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Fading into fall

August 17, 2014

Quilting projects

Is August dragging on a little too long for anyone else out there?  I’m really struggling this month.  We’ve had a few days that have felt just enough like early autumn to make me really crave September.  You can see here that a few orange leaves have already started to fall from the big sycamore tree in our backyard.  I started the hexie quilt, and I’ve finished about half of the quilting on the patchwork quilt for my bed, but my interest is waning.  Mostly I’m frustrated with my sewing machine and just ready to be done with the thing.  I don’t think I’ll ever try to machine quilt something this big by myself again (I’ve already decided that the hexie quilt will be sent to a pro for quilting, and my woolly winter log cabin quilt will be hand-tied).

I’d love to just sleep through the next couple of weeks, and dream about cardigans and jewel-toned tights and these adorable mary-janesPumpkin spice lattes and my favorite apple cakeSoup, soup, and more soup.  Are you sick of this month yet?  What are you most looking forward to about fall?  And what’s your favorite soup??

Quilts quilts quilts

August 5, 2014

Quilt fabrics

Stripping

Sally stamp of approval

Working on the quilt top

Quilt top progress

About a month ago, I decided to start working on a patchwork quilt for my bed.  I was really nervous going into it, thinking it would be impossible to do on my little machine, but I just kept going.  It’s only my second quilt ever, and it’s far from perfect, but I can totally see how much I’ve improved upon the first little quilt I made.  My machine is still kind of…touch & go.  But the whole process is chugging along much faster than I thought it would — that first picture was taken on July 7th, and the last one on July 27th.  I spent Friday night making my quilt sandwich, and as of this afternoon I’ve completed 18 quilting lines (out of 108).  My goal is to finish the quilting by Labor Day, so I can work on the binding while my husband is out of town for a tech conference.

I’m so inspired to make more quilts, to fill my whole house with them — and maybe my mom’s house, too!  I’ve ordered some paper hexagons to start working on an English paper pieced hexie quilt.  It’s going to take years, I think — for a queen-size quilt, I need to make over 6,300 hexagons!  All hand-stitched.  Trying to recreate the quilt I grew up with, I guess. ;)  I’ve also been dreaming up a winter quilt for our bed — heavily inspired by this one from Alicia Paulson — scrappy log cabins, cream-colored sashing, filled with wool batting, backed with cozy plaid or gingham flannel, and hand-tied.  Cozy cozy.

Our new library opened about ten days ago.  It’s beautiful, and I love sitting in the stacks and looking through all of the quilting books.  They’re all really old and not so much my style, but I’m learning a lot about piecing and just how much you can do with squares and triangles.  So eager to try flying geese and sawtooth stars!

Eggplant pizza galette

July 27, 2014

Eggplant pizza galette ingredients

Salting eggplant

Eggplant pizza galette

Eggplant pizza galette

Eggplant pizza galette

Eggplant pizza galette

Eggplant pizza galette

If it were up to me, pizza would be on the menu at least once a week in my house.  Maybe it’s a throwback to my childhood, when we actually did eat pizza once a week (back when Pizza Hut was pretty much the only option in our town, and you had to call — on a landline! — to order).  Oddly it’s my husband, the Italian, who constantly votes down my pizza suggestion.  It’s not that he doesn’t like pizza — he just isn’t crazy about American pizza.  But my craving persists, so I try to find clever ways to sneak those pizza flavors into recipes we can agree on.

This recipe was inspired by a summer squash & ricotta galette that appeared in Cooking Light a couple of years ago.  I use the olive oil tart dough recipe from that galette, because it’s so beautifully pliable, doesn’t tear, and the flavor goes nicely with the eggplant.  Salting the eggplant is an important step: it draws the water out, so you don’t end up with a puddle inside your galette.  Don’t worry about the eggplant reabsorbing the water when you rinse the salt off: in addition to drawing the water out, salting also helps to firm up the cell walls.

Eggplant Pizza Galette

serves 4

For the dough:
7.25 oz. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 c. water

For the sauce:
28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes with basil
salt
Italian seasoning (my favorite is the Tuscan Sunset seasoning from Penzeys; if using another brand, add a pinch of red pepper flakes)
a splash of dry white or red wine

For the galette:
1 eggplant, cut into thin (1/4 – 3/8 inch) slices
salt
olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
8-oz. ball of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 egg, lightly beaten with a splash of water
a few fresh basil leaves, torn or roughly chopped

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, & baking powder.  In a measuring cup with a spout, whisk together the olive oil & water.  While stirring, slowly drizzle the olive oil mixture into the flour mixture until fully incorporated.  Dump dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead 15-20 strokes, until dough comes together.  Pat into a flattened disc, wrap in plastic, and chill for 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the sauce.  Puree the tomatoes (and any juices in can) in a blender.  You should get 3.5-4 cups of puree, but you only need 1.5 cups for the sauce.  I funneled the remaining puree into a clean jar and put it in the refrigerator for spaghetti later in the week.  Put 1.5 cups of tomato puree in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, add a splash of wine, and season with 2-3 big pinches of salt and about a teaspoon of Italian seasoning.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened and has reduced to about 1 cup.  Season to taste with salt & Italian seasoning.  Set aside to cool.

Roll dough out to a 14″ circle on a lightly floured surface.  Transfer to a parchment-lined rimless baking sheet, cover with plastic (you can reuse the plastic you wrapped the dough in, if it’s big enough), and put back in the refrigerator to rest while you prepare the eggplant.  Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Lay the eggplant slices on a large cutting board and sprinkle liberally with salt.  Let sit for 10 minutes, then flip eggplant slices over and salt the other side.  Let sit another 10 minutes.  (Now is a good time to take the galette dough out of the refrigerator.)  Rinse eggplant slices and pat dry with a towel, then transfer to a large bowl.  Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and the minced garlic.

Spread sauce on dough, leaving a 1- to 2-inch border.  Pile eggplant on top of the sauce, then top with the sliced mozzarella.  Fold dough edges up around the eggplant, pinching lightly where the dough overlaps.  Brush dough with egg wash.  Bake at 400°F for 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.  Sprinkle with fresh basil.  Let cool 10 minutes before slicing.

Recipe organization

July 22, 2014

Recipe cards

Magazine stacks

Messy table

After thoroughly wearing myself out making the plum jelly on Saturday, I didn’t think I’d want to do anything but hang by the lake for the rest of the weekend.  But I woke up with a real burst of energy Sunday morning and decided to tackle the bookshelf in my dining room.  (Also both roads I tried to take to get to the lake were closed — what the what?!)  I’m a magazine junkie, but I’m very lazy about throwing away recycling old issues when the new ones come in.  I always hang on to them “just in case” I need to find that one recipe again someday.  And while there are a few recipes I want to hang on to, most of those magazines just serve as a source of inspiration for how to use whatever’s in season at the time of print.  So I’m copying down the individual recipes that I return to again & again (mostly sweets and holiday dishes), and putting them in my little recipe binder.  And for the longer articles that are too good to toss out but too long to copy onto a single card, I’m slipping them into page protectors and putting them in a regular 3-ring binder.  It feels really good to be getting all of this organized (no more digging through stacks of junk trying to find my favorite article on taco recipes!), but it’s making me hungry for cake and soup and all of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes.  Why does it have to be 102° today?!

In order to keep the magazines from piling up again, I’ve got a new rule.  I’m only keeping issues for the current month, plus or minus one month.  So right now I’ve got June, July, and August issues in a magazine holder.  In a few days, I’ll pull the June issues to make room for incoming September issues.  We’ll see how long I can keep this up!  :)

My recipe binder is from Hallmark.  I don’t think they have this design anymore, which features little watercolor sketches of food labeled in French, but these are similar.  The binders come with a few recipe cards and the little plastic page protectors that just perfectly fit 2 recipe cards each.  Super handy!  I love having my recipe cards protected while I’m using them, and the binder fits nicely in a cookbook stand.  I’ve had mine for several years, but it’s getting really full, so I’m going to have to expand to a 2nd binder soon.  I don’t use the recipe cards that came with my binder, though, because I’m so in love with the adorable, heavy card stock, personalized letterpress recipe cards made by my friend Christy at Inkello.

How do you organize your favorite recipes?

Recreating Lula Viola’s wild plum jelly

July 19, 2014

Wild plums

Making wild plum juice

Straining wild plum juice

Wild plum juice

Lula Viola's Wild Plum Jelly

I never met my great-grandmother, Lula Viola Green, but I know exactly three things about her: she had wasps in her attic, she got struck by lightning while washing the dishes during a thunderstorm, and she made amazing red plum jelly with the fruit from her plum tree.  For as long as I can remember, even before I ever showed an interest in canning, my mother has waxed nostalgic about her grandma’s red plum jelly.  This year, she finally got a hold of some wild plums and asked me to try making it.

I was a bit nervous going into this project.  Nobody has Grandma Green’s recipe for red plum jelly, so I was kind of flying blind.  I used the method for plum jelly in the Ball Blue Book (juice strained from fresh plums + powdered pectin + a crap ton of sugar).  There was so much sugar, I was worried the whole thing would be way too sweet — but actually, wild plums are extremely tart, so the jelly ended up just tasting of pure plummy goodness.  I’m not sure why jelly has a reputation of being fussy.  For me, it was a lot more fun than jam.  Maybe because I didn’t have to worry about peeling or pitting the plums (it all got strained out in the cheesecloth), or because it was easier to split the work over two days (I made the juice on Thursday afternoon, then cooked the jelly & canned it this morning).

Cooling on my kitchen counter, these jars sparkle like rubies in the sunlight.  I’m going to be sad to give them away, but I think I made enough to keep a couple jars for myself.  When my mom slathers this wild plum jelly on a buttermilk biscuit or piece of toast, I hope she’s transported back to her grandma’s kitchen table in northwest Arkansas.  And someday, I hope my great-grandchildren will invite my ghost into their kitchens to sit and cook for a spell.

Southwestern Potato & Kale Omelets

July 16, 2014

Sizzle sizzle

Potatoes & peppers

Southwestern potato & kale omelets

Southwestern potato & kale omelets

So, last week I made the Chard & Saffron omelets from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty.  Of course they tasted amazing (what Ottolenghi recipe doesn’t?), but I knew the recipe would lend itself well to variation.  Here’s a riff on that recipe that I tried tonight, and I have to say that I liked it even better than the original.

Southwestern Potato & Kale Omelets

(adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi)

serves 2

1 large (8-10 oz) yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
olive oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3 mini sweet peppers, finely chopped (I used 1 each of red, orange, and yellow)
1 small bunch of kale, stems discarded, leaves finely shredded
5 eggs
1/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp. southwestern seasoning (I use this one from Penzeys; alternatively, use a mix of salt & chili powder)
vegetable oil
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese
hot sauce, for serving (optional)

Place potatoes in a small pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil, add a big pinch of salt, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Drain potatoes and set aside.  Heat olive oil in a medium cast iron skillet.  Sauté green onions and peppers for 2 minutes, then add cooked potatoes.  Season with a little bit of salt & pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until potatoes begin to brown.  Add kale and stir until greens are wilted.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  Set aside to cool (if your pan is crazy hot, you may want to transfer potato-kale mixture to a bowl).

Whisk together eggs, milk, and southwestern seasoning in a 3- to 4-cup liquid measuring cup or small bowl with a spout.  Heat 1 tsp. vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a 9- to 10-inch nonstick skillet.  When the oil is hot, pour a quarter of the egg mixture into the pan and swirl the pan around to evenly distribute.  Cook 2-3 minutes, then carefully flip and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Remove omelet from pan and set aside to cool.  Repeat three more times with the remaining egg mixture.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325°F and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

When omelets and potato-kale mixture are cool, begin assembling (I find it’s easiest to do this directly on the baking sheet, as the omelets tear easily once filled).  Spread 1 Tbsp. sour cream over half of each omelet, top with a quarter of the potato-kale mixture, and top with 1 Tbsp. shredded cheese.  Fold each omelet in half (the empty side over the filled side, like you’re closing a book), then carefully fold in half again to create a wedge shape.  Warm filled omelets in preheated oven for 10 minutes, until cheese has melted.  Serve with hot sauce.

Squash Puppies

July 15, 2014

Squash puppies

My love affair with hush puppies began early.  It’s one of my strongest taste memories from childhood (along with chocolate tofu ice cream — I wasn’t allowed to have dairy as a kid).  These days, my favorite hush puppies come from Terrebonne, a cajun/creole restaurant in downtown Lawrence.  They’re big and a little spicy, with chunks of corn and peppers.

Last night, I was scratching my head for a side dish to go with our dinner.  I also had a bunch of summer squash in the fridge that my mom sent home with me this weekend, so I decided to make some fritters.  When I saw the peppers, corn, and green onions in the crisper drawer, inspiration struck.

Normally for a fritter, I shred the vegetables on the coarse side of a box grater.  But I really wanted the squash to have a smoother texture here so the chunks of corn and pepper would shine like they do in Terrebonne’s hush puppies, so I finely shredded the squash instead.  I also used a fine mesh sieve and a wooden spoon to press as much water as possible out of the squash, but it was still a little wet — this allowed me to skip the egg I would normally add for binding, making these squash puppies vegan!  They could also easily be made gluten-free by using a gluten-free flour blend.

Squash Puppies

makes 8-10 fritters

1 medium (or 2 small) yellow summer squash – ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scraped out
2 mini sweet red peppers (or 1/2 a large red bell pepper) – finely chopped
1 small to medium-sized ear of sweet corn – kernels removed
2 green onions – finely chopped
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1-2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning (I used 1 tsp, but I think I would’ve liked a little more spice)
vegetable oil, for frying

Using a box grater, finely shred the squash.  Place the shredded squash in a fine mesh sieve and press on it with the back of a wooden spoon, to squeeze out as much liquid as possible (do this over a bowl, so you can add the liquid back to the batter later, if it’s too dry).  Let sit 5-10 minutes, then press on the squash again.  Put the squash in a medium-size bowl, and stir together with the peppers, corn, green onions, flour, and Old Bay.  Mixture should hold together when shaped into a small patty (about 2″ in diameter).  If the mixture is too wet, you may need to add a little more flour.  If the mixture is too dry, add a little bit of the reserved squash liquid.

Heat 1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Shape batter into 2″ patties and gently drop into pan.  Fry 3-4 minutes per side, until deep golden brown.  Keep them small when shaping, and be very careful when flipping — the batter WILL hold together, but the lack of egg makes them a little fragile.  Drain on paper towels.

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