Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Meyer Lemon Marmalade & Homemade English Muffins

meyer lemon marmalade on homemade English muffins
Food trends are almost as fast and fleeting as fashion trends. Certain ingredients, cuisines and cooking styles reach a fever pitch of nowness, then fade away into culinary history. From sun-dried tomatoes to fusion dining to food trucks; these trends can be as evocative of an era as mini backpacks or shoulder pads.
meyer lemons
citrus seeds in cheesecloth
Meyer Lemons strike me as a very trendy ingredient. One sees it in every incarnation on just about every menu, anywhere you go. So its with some reservation I opted to make meyer lemon marmalade for another rendition of winter citrus tart.
Ordinarily I make a blood orange marmalade for the tart but meyer lemon marmalade is a bit more bitter and so better suited to the almond cream and puff pastry.
slivered lemons soaking overnight, but why?
Every recipe for meyer lemon marmalade insisted on soaking the lemon peels overnight with their seeds, though not a single recipe bothered to explain why. I have a particular pet peeve with recipes that are arbitrarily complicated or time-consuming without logical explanation. 
If anyone can provide insight on this, I would be much obliged!
The water and fruit must cook down by a fifth its volume before adding the sugar. In other words, begin with 5 quarts of water to 1.5 pounds of chopped fruit and boil until the water + fruit = 1 quart. Then add sugar depending on your sweetness preference. I added 3 and 3/4 cups.
the canning set-up
The sugar/fruit/water combo is not marmalade until the temperature reaches 225 degrees. This takes longer than you'd expect, every time! 
elevated water bath rack
setting the marmalade
In order to properly set the marmalade, an elevated water bath is needed and the best rack for this is a combination of the ball jar tops.
cornmeal dusted English muffins
English muffins cooked on the skillet
a perfect breakfast, anytime!
The best application for the marmalade, besides the winter citrus tart of course, is homemade English muffins!

Tomales Bay Oyster Company

50mi North by Northwest of the San Francisco Bay is another Bay of note; Tomales Bay.
And if there's one thing Tomales Bay is famous for it's its Oyster Company.
Before dating DH, oysters were a foreign object to me but in the last few years, the Tomales Bay Oyster Company has become a treasured destination in the Bay area.
Brick Maiden Bread: rye and sesame
fresh cured salumi
mixed nuts
Point Reyes Station, just a few miles south is the place to pick up picnic supplies, like Cowgirl Creamery cheese, fresh baked bread loaves and a bottle (or three!) of bubbly.
view from the picnic tables
Picnic tables and camp grills line the place, just off Highway 1, making it a perfect day-long excursion. 
oyster tanks
On a holiday weekend or if the weather is nice, the oyster company packs in the picnic people so arrive early to stake out a good spot. Fresh, farmed oysters are available by the dozen or by the 50-piece bag for large groups and ambitious small groups. Clams and mussels are also available for purchase, along with knives, gloves, lemons and hot sauce.
50 piece oyster pack
oyster glove
Alice, dutifully shucking
Shucking knives, rubberized gloves and practiced skill are essential to the oyster shucking process. 
roasted oyster with lemon juice & tapatio
A splash of lemon and a dash of hot sauce are essential to the eating of the shucked oyster. 
Champagne in Ball jars!
And a glass of Champagne is essential to fully enjoying the oyster experience.
These oysters are equally wonderful raw, grilled over coals or fried up in a pan with breadcrumbs and gremolata. There is a certain carnal satisfaction though, to shucking an oyster and eating right out of its shell.
mother shuckers

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Waste Not, Want Not

pantry party!
Resourceful cooking can be the most rewarding kind. That is, re-working leftovers into a new, exciting dish or cooking with only what is in the fridge or pantry fuels creativity and reduces the guilt of food waste dramatically! 
DH often teases me for taking this too far, jokingly assuring me, "we aren't poor, you know...its not as though we have 12 children to feed".
Last night though, I re-worked 3 dishes from the night before with varied levels of success.
curried cauliflower

curried cauliflower soup

soup with a spoonful of homemade creme fraiche
From the curried cauliflower came curried cauliflower soup. It was delicious as a vegan puree but a spoonful of homemade creme fraiche was delicious too.
roast root veggies

rustic tart with root veggies

From roasted root veggies came a rustic root veggie tart. This was unquestionably the winner of the night and surely will become a repeat offender in our house.
egg white frittata with young garlic greens
 From the roasted young garlic greens and the egg whites divorced from their yolks for the creme brulee came an egg white frittata. This was the least successful dish and in retrospect the garlic greens would have been better as a scallion pancake. C'est la vie.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Dinner

This Valentine's, we thought to keep it simple and eat at home. Ha! Little did we know practically everyone else in the East Bay was doing the same! Our local grocery store, Berkeley Bowl was amass of frantic loved ones, reading from lists and recipes in the aisles. Bare in mind, it was the middle of the day on a Monday and yet the waitlist for the fish and meat counter was 13 deep! Yikes. 
DH witnessed the madness in Rockridge when our favorite baguette source, La Farine was sold out of every type of bread and the neighboring meat and seafood shop had a line snaking out the door!
Once home though, I was at ease in the kitchen. I opted to make a simple meal of DH's favorite things: roasted root veggies, gougeres, curried cauliflower and halibut.
roasted roots: red&golden beets, gold potatoes, turnips, rutabaga & black radish

curried cauliflower

roast halibut on a bed of young garlic greens

To drink, DH popped a bottle of mighty fine bubbly. A tart green apple taste and a dry mouth feel, the Champagne sang beautifully with each dish, especially the fish.

For dessert, molasses creme brulee and a Valentine's classic, pink frosted butter cookies!
pink cookies

brulee done with our camping torch, compliments of Bruce!
molasses creme brulee
Hope everyone had a delightful day and evening, devoid of madness. Happy Valentine's Day, one day late.

Big Sur Camping

Bixby Bridge, Big Sur
Looking down the barrel of an empty weekend the only reasonable response is...Big Sur! 
View from Ventana Inn
Before moving up here, the idea of going to Big Sur on a whim for a weekend had been our shared design. And when the weather report all but heralded an entire weekend in the 70's we decided we would camp. 70's in February!? I love you, California.
So Friday we loaded the wagon with all our camping gear and hit the road. It never fails to blow my mind how much stuff two people can have just to go camping, for less than 48hrs no less. Backpack campers we are not. Car camping suits us just right.
our campsite
 We watched the sun set on our drive down PCH and arrived to the campsite just after dark. Pitching a tent in the pitch black is never fun but it was well worth it to awake in Big Sur the next morning.
reading by the campfire
It may come as no surprise that my favorite part about camping is the cooking!
The only challenge here is my favorite part of Big Sur are the restaurants, namely the Big Sur Bakery. So how then does one reconcile these two loves? Split the difference.

Campfire 'baked' potatoes

an unconventional use of a weenie roaster!

grilled asparagus with homemade arugula pesto
Tired from the drive Friday night, we opted for a simple campfire dinner: grilled asparagus and 'baked' potatoes in the campfire (a girl scout classic)! On the side we feasted on a giant bowl of guacamole and tortilla chips, another campsite favorite.
Spanish Tortilla, camping style
With the leftover 'baked' potatoes, I was inspired to try my hand at a Spanish Tortilla, or a potato omelette the next morning. While I am no Spaniard, I was quite pleased with the results.
Outside at Big Sur Bakery

Second Breakfast!!!
 Before trekking out on a big hike, we decided to get our strength up with second breakfast at Big Sur Bakery! A bobstock and a coffee set us right to hike the Pine Ridge Trail, a rather strenuous hike set in the beautiful Ventana Wilderness.
Along the Pine Ridge Trail
Set deep into the Ventana wilderness
the moon above the Ventana double cone
 The trail was very narrow and very steep but the sprawling views of the valley and the Ventana wilderness pay off big time. We're not sure how far we hiked but we were on the trail for 3+ hours, the whole time looking for widening of the trail to take a picnic break. Since we saw none in the 3+ hours on the trail, we made a picnic at the base of the trail.
a perfect picnic spot

base of the Pine Ridge Trail
The perfect spot to watch the sunset in Big Sur might be Nepanthe, Ventana Inn or Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn but we were just as pleased parking the car along the side of PCH and watching it from there!

We went to The Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant for dinner where I enjoyed an amazing smoked duck pizza, an unbelievably perfect pairing with Pinot. Really, the duck/pinot pairing would make a convert of any vegetarian or wine-hater around!
smoked duck pizza at Big Sur Bakery
We shared the last of the eggs and hiked the quick 1.4mile trail of Pfeiffer Falls Before heading out on Sunday. 
eggs with arugula pesto
Pfeiffer Falls

Cloverfields along the trail
redwoods everywhere
An official announcement to all our fellow campers...DH and I will gladly meet up in Big Sur for another camping weekend anytime!