Jam Worth Waiting For

This story is a few months in the making. Back in January, David Lebovitz raved on his blog about this fantastic apricot jam. Not just any apricot jam, mind you – this jam was so special that it was made in super limited quantities from a tree in someone’s backyard. So rare that you have to sign up on a waiting list to be summoned to order it about a month before the harvest. So rare that once it is gone for the year, it is gone. So good that Food and Wine called it “simply the best jam we’ve ever tasted”. To say that I drooled enough at the prospect that my little sheeple ass signed up for the waiting list immediately and ordered the maximum 4 jars the second I was invited to order is an understatement.

So, here it is weeks later, and my jam finally arrived. Two of the four jars had some problems with the seals – one looked and smelled just fine, so it went straight into the fridge, the other I wasn’t too sure about, so it went in the trash (and just as a testament to the superior customer service they offer, I emailed them about it, and they immediately offered to replace both jars – I told them I just needed one replacement, and they sent it out by UPS right away).

Simply put, this jam is fan-friggin-tastic. Absolutely amazing. I’m already halfway through a jar in one sitting. So is it worth the wait? A resounding yes.

jamjar

I decided to eat it on some leftover biscuits from last night’s dinner. Because they don’t use any pectin when making it, it doesn’t have much gel to it, but I think I prefer it that way – it pours easily over biscuits like liquid crack, dribbling off the sides of the biscuit and onto the plate, where greedy fingers will not let a drop go to waste (I had to smack my husbands fingers away when he tried to get what dripped down, LOL). The flavor is perfect – apricot comes shining through, with just the right sweetness.

jambiscuit

Needless to say, I’m going to treasure the remaining jars, and sign up for next year’s harvest as soon as possible. If apricot jam is your thing, head on over to We Love Jam and get on the list yourself. You won’t be sorry.

Blogging by Mail: My Favorite Things

UPS just dropped off the coolest Blogging by Mail package ever, coming from Dhana of Fresh Kitchen. Outstanding, and I absolutely love everything in the package (as did my husband).

bbmfavorite

In the package were straws of flavored honey from her local farmer’s market (we can’t wait to try these, probably in a cup of tea or on fresh biscuits), jalapeno chutney from her local market, 70% cacao from Japan (I *love* dark chocolate), delicious homemade cookies (made with orange, coffee, almond, saffron and whole wheat), and probably my most favorite part of all, a bag of kohlapuri masala – a homemade spice mix using an age old family recipe passed on from generation to generation. I think that is so cool, and wish we had a traditional recipe like that in my family. She was kind enough to send a booklet with recipes to use the spice mix in, and I can’t wait to try them out.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful gifts, Dhana – I loved everything! I hope everyone else participating in BBM got as spoiled as I am. And thanks also to Stephanie, who so kindly took on the time-consuming task of hosting this event again. :)

Mascarpone Cheesecake with Candied Pecans and Dulce de Leche

In honor of National Cheesecake Day (and let’s admit, because I had some mascarpone cheese in the fridge that I absolutely had to use ASAP), my husband and I whipped up a cheesecake for yesterday’s dinner with my sister and her family. And yes, I am enough of a piggy to admit that it didn’t even cross my mind to take a picture of it until I had already made my way through part of a piece.

mascarponecheesecake

We modified the original recipe a little bit. For instance, did you guys know that you can make dulce de leche right at home by using a can (or more) of condensed milk and a pot of boiling water? That’s right. You peel off the label, and boil an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot of water for 3 hours, and it magically turns into dulce de leche (milk caramel). Something to do with the Maillard reaction, if I remember correctly. Just make sure you let it cool down before opening it or the pressure from the carbon dioxide will make it explode all over your kitchen. Well, not really – but it will make a mess. Also, make sure the water level stays above the level of the can(s). We had to add additional water twice during the boiling process.

Also, instead of making our own candied pecans, we bought some at the grocery store. It worked in a pinch, next time around, I’d want to pick up something that has both a sweet and salty coating (since I love the combination). Either way, it is one of the better cheesecake recipes I’ve had. Nice and light and not too rich.

Mascarpone Cheesecake with Candied Pecans and Dulce de Leche
modified from this recipe

Crust:
1 cup flour
1/3 c. pecans
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

Filling:
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 8-ounce containers mascarpone cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
4 large eggs, room temperature

Topping:
1 can dulce de leche (either already made or made as noted above)
8 oz. candied pecans

Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind pecans in processor. Mix butter, flour, ground pecans, sugar and vanilla extract. Press into greased 9″ springform pan.

Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese in large bowl until smooth. Add mascarpone and flour; beat until smooth, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Gradually add sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in vanilla and lemon juice. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Pour filling over crust in the springform pan. Place springform pan in large roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to come halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake cheesecake until top is golden and cake is almost set (center 2 inches will still move slightly when pan is gently shaken), about 1 hour 15 minutes.

Chill overnight, and before serving, frost top of cake with dulce de leche and top with pecans.

One Local Summer 2007 – Week 5

We skipped out on the farmer’s markets this morning, as we still had tons of produce from the last couple of weeks to use up. For Week 5 of One Local Summer, I was going to make stuffed peppers, but since the oven was tied up with baking today, I opted to make a stuffed pepper soup instead.

stuffedpepper

The ground beef is from OMC Farms, the green peppers are from Wishwell Farms, the rice and the tomato products are Kroger (based out of Cincinnati), and the rest of the ingredients (sugar, spices) are decidedly non-local.

Stuffed Pepper Soup
recipe courtesy AllRecipes.com

2 pounds ground beef
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (29 ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cubes beef bouillon
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 cups cooked white rice

In a Dutch oven brown beef over medium high heat. Drain off any fat. Add the peppers to the browned meat and saute for 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes with juice, bouillon cubes, brown sugar, salt, pepper and soy sauce. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Stir in rice and heat through.

Goat Cheese Tomato Balsamic Crostini

Made these to go with dinner tonight, as an appetizer to munch on while we’re cooking:

crostini

I spread some local to Ohio Great Lakes Creamery soft goat cheese on some Dare brand crispy french style baguette pieces, and then topped them with tiny tomatoes, basil ribbons, Blaze balsamic glaze and French sea salt. My husband can’t get enough of these. I’ll have to keep these on the short list, and make them during a dinner party.

SHF #33: Coconut Creme Caramel with Pineapple Concasse

The theme for this edition of Sugar High Friday is “Tropical Paradise”, and the first thing that popped into my head when hearing the theme was “pina colada”. Don’t ask me why – maybe I equate the tropics with sitting on a beach sipping on a pina colada? But, unfortunately, a drink is not a dessert, so pina coladas were right out the door.

What I decided on features the two main ingredients in a pina colada – pineapple and coconut. And the kicker? This very rich, very satisfying dessert is a Cooking Light recipe (read: guilt free in moderation). The pineapple concasse works well with it – slight acidity to offset the sweetness of the creme caramel. It would have been interesting to see what it would have been like with the suggested basil, but my husband nixed that idea very quickly (“basil? in a dessert? hell no.”).

cremecoconut

Coconut Creme Caramel with Pineapple Concasse
recipe courtesy Cooking Light

1/3 c. sugar
3 tbsp. water
Cooking Spray
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 2/3 c. reduced-fat 2% milk
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. cream of coconut
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
Pineapple concasse (recipe below)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine 1/3 cup sugar and water in small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Continue cooking until golden (about 10 minutes). Immediately pour into 6 (6 ounce) ramekins or custard cups coated with cooking spray, tilting each ramekin quickly until caramelized sugar coats bottom of cup.

Places eggs and egg white in a medium bowl, and stir well with a whisk. Add milk and next 4 ingredients, stirring until well blended. Divide egg mixture evenly among prepared ramekins. Place ramekins in a 13×9 inch baking pan, and add hot water to pan to a depth of one inch. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (ours took 60-65 minutes). Remove ramekins from pan. Cover and chill at least 4 hours.

Loosen edges of custard with a knife or rubber spatula. Place dessert plate, upside down, on top of each ramekin; invert onto plate. Serve with about 1/4 cup of pineapple concasse.

Pineapple Concasse

1 1/2 c. finely chopped pineapple
1 tbsp. thinly sliced fresh basil
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and chill at least 4 hours.

Nutrtion (totals include pineapple concasse): 239 cal (26% from fat), 6.9 g fat, 6.6 g pro, 38.5 g carb, 0.9 g fib, 5 WW points

One Local Summer 2007 – Week 4

For Week 4 of One Local Summer, the centerpiece of my dish is once again sweet corn. I can’t help it, I just can’t get enough when it’s in season! But to temper the badness of last week’s coronary on a plate, this week I decided to do a Cooking Light corn chowder.

cornsoup

It’s almost all local – instead of applewood smoked bacon, I used double smoked bacon from Thurn’s, onion was a candy onion from 2 Crows Farms (Worthington Market), corn was from the Clintonville Farmer’s Market, thyme was from my backyard, garlic was from Clintonville, 2% milk was from Hartzler’s Dairy (Whole Foods), and I had to use a mix of Hartzler’s whole milk and Smith Dairy Cream to make local half and half. The potatoes were from the Worthington Farmer’s Market, and the chicken broth was Kitchen Magic (local to Ohio), purchased at The Anderson’s. – the only non local ingredients were the salt and pepper.

As far as the flavor goes, it’s missing a little something. Maybe a bit of cayenne or Old Bay or mustard to give it some zip? I’ll keep on experimenting with this recipe.

Corn and Fingerling Potato Chowder with Applewood-Smoked Bacon
recipe courtesy Cooking Light

2 slices applewood-smoked bacon
1 3/4 c. diced onion
3 1/2 c. fresh corn kernels (about 7 ears)
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 c. fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. 2% reduced fat milk
1/2 c. half-and-half
8 oz (1/4-inch-thick) rounds fingerling potato slices
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Cook bacon in large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add onion to drippings in pan; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add corn, chopped thyme, and garlic to pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, milk, half-and-half and potatoes; bring to a simmer. Cover and cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally.

Transfer 2 cups potato mixture to a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth; return pureed mixture to pan. Stir in salt and black pepper; sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Yield: 5 servings (1 cup each).

Each serving has 186 cal (27% from fat), 5.5 g fat, 7.6 g pro, 27.8 g carb, 3.4g fiber, 18 mg chol, 1.1 mg iron, 398mg sod, 84mg calc).

Heart of the Matter #5: Waterlife

We (more like my husband, who has been doing a lot of the cooking lately) made this dish for the Heart of the Matter: Waterlife event, hosted by Ilva of Lucullian Delights. For this event, we were challenged to come up with a dish that uses fish in a heart healthy matter.

According to WebMD, salmon is “a great source of protein and is also packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association advises eating salmon and other omega-3 rich foods twice a week for benefits that go beyond heart health.” We prepped it in a manner that is flavorful, yet low-fat.

redcabbagesalmon

We decided to go with an Epicurious recipe for Pan-Seared Salmon over Red Cabbage and Onions with Merlot Gastrique. The fish and the gastrique were fantastic, great texture and very flavorful. The red cabbage and onions were a bit on the bland side, but added a lot of bulk and made it a hearty, yet healthy meal. If red cabbage isn’t your thing, it would be tasty paired with a heart healthy low-fat salad.

Pan-Seared Salmon over Red Cabbage and Onions with Merlot Gastrique
from Gourmet Magazine, December 2002

2 tbsp. sugar
4 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. finely chopped shallot (2 oz)
1/2 c. Merlot or other dry red wine
1 c. canned beef broth
1 tsp. cornstarch
4 (5 oz) skinned center-cut pieces of salmon fillet
1 tsp. olive oil

Make sauce:

Bring sugar and 2 tablespoons water to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then boil, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is a golden caramel, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully add vinegar, then add shallot and swirl pan over low heat until caramel is dissolved, about 1 minute.

Stir in wine and boil until reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Add beef broth and boil until reduced to about 1 cup, about 8 minutes. Whisk together cornstarch and remaining 2 tablespoons water, then whisk into sauce and boil, whisking, 1 minute. Season sauce with salt and pepper and keep warm, covered.

Cook salmon:

Pat salmon dry and season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté salmon, skinned side up, 3 minutes. Turn over and sauté until just cooked through, about 3 minutes more.
Serve salmon on top of red cabbage and onions with sauce spooned over. Each serving (recipe makes 4) contains about 334 calories and 11 grams fat.

Red Cabbage and Onions

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 lb red cabbage, cored, cut into 2-inch pieces, and layers separated
1/2 lb red onions, cut into 1-inch pieces and layers separated
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté cabbage, onions, thyme, salt, and pepper, stirring, 3 minutes. Cover skillet and reduce heat to moderate, then cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is tender, about 12 minutes more. Each serving contains about 68 calories and 1 gram fat.

Farm Fresh and Local Produce – 7/21/07

We still had a bunch of produce left from last week, and since I needed very few things (and wasn’t feeling too hot), I decided to send my husband out to the farmer’s market alone yesterday, with the promise that he’d take pictures. :) So very little commentary this week, just some pics of what’s available at the market. No idea which vendor is which (wasn’t there), so I’ll just point out what it is and at which market it was taken.

From the Clintonville market, he saw sweet corn by the truckload (which I had him pick up, can never have too much sweet corn).

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Also, the first heirloom tomatoes of the year (which I wish he would have picked up, but didn’t).

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And lots of green stuff (which is labeled)

072107greeneverywhere

And more beautiful flowers (again, I’m at a loss)

072107flowers

And at the North Market, peppers and canteloupe (yay, melons!)

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and candy onions

072107onions

Hopefully I’ll be back in the swing of things next week, or will maybe hit one of the mid-week markets for once.

Bacon Fried Rice

This recipe is an old standby for us, a regular in our household ever since my mother showed me her recipe a few years ago. We’ve made a few small changes (like use short grain rice instead of long grain, adding mushrooms, etc) but the spirit of the dish is still there.

This is a great dish to make on those nights where you’re not in the mood for heavy duty cooking. It pretty much all comes together in the wok.

baconfriedrice

BTW, the reason the scrambled eggs are so yellow in my pic is that we had some guinea hen eggs we needed to use up – yours (using regular eggs) will be much lighter.

Bacon Fried Rice

6 cups cooked short-grain rice
4 carrots, diced finely
4 stalks celery, diced finely
1 medium onion, diced finely
4 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
4 oz. double smoked bacon, diced into 1/4 inch cubes
7 eggs, scrambled and set aside
Seasoned wok oil
Soy sauce, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste

Cover bottom of wok with about 2 tbsp. of wok oil, and heat until hot (oil will crinkle). Toss in all of the vegetables and the bacon, and saute over high heat until vegetables are soft and bacon is starting to crisp, about 10-15 minutes. Add rice, combine with veggies until evenly distributed. Add soy sauce, a little at a time, until rice has evenly brown color. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add eggs, they will break up into smaller pieces as you stir them through. Add any additional seasoning or soy sauce as needed, and serve.