light and fluffy. Next drizzle in 6 lightly beaten eggs and a tsp of vanilla extract. Then stir in 1 cup flour, 1 tsp baking soda, and 1/4 tsp salt (lightly whisk dry ingredients together before adding to the batter).
That's it. Simple.
Pour the batter into a greased and floured 9" cake pan and bake for 1 hour at 325º.
Depending on what I've made for dinner sometimes I serve this super moist cake with creamy full fat yogurt (we love St Benoit Creamery yogurt made in near-by Sonoma county) and a  drizzle of honey, other nights it's topped with fresh blueberry or plum compote.
It's always a winner.
Fingers crossed for the fair.